Sunday, February 19, 2012

Remembering “Uncle Briz”

THE FEW TIMES I had to write articles critical of George Brizan in his short stint as Prime Minister, it always had an awkward feel to it.

‘Uncle Briz’, as I had called him from childhood, was a close family friend, who had a lot to do with my return to journalism after a short six-month stint as a teacher – one term each at the St Joseph’s Convent St George’s and the Holy Cross RC in Munich.

And so, it was always difficult – given my role as a journalist – to refer to him in political terms.

I first knew Brizan, as maybe a six year old, visiting my father in Munich. He was one of the best friends of my oldest brother J.T (a circle that included Crotty Antoine and James deVere Pitt).

In fact when I passed common entrance as a 10 year old, my father brought me to meet ‘Uncle Briz’ in town (we had to meet up close to the old Pitchpine Bar) to go book shopping.

By the time I had gotten to the A-Level stages – two of the three subjects I chose – History and Economics – were largely because he was the teacher.

I had returned to Grenada in December 1983 from East Berlin – when my young journalism career was put on hold, when I reported to the radio station and Jerry Romain, in the aftermath of the revolution’s demise, told me my services were no longer needed.

I went on to the Convent as a History teacher (Brizan’s old subject) for one term and then Holy Cross R.C in Munich.

Teaching was never initially on my radar, but I had really begun to surprisingly enjoy it, when my principal Loftus McMillan one Friday afternoon said Brizan (now Minister of Education in the original NNP government), had called, and wanted me to take charge of the then relatively new party newspaper, ‘The National’, from the following Monday.

So over a weekend, I turned from being teacher to journalist again.

I returned to the media business after a six-month break -- and Brizan was the one who initiated it after I was beginning to settle down nicely to my “alternative” career.

Of course I spent about a year and a half with ‘The National’ – and had some good times with Leslie McQueen and Mark Isaac – before going “mainstream” by joining the Grenadian Voice.

For the most part during his political years we kept our respectful distance – except for the odd “How is Fefe (my father’s nickname) doing?'' And “When last you heard from JT” – when we would have crossed paths at some event.

But I always remember two out-of -the blue calls.

One about two days after himself and Francis Alexis left the Herbert Blaize administration.

He wanted to (a) reach my father and (b) told me he was going to form a party and wanted my ideas.

In a strange way, looking back at it, he sought of co-opted me without I realizing it.

I had joined those early strategy sessions that gave birth to what is now the National Democratic Congress (long before any current leaders, except Jerome Joseph, was a member). In fact Jerome Joseph reminded me of that last year – and I was surprised because I did not think he remembered me from back then.

So eventually the party was formed – and they set about doing what politicians will do; and I went on with the rest of my life and returned to my writing – and doing what writers will do – being critical.

By the time Brizan became Prime Minister in the lead up to the 1995 general elections, he had stopped taking my calls (I suspect he was upset about a few reports we did).

Those were the EC News and YSFM days -- and no matter how hard we tried and how much I tried to use the old family connections – we did not get to interview him one-on-one for that entire campaign.

Then the other out-of-the-blue call came the night before the elections. In fact I was so surprised at the call, I thought someone was pulling a prank.

He had called to ask me my views on the poll, and if I think they can pull off Munich.

I was comforting in my words – but by then deep down I knew -- and I suspect he did too – that they were out of it.

Once he had lost those elections, of course he became more accessible as the old family friend ‘Uncle Briz’.

But strangely we never spoke a lot about politics – but mostly about family, about whatever research he was doing and about writing.

He always said to me, “Mark, men like you must begin to write books.”

It is an advice ‘Uncle Briz” that I will soon take.


  1. Thanks for the memories! May his soul rest in peace.

    I think he was a genuine man.

  2. very nice piece Mr. Mark

  3. That was nostalgic Hamlet. Good stuff.

  4. Marky, I share your sentiments, especially on his teaching of history. I loved his classes, he had great knowledge and amazing delivery of the subject matter, he made you feel like you "were there"