Margot Thomas: Igniting Patriotism

Margot Thomas signs a book for one of the women highlighted, the first female superintendent of prisons, Marjorie Grell.

Margot Thomas signs a book for one of the women highlighted, the first female superintendent of prisons, Marjorie Grell.

The launch of two publications by national archivist Margot Thomas, was originally slated to be held in February as part of the island’s thirty-fourth Independence anniversary celebrations.

However, taking place on Thursday March 7, the eve of International women’s day could not be more apt for the obvious. One of the books is called “Pioneers & Forerunners-Saint Lucia’s First Ladies” put together by Thomas, herself a pioneer as the first national archivist and now maybe the first female to launch two books here simultaneously. The event was held at Government House and attracted well known and influential figures in the society, among them the Minister for Education Robert Lewis and some of the leading ladies featured in the book. Their presence reflected a diverse society and included the first female director of music for Schools Joyce Auguste, the first female assistant superintendent of prisons Marjorie Grell, the first visually impaired University Graduate Jessica Jacobie and of course the island’s first female Governor General Dame Pearlette Louisy among many others.

During her remarks Margot Thomas started by pondering on the often discussed topic of national pride reflecting on how a few days before some occasions “visible” national signs pop up. She went on to add; “but just as easily vanishes when the event is over or is just as easily forgotten when the last strains of the national anthem have been heard and the flags reappear on the mini bus and the taxi and the other vehicles when the third week in February returns. “

And I ask myself, how do we develop and sustain a patriotism that expresses itself with a spontaneity that springs from a deep pride in ourselves and not from some external cause or triggers?” She then put this question to her audience: “What are the fundamental values peculiar to us as Saint Lucians? Is there something some quality in us that truly binds our heads and our hearts and ties us to each other the well-heeled and those not, the ordinary man to this land?”

According to Margot Thomas, the book “Pioneers and Forerunners-Saint Lucia’s First Ladies” offers a glimpse of some the women who displayed true patriotism and to Saint Lucia.

“You could find in pages of this little volume, vignettes of those women that grace its pages that truly captures and expresses their great an abiding love, dedication and devotion to this island,” she stated. She then read some excerpts from the book describing women who displayed selflessness and love for this land. According to Margot Thomas the individuals featured in the book are those who could be identified with completely. “Pride wells up in our hearts because they are ours. Thus we are inspired and encouraged to be more than we thought we could ever be,” she expressed.

“Pioneers & Forerunners,” she says contains just an outline of these great women allowing for more in depth biographies by the writer, authors and historians among us. The second book “Paintings and Profiles-National Portrait Gallery of Saint Lucia” stems from the 2010 launch of the National Portraits Gallery at the Saint Lucia National Archives at Vigie. The book features a number of paintings by renowned Saint Lucian artiste Cedric George (and others) and features the island’s Nobel Laureates, cultural activists, priests, diplomats, Government officials and politicians.

“It is important that our history be recorded on different media,” Thomas says adding that many of the subjects played or our now playing their destined roles on the Saint Lucian or on the world stage within our lifetime. But for the generations to come the pictorial record will be of great importance.” In offering her congratulatory remarks Governor General Dame Pearlette Louisy said that she wanted to commend the national archives authority and in particular Margot as its head for the work they have been doing over the years. According to her, it was often a little joke at meetings ahead of Nobel Laureate week as to what Margot Thomas would come up with next. “And she does come up with some very interesting and creative ideas,” the GG stated going on to add that even for the book, “Margot has come up with a few categories of a few first ladies that I hadn’t thought of.”

“When you buy the book you will be amazed by the categories of first that she has identified and I am told this is just volume one. So if you are not in this volume don’t despair, there must be a first of something that you have done and you may find yourself in volume two,” she said with a wide smile. “To the Calypsonian who asked where are they now, to answer that question you could buy a copy of Pioneers & Forerunners for the ladies and for the more unisex “Paintings and Profiles,” she ended by saying. Also speaking on Thursday was Madam Suzie d’Auvergne (who is also featured in the book). She too offered compliments to Thomas and the National Archives. “But we must not forget whether Margot wanted to write, if she did not have the money, no books. And also the National Commission for UNESCO in particular the secretary general Ms Marcia Symphorien.

So with Margot’s thoughts and pen in hand and with the cash from UNESCO we now have the two books,” she added. The first female judge of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court then went on to say that Thomas had taken the initiative and we must congratulate her for that. “She started with the ladies, now you men you need not be jealous because she is coming with first gentlemen so if you are just a man you will have to become gentle,” she said drawing laughter from the audience. Cedric George, the painter featured in “Paintings and Profiles” said that he has been touched by the work Margot has been doing at the National Archives.

“We are here today to celebrate our heroes in their various fields of endeavour which before now was a private domain. But I would like to ask you is this private domain profitable? History must be the public domain and what Margot has done here she has brought this information to the public domain,” he stated. Thursday’s book launch which was chaired by Dawn French featured remarks by the UNESCO Secretary General, the presentation of books to officials as well as the sale of the publications (which were printed by the STAR) which were autographed by Thomas.

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