MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Described as one of the longest serving mayors in Jamaica, Cecil Charlton, who served both the People's National Party and the Jamaica Labour Party as mayor of this south central highland town in the late 1960s, 70s and 80s has left many reminiscing and paying tribute to his life and work.
The colourful Charlton, who had a range of business interests and for decades was a major player in the horse- racing industry, died at the Hargreaves Memorial Hospital in Mandeville last Thursday. He was 88 years old.
Dr Gilbert Allen, former Custos of Manchester remembers Charlton as an "outstanding personality".
"(He was) one who gave himself totally to the development and progress, not only of Manchester — the parish in which he lived — but in a wider sense to the nation as a whole. He was a successful businessman, a dedicated politician and one who had a social conscience. He served Manchester faithfully and long and has left indelible footprints on the history of our parish," he said.
Custos Sally Porteous said that she met Charlton in the 1970s and found him to be a "great man".
"He had tremendous knowledge of people and loved life. He had a wonderful sense of humour and he was always interested in what you had to say. He was a fiercely loyal man to Jamaica and I always admired him for that. He was very quick to give advice when I was Councillor for Mandeville. He was one of Jamaica's most colourful politicians and I shall miss him greatly," she said.
Mandeville businessman Calvin Lyn who was a member of the Manchester Parish Council for a period while Charlton was in office said that as a public servant he really had the people at heart.
He said that Charlton "mixed and mingled" with the people and during activities such as independence celebrations he was "really a live wire (as he would) dance and prance".
Manchester Chamber of Commerce president Wendy Freckleton was a child when Charlton was Mayor, but she remembers that he and her father, a businessman in the parish, were close friends.
She said that she was one of the children who benefited from Christmas treats at his home.
"We will always remember him for the love he had for his parish and for serving his countrymen with pride and dignity," Freckleton said.
Jean Anderson, sister to former Jamaica Prime Minister Edward Seaga, said that even when she and Charlton had different political affiliations it never affected their friendship or respect for each other.
"We have shared many experiences together over the last 40 years. He was a man of conviction. If he believed in something, regardless of the cost he would carry it through; so much so that he changed political loyalties during the course of his political service. He has left many meaningful monuments and will long be remembered not only for those named for him but (also) his many unheralded contributions to the people he served for so many years and his beloved town of Mandeville," she said.
The Manchester Parish Council, which Charlton served for decades, representing Mandeville and its environs, was at its monthly sitting when news came of his passing.
There was a minute of silence and councillors took time out to pay tribute.
"He was a very accessible person," Mandeville Mayor Brenda Ramsay told her colleagues. "When you need advice he would readily give it. He was a fearless individual and a man of action. We are missing a giant of a man who was small in stature, but large in many other ways. He will be long remembered, not only in Manchester, but throughout Jamaica," she said.
Ramsay regretted that a bust of Charlton, slated to be erected in the town centre in his honour, was not completed in his lifetime. She said that efforts will be made to keep the Cecil Charlton Park at a standard that he would have wanted. The park ,at the heart of Mandeville, and a conference hall attached to the parish library, were named for Charlton during his lifetime.
Councillor Desmond Harrison (JLP, Christiana Division) said that the former mayor was "a son of the soil" who had done much for Manchester. The library was among the institutions that benefited greatly from Charlton's work, he said.
According to a 2006 Jamaica Information Service (JIS) story Charlton as a young councillor played a pivotal role in developing the Manchester Library Service.
"In his determination to have a new, well-equipped library for his parish, he was instrumental in acquiring the site on which the library is located. He was active in developing ideas for the design of the building and initiated the extra funding needed to facilitate construction," the JIS reported.
Charlton was credited with helping the growth of the parish library service "from eight book centres operated by volunteers to 12 branch libraries, six of which occupy their own buildings; 54 book mobile stops throughout the parish, 197 school libraries served by the School's Library Service from its regional office; and the establishment of the Region 3 headquarters at the Manchester Parish Library, which now supervises delivery of library services to the parishes of Manchester and Clarendon," the JIS reported.
Harrison recalled that as a businessman, Charlton was among the first to operate a fleet of taxis in the town and was known for his horse-racing business, Charles Off Betting Limited.
Councillors, like many others in Mandeville, recall that Charlton was always insistent on maintaining good order and cleanliness in Mandeville.
Deputy Mayor Ervin Facey told the council meeting that it was largely Charlton's input that earned Mandeville the reputation of being one of Jamaica's cleanest towns.
Facey hailed Charlton as a man who was always of and for the people and hardly a "nine-night" (wake) would miss him.
Charlton's grandson Mark Stephenson told the Jamaica Observer that because of his many business places and projects, employment was not a problem in Mandeville when he was active in the town.
One of his daughters Jackie Charlton-Stephenson remembered him as being very "free with money" to people within his own family as well as outsiders.