Vaneisa: Following Frank; the story of the Son of Grace

Over the years that I spent researching and writing the bio­graphy of Sir Frank Worrell, I often referred to him—sharing snippets and soliciting information—through this column.

The book, Son of Grace, was published six months ago, and I found myself curiously unable to mention its existence, feeling awkward to say anything.

Iconic late West Indies cricket star Frank Worrell suits up for action in Australia.

I’ve been persuaded by friends who thought it should be announced here, and I suppose what convinced me was the argument that since I had been freely discussing its journey, I owed it to readers to let them know it had reached somewhere.

It has been a rather protracted journey, the manuscript languishing for more than a year before I could find a publisher. Then getting copies into Trinidad. Then trying to arrange a launch.

Quite frankly, these elements of publishing were unfamiliar to me, and it has been quite an experience discovering what it entails. Finally, the book will be launched at 6pm on Tuesday 23 April 23 (coincidentally, World Book Day), at the Dalai Llama Pub at One Woodbrook Place.

I would like to share a bit about the discoveries I made on the state of publishing in the region. Son of Grace was published by Fairfield Books in the UK, who had expressed an interest in it from early. I’d held out because I preferred to have it done here in the region.

Iconic late West Indies captain Sir Frank Worrell.

I contacted people I respect who had been in the industry, seeking advice. They told me that it came down to Ian Randle Publishers and UWI Press, everything else had practically dried up. Neither seemed interested.

Ian Randle’s imprint was being run by his daughter, Christine, who felt West Indies cricket was too lacklustre to make it viable (this was also the view of some UK publishers).

Funso Aiyejina was interested in it for the Caribbean Biography Series being done by UWI Press, but they were looking for book lengths that were far shorter than the work I was constructing. Other publishers with strong Caribbean portfolios barely acknow­ledged my enquiries—one local entity directed me to an online submission form and the cost.

I was discouraged to the point of abandoning it, but I am a stubborn old bird, and the idea that we don’t appreciate our own history and our own people kept me going. Because I feel that unless we put our narratives out there, we will continue to passively relegate our selfhood to an inferior status.

West Indies pacer Malcolm Marshall famously faces England fast bowler Paul Allott with one hand at Headingly on 14 June 1984.
Marshall broke his thumb in two places while fielding but, with Larry Gomes on 96, he came out to support his teammate.
Gomes went on to get his century and Marshall even struck a one-handed boundary.
(via Cricket Country)

Twenty years after Sir Frank’s death in 1967, an English writer, Ivo Tennant, published a biography of him. A few months ago, he told me that he now feels he might not have been the appropriate person to do it, mainly because he was not West Indian.

While it was the only one of the other three in existence (by West Indians) that genuinely tried to get into the life of Sir Frank, I understood what he meant.

Oddly, Simon Lister, a respected cricket writer from the UK, has also written a biography of Sir Frank which is due in a couple of months. He contacted me a few days ago to ask if I would participate in a BBC radio documentary on Sir Frank as he considered me to be the authority on his life.

After all these years of silence, suddenly two biographies of Sir Frank have emerged within months of each other. I suppose this year being the centenary of his birth may have had something to do with it, although I never had such a thought in mind as my hope had been it would have been published at least three years ago.

West Indies cricket legend Sir Frank Worrell.
(via ESPN)

But it’s here, at last, and its journey has reinforced my feeling that we have to allow ourselves to write the narratives of our own history. If we don’t, the perspectives will never be ours.

West Indies cricket has an extraordinarily large corpus of literature surrounding it. Countless autobiographies, biographies, journals of tours and diaries of players exist alongside calypsoes and poems and even a few videos.

Apart from a very few, they have generally been ghost-written by writers from the UK, mainly. It leaves vague gaps, the kind that should be brimming with the texture of Caribbean life.

Young boys and girls are introduced to the game of cricket in Arima during a Fulham training session.
(via Fulham Sports Club)

Language, culture, childhood experiences, beliefs, have been sacri­ficed to make them more accessible and appealing to English readers who were the target markets. How we have written ourselves out of our own histories is a tale by itself.

I had been continually surprised by how many people do not know anything about Frank Worrell but his name (Eric Williams, too!) and it is a terrible aspect of our cultural amnesia.

A few weeks ago, the book was mentioned in a newspaper article locally and the author described Worrell as a Jamaican cricketer. Obviously, there was no knowledge of the Three Ws from Barbados. This is what happens when we do not herald our achievements with pride.

Photo: (From left) Iconic West Indies cricketers Frank Worrell, Everton Weekes and Clyde Walcott–otherwise known as the ‘Three Ws’.
(via Skynews)

Our West Indies captain Hayley Matthews has been declared the top T20 cricketer for 2023 by Wisden—not top woman, but top cricketer. It has only been mentioned in passing locally.

On Thursday in Karachi, she led her team to victory with the kind of all-round performance that makes her one of the most exciting cricketers to watch. She scored 140 runs (not out), and then took three wickets for 17 runs.

Will we remember her name?

Photo: West Indies star Hayley Matthews.
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4 comments

  1. Thank you for sharing this and adding to the history!

  2. Good Afternoon. I have read with interests the comments abour sir Frank Worrel’s heritage. I am in the process of researching my family tree. Frank’s father was Athelston Theophilus Worrell. Athelston’s father was a John Worrell who was my grandmother Clementina Worrell’s father. This means that Sir Frank Worrell and my mother (born Inez Worrell) at Sedge Pond, Barbados were first cousins. There were 2 family members who only passed away in the last 3 years who knew Frank and Thelston well. My grand mother did have a sister borned Etherline Worrell (married Beresford Mayers) . I have seen documentation to support the above.

  3. My sources tell me that his parents were Etheline and Archibald Worrel. Was Etheline also known as Grace?

    • I’m afraid your sources are wrong. It is something I wrote about, how misinformation can become fact. His mother was Grace, his father, Athelston. I found nothing to indicate Grace was also called Etheline.

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