Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Remembering Mike and Mills

 Even as an incandescent lamp in journalism was being turned off—Therese Mills; another light, a candle in no way deserving of being kept under a bushel, was flickering out—Mike Coryat.

Here is my modest tribute to both notable souls: 

Therese I met in 1964 when she came to the Trinidad Guardian newspaper, one year after I had joined Radio Guardian. Encountering her in the Guardian’s corridors, standing between desks and chatting with her, exchanging views about news and a thousand aspects of the crafts involved in reportage, it was intriguing to see her grow steadfastly into a mature reporter-writer who could hold her own. 

This was in the near-misogynistic times of the ’60s, and ’70s when the Guardian men were an authentic rough and tough breed, some were actually drinkers and brawlers, all were magical and magisterial (disappearing and re-appearing at will, mysteriously converting events into words; then bearing witness, sitting in judgment and meting out punishment). And the Guardian women (Jean Minshall, Kitty Hannays, Liz Cromwell, et al) were journalistically Amazonian. 

Therese honed her skills to a military-like fineness—mastering disciplines of asking piercing questions, writing precision-guided repor­tage, and unleashing heat-seeking features and later editorials.

Yet, she remained feminine, funny and of helpful fellowship. 

Respectfully, perhaps the best takeaway from her life for younger practitioners in print, radio, television, digital, advertising, public relations and other forms of mass communications is to note and emu­late how Therese learned her skills—in the absence of mass comm schools and tertiary training—directly from The Venerable Veterans who worked around her and maintained the tradition of teaching apprentices by practice and example, passing on the trade and its culture by word and hand.

A cub reporter’s respect begat the elder journalist’s regard, the baton of standards passing smoothly, yet truly worthy neophytes were allowed to find their own legs and even become innovative without being iconoclastic. Egotism was a cup served very cold in newsrooms, but real cream could rise to the top, bylines and “own shows” being there, but only to be earned. That was the trajectory and the triumph of Therese.

Mike (Mikey) Coryat followed a similar pathway. He joined 610 Radio as a copywriter and showed a comfortable brilliance at generating creativity. He quickly became a member of our current affairs team working on programmes from Newsmakers, Nightpeople, Hotline, Carnival and parang outside broadcasts, to seasonal specials.

By the 1980s, we attracted Mike to AMPLE to conceptualise, write and produce even more specialised all-media productions. We remember him well for his visual ideas and titillating word plays—the winning Christmas newspaper ad he did for Consolidated Insurance Consultants (CIC) with the headline: “Do You C What I C?”!

Beyond work, Mike had established himself as an in-demand traditional drummer, giving rhythm to groups such as The Chimes (out of Arima) and the Andre Tanker Combo which graced Hilton’s La Boucan in that golden age of “dance music”.

But most of all, Mike was a one-of-a-kind humane being, bringing a sunny spiritual happiness and goodness to everyone, everything he engaged, turning people into warm friends and “family”. He was even a true believer in the potential of politics to do good for us, and in the conviction that we should bring our goodness to politics!

Alas, they both left us wondering:

How dare we think that Mike is gone 

His drum no more to be heard?

Why shouldn’t Therese’s memory live on

Do we not possess her deed and word?

Deep into the mould of Mike and Mills

We can reach for lessons that suit us each.

Surely this is what The Spirit wills

That our lives should guide, lead and teach.

Separated by death but joined by debt

We owe these two souls a magnitudinous lot.

Our faith debars us from worry and fret...

We must simply thank them for scripting us an enduring plot.

Alfred Aguiton

via e-mail