Special Features
February 20, 2009
Cottle turns over a new leaf

Describing himself as being shaped and molded by a period of struggle, former active revolutionary Junior “Spirit” Cottle says that it is ironic and interesting that the imperialistic system that he fought against was the one that saved him from certain death 33 years ago.{{more}}

Cottle’s story began in May 1973, when he, along with two other ‘revolutionists’, had capital city Kingstown gripped in fear for two weeks, in what he described as the greatest manhunt in this country’s history.

Only scratching the surface of what transpired during that period (he promised to give a detailed account in an upcoming publication), the 58-year-old recollected what transpired during the era, which probably changed the course of the history of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

“The acting Attorney General was gunned down and we were the main suspects… he was shot at his home at Fort Charlotte and died a day or two later. And from then on there was a hunt for myself and the others.”

Currently a Senior Community Liaison Officer in the Ministry of Agriculture, Cottle said that the search ended after two weeks of curfew in Kingstown, when one of the wanted men surrendered, another was killed in a police shootout, and Cottle himself captured in a shootout with police in Rose Place.

“I remember it was one Sunday evening when the shootout took place.

“I came into the area the Saturday night… there was a reward on my head at the time; and naturally people would be tempted to give information to get the ($3,000) ransom.

“I was in the community until someone saw me when I was making contact… and reported it to the police.

“Police swarmed the area and surrounded the entire block.”

The ensuing gunfight saw Cottle receiving a bullet to the neck before being apprehended.

Cottle and his co-conspirator were charged that same year and sentenced to hang for their crime.

They appealed the sentence, but while on death row Cottle used the opportunity to improve on his academics.

During the trial and subsequent appeals the men gained the support of the public, who wanted a fair trial for the men.

Cottle alleges that while waiting for a final decision, there was an attempt to carry out the original sentence by the authorities.

He recalled that the authorities had his burial suit and coffin built and burial holes were dug even before the verdict was handed down, a move which forced him and some others to plot an escape from prison.

“We actually tried to break out at that time. One death row inmate desperately tried to get out of his cell in high daytime, climbed over the walls and in the process he broke his legs. They took him to the hospital and brought him out early. And even before he was perfectly healed he was executed,” Cottle claimed.

Luckily for Cottle and his co-defendant, they were freed by the British Privy Council in 1976, on a technicality.

“I’m a changed person. Ideologically, I’ve become clearer. Politically I’ve become more conscious.

“Although the imprisonment was a setback, it was something like an opportunity to review my past and come up with a more objective position today.

“Had it not been for that period, had it not been for that era I probably wouldn’t have been alive today, because I was going down a path where my views were extremist; but I have learnt from the experience that I have been through.

“I saw the enemy as white people…but it is very ironic and interesting that it was the same white Privy Council that freed me from certain death in 1976,” Cottle said.

The father of four has been married for the past 20 years, and currently owns a plant shop in lower Bay Street.

He still suffers from the injury sustained in the 1973 shootout, which causes partial paralysis and the ever present hoarseness in his voice.

The outspoken and well respected community man says that his social work is now pushed to the forefront of his political activism.