Journey’s End: Desmond M. Bourne laid to rest with Family, Barbados loses Broadcast & Advertising Veteran

{EDITOR’S NOTEA shorter version of this appeared the day after he died, this text is an expanded version used as his Eulogy & includes childhood pictures as well as scenes of his Interment}

Zenith - 1932 & Nadir - 2011: Behold, here lies a legendary creative Caribbean icon

Let me begin by stating many people have incredible qualities – there are those human aspects which indicate incredible kindness or strength of character and there are other times when people have incredible lapses of judgment or show an incredible room for improvement.

Demond M. Bourne at probably six months old, Strathclyde 1933

While Desmond MacDonald Bourne had both such moments, my purpose here today is, like Marc Antony in Shakespeare’s rendition of the life of Julius Caesar, to praise him and not bury him, at least verbally albeit physically soon from now. This is a moment when we follow Quincy Jones admonishment of leaving one’s ego at the door…

The pallbearers included Harold Hoyte, Roxanne Gibbs, Sir Fred Gollop, Vic Fernandes, Carlton Proute, Ricky Jordan, Elliott Mottley, Norman Mitchell and Desmond's only son - Ian.

One quality that was ingrained in my father from young was a certain indomitability – born in June 1932 and the youngest of three sons, he contracted polio at a very tender age and made himself overcome his slender right leg with tree climbing, running, horseback riding and other various sports for most of his teens.

Poppa saw Bajan history happen many times – the first was when he was five years old when the Bridgetown Disturbances unfolded before his young eyes. He was taken to the City by his mother (my Grandmother, Alice Hearn, Jamaican by birth) for shopping and they were due to return home via one of those Rocklyn buses which were open to one side.

At the age of 3

The bus was packed with people wanting to leave town in a hurry as they realised trouble was brewing. The driver however, was insisting on leaving per schedule, so Grandma took matters in her own hands; lucky she did as I may not be here now – she raised up her parasol and with each word she whacked the driver over the head. There was a sea of people milling over the bridge moving towards River Road so the rest of the bus cheered on my Grandmother as my father as a toddler watched in awe how my forebear, the petite Jamaican, got the driver to move ahead of schedule and just in time too!

It was shortly thereafter, my grandfather took a promotion within Fogarty’s Department store and switched from Barbados to Trinidad, Poppa went to primary school there with actor Geoffrey Holder at Queen’s Royal College in Port Of Spain. At 11 he went to Gordonstoun, the UK boarding school known for pupils like Prince Philip, Prince Charles and Prince William!

During his time spent there, at 14 on a dare he appeared at Parade Drill in a bathing suit and boots in the middle of winter, he may have been punished but he made a whopper in bets!

(L & R) Former CBC Television Director Errol Rollins who crafted many TV commercials fom Desmond's scripts reminiscing at E. Pamela Small's Funeral Home in Vauxhall, Ch. Ch. with Carlton Proute who was inspired by Desmond bourne to go into Radio, Carlton also read the scripture lesson from Ecclesiastes 3: 1 to 14

Poppa was to later know his own share of family life through me who kept him on his toes, like the time at three when I wanted to play records just like my Daddy – so I took the lever off the arm just like how he did; I held the needle by the handle just like he did… One thing, I did not realise a record was needed for play? Can you imagine the ruckus? He didn’t let me near his record player again until I was in my early 20’s and that was only after he got a record player for my 21st birthday!

Preparation and a healthy respect for audio equipment was second nature to my father from his time spent as Radio Guardian 610 AM’s first voice during the early to mid-50?s, he was the first person to go from Silver to Golden network in 2 weeks.

Both Nation Publishing and Chefette Restaurants sent floral arrangements for the former Voiceover legend

This desire for perfection eventually led over to Antenna – a feared column for the Nation newspapers, where receptionists at the radio stations read to see if they were reported for rudeness or sloppiness while announcers’ promotions were made or broken on his commentary.

Desmond Bourne had a love for radio all his life, he had an award winning programme called “Jive Talking” which even drew fifth and sixth form pupils at secondary schools to hear what new hits from the UK were now emerging or why Duke Ellington was a crucial element of modern jazz or examining the history of ancient calypso on 78?s – my dad would draw wide demographics not only from tunes, but which Bajan personality would he interview over what controversy or a hot topic at that moment every Wednesday night in the late 70?s (imagine calling the Anglican Archbishop Drexel Gomez asSexy Drexy”? Only my dad would, and get away with it!).

This radio programme was what he enjoyed the most, researching, calling WIRL (West Indies Records Limited) to see where the new music was coming from and why – if they did not have the answers? He’d call Claudia Joseph at the No. 1 Record Shop. He would actually invite people over to his house and interview them in the living room and record the chat via his then state of the art Philips tape recorders!

England, summer of 1947 - astride "Rainbow," the 14 year old Desmond MacDonald Bourne tries hand at Equestrian show-jumping

One of the groups he interviewed for Jive Talking was a local band called The Brothers, one of the members not a brother was keyboardist John Roett, who recalled Poppa as; “The most amazing voice in the Caribbean…” Who can forget when he did the emotional punctuation for the Greg Hoyos Associates jingle which had Ray Armstrong and Tamara Marshall sing “Barbados, My Home”? Banks Beer – Our Beer!

