Noted Barbadian author George Lamming died Saturday at the age of 94. Lamming is well-known locally, regionally and internationally.
Lamming is the author of six novels: In the Castle of My Skin (1953); The Emigrants (1954); Of Age and Innocence (1958); Season of Adventure (1960); Water with Berries (1971); and Natives of My Person (1972).
His works reflected his interest in the socio-economic situation Caribbean people faced not only in this region but also in the developed world.
During the period 1946 to 1950, Lamming taught English at El Collegio de Venezuela, a boarding school for boys in Port-of-Spain, after which he migrated to England.
In England, he went into the field of journalism and in 1951 he became a broadcaster for the BBC Colonial Service. His writings were published in the Barbadian magazine Bim, edited by his teacher Frank Collymore, and the BBC’s Caribbean Voices radio series broadcast his poems and short prose. Lamming himself read poems on Caribbean Voices, including some by the young Derek Walcott.
Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley paid tribute to Lamming, noting that his book ‘In The Castle Of My Skin’, written back in 1953, ought still to be required reading for every Caribbean boy and girl.
Following is Mottley’s tribute to Lamming.
“Sadly, it seems now that almost weekly, we are forced to say goodbye to one of our national icons.
“Today, it is our internationally-recognised and respected novelist, essayist and poet, George Lamming who, without doubt, stood for decades at the apex of our island’s pantheon of writers. Indeed, George Lamming must be considered one of the most famous writers this region has produced.
“Notwithstanding the fact that he passed away today, four days shy of his 95th birthday, I still declare that he has left us all too soon. In fact, only this morning I discussed with Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Senator Dr Shantal Monro-Knight, my desire to have arrangements made to visit him on Wednesday to celebrate his birthday with him.
“Unfortunately, we will now have to switch to a national celebration via an official funeral for a man who has given so much to his country, his people, his region and the world.
“George Lamming was the quintessential Bajan, born in as traditional a district as you can get — Carrington Village, on the outskirts of Bridgetown. And his education was as authentically Bajan as one could possibly acquire — Roebuck Boys’ School and Combermere.
Perhaps even more critical to the literary giant he grew into, was the fortune he had of being schooled at the feet of yet another Barbadian great, Frank Collymore.
“But as Bajan as he was, he still distinguished himself as a world scholar: teaching first at a boarding school in Trinidad, before emigrating to England, where he became a broadcaster with the BBC’s Colonial Service. This was followed by positions that included, writer-in-residence and lecturer in the Creative Arts at the Mona Campus of the University of the West Indies, Visiting Professor at the University of Texas, the University of Pennsylvania and Brown University, and a lecturer in Denmark, Tanzania and Australia.
“Wherever George Lamming went, he epitomised that voice and spirit that screamed Barbados and Caribbean. And while he has written several novels and received many accolades, none of his works touches the Barbadian psyche like his first — In The Castle of My Skin, written back in 1953, but which today ought still to be required reading for every Caribbean boy and girl.
“Barbados will miss George Lamming — his voice, his pen and, of course, his signature hairstyle — but I pray that the consciousness of who we are that he preached in all that he wrote will never fade from our thoughts.
“On behalf of the Government and people of Barbados I extend deepest sympathy to the Lamming family. May his soul rest in peace.”