Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 21st 2014 Contents A18
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Monday, July 21, 2014
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Listening to Jimmy McNicolls expounding on the
wizardry of Clive Bradley or on the genius of Boogsie
Sharpe, or on Beverley Griffith s arrangement of
Sparrow s Obeah Wedding, which earned Desperadoes
its first Panorama victory in 1966, you saw Jimmy
in his element.
You felt that to miss just one word of what he had
to say was almost sacrilegious, so you listened with all
the attention at your command.
And if your musical tastes included Beethoven, Bach,
Strauss or Tchaikovsky, Jimmy could be just as accom-
modating. I remember the old Mac once confiding in
me that it was because he loved "digging up" in the
work of the old masters that he was better able to
appreciate what Bradley was doing for Despers up on
the Laventille Hill.
Though he would pronounce fluently and convincingly
on the musical superiority of Despers, Jimmy Mc Nicolls
was no fanatic. He would just as readily, but with con-
siderably less passion, acknowledge the musical brilliance
in the output of other steelbands. Ray Holman and
Starlift s interpretation of the Beatles Penny Lane was
one of those. Highlanders Let Every Valley Be Exalted
was another. And, of course, there was also what Jimmy
called the party anthem for all seasons: All Stars endur-
ing rendition of Scrunter s Woman on the Bass.
But the authority with which Jimmy could discuss
the steelband and the classical masters came not only
from his love for music, but also from his ability to
In one of our numerous after-work liming sessions
he, Errol Khan, another former Guardian employee,
and I, found ourselves absorbed in some serious dis-
cussions, accompanied by equally serious libations, at
a new Savannah pub run by another colleague, Rosemary
Two guitars suddenly appeared in the hands of Jimmy
and my namesake Errol. What followed was a jam ses-
sion that included a rich medley of Bob Marley numbers,
often involving lots of misplaced lyrics, that stirred
applause by some and participation by other patrons.
The jamming continued well into the early morning.
When I left the Express in 1973 to test the waters
of the Guardian, both figuratively and literally, Jimmy
was part of a group of Guardian veterans into which
I found myself inducted. The group, called "the Brigadier
Plus X," was informally led by Buxley Oxley or "BO,"
who was announced as the Brigadier. The rest comprised
a multiplicity of "X-es" in the persons of Kelvin Choy,
Rudy Ragbir, Rajendra Pargass, Jimmy Mc Nicolls, and
this brand new inductee.
Our meeting places were determined by virtue of
convenience, ease of access and ability to provide, at
reasonable cost, the desired supply of refreshments.
Jimmy insisted upon proper acoustics with optimum
levels for house music. As he pointed out, we needed
to hear each other speak. On that basis, many of today s
"watering holes" would not have qualified.
Thus it was that the more popular of our regular
haunts were Stand-Up, a St Vincent Street pub run
by musician Ray Sylvester; Chez Nous; China Clipper;
and the Guardian Sports Club.
Our "round-the-table" discussions covered both the
politics of the country and the politics of the newsroom.
Those discussions were often marked by accurate judg-
ments about which politicians were more derelict than
which, and which journalists were destined for a career
Comfortable in my ability to hold my own equally
before the keys of a typewriter and a tray of heady
refreshments, I had assumed my place secure in the
"Brigadier Plus X."
It was Jimmy who disabused me of any notions that
my writing was at its peak. He would pull me aside
to point out that proper grammar, perfect spelling, and
the ability to make sense of an assortment of facts were
not the only requirements.
Style, he insisted, writing style, was what
separated the sheep from the goats. It was
like making music, he said. Style was what
distinguished Clive Bradley, Beverly Griffith,
Robert Greenidge, Len Boogsie Sharpe, Ray
Holman, Jit Samaroo, Leon Smooth Edwards,
Pelham Goddard and Bertie Marshall, from
the rest. In addition to the "Brigadier Plus
X" and our love for music and journalism,
there is at least one other outstanding expe-
rience I shared with Jimmy.
At different periods, we had both attended
the Institute of Journalism in Berlin, where,
for three months, we lived, studied, and
worked with journalists from various parts
of the world. Jimmy and I would often iden-
tify similar experiences we had in Germany
at a time when the Berlin Wall had not yet
been pulled down, and the freedom we took
for granted became palpable and cherished.
For more than four of the seven decades
he spent with us, I have known Jimmy McNi-
colls as a friend. Forever, I will treasure his
friendship and the wise counsel he so freely
Jimmy, the incomparable
Colleague and friend Errol S Pilgrim looks back
on the life and times shared with Jimmy
McNicolls, retired Guardian sub-editor and
esteemed part-time musician, who died on July 12
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