There’s an old saying in Montserrat folklore when referring to a person who appears to be mild-mannered or passive: “He look like he can’t mash fly.” Frank Edwards’ friends can’t remember ever seeing him in a confrontation. They don’t even recall him ever raising his voice for that matter. But Edwards’ stoic nature belied his steady leadership, intellect and enduring drive to succeed.
The Right Honourable Daniel Rudolph Valentine “Frank” Edwards, OBE, OE, was remembered Friday as a man of integrity, character and accomplishment. He was lauded by friends and associates, some of whom knew him upward of 60 years. And there was one recurring theme: Edwards was a quiet storm. He was reserved but resolute, calm but competitive, soft-spoken but self-assertive.
Edwards passed away June 7 after a long illness. On Friday, family and friends gathered at the St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church in Lookout, Montserrat, for his home-going ceremony. Following the two-and-a-half hour service, Edwards was interred at the Lookout Public Cemetery.
Sir Howard Fergus, Edwards’ longtime friend and colleague, delivered the eulogy. He spoke about Edwards’ profound impact on Montserrat society, then concluded with one of his trademark poems. One line in particular resonated:
“At 81 you batted very well, even though we were hoping for a much longer spell.”
Edwards delved into many areas during his life, but his involvement in cricket and real estate were heavily noted. In one light moment Friday, veteran attorney Kenneth Allen, Edwards’ longtime friend, quipped: “He was once a member of the West Indies Cricket Board. … They can use him right now.”
Edwards was born in Plymouth, Montserrat, on September 12, 1937. His father, Freddy Edwards, was the most well-known butcher on the island. His mother Margaret was a housewife. One of Edwards’ neighbors while growing was Tony Maloney, who became a lifelong friend and served as Edwards’ secretary-treasurer when Edwards was president of the Leeward Islands Cricket Association.
“Thanks for over 60 years of unblemished friendship,” an emotional Maloney said as he wrapped up his tribute.
Edwards played on the Montserrat cricket team from 1955 to ’65, including several years as captain. His leadership skills led to his appointment as Leeward Islands captain, an impressive feat considering Montserrat often played third or fourth fiddle in the Leewards hierarchy. After his playing career, Edwards ventured into the administrative side of the game. He became president of the Montserrat Cricket Association, then president of the Leewards Association, earning a crucial seat on the West Indies Cricket Board.
Meanwhile, Edwards was also heavily involved in real estate development in Montserrat as part of Montserrat Company, which he joined in the 1950s after graduating from the Montserrat Secondary School. Many of the villages that saw expansion during the 1960s and ’70s, such as Richmond Hill, Foxes Bay, Isles Bay and Old Towne, came during Edwards’ stewardship.
In the early 1990s, Edwards took on a big challenge when he was recruited as Chairman of the Board at Bank of Montserrat. Dalton Lee, the current chairman, spoke Friday about how Edwards rescued the teetering bank. After Hurricane Hugo in 1989, the bank approved many loans to homeowners. But the volcanic crisis six years later destroyed much of the collateral used to attain the loans. When Edwards came on board, the bank was operating at a loss and had received a loan of more than E.C. $10,000,000 from the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank. Lee said that by the time Edwards’ tenure ended, the bank was turning a profit and had repaid the loan two years early.
“There is a saying that a true sign of a good leader is that he leaves the organization in better condition than he found it,” Lee said. “That is certainly very true of our dearly departed chairman.”
Lee also had a surprise announcement: The Bank of Montserrat board voted to establish the D.R.V. Frank Edwards Memorial Scholarship that will be awarded on a tri-annual basis to a young Montserratian who seeks a degree in banking, finance or a related field.
Two of Edwards’ grand-daughters also paid tribute at the service. Amanda Harris sang a stirring acapella version of The Beatles’ Let It Be, and Ashley Nicholas performed a number on the steel pan.
Montserrat Premier Hon. Donaldson Romeo, who attended a United Nations Committee meeting this week in New York, was unable to be at the service. In his place was former government minister Claude Hogan, who called Edwards a “founding father of a business-centered Montserrat.”
Edwards is survived by his wife of 54 years, Eileen, his daughters Beverly Gumbs, Sharon Nicholas and Dawn Harris, his brother Arnold Edwards, sister Kitty Lynch, five grand-children, and many other extended family members.
Allen, who along with Edwards, Fergus and several others were part of the Jaycees group that organized Montserrat first official Festival in 1962, capped his speech Friday with an emotional sendoff:
“Goodnight, prince,” Allen said. “May flights of angels guide you to your rest.”