Loss of another national icon, Tributes for former MP, writer and Observer contributor Sir Selvyn Walter

Sir Selvyn A Walter received the nation’s second highest award when he was conferred with Knight Commander of the Most Distinguished Order of the Nation (KCN). (Photo by Gemma Hazelwood)
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By Carlena Knight

Former MP and celebrated writer Sir Selvyn Walter has died – the second Antiguan icon to pass away in three days.

Long-time Observer contributor Sir Selvyn died at home yesterday, as the country continues to mourn the loss of calypsonian Sir Rupert ‘King Swallow’ Philo who died on Friday.

Walter was a member of the Progressive Labour Movement (PLM) and in the 1971 elections defeated former Prime Minister VC Bird Snr himself for the St John’s Rural West seat. Walter was later named Minister of Economic Development and Tourism.

He was not only known for his political career but was very influential in his writing, having penned columns for Observer media for many years. Walter was the brother of Sir George Walter, the first Premier of Antigua and Barbuda.

He also wrote about the history of the country; his works included ‘The Story of Cricket’, ‘Historical Roots of Street Dancing’ and ‘Coarse Salt’.

One former Observer colleague and friend Mickel Brann spoke highly of her lost comrade.

“He was a wonderful gentleman who revelled in retelling us history and other stories,” she recalled.

“He had an infectious sense of humour and he would begin laughing at his own tales long before he got to the punchline and you, the listener, would start laughing long before the joke landed,” she said.

“He was once a resident historian, avid writer, a proud national and a proud associate and contributor to Observer.

“He was an integral part of the early days of Observer as a writer and advisor and he continued in that role for a very long time writing columns and editorials and just giving general advice.

“He was like an uncle who would give advice and direction to the newsroom especially on political matters. He was well steeped in government and court reporting and the newsroom benefitted from his wisdom and his knowledge.

“He would speak Latin phrases and sing songs reminding us of the benefits of liberal arts education. I enjoyed and benefitted from his knowledge and wisdom and always held him in high regard. He left his mark,” Brann added.

The celebrated journalist, writer and family man was also said to have been instrumental in the birth of the Halcyon Steel Orchestra. It is reported that Walter approached Melvin Simon and the Kirby Brothers for assistance and in Carnival 1972, they entered the steel band competition with the strong support of the communities of Gray’s Farm and Greenbay playing Sparrow’s ‘Winer Gal’ where they placed fifth.

Walter was recognised nationally for his contribution to his country and was knighted on Independence Day 2013 for the nation’s 32nd anniversary of Independence.

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