Author: Alan Birkinshaw
During the Second World War Windhill pulled off one of the biggest signings in the history of the Bradford League when they recruited the West Indian star Sir Learie Constantine.
Constantine joined a side that had won the league championship for the previous three seasons and his brand of calypso cricket helped them make it five titles in five seasons.
Constantine was already 39 and had played the lastof his 18 Tests when he joined the Busy Lane club
He scored 635 runs and took 58 wickets which was not that impressive but it was the style of his cricket what caught the eye. Constantine was an aggressive right-hand batsman, a lively fast medium right arm bowler and a brilliant cover point.
In 1928 the Trinidadian toured England with the West Indies and had the distinction of taking the West Indies’ first wicket in Test cricket against England.
His aim on that tour was to win a contract in England as a professional cricketer because there were limited opportunities for black people in Trinidad.
In 1929 he joined the Lancashire League side Nelson and was a big success with them during a nine-year stay.
He played for Barbados in 1939 before returning to England to work for the Ministry of Labour and National Service as a Welfare Officer responsible for West Indians employed in English factories, when he joined Windhill.
In his book, Cricket in the Sun, Constantine said his contract with Windhill was the best he had ever had and he did not disappoint the large crowds, who came to watch him play.
His first season brought him a hat-trick against Spen Victoria, 76 league wickets at an average of 11.80 and a batting average of 30.50 as Windhill won their fourth title in a row.
His best bowling performance in his first season saw him take 8-39, one month after scoring his maiden league century of 105 not out.
In 1941, when Windhill won their fifth successive championship by one point from Idle, Constantine became only the second player in the league’s history to take four wickets in four balls against Lidget Green. He finished the season with 68 wickets at an average of 11.96. With the bat he scored 322 runs for an average of 24.7.
Constantine was limited to just one appearance where he scored 23 in 1942 as Windhill finished second behind Lidget Green. Alf Pope and Bill Copson.
His appearances were very limited as the war progressed but in 1943 when the England and Kent wicketkeeper batsman Les Ames joined Windhill.
It was also the year when he was involved in a high-profile incident when the manager of a London hotel refused to accommodate Constantine and his family on the grounds of their race.
Constantine, who was later to become a barrister and politician, successfully sued the hotel company. Commentators now consider the case as a milestone in British racial equality
Constantine remained loyal to Windhill and in 1947 he took 57 wicket and made a top score of 104no as Windhill came eighth. His century included eight sixes and eight fours and he hit 35 in one over.
The West Indian star was determined to end his Windhill career on a high note and in 1948 he helped them to another league title. His contribution was 45 wickets at 10.49 and 303 runs at 23.31. A fitting finale to the great man’s cricketing career.
Windhill finished two points ahead of Great Horton with Constantine winning the league bowling averages.
Constantine, who captained Windhill in his later years, played his last match for the club on September 11th, 1948 against Keighley at Busy Lane, taking four wickets, including the last Keighley wicket in the final over of their innings.
He also took one slip catch and scored 69 not out, hitting a four to win the match which gave Windhill the championship.
The memorable individual performance that season came in the Priestley Cup against Queensbury when Windhill scored 316, including 101 from Constantine in which he hit eight sixes and ten fours, including 28 in one over.
He qualified as a barrister in 1954 and also earned a reputation as a journalist and broadcaster. Constantine was a man of many talents.
In view of his readiness to fight for racial justice it was no real surprise that he was lured into politics when he returined to Trinidad the same year.
He helped found the the People’s National Movement and rose to the position of minister for communications in the Trinidad government.
He was appointed Trinidad’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom and served on the Race Relations Board, Sports Council and BBC Board of Governors.
The man of many talents was knighted in 1962 and made a life peer in 1969, two years before his death.