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Oscar’s final farewell


This evening, Diamond will once again pay tribute by way of a cultural wake to our brother Oscar, who had settled there for over 40 years, making a significant contribution to the mental emancipation of the community. A candlelight march from the Diamond/Sans Souci gap will end at the Earlene Horne Square, where he will once more be remembered and celebrated. It is quite fitting that this takes place at the Earlene Horne Square, because Earlene was one of his early associates, who, through that connection, developed into a woman with her own independent and critical mind. I paid special attention to the words of his neighbour Franciela Andrews, who noted that “He taught us to be brave.” His Service of Thanksgiving will be held on Saturday at the Kingstown Methodist Church and the body taken to Diamond for burial at the New Adelphi cemetery.

The anger that drove me to write this week’s article has, fortunately, been tempered. I read Oscar’s letters to the health authorities and to a newspaper and was left dumbfounded. While complaining about the postponement of his surgery, he referred to “waiting in an out-room of the operating theatre,” after having “been lying medically and mentally prepared.” I do not know the circumstances surrounding his death and am not prepared to speculate, but I can well imagine the anguish and anxiety that he faced. For him to have written that letter and moreover penned one to a newspaper suggesting that it perhaps needs public exposure to have the matter rectified, says a lot. In fact, that is beginning to bear fruit, as we understand that efforts are being made to correct the shortage of anaesthesiologists.

Oscar was speaking not only on his behalf, but highlighted the fact that others were also inconvenienced.  He brought the public’s attention to the frustrating experiences of the operating theatre team. Let us remember too, that he did not follow the advice of a friend, who seemed to have suggested that he take his surgery elsewhere (I spoke to that friend). We must stop pretending that all is perfect at the hospital. There are obviously problems and the authorities must look carefully at this. Oscar would have wanted that and we could honour him by doing so.

I have spoken to friends who reminded me of earlier connections. During my first year as a non-graduate teacher, Oscar, Raymond England and I attended a teachers’ workshop at Codrington College in Barbados. One night, after a movie, we were stranded in pouring rain after getting off at the wrong bus stop, until a kind Bajan driver, after realizing that we were acquaintances of his friend Hudson Tannis, rescued us and took us right up to the College.

While still a student at the Grammar School, a group of us decided to cross La Soufrière, from Chateaubelair to Georgetown. Oscar, who was then the agricultural officer in Chateaubelair, arranged for us to overnight there and provided us with a guide to La Soufrière. In those days, he rode a BSA motorbike. When he got to Kearton’s Hill in Barrouallie, you could clearly hear the noise from his bike. I remember the voices of people in Barrouallie saying, “there goes the Allen guy again”.

A few of Oscar’s friends overseas called me. One lady who encountered him as a young girl, spoke highly of the influence he had on her. She regrets being unable to attend his funeral. Another lady from Belize, who was a member of the CARIPEDA network and now a diplomat in Taiwan, stated in an email to me. “How Tragic! How Sad!…Please convey my deepest sympathies to his close family and friends, from a Caribbean sister who knew, loved, and worked with Oscar. A true Caribbean Brother has gone but not to be forgotten.” A fitting way to end this final farewell!  

Dr Adrixan Fraser is a social commentator and historian