Wed | Oct 21, 2020

Patsy Robertson remembered for eloquence, competence, charm

Published:Thursday | September 3, 2020 | 12:19 AMJudana Murphy/Gleaner Writer
Patsy Robertson
Patsy Robertson

Jamaican diplomat Patsy Blair Robertson, esteemed for her work in the Commonwealth, is being remembered by her son for her intelligence, passion for life, commitment to justice, and love for Jamaica.

Robertson died on August 18 in the United Kingdom, 10 days shy of her 87th birthday.

Born in Malvern, St Elizabeth, she was the fifth of eight children and an alumnae of Wolmer’s Trust High School for Girls.

In the early 1950s, Robertson studied journalism and English at New York University, graduating with a liberal arts degree.

She was taken on as a young reporter by The Gleaner and then moved on to the newly established Jamaican High Commission in London as an information officer.

She also worked for the Commonwealth Secretariat for almost 30 years under three secretaries general.

“In her heart, she was a crusading journalist. Even though for many years she worked as a diplomat and as a media director, rather than a journalist, she never lost touch with the press and with its importance,” son John Robertson said.

He added: “Those relationships that she started at The Gleaner, she carried them on through the Commonwealth and through the United Nations. Those were the foundation of her life and her work.”


Ambassador Dr Richard Bernal, professor of practice at The University of the West Indies, Mona, told The Gleaner that Robertson was highly regarded in the UK and the Commonwealth.

“During the halcyon period when Sir Shridath Ramphal was secretary general, she was a lead participant in the secretariat’s strong role in helping to end apartheid in South Africa. She was renowned for her eloquence, competence, and charm,” Bernal recounted.

Bernal said that whenever he was in London, he would meet with the outstanding diplomat, who remained active and intellectually undiminished in her retirement years.

Up to the time of her passing, Robertson was the chair of the Ramphal Institute, a not-for-profit organisation based in London with a mission to advance knowledge and research in such policy areas as development, education, and environmental issues.

“She was writing some memoirs of her career, and I hope she was able to finish them,” Bernal said, adding that as far as he could ascertain, Robertson has not been honoured by Jamaica, a “serious oversight” he expects to be remedied posthumously.

As per her request, Robertson’s ashes will be scattered in Glengoffe, St Catherine, where she grew up.

Her husband, Calum, predeceased her in 2012. She is survived by their children, John, Sarah and Neil, and a grandson, Jesse.