Quite a life!
Persons have been telling me that Star Lestrade must have been quite a character, and they wanted to learn more about him. Not one for panegyrics or eulogies, I thought I would set out a brief appreciation of the life of this giant.
So what was he like? What was his character? The answer depends, of course, on the beholder – but the following snippets may help with an understanding of the man who was Star Lestrade.
His Politics He had strong political views that he aired fearlessly. He founded and led a political party -- the Peasants and Workers Movement. He contested the Federal Election in 1958 and lost to Edward Oliver Leblanc and Phyllis Shand Allfrey. He served as Mayor of Roseau for six years during which he was responsible for renaming New Street to Kennedy Avenue. This came right after the assassination of US President J.F. Kennedy.
Star was an early member and activist of the Dominica Freedom Party. He fell out badly with then Prime Minister, the late Dame. Controversially, he contested the Presidency against the late Sir Clarence Seignoret. He did this in defiance of Miss Charles. He then became associated with the Dominica Labour Party -- he was at one time Editor of the DLP newspaper, The Educator. He was also, for a few years, the Editor of the Dominica Herald, (during which time I was the paper's sports correspondent). He left the Labour Party, (he thought the late Michael Douglas was not serious about unseating Ms. Charles; and of course Roosie was a communist). He settled on the United Workers Party.
People remember Star as a fiery, passionate speaker on the political platform and many looked forward to hearing his fiery oratory.
Star was a Roman Catholic for most of his life. An avid reader, he spent a lot of time reading books, including the Bible. You got the impression that he thought there was no more correct interpreter of the Good Book. (Under his influence I became an acolyte at the St Alphonsus Church.) He quit the Catholic Church but being Star, he did not leave quietly -- he left in a blaze of newspaper articles criticizing the church. Essentially, I seem to recall, he was convinced that the Church was not adhering strictly enough to the word of the Lord.
Cricket was one of Star's passions. Not only did he stroke his way to 93, but he was also a bowler, with a best performance of 7 for 64 at the Botanic Gardens, playing for Notre Dame in the first division cricket league. He was at one time President of the Dominica Amateur Sports Association as well as a cricket commentator. (People remember him saying, on commentary: "that ball crept like a zandolie".) Cricket was an important bond between us –- we would always discuss cricket, (politics and religion were taboo). Wherever I was in the world, we would talk at the end of a West Indies match. Needless to say he also had strong views on West Indies cricket.
Star Lestrade was responsible for laying down the first cricket wicket at the Windsor Park. He took credit for the excellent drainage that still characterises the ground.
Star played cricket with his sons in our garage -- I thought my late brother, Worton, to be a natural leg-spinner and thought he would one day graduate to playing for the island.
Star had a strong sense of civic responsibility. His record of voluntary service attests to that. He co-founded the Dominica Association for Mental Health and the Visiting Justices Committee of the Princess Margaret Hospital and Her Majesty's Prisons. However his biggest national contribution was to the credit union movement. He was co-founder both of the Dominica Credit Union League and the Roseau Cooperative Credit Union. It was in his Prefect motor car that he drove Sister Alicia all over the island in their crusade to spread the credit union ethic and establish credit unions in the rural areas.
He was the first President of the St. Alphonsus Credit Union and was Dominica's delegate to various regional and international conferences.
Not a man for half-measures, he carried out his voluntary service with wonted energy and passion.
Military-man that he was, as a father, Star was strict, but respectful of the wishes and independent minds of his children. He did not try to impose his wishes. Like fathers of his era he did not "spare the rod". In the weeks before my various exams while I attended the St Mary's Academy, his friends told Star I should be home studying rather than "wasting time" at Lindo Park. Star told them to "leave the boy alone". A stickler for "proper English", he would often call DBS to correct their abuse of the language -- something that the radio announcers did not always appreciate.
When I won the Island Scholarship his friends descended on him: "Make the boy do law". I had already decided on economics, (in part because of the kinds of political and economic discussions that I was overhearing at home), and he respected my decision. He was hoping I would study in Canada because he considered UWI to be "a calypso university".
Not that he did not like calypso -- I grew up on the Mighty Sparrow, in addition to various jazz artists. He would send me Julie mangoes (from the tree in our backyard), while I was in Jamaica. He was chagrined when two mangoes that he had sent with a travelling friend did not make it past Jamaica Customs. By the way, Star handed me my first drink of whisky, (at least my first "official" drink) on my 15th birthday.
I remember vividly how impressed I was at Star's sheer physical strength as we worked on the roof of our house, stitching back bits of zinc sheeting the day after Hurricane David, a day that must have been the hottest day of the year. There he was working untiringly, his vitiligo patches literally blistering under the might of the scorching sun.
Star lost his wife, Dorothy, in 2000. That was a severe blow to him -- as it was to all the family. Dorothy was the glue that held the family together.
In his later years, he felt under-appreciated for his various contributions to the country. Annual independence celebrations brought no joy to him, having never been the recipient of a national award. When I informed him I was being considered for a national award, he promptly shot back at me, vicariously no doubt: "accept nothing short of a knighthood"! (I promptly switched the subject to cricket.)
So what was he like? Star was brave, fearless, passionate, colourful, combative, feisty even. He was a man of strong feelings; a very religious man, and a man who would exercise initiative. In many ways, he was a man much to be admired. Few would believe that he was "self-educated", not having attended secondary school. He went on to become an accountant. He did not suffer fools gladly. He would have nothing to do with persons he considered rude, insolent or disrespectful. In his heyday no one could remain for long in any doubt as to how he felt about certain persons, where he stood on the issues that were important to him: politics, religion and cricket. He was Brother Star to his prayer buddies.
"Our friend Star was a particular blessing to us as part of the Full Gospel Businessmen's Fellowship in Dominica in the 80's. He was a fearless and deeply committed son-of-the –soil and he will be missed". (Michael White)
Winston Churchill may have had Star in mind when he said: "I am ready to meet my Maker. Whether my Maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter."
Aspects of Star's life deserve to be documented and I have started working on a biographical memoir of Star Lestrade for publication in book format; for indeed he was quite a character. And his was Quite a Life!
Swinburne 31st March 2013