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How Windies cricket legend was bowled over by NI

Late cricket hero Weekes loved to visit friends here

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Sir Everton Weekes with Clarence Hiles

Sir Everton Weekes with Clarence Hiles

Sir Everton Weekes with Clarence Hiles

The death of one of the greatest cricketers in history has saddened his many friends in Northern Ireland and brought back memories of his visits here.

Sir Everton Weekes died on Wednesday in his native Barbados at the age of 95.

The master batsman was the last of the famous 'Three Ws' - Frank Worrell, Clyde Walcott and Weekes - who electrified cricket after the Second World War.

They will now be buried side-by-side in the West Indian island of their birth.

Sir Everton began his relationship with Northern Ireland when late Belfast Telegraph sports editor Malcolm Brodie met him on holiday in Barbados. It was the start of a long friendship which saw Sir Everton visit here several times, including the celebrations for his 70th birthday and his knighthood.

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Sir Everton Weekes in his pomp

Sir Everton Weekes in his pomp

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Sir Everton Weekes in his pomp

His last visit was in 2007 to mark the 150th anniversary of North Down Cricket Club, a leading light of which was his other close link to this place.

Clarence Hiles had been chairman of the Northern Cricket Union before leaving Comber for Barbados, where he became a close friend of Sir Everton.

I was one of a small committee under Brodie which organised his longest visit in the mid-1990s: a week-long trip during which he attended club functions and watched teams in action. He even took a coaching session at Muckamore Cricket Club.

The hospitality Sir Everton received from his friends here was freely reciprocated at his home in the Christ Church area of Barbados.

It was there that he would display his passion for jazz. Not on the record player, rather relaxed on his piano stool, playing his repertoire of standards. But then nothing would surprise you about a man who was a dual international, having represented Barbados at bridge.

No wonder, then, that the Three Ws Stand at his beloved Kensington Oval cricket ground, and even a roundabout on the island, see to it that his name will never be forgotten.

Apart from his piano playing, the other delight of Weekes' home was the room set aside for his memorabilia. It contained a photograph of him as a youth in what he called "the white man's club" in Barbados. He told me he was allowed to field and bowl, but not bat. It is why he called Tests against England "more than cricket matches".

All sorts of priceless memorabilia peppered the room, not least a reminder of a record set over 70 years ago that still stands today: the bat that hit five successive Test centuries in 1948.

I last saw Sir Everton in 'his' stand in Barbados in January, when Ireland gave the West Indies a run for their money. He had been suffering failing health, but his mind was sharp and the chat was of Northern Ireland.

Belfast Telegraph