Arthur Reynold “Kelly” Foster (1890 – 1965)
My grandfather was born on the 14th of December, 1890 in a house in Beckles Road. He was baptized on January 14th, 1891 at St. Ambrose Chapel on River Road.
After going to primary school in Chelsea Road at Mrs. Collymore’s where, incidentally, he met Annie Waite, his future wife, he attended Harrison College from 1900 – 1908.
He was a very talented boy who not only excelled in sports, especially football and athletics, but he was also a keen cadet. He enjoyed playing music and acting in the theatre.
Here is an article from the Barbados Globe newspaper of Friday, April 10th 1908.
HARRISON COLLEGE SPORTS
The annual recurrence of an event of any sort comes eventually to be regarded in the light of an assimilation, and all those who have been in the habit of attending the Athletic meetings at Harrison College must have discovered that with them there is no departure from the rule. Yesterday’s meeting, however, was a brilliant exception since in the matter of attendance alone there was a substantial improvement upon what has been the case for several years. The contests were all very keenly fought out and the day’s pleasure proved highly satisfactory. The following are the results –
(A.R Foster’s results are recorded here, not the full list that appeared in the newspaper article.)
Throwing the cricket ball (Seniors)
Foster (93 yds 1 ft ), Hutson, Goodman
Hundred Yards (Seniors)
Skeete (11 &1/5 sec) Parris, Foster
220 yards – Foster, Browne, Skeete
Hurdle Race – Skeete i, Foster, Skeete ii
Quarter Mile – Foster (58 &3/5 sec), Skeete, Browne
Half Mile – Browne (2.14 min), Foster, Hutson
Complimentary speeches and vociferous cheers preceeded and followed the distribution of prizes by Lady Carter. The speakers were: His Excellency the Governor, the Headmaster and the Honorary Secretary, Mr. H.G. Carrington. The Police Band was present during the afternoon and enlivened the proceedings.”
Kelly left Harrison College in 1908 and gained employment in the civil service as a Supernumerary in the Post Office.
On July 25th, 1909, he and Annie Waite, his boyhood girlfriend, were married at the Dalkeith Wesleyan Church .He was eighteen years old, confident, talented and disciplined. He was an accomplished athlete and footballer, a musician with a flair for acting, and, above all else, he must have shown signs of his leadership skills as an outstanding cadet.
As far as I know, Kelly and Annie lived in Beckles Road until 1938 when Kelly was appointed Governor of Glendairy Prison. Prior to that appointment, he had been a clerk in the Post Office, the Public Library and the Registrar’s Office. He had also done a stint as an Officer of Customs. From 1933, however, his civil service career became focused on his police work.
His resume from 1933 onwards reads as follows:
In 1933, he was appointed as the Chief Officer of the Government Industrial School, better known as Dodds.
1934, April to October, he was Acting Governor of Glendairy Prison.
1935 – Junior Inspector of Police.
1936 – Superintendent of Police.
17th August, 1938 – took up post of Governor of Glendairy Prison.
September 1st, 1938 – Justice of the Peace.
September 8th, 1938 – “Appointment announced of Lt. A.R. Foster, Supt of Police, as Governor of Glendairy Prison.” (BHMS Journal. Vol 6. Pg 106)
1945 – promoted to Captain.
1949 – promoted to Major, appointed Superintendent of Prisons.
1952 – awarded MBE.
1954 – Major A.R. Foster retired. His salary at that time was $4080.00 per annum.
His was certainly an outstanding career as a civil servant, and one would have thought that he was awarded an MBE because of the steadfast police work that he performed. However, one would be mistaken in that assumption. Major A.R. “Kelly” Foster was awarded an MBE because of his tireless work in the field of sport! However, as the journalist who wrote the following piece in the Barbados Advocate of January 3rd, 1952 indicates, his contribution as a police officer and his work in the Cadet Corps did not go unnoticed.
“There have been occasions in the past when the list of awards either at the King’s Birthday or at New Year left a sense of wonder as to the methods used to select the recipients. The 1951 New Year’s honours leave no room for such wonderings. Limited as it might be, that list covers a wide and varied range of services all necessary to the well being of community life.
