FOR cricket-lovers, September is traditionally the time to say goodbye to those players who have graced the game.

This month, 75 years ago, one such very special player - the first cricketing celebrity from the West Indies - played his last game at the unfashionable venue of Windhill Cricket Club on the outskirts of Shipley.

Having reached the heights in the world of cricket, he then rose in the world of international politics fighting against racial discrimination.

Formed in 1903, the Bradford Cricket League (approximately 20 teams) has always been considered one of the strongest leagues in England.

It has nurtured many famous Yorkshire cricketers. For example, three became England captains - Sir Len Hutton (Pudsey St Lawrence), Ray Illingworth (Farsley), Brian Close (Yeadon).

Coincidentally, they all played for teams technically in Leeds just outside the boundary of Bradford, but those teams chose to play in the Bradford League.

One of the League’s strengths in the mid-20th century was the use of overseas players who in their winter came to make money in England. Each club was allowed one such professional.

Growing up in Baildon in the 1950s, I cannot forget the excitement of seeing the great Everton Weekes - one of the best West Indian batters in the next generation after Learie Constantine - making a special appearance before thousands packed into the local cricket ground.

This tradition helped to improve standards and attract bigger crowds.

No professional was more popular and successful than Learie Constantine from Trinidad (1901-1971).

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Learie Constantine in 1930Learie Constantine in 1930 (Image: Martin Greenwood)

The grandson of slaves and son of a plantation overseer, he was the first star player from the West Indies - a stirring fast bowler, thrilling batsman and brilliant fielder.

Initial success on the first West Indies tour of England in 1923 (he took the first ever West Indies Test wicket) and again in 1928 encouraged him to seek a career as a professional cricketer in England.

Becoming the first West Indian player in the Lancashire League, he spent ten years playing at Nelson before crossing the Pennines.

He played during the Second World War for Windhill, and at the end of his career he had three post-war seasons with Windhill, topping the league’s bowling averages in both 1947 and 1948.

In 1948 Sir Learie, aged 48, finished his career in the Bradford League in style. On his last appearance for Windhill he claimed a wicket off his last ball against Keighley.

Then in his final innings he took the chance to lead his side to victory. This made them league champions for the sixth and final time.

He commented: “I went in for my farewell innings. I had to do something to mark the occasion, and despite fine and steady bowling, I managed to notch up 69 not out, winning the match with a final four that went humming to the boundary as clean as any ball I have ever hit.”

As a cricketer he experienced racial discrimination on many occasions. Perhaps the most notable example of the colour bar occurred in 1943 when he won a legal case in the High Court against the Imperial Hotel in Bloomsbury, London, after being told that his family could only stay one night, despite having booked four nights in advance.

Taking advantage of his reputation as a sporting star, his career developed into law and politics.

An advocate against racial discrimination, Sir Learie was influential in the passing of the 1965 Race Relations Act in Britain

In 1961 he was appointed Trinidad and Tobago’s first High Commissioner in London.

The next year he was knighted and in 1969 made a life peer, the country’s first black peer.

When Sir Learie died, in 1971, he was granted the honour of a state funeral in Trinidad and a memorial service at Westminster Abbey.

* Martin Greenwood’s book, Every Day Bradford, provides a story for each day of the year about people, places and events from Bradford’s history. Sir Learie Constantine is among the local sporting heroes profiled in Martin’s book.

It is available from online stores, including Amazon, and also in bookshops such as Waterstones and Salts Mill.