BRADES, Montserrat, Feb 13, CMC –Premier Donaldson Romeo Wednesday led Montserrat in mourning the death of national icon, Dr. George Irish, who died at the age of 76 years late Tuesday.
“I, like most Montserratians, am saddened at the passing of the Right Honourable, Dr. James Alfred George Irish, OE, son of the soil and National Icon. Whether known to some as educator, social activist, trade unionist, politician, musician, artist, singer, orator, or Man of God, in each and every aspect he has left an indelible mark on us individually and collectively,” Romeo said.
“As we mourn his loss may we hold on to and be comforted by our God, who Dr Irish himself chose to love, serve and represent as a Pastor and Man of God,” he added.
Irish was the first recipient of the Ph.D. degree in Spanish from the University of the West Indies (UWI).
He also taught at the university as well as at the Universidad Autonoma de Santo Domingo (UASD) in the Dominican Republic, and in the United States at the City University of New York (CUNY) where he served as Professor of Caribbean and Latin American Studies.
In a poem, Sir Howard Fergus, who co-wrote the Montserrat National Anthem with Irish, said “in this sickly season when the smell of death pervades the atmosphere, the passing of Professor Irish creates a sad and gaping hole deeper than six feet”.
“George has left us and has left much. At a time when “icon” is liberally distributed as klim in our impoverished childhood, it seems beggarly to so endow him, I dub him a Montserrat avatar which carries spiritual overtones, in honour of his enormous gifting which he generously invested in his island home, attracting meagre appreciation; his legacy is wide and long,” Sir Howard, who served as acting Governor of this British Overseas Territory, wrote in a poem.
Irish was also the founder of the Montserrat Allied Workers’ Union and the Montserrat Cooperative Credit Union. He was also the author of more than 25 books.
For his great body of work he was awarded the Nicolas Guillen Medallion for scholarly work in Caribbean and Latin American literature.
He had a brief foray in politics unsuccessfully contesting the 1983 general election for a seat in the legislative council.