The Jamaica National Heritage Trust (JNHT) recently paid tribute to four members of staff who together have served the organisation for a combined total of 81 years. Sadly, two of the tributes were posthumous as the honourees died in a matter of weeks prior to the December 10 event. In their memory, the staff had a minute’s silence.
Executive Director of the JNHT Laleta Davis-Mattis welcomed everyone to the event which took the form of a luncheon at the Knutsford Court Hotel. While acknowledging the passing of the two members of staff, she also thanked those present for their relentless efforts during 2007 to carry out the mission of the Trust. She further asked that they reflect on their individual roles as guardians of Jamaica’s Cultural Heritage as they go into the new year.
Guest speaker at the event was noted author and journalist Barbara Blake Hannah who represented Minister of Information, Culture, Youth and Sport the Hon. Olivia Babsy Grange. Mrs. Blake Hannah reminded the organisation of its importance in preserving and promoting the nation’s heritage. She noted that the general view out there is that Jamaica’s history begins just over 300 years ago. This she stated was not true as the 300 years was but a blip in our long and glorious past which began in Africa. She charged the JNHT with the task of letting Jamaicans know that their history transcends “the historical blip of the past 300 years.”
- When it was time to honour the retirees, a somber atmosphere descended on the event. The wife of Renford Clarke could not hold back the years as she listened to the tribute being paid to her husband on December 10, 2007 at the Knutsford Court Hotel. Mr. Clarke scheduled to retire on December 31, 2007 when he died in hospital. Because of his stature, he was affectionately called ‘Little Man’ by the staff and those who knew him. Assigned to Spanish Town Heritage District he always performed his task with dignity and of a high standard.Mrs. Alena Clarke proudly receives an award from the Jamaica National Heritage Trust’s (JNHT) director of Estate Management and Business Development Gavern Tate, on behalf of her husband Renford Clarke, who was posthumously honoured for his years of service to the JNHT.
- The family of the late Arthur Phillips sat upright, with quiet dignity, much like the man whom they came to represent, as they listened to the tribute paid to their father. A beloved member of the JNHT security staff, Mr. Phillips passed away on December 2, one week before the function. Mr. Phillips was described as a model worker whose vigilance, laughter, gentleman qualities and charm earned him the love and respect of all. He served the JNHT and its predecessor the Jamaica National Trust Commission for over 40 years.Lisa Phillips accepts an award on behalf of her father Arthur Phillips from Maurice Lewin, Human Resource Manager of the Jamaica National Heritage Trust (JNHT) at the organisation’s Christmas luncheon at the Knutsford Court Hotel on December 10. Mr. Phillips served the JNHT and the Jamaica Trust Commission for over 40 years and was scheduled to retire at the end of December 2007.
- Sadness aside, the afternoon drew much laughter especially when it was time to toast the effervescent Roderick Ebanks, the retiring Technical Director of Archaeology. Mr. Ebanks joined the JNHT team in 1985 but he worked with the Jamaica National Trust Commission (the predecessor of the JNHT) from as early as 1974. Known affectionately as the JNHT’s Santa Claus, he seemed to love the nickname brought on by his jocular personality, fluffy white beard and ever growing paunch. The fact that he was seen with a side order of ham when everyone knew him to be a devout Seventh Day Adventist (he was passing it to another staff member), earned him much ribbing and set off a few cameras.Mr. Ebanks was lauded for his 22 years of service during which he acted as Executive Director on more than one occasion. His distinguished service is highlighted by his restructuring of the Archaeological Division and the many programmes and projects he implemented while the Division carried out its work of unearthing, conserving and preserving Jamaica’s heritage. Among the projects Ebanks was credited for was the JNHT’s role in conducting Archaeological Impact Assessments, similar to Environmental Impact Assessments, that informs the way large developmental projects are carried out on heritage sites. He ensured that his Division made use of new and available technologies such in their work, developed and maintained a database of research on the African Jamaican community as well as organized Jamaica’s hosting for the first time, of the 22nd International Association of Caribbean Archaeology Conference in July 2007. Internationally, Roderick is known as an expert on the history of African Jamaican ceramics.In a citation to the man, the JNHT saluted Roderick Ebanks and thanked him for his long and dedicated service in archaeology and heritage preservation and for being an exemplary leader, friend, loyal employee and historian.
Roderick Ebanks accepts an award from Executive Director of the Jamaica National Heritage Trust (JNHT) Laleta Davis-Mattis at the organisation’s end of year event. Mr. Ebanks served the JNHT for 22 years and is retiring this year.
- The sole female retiree honoured on the night was Joan Seagears, who worked at the Seville Heritage Park in St. Ann as Operations Manager. Many members of staff at the JNHT could not believe that Mrs. Seagears had reached the age of retirement and were quite shocked when she left earlier this year. Mrs. Seagears was credited for her exemplary work especially in the planning and execution of the organisation’s key events such as its annual Emancipation Jubilee at the Seville site.A confident optimist, hardworking and dedicated, Joan Seagears joined the staff of the JNHT in January 1996 as Heritage Education Office at Seville Heritage Park. Her encapsulating persona, creativity, result-oriented disposition, team skills and resourcefulness later paid off as she was promoted to Operation’s Manager, a task that she performed with distinction, while ably maintaining the respect of staff, the community and key stakeholder groups in the parish of St. Ann.A citation to Mrs. Seagears thanked her for her role in enabling the Jamaica National Heritage Trust to meet its mandate of preserving, protecting, restoring, maintaining and promoting the heritage of the Jamaican people.
Several other members of staff were awarded for their role in the organisation over the past year. One that drew much applause was the award to messenger David Rodney for his consistent early arrival to work. There were also spot prizes and surprises for staff members throughout the evening.