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Order of Campbell

Ridley Greene

Order of Campbell

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THERE?ARE?FEW?PEOPLE I have known who treated their work with such reverence, precision and emphatic order, yet superlative tenderness. Few have I known who so encapsulated their work in integrity.
Campbell DeCoursey Banfield was such a one.
From the very first day I met this old-world journalist at the Barbados Advocate – a Monday afternoon in 1967 on the sports subs desk – it struck me he had been raised to be a gentleman.
He grasped my hand as with an iron fist that rested at the end of a lanky forearm and arm. And with it all came a low but thunderous “Pleased to meet you!”, accompanied by a decorous bow of the head.
I was a mere 21, and Cam – as he was affectionately called – must have been about ten years older, or so he looked. I would discover in time that he was 16 years plus of me. It was explained for my simple mind then that it was this youthful look of my elder that made him a ladies’ man.
I was more overawed by this towering figure, whose application to work I would have to seek to measure up to, and whose chain smoking I would have to endure – the latter habit he would abandon in later years.
There were characteristics you did not attribute to Cam: betrayal, disloyalty, dishonour, ingratitude, failure to keep a promise, cowardice, selfishness.
Psst! None of these things!
Cam could be relied on, always completing his tasks, and must have been the most proficient and competent sports sub-editor Barbadian journalism ever had. He was kind and sharing, but not unknown to be forthright and stinging when circumstance dictated it.
In rough Advocate office banter – which attack and counter-attack men of pre-21st century enjoyed, never pulling a knife on one another – Cam once advised an antagonist that he never should have been born, so that the world could have been a better place.
Cam’s pronouncements were as picturesque and lucid as ever; precise and concise; interrupted only by “Listen!” and “Psst!”
I often wondered why he needed these vocative attention grabbers, this man of distinctive voice, who bestrode the newsroom floor like a colossus.
Cam loved a debate. The more public the better.
Cricket was his stomping ground. I?recall he had a love for Australia, but he never failed to recognize West Indies stars and legends. And a matched verbal encounter with him on the game was infrequent.
He wasn’t by any means boisterous, but his passionately made points were resonant. Ditto politics.
Methinks he had time for Sir Grantley et al., but he called a spade a spade when it came to the conduct and performance of any politician.
About four years after I first met him I went up against him on music. I loved folk and calypso; Cam, not particularly.
Cam, as I said before, was brought up a gentleman.
This wukking up to calypso that fellow journalist Al Gilkes liked just did not cut it. Sparrow and Kitchener weren’t exactly Cam’s cup of tea. I got nowhere with Harry Belafonte, Irving Burgie, Emile Straker, Lord Radio – not to mention the Mighty Charmer!
You couldn’t have got a louder big shot laugh as I tried in vain to cram these names in Cam’s well groomed head.
Cam loved Mario Lanza, Bing Crosby, Paul Robeson and such other megavoices, and relished in the classics.
My musical debate with my resolute workmate would however extend my musical appreciation that began with Gerald Hudson at Combermere in the company of Hal Gollop, Breek Garner, Desmond Gooding and Roger Daniel.
Cam and I never argued again. And when I became his editor at THE?NATION in the early 1980s, the deference to me by this singular, respectable gentleman and friend was stunningly pellucid.
Cam’s passing at 82 on March 17 is a terminal loss; but I have his memories to muse on – the distant thunder of the voice.
My condolences to wife Joyce and son Karl.
• Ridley Greene is a Caribbean multi-award-winning journalist. Email [email protected]