The body of the Barbados Landship Association’s Lord High Admiral Vernon Watson on Wednesday made its final journey to the fabled association’s headquarters, The Dock at Licorish Village, My Lord’s Hill, St Michael.
In a sombre atmosphere, a Landship detachment and drummers accompanied the hearse that carried the casket of Lord High Admiral on a procession from Carrington Village to The Dock where his body lay in state as the community paid their respects to the unofficial “Mayor of Licorish Village” ahead of his funeral on Friday.
Prime Minister Mia Mottley, Chief Executive Officer of the National Cultural Foundation Carol Roberts and Chief Cultural Officer Andrea Wells, and veteran cultural figure Winston Farrell attended the viewing.
Barbados Landship spokesman Ashanti Trotman described the procession and viewing as an important moment for the movement, explaining that the Lord High Admiral played a major role in recruiting members and keeping the 158-year-old Friendly Society relevant.
But with the admiral’s waning health in the last years, the organization has been struggling to attract the youth in large numbers.
Trotman said: “I think it is significant that Vernon Watson has sustained the organization as the head of the organization for the last couple of years. Death has brought to an end an era.
“And for some time we have been discussing succession plans in terms of where we go because there is only one other person from that era who is alive today and this is Captain Elton Greaves.
“There were just two of the elders remaining. And as a matter of fact, Elton Greaves said that anytime his Admiral retires that he will do the same too. So this is a very crucial moment for us.”
Trotman said the association is currently looking at ways to revitalise the Landship movement in Barbados.
And Captain Greaves told journalists at Wednesday’s viewing that were it not for the outstanding efforts of his friend Lord High Admiral Watson to keep the Landship sailing it would have run aground many years ago.
He said: “What we do is go the schools and places like that, and communities and people homes to keep it going. If he had [followed] other ships from St Lucy back up to St Philip, it [Dock at Licorish Village], would have died.
“I believe this was the best ship on the island as far as I was concerned because of his experience, his knowledge, his thinking. We left St Thomas and come here and develop here.”
Chief Cultural Officer Wells sought to explain that the Admiral Watson came from a long tradition of his family being members of the Landship and had promised his father not to allow the movement to die.
Wells said for most of his lifetime, the Lord High Admiral whom she first met when she was a young officer at NCF, lived and breathe the Landship Association, as he felt it was the best expression of Barbadian identity and culture, and charged future generations to do so.
She told journalists: “He was always a natural leader, always very much a person to take charge and solve problems, as I got to know him as a cultural personality. I recognized that those are the skills that he not only developed and honed in the Landship, but that he applied to keep the Landship living and breathing.
“His would have been the generation I think that would have seen that transition of Barbados as a newly independent nation and Barbados post-1937 riots where a lot of the social and welfare nets were developed to the benefit of the working class masses.”
The funeral service for Lord High Admiral Watson is to be held on Friday beginning at 10 a.m. at the Holy Innocents Church, St Thomas. ([email protected])