Tributes aplenty for late former MoBay Mayor Cecil Donaldson
Following the memorial service for former mayor of Montego Bay Cecil Donaldson at St James Parish Church, his widow Laura (in wheelchair) and other family members pose for a picture in front of the church. (Photo: Philp Lemonte)

MONTEGO BAY, St James — There were only glowing tributes for former mayor of Montego Bay, Cecil Donaldson during the service of thanksgiving service for his life held at St James Parish Church in this western Jamaica city on Saturday.

Former Prime Minister PJ Patterson, in his tribute read by Senator Janice Allen, described the late mayor, who died May 4 at the age of 93, as an icon of western Jamaica who was an agent of social and economic change.

“The history of our times and that of Montego Bay, St James, would be incomplete without due consideration being accorded to the pivotal role played by Cecil Donaldson in the remarkable development of the parish as councillor in the St James Parish Council and as mayor of Montego Bay,” Patterson said. “His stellar contribution to community, western regional and national life began with a deep understanding of and connection to people.”

Councillor Mark McGann (Jamaica Labour Party, Somerton Division), who represented the St James Municipal Corporation, described Donaldson as a man for all seasons.

McGann also lauded former mayors who followed in the footsteps of Donaldson, who served as mayor twice.

“I must also pay a little tribute to all the past mayors of Montego Bay who have followed in that footstep and also have benefited from Mr Donaldson’s leadership and the foundation that he has laid. A man for all seasons, Mr Cecil Donaldson was indeed a giant. The passing of Mr Donaldson has robbed Jamaica and the world of a true visionary and someone who never lost the common touch. His passing is a great loss to the nation and in particular, local government,” said McGann who also disclosed that the former mayor was once his neighbour.

For his part, Opposition Leader Mark Golding argued that, influenced by People’s National Party’s (PNP) stalwarts such as Howard Cooke, Allan G S Coombs and Dr Herbert Morrison, it was inevitable that Donaldson would emerge as a champion leader in western Jamaica.

“He came to be regarded by many as the father of Montego Bay. Under his leadership, as we have heard, the building at 19a Union Street was acquired by the parish council, now the municipal corporation, and was later named in his honour, most fittingly, and now serves as the office of the St James Municipal Corporation,” Golding said.

Donaldson was said to be involved in the transformation of a former military airport into what is now Sangster International Airport. It was also mentioned that he was part of the team that pushed the development of Negril, which was mainly swampland at the time.

Donaldson served as the city’s mayor from 1966 to 1969 and again from 1975 to 1981.

A former trade unionist, Donaldson served the National Workers Union for 43 years. He first entered the political arena on a People’s National Party ticket in 1956 and served as a councillor for 25 years, representing the Montego Bay West Division. During his stint as an elected official he was chairman of the Association of Local Government Authorities as well as several other organisations.

Donaldson’s name is often mentioned in discussions about Montego Bay being granted city status in 1981.

He was also remembered by his son Charles as playing a pivotal role in people having free public access to beaches in Montego Bay.

Mayor of Savanna-la-Mar Bertel Moore said he is proud to have been mentored by Donaldson who, like himself, was a native of Mount Airy.

“I consider myself fortunate to have been born in Mount Airy and to have been mentored by the giant Cecil Donaldson. The fact that this tiny district managed to have produced three mayors is a testament of his mentorship programme in the community,” Moore stated.

Horace Hinds

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