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Living the Legend

Vere Bird Junior

Born in 1936 and 1938, respectively, the brothers were set up for sibling rivalry from the start. Born in those years also, the two would have reached the age of understanding just as their illustrious sire was beginning the stellar run that would take him – and them both – to the heights of political power in Antigua & Barbuda.

By the year 1943, when VC Bird supplanted Reginald Stevens as president of the Antigua Trades & Labour Union, the boys would have been 7 and 5 years old, respectively. In 1946, when their father entered the legislature and became a member of the Legislative Council, Vere would have attained the still-tender age of 10, Lester would have been 8: perfect years for instilling a lasting hero-worship for an outstanding and acclaimed sire; perfect years for internalizing a burning desire to honor, emulate or indeed surpass their father’s achievements.



In 1951, the people of Antigua were granted Universal Adult Suffrage. The AT&LU swept the polls, winning all the seats in the legislature. Vere Cornwall Bird became de facto the most politically powerful person in the country. The Administrator may have wielded the authority of Empire, but VC Bird wielded the people’s mandate: he was the head honcho, selected and anointed to champion the common man’s drive for self-determination. The brothers would have been aged 15 and 13, political princelings already wrapped in the approval and adulation of their peers: already living the legend.

It was a legend that would define their lives. The tides of politics swept the siblings along in the wake of their father, taking them from the dizzy heights of power to the depths of bitter defeat; lifting them again to the corridors of government before the winds of change toppled them from their lofty perch – perhaps for the last time.

The electoral defeat of 2004 has certainly proven to be the last time for Vere Cornwall Bird Jr, who thankfully never adopted the cognomen “the Second”. Perhaps the basically unassuming person he was instinctively shied away from the hubris implicit in such an act, which would have been an open assertion of dynastic or royal ambitions. This is not to say that Vere Jr did not aspire to succeed his father as leader of the nation. He most certainly did – as he should have been expected to, considering his unique childhood.

Sibling rivalry between two brothers a mere two years apart in age and practically equal in physical prowess must be considered a given in any normal family environment. It could and did set the brothers against each other in the political arena, and this has never been a secret in Antigua & Barbuda. It is a signal tribute to the equable and forgiving nature of Vere Jr that this rivalry never spilled over into open public confrontation, though both brothers pursued their own palace intrigues as each attempted to advance his own cause.

Vere Jr based his claim on the principle of primogeniture, which entitled him as the elder to the mantle of succession. The younger, brash, more egotistical Lester was simply more ambitious, hungrier for primacy than his elder sibling. Lester was also a far better political infighter, actually better suited to a political leadership role than Vere Jr. To this day, there are many who believe that Lester quietly encouraged the Blom-Cooper Inquiry into the “Arms to Colombia” affair with a view to ending his brother’s claim to the mantle of leadership.

Be that as it may, the Arms to Colombia affair effectively put paid to Vere Jr’s leadership challenge. Even though he would eventually be returned to parliament representing St John’s Rural South, his claim to succeed his illustrious father could not survive the Blom-Cooper characterization of him as “unfit to hold public office”. The voters of St Johns Rural South may have felt otherwise, but the international community might have taken a very dim view indeed of his accession to the prime minister-ship of Antigua & Barbuda.

Vere Bird Jr’s eventual political vindication has a great deal to do with his particular personality traits. Completely approachable, he was the perfect “people person”: a consummate face-to-face campaigner who had the ability to relate to anyone, anywhere, anytime.

When after his final electoral defeat in 2004 his failing health forced him to withdraw from active politics and concentrate his energies on his law practice, Vere Jr could be seen on any court day perched on the Temple Street wall of the courthouse, hemmed in by defendants and their family members. He would be chatting with the nearest person in his mild manner, while not omitting to send a warm and sincere greeting to anyone he knew who passed by.



In the end, in terms of sibling rivalry, the epitaph for Vere Jr might have been written by the man and woman in the street. Immediately after the shocking Taffy Bufton shooting incident, the popular word went out that Taffy might have shot “the wrong Bird”. Perhaps it was Vere Jr’s easygoing, forgiving nature that eventually earned him the enduring affection of thousands; and this forgiving nature was emphasized when he expressed no animosity toward Taffy Bufton, allowing an unhappy incident to die a quiet death.

Vere Cornwall Bird Jr and Lester Bryant Bird both lived the legend of VC “Papa” Bird as no one else could have experienced it. The brothers were as much victims of their birth, as beneficiaries. From their gilded youth to their golden age, they represented the contributions that the Bird family has made to Antigua & Barbuda. They have both paid the price demanded of those to whom much is given.

Vere Jr has passed on to his reward; Lester, the survivor, continues to carry on the legend. Other, younger descendants of the Father of the Nation are pressing forward to advance the flame. Vere Jr leaves the stage having done his part to ensure that the Bird name shall never be forgotten so long as there is an Antigua & Barbuda.



