Steelpan legend Eustace ‘Manning’ Henry remembered

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By Carl Joseph

The son of the late legendary steelpan grandmaster Eustace “Manning” Henry, who died earlier this week, said that the loss of his father has come as a huge blow to the family.

Alston Henry, who was with his father for the very last moments of his life, said the cultural icon died on Monday, after suffering for some time with Alzheimer’s disease.

The grandmaster, ‘skip’, master steelpan builder, tuner, bender, soloist, arranger, and long-time captain of Hell’s Gate Steel Orchestra, died at the age of 90 at his home on Bryon’s Street, Villa.

 “Everyone is taking it rough, especially me. I was right there when he took his last breath and it’s been very troubling for me,” Alston explained as he recalled his countless sleepless nights. He said that he has been up replaying the last moments he spent with his father over and over in his head.

Hell’s Gate, which will this year mark its 75th anniversary, is said to be the oldest, continuously operating steel band in the world. Manning was its captain from 1959 to 1978.

“One of the things he promoted a lot in the band was discipline. Even up to now the high level of discipline you see in the band is because of him,” Alston recalled.

As a little boy, Alston remembers seeing his father playing pan daily at home after he got home from work at the post office.

“Being in the house and of course hearing the pan music, playing, playing, playing… you get interested. And so I played my first piece when I was five years old,” Alston said.

Alston said that first piece he played – ‘Elizabethan Serenade’ by Ronald Binge – was one of Manning’s favourites and is likely to be performed at his funeral.

A veteran pannist in his own right, Alston broke the news to the rest of the musical fraternity via a pan social media group where he said, from there, the condolences and well-wishes came flooding in.

“He was a great man… He led the band well… He was an outstanding band leader,” were just some of the words coming from band members and the wider pan community to Alston as they learned of his father’s passing.

While at the helm of one of the world’s most famous orchestras, the grandmaster provided for his family as a postman until he retired at the age of 60. In retirement he took to being a taxi dispatcher in St John’s.

He was also a former lightweight boxing champion.

Manning is survived by his wife of 60 years, Audrey Henry, and his seven children – Eustace Henry Jr, Cordella Joseph, Heather Joseph, Carol Lynne, Veron Henry, Alston Henry and Orville Henry. Manning also had two other children, now deceased – Sinclair Henry and Hyvie Henry.

An autopsy is to be performed on the pannist’s body and, as such, the family is uncertain of the date for his burial. The funeral will be held at Manning’s longtime church, Spring Gardens Moravian.

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  1. We all must pass on, It is God’s work. IKim loy Wong often spoke to me about him. It is wonderful to remember him also the beautiful music. Both will always never b forgotten
    Living n Texas with Kim, Clemon and Kim would b conversing after tunening pan.Both are missed greatly missed.

  2. [
    played with skip from 1971 to 1978 ‘He taught so much not only musically but as a young man from cooks hill , he treated like a son . best captain ever may his soul rest in peace

  3. i played with skip in Hell,s Gate from 1971 to 1978 , I am now living in America skip was the best very patient and kind .thoughtful and humble , he taught me so much .not only music but as a young man from Cooks Hill i learned discipline respect and responsibility, Thank you manning , may the Lord bless his family,

  4. Profound and sincere Condolences to Eustace Manning Henry’s family.
    Manning was one of the greatest Pan man in the world.
    Ronald Benjamin.

  5. I am expressing profound, and sincere condolences to the family, friends, and Hell’s Gate Steel Orchestra. Mr. Manning was one of the greatest steel-pan man in the world.
    He was a great pan builder, musical arranger, and orchestra leader. The foundation that he laid down in Hells Gate Steel Orchestra created an atmosphere for the orchestra’s longevity and musical successes today.
    Ronald Benjamin.

  6. The Man, the Legend, the Grandmaster of steelpan music!
    It is with deep sorrow that I express condolences on behalf of Uncle Manning’s extended relatives residing here in the United States. Manning: A man of discipline, wholesome values, decorum, and a dear brother to my grandmother, Chessie ‘Baby Ned’ Williams, who preceded him in death. May the peace of our Lord bring comfort to his wife, children, and friends. Ninety years of toiling in the vineyard has taken it’s toll; our dear uncle Manning, may God rest your soul.
    Nephews: Ned; Hendy; Euston; Troy
    Nieces: Percelyn; Acadia (KD); Keren; Janice, Claudette; Vashti ‘Blon’ (deceased)
    Submitted by: Chessie ‘Isha’ Williams-Bather (daughter of Janice Williams and Sir MacLean Emanuel

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