Melville bows out as club head
After serving?for 39 consecutive years as president of the Barbados Polo Club, Keith Melville has finally stepped down from the saddle, handing over the reins of leadership to Wayne Archer.
Melville, who was one of the longest serving presidents of any sporting organization in Barbados, finally threw in the towel at the club’s annual general meeting this year after riding successfully for almost four decades.
He started playing polo in 1948 and became the club’s?vice-president in 1958, at a time when it was headed by Vere Deane. He would later become president in 1968 after Deane’s retirement.
Speaking about his exploits in the saddle, Melville told MIDWEEK?SPORT there was “not an awful lot of polo” played back then and credited his rise to the top to the kindness of the Deane family, who allowed him to jump-start his career on their horses.
“The Deanes were very kind to me. They allowed me to play on their horses until I finally bought my first horse by the name of Surprise, which cost me $240 and sometime later, I acquired my second horse, named Silk Plant, and just continued from there,” he said.
While Barbados can now boast of having six polo fields, polo was first played at the Garrison Savannah from in the 1940s.
Melville is quite happy about the leaps and bounds polo has attained from its humble beginnings.
“I saw the club grow from 12 players in the 1940s to approximately 40 players today, with several top-quality horses,” he said. “In those days it was regarded as a little drinking club, with the likes of Trieloff, the Deane brothers, Emptage, John Marsh, Jack Johnson and Tony Archer, father of newly elected president Wayne Archer.
“Tony and I worked closely together. He was secretary and treasurer of the club for a couple of years and that is why I was so pleased that Wayne has followed in his father’s footsteps and is now president of the club. I couldn’t want anyone better to pass the baton to.”
The first overseas team to visit Barbados came from Jamaica in 1949. It was followed closely by a Canadian team and then another from the United States.
Michael Sifton and Dick Moran were among the pioneers instrumental in bringing touring teams out of Canada and the United States, respectively, to Barbados.
It was during this period that polo was first introduced to the now popular Holders venue in 1966.
“There was no clubhouse, only a tent made up of palm leaves. Believe it or not, the best thing in those days was the ‘bar’, which was from the trunk of Tony Archer’s car,” he said with a chuckle.
With a playing career that spanned just over 50 years, Melville rubbed shoulders with many top players and dignitaries from the region and beyond.
“I never set out to reach any high standards of playing polo,” he confessed. “I never got past a one-goal handicap, but I played because I loved the sport.
“I fondly remember playing at Cowdray in England in a game that featured Prince Charles on the opposing team.
“On the local scene, playing alongside the likes of Elliott Williams, father of the legendary Sir Charles Williams, who is still actively playing today, along with names such as Trevor Davis, the Dowding, Gooding and Deane families, who are still very active in the sport, have each played significant roles in helping me to develop and remain at the top for this length of time.”
One highlight of Melville’s presidency was the increase in popularity of the sport.
“I am very pleased to see the massive crowds attending polo in the last eight or more years.
“What pleases my heart more is the fact that there is a wide cross-section of mixed races that are attending and enjoying the sport, once regarded as only for the rich and famous.”
The Battle Of The Sexes, which pits the women against the men’s team, is another of the high points of his long and distinguished career. Tours such as those made by The Villages out of the United States and Cheshire from Britain are easily the tournaments that attract very large crowds annually.
These are events that have attracted United States ambassadors, the Canadian and British high commissioners, local Prime Ministers and Cabinet ministers, along with dignitaries from the Caribbean and around the world. (PR/EZS)