Adding laurels to your country’s fame
Posted by Michael Eldridge on October 6, 2012
This week, Toronto’s West Indian community has been remembering the life and work of veteran civil rights activist Charles Roach, who died Tuesday at age 79. By all accounts a lovely and elegant man—and a tenacious and eloquent campaigner for racial and social justice—the Trinidad native was also a driving force in the development of Caribana. (I previously mentioned Roach in connection with his efforts to abolish Canada’s loyalty oath to the British monarch.)
Canadians also marked the passing on September 30th of figure-skating legend Barbara Ann Scott, a national icon in the late 1940s and early 50s. In her peak year of 1948, “Canada’s Sweetheart” was a repeat national, European, and World champion; Olympic gold medalist in the ladies’ singles competition; and subject of a Time magazine cover story.
And of a calypso by Lord Caresser. By March 1948, Caresser was near the end of a two-year tenure as the star of his own weekly radio show on the CBC. (See “Caresser in Canada” and “Student Calypsonians in Canada.”) He had probably composed his “Ode to Barbara Ann Scott” on the occasion of her triumphant return to her birthplace of Ottawa in 1947, when thousands came out to celebrate Scott’s championships and present her with the key to the city. But of course it would have made perfect sense to dust off the “Ode” for a second round of parades and ceremonies after Scott’s Olympic triumph in 1948—which is precisely what Caresser did for his broadcast of March 3d, adapting a stanza as part of his “Weekly News” feature:
(The audio excerpt from the March 3, 1948 broadcast of “The Lord Caresser Show” is in the public domain. Its copyright has expired because it was created under Crown copyright and first published more than 50 years ago. The copyright to “An Ode to Barbara Ann Scott” is held by the heirs of Rufus Callender, and the work is reproduced by their kind permission.)