Frank Baron's hand in sports development
Much is reflected in respect of the legislative and civic achievements of the late Franklyn Andrew Merrifield Baron. However, it is not generally remembered that he played a useful role in Dominica's sporting development. He is known as our first Chief Minister, businessman, statesman and newspaper icon, and the list goes on and on. However, we hear nobody pointing to him as having served as vice-president of the Dominica Amateur Sports Association during a formative period stretching into the sixties. The DASA was the first modern sports entity providing an umbrella organization for cricket, football, netball, basketball and athletics. In essence, it served as forerunner to the myriad sports associations and can be mirrored as prototype of a kind for the Dominica Olympic Committee. Quite an open individual in the manner of his discourse, he laughingly mentioned he had been more discreet in trying his luck at politics in Roseau after losing in a landslide to Robert B. Douglas at Portsmouth where he was born and owned property.
Frank Baron's involvement with sports coincided with the administrative tenure of others like Bernard "Bunty" Royer, his brother Ferdie Royer, John Osborne, Newton Shillingford, Sparrow Winston and others in the commercial field who thought it incumbent upon them to lend interest to sports activities. Then, too, there was Cuthbert McIntyre, the football legend whose sister Baron eventually married. Cuthbert was an executive in the firm of AC. Shillinford and Co of which Newton Shillingford was the managing director. And, of course, Newton's son, Ivan, became famous as Dominica cricket captain, who for his exploits was rewarded signally by his dad with a motorcycle bestowed upon him, and later a motorcar, for achievements as a batsman in the Windward Islands tournament. Those were times when such means of transportation was rare in these parts!
It is important to consider that playing facilities in Roseau had owed very much at the turn of the previous century to the foresight of L. Rose & Co who donated land for the Botanic Gardens and later for Windsor Park. Significantly enshrined in the relevant legal document for the Gardens is a stipulation requiring that the north-eastern corner of that facility remains as a cricket field. A bearing of this nature made it prudent that the top officer of Rose & Co and also a leading bank manager would be on the executive committee of DASA. Not the least of their concerns hinged on providing financial support to send Dominica teams to compete overseas.
The context of the times was the absence of air transportation in the region. Actually, there was no road from Roseau to Portsmouth and the connection was by motor launch. In this regard it was not difficult to see why Ferdie Royer ceased upon the excellent idea to engage in boat charters for his excursions to the French islands. He could charge a fee of twenty dollars per person for the round trip spanning the weekend. The major attraction would be the Dominica football team playing against Martinique or Guadeloupe. The team received complimentary transportation and their hosts furnished accommodation and meals. This sort of arrangement enabled French teams to visit Dominica regulary and that was before Dominica was included in the Windward Islands football tournament. Coloring the scene was the special relationship of Dominica having been a haven for thousands of French citizens fleeing from Martinique and Guadeloupe during the Second World War, threatened by Nazi repression.
These serve to establish much of the profile of the sporting landscape in which Frank Baron found himself as part of the leadership of the DASA. When, indeed, he became Dominica's first Chief Minister the whole of Goodwill was an agricultural estate owned by the Potter family for the growing of cane for their rum distillery located where now stands the AID Bank and the government Land Planning Division. The estate stretched from the Roseau River right down to Fond Cole, up to St. Aroment and where the Stockfarm, Gutter Housing Development etc, now are.
Baron's government acquired Goodwill Estate for what reputedly was three hundred thousand dollars ($300,000). On it has developed hundreds of residential properties, Princess Margaret Hospital, Goodwill School, Public Works Department Garage Complex, StockFarm Housing Scheme, the Dominica State College, as well as Tarrish Pit and Yam Piece Housing areas.
Lindo Park has been incidental to that upsurge of development in the 1950's. The site was a bit of a hollow and the government was prevailed upon to use it as a landfill and eventually deployed as a playing-field under persuasion of Hubert Joseph with the Dominica Central Housing and Planning Authority. The triangular shape of the park is evidence of its fringe adoption on a secondary basis.
Times have changed, sometimes for the better, or for the worse. The complexities of the social civic situation called often for a resort to contrivances for the common good. There was a period when the Public Works Department had on hand in its storerooms a fair measure of construction materials labeled under the heading of "unallocated stores". Very well then! Quantities of these stores were commandeered into use to furnish the construction of temporary spectator stands etc for matches of the Windward Islands Cricket Tournaments at Botanic Gardens. Every effort was made to avoid cutting the material, which very cogently was returned uneventfully into the "unallocated sores" columns! The overarching sporting ardor of all concerned, including Frank Baron, saved the day for sports.
Pragmatism was very much the order of the day, and when Frank Baron's brother-in-law, Dr Desmond McIntyre, took the reins of DASA intandem with Waddy Astaphan it was not surprising that upscale efforts ensued to continue the initiatives of the Roseau City Council to erect a wall around the Old Windsor Park. This was eventually achieved but the distinct awareness was a profile in which much was attained via a complicity geared to make things happen for the common good. Frank Baron was for long a pivot in that respect. Let us offer the fullest condolences of the sporting community of Dominica to his wife Sybile, his children and grand children for his service to sports – one in which he lent his influence, for instance, in helping to make possible an exhibition given here by Sir Everton Weekes and the visit of Sir Frank Worrell who he knew personally. Franklyn Andrew Merrifield Baron departed this life at the age of 93. May his memory live on.