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Overcoming the Odds : Reds Perreira’s Biography

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It is not often that a book comes along that should be in the Library of every school and on the list of civics reading material. “Living my Dreams”, the recently published biography of West Indian Cricket commentator, Joseph “Reds” Perreira is such a book.

The book’s importance is that it shows that there is no obstacle to realizing dreams and achieving ambitions if one has self-belief, determination, and unrelenting capacity for hard work. Every obstacle can be overcome.{{more}}

In relating his life in a very unassuming and matter-of-fact manner, Reds Perreira has set an example that should inspire young people throughout the world, but especially so in his native West Indies. I say “native West Indies” for while Reds was born in Guyana’s interior in an area called Pomeroon, he belongs to the West Indian region as a whole, having spent most of his adult life faithfully and enthusiastically serving the area in one capacity or another.

Reds is perhaps best known as a Cricket Commentator, but he is much more besides. He has also been a successful sports administrator in Guyana and for the seven islands that form the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), and there is no sport in the region that his life has not touched in some measure.

He came from very humble beginnings. In the Pomeroon, Reds and his family travelled around by boat and went to Church barefooted. When he moved to Guyana’s capital Georgetown at the age of six, he had never heard a radio or knew that a world existed beyond the Pomeroon river and feeding the pigs on his father’s farm.

In his boyhood in Georgetown, he learned of distant places via the radio but he could have had no idea that he would tour the world as the eyes and ears of the West Indian people in the majestic game of cricket, particularly as for the first twenty years of his life he was afflicted by a terrible stammer.

Nonetheless, he dreamt of it. Reds recalls lying in bed at night doing “imaginary commentaries of cricket coming from Australia, and from England at Lords” and doing so without a stammer. This stammering affected his performance at school. As he tells it: “I had a major problem trying to get through my schooling at a time when the world was not sympathetic to handicaps. Invariably, I would be afraid if the teacher were to ask me a question during any given class”. Even though Reds moved through school to fifth standard passing his exams every year and finishing in the top ten, his recurring problem was his “inability to be able to speak fluently and confidently”.

Reds did not finish secondary school. He went to work at the age of sixteen and immediately showed both his gift for organizing sports events and his love for them. All his wages were spent on arranging competition between cricket and football teams he helped to set up. The rest of his time was spent haunting Guyana’s cricket grounds watching the performances of local players and exulting in the clashes with visiting touring teams such as Australia in 1955 when he saw the young Guyanese batsman, Rohan Kanhai, smash a magnificent century.

What Reds lacked in fluent speech was more than balanced by his abundance of determination.

In 1962, he went to live in England. His anchor there as it was for many other young West Indians was the West Indian Student Centre. Predictably, Reds became the Centre’s sports coordinator and, this young man of limited education, made good friends with able West Indian students who, like him, were later to distinguish themselves in their fields.

Two of them Lester Bird of Antigua and Barbuda and JMG “Tom”Adams of Barbados became Prime Ministers of their countries. Gerry Watt (now Sir Gerald) and David Simmons (now Sir David) were later to become Attorneys-General of Antigua and Barbuda and Barbados respectively.

Recalling Reds’ capacity for sports organization and his deep commitment to the development of sports, Lester Bird (the Deputy Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda) was instrumental in Reds’ appointment as Head of the OECS Sports Desk in 1984 despite the fact that Reds was not from any of the OECS countries and there was some opposition to his appointment on those parochial grounds. After twenty-six years of sterling and unselfish service to almost every sport in the OECS, few now remember that Reds was born in Guyana. In a note in the book, Bird says of Reds’ work at the OECS: “You set a great example which will be difficult to emulate”.

David Simmons , who for four years captained the West Indian Students Centre Cricket team of which Reds was opening batsman, also helped to secure Reds a work permit in Barbados in the early days of his long stint as a Cricket commentator alongside the Doyen of West Indian Cricket Commentators, Barbados’ Tony Cozier.

But, first Reds had to overcome his stammer. And, he recounts in this book how he did so. Discipline, determination and dedication were the things that did it. He wanted desperately to be a Cricket Commentator and to do it, he had to put stammering behind him.

A remarkable career followed in which he encountered at first hand and reported on the great successes and miserable failures of many West Indian sports people, particularly its cricketers. And, then, yet another obstacle intruded upon his life. A stroke on New Year’s Day 1996 as he was about to cover the West Indies cricket tour of Australia paralyzed his left hand side.

Again, it was only determination, discipline and dedication that pulled Reds back from the bed-ridden existence of a stroke victim to the full life he lives today. It has been a remarkable life in which huge obstacles were overcome; obstacles that would have stopped a lesser man, but in Reds Perreira’s case drove him to further heights of achievement.

The book, which tells many behind the scenes stories particularly about West Indian Cricket and cricketers, is ultimately a moving tale that should inspire every young person to set their goals, work hard to achieve them and live their dreams.

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