Remembering William McLean Goldsmith

Sunday, January 20, 2013

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FORMER weight training instructor of Kingston College and Jamaica weightlifting champion William McLean Goldsmith was buried at Dovecot Memorial Gardens on Sunday, January 13, following a service of thanksgiving for his life at St Augustine Chapel, North Street. Here is the remembrance delivered by KC Old Boys Association Vice President, HG Helps.

William McLean Goldsmith will be best remembered as one who gave his all for the betterment of his family and the advancement of his alma mater, Kingston College, knowing that for his contribution, Jamaica would always be better off as well.

For 'Youngster' Goldsmith, or 'Mr G', as he was affectionately called, mirrored all that a nation sets out to achieve in striving for all that's good for its people.

Born on February 28, 1923 in the eastern parish of St Thomas, to father Charles Williams Goldsmith, who predeceased him in November 1933, and mother Fredrica Gray Goldsmith, who departed this life in June 1952, Youngster, although small in stature, gave early indications that he would become the giant of a man that he turned out to be.

His earliest years were spent on Green Castle Estate, in St Mary where his father had gained employment as Overseer of the Property, which is still in operation today, producing things like papaya, coconut and its by-products, among other crops. These formative years on the plantation were important in providing direction and underlining the value of sewing in order to reap.

Youngster's eyes would open wide if he realised that there was a boy at KC who had roots in St Mary. Right away, he would take you aside and relate tales of the good times that he had on the property, which is located close to the sea at Robin's Bay. You would often wonder how a five-year-old, as he was when he left Green Castle for Kingston with his family, could have noted and committed to memory so many things that happened.

At Central Branch School which he attended after he left St Mary, Youngster's lunch time was spent running the 100-yard races with his friends between Barry Street and Church Street.

Mr G began his secondary education at Kingston College in 1933. It would have been devastating for the young man to lose his father that same year, but Young William was determined to succeed and make his family proud of him. He started weight training from an early age, under the guidance and watchful eye of his elder brother, John, to whom he was never short of giving credit for much of his weightlifting achievements. John set up a Gym in the backyard of their home at 2 Blake Road, with many well-known persons using the facility to train.

Mr G took on weightlifting with much gusto. He loved the sport and drove himself to do better and better at it. It was not long before he was entering competitions in the discipline. 'Mr G' entered many weightlifting competitions and won numerous medals and awards. As he pushed himself to continue raising the bar, he also set new milestones in the sport.

He still holds the Jamaica record in the Clean and Jerk category by lifting over double his body weight in the Featherweight Division.

In the early 1950's, Youngster migrated to England. His location might have changed, but his interest remained as constant as the North Star. In England, if anything, he only threw more effort into the task. He continued his weight training with zeal, and had the Fortis confidence to take on the competition there as well. He soon became a fixture on the weightlifting competition circuit in Europe. And before long, guess what? You got it right: He was also representing England, competing in various countries.

After several years in the UK, Youngster Goldsmith deemed it was time for him to return to Jamaica and continue his contribution to the sport of weightlifting and the development of his country of birth. Back in Jamaica, he accepted a position at Kingston College, as weight training instructor in 1961. Here it is tempting to just insert, "And the rest, as they say, is history". But that would be an unfortunate over-simplification of Youngster's role in a truly magnificent halcyon period in the annals of Fortis history. Because, you see, Youngster had to have had, first, a unique foresight to see beyond the horizons of others, and, then, the courage and conviction to so promote the benefits of incorporating weight training as an indispensable element of all athletics and sporting programmes at KC. Now we look back and say that it was little wonder that the fruits of his labour started showing up the following year, when KC won the Boys Athletic Championship and went on to regain the title on a further 13 straight occasions.

Only three years into the weight training programme, three of Mr G's young charges - Patrick Robinson, Lindy Headley and Rupert Hoilette, were off to Tokyo, Japan to represent Jamaica at the Olympic Games, as part of a 12-man delegation.

The saying that KC boys are natural leaders and pacesetters stands true, as it was Mr G's initiative in weight training that led others to pick up the baton and themselves embark on a programme that would eventually benefit their athletes.

Mr G continued his work over the years, having to deal with the loss of his sisters Gloria and Viola, and brother Charles (John), and later his wife Carmen predeceased him in July 2006.

Even then, he still found time, although he seemed dedicated to spending so much of it assisting KC, to mould the lives of his sons Kirk and Rohan, and also keep in touch with nephew John; nieces Thelma, Joan, Barbara and Heather, who is here attending the service from Florida.

The work done by 'Mr G' has not gone unnoticed, as an athletic event, the Youngster Goldsmith National Athletic Classic, now in its 16th year, was named in his honour.

Over the years he worked with several famous athletes, including the late Lennox "Billy" Miller, Neville Oxford, Trevor "Jumpy" Harris, Trevor "TC" Campbell, Michael Holding of cricket fame and tried his best with people like Ray Fraser, Patrick Dallas, Maurice Weir, and Delano Franklyn, but Mr G was no magician ... the latter names were just not cut out to become athletes of any shape or form.

Speaking personally of my brush with Mr G, one afternoon after school I decided to try my hands at lifting weights down by the pavilion. Within a second of my first attempt, I fell backwards leaving the device firmly planted on the ground. Mr G came over and said 'is not a play thing you know', but no you say you come from St Mary? Yes Mr G I responded, at which point he said, 'There is plenty banana in St Mary, try eating some more nuh and then you can consider coming back to lift weights.

As things began to wind down physically for Mr G last year, he still kept his heart in assisting athletes.

His days of attending the Penn Relays were all but over, but you could still see that the fire of keeping involved in competition was still burning.

He played the innings of a lifetime, one in which the Jamaica and West Indies team would so anxiously embrace nowadays. And as we say farewell to 'Mr G' here on Earth, may he continue to lead the exemplary life in the world beyond - a life in which he left us so many lessons for us to follow.

Walk Good, Mr G! Fortis forever!





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