KERWYN LESLIE MORRIS
His life and Legacy
Friday 23rd March 2007
In today’s fast paced world - a world of competition and competitiveness where each of us has his or her hopes, aspirations, desires, objectives and obsessions we jostle to achieve whatever we consider a priority. In this maze of contradictions there are people who stand out not of their own choosing but paradoxically by virtue of a virtue …. that of humility. Had it been Kerwyn Leslie Morris’ desire or objective to be in the public eye he would have had no difficulty at all he having been a multi-talented athlete and Sportsman, teacher, musician both performer and composer/arranger, a fisheries expert and consultant of unquestioned ability, a fisherman who chose to lead by example. He often manned the Japanese-donated trawler retained by the Fisheries Division for Research and Development and for Training. Against this ornate backdrop of talent and achievement here was a man who moved nimbly and unobtrusively from one skill to another with the sole desire to help his fellow human beings and specifically the less fortunate. Here was a man, simple, unassuming, tremendously talented, yet humble.
Like so many young people of succeeding generations Kerwyn’s early adolescent years created all the pressure that would make a young person want to question his or her existence, nay usefulness and confidence in oneself. I remember when the teenage Kerwyn was hit by a typhoid epidemic which some of us barely missed. Clearly we were not allowed to visit or go into his room, a practice that was otherwise commonplace. He felt we had abandoned him and it showed. After a good long period following his illness he seemed to understand and relationships returned to normal.
Kerwyn was born on the 19th May 1939 at Edinboro to
THE EARLIEST YEARS
In looking back it might have been seen that a child born on the seashore and later growing up on the ‘bayside’ opposite the Kingstown Anglican School and who spent his entire school vacation swimming, rowing, diving and fishing could easily have been heading for an allied career, and so it was with Kerwyn.
attending the St. Vincent Grammar School he proceeded to Grenada and completed
his Secondary education at the Grenada Boys Secondary School; the revered GBSS.
Kerwyn migrated to
The period of
enlightenment of the boisterous early seventies saw a clash of thinking between the ultra
conservative government of the day and a group of liberal progressives that was
influenced by an emerging black consciousness sweeping through North America
and the Caribbean and to a lesser extent
During this rocky period of his life Kerwyn had allegations of a serious nature thrown at him among which was one of having burned a bible. If it were so then no one can seek to justify it nor is that the intention today.
Let us look
at the scenario as it appeared at the time. Racial discrimination against
emerging and developing black communities in the diaspora
was being brought sharply into focus in North America and the
Renowned Vincentian Poet and dramatist Tim Daisy wrote a poem entitled “HELP” and in brackets (for Kerwyn and others) - an incredibly poignant work.
ACHIEVEMENTS / AWARDS
Let us take a closer look at a man who clearly served with honour and not for honour.
He was a member of the Bridge Boys and a member of the EAGLES SPORTS AND CULTURAL CLUB.
Kerwyn authored many articles in the “Flambeau” magazine of the 1960’s. Several years later he took to recording in the odd pamphlet information on peculiarities in the Fishing Industry in SVG and his own observations as a practitioner.
extended period of residence in
- He was a founding member of the
- He was a member of the
- Member of the Caribbean Conference
Committee - an
expanded group drawn from across the
1965 Conference on George Lamming
1966 Conference on CLR James
By 1968 Kerwyn had returned home and therefore missed the pivotal
Conference on BLACK WRITERS which was held at
Kerwyn Morris was a member of the SVG Contingent to CARIFESTA 1979 in
Among the several awards Kerwyn received was a plaque presented by the staff of the Fisheries Division in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the development of the Fisheries Sector in St. Vincent and the Grenadines 1982-2000.
Another plaque he received reads …. “The SVG Association of Montreal Inc. 1965-1990 - Presented to K.L. Morris on our 25th Anniversary in recognition of his contribution as a Founding Member to the growth and development of our Association.”
Association of Montreal Inc. presented another plaque to Kerwyn
on 30th October 2004 which read “for outstanding contribution to the
development of our Community in
From the OAS Inter-american Council for Integral Development - Executive Secretariat for Integral Development - “Special Appreciation to Mr. Kerwyn Morris - Member of the Non Permanent Specialised Committee (CENEPE) elected by CIDI for the priority area of Sustainable Development and the Environment for the significant participation as a member of the CENEPE and the valuable contribution to the efforts promoted by the OAS to advance partnership for development in the Hemisphere.”
On May 1, 2000 the Fisherman’s Day Committee presented Kerwyn Morris with a plaque marking the 25th Anniversary of Fisherman’s Day and for his outstanding contribution to the development of the Fisheries Sector.
