We have lost another stalwart. Bessie Carrington was not a household name, not one in the public space, and the public would probably not have been interested. She would have preferred it that way, but she was one of the finest public servants I have ever met, and I have met many public officials in my time, in many countries. She did not want to be eulogised when her time of departure arrived, and I shall therefore, with the family’s consent, make only a few personal remarks.
Although we had met briefly a few times before, it was only when I returned to T&T in 1984 at the end of my stint as High Commissioner of T&T to Canada and was, among other things, appointed chairman of this country’s Standing Negotiating Committee on Air Services Agreements that I really got to know Bessie. As Solicitor-General, she was a member of the committee, and we came quickly to rely on her legal advice, which was always pertinent and sound.
Bessie had done well in her Bar exams many years before in London, and had risen through the ranks to the responsible post she held in the Public Service, so responsible that it later attracted the salary and pension of a High Court judge.
She was an extremely hard worker, and conscientious, traits which her mother Sylveena had inspired in her. A reserved, private person, she always carried and conducted herself with dignity, without fuss or frills or fripperies, always adhering to unshakeable standards of ethical rectitude and frowning on the departures from those standards which she saw in too many others.
She lived in Trinidad, but her heart lay in her birthplace Charlotteville, that most eastern point of Tobago, to which she would often return, if only for a few days, to relax and recharge her batteries. We spoke quite a bit to each other, and I would joke that Charlotteville was not so much a village or a town as a republic with its own self-awareness and outlook on life, a haven you got to by passing through Tobago.
She never married, and had no children of her own. But her many nieces, blood-related and adopted, will, I am certain, never forget the lessons of upright behaviour and dedication to duty taught them by Auntie Bessie. Those lessons were part of Sylveena’s legacy.
She has left us physically, but those of us—relatives, friends, Public Service colleagues, and so on—who knew her will always remember her kindness, her good sense, her excellent words of advice, her loyalty to family and friends, her unfailing evenness of temperament—in a word, her class, all underpinned by a deep religious faith. She was, very simply, a lady.
I am honoured to have been her friend. I shall certainly continue to be guided by her example. And I know she will rest in peace.
If anyone deserves to rest in peace, it is Bessie Carrington.