Angelo Laurence, Gleaner Writer
MANDEVILLE, Manchester:IT IS said that history often repeats itself; however, it is most unlikely that there would ever be another human being like former Custos of Manchester, Dr Gilbert Allen, in the opinion of members of the Jamaica Lay Magistrates Association (LMAJ), Manchester chapter.
A medical doctor by profession, Allen, who was appointed custos of the parish in 1994, vacated the office in June 2011 shortly after retiring from active medical practice.
Along with his wife Georgia of more than 40 years, Allen remains an integral part of the Manchester community and is regarded as a mentor, adviser, and a leader in the pursuit of what is right and good for the citizens of the parish. A longtime member of the Kiwanis Club of Mandeville, he and his wife were recognised and honoured by the LMAJ during a function at the Mandeville Seventh-day Adventist Church recently.
Custos of Manchester Sally Porteous lauded Dr and Mrs Allen for their years of dedicated service and contributions to nation building. Porteous said she was humbled by the Allens' generosity and the impact they have had on so many young people's lives. The manner in which they conduct their lives should serve as an example for today's leaders and generations to come, Porteous said.
Mayor of Mandeville Brenda Ramsay, in her presentation, reminded the audience that persons like the Allens were rare species, especially when the idea of looking out for our fellowman was fast fading. Ramsay said, however, that given the contributions of both Allens to the people of the parish, their legacy would be a positive one.
Allen was presented with a citation while his wife was given an exceptionally beautiful orchid.
A dedicated family man, Allen is considered an honorary member of every church in the parish and many residents are unaware he is a member of the Seventh-day Adventist faith. Religion, he once told The Gleaner, should be a vehicle for all Jamaicans to "fellowship with respect and dignity regardless of denomination: I don't see your denomination when I see you. I see you the person."
Accepting that he has made positive contributions to the people of the parish through his medical profession and other community work, Allen still dreams of doing more. He would like to see construction begin on the town centre of Newport, to the south of Mandeville, for which he obtained nine acres of land from Alpart. This, he claims, would go far in resuscitating the economic life of the community.
One of his dreams is to see the old Mandeville courthouse, which stands in the heart of the town, refurbished and turned into a parish museum. A number of lawyers and a senior resident magistrate have contended that the courthouse, built in 1887, is unsuitable for the dispensation of justice. His main dream, however, is to see the much-touted Regional Justice Centre, which was slated to be built on 40 acres of mined-out land in the Spur Tree area, put back on the Government's priority list of things to be accomplished. The land was donated by the now-closed mining company, Alpart, in 2007 at the urging of Allen, and was slated to serve the parishes of Clarendon, Manchester, and St Elizabeth.
When the drawing plans were revealed in 2008 for the 122,000 square-foot structure, it was estimated it would cost $1.2 billion. These plans were, however, shelved by the Jamaica Labour Party administration in 2009.
While enjoying his retirement, Allen is appreciative that a grateful parish continues to consult him for advice and seeks his presence at various functions. With well over 80 years behind him, Allen and his wife remain beloved members of the Manchester community.