Obituary: Adzil Holder, Barbadian first class cricketer who graced Scotland’s pitches for many years

Adzil Holder in action
Adzil Holder in action
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Adzil Holder, cricketer. Born: 22 October 1931, St Joseph, Barbados. Died: 21 March 2019, in Bridgetown, aged 87

Adzil Holder who has died aged 87 was a well known Barbados cricketer who made a significant and fondly remembered contribution to the sport in Scotland when playing as professional with Clackmannanshire, Ferguslie and Clydesdale between 1958 and the early 1970s.

A right hand batsman and left arm spin bowler, he had a considerable pedigree before coming here, having already represented Barbados in several first class matches, the most notable against Trinidad in 1956 when he claimed seven wickets for 38 runs and contributed 52 runs with the bat. He played here at the same time as several other top West Indian players graced Scottish pitches, including Rohan Kanhai for Aberdeenshire, Irvin Iffla for Stirling County and Clairmonte Depeiza for Forfarshire among others, all of whom raised the domestic game’s profile.

As well as producing many superb individual performances, Holder played a crucial role in each of his club’s respective championship successes as well as Ferguslie’s Scottish Cup win. During his time here he also earned a first class reputation as a coach, especially with youngsters to whom he was very approachable and encouraging. An immensely likeable individual, he was popular with everyone, “even with opponents” according to former Ferguslie teammate, Gavin Gemmell.

From an early age he was in love with cricket which was then the number one sport on the island and played everywhere, even on improvised pitches on sugar cane plantations. When sent on errands as a youngster by his mother he would often become distracted watching games taking place en route with his late return home frequently incurring his mother’s wrath, to no avail.

Adzil Harcourt Holder was born at Joe’s River in St Joseph parish on the east coast of Barbados, the son of Eileen Meta Holder, a seamstress and Angus Mayers.

Initially he attended the local elementary school before going to Combermere School, near the capital Bridgetown, which was noted for producing famous cricketers including Sir Frank Worrell and Sir Clyde Walcott. After leaving school he taught general subjects at West St Joseph’s school and played cricket for the Empire Club where his performances attracted the attention of the national selectors leading to his debut for Barbados in September 1951 against British Guiana.

Over the next nine years he played 11 first class matches for his native island including a match against the touring Pakistan side in 1958. His outstanding performance against Trinidad put him in the running for a West Indies Test place for their forthcoming tour of England and earned him a place in a trial match for the side. Again he excelled, notching six wickets for 60 runs making him a favourite for selection but unfortunately he was laid low with appendicitis and Alf Valentine of Jamaica was picked instead. During his representative career he played with and against many notable figures, including Gary Sobers, Conrad Hunte, Frank Tyson, Colin Cowdrey and Tom Graveney.

He was spotted by a talent scout and in 1958 joined Clackmannanshire, making an immediate impact in elevating them from wooden spoon position the previous season to a creditable third place when his personal highlight was taking eight wickets for seven runs against Forfarshire at The Arns, Alloa.

In 1960 he led them to their first Scottish County Championship title since 1924, clinched by defeating champions Perthshire with Holder recording four wickets for 30 and 22 not out. He spent seven successful seasons there, becoming a well known personality in the local community. In 1961 in St Mungo’s Church, Alloa, he married Winifred Gill, also from Barbados, and they had two children, Joy, born in Stirling and Gillian, born in Paisley.

A special dinner in his honour was held when he left to join Ferguslie at which he was presented with an inscribed silver salver and received several tributes, one emphasising how much he had helped youngsters: “This act of giving was not in any contract but is typical of the man.”

He also enjoyed a lot of success at Ferguslie. In his first season he helped them win the Western Union title, his highlights including six wickets for 11 against Ayr while against Greenock he scored 81 and took six wickets for 34. Two years later he repeated that feat, securing the title against Poloc when he took four wickets for 13 and scored 47, while previously he had a league best knock of 82. In 1969 he was central to the team winning the Rothman’s Quaich, the Scottish Cup, for the first time. Such was his contribution in Paisley, that at a function last year he was named as the club’s ‘best ever professional.’ As at Clackmannanshire, he was a very recognisable and popular figure locally with elder daughter Joy attending Williamsburgh school and famous ‘Buddie’ Andrew Neil tweeting his condolences recently for “the wonderful Adzil Holder – my first cricket coach.”

In 1971 he won another Western Union title, this time with Clydesdale after which he returned to Barbados where he remained. While here he completed a course in television and radio engineering and set up his own business in Bridgetown where he continued playing ‘social’ cricket for many years. In the island’s cricket community he was very highly regarded and was friendly with many of the ‘greats’ of the West Indian game.

A friendly, sociable individual with a good sense of fun, who enjoyed dancing and following horse racing, he was loved by everyone. Although he and his wife separated in the 1980s they remained on good terms. Latterly he was cared for by close friend Velda Philips. He is survived by her, his daughters and grandchildren.

JACK DAVIDSON