Mourning national losses
January 28, 2020

Mourning national losses

Over the past two weeks St Vincent and the Grenadines has suffered the loss of two prominent national figures who distinguished themselves in very different areas but who retained the qualities of humility to the very end.

Last week news came of the passing of former Governor General Sir Frederick Ballantyne, after an illness which may have precipitated his retirement as Head of State last year. The preceding week, former national and Windwards’ cricketer Owen “Manning” Jackson also departed this world at the ripe age of 91. Both seem to have followed in the footsteps of others outstanding in their respective fields, Sir Frederick following another knighted personality, Sir Vincent Beache, and “Manning” as he was fondly known, following the loss of netball icon Gloria Ballantyne.

Sir Frederick, from an enterprising family, was not only our country’s longest- serving Head of State, his contribution extended far beyond that. Incidentally, he was the second person from the medical profession to occupy the post of Governor General, following in the footsteps of Sir Sydney Gun-Munro who held that position from 1979 to 1985. Besides being a medical doctor (cardiologist), he was also an entrepreneur and hotelier. Moreover such was his social conscience that he gave consistent support to charitable causes, among them his role in the now renowned World Paediatric Project.

Throughout his life he maintained a dignified presence and, though after his accession to the office of Head of State efforts were made in some quarters to drag him into the mire of partisan politics, even attempts to smear his character, he maintained his dignity.

That quiet dignity also characterised “Manning” Jackson. He was one of the best batsmen ever produced by this country, and by the Windward Islands in fact. Had the opportunities offered to today’s cricketers been then available to his generation, much more would have been heard of him. His mild-mannered demeanour belied the talent he possessed and he must have had some influence on the batting of the first Test cricketer from the Islands, the late Alfie Roberts.

In addition to these two talented Vincentian batsmen, a number of other cricketers of their generation graced the Windward islands line-up of those days. The older folk among us still remember fondly the legendary fast bowler from St Vincent, Frank ‘F.O.’ Mason, the aggressive all-rounder from St Lucia Francis ‘Mindoo’ Phillip, after whom a park is named, the graceful Grenadian Evelyn Gresham, and the Dominican wicketkeepers Reid and Gregoire. All have now gone to the great beyond, but another famous Vincentian cricketer of that era, Garnet Brisbane is reportedly still alive in Montreal, Canada.

As we mourn the losses of Sir Frederick and “Manning” Jackson, we must also celebrate and honour their contributions to national development. Sir Frederick as a Head of State can be assured of a prominent place in our history, but what of “Manning” and the other unsung heroes and heroines in sport, culture, social and community life? In sport, a growing number of countries have instituted Halls of Fame to treasure the memory of persons who have made outstanding contributions. We borrow all sorts of ideas from outside. Can’t we do the same to ensure that the “Manning” Jacksons of our country are honoured fittingly?