Mon | Jul 15, 2019

Loyalist recalls Seaga’s Revivalist love affair

Published:Monday | June 24, 2019 | 12:14 AMEdmond Campbell/Senior News Coordinator
Lucille Jonas (left) watches from behind a barrier as mourners awaited the procession from the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity to National Heroes Park yesterday.
Jamaica Defence Force personnel attempt to bar the huge crowd from entering National Heroes Park yesterday evening as mourners sought to get a final glimpse of the coffin bearing the remains of Edward Seaga. Ricardo Makyn/Chief Photo Editor
Members of the Third Battalion of the Jamaica Regiment (National Reserve) standing guard at the entrance to National Heroes Park to prevent persons from entering the park before the rest of the procession party could get in.
Carla Seaga lays a wreath at the grave of her late husband, Edward Seaga, at National Heroes Park on Sunday.
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While the funeral of former Prime Minister Edward Seaga was proceeding at the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity on North Street, Lucille Jonas, a “spiritual Revivalist”, was among the scores of persons who braved the sweltering heat of the afternoon sun in Heroes Park, watching intently as the event unfolded on the big screen.

‘Mother Jonas’, a diehard Labourite who grew up in the west Kingston community of Tivoli Gardens but who now lives in Canada, said she could not miss the opportunity to pay her last respects to Seaga.

In a Gleaner interview, Mother Jonas recounted how she and her friends, when they were young girls, used to visit Salt Lane in Kingston to watch the Revival services led by ‘Brother Son’.

But while they were observing the service, there was a young man perched on a rooftop capturing images of the event.

The young man, who Mother Jonas discovered a few years after was Seaga, was fascinated with the Revivalist movement as he conducted his own research into the religious expression.

“So we always wonder why this little boy snapping us because we were young and wild, so we a wonder wah him a snap we ‘bout.”

“So in politics now, we realise it’s him who always take the pictures at the Revival services,” she explained.

Greater involvement

After his picture-taking episodes, Mother Jonas said Seaga eventually participated more directly in the Revivalist movement.

“Him like the Revival (service) because him have Revival spirit after him start to jump Zion.

“Him keep table a Tivoli Gardens and jump and groan, too,” Mother Jonas said of Seaga’s involvement.

Years later, Mother Jonas said she became a strong supporter of Seaga and the JLP, walking in the political trenches with the then party leader while he was on the political hustings in the 1970s and the run-up to the 1980 election.

She said that the residents of Tivoli Gardens expressed deep love for Seaga for his commitment to the people of his constituency. Seaga was the longest-serving member of parliament in Jamaica, with 43 years of unbroken service to his constituents.

As the procession left the church at North Street, members of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) fired the first of a 19-gun salute. The salute formed part of the ceremonial activities that accompanied the state funeral that was accorded to Seaga, who served as Jamaica’s fifth prime minister from 1980 to 1989.

Yesterday, Mother Jonas waited patiently and saw the official funeral procession when it entered Heroes Park at approximately 3:25 p.m.

The Jamaican Folk Singers, who sang “It’s a hard road to travel and a mighty long way to go”, seemed to have described the journey from North Street to Heroes Park, which many officials, including Prime Minister Andrew Holness braved, while others such as Dr Peter Phillips apparently could not surmount on foot and hitched a ride to the park.

The eight officers bearing the coffin of the late prime minister moved cautiously as they inched near to the grave, lowering the remains of the political giant into his final resting place, surrounded by former prime ministers Hugh Shearer and Michael Manley, Revivalist leader Mallica ‘Kapo’ Reynolds, and cultural icons Louise Bennett-Coverley and Ranny Williams.

As the coffin descended into the grave, Gabrielle, the youngest of Seaga’s children, had to be consoled by a family friend as she wiped tears from her face.

The heat was too much for one mourner, who fainted and had to be assisted by medical personnel.

But it was during the wreath-laying exercise that the grass-root supporters of Seaga, including Mother Jonas, had their opportunity to cheer loudly, sounding off vuvuzelas as they reserved the biggest applause for Olivia Grange and Holness.

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com