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Long, sad walk to Oval

Barry Alleyne

Long, sad walk to Oval

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An eerie, deathly quiet fell over Kensington Oval for more than four hours yesterday.
The place that had become the stage of champions was hosting yet another one, but unlike his predecessors, David John Howard Thompson was no West Indies cricketing hero.
But a hero he still was. And yesterday, more than 10 000 Barbadians crammed into every corner of the Caribbean’s most historic ground to say farewell to this country’s sixth Prime Minister.
And they lined the streets on the outside as Thompson, an avid cricket fan when alive, made his final trip to Kensington.
Pancreatic cancer cut Thompson’s life short on October 23 after just over two years in this country’s highest office, but more than a Prime Minister, Thompson was a man loved by the people of Barbados.
And it showed yesterday.
From even before 7 a.m., a large crowd  n hour later, lines were long and slow-moving as hundreds sought an early entrance to get a bird’s eye view of yesterday’s state funeral service.
Barbadians, some still reeling from the effects of Tropical Storm Tomas, which caused substantial damage islandwide last weekend, forgot about the roofs no longer on their houses, couldn’t care less if their taps were running again, or if their electricity supply was back to full power.
All they cared about was getting a final glimpse of the man many called Thompy.
On the outside, movement was in apparent slow motion. People tried to gain access to every vantage point.
 Some who were not lucky enough to get a ticket for yesterday’s funeral service withstood a combination of early morning sunshine, overcast conditions and eventually cool temperatures, and finally heavy rainfall until the Downes and Wilson limousine carrying Thompson’s body exited Kensington just after midday for interment at St John’s Parish Church.
“I am here, but it’s still so hard to believe he’s gone,” Pedro Clarke, who journeyed from St Peter, told the DAILY NATION. “I never personally met the
Prime Minister, but all I ever heard were good things about him. That much people can’t be wrong,” Clarke added.
For most of yesterday morning outside Kensington, Barbadians were still talking about the good things David Thompson had done in just 48 short years.
Barbados had been enveloped in grief since that fateful Saturday when Thompson took his final breath at his St Philip home, and yesterday, tears again flowed freely.
But yesterday was not all about death at Kensington Oval.
In corners around the ground, “Cawmerians’” celebrated Thompson’s life, reminiscing in hushed tones.
President of the Senate Branford Taitt arrived at 8:25 a.m. with his wife Colleen, son Branford Jr and daughter Monique.
Five minutes later, former Prime Minister and former Thompson mentor Sir Lloyd Erskine Sandiford, now this country’s Ambassador to China, arrived with his wife Lady Sandiford.
At 8:40 a.m., newly appointed Prime Minister Freundel Stuart arrived, and three minutes after, the entire Cabinet disembarked from a specially chartered bus.
At 9:15 a.m., with hearts heavy and most heads bowed, the sudden and surprising sound of applause filled the air.
What could be happening on such a sad day?
It was the arrival of Barbados’ own musical megastar Rihanna.
Just last week, the recording artist had said she would be unable to attend Thompson’s funeral because of schedule conflicts as she taped a movie.
But there was an apparent change of heart. She, too, was here to pay her last respects to the man who, it seemed, had touched the hearts of all Barbadians.