Barbados Cricket Buckle

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The Barbados Cricket Buckle is a repoussé engraving on a belt buckle of a slave playing cricket in Barbados circa 1780–1810.[1][2][3][4][5][6] It is believed to be the only known image of a slave playing cricket and the oldest known image depicting cricket outside the British Isles.[7][8]

"That the belt buckle depicts the slave, unmistakably in bondage, with bat in hand, suggests that the creator must have detected in their cricketing endeavours the germ of the quest for self-expression, if not liberation." Professor Clem Seecharan, Muscular Education.[9]

C.L.R. James viewing an enlargement of the Barbados Cricket Buckle at his home in Brixton, London. 1988


The Buckle was found in a gravel spit in the River Tweed in 1979 [10] and depicts a “well-muscled mulatto probably the offspring of a white overseer and a black slave mother” at the wicket being bowled out.[11][12] He is carrying a spliceless bat and has a navy slave chain collar around his neck. To his left a wattle and daub slave hut can be seen and to the right a cane crushing windmill by an Roystonea oleracea cabbage palm tree. The engraving is believed to be portraiture although the identity of the slave is unknown.[11] Metallurgical analysis of the Buckle by Oxford University placed its manufacture in the "early Victorian period or before".[11]

The earliest dated reference to cricket in Barbados is 1806 however cricket had been played in “all the West Indian islands from a quite early time”.[13] Freed slaves played cricket from mid-18th century and there are reports of plantation owners encouraging slaves to play cricket.[14] Barbados suffered a huge hurricane in October 1780 which obliterated most palms, windmills and slave huts. The Buckle engraving predates that event. However the three stumps indicate a date after 1777 when the middle stump was added to the wicket.[8]

Naval Connection[edit]

Analysis by Oxford University revealed the Buckle to be made of “navy brass” (90:10 copper:zinc) [11] British troops were, for the most part responsible for exporting cricket out of the UK and around the Empire.[15] According to Bowen: “ Recreation had to be found for troops and sailors; cricket was an ideal source of it.” [16] Early references to cricket matches in the press (alongside notices for slave sales) in Barbados were specific to the British military who “played at cricket as a principle stress relieving activity – one that allowed them to ‘play being at home’ whilst being away from home.”[17]

The location of the Buckle in the River Tweed suggested that it may have been owned and originally commissioned by a member of the Hotham family whose estate was upstream. Notably William Hotham, the first baron (1736–1813) who had been stationed in Barbados 1779–1780. The Hothams were also noted cricketers known as “the lucky hits of Westminster”.[11] In 1838 James Kelly noted the significance of “mutual confidence and familiarity” between sailors and slaves. So much so that “In the presence of the sailor the Negro feels a man.” [18]

The Buckle, Cricket and Slavery[edit]

There has been much debate about the origins of cricket in the West Indies and the role that cricket (a game exported with a "made in England" hallmark [19]) has played in subjugation and emancipation. In his book 40 Million Dollar Slaves, William C. Rhoden recognised that: “In play the slave could become master; the powerless could become powerful. Athletic competition or a mere athletic feat ... cutting cane ....was a free space where bodies bound and scarred by chains could soar.” [20] Although focused on US slaves, Rhoden's comments are apposite for the experience of slaves in all nations.

In the first chapter of his book "Muscular Learning", Professor Clem Seecharan reflects at some length on the importance of the Barbados Cricket Buckle recognising that its depiction on a Barbados postage stamp on the 60th anniversary of West Indies cricket was appropriate given cricket’s role as a “political instrument” from slavery through emancipation to independence.[14]

Although references to slavery and cricket are extremely rare they do exist. In reference to a diary entry by Jamaican slave owner Thistlewood that cricket was played in June 1778, Professor R Burton was prompted to wonder if the slaves tasked to retrieve the ball when it went beyond the boundary were becoming drawn into the game.[18] This was echoed by Seecharan who notes that in Barbados, cricket was played in clearings in cane fields and slaves were tasked with retrieving the ball and throwing it back into play and points out that “there are accounts of planters too encouraging slaves to play cricket.” [14] This encounter of slaves with cricket is supported by former Jamaican Prime Minister Michael Manley in his extensive History of West Indies Cricket, writing that: “the young sons of the slaves were required to bowl at the young sons of the slave owners or to the army officers” adding “of course the sons of the slaves practised batting in their spare time.” [21]

The engraving on the Barbados Buckle depicts the point when slaves moved not merely within the boundary but to the batting crease itself. The point when they became, as C.L.R. James put it in Beyond a Boundary, “that genus Britannicus, a fine batsman.” [22] Although the Buckle batsman is depicted as being clean bowled Seecharan highlights the Buckle slave’s role as batsman; noting that his possession of bat not ball is subversive.[14]

Uses of the Buckle[edit]

The Buckle has been featured on coins, stamps and cricket trophies.


Specification Gold coin Silver coin
Denomination 50 dollars 10 dollars
Alloy 22 carat gold Sterling 0.925 silver
Diameter 29.40mm 38.61mm
Weight 15.98g 28.28g
Issue limit 500 (50 minted) 5,000 (100 minted)

The Central Bank of Barbados authorised the Royal Mint to strike a limited number of proof coins to mark the discovery of the Barbadian Buckle.[23] The coins were minted at the Royal Mint in London.

The reverse of the coin bears a representation of the Barbados Cricket Buckle. A surrounding inscription reads “International Cricket Buckle”. The obverse features the Barbados’ Coat of Arms. The central element of this official emblem is a shield supported by a dolphin and a pelican. Two Pride of Barbados (Caesalpinia pulcherrima) flowers and one of the island’s Bearded Fig Trees (ficus citrifolia) are depicted on the shield. Above the shield is a crest consisting of a raised forearm holding crossed sugar cane stalks above a helmet and mantling. A ribbon bears the inscription “pride and industry”, the national motto. The coins were finished with a proof with frosted relief.


Stamps featuring the Barbados Buckle (aka International Belt Buckle) and key cricketers were issued by the respective Postmasters General for the countries of Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago on 6 June 1988.


101 of the 50c stamp were issued featuring a photograph of Edward Lawson “Barto” Bartlett instead of Herman Griffith. These errors were issued through Parcel Post Office in Bridgetown Barbados. All other postal counters had their stocks recovered before 9am on Monday 6 June 1988 and the corrected 50c stamps depicting Griffith were issued on 11 July 1988.


Trinidad and Tobago[edit]


Representations of the Buckle provided the centrepiece of 3 trophies for the Cable & Wireless West Indies-England Test matches and One Day Internationals 1990:

Winners of the Buckle Awards for Man of the Match (Test matches)[edit]

  1. Allan Lamb, Sabina Park, Kingston, Jamaica 24 Feb – 1 March 1990 England win.
  2. 2nd Test abandoned Georgetown, Guyana
  3. Devon Malcolm, Queen's Park Oval, Port-of-Spain, Trinidad 23–28 March 1990. Match drawn.
  4. Curtly Ambrose, Kensington Oval, Bridgetown, Barbados 5–10 April 1990. West Indies win.
  5. Desmond Haynes, Antigua Recreation Ground, St John’s, Antigua 12–16 April 1990. West Indies win.

Winners of the Buckle Awards for Man of the Match (One Day Internationals)[edit]

  1. Queen’s Park Oval, Port-of-Spain, Trinidad. No result.
  2. Queen’s Park Oval, Port-of-Spain, Trinidad. No result.
  3. Richie Richardson, Sabina Park Kingston Jamaica 3 March 1990. West Indies win.
  4. Carlisle Best, Bourda, Georgetown, Guyana. 7 March 1990. West Indies win.
  5. Richie Richardson, Kensington Oval, Bridgetown, Barbados. 3 April 1990. West Indies win.
  6. Gordon Greenidge, Replacement ODI Bourda, Georgetown, Guyana.

Buckle Award for winners of One Day International Series 1990[edit]

West Indies captain Desmond Haynes presented with silver gilt depiction of the Buckle. Presentation was made by Lord Sharp, chairman of Cable and Wireless at Kensington Oval Barbados. 3 April 1990.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Burton, Professor Richard D E (1997). AfroCreole; Power Opposition and Play in the Caribbean. New York: Cornell University Press. 
  2. ^ Seecharan, Professor Clem (2006). Muscular Learning; Cricket and Education in the Making of the British West Indies at the end of the 19th Century. Jamaica: Ian Randle. 
  3. ^ Williams, Marcus (5 Nov 1986). "Mystery of A Mud Covered Buckle". The Times (London). 
  4. ^ Swanton, E.W. (19 Dec 1991). "Long-lost Buckle Reveals Rich Barbadian Heritage". The Daily Telegraph. 
  5. ^ Williams, Clive (February 1986). "Tale Of A Belt Buckle". Wisden Cricket Monthly. 7 (9). 
  6. ^ Williams, Clive (February 1986). The Cricketer.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  7. ^ The Times (London). 5 Nov 1986.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  8. ^ a b The Daily Telegraph. 19 Dec 1991.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  9. ^ Seecharan (2006). Muscular Learning. 
  10. ^ Williams, Marcus (5 Nov 1986). The Times.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  11. ^ a b c d e The Times. 5 Nov 1986.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  12. ^ Wisden Cricket Monthly. February 1986.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  13. ^ Bowen, Rowland (1970). Cricket: A History of Its Growth and Development Throughout The World. London: Eyre and Spottiswoode. 
  14. ^ a b c d Seecharan. Muscular Education. 
  15. ^ Hamilton, Bruce (1947). Cricket In Barbados. Bridgetown: Advocate Press. 
  16. ^ Bowen (1970). Cricket. 
  17. ^ Beckles, Hilary McD (1995). Liberation Cricket; West Indies Cricket Culture. Manchester: Manchester University Press. 
  18. ^ a b Burton (1997). AfroCreole. 
  19. ^ Beckles, Hilary (1995). Liberation Cricket. 
  20. ^ Rhoden, William C. (2006). Forty Million Dollar Slaves; The Rise, Fall and Redemption of the Black Athlete. New York: Three Rivers Press. 
  21. ^ Manley, Michael (1995). A History Of West Indies Cricket. London: Andre Deutsch. 
  22. ^ James, C.L.R. (2005). Beyond A Boundary. London: Yellow Jersey. 
  23. ^ Royal Mint Collector's Catalogue. 1991.  Missing or empty |title= (help)