Greg Hoyos, CEO of Greg Hoyos Associates in Belleville recalled this of my dad – “… He was our Orson Welles, and we’re poorer for his loss.” It is of interest to note how advertising and media also played a major part in Poppa’s life, while in the USA, he was a key role in securing Orson Welles to voice an Ad for Eastern Airlines for the popular ad agency Young & Rubicam.

Poppa returned to Barbados in the late 70’s and he first worked at Castagne-Williams then became Creative Director at Smith & Oxley (which later became SOJE-Lonsdale) where his ingenuity earned the attention of Barbados’ political arena; he created the Ad Campaign “The Great Combination” for the BLP in 1976 when Tom Adams swept seats that September from the Right Excellent Errol Barrow, after Tom Adams’ sweeping victory which was the second time my father not only saw history but made it happen – yet Pop himself was unceremoniously swept from his job at Smith & Oxley but he certainly did not take it sitting down…

With the help of Elliott Mottley, QC one of this country’s top legal eagles (later AG for Bermuda then Solicitor General for Belize), he won my dad a wrongful dismissal suit. My father used the settlement as seed money for his independent agency which handled clients like the Nation newspaper, Chefette Restaurants and Home Farm fruit juices.

Strutting around in Dashikis and Bermuda shorts he cut quite a dashing and unusual figure like Santa on vacation… Travelling in his Vauxhall station-wagon which he originally leased then bought outright from Smith & Oxley, the license number was MF 639 – which he bragged stood for Millennium Falcon like Star Wars and he was a tropical Han Solo!

Many of the Dashikis he loved to wear came from either Kirpalani's or Melwani's

It was not that Poppa never stood on convention, he acknowledged where he felt it was expected – such as Diplomats & Royalty – but for the most part he ignored it… About 1984, he was seconded to Grenada for their elections; this was after J.M.G.M “Tom” Adams made a personal recommendation to specific interests on the Spice Isle.

So when my dad had an appointment with the second Prime Minister of Barbados and he showed up at Bay Street – only after he picked me up at school, once we arrived and he warned me to keep any chat to a minimum. Nevertheless, it was he who amazed the guard when he saw my Pop’s appearance, the Security detail naturally called the late PM on the phone and told him a man with ‘unkempt’ hair and large beard in a Captain Marvel tee-shirt wanted to see him?

I watched how the guard was stunned when Mr Adams calmly and drily drawled over the intercom; “Ah, yes – that would be Desmondsend him up right away!

My father’s voice was one of the most distinguishing aspects of his personality… Jim Huber – while in CNN Sports – stated on air he got a call from Barbados from “…a guy who sounded like a cross between James Earl Jones and God…” correcting Huber on how to pronounce the locale where the 1988 Olympiad was held (Seoulmost folk still tend to say ‘soul’ and my dad says ‘say-ool’ as many Europeans do), once this occurred? Many Bajans who invested in CBC’s cable TV service of STV as it was then (Subscription Television) knew it was Desmond Bourne who called the Atlanta station! Fantasy author Neil Gaiman once said in one of his novels how parents embarrass us, intentionally or not – when this CNN pronunciation lesson happened I did not know whether to blush or grin!

Long after he and CBC parted company, he still kept the phrase “Jive Talking” and used it as the fulcrum to develop an annual awards feature for the Nation newspaper – “Jivin’ Around With {Year}” and the main section folk would look out for is ‘10 Wind-Up Dolls of {Year}’ where his choices were daring and his comments were caustic, I easily recall how editors, lawyers and my dad having ferocious battles over the phone over what can stay or go as social commentary!

Yet my father also had a softer side, he created the clever and moving “Santa’s Progress” a radio serial sponsored by United Insurance, where he tracked the mythical character many say my dad (and now me) tend to look like – from the North Pole ’til he was just in sight of Barbados… Perhaps this is why my father chose to leave just before Christmas? Maybe he had to make an early advisement for the elves! Desmond Bourne would have been 80 on June 11 next year; he called Kingsland Terrace his home since 1994…

He and I were very alike and two strong personalities created more differences than alliances, yet I still both love and respect my dad and wished I mended more bridges with him, rather than finding holes in fences… So every child in here today who’s lucky enough to have your parents alive? Make sure you do not let this last day of 2011 end without letting those parents know you love them and their foibles, it just makes them unique from all the others!

(Background - Rev. Ronald Trotman and Funeral Director E. Pamela Small) Finally at rest, with his parents in family plot at Westbury Cemetery

Poppa never gave in to the lure of the Internet, to the end he used only a typewriter and fax machine to do his Birthday research for the Nation, which was eventually retired earlier this year, he worked right up to that point – I do not think because he had to, rather he wanted to… He believed in wearing out rather than rusting out. Like Frank Sinatra (among the many favourites of my dad for his breath control and phrasing), my father definitely lived his way!

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