Tue | Feb 21, 2017

Honoured to drive Sir Howard home

Published:Saturday | August 9, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Members of the People's National Party singing 'Jamaica Arise' with clenched fists yesterday after the late governor general and co-founder of the PNP, Sir Howard Cooke, was buried at the National Heroes' Park in Kingston.-Rudolph Brown/Photographer
Army Sergeant Phillip Panton driving the jeep as it towed Sir Howard's coffin to its final resting place.
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Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter

ARMY SERGEANT Phillip Panton yesterday described his assignment as driver of the gun carriage which transported the remains of former Governor General Sir Howard Cooke as "an honour and a great privilege".

The 26-year veteran of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF), who was required to steer the army vehicle as the procession made its way from Holy Trinity Cathedral on North Street in Kingston to the National Heroes' Circle, said he was not nervous about the assignment.

He recalled that while he was a private in 1997, a sergeant at the transport regiment was given the task of driving the vehicle, which was to pull the gun carriage containing the remains of former Prime Minister Michael Manley.

"I had hoped then that I may one day get a similar assignment and to be the one chosen for the job of carrying Sir Howard is really a privilege," Panton said.

Unlike 1997, when a mechanical failure of the JDF jeep forced soldiers to pop the bonnet and push start it, the vehicle driven by Panton responded to every command and took Sir Howard to his final resting place without hiccup.

Winston Vernon, who, like the former governor general, is from the western parish of St James, made his way to the funeral to say one final farewell.

"Me neva talk to him yet but is me parishioner and me proud a him," Vernon told The Gleaner while the coffin bearing the remains of Sir Howard was being lowered into his grave, which is shaded by a pink poui tree.

The popular graveside song with the words 'sleep on beloved, sleep and take your rests, was not among the numbers belted out by the Jamaica Folk Singers during the final rites of Sir Howard, the longest-surviving founding member of the People's National Party (PNP).

No sooner had the body been interned, members of the PNP, with clenched fists held aloft, led by its president, Portia Simpson Miller, made sure to sing what would have been one of Sir Howard's favourite songs - Jamaica Arise - the party's anthem.