Saint Lucia has lost another irreplaceable gem, even though the majority of us still alive never knew him. I speak of the former education minister in the time of Sir John Compton’s political prime, Hunter J. Francois. He was a multi-talented individual, loved classical music, poetry, enjoyed reading, and was always ballsy . . . one of the few ministers in John Compton’s Cabinet who dared to disagree with the PM on any matter.
We were hardly on speaking terms (who remembers why?) when he wrote Morning, a lengthy but flattering review of my first published book It’ll Be Alright in the Morning. I remember in particular the line, so typically Hunter J: “Considering today’s hemlines, he writes well.” While others were afraid to speak out loud about a book highly critical of the day’s Compton administration, Hunter, who was never one to (as we say on this Rock of Sages) “speak with water in his mouth,” boldly endorsed It’ll Be Alright in the Morning. His personal opinions of Compton policy, even when he was a Cabinet colleague, were always straight up, oftentimes quite caustic. He once publicly described the prime minister as “a pathological liar!”
His deliveries in parliament were erudite, poetic and vicious—sometimes at the same time. He loved to point out errors in the House record. His tolerance for words misused or misspelled was nonexistent. Alas, Hunter J. Francois was never cut out for post-sixties Saint Lucian politics. He refused to pay for votes. Somewhat naively, he depended on the policies he espoused to get him elected. Years before he removed himself from the political scene he denounced our parliamentary system as counterproductive. He seldom participated in the activity known as house-to-house campaigning. His political career, after he quit the United Workers Party in favor of the Allan Louisy-George Odlum-Peter Josie Labour Party, nose-dived. Little was heard of him after 1982.
He was a member of the Rat Island Foundation Committee. His passing should remind those of us who knew Hunter J. Francois well, that our own day will come and we should not allow ourselves to depart without leaving behind a record of how we fought to make our small world a better place. Hunter certainly went out of his way to make Saint Lucians think for ourselves; to value education; self respect. Oh, I almost forgot to mention that Hunter was no stick-in-the-mud bore. He lived life to the fullest. As should all of us!—Rick Wayne