SVG

The Case for George Augustus McIntosh as National Hero (Pt 4)

By Dr. Adrian Fraser

George Augustus McIntosh

George Augustus McIntosh

Conclusion

I now come to the Conclusion.

In my opinion McIntosh meets easily the criteria for qualification for National Heroes as is spelled out in The Order of National Heroes Act, 2002. He was a truly remarkable man, really a man for the times. The riots of October 21 and 22 exposed the fact that the working people were unrepresented both in the Legislative Council and at their work places which were mainly on the estates. The Governor himself in reflecting in Council on the riots expressed awareness that there was a group of people not represented in the Legislative Council. He called on persons who had their interest at heart to come forward. The working people had already identified that person as can be seen by the reception they gave to Mr. Hannays from Trinidad who came to represent him at his preliminary trial and their enthusiastic response to his acquittal, lifting him on their shoulders and taking him away from the Court House.

The Working people rallied behind McIntosh when he formed the Workingmen’s Association. They realised more than ever when they stood in the Court Yard on October 21, 1935 that whatever went on in the hallowed Council Chambers affected them. This was the beginning of the growth of political consciousness among the working people. They did not qualify to vote but realised that no longer could their concerns be neglected. They were prepared to give McIntosh full support.

But what happened after October 21 was not accidental. McIntosh had already gained the respect and love of the working people. As a pharmacist he manufactured items as substitutes for imported ones that they could not afford. They developed a rapport with him as they visited his Drug Store to purchase their supplies. McIntosh educated them about the issues of the day and kept a blackboard outside of his shop on which he provided news about developments in the country.

‘Dada’ or ‘Papa Mac’ as he was called impacted on just about every area of the life of the people and what stood out significantly was the fact that he let their concerns take centre place in everything he did. The working people by rioting on October 21 &22 had ensured that their concerns would be given priority, the Administration as they navigated around issues in the country being always aware of what happened then and what could happen in the future. They needed representation and here is where McIntosh came into the picture, unearthed by the circumstances of the time and his love for the working people. He was in a sense a combination of Rosa Parkes and Martin Luther King.

With the growth of the black middle class and professionals the demand for elected representation was very much in the air. McIntosh came to the picture and was one of the co-founders of the Representative Government Association. He was therefore in the forefront of the drive for elected representation. He was elected to the Kingstown Board in 1923 and remained a member until the time of his death.

McIntosh’s Workingmen’s Association was the first mass-based organisation to have been formed in the country. The enthusiasm its formation generated showed that there was a vacuum that existed and needed to be filled. About a year after its formation the Workingmen’s Association was able to elect representatives to the Legislative Council, dominating the Council for the next 14 years. Through his work on the Council, his writings to the newspapers and his general advocacy he played a major role in lifting the political consciousness of the working people.

Their concerns became dominant in just about everything he did. He spoke out in Council about problems affecting labourers on estates, about the need for improved working conditions and legislation to protect workers. He not only raised those matters in Council but he and his men personally took certain matters before the Administrator. He started the first trade unions in St.Vincent and therefore must be seen as the Father of Trade Unionism. He was also a founding member of the Caribbean Labour Congress.

He spoke out and forced the Administration into providing lands for the working people and achieved his biggest success in 1945 when a Land Settlement Ordinance was passed. He pushed measures relating to education to the attention of the authorities, raised motions for an Annual Agricultural Scholarship, called for the establishment of an Agricultural School, argued for compulsory primary education and for making provisions for easy access to secondary education.

McIntosh led the struggle for the repeal of the 1912 Shaker Ordinance and was determined and vigorous about this, calling the Ordinance un-British and arguing that it continued to exist because the Shakers were poor people. He tried to embarrass the authorities by encouraging them to ‘shake’ in Court when some of them were arrested on charges of disobeying the Ordinance. He defied the authorities by allowing the Shakers to have a Prayer Meeting in his Yard at Paul’s Lot.

McIntosh fought for political unification in the form of a Federation and must be regarded as one of the pioneers of Federation. He pushed vigorously for constitutional change leading to Adult Suffrage. When this was agreed on but with the addition of a literacy test McIntosh opposed it strongly. At a meeting of the Executive Council on 17 February 1950 the issue of having a Bank Holiday to mark the visit to St.Vincent of Her Royal Highness Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone, was raised. McIntosh was the only dissenting voice.

