St. John’s Antigua- I have met many West Indian authors, but I must confess that I have never had the opportunity to study West Indian Literature, so I cannot quote from any of them.
As a Seventh Day Adventist, I was weaned on the Morning Watch, the Quarterly and the King James Version of the Bible. However, out of an innate desire to be different, I wish to quote from my favourite poet of the Romantic era, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and refer to his Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner by attempting to relate it to the sudden demise of my friend, Winston Derrick :-
“The sun’s rim dips, the stars rush out, At one stride comes the dark!”
Who would have thought of his demise but in a tropical setting? It was typical of a tropical experience, where the splendour of sunshine when seemingly eclipsed by an ephemeral autumnal-style episode of dipping, is suddenly supplanted by the glory of the stars that rush out to establish a type of celestial eminence that is suddenly eclipsed by a sudden darkness that has descended on us by “braps” – total, indefinite black-out.
Winston Derrick had made several attempts to become a bright luminous fixture in the Antigua & Barbuda business firmament but somehow fate had denied him the opportunity to shine with the fiercely luminescent solo brightness that he sought in the restrictive world of hotel and cockleshell luminosity.
It was as a member of the Historical and Archaeological Society that our long association became more closely intertwined.
“Sello, I want to establish a newspaper. You know – a real newspaper that can influence things and make its mark on this society here. But I want a good newspaper man – somebody who understands the news and can write it. Ah can’t find anybody, so ah can’t start.”
“Well you never asked me. How much you paying?!”
“You seem to think that I am making joke!”
“I am the best. The very best that you can get.”
“You serious? But we can’t afford you!”
“If you can persuade Kathleen and find something for Althea to do, you are in business, free of cost!”
“Tell me subben, you can really write?”
“You are the first man who going to get something free and fussing to accept it!”
Kathleen, Althea and myself immediately joined with Winston. Winston gave Althea a six-inch computer with which to amuse herself and keep her out of trouble. From that day until now, I have been writing for The Observer.
I wrote editorials, front-page stories, Court news, sports news and even tried my hand at cartoons and writing advertisements. I remember when Eutha joined the staff, when Karen joined the staff, when Shelly-ann joined the staff and can never forget the atmosphere of camaraderie when the small group got together under the social direction of Wrex Harney who controlled distribution.
Winston was the electricity man, the electronics man, the computer man, the Reisograph man, the Fix-it man and the Editor. Fergie was the ideas man. Fergie was cool and knew where he wanted to go.
When Mickey Matthew dragged his feet and wouldn’t grant the licence, we decided to go ahead regardless. I offered to man the microphones with Winston at Scots Hill. Winston said, “No. They are going to seize the equipment and lock me up. Keep far. You must be there to write about it. Stay away!”
Fergie was the leader. He was firm and unyielding.
“My man, this fight is going to the Privy Council. War has been declared!”
The interim, the wait and the anxiety seemed to be interminable. Fergie and Winston seemed to draw strength from each other.
When Fergie died, we expected it. We knew it was coming. Fergie was tough . I can recall the day when the Police came to Fort Road and arrested Fergie and Winston. I drove up to the St John’s Police and offered to bail them.
“You lucky that we can’t find something to charge you with. If you want to see them, go to the Magistrate’s Court, for they going straight to jail. They have been arrested on a bench warrant. It’s a straight flight to 1735. Nothing can stop it. We warned them this morning in Court and they haven’t conformed to the Magistrate’s order. It’s a straight flight to jail. Bench warrant don‘t deal with bail.”
When I went to the Magistrate’s Court, I was the only spectator in the Court. Sydney Christian had to be sent for, and the Jamaican Magistrate with his Jerry Curls, rubbed his hands in glee.
“So you bigger than this Court eh? I hope that Mr Christian has an adequate and reasonable explanation to give this honourable court!”
A certain person who has always advertised himself as a journalist, used to work for The Daily OBSERVER and had submitted his story that Fergie and Winston Derrick had been committed to jail by the Magistrate. Nothing had been said to either Fergie or Winston! No warning by the reporter. What he did not know was that everything that he wrote used to be passed to me to re-write.
Sydney Christian successfully intervened and both Fergie and Winston did not sleep in 1735 that night. Fergie fired the reporter immediately. Winston learnt his lesson well. After Fergie, he exercised mature leadership and endeavoured to advance the cause of The Daily OBSERVER.
Who can forget the days of Charlie Simon and Baz Hill? Under Winston, we had moved to High Street (upstairs Deluxe) and we continued in a Factory Shell at Coolidge and eventually moved to our new headquarters in the Stanford Complex out of which a new OBSERVER Television Studio beckoned.
What some of the editorial staff did not know was that Winston and myself spoke on the phone almost every day. When the phone rang at an ungodly hour, Kathleen would say, “I wonder what happen to Winston, or in the country eh?”
We never seemed to be in touch but we always were. I never wrote an editorial or on any controversial matter without thrashing it out with him first!
The suddenness of his departure has been a shock to one who was regularly in touch with him. On Friday afternoon, there had been no curfew that tolled the knell of his parting day. The Voice of the people had closed with quiet dignity. He was no Beadsman to Antigua & Barbuda, but the joys of all his life had been said and sung.
For him, the Sun’s rim had already dipped and the stars had already rushed out and at one unexpected stride eernal darkness had enveloped him, until the Lord Himself shall descend from Heaven with a Shout, and the voice of the Archangel….. And the dead in Christ shall rise first.
To those who really knew him, drink in these words “ Comfort ye! Comfort ye, my people!”