On the 30th
December 2000 in Her Majesty the Queen’s New Year’s Honours
Kerwyn Leslie Morris received the award of Officer of
the Most Excellent Order of the
It could be said that Kerwyn began to distinguish himself first in sport and particularly at athletics. It became evident to his neighbours, school mates and friends that the time spent in the sea and on the beach and the zeal with which he approached his training and exercise showed he was never prepared to accept second best.
most memorable event in the history of
school activities in which Kerwyn took great pride
was the then Grammar School Cadet Corps. I can recall that Corporal Morris
HIS LOVE OF MUSIC
ago on one of my frequent visits to the Morris’s home I was struck by an
obvious change in furniture. It was one of those lavish looking “combination
sets” - a Mc Michael, by brand, that boasted a radio and record player on the
upper level and storage of your records below
- LP’s Long Playing, EP Extended
Play and 45’s usually a single tune on either side. (You were also able to
display your prized crochet pieces and a vase of flowers on the top). So much for the advance of technology. It was his father Joe
who spent much of his time in
Kerwyn Morris received formal training in both theory and practice of piano. He
may not have pursued all of the examinations of a certificate-granting
heard earlier of reference to Kerwyn’s love of the
sea and of fishing. You heard of the Japanese-donated trawlers. He went to sea
regularly for periods of 5-days straight and his family would only hear of him
many conferences and contributed substantially, from his wealth of knowledge,
to these deliberations. He visited
Among the many tributes paid to the life and work of Kerwyn Morris is one by Mr Orton King of our now world famous Old Heg Turtle Sanctuary on Bequia. Mr. King said Kerwyn was his fisherman - friend and a Chief Fisheries Officer who led by example. Mr. King noted that when he discussed the development of the Turtle Sanctuary with Kerwyn his response was “Mr. King I studied Marine Biology but never had to study turtles so if you want to go ahead on the basis of the information you have acquired you go right ahead, you have my full support.” That support says Mr. King never wavered. The world through BBC and the US Discovery Channel now feature The Old Heg Turtle Sanctuary on their TV Programmes and people from the NORDIC Countries and beyond have visited the Sanctuary after seeing it on international television.
Kerwyn, from the reports of many of his students, was more than just a teacher
because he took a personal interest in facilitating learning and helping
students on an individual basis to become excited at the prospect of mastering
their subject. Prior to attending University and after graduating as a Marine
Biologist he used both his love for and training in the subject to straddle the
twin interests of dispensing Education and developing the Fisheries Sector. He
taught both at the
In his retirement Kerwyn took on new responsibilities. He was appointed Chairman of the National Broadcasting Corporation N.B.C. Radio 705.
As a member of the New Democratic Party he became General Secretary following the death of Stuart Nanton until it became necessary for him to seek medical attention abroad.
We meet here today to say farewell to a man of many parts who played his part in nation building without fanfare or ceremony. Because of his reserved nature and modesty few of us here would have known, before today, of his many accomplishments. I benefitted from the research. It follows then that this historical account is not intended primarily to praise a person after he has passed on but rather to help future generations and indeed current generations benefit from this rich legacy.
THE LEGACY AND LESSONS
What then are the lessons we learn?
The sincerity and value of service with honour and not for honour that we should never have to impose ourselves on anyone to be successful nation-builders and that if we do then the motivation is likely to be one of self-interest perhaps even self-aggrandisement.
The life of service we have just examined ought to pose a serious challenge to our traditional thinking on how heroes/heroines, in the national context, are derived. This life of service would seem to turn, on its head, the stereotyped conceptualization of heroes and the restricted or limited categories and types of persons from which we assume heroes can only be drawn. Remember my friends that a Governor General does not necessarily become a hero merely by virtue of having held the office nor does a Prime Minister necessarily become a hero if the motivation for his/her achievement and good works is personal self-interest and the country benefits only coincidentally. Ambition should be made of sterner stuff.
God sees and knows everything. All power comes from God - Omniscient and Omnipotent! There is an excellent quotation, author unknown, that goes like this….
“I hope that our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us that the less we use our power, the greater it will become.”
How much power did Kerwyn have and how wisely did he use it?
Kerwyn’s death has made me come
to know better, his son Osei whom we had called in
earlier times by his second name Patrice. He is straight-forward and not timid
when it comes to speaking his mind. This is always a good and positive trait. A
couple months ago we got to talking about his father. I asked a pertinent
question about his father’s thinking and his wishes in relation to beliefs and
eternity. He told me that his father had requested a Christian burial with a
church service and told him he had made his part straight - in other words, he had made
reconciliation with his God. And you and I know he was given lots of time. As a
firm believer myself I felt good to hear a clear and unequivocal statement. And
I say to you simply “let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” (
I would like on behalf of the family and those who visited frequently to thank the faithful and dedicated nursing and care giving staff who spared no effort in seeing to Kerwyn’s needs and making him as comfortable as possible.– Anita Williams- Co-ordinator, Lesline Gould, Odette Headley, Louvanna Ollivierre, Azalea Lewis, Selmer Williams and a brief stint by a Miss Campbell. Sincerest thanks to you all.
We extend condolences to
the family - Children– Marcia-Ann, Zhinga,
Osei, Khafili of the
Farewell my brother. Your music perhaps more than anything else is a living legacy that will continually speak to us. Rest peacefully.