Sir Clifford Darling: A fixed star
By Philip C. Galanis
“If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you
If all men count with you, but none too much;”
- Rudyard Kipling
At a wonderfully choreographed home-going ceremony for Sir Clifford Darling at Zion Baptist Church on Thursday past, His Excellency Sir Arthur Foulkes noted: “As a great man who belonged to a great generation goes to his rest, the curtain of living memory is slowly but inexorably closing on a defining era in the history of The Bahamas. As with great sadness we mourn his passing, we also, as is our custom, take the opportunity to celebrate a life that was well lived and wonderfully fruitful.” Therefore, this week, just one day before what is arguably the second most important date in Bahamian history, the anniversary of Majority Rule, we thought it would be instructive to Consider This... how do we briefly characterize the life and contributions of the man from Chesters, Acklins?
Darling (also affectionately called ‘Sir Cliff’) has been described as one who represented the best of the Bahamian spirit, a civil man of integrity, a nationalist and a humble soul who rose from poverty on Acklins Island to become the head of state, our fourth Bahamian-born governor general.
No other Bahamian has matched his record. Darling was unique in that he alone, like no other Bahamian before or since, served the Bahamian people as a senator, a member of the House of Assembly, cabinet minister, speaker of the House, and ultimately governor general.
His 89-year sojourn was punctuated by conflicts and challenges, disappointments and disenchantments as well as superlative successes, all of which contributed to the building of a nation by a solitary soul which is not likely to be repeated anytime soon.
Whether it was during his time on the contract in the United States, his tenure as president of the The Bahamas Taxi Cab Union (BTCU), his 25-years as the PLP MP for the constituency of Englerston, or in his capacity as the cabinet minister who inaugurated the National Insurance Board, he exuded a quiet confidence that endeared him to all who came into contact with him.
Few Bahamians would know that Darling never lost an election in his life, starting with the time he ran and won the election as the representative of the workers in his camp in the United States while on the contract in 1943. Darling served eight consecutive years as the secretary of the BTCU, never losing an election that was held every year. He then won 10 consecutive elections when he ran for president of the union, despite facing opposition each year that he ran.
Few Bahamians would know that the PLP did not want him to run in Englerston in 1967 and he was actually told that if he lost, he would not be reappointed to the senate. He went on to win by the largest majority of any candidate in 1967, ultimately winning six general elections in Englerston from 1967 to 1992.
Few Bahamians would know how surprised and disappointed Darling was that Sir Lynden Pindling did not invite him to join his first cabinet after Majority Rule. In fact, Darling recounts how it was actually Jeffery Thompson who proposed that ‘Sir Cliff’ should be offered the position of deputy speaker in 1967, which was eventually agreed.
In discussions with Darling, he remembered his relationship with Sir Stafford Sands, who he described as a racist, and with whom he had many squabbles dating from the time that Sands tried to destroy the BTCU. Darling recalls that when he became deputy speaker of the House, he was the first black man to sit in that chair and Sands did not like that at all. Darling recounted that when members entered or exited the House, they had to bow to the chair in deference to the speaker or deputy speaker. Although it only happened a few times before he left The Bahamas and died abroad, Sands had to respect the chair by bowing. Whenever he did so, Darling could clearly see the resentment in Sands’ face.
One of Darling’s biggest disappointments occurred shortly after the FNM won the general elections in 1992 when he was serving as governor general. It was then that the Ingraham administration politicized that office which is conventionally set above partisan politics, and prevented Darling from reading the speech from the throne at the commencement of Parliament. ‘Sir Cliff’ recalled that he was told that the government would pay for him to go anywhere in the world and he decided to go to Canada. He also recalls that he was extremely hurt and sat in his hotel room in Canada, while Sir Kendal Isaacs read the speech from the throne in his stead. Could that be the reason that the prime minister did not pay personal tribute to Darling at the funeral on Thursday, perhaps because the hurt was still deeply felt by Darling’s family even in death?
At all times, Darling presented himself as a nationalist even after demitting office as governor general. This writer recalls an occasion shortly after receiving the PLP nomination for Englerston in 1997, asking ‘Sir Cliff’ for advice about the constituency. Unhesitatingly, he replied that as the former governor general, he does not get involved in politics.
In his tribute, Sir Arthur Foulkes observed about an earlier time that: “There was no shortage of flamboyant politicians, but Clifford Darling was more of a fixed star than a shooting star, an inspiring presence, the perfect mix of necessary patience and steely determination.”
Darling was a man who, even at the end, was not really given the accolades he deserved, not even a memorial service before his funeral by those in the party he helped to shape.
In the final analysis, although on occasion he was let down by some of his closest friends and political colleagues, no matter what, Darling never, ever let his country down. His legacy will endure in the firmament of Bahamian politics for generations to come.
Philip C. Galanis is the managing partner of HLB Galanis & Co., Chartered Accountants, Forensic & Litigation Support Services. He served 15 years in Parliament. Please send your comments to:firstname.lastname@example.org
Jan 09, 2012