From Dr. Kirk Meighoo, courtesy of Facebook
The passing of Professor Brinsley Samaroo is not only a great loss to our country and to the global University and academic community, but it is a great personal loss to me.
I join people from around the world in mourning this mentor, scholar, teacher, and friend.
I became particularly close to Brinsley in the 1990s when I began lecturing at the University of West Indies. I love the West Indiana Collection of the UWI St. Augustine Library. I spent countless hours there discovering all sorts of buried facts, events, persons, and historical locations. It is one of my favorite places in the world.
I rarely used to see colleagues there, but there was one notable exception: Brinsley Samaroo. He had a permanent space reserved for him, and his time spent there far exceeded my own. I admired him greatly for that.
Brinsley was somewhat like a pumpkin-vine family to me. My grandmother came from the same village of Ecclesville as he did. He knew all of her brothers who were teachers in the Presbyterian schools. He had very fond memories of them, and highly valued his Presbyterian education, opportunities, and community.
When I lived in St. Augustine, I was not far from him. He began to invite me on his weekend drives to Mayaro, and it became a regular, wonderful ritual. I always looked forward to the adventure, driving in his pickup truck through St Augustine, then Bejucal, Longdenville, Brasso, Rio Claro, and Mayaro.
Brinsley was a great storyteller. He was full of personal anecdotes, was a vast storehouse of historical knowledge and learning, and had a very wicked sense of humor and irony. Brinsley also had an entrancing delivery style, deadpan but also deadly in his sharp criticisms and observations. He was great fun to talk to, and I enjoyed it immensely.
He would tell me stories of when he used to surreptitiously give supplies to the National Union of Freedom Fighters; when he was one of the Ministers outside the Red House during the 1990 coup that ran the government and resisted the coup while the Prime Minister and others were held hostage; personal insights into leaders like ANR Robinson, Basdeo Panday, Eric Williams; discussions of the history of the various places we were driving through – like Montserrat, Manzanilla Estate, St. Augustine hills – about his various history projects (articles, books, conferences), his discoveries in the archives and libraries, humorous anecdotes from when he was an MP and active politician, and stories about Naparima Boys College when he was classmates with Sir Trevor McDonald, Professor Kenneth Ramchand and other notables.
In Mayaro, we would sit, talk, and eat, with the sea breeze and the wonderful beach scenery. We would often go for a dip when there were not too many jellyfish around.
It was here that I saw Brinsley’s immense love for his daughter Naila. She was severely disabled and could not move, speak or communicate properly. And Brinsley loved and cared for her deeply. He designed his house to ensure that Naila could be moved from room to room easily. He always made sure she was able to receive and enjoy the sea breeze, sun, and beautiful beachscape. She could not communicate in a way that most of us would recognize, but clearly, her father understood when she was pleased and happy. His love for her was moving.
Very often, he would invite very interesting guests to his beach house, from the very well-known and prominent to the very humble. They all had fascinating stories to tell and share. It was an amazing education for me, then still in my 20s.
They were some of the most important, insightful, and valuable times of my life.
He loved the people of this country and as former Minister of Food Production and Marine Exploitation, and Minister of Decentralisation, he was able to serve the rural people of this country well.
Brinsley of course earned a place globally for sharing his deep knowledge of Trinidad and Tobago with the wider world. He played an invaluable role there.
And through all of this, he was a humble man with a great sense of humor.
He was an elder that shaped my life. I will miss Brinsley greatly.