We bid adieu to our most favourite son ‘Freddie’
PRIME MINISTER Dr Ralph E Gonsalves delivering tribute to Sir Sir Frederick Nathaniel Ballantyne
Special Features
January 31, 2020

We bid adieu to our most favourite son ‘Freddie’

by PRIME MINISTER Dr Ralph E Gonsalves

TODAY WE LAY to rest the body of one of our revered sons, Sir Frederick Nathaniel Ballantyne. A mark of our civilised life and living in our Caribbean, in our St Vincent and the Grenadines, is the manner in which we say farewell to our favoured sons and daughters. We do so today with profound love, stately honour, and the amazing grace of our Christian traditions in the cathedral of his Methodism. The two beautiful chandeliers were sourced by Sir Frederick from Turkey, courtesy his long-time friend Hasan who is here with us today.

Sir Frederick, “Freddie” as we all knew him, was one of our most favoured sons who would, in his unfussiness and humility, bristle at the massive outpouring of genuine grief among his people and all this worthy ceremonial and touching benediction. His coffin made of breadfruit board is symbolic of his humility and closeness to our people and their traditions. He requested such a coffin.

Freddie won our favour not because he was born of the remarkable Olive and Sammy Ballantyne in humble circumstances in Layou. He rose as a shining star in our individual and collective lives by reason of his dignified and splendid personality, his outstanding personal accomplishments in his chosen profession of medicine, and business, and his selfless service to his people in health delivery, in public service as a Chief Medical Officer and Governor-General, in humanitarian and charitable works, in his friendships with countless individuals of all walks of life. Layou Primary School meant a lot to him. So, too, the World Paediatric Project which he brought to St. Vincent and the Grenadines and which is an extraordinary medical mission of historic proportions.

Throughout it all, Freddie was gentle, patient, calm, humble, stuffed with humor and a generosity of spirit. He stood not on ceremony and suffocating formalities. But he was honest to a fault; forthright with his advice; and firm in his bedrock principles.

Not too long after Freddie became Governor General, he telephoned me one morning from his home in Villa and informed me that he was passing by the Office of the Prime Minister to chat about something, as he had often done prior to becoming Governor-General. Immediately, I got very formal with him. I said “Your Excellency you cannot come to see me.” He enquired “why not?” I told him that it is entirely improper. I said sharply but with humor “Your Excellency, Her Majesty does not go to Number 10 Downing Street to see the Prime Minister; he goes to Buckingham Palace; and you are Her Majesty’s representative.” He laughed uproariously. I informed him that he was at liberty to command my attendance at his Office or home anytime, and I shall be there.

But he never commanded me; he always asked gently about my availability to visit him. I dutifully kept him informed about our country’s governance as required by the Constitution.

Over his 17 years as Governor-General, Sir Frederick and I had formal and informal briefings galore. We became very close friends. On January 4, 2020, I wrote him a personal letter which touches on some of this; I shall read it.

“Dear Freddie, I write to thank you most sincerely, on behalf of the government and people of St.Vincent and the Grenadines, for your extraordinary and long service as our Governor-General, the highest office in our nation. Your exemplary personal qualities lifted higher this great office which is itself imbued with abundant authority and institutional charisma. In so doing you further ennobled the magnificent Vincentian component of our Caribbean civilisation; you have been a “pearl”, a jewel, radiating that which is best among us.You have undoubtedly been a force for good for our nation! You performed your duties with utmost ease and grace.

I shall always remember our many conversations between Head of State and Head of Government, between Freddie and Ralph.Your wisdom, your patience, and your calm always impressed me. The good governance of our nation benefitted from your gentle, and sometimes not-so-gentle, guidance.

I miss you very much. I remain pained that your illness caused you to demit the Office of Governor- General. A void exists in me from your departure from office and from the almost simultaneous absence from this Earthly City of our dear friend and comrade,Vincent Beache. A day does not pass that I do no remember Vincent, you, and me in our many, many interactions.

I want you to know that I love you very much. I shall treasure always your support, your advice, your love.

I am hopeful that you would beat your current illness. I wish you and your family all the best. You are all in my prayers. Thanks again, Freddie! We had a good run together!

Sincerely yours, Ralph”

Sadly, his illness proved unbeatable.

On the Sunday, a few days before his death, I visited him. No one else was with us, save the presence of Almighty God. I shall never forget his words and his advice to me. He was courageous to the end. He was not afraid of death; he lived, as we all do in the shadow of death, but he knew of a life thereafter. I shall miss his voice, his listening ear, his smile, his handsome face, his joy of life, his wisdom, his love and caring.

This very special human being is no longer with us but his legacy lives in, and with, us. His many roles in life are full with glorious memories: Son of Olive and Sammy; father, spouse, friend, medical doctor, humanitarian, businessman, Vincentian patriot, Caribbean man, a sailor, lover of sports, a cultured man, a lover and patron of culture and the arts, Governor-General, a Christian believer, an exemplary human being. Today, we celebrate his wonderful life! He was truly a man of the people; a man of love; and like David, a man after God’s own heart.

I say my personal farewell with a poem which Freddie knew well: “Crossing the Bar” by Alfred Lord Tennyson:

“Sunset and evening star, And one clear call for me!

And may there be no moaning of the bar, When I put out to sea, But such a tide as moving seems asleep, Too full for sound and foam, When that which drew from out the boundless deep Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell, And after that the dark!

And may there be no sadness of farewell, When I embark; For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place The flood may bear me far, I hope to see my Pilot face to face When I have cross’d the bar.”

On behalf of the government and people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, on my own personal behalf and that of my family, I offer sincerest condolences to the immediate family and friends of Sir Frederick, our beloved Freddie. May he rest in peace!