The Road to Munro
Pregnant women are proud to say that their foetus is kicking. But Josephine Delapenha must have suffered excruciating pain, caused by the powerhouse kicking that must have gone on in her womb in 1927. She and her husband Lester must have been relieved when Lloyd Lindbergh finally emerged from the tunnel and onto the bigger playfield of life.
At the corner of Church and Barry Streets, Lester and Josephine each ran their own restaurant, on opposite sides of the street. Josephine’s coconut ice cream was famous island-wide.
From home at Kensington Avenue, Lindy was sent to Central Branch Primary School, where he represented the school in the Matcham Cup Cricket competition, in which he excelled. There was no matching academic achievement. He was then sent to St. Aloysius Primary School, where only the great fire of 1937 prevented him from playing football in the first match on the Cub Scout team. Still, no academic achievement.
In 1939, Lindy was sent to Wolmers Boys School, where he played Sunlight cricket with Allan Rae and the three Dujon brothers, one of whom fathered Jeffery Dujon. He ran the 100 and 220 yards at Boys Championships, boxed for Wolmers, and at twelve years old, played inside right in one game against St. Georges in the Manning Cup, scoring one of the six goals recorded. He was an idol at Wolmers, but yet again, academic achievement was left in the starting blocks.
Mrs. Delapenha was at her wits end.
Had Lindy been a teenager today, his parents’ obvious and fortunate dilemma would have been which illustrious sporting career he should be encouraged to choose – they probably would have voted against him being a professional boxer, so the likely options would be playing cricket for the West Indies, taking on the Bolt and the Beast on the track, or challenging the likes of Messi and Ronaldo by playing top-flight football in Europe – after taking the Reggae Boys to the World Cup.
But he was ahead of his time.
You see, parents of those days wanted their little bundles of joy to primarily succeed academically. Things like sports, dancing, art, music, and the like, were nice hobbies- but definitely not careers!
So Mrs. Delapenha suggested to Lester, “Let’s send Lindy to boarding school – at Munro College.” And so Lindy was dispatched to the rarefied air of the grim city on the hill, to carve out that elusive academic career.
He did do rather well at English Language and Literature, but modest academic gains overall were still hopelessly overshadowed by an endless procession of success in sports. Alas, there was no antibiotic for Lindy’s chronic sports ailment. He earned school colours in football, cricket, hockey, tennis, boxing, athletics, and gymnastics. On two separate occasions he was precocious enough to score centuries, 129 and 126, against a visiting adult team that happened to be a George Headley X1. When Munro won Boys Championships in 1945, the points from Lindy alone would have placed the school third. He came third in the 100 yards, second in the 220, 440, 100 hurdles, and the long jump, and won the 880 and the mile. Incredulous doctors at the meet scrutinized the young phenomenon closely, and because of him, a new rule was instituted, limiting competitors to no more than four events.
If he had to choose one, then football was perhaps his greatest love. When Munro played Calabar in the Oliver Shield final at Munro in 1944, ten minutes before the final whistle, the score was Calabar – 4 Munro –nil. Who then could blame Calabar’s Headmaster for leaving the crime scene early to send a victory telegram to Kingston from Santa Cruz? In a gutsy performance inspired by Sports Master Dunleavy, Lindy and his lads delivered a miraculous 5-4 victory for Munro, overturning the integrity of the premature telegram.
Ken Dunleavy, Munro’s Sports Master, was the one who clearly recognized, and accepted, that Lindy’s future lay in sports. He wrote the Delapenhas, and convinced them of Lindy’s possible bright future in English club football. Lester and Josephine finally came to terms with the true Lindy Delapenha, and in 1945, Dunleavy supplied the master plan and the letter of introduction that propelled Lindy via the English army to Egypt, Greece, and finally, after the war, to English club football, where he became not only the first Jamaican, but the very first black overseas player in the English League. He played first for Portsmouth, eventually for Mansfield Town, but most notably for Middlesbrough, aka “Boro,” where in 1950 he instantly set about creating sensational headlines on the back pages of local newspapers, such as:
“Great goals by Delapenha give Borough their first victory;”
“Delapenha was Boro’s only good forward; Boro wastes all Lindy’s good work;” “The Delapenha Waltz; and Delapenha is a floodlit dazzler.”
While at Boro, his love of language and literature cultivated at Munro was to come in very handy long before he entered journalism, because there the floodlit dazzler met, wooed, and wed, a dazzler in her own right named Joan Crawford. He described her in an Observer interview with Desmond Allen as “bright and beautiful.” The union produced the late Paul Delapenha, Linda Delapenha-Wynter, and Marie – Clare Delapenha -Lyons. Of course, while Jamaica’s first Miss World is actually a different Joan Crawford, there must be something to the name, as it turns out that daughter Marie -Clare placed second in Miss Jamaica World in 1980, and her daughter Brittany Lyons did one better to win the crown 2008.
He had found fame and some fortune in football, so much so that he turned down an offer to run for Britain in the 1948 Olympics, but before his exploits in the English League, his activities in the British army were reminders of his amazing athletic versatility. He represented his battalion and the army in cricket, hockey, athletics, and exhibition diving, and had the distinction of running 10.1 seconds in the 100 yards – on packed sand, and without the benefit of starting blocks. Take that, Usain Bolt!
In 1964, Lindy finally returned to Jamaica, first working as sports Co-ordinator for the Sugar Manufacturers Association. With the decline of the sugar industry, Lindy went to the Jamaica Broadcasting Cooperation in 1966 to work with the famous Roy Lawrence, a Munro Old Boy, as a sports commentator. Three weeks into the job, with Roy gone to England to cover the England/West Indies Test cricket series, Lindy co-ordinated JBC’s coverage of the Commonwealth Games. In 1968, Roy Lawrence departed, and Lindy was appointed Director of Sports.
His 30 year stint in TV ended in 1997, and today he can be seen playing golf, and heard on KLAS Sports Radio as a horse racing commentator. While remaining quite humble about all his sporting achievements, he has, throughout his career, always been a man forthright and fearless in opinion, an attribute that can do wonders for both sports and nation building.
They say do what you love and it won’t feel like work, so let us encourage today’s Munro students to emulate what could well be Lindy’s message. “Do well what you do best,” and perhaps yourself enter the Hall of Fame through the door appropriate to you.
For these reasons, sporting legend Lloyd Lindbergh (Lindy) Delapenha, was inducted into the Munro College Old Boys Association Hall of Fame.