Cayman’s sporting community lost one of its founding fathers when Derek Wight died tragically a month before Christmas and many who knew the affable businessman are still mourning him although his legacy will live on for decades.
Wight was 79 and in good health having just had the all clear after a thorough medical in Miami a few weeks earlier. Unfortunately for him he tripped over a paving block, falling on his face and died from head injuries four months ago.
It was a sad loss of the father of 10 who had five sons and brought all the boys up with a healthy interest in participating in sport, especially cricket and football. The girls too got their chance and all chose tennis.
When Derek Wight arrived in Cayman in the mid 1950s from Guyana with his family, he found there was very little structured and organised sports. He quickly set about putting that right. There were many people who played sports and had talent, but they largely depended on getting friends together for scrimmage games or competing against visiting ships and touring sides.
Wight believed passionately in the importance of sports in society, especially the youth. His philosophy was that not only was it very important from a health and exercise perspective, but it also provided many life skills. Such lessons as the significance of discipline, training, confidence, integrity and the will to fight on even in difficult situations are critical in long term sports competition but also carry over into everyday life, he reasoned.
Members of teams coached by Wight all attest to his drive for discipline and hard work mixed with a will to fight through difficult situations and always with integrity and honesty. Many of these teams say that their tremendous success had more to do with hard work and preparation than being more skilled than opponents.
Wight was instrumental in establishing a football league with regular matches and competitions and was founder of the By Rite Stars, the dominant football team of the day, from which many talented players emerged and some went on to play for their country.
He also founded the By Rite Cricket Club which is still the most successful cricket team in local history. He was a life member of the Cayman Islands Tennis Club and played for them against visiting teams.
Wight and friends started a table tennis group who played on a regular basis. He sponsored many sporting activities through his various business endeavours – often without recognition – including sponsoring some of the first road relays. He also sponsored a rally motor racing car though his business Tom-Sun Garage and was the first local to sponsor a vehicle representing Cayman in overseas races.
Probably because of his rich family history in West Indies cricket – his father Oscar was selected for a West Indies team which toured Australia and captained the Guyanese national team – Derek had a particular love for the sport. At the time there the West Indies was segregated on colour. Whites on that tour stayed in hotels and the black players had to stay in the ship. Oscar Wight, although White himself, objected so vehemently that he was never picked for the West Indies again even though he captained Guyana for many years after. Oscar’s sense of justice and principles were passed on to Derek.
As a highly successful businessman which included helping build up the duty-free industry here, a supermarket, shoe store and gas station, Derek personally made substantial investments in the local cricket community.
The By Rite cricketers did not only get their normal expenses of competing locally covered by Wight, he also felt it important they got international competition too and he funded many overseas tours to Jamaica, Barbados, Bermuda, Bahamas and England.
He realised that for local teams to be competitive against international opposition, the local facilities needed to be improved, especially the pitches. To achieve this, Derek helped create the Smith Road Oval which was previously swamp land and paid for clay to be imported from Jamaica to provide a playing surface comparable to international surfaces. He paid the wages of a groundsman for many years to maintain the wicket and field. By Rite are still going strong and are now sponsored by Crighton Properties.
Although he tried to avoid the spotlight, Wight served for many years as Vice-President and President of the Cayman Islands Cricket Association. His influence was felt directly in many sports throughout the Island but probably even more through the positive influence sports has had on Cayman society. Modest by nature, he would go off island rather than receive an award and would send one of his sons to collect it on his behalf.
His sons Brian, Christopher, David, Philip and Michael did not do too badly either, all representing the Cayman Islands in at least one sport. They grew up to be upstanding citizens but their only flaw is that the whole Wight family inherited Derek’s love of Arsenal and all are supporters, even the grandks. Ah well, nobody is perfect.