Guyanese Achievers: Joseph “Reds” Perreira Rolls On – By Dave Martins

I made some noise in a recent column in this space regarding the need for Guyanese to publicly recognize the singular achievers among us, including some who have passed on, the purpose being to elevate our knowledge of the worth of our own and especially so that our youngsters would grow up knowing of people of worth in their past. 

I had mentioned some names in the post – Laddie Lewis; Robert Christiani; Young Joe Louis – and I subsequently heard from readers with other names, some of whom, I must admit, were new to me.  One name I did know, partly because we are related, was that of sports commentator and organizer Reds Perreira and this week, as Reds is celebrating his 80th birthday, I’m using this space to hail him up for his accomplishments.        

         Going in, I have to acknowledge our unusual family connection: Reds’ mother Claudia, was one of the children from the marriage of Pomeroon farmer the late Joseph Francis Martins to his wife Aldreena. After Aldreena’s passing, JFM married Zepherina Barcellos, from Hague, and I was one of five children from that second union. It’s a tricky one, and I’m not sure what that makes me; Reds says I’m his step-uncle. Case closed. Growing up in West Dem, I knew Reds at a distance, but we became close over the years, particularly when I started coming back here on Tradewinds visits.  By then, Reds was a name in radio. 

        He had gone to England in 1962 and found work with the BBC doing a variety of short sports interviews although he was working hard on eradicating a childhood stammer.  Perreira doesn’t buckle easily. He beat the problem using various intensive therapies and on returning to Guyana four years later, ended up getting a steady gig with the Government Information Service doing a weekly half-hour sports show on the GIS station.  He then moved to the GBS station, under the late Hugh Cholmondeley, a spot that launched his broadcasting career in the Caribbean. 

          Reds recalls his first regional broadcast in 1961 in a cricket match at Rose Hall when other local announcers were tied up with a Jamaica/Barbados inter-colonial match at Bourda. His reputation for concise and interesting repartee was building and a pivotal event came when he covered two West Indies cricket matches in 1971 (vs. India and New Zealand) and had gone to Jamaica to cover the Foreman/Frazier championship fight. “They invited me back for the West Indies Australian tour and the Test Match…that opened the door for me at the international level.”

          On the recognition lately, a certain Mr. Ray Roberts had beaten me to the punch praising Reds on Facebook and noting that “at 80, his articulation and sharpness remain top of the line, rekindling memories of his peak years in broadcasting international cricket and sports in general.” Reds (his Christian name is Joseph) Perreira has been a premier Caribbean radio and television commentator in sport for over forty years, much of it in association with the late Tony Cozier of Barbados, building a sterling reputation in covering cricket and various other sports.  Along the way, he had previously served in his homeland as Chairman of the Guyana Sports Council and as President of the Guyana Basketball Association and as Sports Adviser to the Minister of Sport Shirley Field-Wrigley.

Known to be energetic in all his endeavours, he also served down on the field as Football Coach to the BGCC Santos FC and to the National under-23 team, and in recent years he took time also to establish the Reds Perreira Sports Foundation through which he has made, and continues to make, contributions across the region, working from the St. Lucia base he established years ago when he signed on as Sports Coordinator for the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).

          In later years, having becoming established, along with Barbadian Tony Cozier, in the top tier of sports broadcasters in the Caribbean, Reds worked as Sports Coordinator for the (OECS) at their headquarters in St. Lucia where he resides to this day. “The OECS was truly a regional post,” Reds recalls. “UNESCO did pay me for the first year, but there was no start-up fund, and with eight islands, from BVI to Grenada, all wanting events, plus no cell phone and no email, just a fax, it was tough. But my background as a well-known cricket Test commentator helped a lot. 

I started with three events towards the end of 1984 and 12 years later I had 35 events, all sponsored.”  Today, after over 40 years behind the radio microphone, much of it in association with the late Tony Cozier, Reds is based in Castries, St. Lucia, and doing a variety of sports consultancies around the region. He remains a respected voice in broadcasting just having completed coverage of the West Indies/England Test in Barbados – his 149th Test assignment.    

         As his step-uncle, doing this column, I was emboldened to probe his reservoir a bit and asked him which achievement he rates highest. “Overcoming my childhood stammer, for somebody going into broadcasting, was tough.  It was uphill. Imagine any word with the letter ‘s’ in it would give me trouble, but I had a lot of professional help when I was in England and I won that battle, thank God.”

         What about his most memorable moment covering all kinds of sport?  He said: “Definitely one would be the 1975 Cricket World Cup and the first ever West Indies series win against Australia. For our team to come close so many times and then finally to do it. You don’t forget that.”

          Asked about the suggestion made recently in the media here that one of the broadcast booths at Providence Stadium in Guyana be named after him, Reds said: “That is quite an honour, but I feel the names of our great players should take priority when something like that is in the offing.”

         And his concerns?  “My biggest concern for sport in Guyana is the weak club structure that leads to weak associations with too many teams being developed without an administration structure to put systems in place.”  He also sees funds for development as a hurdle to be overcome.  “It is disappointing to see sports tourism ideas, for example, not being taken up.  I would like to see a cycling and hockey facility in Guyana when funds are available, and the establishment of a national horse racing authority.  It would also be great to see the naming of the Blairmont Ground after the late Roy Fredericks and naming the Courentyne highway after Rohan Kanhai.”

       Looking back, I asked Reds, his feelings about his career? He said: “Whatever I have achieved, it’s really thanks to the opportunities given to me by people and organisations.  Doors opened, new vistas emerged, and I always made sure I was ready and prepared; my career blossomed from that.  Also, I was fortunate to have the support of many people particularly from my wife Zandra and my daughter Kimberley.”

       While I didn’t bring it up in the interview, to be around Reds these days is to see him still in high gear, excited about his work and showing that natural exuberance for sport.   At 80, he keeps rolling on; a Guyanese stalwart who has reached the high bar in his career in the region. Happy Birthday, from your step-uncle, Reds.

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  • Emanuel  On 05/28/2019 at 3:34 am

    Thanks for sharing this story, Dave. Reds is a West Indian legend. It’s good to know that he successfully overcame his childhood stammer. It’s not an easy thing to do.

    There are countless great Guyanese all over the world. Please share your story. Thanks.

  • dhanpaul narine  On 05/29/2019 at 2:06 pm

    The late Minister of Sports was Shirley Field Ridley and not Wrigley. I have said it before and will say it again: The Media Center at Providence should be named ‘The Reds Perreira Media Center.’ Reds has turned 80, we should rename the Center while he is around to see it.

  • wally n  On 05/29/2019 at 4:36 pm

    HOPEFULLY cough [never gonna happen] use an couple of the Oil dollars to build a place to honor all great Guyanese, and we do have many ,seems that Guyanese might have shorter memories than …… when it comes to past heroes, or worse, maybe they just don’t care.
    It came to mind when Dave Martins mentioned Laddie Lewis, I actually remember him, from Albert and Anira.

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