Montserrat stalwart Margaret ‘Annie’ Dyer-Howe gets emotional sendoff

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Margaret Annie Dyer-Howe was laid to rest Friday during a state funeral. She passed away April 6 at age 77.

She was honored for her tireless crusade to elevate women, protect children and uplift the underprivileged. She was remembered for her calm and measured demeanor, generous spirit and quiet dignity. She was celebrated through words, song and even the steel pan.

She took her beloved country under her wing. And now she flies with the angels.

The Right Honourable Margaret Mary “Annie” Dyer-Howe O.E. received an emotional homegoing Friday at the Roman Catholic Church in Lookout. Following the two-hour-plus service, a procession led by the Montserrat Defense Force, with marching band in tow, made a one-mile trek to the Lookout Public Cemetery. Mrs. Dyer-Howe received a gun salute and was laid to rest as family members, friends and dignitaries sang hymns.

Mrs. Dyer-Howe’s casket was as regal as the woman herself, white with gold trim and a hint of the Montserrat madras. It was draped with the country’s flag as it was carried out of the church.

“Miss Annie’s homegoing service was one that truly summed up the woman she was,” says Rose Willock, Dyer-Howe’s longtime friend and a broadcasting legend in Montserrat. “Outgoing, community-spirited in every way and dedicated to her homeland.”

Mrs. Dyer-Howe died April 6 after a long illness. She was 77 years old.

“She was an ordinary woman who produced extraordinary outcomes,” said Hon. Donaldson Romeo, Premier of Montserrat. “Giving to her community and country was always her overriding interest. Mrs. Howe has left much for us to emulate as a nation.”

Robert Howe, widower of Margaret “Annie” Dyer-Howe, looks on during the burial Friday, May 10, 2019 at Lookout, Montserrat.

Mrs. Dyer-Howe influenced just about every sector of Montserrat. Principled, pragmatic and devoutly Roman Catholic, she helped enact social change during a time when women were mostly excluded from prominent positions in society. Due to her efforts, the protocol for acceptance into the Montserrat Secondary School was changed to allow non-affluent students a fairer chance. Mrs. Dyer-Howe argued that students from wealthy families had an unfair advantage because their parents could afford private tutoring.

“Miss Annie’s homegoing service was one that truly summed up the woman she was.”

Rose Willock, broadcasting legend

Mrs. Dyer-Howe, who was profiled in the book Gallery Montserrat by Sir Howard Fergus, was born Margaret Corbett on November 18, 1941 and grew up in St. Patrick’s in southern Montserrat. She was heavily influenced by her grandmother, who was a district midwife. She attended the St. Augustine School, which was then on George Street in Plymouth, and later taught at the school before migrating to the United States for secretarial training. In 1964, she married businessman and politician Michael Dyer. It was during that union that her political aspirations took shape.

In 1974, Michael Dyer passed away. In 1979, Mrs. Dyer-Howe competed in a by-election in the Southern district for the seat of the late Joe Taylor. She won, essentially reclaiming the seat lost years earlier by her husband. In 1983 she was re-elected and assigned the Ministry of Education, Health, Community Services, Women’s Affairs, Culture and Sports. She became only the second woman in Montserrat to hold a ministry, following Mary Rose Tuitt in 1970. She married Robert Howe in 1984.

Fergus, a longtime friend, was among the luminaries paying tribute Friday. Speaking about Mrs. Dyer-Howe helping to break the female barrier in parliament, he said: “She was No. 2 to wear the toga of a minister, and she did more than warm the bench. She did more than any of her generation to elevate women in skills and consciousness.”

Added Willock: “She empowered women at every level.”

The casket of Margaret “Annie” Dyer-Howe is prepared for burial at the Lookout Public Cemetery in Montserrat.

Aside from her work in politics, Mrs. Dyer-Howe established the Montserrat Small Business Association, promoted vocational training for teenage mothers and pregnant teens and fought for the elderly. Mrs. Dyer-Howe is also remembered for her time at the Montserrat Water Authority, where she served as executive secretary, administrative officer, and later manager.

In 2018 she was presented with the Order of Excellence during the Montserrat National Awards for her exemplary contributions to the country.

Hon. Speaker of the House Shirley Osborne perhaps summed up Mrs. Dyer-Howe’s legacy best during Friday’s service. “Many of the building blocks of Montserrat were put up, leveled out and cemented in place by this woman.

“So Montserrat is Annie’s house.”

Mrs. Dyer-Howe is survived by her husband Robert, step-daughter Joycelyn Howe, brother Neville Corbett (aka Dick Martin) and many other family members.

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