Sadly, it seems now that almost weekly, we are forced to say goodbye to one of our national icons.
Today, it is our international recognised and respected novelist, essayist and poet, George Lamming, who without doubt stood for decades at the apex of our island’s pantheon of writers. Indeed, George Lamming, must be considered one of the most famous writers this region has produced.
Notwithstanding the fact that he passed away today, four days shy of his 95th birthday, I still declare that he has left us all too soon. In fact, only this morning I discussed with Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office. Senator Dr. Shantal Munro-Knight, my desire to have arrangements made to visit him on Wednesday to celebrate his birthday with him.
Unfortunately, we will now have to switch to a national celebration via an Official Funeral for a man who has given so much to his country, his people, his region and the world.
George Lamming was the quintessential Bajan, born in as traditional a district as you can get — Carrington Village, on the outskirts of Bridgetown. And his education was as authentically Bajan as one could possibly acquire — Roebuck Boys’ School and Combermere.
Perhaps even more critical to the literary giant he grew into, was the fortune he had of being schooled at the feet of yet another Barbadian great, Frank Collymore.
But as Bajan as he was, he still distinguished himself as a world scholar: teaching first at a boarding school in Trinidad, before emigrating to England, where he became a broadcaster with the BBC’s Colonial Service. This was followed by positions that included, writer-in-residence and lecturer in the Creative Arts at the Mona Campus of the University of the West Indies, Visiting Professor at the University of Texas, the University of Pennsylvania and Brown University, and a lecturer in Denmark, Tanzania and Australia.
Wherever George Lamming went, he epitomised that voice and spirit that screamed Barbados and the Caribbean. And while he has written several novels and received many accolades, none of his works touches the Barbadian psyche like his first — In The Castle of My Skin, written back in 1953, but which today ought still to be required reading for every Caribbean boy and girl.
Barbados will miss George Lamming — his voice, his pen, and of course, his signature hairstyle — but I pray that the consciousness of who we are that he preached in all that he wrote will never fade from our thoughts.
On behalf of the Government and people of Barbados I extend deepest sympathy to the Lamming family. May his soul rest in peace!