By RON FANFAIR
When Canada became a nation 145 years ago, cricket enjoyed immense popularity to the extent that the country’s first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, declared it the first designated national sport.
And 23 years before the British colonies in North America united to become a confederation, Canada and the United States started an annual cricket series that has become the world’s oldest sporting rivalry.
Launched in 1844, the competition was held annually up until 1912 when it was interrupted by World War 1 and other global events. Revived in 1963, the series ran for another 17 years up until 1980 when there was a three-year hiatus before a restart in 1983. After another stoppage of 16 years, the tournament resumed last year at King City.
Frederick Heather, who migrated from England in 1921 at age 31, was a member of the St. George’s Club that won the city championship in 1922 and Bell Telephone Cricket Club that captured the Toronto & District Cricket Association’s top league title five years later.
When his playing days were over, he became an umpire. He stood in Bermuda’s inaugural visit to Canada in August 1931 and a year later in the Australian series featuring the legendary Sir Don Bradman and skipper Victor Richardson, the grandfather of the Chappell brothers.
In addition to umpiring, Heather was a key administrative contributor. He served as secretary of St. George’s and Yorkshire Cricket Clubs, vice-president and public relations officer of Dentonia Park Cricket Club and was a founding member and first Life Member of the Toronto & District Cricket Umpires Association in 1931. He also started an academy for umpires and was instrumental in the birth of structured junior cricket in Canada.
Heather died in Toronto in 1976 and Cricket Canada has on three occasions unsuccessfully nominated him to be recognized in the Builder’s category in Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame.
Chris Redford is a spearheading a national campaign to have his great uncle become the first cricketer to be honoured by the national Sports Hall of Fame. Nominations close on January 31.
“Canada is more than just ice hockey,” said Redford, who played hockey for the University of Toronto and at the junior level. “It gets the majority of the recognition and I understand that. Other sports, however, deserve recognition and they should not be excluded.
“As a builder, no other individual associated with cricket has given as much to the sport as he did. I am also shocked that no other cricketer has been inducted when you think about the list of people who have made outstanding contributions to the game over the years.”
Since the Hall was established in 1955, 520 members have been inducted.
Redford has enlisted the support of 22 members of Parliament, seven senators, chief executive officers, former Toronto mayor, David Miller and York University professor, Dr. Carl James, who have penned letters embracing his nomination.
“At one time, cricket was likely regarded as an important sport and recreational activity for early European Canadians,” said James. “Interestingly, that historical significance of cricket has been lost as we have adopted other national sporting activities. Nevertheless, the colonial legacy of cricket notwithstanding, we cannot deny this sport’s noteworthy contributions to recreational, social and cultural life in Canada.
“Heather’s work and dedication to cricket would have played a considerable role in the above. On this basis, it’s appropriate that his contributions to the building of the sporting life in Canada through cricket be acknowledged and recognized.”
Miller said Heather’s hard work and commitment to the sport as an athlete and umpire is inspiring.
“He has been a pioneer in building the sport in Canada, especially in the City of Toronto,” Miller added.
Senator Nancy Greene-Raine, who won a gold medal in giant slalom in 1968, also supports Heather’s nomination.
‘All sports benefit from unique individuals who contribute their time and passion to help others enjoy their sport,” said Greene-Raine. “Frederick Heather’s legendary career as an umpire and perhaps, more importantly, his work establishing youth leagues, were a major contribution to the development of cricket in Canada.”