Wednesday, 2nd March, was a public holiday in Anguilla to commemorate the birthday of the “Father of the Nation”, James Ronald Webster. Mr. Webster is notably honoured as Anguilla’s outstanding pioneer in the 1967-1969 Anguilla Revolution.
Mr James Ronald Webster
He died on 9th December 2016, and his body was laid to rest in a unique mausoleum on a bed of rock at Pope Hill, overlooking the James Ronald Webster Park. It was at this mausoleum that a twin-purpose event was held, on his birthday, to mark the significance of the noteworthy day.First, the Department of Education showcased the winners of an essay competition in which primary school students were invited to participate. They were required to write about the life and legacy of Mr. Webster, the prominent role that he played in the Anguilla Revolution, and the outstanding contributions that he made to the improvement of life in Anguilla.
Secondly, the occasion paid special tribute to the recent retirement of Dr. Timothy Hodge who had been Director of Social Security for over 40 years. Dr. Hodge had been appointed to that position by Mr. Webster’s Government.A special guard of honour, by two officers of the Royal Anguilla Police Force, stood at the entrance to the tomb. The raising of the national flag was done under the command of the Anguilla Cadet Corps, after which the Anguilla National song was ceremoniously played by Michael “Dumpa” Martin and Perry Hughes together, on steel pans and keyboard, respectively. Prayer was then offered by Mrs. Parloma Webster-Reece, one of the late Mr. Webster’s daughters.
L-R: Cattleya Charles, Shemahni McDowall, Reynah Lico, L’Qree Hodge, Rezoni Webster
With focus on the essay writing competition, the Chief Education Officer, Mr. Bren Romney, was the designated Chairperson. He invited the Honourable Minister of Education, Miss Dee-Ann Kentish-Rogers, to give the welcome and opening remarks. She said: “It is my pleasure to welcome you this morning to this recognition ceremony for the awardees of the James Ronald Webster Essay Writing Competition, as well as to commemorate 40 years of Social Security Service for Dr. Timothy A. Hodge.“The Ministry and Department of Education has been fortunate to facilitate this essay writing competition that aims to keep the legacy of the late Father of the Nation alive. It is a reminder that, while life may one day be over, legacies will live on forever.”
Mrs Cleopatra Webster & Premier Ellis Webster laying wreath on tomb
Anguilla Cadet Corps
The Minister then alluded to a poem, titled “My Legacy” by Lucy Maud Montgomery, a few lines of which read: “My friend has gone away from me, From shadow into perfect light, But leaving a sweet legacy. My heart shall hold it long in fee¬, A grand ideal, calm and bright, A song of hope for ministry… Dear comrade, loyal thanks to thee, Who now hath fared beyond my sight, My friend has gone away from me, But leaving a sweet legacy.”A moment of silence in memory of the life and legacy of the great revolutionary stalwart, James Ronald Webster, was observed, after which a wreath was laid on his tomb by his wife, Mrs. Cleopatra Webster, accompanied by the Honourable Premier, Dr. Ellis Lorenzo Webster. This was followed by a song, entitled “Create Your Legacy”, sung by young Aaliyah Webster-Robinson, First Runner-up in the Primary Schools’ Calypso Contest. Her lively, befitting song, performed with high energy, garnered exuberant applause from the audience.
Brief remarks were made by the Honorable Premier, Dr. Webster. Alluding to James Ronald Webster’s Book, A Revolutionary Leader, the Premier quoted: ‘“It is said that life is a series of events, and man is the product of his environment.”’ “Today we are here to honour the legacy of the Honourable James Ronald Webster.“Mr. Webster was a man who had the vision to leave the good place where he resided in St. Maarten to come to Anguilla to make a difference in the way of life here. He had noticed how St. Maarten had evolved from what it used to be when he first went there. It was in a similar state to what Anguilla was in, then.“So he came back to Anguilla when St. Maarten was developing, to make his mark in starting the developmental process here. He had come back home to make things possible, to provide opportunity, and to help a people that needed help in the country where he was born and raised.
“Today, we are also honouring the students who participated in the James Ronal Webster Essay Writing Competition. And, certainly, we must say that 20 years from now these same students would probably be standing here, and one of them might be well filling this position in which I stand now.”The presentation of awards to the top six participating students in the essay completion then took place. In sixth place was Rezoni Webster of Grade 6 of The Valley Primary School. In fifth place was Tsehai Carty of Grade 6 of The Valley Primary School. In fourth place was L’Qree Hodge of Grade 6 of Orealia Kelly Primary School. In third place went to Reynah Lico of Grade 6 of the Morris Vanterpool Primary School. Second place went to Shemahni McDowell of Grade 6 of the Morris Vanterpool Primary School — and first place honours were taken by Cattleya Charles of Grade 5 of the Omololu International School. She read her poem at the end of the presentation of awards.
The Anguillian met with one of Mr. Webster’s daughters, Yvonne Webster-Pryce, who had initiated the competition which will from here on become a national 2nd March event. She said: “I wanted to do a sings piration again this year, like we had in the past, but due to the Covid protocols I decided to cancel.“However, seeing that I had been hearing that our local students need to know more of James Ronald Webster, I approached the Department of Education and asked if they would take on the project of organising this essay writing competition that would highlight the legacy of my late Father. The Education Department ran with the idea, and now we intend to make this an annual event.”
The other segment of the event, which related to the observance of the retirement of Dr. Timothy Hodge, after his 40-year tenure as Social Security Director, is covered elsewhere in this edition of The Anguillian.