Members of the local media fraternity packed the St Leonard’s Anglican Church on Westbury Road, St Michael Thursday afternoon to bid adieu to one of Barbados most respected journalists, Robert Best, who died on October 17 at the age 83.
In a eulogy that was sprinkled with bits of humour, his daughter, Roberta Niles, remembered her father had drilled into her head from very early that his name was Robert. Therefore, anytime she or any of her siblings called for daddy, he immediately knew that something had gone very wrong.
Niles told the congregation that at the tender age of ten, Best won a scholarship to Harrison College.
According to Niles, he enjoyed his time there making many lifelong friends and gaining the nickname “Frame” due his rather slim appearance.
On leaving school, Niles said her father applied for a job in the civil service because his heart was set on joining the Foreign Service.
She also said he had a burning desire to travel the world but while awaiting a call from the civil service, he started a daily sea bath ritual to help pass the time.
Niles said one day on his return from his sea, he found a “large” well-dressed gentleman sitting in the front house “because there were no living rooms in those times.”
Throwing the congregation into sidesplitting laughter, Niles recalled that the strangest interview ensued with the huge gentleman who turned out to be Joe Broome, the then editor of the Advocate.
“Picture the scene, the interviewer, the large Joe Broome, sitting squeezed up in a “Morris chair” and the interviewee standing in the middle of the front house dripping wet and covered in sand. Talk about first impressions? All is well that end well,” Niles said.
With some gentle persuasion, she said her father went on to join the Advocate’s newsroom in 1953 in the role of proof reader/ reporter, adding that this was when the journalism bug bit him.
From there, Best rose rapidly through the ranks from sub-editor to editor, managing editor and ended his career some 40 years later as Executive Editor.
He also had a brief sojourn at Barbados Rediffusion in his early career, but according to his daughter, the call of ink and paper was too strong to resist so he returned to the Advocate in short order.
Niles said that throughout the course of his four decade long media career, Best cemented his role “as leader, teacher, mentor, confidante and friend to many employees while at the Advocate and after retirement as editorial consultant at the Nation”.
In his tribute, former Nation editor Carl Moore said that it was Best who introduced him to journalism when he told him “come down to the Advocate and let me introduce you to Ian Gale, the editor”.
“I got my first job after that interview and turned up to work at the sub-editors’ desk on January 2, 1959,” Moore said, while describing Best as a modest, self-effacing Barbadian from the old school.
He said as a journalist Best’s first order of business was to get the facts and to be fair and honest in that pursuit, adding that he cared little about “the scoop”.
Moore said Best was the master of irony and could find it in almost any situation concerning the human condition.
Tributes were also paid by former Dean of the St Michael’s Cathedral William Dixon and Canon Errington Massiah who said that he found the time to teach them history in spite of his busy schedule at the Advocate.
The current Dean of the St Michael’s Cathedral, Jeffrey Gibson, said he knew Best for over 30 years and lauded his commitment to St Leonard’s Church when he was the priest-in charge there.
Best died at his home on Derriston Road, Grazettes, St Michael on October 17 surrounded by Margaret, his wife of 54 years, his daughter Roberta, sons Charles and Adrian and members of his extended family. [email protected]