MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Former mayor and prominent politician Cecil Charles Charlton was yesterday laid to rest. This son of central Manchester, who rose to prominence as a self-styled millionaire and outstanding politician, was hailed as a social hero who impacted the lives of thousands with his kindness, quick wit, a zest for life, words of advice, and his courageous stance for principle.
Charlton, who has also been hailed as a "giant of a man" was laid to rest in a service at the gymnatorium of the Northern Caribbean University, an institution he attended in his early years, to learn his trade as a plumber. Charlton was later interred at the Oaklawn Memorial Gardens. He was 88 years old.
The name Cecil Charlton is synonymous with the town of Mandeville. His love for his parish and the extent of the service he gave, seem to be expressed in the sites bearing his name. The Cecil Charlton Park in the middle of Mandeville, the Cecil Charlton Hall attached to the parish library, the street bearing his name, and his palatial octogan-shaped house in May Day, Manchester, which he opened to the public, have permanently placed his stamp on the parish capital he helped to build.
The colourful Charlton, who left school at age 11 because of his family's inability to finance further studies, became one of the parish's most successful businessmen after he invested in horses and later became owner of 35 betting shops across the island. He also served the race horse industry as president of the Bookmakers' Association.
Though often hailed as a great businessman and "legendary philanthropist", Charlton will best be remembered as Mandeville's Mayor. He served in the post for nearly 20 years, serving from 1961 to 1969 and again from 1974-1978 for the People's National Party (PNP). Charlton switched allegiance to the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) in the late 1970s, and in 1981 was elected mayor on that party's ticket, serving in that post until 1986. He remained as a parish councillor until 1998.
As they have since his death on September 12, the tributes continued to pour in at yesterday's funeral service. Former prime ministers, politicians, government officials, educators, theologians, colleagues from the National Water Commission, the racing industry and the Jamaica Library Service were out in their numbers to pay their last respects to the man many still refer to as "Mayor Charlton" and "Mr C".
Custos Rotulorum of Manchester, Sally Porteous, who also served the parish council for many years, said Charlton not only cleaned up the town of Mandeville, but "ruled it with an iron fist...for no one would dare drop anything on the ground when he was mayor". Member of Parliament for Central Manchester Peter Bunting described Charlton as "world class". "Everything he did was of a world-class standard... the standard he felt Mandeville should have for Jamaica was world class."
In his tribute, Member of Parliament for North East Manchester Audley Shaw, said "...many of us are good politicians, but not good representatives, and the other way around. Charlton was both... It was an uncommon combination."
Mandeville's Mayor Brenda Ramsay, said the parish council owes a "debt of gratitude" to this man, who changed the way the council operated. "This little man with the big voice and a whole lot of confidence... was impatient of those who gave excuses for why things could not be done, he did not tolerate slackness..." She said a monument of Charlton has been commissioned, and will be placed in the park named after him.
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, who led in the paying of tribute to this local government stalwart, said Charlton believed in the "endless capacity" of politicians to lift the lives of others. She said, as a "beacon", Charlton saw needs and created a better place for his people.
Speaker of the House of Representatives Michael Peart, who brought greetings on behalf of former Prime Minister P J Patterson, remembered Charlton's love for children and his generosity, which he described as "far reaching". In a letter to the family, which was read by Peart, Patterson expressed the hope that Charlton's "resilience would be emulated".
Charlton's colleagues in the Jamaica Library Service, where he served as chairman for 40 years, said he was instrumental in getting buildings for the library, not just in Mandeville, but in other parts of Manchester. Patricia Roberts, who brought greetings on behalf of the library service, said even after his retirement, his interest in library matters never waned.
Charlton was also remembered for bringing a spiritual revival to Mandeville, when as mayor he not only supported a move by the Rev V T Williams of the Jamaica Evangelistic Centre to hold evangelistic meetings, but provided water and other amenities for the event. Over 900 persons were baptised and 300 couples married.
Former chairman of the Electoral Commission of Jamaica and former president of Northern Caribbean University Dr Herbert Thompson, who gave the homily, hailed Charlton for rising from the depths of poverty to live the "Jamaican dream", while never forgetting his humble roots. He likened Charlton's life to the biblical story in the gospel of John, in which Phillip and Nathaniel, in reference to Jesus, questioned whether anything good can come out of Nazareth. "A man by what he does can bring fame and honour to the place he is...Mandeville is Mandeville today because of what Cecil Charlton did for Mandeville," Thompson said, pointing out that during Charlton's life, his wealth was never tainted by whispers of corrupt practices.
Thompson called on Jamaicans not to be too quick to judge persons based on where they are from, as Charlton, the last of 11 children, "...was born here, he lived here. He won the war with poverty here. He became a millionaire here... What a man, what a legend of a man... he broke down barriers to ensure a better life for us."
Charlton, who was born on April 6, 1925 leaves behind widow Veronica and four children.