Photo Credit: Cricket Scotland
This October, Cricket Scotland is celebrating Black History Month in the UK. This national celebration aims to promote and celebrate Black contributions to British society, and to foster an understanding of Black history in general.
As part of Cricket Scotland’s celebrations, we recognise the influence of the Black community on Scottish cricket through the years. This includes some of the most famous Black players to have played in Scotland. One of the most celebrated of these is Alma Hunt, the first Black cricketer to play for Scotland.
Three great Bermudian cricketers have played for lengthy periods as professionals within Scottish cricket.
The most recent of these is Clarence Parfitt, still a legend at Arbroath, where he has spent most of his life playing, then as an inspirational coach. Before him was Nigel “Chopper” Hazel, who played with great success firstly at Aberdeenshire and then Strathmore. But it was Hazel’s cousin, Alma Hunt, who was the greatest of them all. Indeed, he was probably the greatest ever cricketer produced by Bermuda, earning him the nickname “Champ”.
The pivotal year of Hunt’s life was 1933. He had been selected for the West Indian trial games to tour England the next year. Despite very good performances in the trials, he was not selected. The reason given was that Bermuda cricket had no governing body and was not affiliated to the West Indies Board of Control. The decision caused uproar at the time. To make up for this, the Chief Medical Officer, Dr Sorley, at the British Royal Naval Dockyard Hospital where Hunt worked as a messenger, persuaded Aberdeenshire, his home city club, to employ Hunt as a professional.
This was a daring appointment, as at that time Scottish clubs nearly always employed professionals from somewhere in the UK. Hunt’s appointment was a great success. In eight seasons at Mannofield he scored 8,190 runs, including 22 centuries, and took 685 wickets. He led Aberdeenshire to their first county championship in 24 years in 1946 and repeated the feat the following season, his last in Scotland. Indeed, Scotland made a lasting impression on Hunt, who later named his house in Bermuda “Mannofield” after Aberdeenshire’s ground.
It was during his spell at Aberdeenshire that he became the first black cricketer to represent Scotland, when he played two games in August 1938; a draw against Australia in a two-day game played at Forthill, Broughty Ferry, followed by a loss in a three-day game against Yorkshire played at Harrogate. By his own high standards, Hunt made moderate contributions in these games, but he was extremely proud of having represented Scotland. Photographs of him thereafter generally showed him wearing his Scotland cap, and he later presented to Aberdeenshire the bat he used in these games, which was autographed by the players involved.
Amongst the other Scottish highlights was a match Hunt organised at Aberdeen against a League of Coloured People XI (as it was referred to then), which included West Indian Test players Learie Constantine and Emmanuel Martindale. Hunt had become actively involved in the League, an organisation formed to represent the interests of black people in Britain and fought throughout his career to break down racial barriers in sport, later taking an active role in Bermuda’s Race Relations Council.
Hunt was also a trail-blazing cricket administrator. As secretary of the Black Somers Isles Cricket League, he helped bring about the sport’s integration under the Bermuda Cricket Board of Control, and later became the Board’s President from 1966 to 1984. He also lobbied successfully for Bermuda to become an Associate Member as a non-Test playing country in 1966. This led to his proposal for a tournament for Associate Member nations, which eventually took place in 1979 as a qualifier for the new Cricket World Cup, paving the way for Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka to become Test nations. Bermuda reached the final in 1982 and eventually qualified for their first World Cup in 2007.
Alma Hunt was appointed an OBE in 1978 for services to sport in Bermuda. He died in 1999, assured of his legacy and high standing in not one, but two cricket-loving countries.