Remembering John-Clark Alexander Horne – The External dimensions
by Randy Cato
Most of the reactions and responses to the passing of The Honourable John-Clark Alexander Horne have focused, understandably, on the extraordinary personal characteristics of the man, the person, in his dealing with people, on his empathy, his compassion, and his overall capacity for positive interactions. The term “emotional intelligence” has become very much in vogue these days, speaking to the depth of an individual’s understanding of self and how that self is able to treat with and respond to the emotional state and needs of others as that self engaged with those others. John exuded emotional intelligence, and that is what shaped the overwhelming embrace of him that has been expressed at all levels on his death. Much of this response has been with respect to John within the framework of St Vincent and the Grenadines. There have been expressions acknowledging the scope and breadth of his abilities and achievements in song, theatre, management, and political service in this country. All well deserved.
He was however much more than just “a good homeboy”, and just as he had much to offer at home, so did he abroad.
The multidimensional aspects of the man were also revealed and recognized outside of St. Vincent and The Grenadines, in the various roles in which he found himself, and this is what I want to briefly focus on in this memorial.
John made an impact wherever he went and in whatever capacity he functioned. In the seventies he was in Bermuda with Barclays. I recall encountering him on a visit to that island to spend a bit of time with my brother Ardon (Puggy), who was then still in the Bermuda police force, sometime in the early seventies. He was the wonderful John as ever whom I knew from small, ensuring that I had a good time. He had already established a reputation in the theatre and for his singing abilities on that island, and as was to become such a hallmark of his life wherever he was, he was readily and fondly greeted by many on the streets of Hamilton, his characteristic long striding, slightly rocking gait being interrupted frequently as he tried to move along. I am sure that this will evoke some chuckles from those who have sought to walk along with him on the streets of Kingstown, knowing that what should be a 10 minute walk could easily turn into a 40 minute journey.
He was also assigned to St Lucia, where the story was the same one. He inserted himself into the St. Lucian community. He is very well remembered by many in that country, and I still very often have to field enquiries from his contemporaries about him. I know for certain that the news of his death would have a great resonance among those who have much fond and positive recollections of him, again as a dramatist, a singer, or a very understanding and helpful banker.
Barbados was a further repetition. Notwithstanding that Barbados has had the reputation for not being the easiest of Caribbean societies to integrate into, John was able to manage that. I lived in Barbados when he was there in the late seventies, and there was a very tightly knit group of Vincentians of which he was a part. There were Andre Iton, Arnhim Eustace, Monty Eustace, Burns Bonadie, Alan Sherman, Baldwin Hercules, Winston King, Lennie Daisley, and myself, among others, most of us working with regional organizations in that country. It was a period of much social activities, liming and parties. The “bon vivant “side of John was aptly demonstrated, and his tremendous sense of humour was frequently displayed. He could always be relied upon for the next joke or his sharp-witted comment, the latter often at the expense of one of us with the others rolling in laughter. How well do I recall one night, my arriving at one of our parties, well decked out in my “dan dan”, and John looking at me cocking his head on the side and saying “My! My! Doesn’t our Randolph look like Redvers Dundonald tonight?” There is no need to talk about the reaction from those around!! (Of course this was a reference to the well known King Dyal of Barbados, who graced the Kensington Oval at Test Cricket matches, spectacularly clad in sharp colours, and whose name was Redvers Dundonald Dyal.)
On his being assigned Ministerial responsibilities after being a part of the winning NDP team in 1984, John’s duties in the various Ministerial posts took him overseas on official duties, whether as Minister of Tourism, Minister of Education where he had a very long sojourn, or latterly as Minister of Trade and Industry. In all of these posts he did St Vincent and the Grenadines proud and impacted regionally and internationally. In his stint as Tourism Minister, there were still two regional intergovernmental organizations with which he had to interact. These were the Caribbean Tourism Research Center, (CTRC), and the Caribbean Tourism Agency (CTA). The leading personnel in these bodies such as Jean Holder and the Grenadian lady who then headed up the CTA often spoke admiringly of John as a regional Tourism Minister. (Maybe as his Permanent Secretary then I benefited from some of his reflected glory!!!)
In his capacity as Minister of Education he was a leader in the development of the OECS Education Development Policy and Plan, The Partnership for Progress. This plan drove the reform of the education systems in all of the OECS Members at the time. (In fact, I often shake my head and smile wryly, when I hear talk of the Education Revolution, given that this was nothing but a botched effort at implementing locally what had already been agreed regionally). John was also very involved at the Commonwealth Ministerial level in the devising of approaches to offer greater access to quality education for underprivileged and marginalized people, especially in the smaller and developing country Member States of the Commonwealth. It should also be recalled that at one stage John achieved the distinction of being the longest serving Minister of Education in the Commonwealth, an achievement of which he was very proud, given the developments in the approaches to education during his tenure.
He was then given the Trade Ministerial Portfolio, and this was at a time when the Caribbean was embroiled in a range of trade negotiations. He was Chair of the COTED (Caricom Council of Trade and Development) at an early stage, and many regional trade officials marveled at the ease with which he took to the role and mastered the complexities of trade rules and trade negotiations.
He used his natural diplomatic and personal skills in dealing with his counterparts across the table, whether at the level of the European Union, The ACP, or even regionally when he had to ensure that the interests of the OECS, and therefore of St Vincent and the Grenadines were to be safeguarded.
The full story of John-Clark Alexander Horne in its external dimensions cannot be satisfactorily told here. There is much more to the man, his impacts, and his achievements outside of St. Vincent and the Grenadines that must continue to be told. What is certain, even with the little that has been said here, is that John was undoubtedly a truly remarkable son of St Vincent and the Grenadines, one of whom we must be justly proud. His people centric approach wherever he was and in whatever endeavour he engaged, lifted him out of the realm of the ordinary. Those of us who were associated with him at whatever time and in whatever way, could only feel that we are the better for having been afforded those opportunities. As Arnhim Eustace has said, “he is now one for the ages.” May he Rest In Peace.