The end of the ‘Old Guard’
The passing of Sir Vincent Beache has brought us closer to the end of the physical presence among us of the victors of the historic 1979 general elections.
The St Vincent Labour Party (SVLP) was victorious in that poll, the first general elections of our newly independent state.
Fifty candidates vied for the 13 seats from four contending parties. The SVLP led by Milton Cato; the People’s Political Party (PPP) headed by E.T. Joshua; the New Democratic Party (NDP) led by James Mitchell and the United People’s Movement (UPM) of Ralph Gonsalves.
The Labour Party won 11 of the 13 seats at stake, with the other two going to candidates of the New Democratic Party — Calder Williams and Cosmos Cozier.
Unfortunately, when we celebrate our 40th anniversary of Independence, almost all of the old guard who won seats in the December 5, 1979 elections will not be with us. Sir Vincent was the last of the Labour “Mohicans”, having survived party leader and first Prime Minister Milton Cato, his deputy Hudson Tannis, Arthur Williams, Grafton Isaacs, Arthur Woods, St Clair Dacon and Randolph Russell. Only Offord Morris, Ken Browne and Peter Ballantyne remain with us today. Losing Labour Party candidate for North Leeward, John Thompson is no longer among us.
Missing as well are some challengers from those elections. The Joshuas — Ebenezer and Ivy, heroes of the fifties and sixties, have also departed along with Joshua’s deputy, Clive Tannis. Other notable absentees will be Othneil Sylvester and George Phillips of the NDP and the UPM’s stalwart trade unionist, nationalist and socialist Caspar London as well as the ex-soldier Albert Maloney who contested the Marriaqua seat for the UPM.
On the occasion of Renewal at 40, we must remember the contributions of them all, and use them as inspirations for the younger generation of leaders.