Memories by the score — Harold Smith

By Robbie Robinson

Sunday, January 20, 2019

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In the 1970 edition of the school magazine, The Wolmerian, Editor Robert Dabdoub wrote “this kid is big and so are his achievements”.

Coach Ron Jones, who was the architect behind the all-conquering Wolmer's football team which took the triple in 1971, described him accordingly:

“He was a colossus — certainly the best all-round sportsman during my time at Wolmer's. He was, of course, our Manning Cup goalkeeper, having been converted from a centre back/centre forward. In our winning Manning Cup, Olivier Shield, Walker Cup season, he conceded just seven goals and was outstanding in the Walker Cup final. He was easily the best goalkeeper that season and was selected for All-Manning and Jamaica Under-19 to Trinidad.”

Harold Lloyd Smith first walked through the gates of Wolmer's Boys' School in September 1965 and was already significantly taller than his colleagues. From first form he showed signs of being an outstanding footballer and by second form was a member of the Colts team. In fact, Harold would quickly point out that he was centre half with Jeff Mordecai in goal. By the time they reached the senior team, the roles had reversed with Smith in goal and Mordecai as centre half.

The switch to keeping goal was not necessarily a smooth one for the team but was a well thought out one by coach Jones and the late Lindy Delapenha. Truth be told, Smith was a brave soul and willing to give anything a try. By the end of his first season in goal, it was clear that he had the talent to go much further.

But Smith had other talents that were obvious from before he took up the task of protecting the goal. At Boys' Champs he had a mediocre experience in Class Three making it to the hurdles final and running a leg on the relay team.

But in Class Two, he started showing signs of real talent. Smith told the story of competing in the high jump against the favourite, Kingston College's Patrick “Cat Brown” Vernon. Those were the days when KC was invincible and “Cat Brown” was one of their champions. But Smith figured that all he had to do was beat “Cat Brown”. He was correct, as he won the high jump Class Two which was his first victory at Champs. He also had a clash with another KC stalwart in Class Two, sprinter/hurdler Kirk Douglas. It was Douglas who was all-conquering in Class Three and Smith was determined to get revenge the following year in Class Two. When they lined-up for the final, the sheer power and much improved technique of Smith destroyed his favoured counterpart.

Coach Jones said “as a track and field athlete he was outstanding — one of Wolmer's best-ever. He was Class One champion at school sports day in 1972 — winning the Myers Cup plus the F W Day Cup for field events and the Prefects Cup as the Victor Laudorum of the meet. He then went on to win the Class One hurdles at Champs (having previously won at Class Two). He also finished second in the triple jump and fourth in the high jump. He was our track and field captain that year”.

Worthy of note was the fact that a determined Smith surprised everyone at sports day as he won the 100 yards defeating the overwhelming favourite Seymour Newman. Possibly his only defeat on Wolmer's soil.

There was an interesting tale of Lindy Delapenha telling Smith that he would never become a good hurdler as he was simply too big. But Ron Jones had other ideas. “I persuaded Harold to take up hurdling because I didn't think he quite had the speed to become an outstanding sprinter. Seymour Newman, for example, who was primarily a 400 and 800-metre runner (yards in those days), could always beat Smithy over the 100. I worked very hard with him at his hurdling, though Lindy always thought he wasn't flexible enough and would struggle against the very best hurdlers.

This may have motivated Smithy, but what was far more important was that I persuaded Sidney Foster, a former Olympic hurdler and Wolmer's Old Boy, to come to school and have a few coaching sessions with Smithy and our two other outstanding hurdlers, Donat Atkinson and Ho Hing. He was brilliant and all three of them learned so much. The result was Atkinson finished second in Class One hurdles at Champs, Smithy won Class Two hurdles and Ho Hing won Class Three. A truly remarkable achievement.”

In one year, while running the third leg on the relay team, he took off too early and ran out of the box and the team was disqualified. Later that evening he told his girlfriend that he was aware that his schoolmates were cursing him now “but I will make up for it in the hurdles finals tomorrow.” He did just that, winning the final by the proverbial mile.

Smith was part of the Jamaica track and field squad for a while, though he never competed in a major championship. He suffered with a succession of injuries later on. Coach Jones confirmed that he was inundated with telephone calls from American universities who wanted both him and Seymour Newman for their track teams. I think, though, he ended up going to University of Florida and did very little athletics afterwards.”

This writer saw him while he visited Jamaica once and he confessed that he did run a 47-second relay leg but never pursued his track and field career much thereafter.

As a friend, I once suggested that he could have made an outstanding decathlete as he was very competitive in 100 metres, 400 metres, long jump, shot put, high jump, hurdles, discus. All he had to do was learn the javelin and pole vault. He looked at me as if I was insane, then smiled and muttered “no thanks”= I am too old for that.

His outstanding goalkeeping skills were carried beyond the boundaries of schoolboy competition when he started keeping goal for one of our leading Major League teams, Cavalier SC, which was coached by the legendary Leighton Duncan. Ironically, he later admitted that he turned away eventually from goalkeeping when the legend Pele came to Jamaica to play an exhibition game against a Cavalier Invitational XI. To his disappointment, he was not allowed to keep in that game as the national goalkeeper Vester Constantine was preferred. Harold saw it as an opportunity he was deprived of and confessed that he lost his zest for continuing at the senior level.

After leaving school he married Kay Tingling and they both left Jamaica to Gainesville, Florida. Harold attended the University of Florida where he earned a Bachelor's of Science in business administration and, soon after, a master's of Business Administration. Several years later, they moved to Miami where they had a daughter, Alicia Smith.

He returned to Jamaica and spent some time here and then took a trip to Hawaii where he then later relocated. In Hawaii, he met and married Regine Herr in September 1996. Harold's love extended to Oliver and Benjamin, Regine's sons, and took them on as his own children. Harold continued to build his career and love his family and his job. In 2005, Harold, Regine and stepson Benjamin moved to Washington. In Washington, Harold continued to grow his career and foundation for his family. In addition to working in the banking industry, Harold contributed his knowledge and skills and served on the board of directors for a non-profit organisation, Friends of the Children, committed to breaking the cycle of generational poverty through mentoring children.

In his spare time, he loved watching horse racing, spending time with his family, and cheering on his favourite football team (the Miami Dolphins). One wonders if he had grown up in the USA if he would have become an outstanding NFL star. He certainly had the speed and power for that game. One would never know.

On March 29 last year, Harold died in his sleep, a victim of sleep apnoea. He is survived by his wonderful wife of 22 years, Regine; daughters Alicia, Mary (daughter-in-law) and Karina; sons Oliver and Benjamin; siblings Karol, Peggy, and Roy; and four grandchildren.

Editor's Note: Robbie Robinson is an attorney-at-law, public speaker, sports journalist, sports enthusiast and singer.

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