For the third time in the past four months, Montserrat is mourning the loss of a mega-figure. Frank Edwards, who impacted real estate, sports, politics and several other areas on the island, died Friday night, June 7, 2019, in Florida after a long illness. He was 81 years old.
In early February, Montserrat lost former scholar, musician and social engineer Dr. George Irish; two months later, former government minister Margaret Annie Dyer-Howe passed away. News of Edwards’ passing prompted an outpouring of condolences on social media, with many people sharing stories of how Edwards mentored or assisted them.
Known for his quiet demeanor, strong leadership skills and trademark bald head, Edwards made his biggest impact in sports and real estate. After graduating from the Montserrat Secondary School in the early 1950s, he began working for Montserrat Company, which held a virtual monopoly in real estate and agriculture on the island. Montserrat Company was started in 1857 by Joseph Sturge, patriarch of the powerful Sturge family. The company was renamed Montserrat Real Estate Company (MORECO) in 1961.
During an interview in 2017, Edwards spoke about how he once held the title of Comptroller (financial officer) and later managing director. In the 1960s and ’70s, Montserrat underwent a real-estate evolution that saw expansion of areas such as Richmond Hill, Foxes Bay, Isles Bay and Old Towne. Edwards and MORECO were heavily involved in those developments.
Edwards was also a standout cricketer and cricket administrator. He played for Montserrat from 1955 to 1965 — often as captain — when the team featured other stars such as batsman Kingsley Rock and fast bowler George Edwards. A top-order batsman and part-time bowler, Edwards captained the Leeward Islands team against Australia in 1965 and also played for Combined Islands against the touring India Test team in 1962 in St. Kitts.
“He was a person you can easily deal with. He never argued. I learned a lot from him. It was an honor to work with him.”— Alfred Christopher, longtime friend and colleague of Franklyn Edwards
In the 1970s he became one of the most powerful cricket administrators in the Caribbean. Already president of the Montserrat Cricket Association, he was elected president of the Leeward Islands Cricket Association, replacing Calvin Wilkin of St. Kitts. That post gave him a crucial seat with the West Indies Cricket Board and heavy influence over player selection. Edwards once spoke about how he had to navigate the fine line of fielding the best Leeward Islands team possible but also lobby for Montserrat cricketers. In February of 1973, Leeward Islands played a warm-up match against the Australian Test team in Antigua. Four of the 11 Leewards players were from Montserrat: Jim Allen, George Allen, Alford Corriette and Vendol Moore.
Franklyn Edwards was born Daniel Rudolph Valentine Edwards on September 12, 1937. He grew up in the heart of Plymouth in Water Lane, an area nicknamed Boobie Alley. “Franklyn is my jumbie name,” he said smiling during a 2017 interview when asked about his many names. His father, Freddy Edwards, was a butcher. His mother Margaret, affectionately known as “Nenen”, was a housewife.
In 1962, Edwards was a member of the Montserrat Jaycees that organized the first official year-end festival. The other members included Cedric Osborne, Bertrand Osborne, Kenneth Allen, Kenneth Cassell and Sir Howard Fergus. Edwards later served as president of the Jaycees. He was also known for his long association with the Endeavour Club and its cricket team.
In 1964, Edwards married Eileen Tonge. They had three daughters: Beverly, Sharon and Dawn. The couple would have celebrated their 55th anniversary in July.
Alfred “Christo” Christopher, who knew Edwards since they were teenagers and worked alongside him while both were with the Montserrat Jaycees, says Edwards was one of the greatest leaders he ever met.
“He was a person you can easily deal with,” Christopher says. “He never argued. If he had something to tell you, he would say it and that would be the end of it. I learned a lot from him. It was an honor to work with him.”
In his later years Edwards ran a successful real estate company and also served as chairman of Bank of Montserrat. He also had a stint as Speaker of the Legislative Assembly. On March 16, 2016, Edwards was presented with the Order of Excellence medal during the National Awards for his distinguished service and contribution to the development of Montserrat.
“He was always a very unassuming, quiet person,” said Cedric Osborne, who knew Edwards for more than 60 years and served with him on the board of Montserrat Electricity Services (MONLEC) for more than a decade. “We used to play a lot of tennis together. He was a fantastic friend.”
Edwards is survived by his wife Eileen, daughters Beverly Gumbs, Sharon Nicholas and Dawn Harris, brother Arnold Edwards in Canada, sister Kitty Lynch in the UK, and five grandchildren.
The funeral service will be held Friday, June 28, 2019 at the St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Lookout, Montserrat. Interment will be held at the Lookout Public Cemetery.