Nethersole and nationalism


Thursday, March 17, 2011    

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Noel Newton Nethersole died exactly 52 years ago on March 17, 1959. He was born in 1903 and was a few months past 55 when he died suddenly of a heart attack. It was this man, Crab Nethersole, as he was affectionately called, who conceptualised the Bank of Jamaica, which came into existence after his death in 1960. When Norman Manley was the chief minister of Jamaica, Crab Nethersole was the deputy chief minister.

Both Norman Manley and Noel Newton Nethersole were Rhodes scholars. Born 10 years apart, Norman Manley was the elder of the two and both were past students of Jamaica College. Norman Manley was a barrister and Nethersole was a solicitor, two branches of the same profession that were amalgamated in Jamaica on January 3, 1972. Since that time in Jamaica, lawyers are called "attorneys-at-law".

Wilmot Perkins said at a forum in 1993 that in the 1930s and 1940s, all high-level intellectual discussions in Jamaica revolved around Drumblair, then the home of Norman Manley. This was before 1948 when the University of the West Indies came into being. It happened that Norman Manley and Nethersole were very good friends and Nethersole was part of the Drumblair discussions that took place among intellectuals of the day.

From what I have learnt, the Drumblair discussions were about political ideologies, the possibility for self-government and political independence, different types of classical music, sports and so on. While every politician has political associates, not all of Norman Manley's political associates were his friends, and not all of his political associates were invited to the intellectual discussions at Drumblair.

The late Pamela O'Gorman, the Australian-born music lecturer, lived and worked in Jamaica for many years. She wrote in a 1993 issue of Jamaica Journal marking the centennial of Norman Manley's birth that if you were invited to the Manleys' and they played European classical music and appeared bored, you would not be invited again. Perhaps for Norman and Edna Manley, music was a way of finding friends. Nethersole was a part of those Drumblair gatherings and so was Monsignor Gladstone Wilson, as I pointed out last week.

Since good manners dictate that one should not be rude to one's invited guests, I imagine that the Manleys smiled at those not interested in their taste for music and politely waved them good-bye as they unknowingly completed their final visit. Good manners are a basic requirement of the diplomacy applied in successful negotiations for international funding which is how Jamaica's infrastructure developed after political independence.

In 1935, Ken Hill was president of the National Reform Association and Nethersole was the vice president. The NRA was the forerunner of the PNP in terms of the fight for self-government. But the NRA was not a political party. It was more like a citizens' association of Jamaicans clamouring for self-government and political independence.

Osmond Fairclough, the founding editor of Public Opinion and first general secretary of the People's National Party, travelled all over Jamaica recruiting people to join the PNP. Norman Manley was chosen to be its first president. Noel Newton Nethersole was first

vice-president from 1938 until his death in 1959. By way of information, the PNP changed its constitution to have four equal vice-presidents in 1967.

In 1952, Ken Hill, Frank Hill, Richard Hart and Arthur Henry (the four Hs) were expelled from the PNP for being communists. The Trades Union Congress was disaffiliated from the PNP. In 1953 the PNP founded the National Workers Union to replace the TUC as its trade union affiliate. And Noel Newton Nethersole was the first president of the NWU.

As the privileged son of the administrator general of Jamaica, a graduate of Jamaica College, a famous school-boy cricketer, a Rhodes scholar and a successful lawyer, Nethersole did not have to do what he did in giving so much of his time and talent to the cause of Jamaica. His voluntary nationalist spirit was therefore commendable.

Today is 42 years since a by-election in St Ann brought Seymour Mullings, another Jamaica College graduate, to the House of Representatives in 1969. Veteran politician Dr Ivan Lloyd resigned from both Parliament and the PNP and his son Garland, another JC graduate, ran for JLP against Mullings. The local government elections were put for the day after the by-election.

A quarrel about how voters in Southeast St Ann would have clean fingers for the local government elections, having stained them for voting the day before, resulted in the JLP withdrawing their own local government candidates and giving the PNP six seats unopposed in the St Ann Parish Council. Mullings served as deputy prime minister when PJ Patterson was prime minister.

For the Irish and their descendants who read Jamaica Observer online, Happy St Patrick's Day!




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