A final farewell to Brian “Ras Ipic” McDonald

Sportscaster Brian McDonald, 43, was laid to rest following a funeral service on Friday afternoon at a familiar place, the Beausejour Cricket Ground, where he covered not only cricket but football as part of the Blackheart Productions Management Team. Although Brian is no longer with us, having passed away January 17 in Soufriere, those who loved and respected him, from government officials down to the common man, left us with memories to last a lifetime at Monday’s Remembrance Ceremony at the National Cultural Centre.

Saying goodbye to someone loved and cherished, like he was, is never easy. However, the fond memories and tributes – and there were many – from friends, officials and family made it easier to bear. Brian was portrayed time and time again as a respected, dedicated and jovial sports journalist with a wicked sense of humour. His popularity spanned the length and breadth of Saint Lucia, to places I’ve never heard of. That’s just the tip of the iceberg for, as one speaker said, “He touched the lives of many, many people around the world.”

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Some of Brian’s sports colleagues including David “Shakes” Christopher (at podium) paid tribute at the National Cultural Centre on Monday.

His colleague at Radio St Lucia (RSL), Keisha St Helen, who, along with Shane Ross, chaired the proceedings, fittingly renamed the Remembrance Ceremony “A Memorial Celebration” and that’s exactly what it was from start to finish. It was standing room only at the National Cultural Centre. Among the attendees were family members, Minister of Youth Development and Sports, Shawn Edward; Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Dr James Fletcher; Leader of the Opposition, Gale Rigobert; Board of Directors Management and Staff of RSL 97; Members of the Iyanola Council for the Advancement of Rastafari, of Youth and Sports Groups, Blackheart Productions, and the St Lucia Amateur Boxing Association where Brian had served as Second Vice President, and the media.

Chairman of RSL, Joseph Maxwell, said: “Brian was a sportscaster par excellence. He gave his life to sports and, of course, he got involved in the Reggae Vibes programme. The life change came about when he spent some time studying in Jamaica. He came back with those locks that he promised his mother he would cut off the next week. Of course, he did not cut them off until his death.”

On Monday at RSL, the day after Brian died, Maxwell described how: “Staff were gathered around talking about the life of Brian. Tears were coming from big men who you would think would be solid in their boots.” Speaking on behalf of the RC Boys’ class of 1984, St Mary’s College class of 1989 and Sir Arthur Lewis Community College of 1991, lifelong friend and former classmate Irvine Springer shed some light on Brian’s early life. Springer recalled that from day one Brian had wanted to be a sports commentator.

He revealed that during reading sessions at school, Brian was cautioned many times by his teacher “to stop reading like you’re reading the sports news.” Springer shared that his chum would constantly mimic well-known cricket commentator Joseph “Reds” Perreria and would read a simple paragraph as if it was the sports news. Keba Taliam of RSL admired Brian’s worth ethic, dedication and commitment to doing things right without any fanfare.

Government officials including Opposition Leader Gale Rigobert, Sports Minister Shawn Edwards and Senator James Fletcher were among the guests at Monday’s tribute.

Government officials including Opposition Leader Gale Rigobert, Sports Minister Shawn Edwards and Senator James Fletcher were among the guests at Monday’s tribute.

“As a work colleague Brian can best be described as an unassuming giant,” said Taliam. “A man who was secure enough in himself, to be content with remaining on the periphery of the spotlight when many seek to bask in it, while expending every effort towards performing at his best.” Chairman of the Iyanola Council for the Advancement of Rastafari, Henry Pierre, after expressing the council’s combined sympathy to Brian’s family, said: “As most Saint Lucians know, Brian hosted the Reggae Vibes programme which was popular all around Saint Lucia. During the programme he was extremely helpful in assisting the council with the publicity of most of our major activities and events and for that we will be forever thankful.”

President of the Media Association of St Lucia, Clinton Reynolds, described Brian as being many things to many people. Clinton recalled the good old days he had at RSL with Brian and said: “He became a pillar of strength at Radio St Lucia for some 25 years.” He continued: “Brian was smart; he was funny, astute and friendly but extremely shy. His thoughts were behind the microphone and once he was there he was at home and in full command.” A man for all seasons is how Minister Fletcher characterised Brian. “When you hear of the history of Radio St Lucia, there are some names that come to mind like Barbara Jacobs Small, Margaret Robert Steel, Andrew Vaughn Noel, but the name Brian McDonald, I think, is as indelibly etched in the walls of Radio St Lucia as any one of the before mentioned.”

Minister Fletcher paid Brian the supreme compliment saying: “Brian really epitomised excellence. He belonged to an era that unfortunately is dying; that era of radio when people understood the importance of radio; the importance of describing a story to people so that those who could not see would be able to picture what was taking place. It didn’t matter if he was talking about a sporting event or calypso show.” Minister Fletcher, who is a reggae fan, had expressed a desire to join Brian on the popular Reggae Vibes and regrets never following up on it.

Secretary General of the St Lucia Olympic Committee Inc (SLOC Inc), Alfred Emmanuel, spoke of Brian being manager of several boxing delegations competing overseas. He mentioned that at the time of his passing, Brian was in discussion with SLOC Inc preparing for an Olympic qualifier in Argentina. Following a tearful rendition of “Gone too Soon” by Linda “Chocolate” Berthia, President of the St Lucia Amateur Boxing Association and Blackheart Productions CEO, David “Shakes” Christopher, appeared at the podium. Christopher is a close friend and business associate who is normally never lost for words. Following a brief opening statement he told the audience: “After so many things have been said this evening, I am going to change my own presentation: freestyle.” With that in mind, Christopher called on stage, friends and associates who were in Soufriere the weekend that Brian passed. They related the final moments spent with their beloved comrade.

Minister Edward related that Brian was a constant visitor to his constituency, not always work-related, and was particularly interested in having roads repaired in certain parts of Mabouya Valley. “One thing about Brian is that he really was the voice of the marginalized,” said Edward. “I am not a media expert but I know lots of clubs and sports councils that don’t have very good PR programmes relied on Brian to get their stories out.” It is noted that Brian was well-known everywhere in Saint Lucia and often declared he had a visa to go anywhere there. The minister accentuated that even more, explaining that on television you can associate a voice with a face but not when it comes to radio.”

“Brian was the exception,” said Edward. “He was known in Vieux Fort, Mon Repos, the Mabouya Valley, Roseau, Choiseul etc. Just name it, people were able to identify with Brian McDonald.” The final speaker, Earl Bousquet, who is a cousin of the deceased, spoke of Brian’s family in glowing terms. He expressed his sadness that the family had to endure yet another loss with the passing of Brian’s mother, father, brother and sister all in a recent short period of time.

On behalf of the family Bousquet thanked everyone for their presence and asked them to “Share the fond memories of Brian with the hope that his legacy is one that will encourage us in the media to continue where he left off.” With that the proceedings came to a close. However, in memory of the late Brian “Ras Ipic” McDonald it’s ‘game, set and match’ – a familiar phrase used several times by Brian to end his sportscast.

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