The following is the full statement delivered by Hon. Premier Donaldson Romeo at the memorial service for the late Right Hon. Dr. George Irish in New York on March 1, 2019.
First and foremost, on behalf of the Government and the People of Montserrat wherever they may be, I would like to express profound condolences with wishes of peace and consolation to the wife, children, close relatives, and friends of The Right Hon Professor Dr. George Irish – son and hero of our native land.
Lives of great men all remind us we can make our lives sublime, and, departing, leave behind us footprints on the sands of time.
Footprints, that perhaps another, Sailing o’er life’s solemn main, a forlorn and shipwrecked brother, seeing, shall take heart again.
I consider it a great privilege to be allowed to stand before you today to honour a great Montserratian whose life has left so many memories, indelible footprints, in all of our hearts.
He has left enduring footprints in our civic life and education, through trade union activity, the Credit Union, political activism and speeches, through lectures, sermons, classes and informal chats.
He has left his mark on Montserratian culture. Memories of the University Centre packed with people: Arrow on stage performing in his platform shoes, Gus white singing his heart out, Joe West playing the role of Willie Bramble, the newly formed Community Singers bringing national pride and tears to our eyes with “Oh Montserrat in the Carib Sea”.
He impacted my own home, particularly through my mother, a firm fan of his. In the Black Power days of the late Sixties and early Seventies, we all wore afros, and our mother sewed up a storm of dashikis for the whole family, for just about every occasion. More importantly, we were taught to wear these symbols of our African heritage with pride, just as he did, as an outward sign of an inner liberation.
For, as sons and daughters of slaves, Montserratians had long learnt to be ashamed of our past, of the culture that had grown out of this past, of our so called “bad English”, of our very selves.
Doc Irish’s enthusiasm for Montserratianness, for our history, our stories, our music, our jokes and our twang, was contagious, and made a priceless contribution to a joyous sense of national pride and celebration. He has left an imprint that goes way deeper than activism, deeper than clothes, or cultural events. He has left us a legacy of freedom and dignity that is encoded in the DNA of our little Caribbean Rock.
But no one could know Doc Irish for very long, especially in the later years of his life, without realizing that this was a man who loved and feared his God.
He clearly understood that the most important footprints any person can leave behind are not those, however inspiring, left in the shifting sands of time, but those he or she has made from standing firmly on the Eternal Rock of Ages.
Though I won’t see him again on the little Rock he loved so well, I hope with all my heart to see him again when God, through the Eternal Rock of Ages, calls all His sleeping children back to vibrant life.
Thanks and may God bless us all.