He got the working people involved in the building of the Association Hall which was really the Peace Memorial Hall of that time, hosting shows and concerts. Fund raising ventures were held and the working people made monetary contributions. At the Hall there was the beginning of a Penny Bank, members contributed to a death benefit scheme. The Upstairs was often used as a dance hall, the popular musical band of that time, Melotones, which included members of the McIntosh family practised and played there. Boxing also took place at the Hall. Dinners were held for the poor and one of them, in particular, was in honour of the Russian Revolution which had captured the imagination of workers and their leaders throughout the Caribbean and the rest of the world.

Despite the contribution he had made to the upliftment of the working people one of the ironies of his life is that he was ousted with the onset of Adult Suffrage. He had done his time and the new political climate called for different actors. Even then, in a two way fight he might have been re-elected to the Legislative Council, the votes given to him and Dr. Frank Ellis who ran as an independent in the Kingstown district were more than those of the winning candidate, Rudolph Baynes. It has to be remembered that five years before, in 1946 he was returned unopposed to the Legislative Council. “Dada”, the peoples’ man was able to continue to make a contribution in the Kingstown Board, being re-elected to the Board in that same year.

The criteria for the selection of National Heroes are as follows:

a) Has given outstanding service to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and his contribution has altered positively the course of the history of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

b) Has given service to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines which has been exemplified by visionary and pioneering leadership, extraordinary achievement and the attainment of the highest excellence which has redounded to the honour of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

c) C) Has through his heroic exploits and sacrifice contributed to the improvement of the economic, social or political conditions of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Vincentians generally.”

George McIntosh fits the criteria laid down for National heroes more so than anyone else. His struggle for elected representation which paved the way for adult suffrage that he continually pushed for; the sacrifice he made by spending 24 days in gaol in his efforts to intervene with the Governor on behalf of the people; his formation of the first mass-based organisation in the country, an organisation that represented workers both in and out of the Legislative Council. He was the dominant figure in the Legislative Council for fifteen years. He spearheaded issues of concern to the working people, land settlement, the 1945 Land Settlement Ordinance owing a lot to his advocacy, improvement of labour conditions, formation of Trade Unions, being indeed the father of Trade Unionism in St.Vincent, The ‘Shakers’ are able to practice their religion freely today because of his pioneering efforts on their behalf. His work and the work of the members of his Association helped in awakening the consciousness of Vincentians, politically and otherwise.

The McIntosh family is recognised today for its contribution to Music in this country. Relatives and grandchildren of George McIntosh continue to impact on the music scene in North America, as is the case with Syl, Rick, Julian and Frankie to name a few. Frankie is also highly recognised on the regional music scene, having done arrangements for leading Caribbean calypsonians. Julian is, on the other hand embarking on creating a new direction in Caribbean music. These grandchildren and relatives of George are therefore continuing to carry the McIntosh’s name in the area of music and in doing so have kept St.Vincent on the map. George was to a large extent responsible for this by teaching and encouraging his children and grandchildren to appreciate and get involved in music from an early age. In the early years he taught his children music before sending them on to Ms. Horne to further develop their skills. The grandchildren remember looking at and listening to their grandfather play the piano and clarinet. Whenever they met at George’s home or that of their uncles they were always treated to what they call musical ‘jam sessions.’ Generations of McIntoshes have been influenced by this love for music that George had passed on to his children and grandchildren. In the process a host of other musicians became involved in music and helped to lift the stature of Vincentian music. One remembers three of the McIntosh’s children being part of the musical band Melotones, which also featured the young Shake Keane who went on to develop an international reputation in the area of Jazz.

He has in other these areas, particularly the work towards elected representation in parliament, adult suffrage and Federation, the struggle to remove the ban on the Shaker Religion and the development of trade unions altered positively the course of the history of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. His service was definitely marked by visionary and pioneering leadership and was of the highest order. As the Vincentian newspaper said, “Today his successors reap a rich harvest from his unpaid efforts.” When one takes into account the political and social climate of that time, his contribution is even more remarkable.

MCINTOSH WAS NOT ONLY A NATIONAL PLAYER HE WAS ALSO A REGIONAL ONE AS SEEN WITH HIS WORK FOR FEDERATION, THE CARIBBEAN LABOUR CONGRESS AND WITH THE RGA AND WORKINGMEN’S ASSOCIATION.

Let me close by quoting from our Prime Minister Dr. The Honourable Ralph Gonsalves: In the Educational Pamphlet #9 of the Movement for National Unity, (October 1985)

Under the caption George McIntosh — A Brief Profile :

Dr. Gonsalves wrote: “… let us as a nation honor his memory and proclaim his greatness as an authentic national hero.” Ralph Gonsalves (1985)

I am supporting this position in arguing that George Augustus McIntosh should be made our next National Hero.

