Categorized | Opinions

The Real Story – Part 2

By Claude Gerald

From conception through puberty to death many a Montserratian even in distant lands know of the one central figure in their lives and politics. Significantly in an eighteen year reign as leader of our affairs but with intermittent leadership roles in other Ministries, the late John Alfred Osborne became a house-hold name and one that will compel attention in the breast of coming generations.

Opinions and feelings on his life run the gamut but one thing is certain and it is that the sub-population of 30 and under, is lost, beyond what they muster from conversations with their parents, which can be loaded with political biases, to reflect the parent‘s take on the evolution of John Osborne, since he burst on the scene as a novice to politics, himself bordering on the cusp of thirty years.

Osborne successfully entered the political fray in 1966 in the North Western Constituency against the stalwart D.C. Fenton, a son of Cudjoe Head. Mr Fenton as Minister of Public Works was a pragmatist with a flair for care of the aged and inspirational to the ambitious young. He was about building and concreting roads and in fact donated the land that houses the Brades Clinic and a brand new school van to take students from Cudjoe Head to the secondary school. Generous to the bone his zeal for his constituency was poignant.

His loss to the brash newcomer sent shock waves but Osborne knew he was facing a giant of an incumbent and charmed away even Mr. Fenton’s closest family members to create the upset.  He had the gift of conviction from the inception with a refrain, locked into empty rhetoric: People gi mi one chance ley mi show all yuh wah mi kud do. Gi mi once chance and allyuh wid see the real mi, he intoned.

Comedy and showmanship was on display and came to mark a distinguishing feature of his politics in the years ahead. Opponents melted as he drew large crowds at the Mecca of political rallies, the War Memorial, as the curious along with hard core supporters, honey hived, to feel his pulsating presence and being entertained to the ballot box, to script the fait accompli on Election Day.
They knew they were dealing with a gladiator and a powerful worthy adversary.

His victory against Mr. Fenton was as much a surprise as his comeback against Charles Kirnon in 1996, where both representatives distinguished themselves nationally with sterling service in Public Works and Agriculture, Housing and the Environment respectively.

Osborne too was disbelieving of his success and in a commiserating gesture to Mr. Fenton cautioned that ‘if they treat you so, then I will watch them even more carefully myself. Dem fella dey ungrateful Mas Chris. Mi neva expect dat dem woulda treat you so Mas Chris’. His gift of stealth and manoeuvre was being honed to deliver crippling blows at the polls and to distinguish himself as the grand champion of all comers.

History was made and the makings of a most impregnable figure in our politics were set.

John as a member of the Legislature was one of two in the opposition. His eventual political nemesis, Percival Austin Bramble won his seat in Plymouth in 1966 also and was made a Government Minister, with his father as the Chief Minister.

John Osborne virtually disappeared off the scene after his victory. He came suddenly and left just the same and his disregard for his parliamentary obligations in favour of his private interests at the sea port mainly had taken root in defining his future. D. C. Fenton’s vacuum was palpable to even the casual observer.

Osborne perceived early that performance was not a factor of importance. That accountability was for the theoretician and that armed with dollars in his pocket, not much, but enough to give a good time, however fleeting to constituents, was enough to take care of any neglect committed in the 5 year cycle to the ballot box. Money charisma served to dazzle and entice as the showman Bassie held sway. John Osborne was the unschooled master of psychology, whose knack to read up his people and efficiently woo them to his bidding, fulfils the defining legacy of this remarkable man.

So clean a reader of the pulse of his people that he became noted for translating it poetically into catch phrases that he unashamedly parroted on the platform, not in the least affected by a possible censure, that ‘Montserrat people belly long and them memory short’. This explained his Mickey Mouse with voters to the end of his days and his supreme confidence in standing up to challenges in politics, though his only REAL challenge was Charles Kirnon, others simply not up to it.

The North Western Constituency comprised areas north of Nantes River to Carrs Bay, one of the largest constituencies then. John ran with the United Workers Party headed by the late Reverend George Edwards of Salem. A teacher, island fast bowler, cricket devotee and a ladies charm George’s party was no match for the Montserrat Labour Party of Chief Minister, W. H. Bramble.

His only seat was that of John Osborne whom he introduced to politics ironically. No one apart from the St. Peter’s portion of the constituency had heard much of Osborne and he was not expected to win even by the best estimates. His campaign was led by a then recent graduate of Mona, UWI, himself a fellow villager and who went house to house but later parted ways for well over a generation but the die was already cast.

George himself lost his seat to the 22 year old new comer Eustace Dyer of Salem. Shy but with powerful backing in Salem, the youthful Dyer was plucked out of nowhere by the influence of a Salem stalwart Michael Warkinshaw and catapulted into political fame, with the famous slogan: say ‘no to confusion’ still somewhat visible on a wall heading up to Friths, Salem.

He was made Minister without portfolio and quickly learnt the ropes of politics never becoming as flamboyant as Teacher George but had a support base that rankled George to his end.

So here comes John Osborne at the end of the 1960’s, a sure seat virtually, despite an empty account, emerging in a new party, the Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) and becoming a Minister of Agriculture in a landslide victory in November, 1970.

A star of mottled configuration was born to us, by us, if not for us.

