DAME Hilda Louisa Bynoe, the first female governor of the British Commonwealth and first native governor of Grenada, was yesterday remembered as a strong supporter of the West Indian Federation and a “black and proud” woman.
The funeral service for Dame Bynoe was held at St Finbar’s RC Church, Diego Martin. She died in Trinidad on April 6 after a brief illness. She was 91.
Among the high-profile attendees yesterday were President Anthony Carmona, current Governor General of Grenada, Carlyle Arnold Glean, Leader of Opposition Business in the Senate, Pennelope Beckles-Robinson, Point Fortin MP Paula Gopee-Scoon and former People’s National Movement minister Joan Yuille-Williams.
Her son, Roland Bynoe, in the eulogy noted that growing up his mother was influenced by the ideas of Theophilus Albert Marryshow, also known as the “father of (West Indian) federation”.
While in London studying medicine, she met and married the “love of her life”, Peter Bynoe, a Trinidadian Royal Air Force officer studying architecture (now deceased).
Bynoe recalled that his parents were devout supporters of the West Indian Federation.
“They had experienced the pressures of living abroad and it had opened their eyes to the benefits of West Indians standing together against racism and exploitation,” he said.
He noted they were both extremely unhappy when the Federation failed. He recalled his mother while in the UK was one of the initiators of the West Indian Students Union (WISU).
Forbes Burnham, later Guyana’s prime minister and then president, was WISU’s first president and became a lifelong friend to his mother.
St Lucian Sir Arthur Lewis, later a Nobel Prize-winning economist, was also a member.
Dame Hilda was identified as “black and proud” and was a supporter of the ideals of the National Joint Action Committee and other African consciousness organisations.
She was very proud of her mixed heritage with a “preponderance of Africa”, and she was already governor when she “went afro”, a decision which sparked controversy. She stayed with that hairstyle for the rest of her life.
Bynoe said his mother was even more proud of being a Grenadian and never gave up her passport or applied for dual citizenship or resident status in Trinidad. She had worked as a teacher in Trinidad in her early adult years and in later years worked in medicine in this country and Guyana.
After retiring from the medical profession in 1990, Dame Bynoe began to focus on her family and writing and in 1996 published the book, I Woke at Dawn.
He recalled she loved to read and passed that love on to her own sons.
His mother was “thrilled” with the birth of her great-granddaughter, Anaia.
“In her last days her face would light up whenever Anaia was in the room or when she passed the door. I want to remember her like that, smiling at an innocent young child,” he said.
Monsignor Christian Pereira, in his homily, said she will remain a light to us, as a region “groans to bear abundant fruit”.
“Fruit that will help us understand that as Caribbean people we are capable of great humanity ... great nobility ... (and) we have the capacity to honour God and to serve our brothers and sisters,” he said.
Profile of Dame
Hilda Louisa Bynoe
• Former teacher at St Joseph’s Convent in San Fernando and Bishop Anstey High School
• In 1944, left for Europe to study medicine and graduated from London University, Royal Free Hospital, then the London School of Medicine for Women in 1951
• While still a student, she met and married Peter Bynoe, a Trinidadian, RAF Officer and student of Architecture; and it was there that her two sons, Roland and Michael, were born
• In 1953 the Bynoes returned to the West Indies and Dr Hilda Bynoe served in various disciplines of medicine in Guyana and in Trinidad and Tobago for the next 15 years
• In 1968 she was appointed as Governor of the Associated States of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique after a life of service to teaching, medical profession, family and community
• In 1969 she was made a Dame Commander of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II and retired from the duties of Office in February 1974
• In 1974 she returned to Trinidad from Grenada to resume her medical practice and her community service
• In 1990, she retired to continue her writing and to assist in the care of her grand-daughters, Olukemi and Nandi Peta.
• In 1996 her book I Woke at Dawn was published
• After retirement she continued her patronage of a number of organisations, including The Caribbean College of Family Physicians, The John Hayes Memorial Kidney Foundation and The Caribbean Women’s Association. She was also a member of the Academic Board of St George’s University