It was a hot Thursday afternoon, (24th September, 2015), but hundreds braved the humidity, as they gathered under tents on the grounds of the Patsy Allers Field, in West Basseterre, in a commemoration service that at times appeared like a calypso concert. But it was a tone and style that everyone expected.
Like in his life time, Reginald “Calypso Reggie” Thomas, attracted attention from citizens of all persuasions. Everyone, it seemed, wanted to be present for the Home Going Service of this former calypsonian, comedian, community activist and politician.
Amongst the throngs were politicians from both the government and opposition parties, including Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of PAM, Shawn Richards, Chairman of the opposition Labour Party and Parliamentary Representative for Central Basseterre, Marcella Liburd, MP for West Basseterre and former Calypso Monarch, Konris “King Konris” Maynard, along with Jonel Powell, who ran against Liburd in the February elections and is now an ambassador.
Speaker of the National Assembly, Franklyn Brand and Ambassador to the United Nations, Sam Condor, who is another politician against whom Reggie contested, also was prominent in his attendance, along with his wife ‘Gene’.
The packed congregation of mourners also featured calypsonians and musicians, including Mic Stokes Heyliger, Singing Jennifer, Contenda, Lord Black, Lord Kut and former Junior Calypso King, Monarch, who delivered the main tribute.
There were also representatives from the National Carnival Committee, the Culturama Committee in Nevis, all mixed with business executives, fans and musicians.
As the procession left the Patsy Allers grounds, it was led by the vehicle once driven by Reggie, when he made his rounds throughout St. Kitts advertising various events and activities. He was like the unofficial town crier. The speakers mounted on the car belted out some of his old tunes, including one of his favourites, “Home Sweet Home”- a tribute to his adopted land, St. Kitts and Nevis.
Reggie was actually born in the Dutch territory of Curacao on 15th January, 1962 but moved here with his mother as a child. St. Kitts and Nevis is where he grew up, attended school and launched his calypso career, (at the then Basseterre Junior High School). That career in calypso blossomed during his membership of the Hot Shot Claypso Tent, led by his buddy Lord Kut. This was a group of youth calypsonians, all below the age of 18, who organized and ran their own tent, moving around the St. Kitts and Nevis at carnival time. They also toured neighbouring islands to perform.
It was time for relaxed differences and a time instead to show respect for a true patriot of this country. Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris, against whom Reggie ran in past elections (unsuccessfully), occupied a frontal position in the procession as it journeyed the short distance from the playfield to the Springfield Cemetery.
While most people are blessed with one officiating clergy at their funeral service, Calypso Reggie, had three, led by Pastor Lincoln Connor of the nearby Antioch Baptist Church.
Tributes flowed in words, song, instrumental music, tears and whispers. Many could be heard around the service sharing their favourite memories and famous sayings of Reggie. Had he been able to hear the outpouring of love, he would have said, “I like Dat”, which was one of his most popular refrains known to many.
As an MC, whether during Culturama in Nevis or carnival in St. Kitts, Calypso Reggie was backed by the Grand Masters Band and on the day of his funeral, led by its captain, Wingrove Hicks Williams, Reggie’s lifeless body was kept entertained by the band that stood guard close by.
Other tributes came from Deputy prime Minister and Minister of Culture (and carnival), Shawn Richards, Mic Stokes, King Konris, Lord Kut, and his children.
While giving the Formal Remembrance, Reggie’s long-time friend, Monarch, expressed what many have been thinking and saying,” There will never be another Calypso Reggie”. Monarch opined that “Heaven will be a happier place with the entrance of Reginald CH Thomas, AKA Calypso Reggie.”
Anyone who knew Reggie at calypso shows would remember his love to change outfits, and that feature did not escape the commentary from Monarch, who jokingly stated, “I hope he don’t plan to take LIAT (to heaven) because he may reach late. You know they have to stop in Jerusalem and Bethlehem before they get to heaven. Also he going to have a lot of overweight with all them suits he does be wearing, sometimes as many as 10 per show.”
As the congregation roared in laugher to the comments of Monarch, Reggie perhaps said, “A like dat”.
Also present was a representative group from the Beach Allen Primary School, where Reggie served for many years, as the President of the Parent Teachers Association. His contribution to that school has had a lasting impact.
Calypso Reggie died on National Heroes Day, Wednesday 16th September, 2015. He will be missed especially during the upcoming carnival season.