EXTRACT: Too Black to Wear Whites

2020-02-10 10:39
Too Black to Wear Whites by Jonty Winch and Richard Parry. (Penguin Random House South Africa)

Too Black to Wear Whites by Jonty Winch and Richard Parry. (Penguin Random House South Africa)

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A resolution was passed that would form the notorious Bye-law 10. It meant Hendricks was immediately excluded from playing in the championship by virtue of his being a coloured cricketer.

*****

Woodstock is one of Cape Town’s oldest suburbs.

It lies two kilometres south-east of the city and is located between the harbour of Table Bay, the lower slopes of Devil’s Peak and Salt River.

The area was formerly known as Papendorp, after Pieter van Papendorp, who had settled there during the mid-eighteenth century, and developed from three farms (Zonnebloem, Letiebloem and Roodebloem) that were established on the slopes of Devil’s Peak in 1692.

It was still known as Papendorp on 10 January 1806 when representatives of the Batavian Republic surrendered there, near Fort Knokke, and the Cape became British for a second time.

The decision to name the suburb "Woodstock" was made in 1867 when local fishermen, who formed the majority of the inhabitants at the time, voted to make the change in honour of the public house that they frequented.

In the 1890s, Woodstock was still a village with open farmland and mountainside - a "suburb of vineyards and vegetables".

There were "grapes to be picked on the van der Byls" farm (Roodebloem); milk, thick with cream, from the herd of Jersey cows; and meat and vegetables from the German farmers at the early morning market in Sir Lowry Road.

It was a suburb of "tickey-beers at the Altona Hotel, walks up the mountainside with its few isolated buildings and fynbos, picnics in Woodstock Cave, swimming and joining the coloured fishermen bringing in their catch at the Woodstock Beach, gas street-lamps, and developing industries".

The first railway line to be built at the Cape - as well as an electric tram service - ensured Woodstock became a popular beach resort. The Woodstock Parish Magazine commented on the "blinding dust" at the turn of the century, but a few years later there was the "promise of the roads mending their ways, and smooth hard roads and byways is the dream of a yet nearer future".

Trains and cars were to be a major part of the life of Frank Thomson Robb, who was born in Woodstock on 20 April 1864.

He attended Zonnebloem College, which had been a joint project initiated by Sir George Grey, the high commissioner and governor of the Cape Colony, and Bishop Grey of the Anglican Church, in 1858 for the education of young princes and princesses of African chiefs from the Eastern Cape.

In her study of the early years, Janet Hodgson said the college had a non-racial environment that catered for children from Baleya, Barotse, Bechuana, coloured, Fingu, Gcaleka, Marolong, Matabele, Mosutho, Pondomiso and white communities.

Although Zonnebloem (the "place of sunflowers") changed over the years, it maintained its non-racial orientation until the 1930s, when it was no longer permitted to cater for coloureds and Africans.

It was in this environment that Robb developed his love for cricket.

He became a prominent player, representing Colonial-born against Mother Country and Cape Town at the Champion Bat tournament in 1887/88 and playing for a Western Province XXII against Major Warton's first English tourists in 1888/89.

His leadership qualities were such that he led the Civil Service XI against Kimberley in 1884 when just twenty years old; the side included well-known personalities such as Jack van Renen, Louis Vintcent and Adriaan van der Byl.

Robb would play league cricket until he was in his forties, while his interest in sport saw him serve as chairman of Woodstock CC and as a committee member of both the Western Province cricket and rugby unions.

He also rose through the ranks in his chosen career, beginning work in the Cape government railway department before becoming secretary of the Harbour Board, dock manager and then district superintendent of the South African Railways.

His later career would see him play a prominent role in the motorcar trade as the Austin agent.

In 1894, Frank Robb had in good faith proposed Milton as the Western Province Cricket Union representative on the national selection committee for the tour to England.

The nomination meant little as Milton’s appointment was a formality, but the events that followed drew Robb’s attention to the shameful treatment of Hendricks.

Not long afterwards, he made an important decision.

Prior to the 1896/97 season, Advocate Shepstone Giddy, a strong supporter of Hendricks at the United Services Cricket Club, was appointed crown prosecutor in Kimberley.

Robb immediately seized the opportunity, possibly with Giddy’s encouragement, to employ the fast bowler as Woodstock’s professional with the intention of using his services in the newly formed championship league, formerly the "first league".

It was a good move.

In early October, Hendricks (five for 8) and Charles Bain, a young left-arm medium pace bowler (five for 18), were instrumental in Woodstock dismissing Standard Bank for 37.

In the return game, Woodstock (168) destroyed Standard Bank (27), with Hendricks picking up four wickets.

Then, at Sea Point, Woodstock (85) comfortably defeated Green Point (30), with Bain taking five for 15 and Hendricks five for 18. October had provided a promising start to the new season for Hendricks, but he was living on borrowed cricket time.

Milton had departed for Rhodesia, but men who shared his notions of imperial and racial superiority, and who were equally committed to the systematic exclusion of Hendricks from representative cricket, carried on his work at the Western Province Cricket Union in his absence.

They were headed by a new president, John Reid, a product of Diocesan College, who was the senior partner in J. & H. Reid and Nephew: Government Attorneys.

Billy Simkins was his deputy.

By the mid-1890s there were few liberal-minded opponents in the administration of the game at the Cape.

So, when the Western Province Cricket Union was informed of Woodstock's plans to employ Hendricks, it responded quickly and ruthlessly.

A resolution was passed that would form the notorious Bye-law 10. It meant Hendricks was immediately excluded from playing in the championship by virtue of his being a coloured cricketer.

The resolution, which was published in the Cape press, stated: That this union will not object to any club employing a coloured professional in matches other than championship fixtures and no coloured professional or member shall be allowed to compete in championship matches.

This was the first racially discriminatory legislation to be introduced into sport in South Africa and would have long-standing ramifications.

Previous decisions that barred Hendricks from representative cricket had been made by the Western Province Cricket Union on their own, or at the behest of Milton or Rhodes.

The avalanche of insult and hurt was essentially aimed at a cricketer against whom no one was personally capable of uttering a bad word as to his conduct, dignity and bearing.

The union’s latest decision smacked of cowardice and selfishness.

They feared more coloured players coming through the ranks to challenge their exclusive dominance, but they were specifically scared of Hendricks – of his pace and power and his ability to show them up for what they really were: racists of the worst kind.

- This is an extract from Too Black to Wear Whites by Jonty Winch and Richard Parry and is published by Penguin Random House South Africa.

Read more on:    books  |  racism  |  cricket
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