7. APPENDIX

Being Harrassed

i- January 18

“While in the back of the Drug Store about 8:30 p.m; one of his employees came to him in the back and said he was ordered to close the Drug Store. He came out and met Sgt Dear who told him to close up. He asked why. The response was that head instructions to that effect. McIntosh questioned the instructions since the law permitted Drug Stores to open at all times. His reply was that he stocked things other than medicine. McIntosh quoted him the Shop Closing Ordinance that allowed him to open after closing hours to carry out the business permitted by law. He left after promising to look it up.

January 25

At 8:15 p.m Sgt Simmons and 5 privates drew up near to his Drug Store, “…they looked at me working and remarked, ‘Oh, he is dispensing’ and left.” He believed that the police were carrying out instructions from the Governor or one of his subordinates. He felt it was unfair to him who has worked sincerely in the interest of the colony. He helped the Government in every instance he could and didn’t understand why his life is rendered uneasy “because of some mistaken view of Sir Selwyn Grier and his Officers.”

i. HIS LETTER TO THE ADMINISTRATOR 

McIntosh’s letter to the Administrator, the Honourable A.E Beattie

(June 16, 1943)

“Sir,

I hereby extend to you respectfully the opportunity of making a written apology to me for:

  1. Abusing me at your office on Saturday 12th instant in the presence of the Honourable J.L Cato by calling me a “Damn Liar”. And
  2. Further insulting me (along with Mr. Cato) when as a member of the Legislative Council I came to interview you on a matter of public interest, by saying “I refuse to discuss the matter with you any further. Good Morning and taking up your hat and stick and walking out of the office leaving us there.

I also respectfully request of you to furnish me with a copy of the instructions which you promised me to pass on to the Controller of Supplies in order to clarify a situation which arose as a result of a minute from you which was read by the Controller of Supplies to the members of the Control Board.

May I add that failing to receive the apology asked for within three days of the above date, I shall have no other alternative than to bring the matter up in the Legislative Council.

I would further ask Your Honour to send a copy of this letter to His Excellency the Governor of the Windward Islands.”

I have the honour to be,

Sir,

Your obedient Servant.

G.McIntosh

(Note at the bottom in hand writing by the Administrator)

In reference to 1. Which in bracket had A (A. So far as I can remember what I did was to refer to a statement by Mr. M as a ‘Damn Lie’.

B. (2) Not quite correct. I did not say “I refuse” but “I am not forcpped”?(cannot decipher last word)

ii. EFFORTS TO SHOOT MCINTOSH

– a few individuals were identified; when he was arrested it was done at 11:30 p.m; Sargent Banfield took him out through the front door.

– McIntosh was informed by a worker at one of the Country’ establishments; plot involved the Colonial Hospital where he was supposed to have Surgery for some prostate related problem. He cancelled the operation and went later to Trinidad where he had the Surgery done by a Dr. Pierce (Pearce);When he died in 1963 it was from prostate cancer.

McIntosh’s Record of Public Service

  1. Member of Citizens C/tee for advocating Representative Government preceding its inception in 1925.
  2. Elected Member of the Kingstown Board from 1923 and Chairman of the Board on several occasions
  3. Way Warden between 1928 and 1932.
  4. Member of the Sanitary Authority from 1928 to 1949
  5. Member of the Library C/tee from 1930 to 1949.
  6. Member of Committee to consider and make recommendations under Colonial Development Act 1930.
  7. Member of the Electricity Supply Authority 1932, 1934
  8. Elected member of the Legislative Council for theKingstown Electoral District from 1937 to 1951; Vacated seat on the Legislative Council, 1945, according to legal technicality, and subsequently re-elected at bye-election, 1946.
  9. Member of the Board of Education from1939 to 1949.
  10. Member of the Labour Advisory Board from 1939 to 1949.
  11. Member of Committee to consider needs of Colonial Hospital, 1941
  12. Member of C/tee of Visitors, Pauper and Leper Asylum, 1941
  13. Warden of one of the A. R. P posts, 1941
  14. Member of Salaries Revision Committee, 1944 and 1947.
  15. Member of Re-absorption C/tee, 1944
  16. Member of Industrial Committee, 1944
  17. Member of Peace Celebrations Committee, 1945
  18. Member of Poor Relief Board from 1945 to 1949
  19. Member of Land Settlement and Development Board from 1945 to 1949.
  20. Member of District Administration Committee, 1945
  21. Member of Peace Memorial Committee, 1945
  22. Member of Electricity Committee, 1945.
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