Wed | Dec 12, 2018

Wignall wrong on Tivoli broadbrush

Published:Sunday | December 20, 2015 | 12:00 AMEdward Seaga, Contributor

Below is a heartful reminiscence by a Winsome Dobson, in a letter to The Gleaner published on January 22, 2005.

"It is my conviction that when a person makes a difference in another's life, no matter how minuscule, credit must be given to that person while he/she has his/her faculties intact, and most important, before he/she expires.

"Shortly after the last general election when it seemed as if all problems were heading your way, I decided to let you know that despite the trials and negativities, I, a member of your West Kingston community, am extremely grateful to you for fostering Tivoli Gardens, and affording me the rich, colourful, cultural and enviable childhood I experienced. Nevertheless, I should be charged with procrastination, because I have put this acknowledgement on hold.

"Mr Seaga, I thank you, and I know I speak for all of us that experienced the Tivoli Gardens that the young, vibrant Edward Seaga developed. You gave us Vincent Douglas, who placed us in the dance arena as the group to reckon with. You gave us Trinny - the sculpture instructor, as it was your dream to make us well rounded. You gave us the New Vibration Band that gave Marvin Brooks his break into the music world. Olive Lewin was among the numerous gifts you gave us, as she fine-tuned the voices of the Tivoli Gardens Folk Singers.

"Babsy did a thing in modelling with the help of Enid; teaching us young ladies posture and ethics. The summer camps with Mayor Desmond McKenzie added life and colour to one's composition when school reopened in September. Mr Seaga, you brought into our lives Mr Lazarus, an unforgettable man.

"Mr Lazarus kept us disciplined; he was a gem of a man. However, as a child whose single parent could not afford Christmas gifts, the best ever time for me was Christmas time when you presented me with those gifts. (It was my sister's child that destroyed the blender that she got from you as a child, and a straw box that my cousin received. My grandmother kept her documents in it up to her death in 2000).

"The annual float parades that we entered are so vivid in my mind, as well as the annual cultural magazine publication, the frequent JIS film presentations featuring the evolution of Tivoli from 'Back-o-wall' to the then Tivoli. Mr Seaga, you thought of everything for the new Tivoli; there was a first aid room, a library (still in service) and a business school, among other things housed in the Tivoli Gardens Community Centre. The existing football, netball, drum corps, basketball and extinct cricket and softball teams were all your dreams. This community centre was parallel to none in the island. It kept us occupied and out of trouble, and again, we are thankful.

"Regrettably, now when I pass this community centre, I feel nothing. I see a building, that's all. But when I reminisce at home with friends and family, I will tell you that that place comes alive and seems so real with passion and emotions. These are treasured memories that I keep with me and go down memory lane momentarily with those who can relate, and/or inform those who came long after.

"We truly have been blessed, for outside of the negative propaganda, we have been well packaged and marketed by the master himself that we cannot be denied culturally. Thanks to you, for unlike most fathers in Jamaica, you stood by us. You come to see us any hour of the day, and I cannot say this for any other MP.

"Tivoli may have been the primary reason for your popularity or lack of it, and I know if you had to do it again, you would, because of your unconditional love for this place. You could have chosen another constituency, but you stayed with us through all the perils. An unknown writer once said, 'Love at first sight is no miracle. When two people have been looking at each other for years, that's a miracle.'

"On behalf of my sisters who have been urging me to pen this acknowledgement, I want to say thank you. You are part of our blueprint and we are truly grateful. Walk good, and may God bless you. May you come to know God for what He truly is.

"Sylvia Robinson says, 'Some people think it's holding on that makes one strong. Sometimes it's letting go.'"

The above reminiscence by Winsome Dobson, spoken from her heart, speaks well of the Tivoli Gardens I built and that she knew, and my involvement in it. It surely is different from the biased presentation of Mark Wignall in The Sunday Gleaner of November 22, which only dealt with the Java section of Tivoli, an area which is no more than one-fifth of the community.

Java is known to be a violence-prone area, unlike the rest of the community. The few persons he mentioned from this violent section are apparently his only acquaintances in the area.

I am sure this heartening story by Winsome Dobson, whom I do not know personally, will clarify a lot of the thoughts which Jamaicans have been fed concerning Tivoli.

- Edward Seaga is a former prime minister of Jamaica. Email feedback to