The body of Editor Emeritus of the Nation Newspaper, Harold Hoyte was laid to rest today following a poignant service at the Garfield Sobers Gymnasium attended by hundreds of friends, family and representatives, past and present, from the journalism fraternity.
On the floor of the Wildey gymnasium, the mood was quiet and reflective once the service got started at 10 a.m. Before that, the mourners were treated to a sometimes, upbeat, but haunting, musical tributes from the band of the Royal Barbados Police Force, which also provided the accompanying music throughout the two-hour service.
As a full-colour photo of Hoyte towered above the service, teary-eyed family members, friends and colleagues remembered a man, who was eulogised as “a giant” of local journalism.
Addressing the large congregation, which included Governor General Dame Sandra Mason, Prime Minister Mia Mottley and members of Cabinet, Hoyte was lauded for the critical role he played in revolutionising the character of the local press against seemingly insurmountable odds.
Permanent Representative of Barbados to the United Nations, Her Excellency, Elizabeth Thompson, in a passionate, almost hour-long eulogy, remembered Hoyte for the role he played in defying the status quo by co-founding the country’s first black-owned newspaper in 1973.
She spoke of a newspaper, which broke a centuries-old barrier, by placing black, working-class Barbadians, who were not represented by the media houses of the day, on the pages of a daily publication.
“Those who were voiceless, those who were underprivileged and poor and felt that they had no place in society could find a place and a voice and an expression and it was built to show a small nation that you could be the best…. It mirrored the expression of the then Prime Minister [Errol Barrow], ‘friends of all but satellites of none’. It was built that we could be better informed, educated and could understand and discuss the issues of the day, the implications and consequences of those issues and express how we felt about them.
“It is a story of a publishing house that Harold Hoyte built with a dream and determination. He built it with unquestionable integrity, raw talent – that of his own and other people. He built it with unwavering tenacity and he built it with unbridled testicular fortitude,” said Thompson of Hoyte’s role in establishing the Nation Newspaper which still stands at Fontabelle, St Michael.
However, in 1973 when the Nation was founded, the local icon, along with Sir Fred Gollop faced seemingly insurmountable obstacles. They were shunned by “white, corporate Barbados” who refused to advertise with the fledging newspaper, forcing Hoyte to mortgage his house, to keep the company going.
According to Thompson, Hoyte had a way of bridging the social, racial and age divides and was eventually able to gain the respect of corporate Barbados. She also credited Hoyte for his role in establishing a North American arm of the Nation Newspaper as well as pioneering election polling at election time.
Hoyte was also lauded for establishing a pension fund and credit union for journalists and for placing measures in place to allow young media workers to further their education in Barbados and abroad.
Despite forging numerous friendships over the years with people from all walks of life, Ambassador Thompson said the newspaper titan could be held to the highest standard of integrity.
“It was amazing that he could be friends with David Thompson and Mia Mottley and he would not disclose to each anything that one of us had shared.
“He never used the paper for personal attacks but for higher purpose. He always used the paper to interrogate issues, but not to personally attack people even when people abused or attacked him.
As a close friend of Hoyte, Thompson recalled the veteran journalist as a “wonderful man”.
“He was wonderful, bright, articulate, engaging, loved a good argument, intellectually stimulating and when he did not disarm you with intellect, he would argue with humour,” she said.
In his personal life, the eulogist said Hoyte was a loving husband to his wife Noreen Hoyte and his children Bobby and Tracey Hoyte were described as “the light of his eye”.
Reverend Michael Chrichlow, who heads the Trinity Outreach Service, which Hoyte attended, described the journalist as a lover of the Lord, his family and his country. He urged Barbadians to follow his example.
“This nation has a great future, but we need to get back to the old value of love for God, love for each other, love for our community, love for our country, love for our community,” he urged.
After the service, Hoyte was laid to rest at the Coral Ridge Memorial Gardens. firstname.lastname@example.org