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The Andrew Cummings I knew

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My topic for this week literally selected itself, for news of the death of Andrew Cummings QC left me numb with grief, even though I knew he had been ailing for sometime. Andrew was the kind of person who, once you got to know, had a long-lasting and profound impact on you. I knew about him in his first year at the Grammar School, when he signalled to us that he was going to continue the Millar House dominance of the sprints that Bunny Baptiste had held for a long time. My first real encounter was when I joined Oscar Allen at a Debating Society meeting to take on an Andrew Cummings- Monty Eustace team. The Cummings-Eustace combination was deadly, with their acid sense of humour and youthful irreverence.

Anyone who knew Andrew well knew that he was a prankster of the highest order. When I went to Cave Hill for post-graduate work, he was well into his legal studies. On a day set aside for Vincentian celebration, a football match was organized with a Vincentian 11 playing the rest. Andrew would have remembered me as captain of the Grammar School football team. I had spent four years in Canada and had not kicked a ball during that time. In preparation for the match, he wrote an article in the student publication, Cavite, where he singled me out as a Star, someone that everyone should see! It was then too late to pull out, so I went on to the field and was able under tremendous strain to remain for the whole game, while vowing to get back at Andrew. He, of course, disarmed me with some wisecrack.

Later, on our return home, I was part of a group that met on Good Fridays at his home, where we played cricket on a field that he had constructed. The game was really to facilitate socialization and ‘ole talk’. Then there was the occasional chat time at his home with a smaller group. We had to be prepared to stay as long as Andrew wanted us to. He ensured that we were well fed and watered before we got into the real purpose of the visit, which was to chat about everything under the sun and to be subjected sometimes to some of his pranks. Andrew was a good listener and wanted to hear what we all had to say, while providing his own views.  I sometimes described his sense of humour as ‘wicked’. It was an outgrowth of his days as a prankster. His friend Candy Veira would always regale us with stories of their school days while living at Montrose and the pranks they performed that had become legendary, although annoying to residents.

Andrew was well-read, and we shared many books or information about books. He was a motivational speaker par excellence, a commentator on current events and a well-respected lawyer, who at a relatively young age became a partner in what later was the law firm of Hughes and Cummings. When I acted as host of the programme “Letter from the Ground” that was aired on Nice Radio on Saturday mornings, the question on most listeners’ mind was, who was ‘Candy’, the author of the letters? They were so skilfully written and so engaging that many of us felt that there could be no other author than Andrew. He denied his authorship in a letter to me that touched on issues in the society. He ended this way, “The bigger issue, by far and by far is, aren’t we all the same? Don’t we belong to each other? To SVG? Our leaders are our brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, fathers, mothers, friends, and neighbours. Unless we are all purified, will not things be always so? I, for one, take refuge in and comfort from Sister Gladys Prium’s recurring dictum ‘It would not always be so.’ Do you?”

He paid me a signal honour when I retired as head of the UWI Open Campus. His letter stated, “The public owes you an immeasurable debt of gratitude for your praiseworthy stewardship at the UWI School of Continuing Studies…I hope that your successor is aware that he/she has very large shoes to fill…” He hoped that what he called my “magnus opus – a complete history of SVG was in the making.”

Andrew suffered for a long time. Now he is no longer physically with us and is relieved of his pains. He will long be remembered, for he has left his mark! Condolences and best wishes to his wife and children, who were a tower of strength behind him. Rest in Peace, Andrew!    

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.

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