Establishment of Badminton in Jamaica
The playing of badminton in Jamaica dates back to 1927 when the late Allen Ritchie then Deputy Administrator General of Jamaica, purchased a badminton set from an expatriate who was returning to the United Kingdom. He set up a court on the lawn of his home at 62 Arnold Road and encouraged his four children to play. Not knowing anything about the game, the Ritchies had to resort to the Pears Dictionary and Encyclopedia where they found the rules of badminton and tips for beginners. Shuttles were very hard to come by and after the initial supplies were exhausted, bright yellow pom-poms were used as a substitute and apparently were quite popular. When the net was damaged a kind fisherman from Rae Town was called in to effect repairs.
Jamaica Badminton Association was formed
Following the formation of the association in 1937, the first All Jamaica Championships were held, but only doubles events were played. As news of the court at Arnold Road spread, players started appearing from all over: from the Military at Up Park Camp, the Texas Oil Company, Barclays Bank, the Royal Bank of Canada and the Royal Naval Coaling Station at Port Royal. Among the players in those early days were some well know persons such as Sir Alfred and Lady Rennie and their daughter Dr. Fay Rennie plus Dr. Leighton Clarke and his family. Dr. Clarke, in fact, established a badminton court between the wards at the Kingston Public Hospital, thereby protecting the shuttlecocks from the strong sea breezes. An indoor court was also marked out in the Coaling Station at Port Royal. Following the formation of the Association in 1937, the first All Jamaica Championships were held in that year, but only doubles events were played. Other players who appear in the record books at this time are: T. Dennison, D. F. Campbell, W. Uhle, Carl Beck, Pat Clark, Mrs. Templeton, Pamela Oliver, Mrs. Marshall, Mrs. Elaine Wright [nee Harris], and Percy Wates who has been rated as one of Jamaica’s best players.
The Game boosted
In 1953, after the 11 years of inactivity, 10 clubs met and approved a revised constitution for the Association. Popular sportsman, Andrew Aguilar, was elected President and the All Jamaica Championships were re-instituted. In the following year the Association was elected to membership in the world governing body – The International Badminton Federation (IBF). At that time, Jim Leslie, a Scottish International player was residing in Jamaica and he dominated the badminton scene from 1952-55, winning the men’s title during those three years. Leslie did a lot to encourage and improve our standards as he brought with him a wealth of experience and expertise gained during the eight years that he represented his native country, Scotland. Other outstanding players at the time were: Ian Viera, Gille Alexander, Ronnie Nasralla, Danny DaCosta, and Peter Nichols. The then top players in the ladies division included Mrs. Linlay Aitken-Lebskin, Greta DaCosta-Bell, Yvonne Taylor, Yola DaCosta-Riggs, Sheila Breakspear and Mrs. Mavis Samms.
A very succsessful company
In 1957 the Jamaica Badminton Association invited to Jamaica two top world ranking players in the Devilin sisters – now Mrs. Judy Hashman and Mrs. Sue Peard – and they participated in the All Jamaica Championship of that year. Both players displayed great skill and court craft and their presence did a lot to stimulate interest in the game here. In that year also, another top player, this time from Ireland – Brendan Clear – took up residence in Jamaica, bringing with him the latest techniques in the game which he passed on to the Jamaican athletes. Clear dominated the men’s scene until 1960. Other players who came to the fore during the period were: Ernest Hew, Eddie Zaidie, Nigel Casserley, Keith Palmer and Richard Roberts who relieved Clear of the men’s singles title in 1961. Among the ladies making the headlines at the time were: Barbara Lai [formerly Tai Ten Quee], Sheila Phillips, Norma Haddad, Alice Rumsey and Annie Lowe [formerly Bradley]. Barbara Lai now deceased, still has arguably the most outstanding record in the ladies division as she won the singles title on 11 occasions between 1955 and 1967, with eight of those being consecutive wins.
All Jamaica Juniors
After six years in office, Andrew Aguilar resigned as President in 1958 and was replaced by Sir Robert Kirkwood who remained in office until 1963. During this period, the JBA turned its attention to the juniors, starting in 1960. The Junior All Jamaica Championships were played for the first time that year and have been held annually since.
In 1964 Balfe Bradley took over the reigns as President and had an unbroken eight year spell in office, retiring in 1971. A lot was achieved during his term inclusive of Jamaica’s entry onto the international field. In Bradley’s first year, Jamaica played in the Thomas Cup, the premier men’s team competition, where they suffered a 9-0 defeat at the hands of the powerful United States of America team. In that same year an eight-man team journeyed to Mexico to take part in their open championship.
Two years later in 1966, the JBA successfully staged the badminton events in the Commonwealth Games [the first time that badminton was being played in those games] which were held here in Jamaica. This period saw Tony Garcia emerging as the leading men’s singles player, winning the National Championship from 1966 to 1968. Keith Palmer, Richard Roberts and newcomer Doug Bennett, were his chief rivals while Pauline Laman surfaced to challenge Barbara Lai’s supremacy in the ladies division, taking the singles title in 1968 and 69. Chris Bennett also featured strongly in this period where she was particularly effective as a mixed doubles player.Jamaica were again represented in badminton at the Commonwealth Games in Scotland in 1970 and included in their team were two top juniors – Geoff Haddad and his sister Jennifer.
In 1971 the JBA focused its attention on the Caribbean and began working towards the formation of a Caribbean Association, the objects of which were to foster a closer relationship between the badminton-playing countries in the Caribbean and to encourage and promote the game in the area. November of 1971 saw Jamaica sending a team to Trinidad to take part in a quadrangular invitational meet where they easily topped their opponents, losing only one game during the tournament.
The Jamaica Badminton Association celebrated its 50th Anniversary as an Association, having been founded in the year 1937. The Association has functioned continuously since then until the present time with the exception of a break of 11 years from 1942 to 1952 when, because of World War II, it was dormant.
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