Crowds lined the streets of the capital and traffic was brought to a halt as a gun carriage carrying the casket with Sir Ellis’ body was slowly driven through the streets of north Port-of-Spain on a final journey for the late statesman.

Accompanied by eight members of the Mounted Branch, as well as the symbolic riderless horse used only for the highest state officials, the gun carriage was pulled by jeep from the National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA) to the Lapeyrouse Cemetery.

The day’s events officially began at 9.30 am with a thanksgiving Mass at the Church of the Assumption, Maraval, where Sir Ellis’ family payed emotional tribute to a man who has been dubbed “Grandfather of the Nation”.

“Religion was not a part of his life, it was the fundamental basis which guided everything else,” an emotional Peter Clarke said in tribute to his father. “To truly appreciate Ellis Clarke, you have to understand the role his Catholic faith played in his life.”

The Mass was officiated by Archbishop Edward Gilbert who wore white and gold vestments. The Lydians sang hymns, including “My Eyes Have Seen the Glory”, and burst into their now famous rendition of Handel’s Hallelujah chorus at the end of the Mass as Sir Ellis’ casket was taken out of the church and placed into a hearse just after 11 am. The hearse, escorted by police, was then driven along Saddle Road and towards the Queen’s Park Savannah where traffic was partially closed-off.

The hearse was escorted by police to the front of President’s House, St Ann’s, where there was a slow march and a presentation of arms. It then proceeded unto Queen’s Park West to the Keate Street entrance of the National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA).

Crowds lined the streets and gathered at Memorial Park, which adjoins the NAPA, where white tents and a large screen had been set up for members of public to view the State funeral service inside. The outpouring of emotion from the public was so great that some even complained at not getting a chance to see the State funeral.

“Why no big screen in Chaguanas to view the State funeral?” one participant in a UNC online mailing forum said yesterday.

The State funeral in the main hall of the NAPA saw tributes to Sir Ellis from President George Maxwell Richards, Chief Justice Ivor Archie, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and Archbishop Eduard Gilbert (who had made his way directly from the Mass at the Assumption).

The Prime Minister announced the endowment of a chair at the University of the West Indies in Sir Ellis’ name, Archie revealed he had urged Sir Ellis to pen his memoirs mere weeks before his death, Richards paid tribute and the Archbishop said Sir Ellis was a man in love.

“He was in love with each and every one of you,” Gilbert said. “He was in love with the nation.”

The Lydians (who came from the Mass at the Assumption) performed pieces from Cuban composer Jose Vitier’s Misa Cubano. Bishop Calvin Bess, Dharmacharya Uttam Maharaj and Imam Abzal Mohammed delivered holy readings and said prayers.

The casket was then removed from the main hall and taken outside to the east of the NAPA onto Keate Street where it was placed onto the gun carriage and given a 14-shot gun salute. The gun carriage was then pulled along Frederick Street and around Memorial Park. It turned onto Keate Street, onto Frederick Street, onto Park Street and was then pulled past Green Corner onto Tragarete Road, turned onto Phillip Street and then taken into Lapeyrouse.

After an emotional ceremony at the Clarke family plot, the casket was lowered into a grave and workmen completed the process of covering the grave by about 4 pm. The President, Chief Justice and Prime Minister joined the Clarke family to lay wreaths, as the afternoon sun beat down on the tombstones at Lapeyrouse.

It was the end of a journey and marked a close to one of the most important political careers this country has ever seen.

Born on December 28, 1917 into a middle class family, Sir Ellis spent the first 19 years of his life in Belmont. Although it is well known that he attended St Mary’s College, where he won an island scholarship in mathematics, it is often forgotten that before this he was schooled at Belmont Intermediate School.

Clarke pursued his tertiary education at London University where he obtained his LLB. He was called to the Bar at Gray’s Inn, London in 1941.

Not long after his return to Trinidad and Tobago, Clarke was called to the Bar and engaged in private practice from 1941-1954. Between 1954 and 1962 the attorney held several posts in the Colonial Government: Solicitor General, Deputy Colonial Secretary, Attorney General and Constitutional Advisor to the Cabinet. He was appointed as Governor-General by Queen Elizabeth II in 1972, and assumed duties on January 31, 1973.

Upon proclamation of Republican status on September 24, 1976, the post of Governor-General became obsolete. Following a meeting of the Electoral College, as provided by the Constitution, Ellis Clarke was elected unopposed, as President, becoming the first President. He would hold office until 1987, making him this country’s longest-serving presidents.

He was bestowed the Companion of St Michael and St George (CMG)in 1960, and made a Knight Bachelor (Kt Bachelor) in 1963. He was one of the first to be awarded this country’s highest honour: the Trinity Cross (TC) in 1969.

Ellis Clarke was involved in the draft Constitution, culminating in his attendance at the Marlborough House Conference held in Venezuela from May 28 to June 8, 1962. He would, decades after leaving high office, also sit on Prime Minister Patrick Manning’s Constitution roundtable which aimed to reform the current Constitution. Sir Ellis was also the author of a draft constitution which controversially proposed to ban abortion. Sir Ellis had once refused the post of Chief Justice, reportedly because of his desire to focus on shaping the Constitution.

He died on December 30, last year, at his home in Maraval, two days after his 93rd birthday. He never recovered from a massive stroke he suffered on November 24.



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