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13 Comments In This Article   

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Living the Legend

#13 carol martin » 2013-04-04 15:00

I do not have much admiration for alot of politicians but I must say Vere Jr. has captured my heart. I would watch him in court filling for his colleagues when they were absent. I know of others who has received his pro bono services. There were contituents who received packages each month. I can remember his smile and the pleasant hello's even if he did not know me. It felt as if he cared. Show me of a person who has not sinned, then I will show you God. I hope he has made it. Paul was a murderer but God forgave him and he became one of God's greatest followers. Neither do I condemn thee go and sin no more. I was truly impacted by what I saw of his life!
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carol martin

A state or an official funeral is in rder for Vere Bird Jr.

#12 Bluddy Bloke » 2013-04-04 02:00

What type of funeral will Vere Bird Jr get? Will it be a state or an official funeral? I do hope he will get what is due to him. He deserve a proper send off from the nation. May your soul rest in peace Vere, and may the good Lord bring comfort to the Bird's family at this time of their bereavement.
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Bluddy Bloke

Should be taught in our schools

#11 skyewill » 2013-04-03 18:36

Our kids need to learn this
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skyewill

@ Colin

#10 MY WAY OF HELPING » 2013-04-03 18:08

I read what you are wrote and because of that, is why we need to love; empathize more for each other and teach each other.
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MY WAY OF HELPING

RE: Living the Legend

#9 Askie » 2013-04-03 13:41

The news of Vere's passing came as quite a shock to me since,when I last saw and spoke with him at a friend's funeral in June of last year,he looked
to be in remarkable health.We sat in the same pew,next to each other and reminisced of our days at school and of old friends lost along the way.Vere
always greeted me with a wide smile and ready to engage in conversation
of things both past and present and always went out of his way to make you feel at ease.He was indeed a humble servant of his people and he will be truly missed.

May his soul rest in eternal peace.
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Askie

MY WAY OF HELPING

#8 Colin » 2013-04-03 13:29

Do not be mistaken - I have no personal dislike whatsoever for Lester Bird - no animosity whatsoever toward him or any member of the Bird family - I regard Lester more as a victim of his environment than anything else - but he does have some character flaws - his position has meant that the effects of his flaws have been magnified - they have also been capitalized upon by parasites masquerading as friends, supporters and advisers - tragic.
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Colin

Professor

#7 Colin » 2013-04-03 13:22

Thanks - praise from you is praise indeed - and I mean that sincerely - I must be a masochist, because I have learned to appreciate criticism of any kind from any source.
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Colin

@ Colin

#6 Professor » 2013-04-03 13:05

Excellent article. Balanced and well articulated. Take a gold star for ethical journalism.
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Professor

Informative Mr. Sampson

#5 MY WAY OF HELPING » 2013-04-03 13:02

Thank you for the information. I appreciated what you did with this piece. I have a question, what happen to that man who shot the bird?

I must say, from what i heard from regular folks, they said they love him and he was very caring and giving.

I also want to know, why do you have a dislike or do not approve of Mr. Lester Bird. This is a serious question, no sarcasm or animosity intended while i ask this of you?
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MY WAY OF HELPING

@ Colin

#4 Jackie Spence » 2013-04-03 08:35

Interesting perspective! Lester has always said he was going to write his life story. I hope that you - or someone can reach to him and have his perspective on the era in our history when the Birds "ruled the roost"!

Sadly, I heard Lester on ZDK last night speaking about his Brother, it seems that he has clearly deteriorated mentally. I found his speech to be rambling into insignificance. In addition, he sounded frail to me.
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Jackie Spence

RE: Living the Legend

#3 Dig It » 2013-04-03 08:03

Colin, thanks for taking us down a trip in 'memory-lane!' There is no other opinion greater of a man or in this case a prolific political figure than "public opinion." There was very much a "sibling rivalry" between both brothers, but their father, VCB, already told us who is not fit to run a "sweetie shop." Yet, the quest for power-and-authority doesn't always turned out the way we wanted it or planned it, especially, when you have to go the lengths to 'usurp' power at any costs, even it means killing both Abel and Adam (two Birds). All in all, VCB2 was able to live in peace with himself and 'forgive those who tresp** against him.' And, many in the public adores him because of born nature of being a 'peoples person.'
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Dig It

RE: Living the Legend

#2 Butters » 2013-04-03 06:48

Uncle Vere Continue To Rest In Peace we all love you
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Butters

RE: Living the Legend

#1 Firebug » 2013-04-03 05:18

Well done, sir. Vere Jr has gotten his due. Regardless to how we may feel about the Bird political regime, he was a decent man. In my opinion, this represents the highest compliment that can be paid to an elected politician, here or elsewhere. R.I.P
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Firebug

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Mr. Colin Sampson

 Mr. Colin Sampson is a Journalist and the host of "The Colin Sampson Show" on Caribantigua TV 

 

 

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