By Sir Hugh and Lady Claudette Rawlins
The passing of relatives, including George Washington Archibald, and of close personal and family friends, in the recent past has given us reflective pause. In the course of a week, four such lives were celebrated. The lives of two of our dear friends, His Honour Mr. Eustace John and Mrs. Telca Francis were celebrated in St. Kitts and Nevis. They both leave indelible footprints in the sands of time and bid us to plant ours therein or to emulate their endeavours to create our own.
Mrs. Francis was an incredibly energetic and focused business-woman who never really retired. She was generous with her store, time, advice, experience and ideas. We here express gratitude for the fellowship and sage advice which she shared with us on many occasions, as well as for her friendship and loving kindness over the years. Claudette particularly enjoyed the tours of her gardens and the invaluable horticultural commentaries. Her passing leaves a void in our hearts and we will miss her dearly. However, we shall cherish the fond memories. We can only imagine what her passing means to Mr. Ben Francis (husband) and Reg (Son-Regiwell Francis). We pray that they will be strengthened and comforted by the eternal God as they mourn and that the pain of their loss will recede with time to be replaced by the memories of their shared life experiences and of her outstanding service.
His Honour Mr. John (or Sir John as he was affectionately known by everyone in his formative years) was a consummate and outstanding public servant during his sixty years of service. It may be recalled that he was sworn in as Deputy Governor-General some twenty-three years ago at the High Court in Basseterre in a dignified ceremony presided over by the Hon. Justice Velma Hylton. He retired but three months prior to his passing. His knowledge and understanding of every aspect of the public service were phenomenal and he shared it generously with anyone who sought his advice, as well as with others whom he thought needed the benefit of it.
Although Sir John was Hugh’s senior by some years (but almost shared birthdates) they became friends from very early years as they grew up in Gingerland. Even as a youngster Sir John’s stature was imposing and his presence was larger than life. Yet, he had a gentle, kindly and endearing personality, which drew people to him. His presence as well as his distinctive voice and talent made him an outstanding actor from his school years. He later became a renowned dramatist and founded the St. Kitts Dramatic Society. He produced plays particularly during the various summer festivals, including the annual Arts Festivals which were sponsored by Deputy Chief Minister/Premier, the Hon. C.A. Paul Southwell, as he then was. Those who featured in his productions included Cromwell Bowry, Walter Simmonds, Claudina Bagnall and Theodora Archibald, as they then were, Agnes Farrell, Leroy Nelson, Andrea Bowry and Dalia Warner, whom he subsequently wed. He was a dramatist par excellence.
By a stroke of fortune, when in 1968 a schoolboy Hugh worked during the summer at the Basseterre Post Office Sir John was a senior Officer there. Sir John casted him in that summer’s production and continued thereafter to encourage his forays into the dramatic arts. Incidentally, during the year before Sir John had won the Statehood Playwriting Competition in which Mr. Howard Byron placed second and Hugh third. Hugh realized that notwithstanding his kindly nature, Sir John brought a seriousness of purpose and firmness to his endeavour. He recalls that when during an early practice session it became obvious that he did not know his lines, Sir John calmly said “OK, take your exit now and let the practice session continue”. Hugh was duly chastised and never repeated that error again. He had occasion to joke about it with Mrs. John when they were teachers at the Sandy Point High School during the 1970s.
It was Sir John’s distinctive voice and his acquired knowledge of broadcasting that thrusted him into the vanguard, which, with the seeds planted by Karney Osbourne, Sylvester Joseph and others, saw ZIZ radio and television become a daily staple particularly for the people of the Colony, Associated State and Federation.
We are eternally thankful for the bonds of friendship which we both shared with His Honour and Mrs. John and the times we spent together. Notwithstanding their obvious health issues, at their insistence Hugh spent almost the entire day 17 April 2017 with them. The uplifting conversations and fellowship then and in past times which were shared by both of us will ever be etched in our memories. So too will our visits with the Francis family.
Our hope is that his Honour’s sterling services, both social and in the various public offices, and Mrs. Francis’ untiring business and social endeavours have been or will be chronicled for posterity and to guide others. We also hope that the stability of His Honour’s years as Deputy Governor-General has been noted and will be fittingly honoured. May Mrs. John, as well as His Honour’s progeny and relatives draw solace from the endeavours and achievements of his illustrious life.
As His Honour and Mrs. Francis have departed this mortal realm and have been transformed to immortality, may God grant them peace and rest eternal and let His light perpetual shine upon them.