FINAL GOODBYE FOR GREATEST SON
By JULIEN NEAVES Sunday, May 4 2014
IT was a full day of events as Tobagonians yesterday said their final goodbyes to their greatest son, Arthur NR Robinson, in a general mood that was more celebratory than solemn.
The day began with a State Ecumenical Service for Robinson at the Dwight Yorke Stadium, Bacolet, Tobago at 9.30 am.
There were hundreds of people in attendance and the covered stands were practically full, though the uncovered stands remained unoccupied. The service was part of the five-day State funeral which began on Tuesday in Trinidad.
Among those in attendance yesterday were President Anthony Carmona, Chief Justice Ivor Archie, Senate President Timothy Hamel-Smith, House Speaker Wade Mark, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar a number of Cabinet ministers, Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley, acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams, and Chief of Defence Staff Major General Kenrick Maharaj.
Robinson’s children David and Ann-Margaret and granddaughter Anushka arrived at 8.55am followed by Rowley, Archie, the Prime Minister and her husband , Gregory. As Persad-Bissessar made her way to the seating area she waved at the crowd and the crowd clapped in return. She was followed by Carmona, who also received applause.
The casket was brought in without any music by a Guard of Honour made up of members taken from the country’s various security forces. It was a windy day and immediately after the casket was placed on a rostrum the national flag flew off, and those in attendance reacted with surprise and laughter. It would take members of the Guard of Honour about five minutes to properly secure it and they received applause for their efforts.
The attendees would also laugh after being asked to take their seats by the chief celebrant Rev Duane Samm and then being asked almost immediately to stand for the opening prayer by Br Finbar Sebro. He prayed that the family would find comfort at this time — that Robinson by dying was born to eternal life.
Family friend Allen Granville provided his tribute in a calypso praising Robinson, the crowd was at their most animated during the song.
“If it wasn’t for you we couldn’t say boo, so all of the praises we give to you,” he sang.
He also sang that Robinson gave the nation his heart and soul and “of you we’re proud”, and that he had struggled hard so we must cherish him in our hearts. Granville thanked Robinson for doing such a great job for the people “and we salute you also”.
“For all of us he went through blood sweat and tears,” he said.
Granville said that at St Peter’s gate, Robinson will not have to wait, but they will be waiting for him with a Rolls Royce and angels.
“Ah we boy, oh yes,” one woman shouted.
The Signal Hill Alumni Choir, Bishop’s High School Choir and Roxborough Community Chorale performed gospel songs. Several tributes were paid and prayers offered from various religions at the service which lasted about two-and-a-half-hours.
Later at about 2 pm the casket was taken to the Scarborough Methodist Church for a private funeral ceremony.
A number of Tobagonians congregated at the corner of Main and Bacolet Street to see the motorcade following the ceremony. Carmona put down his window, smiled and saluted as his vehicle drove from the church, people clapped and cheered.About 45 minutes later, the final parade began. Robinson’s casket was placed on a gun carriage. Together with members of the security forces, including the Defence Force band, members of the Signal Hill Police Youth Club clad in bright pink tee shirts as well as girl guides, brownies, scouts and young members of the Red Cross — they all lined the sides of Bacolet Street and saluted the carriage.
A crowd of people joined the funeral parade, followed the carriage to the Scarborough Methodist Cemetery where they gathered on the outskirts as movement within the grounds was heavily restricted.
Robinson’s family and dignitaries, including Tobago Organisation of the People political leader Ashworth Jack, stood on a large platform.
There were cheers and claps from the crowd as the casket was brought into the cemetery. A group of women who spontaneously broke into gospel songs were chided by an official on the microphone who instructed them to stop singing and maintain the dignity of the occasion.
When the booming 20-gun salute began, startled citizens cried out and children screamed. A few minutes later military helicopters flew overhead, drowning out the voices of the praying ministers.
The crowd joined in with singing gospel songs as the grave, which had been lined with a moss green, velvet trim, was being prepared for the final burial.
Robinson was buried in the same grave as his wife, Patricia, who died in 2009. During the earlier tributes a number of speakers spoke of Robinson’s great love for his wife and the island of his birth, Tobago.
Robinson died on April 9 at the age of 87. Tributes have poured in for him locally, regionally and internationally.