Jamaica has lost a gem in Mr Merrick Needham
Mr Merrick Needham

Many years ago Mr Desmond Allen, the founding editor of this newspaper, chronicled the life of Mr Merrick Needham, the man who was Jamaica's principal logistic, ceremonial and protocol consultant for decades.

"Were it not for World War Two," Mr Allen wrote, "Merrick Needham might not himself have discovered what Cristobal Colon knew long before was the fairest isle that eyes have beheld. Fleeing war-ravaged England, his parents found refuge in Jamaica and a home for their seven-year old son. It was a home he would spend the rest of his life working to build.

"In a strange kind of way, Mr Needham might have been deeply influenced by the war. His vast knowledge of military operations and ranks is rarely matched among civilians, and in him Jamaica has a foremost expert on the planning and execution of ceremonies that require pomp and pageantry fit for royalty and presidents."

It could not have been better said. Indeed, Mr Needham served this country with distinction, not only in organising and managing events that required his vast knowledge and skill, but in media as well.

He was there at the dawn of Jamaican radio when ZQI became RJR. Later he joined the former Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation (JBC) as director of programmes and production and rose through the ranks to become general manager. Overall, he spent his first 17 working years in radio and television.

That Ms Alma Mock Yen in her 2003 book Rewind, that focuses on radio in Jamaica, described Mr Needham as "possibly Jamaica's best broadcaster to date" is not surprising, because Mr Needham was blessed with a robust voice that enhanced his impeccable delivery of the English language.

Most older Jamaicans will remember Mr Needham for coordinating the State Visits of Cuban President Fidel Castro and Mozambican President Samora Machel in 1977; the visit of The Princess Royal in 1990; that of Prince Albert of Monaco in 1999; and all of Queen Elizabeth's visits to Jamaica from 1953 to 2002 for which he was awarded The Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal.

Add to all that his serving as consultant to the Jamaica Defence Force, as well as to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the Caribbean Community (Caricom) Heads of Government Meeting in 2003 and his appointment in June 1979 by Prime Minister Michael Manley to create and head an instant emergency operations centre to coordinate disaster relief, following the Newmarket floods which left more than 35,000 people destitute and you can appreciate why the Jamaica Government saw it fit to invest Mr Needham with national honours — first the Order of Distinction in the rank of Officer (OD), which was some years upgraded to Commander (CD).

Of note also is the fact that The Queen appointed him a Member of the Royal Victorian Order and in 1998 sanctioned his appointment as a Member of the Order of St John.

Outside of his public service, though, we found Mr Merrick Needham a man who was very generous with his knowledge and simply a kind and decent human being.

We at the Jamaica Observer will miss his wise counsel as well as his feedback on the newspaper which he often provided without hubris.

We extend our condolences to his wife, Camille, his children, other family members and friends. Jamaica has indeed lost a gem.

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