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Stabroek News

Tony Spaulding: 'Trench Town Rock'
published: Tuesday | January 31, 2006

Howard Campbell, Gleaner Writer


Minister of Housing, Anthony Spaulding, breaking ground for the $1.3 million housing scheme project at Darliston in the South East Westmoreland constituency on October 18, 1976. At right with fork in hand is Industry, Tourism and Foreign Trade Minister, P.J. Patterson, MP for the area. - FILE

CHRISTMAS 2005 was not a happy time in the constituency of South St. Andrew. Guns blazed throughout its pockets, resulting in the deaths of several persons and forcing frightened residents to stay home.

A lot of the older residents blamed the violence on lack of leadership.

They say they have not had a real leader since Anthony 'Tony' Spaulding left there in 1980.

The former Member of Parliament and Minister of Housing, who suffered from Alzheimer's disease during the last 10 years of his life, died in April 1998 at the age of 64.

"After him gone a man name Bobby Jones did come in an' the community did a try work wid him but there will neva be another Tony Spaulding. No one can match him," said a man from the Top Jungle region of South St. Andrew.

To those who knew Spaulding, that statement can be considered ambiguous.

CHAMPION CRIMINAL LAWYER

Persons who worked with him remember him as a champion criminal lawyer who carried his passion from the courtroom into politics, transforming South St. Andrew from a squatter expanse to a respectable housing development.

As Minister of Housing from 1972-1980, he oversaw the construction of 40,000 houses, many of them low-income units in inner-city communities.

Opponents knew a different Tony Spaulding, the man some dubbed 'Trench Town Rock'.

They say he was one of the persons responsible for garrison politics as he supported tribalism in his constituency. He allegedly 'gave' most of the houses he 'built' to PNP supporters.

According to Father John McLaughlin, the Jesuit priest who worked at the Ministry of Housing during Spaulding's tenure, the former Member of Parliament was a man of the times.

"He was extremely bright, extremely intelligent. He was well-read and a good musician - a renaissance man," Father McLaughlin told The Gleaner in a 2004 interview. "He loved the idea of being a rebel and he was PNP down to the toes. JLP (Jamaica Labour Party), all wicked people."

Born in Kingston, Anthony Spaulding was raised in a staunch PNP family. He was the eldest child for Frank Spaulding, a PNP stalwart who served three terms as Mayor of Kingston.

He attended Wolmer's Boys' High School, later Howard University in Washington, D.C., and was called to the Bar at the Inner Temple in London in 1961.

Spaulding's radical beliefs, honed during his years studying in the United States and the United Kingdom, were tailor-made for Jamaica in the late 1960s, a time when youth were determined to break free of the shackles of British colonialism.

BECAME HOUSING MINISTER

For the first since Independence from Britain in 1962, the PNP under Prime Minister Michael Manley formed the Government in 1972 and Tony Spaulding became Housing Minister. One of his first objectives, said Father McLaughlin, was to construct homes in South St. Andrew for impoverished constituents.

Wilton Hill, Spaulding's JLP predecessor at the Ministry of Housing, had done some construction in the Jones Town region now known as 'Pegasus'. But his efforts paled in comparison to the prolific Spaulding, whom Father McLaughlin says, built 1,100 units in Trench Town; depending on their size, they cost $45,000-$90,000 with a 25-year mortgage.

In tandem with the Urban Development Corporation and the newly-established National Housing Trust, Father McLaughlin says Spaulding launched similar projects in Majesty Gardens, Payne Land, Duhaney Park in St. Andrew; Tawes Pen in St. Catherine; Whitehouse, Westmoreland; and Falmouth, Trelawny.

Although the Housing Minister's production rate was remarkable, there was one drawback. The houses were given to backers of the PNP.

VIOLENTLY PARTISAN

"Tony was violently partisan ... 100 per cent of the homes went to PNP people," said Father McLaughlin. "JLP people knew better than to come to the ministry and apply."

Typical of the politically-hostile 1970s, South St. Andrew was a hotbed of violence. The man from Top Jungle says Spaulding was not totally to blame for the fighting between 'Junglists' and neighbouring Wilton Gardens, better known as Rema.

"People sey him did violent, but yuh haffi rememba sey him did have some violent man 'roun' him," said the man, who declined to give his name. "Wi a talk 'bout man like [Tony] Welsh, General Starkey [Anthony Tingle] and Lenky Roy. Dem man dey step it anywhere at all inna Jamaica."

By the close of the 1970s, the majority of Jamaicans had tired of Manley's socialist experiment. In the October 1980 General Election, the PNP lost 51 seats to nine, with Spaulding one of those retaining his seat, beating his opponent Carol Beadle by 15,000 votes.

When the JLP called a snap election in 1983, Manley refused to contest it, although there were rumours that Spaulding was among a minority of PNP bigwigs who disagreed with the party leader. This reportedly caused relations between them to sour and Spaulding gradually withdrew from politics.

Little was heard of him during the final years of his life. According to a statement from the PNP, Spaulding died from a stroke at his home.

Winston Spaulding, Tony's younger brother, says his sibling was often misunderstood. He insists he was not the confrontational hothead so many have cast him.

"He was very energetic and passionate about his beliefs," said Winston, who served in the JLP Cabinet of the 1980s. "Tony was more concerned about serving the people than the trappings of office."

Tidbits

Frank Spaulding was Mayor of Kingston from 1960 to 1963.

Wilton Gardens (Rema) was named for Wilton Hill, the Minister of Housing in the JLP Government of the 1960s.

Tony Spaulding's right-hand man in South St. Andrew was the councillor, Charlie Smith.

Spaulding defeated Eugene Parkinson for the South St. Andrew seat in 1972. Parkinson at the time was Speaker of the House of Representatives.

He was mentor to a young Portia Simpson who won the Trench Town West division of the Local Government elections in 1974.

Spaulding was married to Bridgette Casserly, one of the original members of the National Dance Theatre Company.

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