Major A.R. Foster, Superintendent of Prisons, has made his contribution not only in official duties but in the realm of sport. As a prison officer he has been most humane and made the unfortunates who came under his care feel that to err against the rules of civilized society was not necessarily to become an outcast. Where he has maintained outstanding claims to leadership is in football, athletics and boxing. His appointment as Commanding Officer of the Cadet Corps was an indication that his service to the youth of this island was recognized.”
In the early 1900’s, there was only one established sport in Barbados – cricket. As early as the 1870’s, cricket was played throughout the island, by schools, the military, and numerous other teams that represented the planter and merchant classes. The Barbados Cricket Challenge Cup Committee was established in 1892 to regularize play for the annual Challenge Cup competition. All other sports, however, had not benefited from such popular support and, therefore, had not developed the administrative sophistication to promote their growth. Kelly Foster was one of the leading pioneers in the development of football, athletics and “body building”, boxing and water polo.
The Football League started in Barbados in 1910. Four teams played for the Football Challenge Cup. These teams were the Volunteers, Combermere, Harrison College and Kensington Rovers. It was reported in The Globe of May 2nd, that after a round robin series played in March, the final was won by the Volunteers by 2 goals to nil over the Kensington Rovers. The match was played at the Savannah. Kelly would most certainly have played for the Kensington Rovers as he was a founder member of that team.
By 1915, the football fixtures indicated that no new teams had joined the League. In fact, Kensington Rovers fielded two teams along with the Volunteers and Harrison College. By the end of the 1915 season, Harrison College had pulled out of the League because of injuries to students and deliberate rough play against the schoolboys. (The Globe Newspaper) Although Kensington Rovers “A” team won the 1915 Challenge Cup, the game of football was still very much a fledgling sport headed in the wrong direction.
In 1922, when Kelly was the Hon. Sec. of the Barbados Football Association, Barbados was invited to participate in the Matrinez Shield. This competition was an inter-colonial football tournament played between Trinidad and British Guiana. The Barbados Weekly Herald of Sept 9th, 1922 article suggests that it was unlikely that Barbados could finance such a venture as football did not have enough popular support locally.
By 1931, however, Barbados played in the Martinez Shield for the first time and in 1932 hosted the tournament at Kensington. By this time, the local Football League had grown and football had increased in popularity. The Barbados Football Association, formed in 1910, had finally secured a place for the sport in Barbadian culture. Kelly Foster was one of the pioneers that withstood the early disappointments; the lack of public support, scarcity of funds, and, no doubt, the ridicule of most of the established cricket clubs which did not initially incorporate football as a part of their club activities.
Kelly captained and played for Barbados in the Martinez Shield in 1933 in Trinidad. He was 42 years old at the time and past his playing prime. However, as The Trinidad Guardian reported on October 22nd:
BARBADOS FOOTBALL TEAM ARRIVES IN TRINIDAD.
BIG WELCOME AT WATER FRONT.
FIVE FOSTERS ON THE VISITING TEAM.
(The Five Fosters were Kelly, Colin, Caesar, Leon and Reyn)
The Barbados team, which will take part in the Intercolonial Football Tournament, arrived today in the R.N.S. Crynsenn. They were received with cheers by a large crowd of enthusiasts who lined the water front when they arrived at Customs. Mr. A.R. Foster, the captain and veteran of the side, stepped ashore smiling, with a football. “I think we stand a pretty good chance….(He commented)…..Most of the members of this team have never played Intercolonial Football before, but I think they will win their spurs in the baptism of fire, with a little luck.”
There is no doubt that the Trinidadians acknowledged that he was in Trinidad as mentor, captain, and player, in that order, of the Barbados team. He was, indeed, Mr. Football of Barbados!
Kelly continued to play his part in establishing football as a popular sport in Barbados. He held the post of President of the Barbados Amateur Football Association, circa 1950, and at the time that he was awarded the MBE in 1951, he was the Vice President.
