Farewell, cousin Winty
Winty Davidson once told me that he and I are cousins. When I asked him how he came to that conclusion he told me he had checked. While I was tempted to challenge him, I had learnt early in our friendship that when it came to matters of research Winty had few equals.
Since then, each time we met, or interacted via phone, I welcomed his warm greeting, “What’s up, cuz?”
I remember first seeing him on a political stage in Half-Way-Tree in the run-up to the 1980 General Election being introduced as the People’s National Party (PNP) candidate for the St Andrew West Rural constituency. However, it was not until a decade later that our paths crossed on a far different stage — Ward Theatre, downtown Kingston — as singers in the Gian Carlo Menotti opera Amahl and the Night Visitors presented by Curtis Watson’s Jamaica Festival Opera Company.
A year later we were back on stage together in two Curtis Watson and Friends productions, ‘The Art of Love’ in February 1991, followed eight months later by ‘Memories Are Made of These’, both at Little Theatre in St Andrew.
After each rehearsal Winty would give me a lift home or to Half-Way-Tree and we used the drive to discuss a range of topics, among them most naturally music, our alma mater Kingston College, and, of course, politics.
Those discussions would extend to his house, and I recall one night in particular sitting with Winty, DK Duncan, and another man whose name I can’t recall now, reflecting on the social and economic state of the country, events in that long and infamous 1980 election campaign, and a range of other issues.
In those early days I knew Winty more for his deep rich bass, which he used to great effect delivering stirring renditions of the Show Boat classic Ol’ Man River, as well as Sunrise, Sunset from the musical Fiddler On The Roof.
And while I never had the great fortune of hearing him in his role as cantor at the Jewish synagogue in Kingston, I have no doubt that he enriched those services with his wonderful instrument.
In later years, though, I came to know Winty as a scientist who preached the value of research and the efficient gathering of data to guide decisions and government policy, particularly in the area of public health which he served with distinction.
There was no favour too great for him to grant the Jamaica Observer, especially in his area of expertise, and when he started his push to develop telemedicine in Jamaica he came to this newspaper first, explaining the benefits of using advanced telecommunications and computer technology to improve health care.
His face would light up, like that of a kid in a candy store, each time he spoke about telemedicine as he firmly believed in the concept of universal health care. Earlier this year he called me, exploring the possibility of expanding his Doctors on Call telemedicine platform to radio as he wanted more Jamaicans to have affordable access to health care. I wasn’t in the least bit surprised as that drive to extend the milk of human kindness was an endearing characteristic of Professor Winston George Mendes Davidson, a man dedicated to sharing knowledge and who never hesitated to utilise his vast experience to help guide people.
I will miss my cousin Winty, not only for his fantastic mind and his penchant for dialogue, but also for his humaneness.
He now sings with the angels. Fortis forever; forever Fortis.