R.I.P. Lesroy Merchant

ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Tributes flooded the newsroom late Wednesday and yesterday following the news that educator Lesroy Merchant passed away Wednesday evening.

His co-workers, family and friends remembered him for the passion and dedication he had for every task he set out to do.

Merchant, who entered the civil service at age 19, died at age 67 at Mount St John’s Medical Centre two days ago, just hours after he complained to a friend about feeling ill.

At the time of his death, he was chairman of the board tasked with revamping the Antigua & Barbuda Institute of Continuing Education (ABICE) and training officer for the Antigua & Barbuda Electoral Commission (ABEC). He was a calypso writer and also a farmer.


Personal note: Earnest, that’s the word I think of when I think of Mr. Merchant, brief and intermittent though our interactions may have been. We didn’t have a personal relationship. I was a reporter. He was more than once, part of the story; and one of the few seemingly unafraid to truly talk it as he saw it… as in this diagnosis on the calypso art form from an interview on the BBC with Jamion Knight:

“Nobody used to be harder on the politician than the calypsonian…They show them as people who are greedy and corrupt; but the very calypsonians now are acting in just the same manner as the politicians.”

Of course, speech isn’t always free and there was sometimes a price to be paid. The only time I’ve personally witnessed students taking to the streets to protest the transfer (effectively the attempted silencing) of a principal was when Merchant was moved (unfairly, they thought) from Clare Hall Secondary sometime in the 1990s (the exact date escapes me). There was a spark in him that inspired that kind of passion and loyalty. I daresay he’s gone but for the lives he’s touched and the people he’s inspired, he will not soon be forgotten.

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