Glowing tributes were paid to the life and work of three of Jamaica’s most senior Custodes, who demit office this year, at a recent function held at King’s House.
The Custodes, who have together served their respective parishes for 49 years are: the Rev. Canon the Hon. Weeville Gordon, O.J., Kingston; Hon. Clarence Nelson, St. James; and Hon. Roylan Barrett, C.D., Trelawny.
They where the toast of the function hosted by Governor-General, His Excellency, the Most Hon. Sir Patrick Allen, receiving citations and accolades from former Governor-General, the Most Hon. Sir Howard Cooke; Justice Minister and Attorney General, Senator Dorothy Lightbourne; Chief Justice, Hon. Zaila McCalla; as well as their colleagues across the island.
Sir Patrick said that having worked with the three gentlemen over the past nine months, “I…found them to be noble, honest, (and) knowledgeable of their role, dedicated to service, and eager to improve their parishes.”
The Governor-General noted Custos Barrett’s integral role in the Falmouth Pier project; Canon Gordon’s work in shaping and steering the lives of numerous residents in Allman Town; and Custos Nelson’s outstanding contribution to the agricultural sector, which, he contended, provides a model for which “Jamaica can revisit, given the challenges facing…that sector.”
“You have (all) worked assiduously over the years… (and) despite the numerous challenges, your devotion to service and duty has been constant, and I admire the dignity with which you carry out your responsibilities. As the ‘First Citizens’ of each parish, you have assumed leadership positions and, consequently, are well respected, not only in your respective parishes, but islandwide,” Sir Patrick pointed out.
“I…encourage all of you to continue to work closely with the citizens of your parish. Take all the opportunities to inspire them, encourage them when they present ideas, urge them to think creatively and do all they can to excel,” he urged them.
Senator Lightbourne, in commending the Custodes for their service, noted that they had worked tirelessly to improve their respective parishes.
“You have established a caring bond as First Citizen with the rest of the people of your parish, and you have carried out your functions of Custos with pride, dignity, and resilience. For that, the Government and people of Jamaica owe you a debt of gratitude,” she stated.
Chief Justice, Hon. Zaila McCalla, in paying tribute, stated that “excellence has truly been the hallmark of these exemplars of public service. We stand here today, as representatives of a grateful nation to salute and thank these three gentlemen for their sterling work in the service of their country. It is with heartfelt gratitude and love that we bid them farewell from public life.”
Canon Gordon in his response, recounted pleasant memories during his 18-year tenure, pointing to the camaraderie and good working relationships he established with the various Governors-General, staff at King’s House, Custodes, and other individuals with whom he interfaced.
He noted the guidance provided by Sir Howard, who was appointed Governor-General in the same year he was sworn in as Custos. Canon Gordon pointed out that Sir Kenneth “was a wonderful person to me”, adding of Sir Patrick: “I am convinced that you are going to be an outstanding Governor-General, and with your wife on one side and God on the other…, you are bound to succeed.”
Custos Barrett for his part, said that during his 17-year tenure much had been done to awaken the citizens of Trelawny to recognizing their civic responsibility to the parish.
“We tried very hard in all those years to… put the parish first, and ensuring that the children…are also informed of their responsibility, and to ensure that we all worked together for the benefit of the parish and its promotion,” he stated.
Custos Nelson was unable to attend the function, however, his contribution was formally acknowledged at the luncheon through the reading of his citation.
Canon Gordon, who is the immediate past Priest of St. Matthew’s Anglican Church, Allman Town, Kingston, was installed as Custos of Kingston in 1991, and was the first clergyman elevated to that office. During his tenure, he acted as Governor-General on 72 occasions, between 1994 and 2009, and holds the distinction of serving as Deputy Governor-General to three Heads of State – the Most Hon. Sir Howard Cooke; Professor Sir Kenneth Hall; and Sir Patrick Allen. Canon Gordon has been succeeded as Deputy Governor-General by the Custos of Clarendon, Hon. James deRoux.
In recognition of his contribution to the clergy and the public service, Canon Gordon was conferred with the Order of Distinction [(Commander Class) C.D.] in 1995, and the Order of Jamaica in 2007. Additionally, Hitchen Street in Allman Town, on which St. Matthew’s Church is situated, has been renamed in his honour in recognition of his work in the community.
Mr. Barrett, an attorney by profession, was sworn in as Custos of Trelawny in 1991, and subsequently conferred with the C.D. in 2003.
Mr. Nelson, a farmer and businessman, was installed as Custos of St. James in 1996, and held that position until July this year when he retired due to ill health. He has since been succeeded by Hon. Patrick Corrodus.
Canon Gordon and Custos Barrett will step down at the end of the year.