Thousands bid ‘Papa Eddie’ goodbye

Jamaicans from all walks of life filled the streets around the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity in Kingston yesterday, watching and cheering as the carriage bearing the coffin with the remains of former Prime Minister Edward “Papa Eddie” Seaga made its way slowly to its final resting place at National Heroes’ Park.

A bright, cloudless, sun-baked Sunday was the scenery for the State funeral, as the huge crowd gulped down hundreds of litres of bottled water served by waiters all around the century-old church which has been recognised globally for its 85-foot-high copper-covered dome.

A huge empty lot in front of the impressive building was transformed into a viewing area for people who could not be accommodated on the cathedral’s premises, much less inside the church.

Inside the church, Minister of Local Government and Community Development Desmond McKenzie one of several youths rescued from the harsh living conditions of “Back-O-Wall” which Seaga eventually restored and renamed Tivoli Gardens, after an amusement park and pleasure garden in Copenhagen, Denmark recalled his relationship with the man who fortuitously became Member of Parliament for Kingston Western in 1962 and ended up as Jamaica’s fifth prime minister in 1980 with their support.

“Edward Seaga was not only a public figure, he was the kind of man we were longing for in our lives in Western Kingston,” McKenzie told the congregation. He was flanked by three of the women who similarly owed their success to Seaga’s passion for the poor, including current Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment, and Sport Olivia “Babsy” Grange.

“We had many unforgettable experiences with him. The first time that many of us had milkshake and hamburger came from one of the many trips that ‘Papa Eddie’ took us on to Monty’s on Old Hope Road,” McKenzie recalled.

However, he said that even more important was the value of hard and proper work, and a strong sense of duty to others, which Seaga instilled in them.