THE WHITE FILE For The Punch – 7 March 2011
“What though the radiance which was once so bright
Be now forever taken from my sight;
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower,
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind.”
~ WILLIAM WORDSWORTH ~
There are thousands of young Bahamians, many of whom have somehow gone through the school system in The Bahamas, who will, unfortunately, never figure prominently in the future scheme of meaningful things in this country, and for a variety of equally sad reasons.
A vast majority of them are males. Some are unemployed because they are unemployable, or else because they simply have no desire to work. Others are consumed by alcohol or drugs, and yet others who evolved into offenders against society, are languishing in Her Majesty’s Prison.
Of course there are thousands of other young Bahamians who are the pride of their families and their communities, who are shaping their lives in positive directions, who appreciate the need for diligence and hard work, who have set career goals for themselves, and who appreciate that they will be expected to participate and to perform when comes the time for their generation to take over.
They are the hope and waiting glory of the next chapter in the life of The Bahamas. Some of them, an anticipation of that challenge, have involved themselves in causes such as Toastmasters International, and, on a younger stage, The Gentlemen’s Club. Youth groups in the various churches are designed to promote thought and eventually to shape leadership skills.
In that same manner, years ago, intellectually industrious groups of young people found themselves engaged in debate on large and profound issues on the community and international levels.
We remember one such group, styled the Young People’s Organisation, which back in the 1950s assembled upstairs at St. Agnes Schoolroom at Cockburn and Market Streets to debate issues such as Capitalism versus Communism.
Members of that group were such as Joseph Hollingsworth, Wilshire Bethel, Veronica Turnquest, Vernita Johnson, and Kendal Nottage, the latter of whom was the president. The White Boy hovered on the perimeter.
The outspoken Nottage, who hailed from East Street and attended Government High School, went on to be called to the Bahamas Bar after studying as an articled law student in the chambers of Paul L. Adderley, was later to be elected to Parliament, and to serve as a senator and Cabinet minister.
Kendal Nottage – whose younger brother is Dr. Bernard Nottage, MP for Farm Road and Grant’s Town, and former cabinet minister in two PLP governments – was one of those eager and capable young Bahamians who aspired to office early, and who was identified by the late PLP leader Sir Lynden Pindling as a positive political prospect in the country.
In the meantime elsewhere back in the 1950s. Over-the-Hill, in places like Kemp Road, Fox Hill, on Wulff Road, and in Chippingham there were other small groups of bright young Bahamians who understood and appreciated the political state of the colony – Bay Street versus the masses – and who would meet casually and discuss the pros and cons.
Following the collapse of the short-lived Citizen’s Committee, the Progressive Liberal Party was established in the fall on 1953, and that establishment and the ingredients included in the party’s Platform, widely publicised in the Nassau Herald, provided provocative fodder for those young groups debating around the town.
One such small, loose, but energetic group used to gather evenings at Butler’s food store, a modest grocery business on Blue Hill Road in facilities now occupied by the Urban Renewal and Bain and Grant’s Town Centre. The store, the precursor to the present Butler’s Bargain Mart farther down Blue Hill Road, was managed by the late Asa Butler, fourth son of Sir Milo and Lady Butler.
Asa, who was a former student at Government High School, was himself quite a debater and had a keen interest in politics no doubt because his illustrious father had been a political mover and shaker since the 1930s – and so the shop was a perfect venue for those lively sessions, which sometimes stretched past ten o’clock in the evening, long after the shop was supposed to have been closed for the night.
That group of itinerant debaters included such as Joseph Hollingsworth, Franklyn Butler, Rawson McDonald, Frank Watson (a first cousin of Asa), and The White Boy.
Yet it always seemed as if the debating circle was not satisfied or compete until the arrival of a fellow who somehow became the unofficial dean of the corps, who was slightly older than the rest, and to whom so many looked for the final wise word on a particularly argumentative point.
That was John Henry Bostwick, a fellow who, even before he turned 20, seemed to know a healthy little of almost everything, and a great deal about a lot of other things, especially those things which provoked the most heated arguments among the group, and which, almost with something like a wave of the hand, he instantly resolved.
Like Kendal Wellington Nottage, the young and effervescent John Henry Bostwick seemed destined for meaningful future public and political life and office, despite what some considered a stubborn nature, then reconsidered a nature, back in the 1950s, which was not so much stubborn but defiantly insistent that common sense should figure in any argument one hoped to pursue to fruitful conclusion.
Like Kendal Nottage – Henry Bostwick, who attended Government High School and later Calabar High School in Kingston, Jamaica – went on to become an attorney-at law, and in fact developed, like the late Eugene Dupuch, as one of the country’s most accomplished and outstanding criminal attorneys.
Yet in so many of those youthful gatherings of budding intellectuals, although far too many of them turned out to be charlatans, pseudo intellectuals, and fatuous four-flushers, Bostwick, from as far back as the late 1950s, displayed all the signs of a political mover and shaker in the future Bahamas.
This year John Henry Bostwick, Queen’s Counsel, with God’s help will achieve his 72nd year to heaven. Over those years, in addition to his courtroom stardom, he has attained and accomplished much in the political arena, and in fact his contributions to the enhancement of democracy deserve note and commendation.
We remembered this particularly last week when in this space we recounted the fascinating political story of the 1977 general elections which saw the ruling Progressive Liberal Party chalk up a massive victory, primarily because the Opposition was split into two camps.
On the one side the Free National Movement was led by Cecil Wallace-Whitfield, and on the other, yes, the leader of the Bahamian Democratic Party was John Henry Bostwick, at the time barely 38 years old.
All round, that was a fiery campaign, even though the odds were slim that the opposition, especially sawn asunder as it was, could bring down Lynden Pindling and his PLP government. Yet John Henry Bostwick was determined to give the battle his best shot.
In fact, considering the make-up of the BDP with his heavy Bay Street complement, Henry Bostwick was perhaps the most acceptable national face the party could offer the masses. When during the campaign he complained to the PLP government that because of the tough economic times some Bahamians were scavenging at the Blue Hill Road dump for food, he also issued an ominous warning:
“When sufficient people in this country feel their bellies aching, they will lose all sense of reason. I urge the government to wake up, and take heed.”
When the votes were counted following that gruelling campaign, the BDP had won only six seats, with Henry Bostwick capturing the seat for the Montagu constituency, and becoming the Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition in Parliament.
By the 1982 elections, the opposition was once again a single fighting force, and Henry Bostwick was to remain a prominent part of that force. Later, on the governmental watch of the Free National Movement, he became president of the Bahamas Senate.
And so, it might be said, John Henry Bostwick, who had become one of The Bahamas’ most outstanding courtroom orators, an effective and powerful political preacher, a sobering Leader of the Opposition, and a stern but fair president of the Senate had his practise range in a modest grocery shop on Blue Hill Road back in the 1950s.
Today in the late afternoon of his full and bountiful life, he richly deserves to be resting on his laurels. However, the nature of the man, John Henry Bostwick, says he is not at all ready for resting.
No, Sir, not John Henry Bostwick.