Nation builder to be laid to rest Monday
October 30, 2009
Nation builder to be laid to rest Monday

One of this country’s foremost nation builders will be laid to rest on Monday.

Festus Augustus Toney, a man who enjoyed an extraordinary career in the Public Service and a lifetime of Community Service, died at the age of 78 on Sunday, October 25, at his home in Calliaqua.{{more}}

Just last week, the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines named Toney as one of nine persons to be honoured for the 30th anniversary of independence with an issue of stamps.

Festus Toney retired from the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines in 1986 after serving 40 years in the Ministry of Education. At the time of his retirement, he had risen to the office of Chief Education Officer, a post to which he had been appointed in 1974.

Mr Toney, an accomplished but very private person, was an indefatigable public servant. He not only worked as Chief Education Officer but for a time, worked simultaneously as Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education.

Festus was born to Hubert Adolphus Toney and Aletha Merchant in the village of Park Hill on November 5, 1930. His mother died when he was three years old, so his father took him to live with his aunt Robertha Toney in the village of Byera Hill.

Festus grew up in a cottage over looking the “Undermine” tunnel at Byera Hill. He was fondly known as F.A.T., Teach, Papa Toney, Uncle Festus, God Father, Mr. Toney, or just plain Festus, and he became the chief letter writer, main document preparer, chief accounts officer, Master of Ceremonies and Chairman at various functions in the community.

Festus began his teaching career at the Byera Anglican School as a Supernumerary/Pupil Teacher after pasing the School Leaving Examination at the age of 15. He progressed through the teaching grades and after passing the Cambridge School Certificate he became a Probationary Assistant Teacher. He then passed the local Teachers Professional Examination to become a Certificated Assistant Teacher. He taught all subjects at the Georgetown Government School for eight years and at the Byera Anglican School for two years.

In addition to academics, Festus also saw the need for skills training among the young people in his district. For several years he offered free tuition in typewriting to students at evening classes in Georgetown.

In 1955, Festus was appointed to act as Head Master of the Georgetown Government School. In 1956 he was awarded a scholarship to attend Erdiston Teachers’ College in Barbados. After graduation from Erdiston College, Festus returned to St. Vincent in 1958 and joined Alban Henry as an instructor at the Georgetown Teachers’ Training Centre. When Alban Henry became the principal at Dickson Methodist School, Festus became chief instructor at the Georgetown Teachers’ Training Centre.

In 1962, Festus was promoted to Principal of the Chateaubelair Government School. Each Sunday afternoon he travelled by motorcycle to North Leeward and back to Byera on Friday nights.

In 1964, Festus left for Jamaica to complete the Certificate in Education program. After graduation, Festus postponed admission to the B.Ed. degree program to return to SVG with Viola Thomas to become tutors at the new Teachers’ College at Kingstown, where he taught Social Studies, Language Arts, English, and other subjects.

In 1968 Festus graduated from University of the West Indies at Mona with a B.Ed degree. Upon his return to St. Vincent he was promoted to Senior Lecturer at the Teachers’ College.

In 1969 and again in 1971, Festus was appointed to act as an Education Officer under Chief Education Officer T.V. Keane. Following that assignment, he returned to his duties at Teachers’ College, where, in addition to his duties as Senior Lecturer, he coordinated and participated in many regional conferences, seminars and workshops.

On retirement from the Ministry of Education in 1986, Festus, at age fifty-five had no intention of leading a sedentary life. He accepted the position of Acting Resident Tutor at the University of the West Indies School of Continuing Studies at Kingstown, to replace the Resident Tutor, Cameron King. He held this position until Dr. Adrian Fraser was appointed Resident Tutor in 1991.

Mr. Toney was also the local examiner for many examination bodies, including Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), the Graduate Record Exam (GRE), the Test of English as a foreign language (TOEFL) and the Association for Chartered and Certified Accountants (ACCA). He was also the Local Resident Representative for The Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music.

Mr. Toney was also a devoted Anglican who gave yeoman service to his church. Every Sunday, rain or shine, Festus travelled the twenty miles from his home in Calliaqua to Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Georgetown to attend the 7:00 a.m. Mass. Following the Church service he had breakfast then went off to conduct church services in Fancy, Owia, Sandy Bay, Byera or Mt. Grenan. After the death of Choir Master Alban Henry, Festus was appointed Choir Director of Holy Trinity Church.

On retirement from the civil service, he voluntarily became Secretary of the diocese of the Windward Islands and, was Assistant to all four Bishops: Woodroffe, Elder, Goodridge and Friday.

Mr Toney was a member of various civic organizations, including the Duke of Edinburgh Award Programme, the Lions Club and The Gideons.

Mr. Toney’s funeral service will take place at 2 p.m. on Monday, November 2 at Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Georgetown. He will be interred in the churchyard cemetery.

Parts of this article were adapted from a biography on Festus A. Toney written by his brother Joel G. Toney in 2004)