Bill Murrell was a stalwart at Central Club

By Sam Wilkinson

BILL Murrell was to the Central Country Club as Sir Garry Sobers is to international cricket. Bill led absolutely magnificently as president and captain of the senior team, performed superbly as one of the finest seam and swing bowlers in the Barbados Cricket Association’s First Division for Spartan and for his beloved Central at the Intermediate level. And, it would be uncharitable not to mention his stylish and resolute batting. (The scorebook didn’t often reflect his effort!).

Bill epitomised good manners, graciousness, kindness, and frowned on disrespectful conduct from anyone irrespective of class, colour or creed.

He was as competitive as anyone with whom I have played in over 65 years. However, as high a price as he placed on winning, he never forgot to remind his team and peers that the game is far bigger than anyone who plays.

The Central Club owes Bill an invaluable debt of gratitude. Indeed, he was there from the formation way back in 1948, and weathered the storms of club turbulence, and the changing landscape until he retired as President and member in 2015. That’s SIXTY-SEVEN YEARS of service!

Here was a man who understood club life. He recognised the necessity for members to connect to an institution as if it were their home; hence the slogan “ Central Club, a home away from home” was perhaps as well known as the club’s constitution.

To his eternal credit, and those whom he succeeded of blessed memory, Bill carried the club’s insignia “Absit Invidia”: Let there be no strife on his shoulders.

Bill believed that a club had to be an alternate home for its membership. He reasoned: “You play here, socialise, share the good days on and off the cricket field, also on and off the dominoes board, the hearts table, and you also face the tough times on and off the field, and it is the club that is the membership, the family who shares your ups and downs. That is why the Club should be respected and treated with decorum.”

Long before I bowled my first delivery for The Central at the pavilion’s northern end, scored my first run, or held a catch at second slip off Bill’s bowling from the southern end of the most picturesque ground in Barbados, I learnt a great deal about him.

Rolling back the years, the man whom I played with and against for many seasons – and also shared almost as many years on the Club’s Executive before retiring as Vice President – I fortuitously met at lunch at the YMCA many decades ago. Bill’s office was a mere two blocks away on Pinfold Street.

The YMCA’s daily lunch was incredibly delicious, but our interaction was the loveliest dessert to be found anywhere.

The subjects were many, varied and fascinating. However, it was Bill’s sincerity and the way he valued one’s friendship that made an indelible mark on the discussions. Bill spoke of his days at elementary school, through to the illustrious secondary institution of Combermere, and onto  his professional studies, which led to his status of Chartered Accountant and Managing Director of M.E. Murrell and Company.

So why did I leave the YMCA after two golden decades and joined the Central Club? It was a rainy afternoon, and we were caught in the “Y” for an extended period. Inevitably the subject of cricket surfaced, as we looked onto the YMCA square and pondered what conditions would be like on Saturday of that week.

Bill said he preferred the pitch to be bone hard, since he did not favour impaired conditions. And then he politely suggested: “Sam, I know you are a key man here at the “Y”, but would you like to come to the Central club and share an evening with us?”

“Sure,” I replied, before he ended the sentence.

It was an occasion, which began a marvelous association and a changing landscape on my sports journey. Thanks, Bill!

Bill’s warmth was contagious. So it did not take long to follow the club’s path to success.

The club under Bill’s leadership, organised its first overseas tour to England and Wales in 1989. What an unforgettable experience! May I remind that this historic voyage led to nine more visits. No club in Barbados (distinct from a group of players) has achieved that feat. Add to that four visits to Atlanta in the United States of America.

Sadly, as Bill departs from his earthly home, the Central Country Club, which he revered suffered structural damage over a year ago when it was partially ruined by fire. Today, it stands a lonely, empty place, but a memorable one to say farewell to a dedicated and loyal son.

Bill, like those outstanding servants whom he succeeded and who are now at rest, would not want to leave this realm without the invitation, spoken in his soft voice, “Boys, rebuild this Club, it is your home away from home.”

May he rest in peace! 

(Sam Wilkinson is a Life member, former Vice President, and senior captain of the Central Country Club).