Claude Gerald, is a social commentator who resides on Montserrat, West Indies. Ceegee15@hotmail.com

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A Moment with the Registrar of Lands

By Claude Gerald

From conception through puberty to death many a Montserratian even in distant lands know of the one central figure in their lives and politics. Significantly in an eighteen year reign as leader of our affairs but with intermittent leadership roles in other Ministries, the late John Alfred Osborne became a house-hold name and one that will compel attention in the breast of coming generations.

Opinions and feelings on his life run the gamut but one thing is certain and it is that the sub-population of 30 and under, is lost, beyond what they muster from conversations with their parents, which can be loaded with political biases, to reflect the parent‘s take on the evolution of John Osborne, since he burst on the scene as a novice to politics, himself bordering on the cusp of thirty years.

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Osborne successfully entered the political fray in 1966 in the North Western Constituency against the stalwart D.C. Fenton, a son of Cudjoe Head. Mr Fenton as Minister of Public Works was a pragmatist with a flair for care of the aged and inspirational to the ambitious young. He was about building and concreting roads and in fact donated the land that houses the Brades Clinic and a brand new school van to take students from Cudjoe Head to the secondary school. Generous to the bone his zeal for his constituency was poignant.

His loss to the brash newcomer sent shock waves but Osborne knew he was facing a giant of an incumbent and charmed away even Mr. Fenton’s closest family members to create the upset.  He had the gift of conviction from the inception with a refrain, locked into empty rhetoric: People gi mi one chance ley mi show all yuh wah mi kud do. Gi mi once chance and allyuh wid see the real mi, he intoned.

Comedy and showmanship was on display and came to mark a distinguishing feature of his politics in the years ahead. Opponents melted as he drew large crowds at the Mecca of political rallies, the War Memorial, as the curious along with hard core supporters, honey hived, to feel his pulsating presence and being entertained to the ballot box, to script the fait accompli on Election Day.
They knew they were dealing with a gladiator and a powerful worthy adversary.

His victory against Mr. Fenton was as much a surprise as his comeback against Charles Kirnon in 1996, where both representatives distinguished themselves nationally with sterling service in Public Works and Agriculture, Housing and the Environment respectively.

Osborne too was disbelieving of his success and in a commiserating gesture to Mr. Fenton cautioned that ‘if they treat you so, then I will watch them even more carefully myself. Dem fella dey ungrateful Mas Chris. Mi neva expect dat dem woulda treat you so Mas Chris’. His gift of stealth and manoeuvre was being honed to deliver crippling blows at the polls and to distinguish himself as the grand champion of all comers.

History was made and the makings of a most impregnable figure in our politics were set.

John as a member of the Legislature was one of two in the opposition. His eventual political nemesis, Percival Austin Bramble won his seat in Plymouth in 1966 also and was made a Government Minister, with his father as the Chief Minister.

John Osborne virtually disappeared off the scene after his victory. He came suddenly and left just the same and his disregard for his parliamentary obligations in favour of his private interests at the sea port mainly had taken root in defining his future. D. C. Fenton’s vacuum was palpable to even the casual observer.

Osborne perceived early that performance was not a factor of importance. That accountability was for the theoretician and that armed with dollars in his pocket, not much, but enough to give a good time, however fleeting to constituents, was enough to take care of any neglect committed in the 5 year cycle to the ballot box. Money charisma served to dazzle and entice as the showman Bassie held sway. John Osborne was the unschooled master of psychology, whose knack to read up his people and efficiently woo them to his bidding, fulfils the defining legacy of this remarkable man.

So clean a reader of the pulse of his people that he became noted for translating it poetically into catch phrases that he unashamedly parroted on the platform, not in the least affected by a possible censure, that ‘Montserrat people belly long and them memory short’. This explained his Mickey Mouse with voters to the end of his days and his supreme confidence in standing up to challenges in politics, though his only REAL challenge was Charles Kirnon, others simply not up to it.

The North Western Constituency comprised areas north of Nantes River to Carrs Bay, one of the largest constituencies then. John ran with the United Workers Party headed by the late Reverend George Edwards of Salem. A teacher, island fast bowler, cricket devotee and a ladies charm George’s party was no match for the Montserrat Labour Party of Chief Minister, W. H. Bramble.

His only seat was that of John Osborne whom he introduced to politics ironically. No one apart from the St. Peter’s portion of the constituency had heard much of Osborne and he was not expected to win even by the best estimates. His campaign was led by a then recent graduate of Mona, UWI, himself a fellow villager and who went house to house but later parted ways for well over a generation but the die was already cast.

George himself lost his seat to the 22 year old new comer Eustace Dyer of Salem. Shy but with powerful backing in Salem, the youthful Dyer was plucked out of nowhere by the influence of a Salem stalwart Michael Warkinshaw and catapulted into political fame, with the famous slogan: say ‘no to confusion’ still somewhat visible on a wall heading up to Friths, Salem.

He was made Minister without portfolio and quickly learnt the ropes of politics never becoming as flamboyant as Teacher George but had a support base that rankled George to his end.

So here comes John Osborne at the end of the 1960’s, a sure seat virtually, despite an empty account, emerging in a new party, the Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) and becoming a Minister of Agriculture in a landslide victory in November, 1970.

A star of mottled configuration was born to us, by us, if not for us.

Claude Gerald, is a social commentator who resides on Montserrat, West Indies. Ceegee15@hotmail.com