If the Reverend Percival William Gibson were here tonight as we honor Easton Dudley McMorris, he might have said: `Well done son. You have checked all the right boxes.’
It was Gary Neill - son of Gladstone, a former Kingston College cricket captain - who pointed out in the opening salvo of his masterful UWI thesis titled The History of Kingston College Cricket: 1925 – 1995, that Bishop Gibson had enunciated a list of precepts which students representing the school at cricket, should follow. Among them: the value of fair play, abiding by rules, sportsmanship, honour, the ability to win and lose graciously, the importance of attiring oneself properly, and the ability to readily acknowledge the achievements of one's opponents. As Neil noted, cricket was a systematic employ of Kingston College: `as an agent of inculcation of values upon young gentlemen.’ The aim being: `to produce leaders and citizens worthy of Jamaica.’ Easton McMorris, Order of Distinction has lived by these precepts, and in so doing, has checked all the right boxes.
Easton was a cricketer and government professional who excelled on both fronts and at all levels. He was born on April 4th, 1935, attended Kingston College from 1948 until 1952 and represented the school in Sunlight Cup and Minor Cup cricket.
His cricket career has outstanding performances at every level. He cites his highlights as first, playing for Nuttall in House cricket in 1951, when he scored a century while sharing in a 200-run partnership to beat Hardie House; and in 1952 before his seventeenth birthday, when he scored another – his first in Senior Cup cricket, in a match for Lucas Cricket Club against Kingston Cricket Club. Then while playing for Jamaica, Easton, between 1959 and 1962 scored a record five centuries in five consecutive matches. The last one - the 154, was made against India at Melbourne Park, which incidentally, was in the last international cricket fixture played at that venue before the ground was acquired by Kingston College as one of its campuses.
In 1962 McMorris also scored a Test century – 125 for the West Indies against the same India touring team at Sabina Park. He captained Jamaica between 1968 and 1972, and lead teams overseas on several occasions, including one to Bermuda in 1975 which included Michael Holding.
In 1969, Easton led the country to its singular Shell Shield win. For these
cricket feats, and his unstinting government tenure, Mr. McMorris was in 1972, bestowed the Jamaica National Honor - The Order of Distinction for Outstanding and Important Service.
It is worth noting that George Thompson of football fame was Easton’s batting partner in that 200-run partnership for Nuttall House. When pressed as to how George Thompson got to open the batting with him, Easton candidly explained: “George was my best friend. We were in the same class together and I use to borrow his bicycle to ride home for my lunch.” So in essence, George’s selection was not due to his promise as a cricketer.
As mentioned, Easton played cricket for Lucas Cricket Club – the now 117-year-old institution - rising through the ranks from Junior Cup to leading the Senior Cup team. McMorris is now a trustee of the club whose mission among others, is to create avenues of expression for young men in the Rolington and Franklyn Town areas. No doubt, remembering how important club cricket was in his life, McMorris is now eager to help the club do for others what it did for him.
But Lucas can consider itself lucky to have him because originally he had completed an application to join the Kensington Cricket Club, on the suggestion of the then KC sports master Foggy Burrows, who was also a member of Kensington. But Easton was also a big fan of the great George Headley who played for Lucas.
As a little boy living on Lacy Road, Easton was taken by his elder brother to Lucas one Sunday where he saw George Headley playing pickup football. Later on, he was captivated by the pictures of George he had seen in the clubhouse. The lost application offered Easton a chance to reconsider the matter, and in so doing he joined Lucas instead.
Easton’s election to join Lucas and his idolization of George Headley say something about his values. Because as the Jamaican historian Lance Neita wrote of George in his centenary: `He was an icon in his time who was loved, not just for his brilliance on the field, but because of his dignity, quiet demeanour, sportsmanship, discipline and application.’
McMorris first represented Jamaica in 1954 as a 19 year-old, and as a member of the Jamaica Colts XI against England in 1953-1954, and against Australia in 1955. He began representing the senior team in 1956, and in 1957, scored his first first-class hundred against a touring Duke of Norfolk’s XI. Shortly after, he played for a Jamaica XI against the West Indies before the team left for the 1957 England tour. McMorris got a fifty which caught the eye of the then West Indies captain John Goddard, and was immediately earmarked as a future West Indies opening batsman.
On leading the Jamaica team McMorris had a simple theory: “All I did was to communicate to my players what I was about and what I thought the team could achieve.” High praise for Easton’s leadership also came from the classical Jamaica and West Indies Test batsman Lawrence Rowe. “McMorris was a great leader.” Rowe said recently. “He was a disciplinarian who led by example and knew how to manage men. He got the best out of temperamental players. And as for me, I owe a lot to Easton, because after a string of low scores in away Shell Shield matches, people were clamoring for me to be dropped.”
Also, in captaining Jamaica, at no time did any McMorris-led team bring any disrepute to the country. On that score, the former Jamaica captain said this: “When you play for Jamaica, especially abroad, you must represent the country well.” And so, let us hail McMorris as not only a great leader of men, but also as one who never stained our copybook.
