Tue | Apr 7, 2020

Dennis Lalor – Country above self, five decades later

Published:Sunday | August 18, 2019 | 12:08 AM
Chairman of the ICWI Group, the Honourable Dennis Lalor (centre), shares a light moment with members of the ICWI Choir following a church service on Saturday, May 11, at The UWI Mona Chapel in Kingston. The event commemorating the insurance provider’s 50th anniversary celebrations.
Dennis Lalor (right) founder and chairman of the Insurance Company of the West Indies (ICWI), and son, president, Paul Lalor, stand proudly in commemoration of the company’s 50th anniversary cake cutting at ICWI’s head office in New Kingston earlier in 2019.

Dennis Lalor’s story as the founder of the Insurance Company of the West Indies (ICWI) began in 1968.

Mair quickly saw his potential and sponsored him to pursue the Associateship of the Chartered Insurance Institute (ACII). In 1958, he became one of the first two West Indians to earn the highly regarded ACII qualification.

Lalor took the reins of the business after his mentor and boss, Lister Mair passed, which represented the interests of three other companies – Lister Mair Insurance Limited, Lloyds of London and Dominion Life Insurance.

Opportunity Strikes

“It was very clear to me that having had the experience that I had, it was time for a Jamaican to get into owning the commanding rights.” Lalor recalls that for years jockeys were being taken advantage of because they were illiterate. He pointed out that when they got too old or gained weight, most would turn to a life of crime simply to survive because they were unable to find gainful employment.

“I discovered that almost all the jockeys were illiterate and innumerate. The only thing they could do was ride a racehorse. I remember going to a horse race in Barbados with Jamaica’s champion jockey, and I was so embarrassed for him, he was unable to complete an entry form.”

The school for jockeys was met with lots of resistance and threats, but he was resolute that all jockeys had to advance to Level 4 of the Jamaica Certificate of Education before they could compete. Because of the resolve of Dennis Lalor, thousands of young jockeys, over the decades, can read and write.

The philanthropist and father

Lalor was instrumental in the establishment of The University of the West Indies’ Development Endowment Fund shortly after Hurricane Gilbert struck in 1988. The fund, to date, has handed over close to $1 billion to the development of the university and its students.

Today, Lalor has handed over the reins of his company to his only child, Paul, who he named president many years ago, while he still remains as chairman of the group.

He hung up his horse saddle three years ago and no longer rides, but he sits proudly atop the Jamaica Polo Association and the Kingston Polo Club as president.

Looking back on his 50 years, he proudly admits, “I knew we would be here today.”