Celebrating the spirit of Bourda: The Caribbean's oldest cricket ground and cricket club
History This Week
February 8, 2007
The history of cricket in Guyana is disputed by numerous sources but it is known that the game was 'quite unknown here before the 1850s.' James Rodway in the Story of Georgetown notes that 'after the Parade ground had been put in order by the Town Council and the Militia re-established in 1856, a little attention was paid to outdoor sports. It is possible that cricket was probably played by the officers of the Garrison before that time.
Two years later in 1958, thirty years after the emancipation of enslaved Africans, the Georgetown Cricket Club, the oldest cricket club in the West Indies was established. Messrs F A Conyers, B S Bayley and Thomas Daly were among the earliest members of this historic club.
Though records are scarce at the local repositories it appears as though the Parade Ground, a location once used for the execution of enslaved Africans, was the major site of cricket games in the country. The club was granted permission by the Mayor and Town Council of Georgetown to use a part of the Parade Ground, Middle and Carmichael streets on certain days of the week and exclusive rights on Saturdays.
The club erected a small simple wooden pavilion, painted white, with a flag staff on the western side of the ground. Back then cricket was nowhere as popular as it is today. From the satires in the local press it appears that the game was taken seriously at all. All of this would however change in a few years.
It is here that the earliest recorded cricket match between the Georgetown Club and the officers and men of the 21st Fusiliers occurred on 11 June, 1860. The Royal Gazette in its detailed report noted that the low scoring game had aroused a great interest in the sport which had up to this time been seldom played in the colony. In September 1865 crowds were again thrilled as the Georgetown Cricket Club avenged a defeat which they had suffered at the hands of Barbados at the Garrison savannah earlier that year.
A few other matches were played afterwards and in later years the Club applied for exclusive rights to the ground. In 1883 a motion was introduced in the Georgetown Town Council by the Georgetown Cricket Club seeking exclusive privileges for the use of the Parade Ground. At this time the Parade Ground was also used by the council and the military for football as well as other games such as stilt walking, donkey racing, sack racing, pig racing and rifle shooting.
Certainly the Club may not have been in favour of sharing the grounds with other sports with their less than gentleman like qualities.
The motion was defeated. Despite this setback the club through the efforts of Mr Guy Wyatt, a keen cricketer, who later became an attorney of Messrs Sandbach Parker and Co. Ltd. proposed that the Club establish its own ground. In the circumstances the present site was secured.
In 1884 an area of approximately eight areas of land owned by Joseph Bourda, a French man was earmarked by colonial authorities as an area to accommodate sports activities. The eastern portion was reserved for soccer, now occupied by the Georgetown Football Club and the western portion for cricket, now the home of the Georgetown Cricket Club.
The ground was then an abandoned sugar estate and the task of levelling, draining and enclosing the cane rows into a suitable ground was no easy task. Plans were soon drafted and work commenced. 1,025 rods of drains requiring 10,450 tiles were laid and concrete culverts for main drainage connections across Regent Street and South Road were erected.
The old pavilion was then removed and re-erected at the north western side of the new ground. The ground was at that time surrounded by a cherry hedge on the inside and a wild coffee hedge on the outside as well as board fencing. Saman trees were later planted around the ground to provide shade. The entire job was reported to have cost a little over 1000.00 pounds sterling with some seventy-five labourers over a period of six months.
Advertisements in the Royal Gazette in the days leading up to the big event noted that the 'new ground at Bourda will be opened on Boxing Day, the 26 December 1885 with a match West Indies vs. The World. Prices for admission for that day ranged from 2 pence for gates numbers 4 and 5; 6 pence for gates numbers 2 and 3 and 1 shilling for gate number 1, leading to the pavilion.
Ladies were also welcomed at the event but members had to apply for their tickets in advance of the opening of the ground and match which would commence at 11:30 hours on that date.
For the event special arrangements were made as tram cars were operated a short distance from the ground to avoid congestion.
The Royal Gazette noted in its report that the 'first match of the Georgetown Cricket Club in the new ground at Bourda did not attract many spectators of the humbler sort, though preparations had been made for a large number.'
In the afternoon there was a large and fashionable company, including His Excellency the Governor and Lady Irving. The report further noted that the 'new ground is splendidly adapted to its purpose though scarcely yet in good playing order'. In this first match the Gazette recorded that scoring was low all around but it is interesting to record that the West Indies won by two wickets.
The club continued to stage cricket matches and later expanded to host other sports such as tennis, rugby, quoits and bowls in 1886. One year later in 1887 the first inter-colonial match was played at Bourda. As crowds increased the Georgetown Cricket Club decided to erect a new pavilion in 1910. This was a one storey structure which was later raised and a second storey added.
From that period Cricket has grown in Guyana, with the British Guiana Cricket Club which was established in 1896 and countless others throughout the country, into schools, counties and estates.
For 122 years the Bourda Cricket Ground has thrilled thousands, with numerous cricketing legends batting, fielding and bowling their way into the hearts of the populace. As the region prepares to host the Cricket World Cup 2007 it is important to remember Guyana's historic cricket ground which has for so many years been the face of the country's main sport. It is envisioned that Bourda will still be used and not become a white elephant, as many believe.