One sensed on October 18 last year – the day after Robert Best died – that Sir Fred Gollop was preparing us for his withdrawal.
The occasion was a luncheon at his Warner’s Terrace home for the founders of The Nation newspaper, described by fellow journalist Harry Mayers in his book Against the Odds as “the greatest entrepreneurial feat by a group of black investors in Barbados in the twentieth century.”
In his quiet, unassuming way, Sir Fred welcomed us and said he merely wanted to say thanks for the memories and support of the past fifty-odd years.
Back there in the early 60s, Fred was one of the wet-behind-the-ears young men and a few ladies, fresh out of school, who converged at #34 Broad Street, Bridgetown, the home of The Barbados Advocate newspaper, for our first jobs.
From secondary schools came Harold Hoyte, Carl Moore, Al Gilkes, John Cumberbatch, Timothy Howell, Keith Seale, Fred Gollop, Peter Simmons, Nigel “Fosh” Barrow, Winston “Pop” Walker, Errol Humphrey, Eric Murray, Tony Best, Harry Mayers, Glyne Murray, George Hall and Carlton Proute. The ladies included Margaret Hope, Gercine Carter and Heather Greenidge.
Under the tutelage of seniors like Ulric Rice, Robert Best, Tony Vanterpool, O.S. Coppin, Don Norville, Tony Hinds, Mitchie Hewitt, Clennell Bynoe, Alistair Greene, Neville Martindale and Joe Brome, we learned the newspaper craft on the job.
Over the years, most of us fanned out in various directions and Fred pursued legal studies in Britain.
For many of us, our paths would cross again some years later when Fred contacted Harold with an idea.
On hearing of this development, E.L. “Jimmy” Cozier, who had started The Daily News a decade earlier and who had employed Harold and me, called me to his River Road public relations office.
I walked over from Barbados Rediffusion and before I could sit, Jimmy said: “Carl, have you boys gone mad? I understand that you and Harold – and a youngster named Fred Gollop – are planning to open a newspaper! Don’t you remember that The Daily News folded only five years ago? Have you and Harold taken leave of your senses?”
Harold and I had been assistant editors at The Daily News when The Advocate bought it and closed it down. We know what it is to be on the breadline.
I said: “Mr Cozier, we are confident that we can take on The Advocate.”
He replied, resignedly: “Well, I wish you all the best, but remember this; you fellows are not businessmen, you are journalists… good journalists, but not businessmen.”
The rest is history.
On the morning of Thursday, November 1, 1973, Bentley Callender was practising Handel’s Dixit Dominus on St. Mary’s Church organ as I climbed the rickety stairs of our rented two-door shop on St. Mary’s Row.
It was The Nation’s first day of business. I hadn’t sat at my second-hand desk overlooking the churchyard when the Queen Elizabeth Hospital called. My wife had given birth to our first and only baby son.
The second call came from Fred, wishing me success and pledging his advice and support. Many did not expect we would survive past the first six months. His advice and support were constant, even after I left The Nation.
Sir Fred took over the chairmanship in early 1975 when I quit as Editor causing Harold to take over. Sir Fred has been a quiet tower of strength, steering the ship through much turbulence through to success.
Others more able than I will chronicle his several accomplishments.
Sir Fred was a decent, humane, principled gentleman extracted from the finest tradition of Barbadian civility. I counted him among my friends.
My condolences to his widow Lady Gollop and their daughters and other relatives.
I invite them to take solace from the words of the Earl of Swinton in Sixty Years of Power, about Field Marshall Earl Wavell: “When a great man dies it is easy to recall the deeds which made him great. They have become part of history. But the picture is incomplete unless we try to appreciate not only what he did but what he was.”