Farewell to two honoured sons
As the world says farewell to Nelson Mandela, Trinidad and Tobago prepares to lay to rest two of its own sons who have made enduring contributions to our lives.
McDonald Bailey and Michael Als were separated by more than a generation and operated in completely different fields of endeavour but each has left an indelible mark on our nation.
McDonald Bailey carried us to Olympian heights when he qualified for the finals of the 100 metres in the 1948 Olympics and became the first national to win an Olympic medal with the bronze in the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki. His decision to run for Britain was controversial at home where a people longing for recognition felt slighted. But as sport historian Basil Ince pointed out in Saturday’s Express, it was an option taken after the national Olympic Committee excluded him from Trinidad and Tobago’s Olympic contingent.
Bailey remains the only national to hold a world record in the 100m with his run of 10.2 secs in Belgrade Yugoslavia in 1951. His record of achievement is long, distinguished and, in some areas, unsurpassed by any track athlete of Trinidad and Tobago.
It is an open secret that McDonald Bailey never received from his homeland the accolades and honours that he so richly deserved. But he endured with grace as he returned to Trinidad and settled down to raise a family, work and live out his days.
Even with his passing, there is still chance to right this wrong. We must not allow the name McDonald Bailey to be forgotten or lost to future generations who, in their own time, will join Olympian track stars Hasely Crawford and Ato Boldon in standing on his shoulders.
For us here at the Trinidad Express, the passing of Michael Als is a source of great personal sadness. For many years, he walked our halls, organising our employees and representing them as president of the Bank and General Workers Union. As its founding president, he led the BGWU’s successful bid for recognition of the right to represent our workers and negotiated the first contract that set the terms and conditions of employment of Express staff.
Michael Als is part of the history of the Trinidad Express as, indeed, he is of other sections of the media where the BGWU, since evolved into the Banking, Insurance and General Workers Union (BIGWU), represents the interest of workers. Equally important has been his contribution to the development of a vibrant labour movement in this country. He came to trade unionism as a young man of high ideals, choosing at every opportunity to stand on the side of the people. This newspaper did not always agree with him, especially in regard to his position on the People’s Revolutionary Government in Grenada, but we never doubted his commitment to the cause of social justice and equity.
Today, we honour the memory and legacy of McDonald Bailey and Michael Als and extend our condolences to their families and loved ones.