by The Rev. Guy Hewitt
He lived his best life: a tribute to Bro Dr Allan Kirton, CD, DPA, PhD, JP.
In a world where people compete for fame, celebrity, and notoriety like how newborns struggle for their first breadth, Allan George Kirton’s life offered us an alternative to the dominant obsessive, individualised, material paradigm.
He was a scholar and academic, civil servant and magistrate, minister and diplomat. Yet few knew of these many stellar achievements. I only got the full picture after speaking to a select few who had the privilege of calling him ‘friend.’
While the longing for greatness can be a strong motivator, Allan demonstrated that true greatness is paradoxically found in its rejection and by embracing service. He was a kind, soft-spoken, high-achiever who was always keen to collaborate and mentor those under him.
Born in 1933, he left his birthplace Grenada and journeyed to Jamaica in 1952, as a recipient of the prestigious University of the West Indies (UWI) Open Scholarship, to read chemistry. Jamaica became his adopted home.
Initially planning to pursue a career in medicine, he joined the Jamaican Ministry of Agriculture in 1955 as an assistant fisheries officer. There his career focus shifted from sciences to public administration; he completed his doctoral studies at UWI in the latter.
He was a contemporary and friend of fellow Eastern Caribbean compatriots, Sir Alister McIntyre, Sir Derek Walcott, and Sir George Alleyne, among others.
In 1974, while director of fisheries he was transferred to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to head the directorate of the Law of the Sea Division. This was his pièce de resistance as he led the technical team responsible for Jamaica’s participation in the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) held in Montego Bay. He attended the convention as an accredited ambassador and played a prominent role in Jamaica hosting the intergovernmental body the International Seabed Authority.
Following his accomplishments in the oceanic area, in 1979 he was appointed permanent secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister. He also served as permanent secretary in the ministries of Mining, Energy & Tourism, and of Development, Planning & Production. During his tenure, he was permanent secretary to former prime ministers Edward Seaga and PJ Patterson.
His service also involved board membership of numerous public and private entries including the Jamaica Public Service Co. (Chairman), Jamaica Tourist Board (Deputy Chairman), Jamaica Promotions, and Urban Development Corporation. He was a judge for the Industrial Disputes Tribunal.
Known for his integrity and impartiality, he was secretary to several high-level enquiries including the Special Investigation into the Sandals Whitehouse Hotel Project and the Commission of Enquiry into the Extradition Request for Christopher Coke.
He was devoted to his alma mater, working since 1970 as a part-time lecturer in public administration in the Department of Government. Previously active in the University Lodge of the West Indies, he lived by the Masonic principles of brotherly love, relief, and truth.
Another major assignment was as deputy chairman of the Interim Government of Grenada following the assassination of Maurice Bishop and overthrow of his government. He served alongside Sir Nicholas Brathwaite who would go on to become prime minister.
He was aware this appointment was controversial, but for him, it was national service, never political. In Grenada, he had ministerial responsibility for finance, planning, trade, and the public service. He also reinstituted the electoral department. Following his retirement, he continued to serve the spice isle periodically as a special adviser to the government.
A Commander of the Order of Distinction, Justice of the Peace, Gleaner Honour and UWI Chemical Alumnae awardee, he took greatest pride in his family. He was devoted to his daughter Michelle, mentored me as his son-in-law in my own public sector career, and delighted in our children, his grandchildren, Dominic and Maya. His one notable regret was not completing his memoirs.
A longstanding member of St Andrew’s Parish Church in Half Way Tree, Kingston; when he was no longer able to get to church, he remained faithful and dutiful in daily prayer to the end of his earthly journey. He lived his best life.
Predeceased by his wife Marina and his siblings Allan, Ken, Gladys and Elsa, he is mourned by Michelle, myself, Dominic, Maya, his younger brother Michael, treasured cousin Owen and our wider family and friends in Jamaica, Grenada, Barbados and elsewhere.
He epitomised 2 Timothy 4:7-8 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
The Service of Thanksgiving will be held in Jamaica at St Andrew’s Parish Church on Thursday, 21 July at 11 am. May he rest in peace.
The Rev. Guy Hewitt, a London-based Anglican priest who previously served as Barbados’ High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, is the son-in-law of Allan Kirton.