In his career for Jamaica, Easton amassed 3,800 runs in fifty appearances, at an average of an even 50. And those of us who are not cricket aficionados must be reminded that to make those 3,800 runs, was no stroll in the park. Because in Shell Shield cricket alone, McMorris had to contend with the firebrand pace attack of Wes Hall and Charlie Griffith, the multifariousness of Gary Sobers all of Barbados, and the wizardry of Lance Gibbs of then British Guiana, just to name a few. It is no wonder therefore that in an interview appearing in the October 20th, 1981 edition of the Jamaica Daily News, the great West Indian batsman Vivian Richards, singled out Easton McMorris as his cricket idol as a kid.
“I saw it in the newspapers when I was abroad, and was humbled by that coming from Sir Viv,” McMorris noted. Viv’s mention is instructive in at least two ways. First, recall that McMorris had idolized Headley, and now, here comes Richards to idolize him. This meant that Easton had safely passed the baton. Secondly, this should remind us that in any endeavour, we should always strive to do our best, because, we never know who might be watching. It has also been said that when George Headley was a Jamaica coach and was asked by aspiring batsmen how to bat properly, the little master would say: `Just watch Easton McMorris bat.’
The West Indies on their 1957 tour of England had tried four opening pairs, and another in the first Test of Pakistan’s tour of the West Indies in 1957-58. None to their liking, the selectors gave Easton the call up. And so, on February 5th, 1958 the start of the second Pakistan Test at the Queen’s Park Oval in Port of Spain, Trinidad, Easton Dudley McMorris became the fourth Kingston College old boy after Francis James Cameron, John Kenneth `J.K.’ Holt, Jr., and O’Neil Gordon `Collie’ Smith, to play Test cricket for the West Indies.
His baptism into Test cricket was not kind. Because in his second innings when he was given out leg-before to the fast-medium bowler Fazal Mahmood, it was with a little help from the umpire. Of the dismissal, J.S. Barker wrote in the Trinidad Guardian: `Everybody in the ground at the Queen’s Park Oval heard the edge, except the presiding umpire.’ McMorris was promptly dropped and would not again see Test action until the first Test of the England series in Bridgetown, Barbados, in January 1960.
Easton’s return to Test cricket was described as `the ultimate nightmare’ - run out off a no-ball at the non-strikers end without having faced a ball. This would have broken any cricketer’s spirit, but not Easton’s. Injured for the second Test, he was brought back for the last three. However, in the fifth and final Test in Trinidad, McMorris was again snake-bitten: run out, this time from a clear umpiring error. It was Easton’s last chance to impress the selectors before the West Indies touring party was to be named for that historic 1960-61 tour to Australia. He thought he had done enough, but he was not included.
As a side-bar, one suspects that when Easton was run out in Trinidad, somewhere in Jamaica, a fellow by the name of Alfred Francis might have been snickering. Because in a Minor Cup match back in 1951, Kingston Cricket Club had declared at tea, setting Kingston College 210 to win. As Easton recalls, “I was batting with Francis and thought he was batting too slow. Somehow he got run out, which brought in the faster-scoring `Collie’ Smith. Collie and I then duly overhauled the total by 6:15 pm that evening. Easton has never confessed to running out poor Alfred. But some of the spectators who were on-hand, still beg to differ.
On missing out on the tour to Australia, Easton was (quote): `monumentally disappointed.’ But he might have remembered at the time, that Bishop Gibson had encouraged his KC cricketers to win or lose gracefully. And so, he accepted the disappointment with dignity and grace.
On not taking McMorris to Australia, the Jamaican sports journalist L.D. Roberts who went on the tour, felt the selectors had made a mistake: `I am satisfied that had Easton McMorris been there the side might have got a consistently better start than the tour openers were able to give,’ he wrote. It is no wonder that Viv Richards in the aforementioned newspaper transcript added: “the man (McMorris) could bat, but didn’t get the chance.”
After his playing days, McMorris has remained close to the game, serving in several administrative capacities. He served as Chairman of the selection panel for the Jamaica Cricket Board, was a selector for the West Indies Cricket Board and served on the Development Committee of the Jamaica Cricket Association. Easton has been a cricket analyst and resource person for radio and television in Jamaica, and was made an Honorary Life Member of the Jamaica Cricket Association. McMorris who was Chairman of the Planning Committee for the George Headley Centenary in 2009 has also authored a book titled: Jamaica Cricket As I See It: A Selection from the Archives, 1850 – 1970.
Easton began his professional career in 1952 at the Colonial Secretary’s Office before joining the Ministry of Labour in Jamaica the following year from where he retired in 2004. He served in various ministerial divisions and in several capacities in between. These included the Recruitment of Overseas Workers Programme – 1953-1973 and in the United States with the U.S.A. Farm Workers Program – 1978-1989. He returned to Jamaica in 1990 where he reconnected with the Jamaica Civil Service to serve in the Canadian Farm Work Programme from which he retired in 1995. McMorris was Advisor to the Minister of Labour – 1994-1998; and a Senior Liaison Officer, U.S.A. Farm Workers Programme between 1994 and 2004.
Mr. McMorris and his wife Avery have three children, all very successful in their careers. Mark the eldest is a professor in the Department of English at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Michael himself a Kingston College alumnus, is Chairman of the Victoria Mutual Building Society, and his daughter Anne is the Assistant General Manager, Group Operations at the National Commercial Bank.
The Kingston College Old Boys of Toronto could not have selected a more fitting individual as their Guest of Honor for their 39th Annual Reunion & Awards Banquet.
Well played Easton!