GOVERNMENT INFORMATION SERVICE – The funeral of Sir Derek Alton Walcott KCSL, OBE, OCC, was held on Saturday, March 25, at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Castries.
Sir Derek passed away on March 17 at his home in Cap Estate, Saint Lucia. He was 87 years old.
The funeral service which took place in close proximity to the street where the poet and playwright was raised as a boy, drew professors, writers, the media, government officials and dignitaries from across the globe.
Professor Emeritus, Edward Alston Cecil Baugh, was a close friend of the 1992 Nobel Laureate. The Jamaican poet and scholar is recognized as an authority on the work of Derek Walcott. He edited Sir Derek’s book of Selected Poems in 2007.
Professor Baugh delivered the eulogy.
“We mourn and we celebrate a genius who was a prodigy, a maker. A Caribbean man who has made us and the world see more clearly the Caribbean landscape, Caribbean light. But we also mourn and celebrate a person. Someone with the virtues and the shortcomings that defined him, as the persons who knew him valued. I remember him as unassuming, never one to blow his own trumpet not one given to talking shop but famous if not notorious for his corny jokes. When I read his poem “The Muse of History at Rampanalgas”, I asked him if he knew the community of Rampanalgas, a remote place on the north-eastern coast of Trinidad. He said that he didn’t but then quipped that a guy called Rampanal once had a gas station there.
“He was a generous man, considerate of others, always willing to promote talent where he spotted it. He was a kind and considerate father, and in his daughters’ words, a doting absolutely besotted grandfather.”
For those touched by the genius of the literary titan, Professor Baugh wished him a fond farewell.
“On behalf of the Governor General of Saint Lucia, Dame Pearlette Louisy, the Prime Minister of Saint Lucia, Allen M. Chastanet and the government of Saint Lucia. On behalf of his loved ones, Sigrid, his bright spirited unwavering partner of 30 years, his son Peter, Lizzy and Anna his two dear daughters, to use a phrase from one of his poems, his grandchildren, his nephew Nigel. On behalf of his friends, Saint Mary’s college, on behalf of the people of Saint Lucia, on behalf of the West Indies and the world, we say to the boy from Chaussee Road, Sir Derek Alton Walcott. May that effervescent but transcendent light shine on you and may you rest in the radiant moment that is the season of phantasmal peace.”
Prior to the funeral, the body of Sir Derek Walcott lay in state in Parliament. He was laid to rest at Morne Fortune near the Inniskilling Monument, within proximity to fellow Nobel Laureate, Sir Arthur Lewis.