My first memory of Herman Liburd was in Form 2 at the Charlestown Secondary School. He had just graduated from the St Kitts-Nevis Grammar School and seemed somewhat shy, but even then you detected the steel in his personality if he disagreed with you.
The second memory comes from a cricket match at the Brown Hill Cricket Ground in the area of the Health Centre. I swept him for six (6). Not being much of a cricketer myself, I vividly remember (recall) the occasion. I could never get Bobby to admit it happened.
The final incident in those early days happened around 1979. He had just begun his law practice and in those days the relationship with St Kitts was dangerously charged with feelings of neglect and anger. Lee Moore was speaking at a public meeting in front of Stanley Henville’s shop. It was a Saturday morning, so it attracted a young crowd of pro-Nevis onlookers. Bobby strolled from his law office nearby. When he was adjacent to Lee Moore, he deliberately and dramatically gestured towards Basseterre. That was the end of a coherent Lee Moore. The meeting was a disaster after that.
Bobby was unassuming and underestimated. He had a powerful pen and an easy way with the language. From Canada and at home, he published a series of impactful articles in support of the cause for Nevis. On his return home, he became an active member of the Nevis Reformation Party (NRP).
He sought no position for himself. His ambition was to the Nevis cause for a better Nevis and his vehicle was the NRP. He supported Daniel, Stevens and Swanston without reservation; without compromising his integrity of thought and action. He was in the vanguard of the 1980 campaign, a campaign which, if the Labour Party had won, the history of Nevis would have been totally different. But NRP won and with the People’s Action Movement, formed the first coalition government in St Kitts-Nevis. He became the first Nevisian to sit in the Speaker’s chair in Basseterre, and the battle with Lee Moore continued. At one meeting of the House of Assembly, he dared to order Lee Moore to take his seat. Lee exploded, “Imagine this Nevis man come telling me to sit down in the St Kitts House!” I am not certain if they ever made peace but I am certain that these two intellectual heavy-weights had a (maintained) a healthy respect for each other.
Bobby stepped down from the Speaker’s chair in 1983 to become Legal Advisor in the first Nevis government that same year. Through all the highs and lows of the Party, he stood firm. In 1992, he became a nominated member of the Nevis House and subsequently stepped down to allow Hensley Daniel the opportunity to be exposed at that level.
He accepted the chairmanship of the party in 1992 and served loyally and with distinction until late last year when he offered his resignation at the NRP convention.
During those years I served as party president, Bobby was a tower of strength to me. All major decisions I made were discussed with him. It was he who advised me to expose Patrice Nisbett by appointing him to the position of Legal Advisor in 2006. It was he who said to me, “Be clear and simple” on the matter of secession in 1998. For him, secession was not about political opportunities. It was a tough call for us all, but, through long and exhaustive discussions, we realized the precipice that yawned in the face of the wrong decision.
Time has proven us right if we dare examine the state of affairs on Nevis today and the dangerous dependency of grants from St Kitts and the indecency of Nevis Ministers abandoning their posts in Nevis in the quest for an office at the Federal level.
A few weeks ago, a Nevisian on holiday in the United Kingdom marveled at the utter confusion that pervades that country (the United Kingdom) today. He coached his comments in these terms. “Nevis would have been in a far more dire position than the Brexit debacle if the 1998 referendum had succeeded.” If I may quote Uhral Swanston, “Our last position would have been worse than the first.”
Bobby raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for each campaign. He begged and harassed everyone to contribute to his beloved NRP. He became a platform speaker and a very good one too. He made house visits. He travelled overseas. He provided a headquarters. He made every sacrifice that was humanly possible. Yet he sought no favours for himself.
He loved sport. He played cricket and, in fact succeeded me as president of the Nevis Cricket Association when the political powers in St Kitts demanded that I surrender the office in 1979. He presided over the first first-class match to be played at the Elquemedo Willet Park.
He was a pretty good tennis player and enjoyed a good laugh in our lighter moments.
Some refer to Bobby as a carpenter. He was no carpenter. Every carving was consumed with artistry. He made his own furniture and would have been regarded in the company of Hunkins and his father if he had pursued that calling.
Bobby was not a man of emotion but I remember when we eulogized Birlyn Clarke in the Nevis House of Assembly, he broke down and openly sobbed when his turn came to speak.
This last year he worried about Nevis, the seeming loss of respect for the Nevis Island Administration and the gains which the men and women of NRP and Nevisians fought and sacrificed family and friends for. Maybe he knew the end was approaching. He said to me, one day in his office, that he had lived long and he may not have much more time left. It was a chilling statement. I tried to speak of the future. But I never could escape that sense of finality.
In his unassuming way, he was a statesman, an activist for his country and party, a helping and unifying force among us. Tolerant to a fault, rarely did a harsh word escape his lips. He loved family, his siblings, his cousins near and not so near. He loved his daughter Krysta. He did not say much but I knew.
He was so proud of her academic achievements at Law School, yet he managed to speak of it with a remarkable humble manner which was typically Bobby.
Words cannot express the great debt I owe him, his loyal support and his kindness.
It is my wish that Nevis and Nevisians would understand his greatness; the high standards of excellence he aspired to and attained.
Bobby dared to soar in that rarefied air where only eagles fly.
May the good lord embrace you brother.
Fondly remembered by:
Hon. Joseph W Parry
Member of Parliament – NIA