‘Lindy’ Delapenha’s innings ends at 89
Former star footballer, golfer, horseracing guru succumbs to stroke
Former legendary professional footballer and veteran sports journalist and broadcaster Lloyd Lindbergh ‘Lindy’ Delapenha died from a recent stroke yesterday morning. He was 89.
Delapenha, the first Jamaican to play professional football in England, who had lost his speech some two weeks ago, passed away at the Kingston home of his daughter, Marie Claire, a former Miss Jamaica.
In addition to football, Delapenha, who attended Munro College and Wolmer’s Boys’ School, also played cricket and golf and was a top athlete at Boys’ Champs in the 1930s. He also did boxing while at Munro. However, his passion was horseracing and he rarely missed a race day until his health started to deteriorate.
After a phenomenal performance as a schoolboy athlete, taking part in 16 events over a one-and-a-half-day period, Delapenha served with the British armed forces in the Middle East and Egypt following World War II. During his service, an English football scout saw him playing football for the British army.
This gained him a trial with Arsenal, but he did not sign for the club, and in April 1948 he joined Portsmouth. There, he became the first Jamaican to play professional football in England. Delapenha then went on to win a league championship medal with Portsmouth the same year.
After a few successful years with Portsmouth, Delapenha was transferred to Middlesbrough and this was where his career took off. He became Middlesbrough’s leading scorer in the 1951-1952, 1953-1954 and 1955-1956 seasons. In total, he scored 93 league and FA Cup goals in 270 appearances. He often boasted of Middlesbrough being the bogey team for the world-rated Manchester United, beating the bigwigs on most occasions that they met.
Delapenha then moved to Mansfield Town in 1958, contributing 27 goals in 115 appearances over two years, before retiring from league football in 1960. He played in non-league football with Hereford United and Burton Albion. He won the Southern League Cup with Burton Albion before he moved back to Jamaica in 1964.
Having returned home, Delapenha, who also represented the Jamaica national football team twice, played cricket for a short time and represented Boys’ Town at football, taking them from Division Three up to Division One. Soon after, though, he became director of sports at the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation (JBC).
At JBC, he had various roles including co-ordinating coverage of cricket, the Commonwealth Games, and helped bring international football to Jamaica. He stayed there for 30 years before JBC was sold and his services were no longer required.
Sports broadcaster Ed Barnes told the
Jamaica Observer that Delapenha was an accomplished sportsman who took great pride in his work in sports journalism.
"I read about him, I didn’t listen to him play sports, but based on what I know, he was an excellent footballer and he represented Jamaica at golf as well. At school he did many, many other sports; he was outstanding at sport all round. I interacted with him as far as sports journalism is concerned as he was the director of sports at JBC for a number of years.
"He was someone who knew his sports very well and someone who also took his job very seriously when it came to, like, how you cover the event, how you deal with passing on information about sporting events... he was very meticulous about those kinds of things.
"And I walked directly with him and I joined the JBC after I left RJR. He was in charge of television and I was in charge of radio sports and even after he was retired and I was in charge of both television and radio he was still there because I needed someone like him with his expertise to help me when we had the major events — World Cup 1994, he was a part; he was one of the hosts as far as the panel was concerned and his expertise with the sport of football plus golf and cricket, which he played at high school because at Munro he did everything and did the same thing at Wolmer’s Boys as well.
"He was one of those guys, who used to be more worthy, in respect of how he covered sports and how he dealt with it because, as I said, he was a stickler for details and quality and he wasn’t going to let you off on those things; you had to be doing it right; you had to get things right. Even with his staff, with their pronunciations, you know, they had to be on top.
"He was one of those real professionals in the business, both as a sportsman, from what I have read and the little I saw when he played, even when he came back and played here in Jamaica, and as far as sports journalism is concerned, he was just outstanding," Barnes said.
Barnes said that Delapenha had a great impact on the development of sports journalism in Jamaica.
"I think that he would impact on the sports journalism fraternity greatly. He would have been involved with a number of people, who would have come through while he was in charge of sports at JBC and of course led by Hugh Crosskill, who was one of the best to come out there from his guidance.
"But he would have an impact on us in the quality of the person he was and the quality of work that he put out in the area that he worked in. And our sportsmen can take a leaf from him in respect of how organised he was and talked about and being organised and ready for various sports he got involved in. And as far as presentation is concerned, on television and on radio, he was first-class and he would have impacted in those areas," noted Barnes.
Dr Paul Wright, one of Jamaica’s most senior drug testers, who sat beside Delapenha in broadcasting the sport of horseracing throughout the island, said that he treasured every moment spent with the sporting legend whom he described as a mentor to all.
"When he retired from JBC, Lindy came to KLAS 89 FM and did Turf Talk with me, and we got recognition as the best horseracing programme in Jamaica at the time. But at KLAS, Lindy was not only helping everybody else in sports, but he also became a mentor in diction and pronunciation and how to put your voice over the radio... he assisted a lot of people at KLAS.
"We moved to Power 106 and he did the same thing there. He carried on the reputation that he had of horseracing where he had the ability to select horses based on looks and to have them do well at very long odds. He became legendary in horseracing, and I remember his father once owned a derby winner many years ago.
"Lindy is going to be missed by all of us, not only for his sporting knowledge but because he was a great man, a great father to his daughers and a great friend of mine. I will miss him greatly," Dr Wright told the Jamaica Observer.