For the first time since being sworn in as Governor General of The Bahamas in July 2014, Her Excellency Dame Marguerite Pindling came to Abaco on an official visit.
Notified of her desire to meet the students of Abaco, District Superintendent of Education, Mrs. Dominique McCartney-Russell, chose Grace Gym at Agape Christian School as the venue, a place large enough to accommodate the many school children who were to attend the ceremony.
On the morning of Nov. 14 at around 10 a.m., a private car preceded by two policemen on motorcycles, made its way down the hill leading to the Agape Christian School Grace Gym. Along the way, students stood waving to welcome the cortege.
Under the watchful eyes of Chief Superintendent of Police Kevin Mortimer, the car came to a stop amid two rows of saluting Defence Force Rangers Cadets.
Dame Marguerite was then escorted out of the car by her protocol officers, Corporal Maycock, Corporal Burrows, and Inspector Roberts, and led to the entrance of the school where she was welcomed by the school’s faculty members.
Following a strict protocol owed to the highest personality of the country, she was then accompanied to the stage through the standing crowd, where Senior Deputy Family Island Administrator Maxine Duncombe, District Superintendent of Education McCartney- Russell, District Education Officer Huel Moss, and Agape Christian School Director, Patrick Rutherford, awaited her.
The ceremony was moderated by two high school students, Dikembe Wilkinson from Patrick J. Bethel High School and Chelsea Cooper from S.C. Bootle High School.
Students from various other schools were the actors and performers in the program, such as Alicia Wilchcombe, who interpreted the National Anthem, and Darranique Stuart from Moore’s Island Comprehensive School, who enunciated the invocation. They were followed by the Junior Minister of Tourism, Khalea Richard from Forest Heights Academy, who offered a warm welcome.
Students from Hope Town Primary School dressed in colorful outfits to perform a Bahamian medley. The same school was also represented by a duo, Principal Justin Higgs and teacher, Donnella Beckford, who were the only adults to perform. They sang, “To make you feel my love.”
A group of 10 students from Treasure Cay Primary School acted out a poem “Proud Nellie”; their performance was followed by the beautiful voice of Gelin Bellot, a student from S.C. Bootle High School, interpreting in solo “Rise Up.”
Choral Verse Speaking on “Abaco” was recited by a group of Crossing Rocks Primary School students. The poetic piece was written by the school’s principal, Mrs. Brenell Higgs.
“Your Excellency, when you retire choose Abaco to come and relax,” were their parting words.
Introducing the Governor General was Kaitlyn Francis, a student form Agape Christian School, who gave a synopsis of Dame Marguerite’s life.
Dame Marguerite was accompanied to the microphone and in a gentle voice acknowledged all the dignitaries present as well as “all who have welcomed me to this beautiful island.” Expressing her gratitude for the “warm welcome and gracious hospitality” demonstrated, she then spoke of her childhood on South Andros where she was born.
Dame Marguerite acknowledged the hardship of growing up in a poor family, and participating barefoot in household chores before going to school. She explained, however, that by participating in these activities she developed respect for her parents and her family, saying that she thanked God for these experiences that gave her strength.
As a teen, Dame Marguerite came to the realization that God always listened, and that she had to be responsible to take care of herself and know her worth.
She went to Nassau to finish her education subsequently finding work with a photographer, a position that taught her to always be elegant and well-dressed. This opportunity eventually led to meeting her husband to be, the late Prime Minister, Sir Lynden Pindling.
She told the students that the reason she was telling her story was to encourage them to dream big. Before telling them that she was giving them the gift of a day off from school that prompted a standing ovation, she also gave them a few words of advice: pray and ask God for guidance; have respect for yourself in the way you act, dress and speak; always display good manners; educate yourself, not only in the classroom, but by reading books, using the media and talking to older people because learning never ends; and commit your plans and your dreams to Almighty God.
All the schools had participated financially for the gifts that were then presented to the Governor General by a student from Central Abaco Primary School (CAPS), Ashley Smith.
A poem by students from Every Child Counts (ECC), “We are the world, we are the heartbeat,” was accompanied by a drum band led by Ronel Escarment. The drums were soon joined by cowbells turning the rhythm into a Junkanoo beat.
Paul Knowles, Abaco District Teacher of the Year 2017-2019, and principal at J.A. Pinder Primary School, presented the Vote of Thanks.
“A simple, but profound thank you,” he said as he acknowledged all present, telling Dame Marguerite Pindling that her presence had defined the event as a most “momentous” one.
All the schools on the island were then invited to enter the stage one by one for official photographs before the departing of the officials.
Dame Marguerite Pindling was to meet the heads of local government during a luncheon held at the Bahamas Government Complex.