Douglas Bennett remembered for creativity, generosity
Acknowledged as one of the giants of Jamaican theatre, Scottish-born Douglas Bennett (July 23, 1919 - October 30, 2017), was remembered by family and friends in a thanksgiving service at the University Chapel, Mona, last Friday. Not surprisingly, music played a large part in the service for the man who was both a practising musician and music administrator.
Bennett was an award-winning bass-baritone, trained at the (then) Jamaica School of Music. He chaired the Jamaica Musical Theatre Company (JMTC) from 1981 to 2015, founded its junior arm, the Jamaica Junior Theatre (JJT), in 1984, and was producer and musical director of all but the last few of its musicals.
Speaking to The Gleaner earlier this year, Bennett said, "the best thing I have ever done is the founding of the Junior Theatre ... We have trained between 500 and 600 youngsters over the years."
As JMTC chairman John Waite pointed out in his tribute, among the children Bennett trained were his own (with his wife, Christina, who predeceased him), Anna, Katrina, Fiona, and Donald. They all appeared in Bennett's production of Carousel at the Little Theatre in 1970. The children, and others trained by Bennett, paid tribute to him in word or song.
Waite also stated, "his day job was in insurance," and said Bennett had been a president of Mutual Life. He also excelled on the badminton court in both Trinidad (where he and his wife first lived after leaving Scotland) and Jamaica. Waite mentioned Bennett's many honours and awards - the Musgrave Medal, CD (Order of Distinction in the rank of Commander), LRSM (Licentiate of the Royal Schools of Music), and FTCL (Fellow of Trinity College, London).
"Doug was a performer, teacher, mentor, and generous friend," said Waite, adding that the JMTC now manages the JMTC Doug and Christina Bennett Scholarship Fund, tenable at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts. Under Bennett's leadership, the JMTC and JJT donated millions of dollars for scholarships and to numerous charities.
The giving continued even into the thanksgiving service. Officiating minister, Rev Dr Ralph Hoyte, who in his eulogy called Bennett "a remarkable man", announced that the family wanted the offering collected at the service to go towards the further education of young people.