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Simpson Guillen, RIP - Mar 10 PDF Print E-mail
2013 - Sports
Friday, 08 March 2013 11:52

Bryan DavisSport by Bryan Davis, former West Indies Test cricketer

Simpson Clairmonte Guillen was born on September 24, 1924 in Trinidad and died on March 2, 2013 in Christchurch, New Zealand.

There are so many wonderful and interesting stories about this former wicketkeeper/batsman that there is not enough space in newspapers or magazines to hold them all!

Simpson was the only West Indian cricketer to have played Test cricket for two countries: West Indies and New Zealand.

He had good times and bad times but he was always an honest, kind and generous person who lived life to the fullest. His nickname was “Sammy” and as he grew accustomed to it he became fond of using it.

He published his life story in 2005, a chronicle of events that quite accurately portrayed the man, his cricket, his love and enthusiasm for life. He explained how he came to be called Sam and I quote from his book The Sam Guillen Story: Calypso Kiwi: “It was during this game (Trinidad vs MCC 1948) that I was given the name Sam, which has stuck with me ever since. There was a cocktail party at Government House and both the teams and players were announced as they entered. When it was my turn to enter I was asked my name. The tall English Aide-de-Camp must have been a bit hard of hearing as he announced me as ‘Mr Samson Julian’. I went into the room to an uproar of laughter from both teams.”

My hero

Sam was a friend of my father’s in 1951 when he was selected on the West Indies team to tour Australia and New Zealand, a visit which spanned six months. Unknown to me, my father had asked Simpson if he would bring back a bat for me. In March 1952, it was to my great joy that this gentleman came to our house and presented me with a brand new “Lindsay Hassett” bat, complete with autographs of both teams on the back. Hassett was the Aussie captain and, as an 11-year-old boy, Sam Guillen became my hero! The kindness and generosity of the man to remember a little boy back in Trinidad has stayed with me all my life!

This tour was the turning point of his life for, immediately after the tour of Australia was completed, they visited New Zealand to play two Tests. The first was in Christchurch and little did Sammy suspect that this was where he would find his future happiness. He met a local resident by the name of Morris Cookson and they became friends. Cookson was a cricket fan who was fascinated by West Indies cricket and history. Just before Sam left to return home, he mentioned quite casually to his new-found friend that he loved New Zealand and he would love to come back and live there.

By the end of 1952 Simpson Guillen was back in New Zealand, which was to be his home until his death. He got a job in Christchurch and joined the West Christchurch cricket club. In 1953 he met Valmai Berg, a most attractive and pleasant lady with whom he tied the knot and the marriage was blessed with four children.

Nine years later he returned to Trinidad with his young family for them to meet their grandparents. He had planned to stay for one year but eventually spent a year and a half. He played for Queen’s Park Cricket Club, his former club, and at that time I was playing for Queen’s Park too. We opened the batting on more than one occasion and I was thrilled to be part of a team with one of my boyhood heroes. I got to know him so much better and realised the stories I had heard about him from senior members of the club were all true.

Simpson never lost his love for his country of origin and introduced calypso to unsuspecting New Zealanders. I visited Sam’s adopted country in January/February 1995 when I was covering the West Indies cricket tour. While in Christchurch, Simpson and Val were very hospitable to me in so many different ways. He would go out of his way to assist and entertain any West Indian visiting his city. One of my favourite nights ever was a night when Sam invited popular cricket commentators Tony Cozier and Reds Pereira – who were also both covering the tour – and me for dinner at his home. He regaled us with stories and jokes about sport, mostly cricket. While we roared with laughter, Val would be the perfect hostess, continually ensuring that we had the necessary drink and food to keep us going. She knew her husband would never stop once his audience were enjoying themselves.

Simpson Guillen brought joy and happiness into the lives of all those who had the privilege to know him. I am proud to be numbered among those so privileged. Thanks for the memories Sam!

This column extends condolences to his widow, children and grandchildren.

May he rest in peace.

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