Although I have not been able to verify whether there was a boxing association in Barbados at the turn of the 20th Century, certainly Kelly was a pivotal personality in the promotion and support of boxing for at least three decades; that is, from the 1920’s through the 1950’s. Daddy remembers his first bout being at the Olympic Theatre in 1926 when he was 11 years old! His trainer was the famous Barbadian boxer, Joe Payne. Boxing thrived in Barbados, particularly professional boxing, and Kelly encouraged boxing at Glendairy Prison. Some of the professional fighters in the 1940’s were ex-prisoners. Boxing professionally ensured that these men could earn a living when they were released from prison. In 1940, for example, at the Yankee Stadium, Jack Sharkey, an ex con, fought on the card that featured the featherweight champion, Lightfoot Kid against Shamrock Babe from British Guiana. The Barbados Advocate of April 6th notes that one of the judges was A.R. Foster. Incidentally, Lightfoot Kid won that bout!
Claude Ramsay, a journalist with the Barbados Recorder, writes the following about Kelly’s contribution to boxing in his article “In the Boxing Arena”
“Major Foster has done more than any one in the island for boxing. Major Foster’s MBE is an honour which he richly deserves.
Joe Payne, Willie Squire, Kid German, Al Browne, Jack Montelle, Kid Edwin, and Sharkey will all bear testimony of the great work and interest Major Foster played in the manly art.
Major Foster was not only interested in professionals, he even took more interest in the amateurs and holds the office of President of the Barbados Amateur Boxing Association. Mr. Foster attended as an official the West Indian Championships in Grenada last year.”
When the Amateur Athletic Association was formed on the 17th July, 1947, Kelly was listed as one of the founding members and a Vice President of the Committee. The association promoted cycling, athletics and body building. More importantly, however, it was recognized by the International Amateur Athletic Association, a recognition which paved the way for Barbadians to participate in the Olympics.
Paul Foster remembers that Kelly encouraged the water polo players to form an association in the 1940’s so that the sport could progress. In Paul’s words, Kelly, the first President of the Water Polo Association, contributed “equilibrium and structure” and presided over meetings in a quiet and encouraging way.
In another newspaper clipping which Uncle Tony had kindly sent to me, the writer has this to say:
“Major Foster, I have known since I was in the 1B at Combermere School. He was then Cadet Officer and leader of the Glee Club.
I was to grow up and see him father Amateur boxing in the Colony and put his guts in to local football. I believe that he shares with Herman Griffith the distinction of being the oldest footballer to represent Barbados.
He still takes more than an interest in boxing and football. He is senior Vice President of the Barbados Amateur Football Association and President of the Barbados Amateur Boxing Association.
He has played a leading part in placing water polo not only on the local sporting map but on the intercolonial sporting map as well.
At any Amateur Cycle and Athletic meeting, there is the silver grey head of Kelly with gun in hand as starter. There has seldom been a public award on which there has been such a consensus of opinion that it has been well and truly earned.”
And what did Kelly have to say about being awarded the MBE for his life’s work in sports? In another of Uncle Tony’s clippings, Kelly responds to the Council of the BAFA.
“Major Foster said that the most pleasing thing to him about this honour was the manner in which it was taken by people in all walks of life and especially sportsmen.
He had done what he felt everyone should do and had made a maxim in life to try always to give a hand wherever he thought it could be of use.
He very much appreciated the sentiments expressed that afternoon and felt that they were not merely from the lips but from the heart.”
Kelly and Annie had eight children; Arthur Colin (Colin), Dudley Keith (Willie or Billy), Lindsay Reynold (Reyn), Walter Michael (Mike), Dorothy Esmay (Dordie), Sheila, John and Roy Anthony (Tony). However, their extended family included Walter Neville’s children. After he went to the U.S. in 1923, his children, Vere, Lisle, Leon, Seymour (Caesar) and Cecily, spent a lot of time with Kelly’s children. Barrie wrote to me confirming that her father, Leon, told her on many occasions that Kelly was a very influential father figure to him and his brothers and sister.
Uncle Charles Baeza apparently went to spend some time with the Fosters during a school holidays and never went back home! He told me that he loved Annie like a mother.
