St George's Park History
Port Elizabeth, South Africa
St George's Park - The John Passmore Week
The John Passmore Week
It was strange to consider that in most cricketing countries, there was no such thing as a national schoolboys' week, and yet here in South Africa, in the 1970s and 80s we had three.
The first, the famous Nufffield week, is well known. The second, was known as the Perm Primary Schools Week, and was established for several years.
The third of the national schoolboy weeks was the John Passmore Week, and was little known in this country, and probably not even known about at all abroad.
The John Passmore Week was one run for Black schoolboys only - just as the Nuffield Week catered only for their white counterparts. It was named by the Africans after one of the South African Cricket Association Fund Trustees, John Passmore, a former chairman of the Western Province Cricket Club, as he had taken a keen interest in the establishment and subsequent development of the week.
Passmore Week was first held in January 1971 and was held regularly every year after that until Blacks joined Nuffield Week in 19.
At the last moment, the first tournament was held at Langa, Cape Town, when it was found that Bloemfontein, the original choice, did not have one suitable ground - not that those at Langa had much to commend them.
They were, to say the least, very crude, but they did enable the tournament to "get off the ground." Despite the fact that no school cricket was being played at any centre, no less than 9 of the 10 affiliated "provinces" sent a schoolboys' team.
Transvaal, NE Transvaal, Griquas, OFS, WP, EP, Border, NE Districts and Transkei were represented. The absentee, Midlands, based on Grahamstown-Fort Beaufort area, subsequently played in all the tournaments, and made a considerable contribution to the week.
Edward Habane, the star of the Tournaments, originally came from Midlands, but it must be emphasised that he was far from being the only player of potential to emerge.
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The first Tournament was, unlike Nuffield, played in the form of a competition and was won by Eastern Province. Subsequently, tournaments took place at Soweto, Johannesburg (1971/72 and again in 1972/73), Langa (1973/74), New Brighton, Port Elizabeth (1974/75), and Mdantsane, East London (1975/76).
A constant problem was to find a centre with a sufficient number of adequate grounds. One of the benefits of the Tournament was that nearly every centre, apart from having existing grounds brought somewhat closer to Tournament standards, actually built one or more grounds especially to take the Tournament.
White cricketers played a considerable part in the organisation of these earlier Tournaments, and the names of Alt Bacher, Abe Levenstein, Stan Anderson, Martin Rademeyer, and Brian Bassano will always be associated with them.
The costs of the first Week were met by a grant from the SA Cricket Association Fund. However, its resources were not so great that it could continue to do so unaided year after year. A partner was sought and fortunately the SA Breweries needed little persuasion as to the value of this project, and they acted as a partner in many subsequent Tournaments.
Apart from Eastern Province, other winners of the tournament were Border and Midlands. The results highlighted the fact that the development of African cricket was confined almost exclusively to the Xhosas. Most of the players originated from an area of the country embracing Port Elizabeth, Grahamstown, Queenstown, East London and including the Transkei.
The Blacks explained that it was in this region that the 1820 Settlers made their homes, and consequently the Blacks saw and understood the game over a long period.
Habane, for example, started his cricket at the nets on a farm of an enthusiastic white cricketer near Grahamstown.
At that first week in January 1971, it would be fair to say that few of the sides knew much about cricket. For example, little was known of field placing which was, perhaps, as well, for there was little chance of any fielder sticking to his position.
But each year saw a most dramatic improvement, and the best of the Black schoolboys were then able to give a good account of themselves, in almost any company.
As an indication of their progress, and the progress of the Tournament, six of their number were selected to play for the African National side against the Derrick Robins XI at Soweto, and that Habane and Stamper, two schoolboys, represented the Africans against some of the world's greatest cricketers in the Datsun double wicket at the Wanderers.
Peter Le Mesurier, past organising secretary of the Nuffield weeks, was convinced that a Black side could hold its own in the Nuffield Week.
John Passmore Week played an important part in the development of Black cricket for a few more years until it was eventually integrated into Nuffield Week in the late 1980's.The 1976 Protea Cricket Annual of South Africa