Too short an innings: O’Neil “Collie” Smith

Today (September 9) marks 60 years since the tragic death of Boys’ Town, Jamaica and West Indies all-rounder, O’Neil Gordon “Collie” Smith. The talented all-rounder was only 26 when he succumbed to injuries sustained in a car crash on this day in 1959.

Legendary all-rounder O’Neil ‘Collie’ Smith

Smith was in the backseat of a car driven by Garfield Sobers, his West Indies colleague. Also in the vehicle was fast-bowler Tom Dewdney, another Jamaican and West Indies player.

The three, who were in England playing in the Lancashire League, were headed to London for a charity match when the vehicle collided with a cattle truck. Smith suffered spinal injuries and slipped into a coma from which he never regained consciousness.

He played 26 Test matches for the West Indies, mainly as a hard-hitting, right-handed, middle-order batsman. He scored 1,331 runs including four centuries at an average of 31.69.

“Collie felt good that he represented Jamaica and the West Indies”

— Lyndel Wright, younger brother of O’Neil ‘Collie’ Smith

A useful offspinner, he took 48 wickets for the West Indies at 33.85.

Smith was from Denham Town in West Kingston and attended Kingston College which he played for. He was first thrust into the national spotlight playing for Boys’ Town.

Murals along Collie Smith Drive, a roadway named in honour of the legendary West Indian cricketer

Because Smith did not play for an elite club in Jamaica’s Senior Cup competition, his younger brother Lyndel Wright said that made him even more determined to succeed for Jamaica and the West Indies.

“Collie felt good that he represented Jamaica and the West Indies. He was aware of the expectations because he was from Boys’ Town and he couldn’t afford to bring shame on the community,” Wright explained.

Statue of Collie Smith being unveiled last year at Boys’ Town, Trench Town at the cricketer’s former club

Smith played his first match for Jamaica in the 1954-55 regional season, and made his debut for the West Indies against Australia in 1955 at Sabina Park, his home ground. He scored 104 in the second innings, as the West Indies lost by nine wickets.

On September 21, the Symptai/Boys’ Town T20 Community Cricket Competition bowls off at Collie Smith Drive in Trench Town, Kingston. Ten teams will play for the Collie Smith Memorial Trophy.