One can only imagine what it must have been like raising a household of eight boisterous children, reinforced by their cousins and friends on weekends and during the school holidays. Discipline certainly had to be maintained and Daddy told me that although his father did not use the rod often, he was not against sharing some licks when it was justified!
The family lived in a bungalow at the top of Beckles Road, opposite the McCLeary family. As expected, the boys were encouraged to play sport, especially football. However, Kelly made sure that the children learned to play music and sing. In the 1920’s he formed a band with his children called Kelly’s Koncert Kids!
Kelly himself performed vaudeville acts with Frank Collymore at this time at venues such as the Empire Theatre which opened in 1922. Their stage name was the Kelly and Kully Duo.
Later, when he became Governor, Kelly carried his love of music and the theatre to Glendairy prison! Leary, Caesar’s grandson, and Uncle Geoffrey, Colin’s son, both remember going to the prison to attend concerts performed by the prisoners.
1938 and 1939 were bitter/sweet years for Kelly. Rovers won the 1st Division Championship in April 1938 with four Fosters in the side, including Seymour (Caesar), who was captain of the team. Reyn married Mildred(nee Lewis) in June, and during August and September, Kelly was promoted to Lieutenant, made a Justice of the Peace, and was appointed Governor of Glendairy Prison. There was a lot to celebrate about in 1938……
…..On October 4th, however, his mother, Constance, died.
And then in May 1939, he and Annie lost their first son, Colin, when he was only twenty nine years old. This was a severe blow which shook Kelly’s faith to the core. He and Colin had been extremely close. As a boy, Colin was a member of Kelly’s Koncert Kids and he had grown in to a fine musician who played the saxophone and sang with the Rhythm Troubadours. He had won a boxing medal fighting amateur bouts at the Yankee Stadium, no doubt under his dad’s supervision. Most importantly, he and his father had played football together for Rovers, winning the cup in 1934. They had also played together for Barbados in 1933 in Trinidad. In fact, Colin had kept goal in 1931 for the island in the first series of the Martinez Shield that Barbados had ever played in.
To deepen the wound, Colin and Marjorie, his young wife, had three children, Lionel, Geoffrey and Maureen.
Kelly turned to his old friend, Frank Collymore, for solace. Colin’s death and Kelly’s loss caused Frank Collymore to question his own faith. He wrote in his diary on June 15, 1939,
“Either pessimism or agnosticism remains. I choose the latter. Only the waste of things, the waste of life, of aspirations, the coming on of old age, of dotage – and all to what end?”
Colin’s untimely death was a most devastating blow to Kelly and Annie.
Then on the 3rd September, 1939, Neville Chamberlain, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, announced in a radio broadcast that the country had declared war on Germany. The Second World War had officially begun. In early 1940, Kelly and Annie’s second son, Willie, was one of the young men in the first contingent of Barbadians to join the armed forces. Leon, their nephew, was also one of the members of the group of volunteers.
It must have been an agonizing period in the lives of Kelly and Annie. The long wait between letters coming from Gibraltar where Willie was stationed; listening to the news daily on the radio; dreading the sealed envelope from the war office; longing for the day that their son would come home.. and knowing that Leon was based in Singapore, the most violent theatre of the war…
On the other hand, there was work to be done and a family to look after. There was still Mike, Dorothy, Sheila, John and Tony living at home, at least until 1943, when Mike married Cynthia (nee Lewis) and Sheila joined the AARC in Antigua in 1944. Meanwhile, Arthur, Willie’s son from his first marriage to Marjorie Munroe, had come over from Grenada to live at Glendairy as well.
Colin’s death and the impact of World War II on the Foster family took its toll on Kelly’s health. In the Report on Prison Activities 1946 submitted by Kelly to His Excellency the Governor, under the heading “GENERAL”, item #1 reads
“The Governor of Prison was granted sick leave from 23rd May to 4th August, 1946, to proceed to Canada in the interest of his health.”
Mummy remembers that he suffered from stomach ulcers and had to undergo an operation in Canada. Daddy traveled with him.
