The Kenneth John I knew – In appreciation (Part 11)
I ended last week’s column with reference to cricket games that Kenneth organised in different parts of the island. Those games represented an era that has passed. Those were the days of what we called ‘goat matches’ where players, current and retired were pulled together to play in different parts of the country. Following the game food was provided, and there was much socialising with dominoes or cards being played and with others ‘ole-talking’. There is little if any of that taking place today. I have vivid memories playing in Owia and particularly at Orange Hill. For the game at Orange HillF.O Mason who had long retired joined us. He was able to bowl using a short run-up, but what struck me was the way he swung the ball. I kept wicket and was truly amazed as I followed the ball moving from left to right or right to left. The socialising and community connection played a very important role at that time because virtually the whole community became involved. The divisions of today did not exist.
Kenneth’s intellectual stature is evident. Mention must be made of the “Flambeau” magazine of the Kingstown Study group that he had created. Contributors to the magazine involved persons of all persuasions; Norma Keizer, Sir Frederick Ballantyne, Alphonso Roberts, Shake Keane, Tim Daisy, Danny Williams, Bobby Fraser, and a host of others. One article by Kenneth, “St. Vincent: A Political Kaleidoscope” in issue No. 5 of July 1966, was in demand. It was reproduced in The Aftermath of Sovereignty, edited by David Lowenthal and Lambros Comitas and published by Anchor Press, New York in 1973. It dealt with the politics of the period 1951- 66. Then there was his PhD thesis “Politics in a Small Colonial Territory, St. Vincent 1950-1970”. This is a valuable contribution to understanding Vincentian political history of that period. A few close friends had volunteered to have it published and made widely available, hoping to have had it done before his passing, which unfortunately was not achieved.
His appearances on what was probably the first ‘Talk Show’ the Searchlight radio programme and the lectures he had organised between 1964-67 add to his contribution to political discourse. Today we are more familiar with his columns in the Vincentian newspaper which must have been for about 40 years. Let us not forget that in 2000/1 he also wrote for the short- lived ‘Cross Country’ newspaper. Kenneth touched on almost every conceivable topic, politics, cricket, carnival, calypso, tributes to Vincentians who had passed on and really, any aspect of Vincentian society. He was even prepared to make jokes about himself. He had many critics, some criticising his anti-colonial positions, but he believed what he wrote. He sometimes responded but often just ignored them. Three of his most humorous pieces had to do with animals. Once he was having problems with a cat. He was advised by friends to carry it to Shipping Bay and leave it there. One night he did that. The next morning, he said that when he opened his door, he saw the cat looking at him with ‘Suspicious Eyes’. Kenneth claimed never to have missed a Dimanche Gras show. One year he fell asleep, got up late and dashed to his vehicle. He arrived in the vicinity of the ‘Park’ and parked in front of the Catholic Church. When he opened the door, his cat ran out. He was not aware it was there. (Not the same cat!) It ran under a culvert. He decided to search for it. He got down, peeped under the culvert, and saw ‘about 100 cat eyes staring at him’. His next piece was about a dog. Persons were coming into his yard and stealing fruits from his fruit trees, so he got a dog. He then went to Sprotts to buy a chain. He said, “ if you don’t believe me go and ask (and he named the person who sold him). Before going to bed that night, he tied the dog in the area of the fruit trees. Next morning his dog was there but the thieves had stolen the chain! Kenneth did many more humorous pieces. His piece on January 23, 1987, was entitled ‘Political Humour’ and he gave the politics of the country his humorous touch.
Many of Kenneth’s columns paid tribute to Vincentians who had passed on. These pieces were not only informative but also humorous.
(To be continued)
Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian