Tribute to the late Vincent ‘Fleety’ Grant
by Patmos Richards
I join with members of the Sion Hill Community and mourners far afield on this solemn occasion to express my sincerest condolences to the family, relatives and close friends of the late Vincent “Fleety” Grant.
The Sion Hill community, which “Fleety” as he was affectionately called, belonged, has lost a pillar of strength, a stalwart, a cultural ambassador and most importantly an historian.
As a youngster growing up in the Sion Hill community, I was always impressed with “Fleety’s” community spiritedness, his consuming desire to see Sion Hill move forward in sports and culture and his own commitment to serve his community with unflagging zeal. “Fleety” Grant was a source of encouragement to the young and old in many parts of Sion Hill. In the valley of Roseau, his strong sense of humour gladdened many hearts and in the bars of other parts of Sion Hill where he went to have his social drink, he was always welcomed and treated with the utmost respect. In fact, “Fleety” won the respect and admiration from all sectors of the Sion Hill community, as is evidence by the large turn out at his funeral ceremony this afternoon.
He was humble and kind and showed affection to the youths who embraced him as a father figure. To his peers, he was regarded as a mentor and a “Village Statesman”.
In the field of sports, Vincent “Fleety” Grant has made Sion Hill proud. He represented Sion Hill at both football and cricket but was famed for his cricketing prowess as a wicketkeeper batsman. Culture and cultural activities were integral to “Fleety” Grant. He teamed up with a cultural outfit, “Owen Ralph and the Professionals”, on several occasions to play central roles in Ralph’s Carnival mas band.
Previously he also played leading roles with various cultural outfits preparing for carnival jouvert. “Fleety” Grant was adept at playing the steel pan and this cultural legacy he bequeathed to the Sion Hill community following his retirement from active participation at the steel pan level.
Vincent “Fleety” Grant was endowed with creativity. The word “Sionharian” was a product of his creative vocabulary. It was coined in the 1970’s by our late friend “Fleety” Grant.
I can still remember him saying to me “Boy you are a Sionharian – an’ we Sionharians are great people”. The pride that was evoked by “Fleety” in those words, made me feel proud to be identified with Sion Hill and its glory.
In life “Fleety” Grant was a lively conversationalist, perhaps the best in Sion Hill amongst his peers. He wasn’t an easy walkover in conversational battles. He would give you a run for your money and your mouth. Many times in the past, at Mr. Llewellyn’s business place, Grant uninhibited after consuming a few swigs of Sunset rum, would rip his opponents apart like a “pit bull” in sociable debates. He had a wealth of knowledge. “Fleety” Grant was well versed on local political history. He talked comfortable from the confines of the rum shop about George McIntosh, George Charles, his hero E.T. Joshua, Cato, Mitchell, Eustace and in recent times Gonsalves. He held all these political figures in high esteem but chided them when he thought they deserved a tongue-lashing. With the demise of the Joshuas and the PPP he held on to ‘old’ Labour for a time. Then he joined the NDP ship some years later. He subsequently jumped ship and embraced the ideals of the Unity Labour Party (UPM) until the time of his death.
I say all this to let you know that “Fleety” Grant was a civic-minded individual. He enjoyed discoursing on local issues of national importance. He had a passion to see his country move forward in strength and glory.
“Fleety” Grant will be remembered for many things. However, his memory will be venerated for two note worthy attributes – appreciation for the dignity of labour and love and respect for God. “Fleety” Grant was an industrious man who worked hard to support his offsprings, worked hard to sustain himself and made it his policy to patronize small businesses in Sion Hill. His faith in God was unshakeable. The Sion Hill community is now poorer without “Fleety” Grant. He provided laughter for the unhappy. He shared his knowledge and experiences with those who were willing to give him an audience; he befriended others in his usual down-to-earth and friendly way and he participated in every progressive venture in the Sion Hill community. There is now a void in the community and “Fleety’s” community-mindedness and commitment will not be easily replaced.
Vincent “Fleety” Grant, the great “Sionharian”, you my fellow “Sionharians” would agree, has lived a full, rich and productive life and has gone on to the great beyond to continue his humble work. He left marvelous legacies for us alive to cherish – village historian, and mentor, cultural icon and sporting activist. The family, relatives and friends of the late Vincent “Fleety” Grant can console themselves that Grant’s spirit may be endorsing the words of the late Frank Sinatra “I did it my Way”.