When Kelly retired from the Police Force in 1954, he and Annie moved in to a two bedroom house in Pine Gardens that Uncle Reyn had built for them in Sunrise Drive, Pine Gardens. There, he kept pigeons and game birds in the backyard, continuing a hobby of his that he shared with his son, Reyn, who lived only a house away. Victor Harris, the former Secretary of the Barbados Poultry Association, credits Kelly with getting him interested in exhibiting pigeons and Rhode Island reds. As a boy his family lived in Station Hill. Mr. Harris remembers an inmate, William Jones, who was Kelly’s right hand man at the prison. His task was to look after the live stock and poultry, including the pigeons and game birds. According to him, apart from the layers and broilers, there were pigeons, Rhode Island reds, Hamshires, and Black Manorcas. He knew Jones personally and Jones told him that although there were two governors in Barbados, the inmates only recognized one of them!
Mr. Harris remembers that either Glendairy Prison or the Governor, or both, used to exhibit livestock and poultry at the Annual Exhibition at Queen’s Park.
At the risk of being repetitive, I think that the Obituary that appeared in the Daily News the day after Kelly’s death, summarizes his life and the contribution he made to Barbados better than I ever could. I believe it was written by E.L.C.
ARTHUR FOSTER DIES
The NEWS regrets to report the death yesterday of Mr. Arthur Reynold Foster, M.B.E., 75, of Sunrise Drive, Pine Gardens.
Born into a large family – four brothers and five sisters – “Kelly” Foster was educated at Harrison College, where he gained early fame as an outstanding athlete, cadet and footballer. On leaving school, he assumed charge of the Combermere School Cadet Corps, a post which he held for many years, achieving much success for the school in the Burdon and Martinez Shield competitions.
But it is as a footballer that “Kelly” Foster will mostly be remembered. A founder member of Rovers, Kelly and his brothers did yeoman service for that Club, establishing it firmly as one of the premier clubs in the League. He represented Barbados on many occasions, captaining the team on several tours, his captaincy extending even into middle age. At centre-half or full-back, his was usually the reliable boot in the defence array or the pilot in attack. On more than one occasion he played, as skipper, in Barbados teams which included several of his sons and nephews.
From the mid-twenties to mid-thirties, “Kelly” was a favourite figure on the local stage. The Kelly-Kully Duo (with Frank Collymore) and the Kelly Koncert Kids (with his sons and one daughter) were always certain of enthusiastic response.
A keen boxing fan, Mr. Foster was for many years an official and President of the Barbados Boxing Association and a popular referee. Many a struggling boxer remains indebted to his kindnesses during their difficult years. He was also at one time President of the Water Polo Association and of the Amateur Athletic Association.
Joining the Government Service after leaving school, he rose to be Chief Clerk, Parcel Post Department, Post Office, then transferring to the Government Industrial School. After some years at the G.I.S., he was gazetted into the Colonial Police Force, serving in Barbados, first as Inspector and subsequently rising to the rank of Major when he became Governor of H.M. Prison, from which post he retired ten years ago. At Glendairy he was responsible for the organization of concert parties and the introduction of many advanced techniques in penology and rehabilitation.
Few men have earned the popularity enjoyed by “Kelly” Foster during a long and active life. His health failed him in recent years, but those with whom he had previous association recall him in his prime with deep affection.”
Kelly died on 10th July 1965, a year after his wife, Annie, had passed away. He was 74 years old.
It is fitting to end this profile with an image of the granddad Kelly that those of his grandchildren that knew him would recognize. Uncle Geoff, Colin’s son, describes the occasions that he drove with Kelly to various sporting venues.
“I know that he was the official starter at many meets at Kensington Oval because I went along with him as a young fellow on many occasions. Do you know he was also the founder of the Barbados Water Polo Association? I went to many of the matches at the Aquatic Club which he refereed. I will tell you an amusing story. Granddad was a terrible driver. He had an old Hillman car (M804) and we would leave Glendairy with him raking the gears until he got it in third gear. He would drive from Glendairy to the Aquatic Club in third gear never changing down to fourth where the car should have been driven. He would swear and cuss at anything that got in his way; bus, donkey cart, bicycle etc. The same thing on the way back home.”