Treasuring ‘T-Man’ and our other Cultural Heroes
by Renwick Rose
Vincentians will from next week embark on activities to commemorate National Heroes Month with the highlight being National Heroes’ Day on March 14.
As we move into this revered month, it is disturbing to read of the plight of the most prominent pan tuner that we have produced, Clinton Jimmy James, better known as ‘T-Man’, ‘Tall Boy’ or as persons from his community of Brighton would remember, ‘Count’. A feature story in another section of the media by journalist Carlyle Douglas, relates that ‘T-Man’, by far the most outstanding and prolific Vincentian pan builder and tuner for more than half a century, has fallen on hard times and is living in perilous conditions in Union Island.
An appeal has been made through Nice Radio for financial assistance and it is a cause which we all should support. Most of all the Ministries of Culture and Social Development, the Carnival Development Corporation (CDC) and the Youlou Pan Movement should all get cracking on the case. Whatever the reason for ‘T-Man’s current state, it cannot be denied that he has made an invaluable contribution to culture and the development of the steelband here in SVG.
We would be giving a very wrong message if we leave him to languish in poverty and misery while we talk of National Heroes and the outstanding contributions of prominent Vincentians.
On this note, the Trinidad and Tobago steelband is extolling the contributions of two of its greatest pan pioneers. Neville Jules, pan player, organiser, arranger, pan builder and tuner and “Father’ of that country’s oldest steelband, Trinidad All Stars, passed away on February 18, just as his band was preparing for the Panorama finals. He was 92.
By coincidence on that same day, another pioneer, pannist, arranger and educator, Hugh Borde of the Tripoli steelband which won worldwide acclaim, died as well at the age of 86. Older folk will remember Tripoli visiting here in the mid-sixties and performing open air at the War Memorial (Iron Man) in Kingstown.
Both legends were not only revered in T&T but honoured as well. Borde, who migrated to the USA and spread pan music there received numerous awards for his contribution and is the only pannist from his country to receive the Gold Medal of Merit from a US President, Ronald Reagan. Jules himself received T&T’s second highest honour, the Chaconia Medal (Silver) in 2018 for his glorious contribution and just last October was honoured by five of his nation’s leading steelbands.
In his own way, ‘T-Man’ has made an outstanding contribution to our country as well. Let us show respect and honour him with a dignified existence.