Never before in the history of this country has an athlete—and I dare say even a politician—been immortalized in the manner in which the late great Francis “Mindoo” Phillip was at Saturday’s Dedication of the Phillip “Mindoo” Monument at the sports facility named after him—Mindoo Phillip Park!
Invited were several government officials, sports administrators, family and friends. The long list of invited guests included Prime Minister, Allen Chastanet and his wife Raquel; Leader of the Opposition, Phillip J Pierre, President of the Senate, Jeanine Giraudy-Mcintyre; Speaker of the House of Assembly, Andrew Daniel; Minister of Youth Development and Sports, Edmund Estephane; National Security Minister, Hermangild Francis; Mayor of Castries, Peterson Francis; Senator, Fortuna Belrose; President of Cricket West Indies (CWI), Dave Cameron; Former President of the West Indies Cricket Board, Sir Julian Hunte; Chairman of the Mindoo Phillip Monument Committee, Dunstan DuBoulay and his wife Jane; Monsignor Patrick Anthony; and family of the late Francis “Mindoo” Phillip including his widow Helen Phillip.
The Monument is a work of art and truly fitting for a man of enormous stature. To this day, 16 years following his death on May 5, 2006, he is still regarded as St Lucia’s greatest cricketer of all-time. The one blemish (if you can call it that) in his illustrious career is that he was never selected to the West Indies team. It remains a raging debate even to this day why he was never, ever chosen.
Following his introduction by Master of Ceremonies, Russell Lake, DuBoulay was the first speaker who got the proceedings underway. He said: “Stanley French [St Lucian playwright] sat with me and we decided that considering the monumental contribution Mindoo made in the field of sports in St Lucia and the fact that very little recognition had been forthcoming. We felt we had to do something to really preserve his memory and legacy.” The monument does just that, but it took a lot of thought, planning and travelling before French came up with the ultimate design befitting a local sports icon. The two men travelled to Barbados where they looked at the Sir Frank Worrell monument and got the idea.
This is how DuBoulay in his own words described what truly is a fantastic work of art. “Mindoo’s monument is a specifically designed structure, the defining characteristics of which are, the oval shape representing a cricket oval, 10 columns representing 10 players with bats raised in formation to salute the passing through, en-route to the pavilion of a player having scored a century. In this case representing a fallen hero signified by the bat placed on top of his final resting place in the monument.
Each column consists of a plaque, highlighting an important milestone of his cricketing career. There is a football carved into the tile work at the entrance to the monument in recognition of his enormous contribution to football. Last but not least, a portrait of this phenomenal sportsman is printed on a tile on the headstone with the inscription ‘National Sports Hero’, capturing the spirit of Mindoo and creating the perfect environment for his final resting place.”
Sadly, French never saw the completion of what he designed and envisioned, however, other committee members, Sir Rupert Brandford, McDonald Dixon, Edmund Flavien, Tyrone Maynard and DuBoulay proceeded with the work. DuBoulay provided some insight into Phillip’s life on and off the cricket field: “Mindoo was born in the community of Marchand, in the capital city of Castries. He attended the St Aloysius Roman Catholic Boys School where he acquired a modest education, enough to equip himself in order to enter the world of work.
It was the late 30’s there were rumors of war in the air, times were hard. So having acquired a basic education he entered the workforce and began to hustle to earn a decent living. As a young boy growing up in Marchand he was soon to discover the wide, open expanse of what was then Victoria Park and the Marchand Recreation Ground and immediately expropriated it as his own. Farncis “Mindoo” Phillip was likely the greatest sportsman of his generation and arguably the greatest ever produced by St Lucia. His towering personality dominated the local sporting arenas over 25 years. He represented St Lucia in cricket and football for some 22 years from 1947 to 1969. During those years he left an indelible mark on the local sporting scene. Mindoo’s batting prowess and savage display of entertaining cricket has never been seen before or since his retirement. When he stood at the crease he was in charge and with complete authority.
Mindoo was every bowler’s nightmare. As if with disrespect he dispatched them all with the same merciless brutality. He was equally rough and tough in football. Mindoo’s phenomenal contribution to sports and particularly the game of cricket was purely as a result of his love for sports and his community, which frequently caused him to over stretch his very limited financial resources. The luxury of sponsorship, which so many of us take for granted today, was literally unheard of during the active years of this great sportsman. After blazing the trail and paving the way for the likes of Daren Sammy and Johnson Charles to follow. Mindoo retired from representative cricket and football in 1969 and assumed the roles of National Cricket and Football Coach for both male and female players. He also served as President of the Cricket Umpires Association.
“In essence, he was umpire, referee, linesman, grounds man, National Coach and Selector. An outstanding contribution by this home grown self-style and selfless sporting giant who gave so much to so many and his only reward was simply revelling in the success of those he helped the most. Having received little or no acclamation during his lifetime, other than the park named after him, a lifetime that was characterized by caring and giving is all and more to young sportsmen, his community and his country. And having not been accorded the treatment he so richly deserved as he made his exit, this is why we Stanley French, myself and the other colleagues on the committee decided that we have to do something to recognize Mindoo’s tremendous contribution and preserve his memory and legacy for future generations.”
Former President of the West Indies Cricket Board, Sir Julian Hunte referred to Phillip as one of St Lucia’s greatest ever sportsmen. Both of them go back a long way. Hunte said: “I am fortunate to have been involved personally with Mindoo both as a footballer and cricketer in my early years, as well as a sports administrator and later on as
Mayor of Castries, when I featured in having this sports facility named after him.”
Hunte had nothing but praise for the Mindoo Monument Committee and the Castries Constituency Council to made this monument a reality and noted French immortalized Phillip in two of his literary works. In closing he said: “I am extremely heartened by the fact the erection of this monument, we have shown at least for once, that ours is not a dead hero’s society.”
Following were brief remarks from Minister of Youth Development and Sports, Edmund Estephane, Opposition Leader and Parliamentary Representative for Castries East, Phillip J Pierre and Cricket West Indies President, Dave Cameron. Prime Minister Chastanet referred to the monument as not just a monument for Mindoo but a memorial for all St Lucians and said: “The fact this ceremony is taking place at this time during our 40th Anniversary Celebration gives the occasion even more value and relevance, because we are honoring a real St Lucian the likes of whom we may never see again.”
During her brief remarks, Phillip’s widow Helen said: “I must admit I am overwhelmed by this awesome and imposing structure here in honor of Mindoo. On behalf of my family and myself, I would like to express our gratitude and appreciation to the Government of St Lucia, the late Stanley French, Dunstan and the other members of the committee for their effort in creating this magnificent monument, which is bound to preserve the memory and legacy of my late husband Francis “Mindoo” Phillip.
In closing, she said: “I am certain he is smiling down on us with appreciation and continues to wish the best of sports in St Lucia.” The official proceedings came to a close after she performed the ribbon cutting at the entrance of the magnificent Mindoo Phillip monument.