The Kenneth John I knew – In Appreciation (Part III)
Kenneth John or KRV as friends called him (Kenneth Randolph Vincent) was laid to rest on Tuesday at the St Georges Cathedral. Bassy and I did the Eulogy, and we were happy to do so for a dear friend. We visited him on different occasions over the past year and a half and Bassy focused on that period. He had however known him at school and captured much of who Kenneth was even when he was confined to bed. I had a very special relationship with him and could do nothing less than participate in the ceremony of his journey to the Beyond. Kenneth’s mother was from Fancy and as a very young girl a few days after the eruption started, she with her family was taken to a Refugee shelter at Arnos Vale and then to Chauncey where she settled with her mother and sister Ellen Maule. Kenneth was born on Sunday April 17, 1938 at Roseplace.
I said in the Eulogy that some people had written their own obituaries. Before I could be accused of being part of the supernatural world, I noted that this was before they died. One person who had written his own obit, started his by saying “It pains me to admit it, but apparently I have passed away!” All of this was to make the point that it would have been something to treasure if Kenneth was able to do his own. He had over his years of writing for the Vincentian newspaper done superb obits on many persons who had passed on. I noted, “One thing for sure is that he would have been honest and would even have joked about himself. In the process, no doubt, he would have enriched the English Language and the Vincentian Nation Language.” He had, I noted before, an open love affair with the English Language.
It was good that his children were able to make it back to SVG despite the trials of Covid. His last daughter who lives in Barbados was able to pay her tribute by social media. I was disappointed that the Prime Minister was not there for, although they had their political differences Kenneth had always considered him a friend.
Kenneth’s influence on the national conversation started in 1964 when he was Extra- Mural Tutor and organised evening classes and lectures throughout the country. He played a pivotal role in the formation of the National Youth Council and became its patron. The National Youth Council, of course, became an active NGO and impacted on national dialogue as can be seen in the leading role it played in its advocacy around the idea of Chatoyer as the first National Hero. His formation of the Kingstown Study Group and its publication the Flambeau magazine, was a major contribution to Vincentian dialogue at that time. The Flambeau published important pieces of writings by Vincentians of different political views and ideologies. I mentioned the names of Norma Keizer, Sir Frederick Ballantyne, Tim Daisy, Leroy Mulraine, Daniel Williams. But there were many others who were part of that dialogue. Kenneth was one of the co-founders of the Education Forum of the People which was later transformed into a political party the Democratic Freedom Movement that had become part of the UPM that took SVG by storm in 1979, attracting wide support which for different reasons was not translated into votes. Kenneth before this, contested for the DFM along with Eddie Griffith in 1974.
He was one of the country’s intellectual giants and maintained contacts with the New World Group that included persons such as Lloyd Best and George Beckford. His PhD thesis on Politics in St. Vincent 1950- 1970, hopefully will be published in the near future. His greatest impact in terms of availability to a broad cross section of the Vincentian public came through his columns in the Vincentian newspaper. He started writing for that paper in 1982 and would have done over 1970 newspaper columns touching on “every conceivable topic under the sun.”
I end this three part article with the concluding paragraph of his classic piece on the names of Mini- Vans. He built a story around the names of the vans. This was well received by the Vincentian public.
“If you miss the bus, stop “Man on the Run” on “Broadway” who moves like “Grease Lightning”. But you have to be “Radical” to board “Wild Fire” or truly mad to choose “Mad Dog”. Needless to say, few have the “Confidence” to tempt fate by travelling in “Born to Lose”. If time does not matter and you are like me a “Johnny Cool”, then “Take Your Time”. Remember “Easy Does it” and do some “Cool Running” by going on “Easy Going”. Whatever happens “Murmur Not” for “Man Must Live”.
And if you don’t like the way this Column handled the van names “Still Talk”, “Vaya Condios”. That was Kenneth at his best! Let me re-echo Phillip Nanton, “A pillar of Journalism has been Removed”. May He Rest in Peace!
Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian