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Eulogy to a dear friend and brother “Edison “Sheggy” John

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It is a singular honour and distinct privilege for me to be asked to deliver the funeral oration for my dear brother, lifelong friend and close relative, Edison “Sheggy” John.

I have accepted with all the humility with which the Almighty endowed “Sheggy” himself, for if there is one characteristic that marks him above all, it is that overwhelming sense of humility that he displayed all through his life. “Sheggy” was indeed an exercise in humility.{{more}}

As I begin, I must express my apologies to the bereaved family and to those who expect a formal eulogy, much as we have grown accustomed to in recent times. A mere recitation of his biographical data and outstanding accomplishments would not be, I am sure, what my brother would have desired. Rather, my focus is to dwell on those aspects of his life from which he has left us many lessons and try to draw on those to help to enrich our own lives. I can only speak from the heart here.

I began by reminding us all that whether as “Eddy”, as we first knew him, or “Sheggy”, the name of his claim to fame Edison remained humble all through his life. Indeed, if you did not know him before, it would be difficult to reconcile the outstanding achievements and talents of “Sheggy” John with the individual you would have been privileged to meet. Never for one day, not even at the height of his Carnival glory, did he deviate from this. “Bad Lads and Lasses” could achieve a beaver-trick of Band of the Year titles, but it was difficult to find “Sheggy” among the biggest celebrants. On more than one occasion, having given his all and more, to enthrall us all on Carnival Day, “Sheggy” could not be found to bask in the glory.

For many, this was difficult to comprehend, but that was the nature of the man. He took it all in stride, his perfection, work of art, selfless dedication, seemed to be what he felt he owed to us all for the blessing with which the Almighty had endowed him. May we strive to, like him, remember to keep our feet on the ground and let the glory go to Him from whom it came.

“Sheggy” is best remembered as a mas genius, but that was only one aspect of this multi-talented character. He was an artist in his own right. Those of us who have wintered and summered together, can never forget an outstanding work of art, a full-size mural painting that he did on one of the walls upstairs the legendary “CALABASH” Bar that we as young men started in 1968. It is a pity that such works of art do not get the level of appreciation that they deserve.

It is that same lack of appreciation that could see a society like ours mourn the loss of icons like “Sheggy” and Roy Ralph before him. Just a few months ago, one of our contemporaries, Donny St. John, passed with little fanfare. Donny was not only an outstanding athlete, footballer, and basketballer, he was also a dancer, actor and percussionist of no small talent. How many of us knew that “Sheggy” also had talents in that direction? Just ask Roland Sardine. He also was a vocalist who, if he had persisted in that direction, could have made his name in that field as well.

Which brings me to “Sheggy” being “beyond his time” as we say locally. When many in our society were still locked on to the music of Jim Reeves, Elvis Presley, Tom Jones and their types, “Sheggy’s music was rooted in the black experience of Caribbean kaiso, of Jamaican ska and rock steady, of black American soul, rhythm and blues and jazz. By the time the society got to recognize this, “Sheggy” could truly say, as the youth of today now boast “BEEN DERE, DUN DAT”. This is a solid work of art in whose honour we are gathered today. Multi-gifted, humble, but a rounded individual. Sport, football in particular, was part of his life. Somerset of Sion Hill can attest to this. Though never a political activist, as I was to become, he was a deep and progressive thinker and made his own contribution to the development of the labour movement here, as well as to the organization of Carnival makers, in the Carnival Bands Association, as well as in the CDC. He left his indelible mark on all these.

Finally, even as I celebrate his life and achievements, I do so with a tinge of sadness. It is a sadness shared by the third of our “Upstreet” Triumvirate, Sibert “Dove” Liverpool/Dopwell. We three were closely attached from small, grew up sharing the good and bad (I don’t recall much of anything ugly) and widening the pool to include John Barrington, Andre “Fluffy” Babb, Allan Sherman, and Leroy “Chico” Ellis, we did a lot together. This was the group which helped to spur “Sheggy” in the designing direction, having shared dreams of moving from the Kings of Ole Mas, as we were in the mid-sixties, to a full fledged Carnival band. “Sheggy” and Dove fulfilled those ambitions on behalf of the rest of us.

To his children, bereaved companion, relatives, friends and the rest of the community, I say that while we have lost a dear one, we can best pay tribute to his memory by always remembering that humility for which he will forever be known.

FAREWELL DEAR BROTHER

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.

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