Di­as­pora trib­ute to Wil­son Har­ris

Stabroek News Sunday - - REGIONAL NEWS -

Dear Editor, A packed house gath­ered at the Guyana High Com­mis­sion in Lon­don on Tues­day 10th April to salute one of Guyana’s great­est writ­ers, Sir Wil­son Har­ris who died in March and will be cre­mated next Mon­day in Chelms­ford, Es­sex.

Lead­ing the pro­ceed­ings was his son Pro­fes­sor Nigel Har­ris, cur­rently Chan­cel­lor of the Univer­sity of Guyana and for­merly Vice Chan­cel­lor of UWI. He fondly re­mem­bered vis­it­ing his father in Eng­land af­ter the di­vorce of his par­ents and dis­cussing a wide range of top­ics. He did, though, ad­mit to not read­ing Wil­son’s en­tire oeu­vre but only a se­lec­tion.

Dr Michael Mitchell has read all the books. He did his doc­tor­ate on Wil­son. He flew in spe­cially from Ger­many for the event and painted a very mov­ing pic­ture of the writer’s lat­ter years. Great Guyanese writer Pauline Melville also came close to him in his au­tumn. She re­called their last meet­ing in De­cem­ber 2017, one on which she, un­usu­ally, kept notes which she read out. David Daby­deen, an­other Guyana Prize Win­ner, paid trib­ute too, read­ing a touch­ing poem writ­ten on Har­ris’s death by Paloma Mo­hamed of UG.

Dr Mike Ni­blett from the Yesu Per­saud Cen­tre for Caribbean Stud­ies at the Univer­sity of Warwick, who co-spon­sored the event with the High Com­mis­sioner, re­vealed that buy­ing a Har­ris book whilst in a dead end job had trans­formed his life.

There were in­ter­est­ing con­tri­bu­tions from the floor too, among oth­ers from Jan Shinebourne, an­other Guyana Prize Win­ner and Dr Tim Cribb of Cam­bridge Univer­sity who had re­searched Wil­son’s his­tory as a sur­veyor in the Guyanese in­te­rior. All of them plus a short ex­tract from the Chan­nel Four film of Wil­son’s novel Da Silva, Da Silva made for a very dig­ni­fied evening of trib­ute.

As one par­tic­i­pant later wrote to me as pro­ducer, “I felt Wil­son was in the room.” Enough said. Yours faith­fully, John ‘Bill Cot­ton/Re­form’ Mair

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