Sat | May 27, 2017

Roar of reception for His Imperial Majesty

Published:Friday | April 21, 2017 | 4:00 AM

As part of her 'Pieces of the Past' series in The Gleaner, Rebecca Tortello wrote about the reaction to Haile Selassie's arrival in Jamaica:

"The heat that rose from the tarmac of Kingston's Norman Manley International Airport was nothing compared to the level of expectation that was seeping through the thousands gathered on the tarmac that 21st day of April, 1966. The day was declared a public holiday in honour of the emperor and people had started arriving from Wednesday night, from places near and far, to form the largest crowd to have ever assembled at the Norman Manley International Airport. They came to the airport any way they could by car, by truck, by bus, by bicycle, by foot. Drumbeats and chants were heard almost non-stop, providing an almost hypnotic rhythm. The smell of ganja wafted through the air completing a welcome unprecedented in size and expectation for the Emperor on his first state visit to Jamaica ..."

"When the insignia of a roaring lion and stripes of red, green and gold finally came into view, the rain stopped. People shouted, 'See how God stop de rain'. The sound from the crowd was deafening as masses of people rushed to get closer to the island's distinguished visitor. The crowd simply broke down any barriers that stood in their way in their eagerness to position themselves as close as possible to the 'King of Kings'. But the Lion of Judah did not appear immediately as expected. Instead, the plane stood there, silent in a sea of activity and sound. No movement could be seen from within the cabin. The door to the plane finally opened 45 minutes later, close to 2:15 p.m., and His Imperial Majesty came to the top of the stairs to deplane."

The crowd responded with a roar that "was louder than the sound of thunder rolling, louder even than an explosion", recalls Mitsy Seaga, who accompanied her husband, Edward Seaga, the then minister of development and welfare.