Musgrave: a West Indian Stalwart
By CARL WINT
Thursday author and radio commentator Peter
Abrahams in a Musgrave Medals presentation
ceremony at the Institute of Jamaica's
Lecture Theatre, East Street, Kingston, called for a
renaming of the names of the medal. Himself a gold-medal awardee for his work in literature and
journalism, Mr. Abrahams argued that, with the Institute of Jamaica being a focal point for the. promotion and preservation of culture, its highest award ought not to be named after someone who
represented colonialism and its attendant negative features.
are curious words indeed coming from
an awardee, no less. This is the same
Abrahams who readily admits in the same acceptance speech 'that Sir Anthony Musgrave, the
19th-century Governor of Jamaica, after whom the medals are named, was deserving of praise, and
that his memory should be held in high esteem because of his significant accomplishments in social life and culture, including his founding of the Institute of Jamaica in 1879.'
to the report carried in this newspaper
last Friday the Institute's chairman, Sonia
promised that the organisation would give due consideration to the recommendation. It is to be
hoped that she was merely being polite. Let the name of the medals remain Musgrave.
Anthony Musgrave is first of all a West
Indian, having been born in Antigua in
1828, the third son
of Dr. Anthony Musgrave. At the age of 22, in 1850 young Musgrave became Private Secretary to the Governor of the Leeward Islands, leaving a year later to study law in England.
studies were interrupted as he had to
return to Antigua on the death of his
father. In the wake
of that loss he acted as Treasurer Accountant for about year, resuming his law studies in England in
1853. While studying, he applied to become Colonial Secretary of Antigua. In 1860 he was
appointed Administrator of Nevis, and two years later was made Lieutenant Governor of St. Vincent.
successful was he at resolving, some of
the seemingly intractable problems of that
island that he
was promoted and assigned by the British Colonial Office to Newfoundland. Subsequently he
became Governor of British Colombia. Musgrave became a partial cripple, and was to endure much
pain in the years ahead, but that did riot prevent him being assigned to South Australia. It was a
short stint, because he was quickly appointed Governor of Jamaica in 1877.
relevant Handbooks of Jamaica note that
during his six years as Governor he
worked 'tirelessly and with great sincerity
for the improvement of Jamaica, particularly in the fields of the Arts and
Education.' He was instrumental in
establishing the electric telegraph, coastal
purchase and expansion of the Jamaica Railway Company, re-organisation of the island's
Botanical Department, providing for and preserving the island's records, establishing the Jamaica
Scholarship and of course establishing the Institute of Jamaica. Failing health caused him to give up
his responsibilities despite petitions to the Secretary of State to prolong his administration.
1889 the Rev. John Radcliffe, a member
of the Institute's Board, proposed the
establishment of the
Musgrave Medal, 'as a lasting tribute and memorial' to Sir Anthony Musgrave.
it or not, colonialism, like slavery, was
a fact of life in this country. It
has touched all our lives, and
affected us in one way or another. Anthony Musgrave was a part of the colonial milieu, but from what
we know, he was an enlightened player.
Institute of Jamaica which he founded has
impacted on the lives of Jamaicans,
Jamaicans, in a positive manner, and the Institute continues to provide a cultural resonance in this
country which is not duplicated anywhere else.
do not need to change for the sake
of change. It would be shortsighted and
wrong to visit on the
long-departed Anthony Musgrave the baser aspects of colonialism. The Musgrave Medals are highly
regarded in this country, because they are not scattered about like rice at a wedding or confetti at a
ticker tape parade
Mr. Abrahams had a problem with the
name Musgrave he should have refused the medal. That he did not indicates that
he has no strong feeling on the
matter. It was unfortunate therefore that he should
have sought to initiate a name change. The board should not countenance such a suggestion. Let the
Musgrave Medals continue to carry the prestige they have been carrying all these years. We cannot escape our history, and there is no need for us to apologise for it.
Carl Wint is an associate editor of The Gleaner.
probably William Morrison's least favourite person, as described in this section
of Guy's biographical essay.