“How I met David Thompson” Memoir by Henderson Bovell, Social Commentator.

Henderson Bovell, Social Commentator

I had heard about him but had up to that time – not met him and it is obvious that he had also heard of me and wanted to meet me. I am not sure if at that time I was already a Member of the Executive Council of the Barbados Workers Union and the Vice President of the Council of Hotel Workers but as I recall, Mrs. Silvia Alleyne (a member of the Council of Hotel Workers of the BWU) told me one day that her son Derek, who was then Mr. Thompson’s Personal Assistant – said that Mr. Thompson wanted to meet me. And so I accepted the invitation.

When we finally met, Mr. Thompson said that he noticed that I was a prolific letter writer to the editor and that he had also heard that I was a frequent voice on the call-in-programme, which took a party-position on issues and that while he was not asking me to join the DLP, I could come to the Opposition’s Office; use the research material and other documents or operate from there, if I like. And so, again I accepted. I think David Thompson had a keen eye for spotting good talent. And that is how I met David Thompson. He never told me what to write or talk about. I guess he realised that I was capable of and was exercising independent thought, views, analysis and perspective – long before I came around the DLP.

And so I became fond of David (as he was affectionately referred). I remember that he had a way of speaking and a walk we all remember. When you thought you had made a good point, he had the ability to effortlessly strip your argument to pieces. Such natural ability was intimidating to many. He was a skilled debater. But what struck me most about him, was his commitment to family. In many ways I think we had things in common and so it was easy to bond with him. He had excellent oral and written communication skills and while I would say he concentrated on speaking, I spent a lot of time writing, even though I was on the call-in-programme daily, back then.

I will not forget David and it is not because he was buried the day before my birthday but he was and remained my friend.

I would say that David was at his lowest, “politically” between 1994 and 1999 and during that time, I do not think that there is anyone in Barbados who defended him as much as I did in the media. I would also say that he was committed to his friends and loyalty meant a lot to him. Many a night going home after Estimate or Budget debates, it would be he and I and Peter Walcott, his then driver who remains my friend today.

I am pleased to have lived in the time of David Thompson. In fact, a lot of what I learnt about political strategy in the early days, I learn from him and Bobby Morris and while a number of memories stand out in my mind, perhaps the two most is the night in 1999 when we went to CBC for the live debate and on election night in 1999 when he asked me to go to CBC radio to represent the party. I remember after the debate he asked me: “how did I do, you satisfied.” There was a humility and a decency about David Thompson. I use to laugh to myself and say that I inherited all of his enemies and none of his friends.

I think David Thompson meant well but in many ways, was misunderstood. What I can say is that once you got to know him, you realised that he was cool. He loved family, friends and politics and genuinely wanted to make things better. I think his legacy is his work, as regards seeking to highlight the importance of sound core values, the youth and family to national social and economic stability and development and in building a good and well ordered society and in that regard, there is work to be done. It was also obvious that he was beginning to grow and mature in the Office of Prime Minister. Indeed he was David Thompson, the man who became Prime Minister of Barbados, through hard work, patience and perseverance.

I will not forget David and it is not because he was buried the day before my birthday but he was and remained my friend. To Mara and the girls (as he affectionately referred to them) I extend my sincerely condolence. Had he live, he would have celebrated a birthday on December 25.

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