Editorial: All hail Vincent “Tubby” Derrick

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Seems enough cannot be said of this larger-than-life figure who came to our nation’s rescue at a time when we needed him most. Of course, we are referring to Mr. Vincent “Tubby” Derrick who went home to his eternal reward in the wee hours of this past Monday. As the sad news made the rounds, the glowing tributes and the exceedingly fond recollections of our dearly departed began flowing in, and the enormity of our loss quickly became clear.
“Tubby” was described by a very close family connection, and Gillian, one of his daughters, as being very honest, fair and a man of deep spirituality and faith.  He attended the 6:30 AM services at the St. John’s Cathedral almost without fail and was passionate about his politics and philosophies. He was ready and willing to stand up for that in which he believed. He was a charming, soft-spoken and unassuming gentleman from the old school with an easy disposition a wry smile and a sardonic sense of humour. Indeed, so natural and unstudied was “Tubby,” that no matter how triflingly he was engaged, his affect never lost its gracious bearing and the acme of good breeding.
Mr. Harold Lovell, the political leader of the opposition United Progressive Party, of which Tubby was a founding member, and its first and longest-serving, and one of its most effective chairmen, declared that Tubby placed a premium on honesty, and “bad governance” was anathema to him. According to Lovell, Tubby was convinced that our blessed country “Could do better, and ought to do better.” Mr. Ernest Benjamin, the first Permanent Secretary in the newly-formed Ministry of Agriculture, Lands and Fisheries, under the Honourable Sir Robert Hall and the new Progressive Labour Movement administration (1971 -1976), echoed those very same sentiments. Apparently, after Sir Robert Hall was given the Agriculture portfolio, he immediately went to see his friend “Tubby” and invited him to join the Ministry to transform for the better, our struggling agricultural sector. And they did. Duty called, and Tubby answered the call in a most admirable and exceptional way.
The Peasant Development Organisation, another struggling agricultural relic from colonial times was replaced by the progressive Central Marketing Corporation (CMC), a statutory body set up by legislation and the brain child of the Hall, Benjamin and Tubby Derrick troika. CMC assured small farmers that their produce would be purchased as long as it was up to a certain standard. CMC revolutionised agriculture in Antigua and Barbuda. So too did the Tubby Derrick-inspired food-processing unit where small farmers could have their produce processed and preserved.  According to our NEWSCO Managing Director, and farming cognoscenti in his own right, Mr. Algernon “Serpent” Watts, “Sir Robert Hall and Tubby did exponentially more for agriculture in Antigua and Barbuda than anybody else, bar none!”  Mr. Benjamin concurs and says that, “The Robert Hall/Tubby Derrick years were the most vibrant years for agriculture in Antigua and Barbuda.” Seems, as was once said of the late, great Sir Charles Metcalfe, a past Governor of Jamaica, “He was the right man for the right job at the right time.”
Consider, when the anti-Bird forces were in disarray, Tubby Derrick, along with the late great Joseph Oliver “Pookie” Davis and other Antigua political giants got together to form the Progressive Labour Movement that was able to successfully “Spread the word and sweep out Bird” in 1971. Again, when the forces opposed to the long-ruling Antigua Labour Party (ALP) were riven with strife and a dispiriting inertia, Vincent Tubby Derrick met with former MP Wilmouth Daniel, former PM Dr. Baldwin Spencer, former Senator and Attorney Colin Derrick (Tubby’s cousin), Mr. Conrad Luke, the late Leonard “Tim” Hector and the aforementioned J. Oliver Davis to found the United Progressive Party that unseated the entrenched ALP in 2004. And yes, he was part of the visionary team that fought for free and independent media here in our fair state alongside Samuel “Fergie” and Winston, his brothers.
Clearly we have lost an icon and a visionary – a man whose “calm, soft-spoken and deliberate manner of being” (Ernest Benjamin), and his “great respect for others, especially women” (Colin Derrick), contributed in no small way to him being able to cut through the rancor and the noise and bring people together for the common cause. According to Colin, in a fine tribute on yesterday’s VOICE OF THE PEOPLE, he was a mentor, not only to himself, but to the youngsters in the party, and he shepherded them through the notorious political minefields within and without the party. Indeed, Colin is convinced, and many other share his sentiment, that the Herculean efforts to put together these great winning political coalitions would have fallen apart, were it not for the stabilizing and statesmanlike presence of Vincent “Tubby” Derrick.
Consider the following iconic message from OBSERVER radio, which encapsulates the life and thinking of Tubby Derrick: “There are very few people who can really throw things aside and work ahead, you know; everybody has to hold somebody responsible for something, for some reason or another; we’ve always had a sort of very confrontational politics; that is how our politics was born and that’s how our politics existed, and it still exists up to today, and that is one of the reasons, I think, that we can’t get anybody to work, or very few people to work together, because everybody feels that their prevailing view MUST be the one that everybody lines up behind; and very few times you can find that!” (Sigh!)
Well said, Tubby! It is the need of the hour! And “Well done, thou good and faithful servant! . . . You have fought the fight, kept the faith and finished your course! Enter into the joy of your Lord!”  You gave so much to Antigua and Barbuda, this land that you loved so dearly! And we are grateful! You will be sorely missed!

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