Our final goodbye
Today the body of the late John Horne will be laid to rest in the graveyard of his regular place of worship, the St. George’s Cathedral where he played many roles, being among other things a staunch member of the choir and assumed responsibility for introducing any visitors to the morning worship. He recalled meeting some interesting persons, including a relative of a past administrator and of a former Anglican minister. The number of tributes paid to him since his death has been enormous and is testimony to the esteem in which he was held. Most of the tributes had to do with personal interactions with him and the way he touched people’s lives.
What was missing, despite what might have been presented by the political party with which he was associated, was information about the impact he made as a minister serving in different government ministries. Randolph Cato in last week’s issue of this paper did attempt to introduce what he called the external dimensions, but admitted that there was so much more to be told.
I was Head of the UWI School of Continuing Studies when he was Minister of Education. I served as Chairman of the Education Advisory Board for a number of years. The Chairman was selected by members of the Committee and I suspect because I was not directly under government control members thought it fit to have someone independent of the Ministry and Government as Chairperson. When the government changed in 2001 the Chairman was then selected by the Minister. I am not sure how much longer the Committee functioned, but cannot remember attending many meetings. One of my responsibilities in the position I held at UWI was to arrange meetings with visiting university persons and the minister. It was always a pleasure to do so because he was always excited to speak to them about plans of his government and of the OECS in the field of education.
One year when I represented what were then called the non-campus territories on the University Council, John attended as a representative of regional governments that contributed to the university. At that particular meeting there was an item on the agenda that was very controversial and was expected to be divisive. To my surprise when it was Horne’s time to speak, the first topic he touched on was the one that was expected to generate some fire, but he handed it so masterfully that when he was finished with his contribution the issue was no longer a divisive one. As Chairman of the CARICOM Council of Trade and Development he participated and chaired sessions of the ACP trade negotiations at very critical times.
As Randy Cato said, he used “his natural diplomatic and personal skills in dealing with his counterparts and made a success of it”. In fact, I saw a letter sent to him applauding him for the role he played in steering some of the negotiations with which he was involved.
John was very knowledgeable about Kingstown. He had many old photographs and was proud of reminding anyone when Kingstown had quite a number of nightspots which he was pleased to name for them. He also recalled many of the interesting characters around town. John sat on the committee to select national heroes. He had a distinct preference for George McIntosh and once threatened to resign from the committee when he thought that the wishes of the majority of the committee were being disregarded. In fact, I saw a copy of the letter which however was never submitted since things seemed to have been sorted out.
Among all that was said about John his love for people and how he related to them stand out. Two examples come to mind. Basil ‘Bung’ Cato after his return to St. Vincent had been ailing at his residence at Chauncey. He had a scheduled set of doctor appointments. When John heard that he had been irregular in his attendance he took it on to himself to take ‘Bung’ to all future appointments. I remember him once leaving an activity saying that he had to take ‘Bung’ to his doctor’s appointment. There was also the case of a lady from Barrouallie who was approaching her 100th birthday.
John had known her a long time ago but had not been recently in touch. When he got the news, he asked me to take him to Kearton’s where she lived.
In little time John was in full conversation with her and advised the Governor General about the impending milestone. That was John! Today we will say our final Goodbye.