Dramatic memories for cricketer Halliday
MEMORIES have come flooding back for former Suffolk cricketer Simon Halliday with the current Test match taking place in Galle.He was caught up in the middle of the Boxing Day 2004 tsunami devastation while on a cricket tour to Sri Lanka.
By Elvin King
MEMORIES have come flooding back for former Suffolk cricketer Simon Halliday with the current Test match taking place in Galle.
He was caught up in the middle of the Boxing Day 2004 tsunami devastation while on a cricket tour to Sri Lanka.
“I thought I just had a few more minutes and that I was going to die,” recalled the master in charge of cricket at Harrow School.
“There did not appear to be any way out and all around us was panic. I still cannot believe that I survived.”
Halliday emerged a hero after helping all 15 boys in his group aged between 15 and 18 to safety after they escaped death by climbing to the balcony of the pavilion at the Test ground.
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Along with cricket coaches Stephen Jones and Ramesh Sethi, Halliday maintained discipline as raging torrents swept across the pitch and threatened to rise above the pavilion.
“We were fortunate that we were warming up just in front of the pavilion,” said Halliday, who has played club cricket in the Two Counties Championship for Brantham, Sudbury and Easton.
“The steps were only yards away, but we still only just made it to higher ground when the first wave arrived unannounced.
“We climbed up to the balcony and watched the waters rise. People were floating by screaming below us and there was nothing we could do.
“It looked as though the water would continue to rise, and at one point we were organising the boys into pairs of strong and not so strong swimmers.
“This looked to be the only option, although I knew that if we had to swim, with the strength of the current and deepness of the water we would stand a very slim chance of survival.
“It felt as though we just had a few more minutes to live.”
The only other building adjacent to the ground was a flower market, and to gain a few extra metres a door was broken down and the Harrow School party moved from the pavilion balcony.
“Some Sri Lankans were trying to get onto the pavilion roof, but we resisted this and opted to move to the other building,” added Halliday.
“There was then talk of the cracks appearing in this building as the nightmare worsened. So we went back to the balcony.
“We were there for over three hours as fresh waves kept arriving. Eventually we took the boys down the steps, passing a number of bodies as we attempted to get away.
“But then there was a call to say that another wave was on the way, and we had to run back up to the balcony again.”
When the water did subside Halliday was able to make it to an old Dutch fort that television viewers will see in broadcasts from the ground.
The group's hotel was flattened to the ground and all their possessions were lost. Their passports turned up a few days later when the hotel safe was found.
“Parents were making their own way to the ground when the disaster struck, and many of the boys were distressed for some while until their parents were accounted for,” added Halliday. “A number of parents had miraculous escapes but sadly one died.”
“We were lucky, I would hate to think what would have happened if we had been in the hotel on a day off or if the tsunami had happened at night as we all had rooms on the ground floor”
Halliday made his Suffolk Minor Counties cricket debut in 1986 and played his last match in 1998 - a total of 73 matches.
He scored 2,939 runs at an average of 25.11 with a highest score of 113 against Cambridgeshire at Framlingham College in 1989.