Paul O' Hara remembers Cecil Griffith

Kaieteur News
February 12, 2007

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There is no need to repeat this: Nobody lives forever. No man, no woman, nobody. You know by now, that I'm talking about the passing of our own Cecil Griffith. This is not a tribute. It's more than that. It's a story about the life of a fellow reporter; about a journalist.

My views about our great and good citizens are well known. There's no room in me for after death tributes. So many great and good things were said about Cecil since he passed away at the St Joseph 's Mercy Hospital . So many nice things were said, by so many nice and important people.

So many people heard of the kind and nice acts Cecil did to so many men and women, to so many orgainsations, to so many causes. Some of the thoughts and words were soul stirring. How wonderful it would have been for Cecil to be alive to listen, and appreciate what we think of him, and how much he did really mean to us - to the nation.

Obituarism is an institution, but civilised societies and the media world can and should talk about people like Cecil Griffith when they are alive. It can mean much more that way. So very much more.

What you're reading now, is not just a tribute. It's something much more than that; much, much more. It's a story about a reporter, by a fellow reporter; a real story—a true story. Cecil Griffith was my next door neighbour on Carmichael Street , Georgetown , for more than 30 years. It was more than an ordinary good neighbour-li-ness. We had to cut our own zinc fence so that a window of the house in which Cecil lived could be opened. When Cecil wanted to become a newspaper reporter, he did not come to me. Griff was brought to me by Henry Cameron. Who is Henry Cameron? He was a trust-worthy friend of President Forbes Burnham.

He ran the operations in Essequibo , when the manganese mines closed down…. He was also the gentleman who picked the area in Essequibo , now called Jonestown.

Since this story is about Cecil Griffith, let me tell you this fact. Henry Cameron was the husband of the radio broadcasting genius you still know and remember as Pat Cameron.

In Mr. Cameron's presence, I gave Cecil four of my best books on journalism. He entered the media world and did well as a reporter-journalist.

At that time, and for many years after, I was in charge of the country's radio news service. No one ever did news reporting in Guyana and the Caribbean before I did. Some time in the middle of 1961, I gave notice to our British-owned broadcasting station to leave on 31st January, 1962. The British company requested my assistance in forming its very first newsroom. The company's requests were many. One of the most important was to give them a list of four reporters. My list was headed by Cecil Griffith.

That's when and that's how Cecil Griffith entered the important field of radio and television. Rightly or wrongly, Griff was considered an attractive bachelor. There was the occasion of a New Year Sunday reception at the Belfield, East Coast Demerara home of the then Prime Minister Forbes Burnham.

There were many media people and other important citizens. Those attending were poking fun at each other, and making short speeches. Many were teasing Cecil Griffith. Phrases like ‘The Playboy Bachelor' came up a few times.

Well, it was my turn to say a few words. I left the company of Viola Burnham and Shirley Field Ridley, and proceeded to say just a few words. Cecil Griffith had the biggest applause of his life when I mentioned that he was married. One got the impression that no one knew that Cecil was ever married. Burnham stood and shouted, “Cecil married? Cecil married?” Everyone seemed happy. Surprised? Then, I continued, “I know Mrs. Griffith, she visits our home almost every day. She is by all standards, the most charming lady born in Essequibo . More than that, she is an ever-smiling East Indian lady.”

The second applause was longer and louder. When that subsided, an emotional Cecil Griffith walked over to me… embraced me….and said only two words…‘thanks, Paul.' There was one other emotional occasion between Uncle Paul and reporter Cecil Griffith.

That was where I helped to get Mrs. Griffith overseas for medical treatment. Cecil had the same two words for me…‘thanks, Paul.' Some years later Mrs. Griffith died.

Cecil Griffith has not really passed away. Griff has left us only to join Mrs. Griffith. Long may they live together, where ever they are.