On the Passing of Winston Saunders

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone.
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He is Dead,
Put crépe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song,
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now, put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

W. H. Auden


Winston V. Saunders
3 October 1941 – 25 November 2006

Winston Saunders was born 3 October 1941 to Harcourt and Miriam Saunders. He attended Quarry Mission School under the late Thelma Gibson, Western Junior School under the late Timothy Gibson, and studied piano under the late Meta Davis-Cumberbatch. He won a place at the Government High School, and attended under Dr. Dean Peggs and Mr. Hugh Davies, where he served as Head Boy. As a musician, he was Organist at the Church of the Holy Spirit and at St. Mary the Virgin Anglican Church.

He attended the Bahamas Teacher’s Training College in Oakes Field under the Rev. Dr. Charles Saunders, and in 1964 obtained a B.A. Degree from London University in Classics. He returned to Nassau, and taught English at St. Anne’s High School from 1964 until 1968.

He married the former Gail North on April 15, 1968, and returned to London that autumn to pursue a Postgraduate Certificate in Education at London University.

Mr. Saunders returned to Nassau to take up the post of Vice Principal at R. M. Bailey, a position he held from 1969 till 1970. He joined the Chambers of Isaacs, Johnson and Co. in 1970 as an Articled Law Student to Ms. Jeanne Thompson, and was called to the Bahamas Bar on September 19, 1974. He became a partner in the law firm of McKinney, Bancroft and Hughes, and worked as a lecturer in Law at the University of the West Indies (Nassau Campus). Between 1993-2000 he served Her Majesty’s Coronor.

In 1975, Mr. Saunders took up the position of Chairman of the Dundas Civic Centre, and served as Chairman until 1998. During his tenure as Chairman of the Dundas, Bahamian drama thrived. He oversaw the renovations of the theatre, established a repertory season, and under his guidance an entire generation of directors, actors and playwrights was raised. A consummate actor and playwright himself, he is best known for originating such roles as “Pa Ben”, in Trevor Rhone’s Old Story Time and “Maphusa” in Ian Strachan’s The Mysterious Mister Maphusa. He also played “Zachariah” in Athol Fugard’s The Blood Knot, “Peter” in Edward Albee’s The Zoo Story, “Midge” in Herb Gardner’s I’m Not Rappaport and “Charlie” in Larry Shue’s The Foreigner — all on the Dundas stage. As a director, he brought productions such as Shaffer’s Equus and Baldwin’s Amen Corner to Bahamian audiences. He co-directed E. Clement Bethel’s Sammie Swain with Philip A. Burrows in 1983 and in 1985 for the Command Performance for H. M. Queen Elizabeth II, and in 1987, co-directed the first Caribbean opera in English, Cleophas Adderley’s Our Boys with Philip A. Burrows; in 1989 and 1990 he produced Dis We Tings I and II.

It is as a playwright, however, that Mr. Saunders’ greatest achievement was gained. He is the author of two seminal Bahamian dramas, Them and You Can Lead A Horse To Water, as well as a series of satirical commentaries on Bahamian life, the Nehemiah Quartet. You Can Lead A Horse To Water is widely recognized as the greatest Bahamian play, and has been produced in Nassau, Freeport, San Francisco, Edinburgh, Michigan, and Trinidad and Tobago.

He is a recipient of a number of awards, including several DANSAs for playwriting, the Meta, a special DANSA for Excellence in Theatre, the Chamber of Commerce Distinguished Citizen Award for contribution to Culture, the Silver Jubilee Award for Culture given by the Government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas in 1998.

Until his death on November 25, 2006, he served as the Chairman of the National Commission on Cultural Development and chaired the Independence Committee since 2003. In 2004, he was made a Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George (CMG). Most recently, his work was the featured presentation of the Bahamas CARIFESTA Contingent in Trinidad and Tobago.

Original Post:

Some things you just can’t write about straight away. Some things are too raw for writing, or at least for sharing.The death of my second father, Winston Vernon Saunders, on Saturday evening, is one of those things. It would be bad enough if we just had the personal connection with which I’ve grown up; but in the last four years, he has been my mentor and my balance, especially in the job of Director of Culture. People who know me personally will understand.

So for people wondering where my post on Winston Saunders’ passing is, it has yet to be written. In the meantime, here are the words of W. H. Auden.

One thought on “On the Passing of Winston Saunders

  1. WHAT A TRAGIC LOSS ,FOR OUR YOUNG COUNTRY ,WHICH DESPARATELEY NEEDS THE LEADERSHIP OF PEOPLE ,LIKE MR.SAUNDERS .GAIL,MY DEEPEST SYMPATHY .

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