Our Readers' Opinions
March 15, 2013

Consider Dr J. P. Eustace for National Hero

Fri Mar 15, 2013

Editor: March 14th is National Heroes Day in St Vincent and the Grenadines and the government some time ago appointed a National Heroes Advisory Committee to “consider nominations of persons upon whom may be conferred the Order of National Hero”. I share the view which has already been published that Dr J. P. Eustace — who addressed the spiritual, educational, health care and material needs of Vincentians — should be a National Hero. You may already know that his name is associated with the Dr J. P. Eustace Memorial Secondary School in Edinboro, but may not know much about the extent of his outstanding and honourable contributions to the development of St Vincent and the Grenadines.{{more}}

I remember fondly a story Pamenos Ballantyne shared last year at the Peace Memorial Hall. Mr Ballantyne said that when he entered the St Martin’s Secondary School, he was jeered by the other students there because of his funny name: “Pamenos”. He complained to his mother, who told him that he was named after J. P. Eustace, whose middle name was Parmenas (the spelling variation may have been inadvertent), and whom she described as the greatest Vincentian that she had ever encountered. Pamenos Ballantyne then returned to the classroom with a new found confidence and may have been inspired by the significance of his name to the heights of athletic achievement.

The story by Pamenos Ballantyne seemed all the more significant to me since Dr Michael Dennie, at the same venue, on an earlier occasion, appeared to be complaining that no one saw it fit to name their children after Chatoyer.

J. P. Eustace is qualified, by the criteria established in Section 10 of the Order of National Heroes Act of 2002, for the conferment of the honour of National Hero. He might even be overqualified. Section 10 (1) of the Act says that a person “who was born in St Vincent and the Grenadines” may be qualified for the conferment of the Honour of National Hero. John Parmenas Eustace was the son of Reynold and Beatrice Eustace and was born on December 17, 1905, on the small Grenadine island of Mayreau; so we have no problems there.

According to Section 10(2) of the Act, a potential National Hero must have also “given outstanding service to St Vincent and the Grenadines” and his contribution must have “altered positively the course of the history of St Vincent and the Grenadines”. I believe that Dr Eustace is the Father of the Education Revolution. He founded three secondary schools here in the following order — the Intermediate School, the Emmanuel High School Kingstown (EHSK) and the Emmanuel High School Mesopotamia (EHSM). He left a prestigious and well paid position in the colonial civil service to start the Intermediate School in 1926, when he was unbelievably just 20 years old. The Intermediate School was: the first private secondary school in St Vincent; the first co-educational secondary school on the island; and, most importantly, the first secondary school to open its doors to students of every colour, creed and economic class.

There were only two secondary schools in SVG before the Intermediate School was born: the very elite Girls’ High School and Boys’ Grammar School. Dr Eustace supported his schools with personal funds and his efforts to deliver secondary education to Vincentians from all walks of life were often frustrated by the colonial powers who thought secondary school education should be reserved for the children of plantation owners, of the merchants of Kingstown and of the administrative elites who were employed in the colonial civil service. The EHSK was once the largest secondary school in our nation and the EHSM, which was opened on May 6, 1963, was the first rural secondary school without entrance restrictions.

It is quite clear that J. P. Eustace altered positively the course of the history of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and it may be fitting for Dr Eustace to be named a National Hero in time for the EHSM 50th anniversary celebrations.

A National Hero, again according to section 10(2) of the Act, should have “given service to St Vincent and the Grenadines which has been exemplified by visionary and pioneering leadership, extraordinary achievement and the attainment of highest excellence which has redounded to the honour of St Vincent and the Grenadines”. If starting a secondary school at the tender age of 20 against all odds does not amount to visionary and pioneering leadership, then Dr Eustace did not exemplify visionary and pioneering leadership.
If being the undisputed champion and pioneer of universal access to secondary school education and co-education in secondary schools in St Vincent and the Grenadines is not visionary and pioneering leadership, then Dr Eustace did not exemplify visionary and pioneering leadership. You don’t have to be a politician to be a visionary and pioneering leader. I agree with my father who said in the eulogy at Dr Eustace’s funeral that Doc, as he was often called, “excelled as a scholar, an educator, a philanthropist, a preacher, a pioneer in education and sports, an optometrist/optician, a great and flawless communicator in English.” Doc worked tirelessly for the good of his country.

There are other aspects of Doc’s work that time and space would not allow me to adequately address here. He had a hand in the establishment of primary schools and a missionary service in places like Sandy Bay, where he may have met and left the indelible impression on Pamenos Ballantyne’s mother. Dr Eustace was the first Vincentian “eye doctor” and often made glasses free of charge for poor Vincentians with sight defects.

J. P. Eustace gave 64 years of dedicated and selfless service through personal sacrifice to the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines. Carlton “CP” Hall concluded a series of articles that he wrote when he was the principal of the Dr J. P. Eustace Memorial Secondary School by saying that it “is a widely held view” that Dr John Parmenas Eustace should be “awarded the highest national honour” for his contribution to national development. I hold this view for reasons outlined and hope that the National Heroes Advisory Committee takes appropriate action.

R. T. Luke V. Browne