Timothy Gibson should be a Bahamian National Hero!
With Rev. Dr. Emmette J. Weir
"Let us now praise famous men and our fathers that begat us. The Lord hath wrought great glory by them through his great power from the beginning. Such as did bear rule in their kingdoms; men renowned for their power; giving counsel by their understanding and declaring prophesies; leaders of people by their counsels, and by their knowledge of learning meet for the people; wise men and eloquent in their instructions. Such as found out musical tunes and recited verses in writing."
Ecclesiastes 44:1 - 5
Well, well, there is again much discussion in our community about the naming of Bahamian national heroes! For, you see, the designation of national heroes is one of the features of nation building.
Now, for many years the Rev. Sebastian Campbell was "a voice crying in the wilderness" in calling upon us to name our national heroes. Yes, year after year, he would take his stand beneath the bust of Sir Milo Butler in Rawson Square and make a clarion call for us to officially recognize outstanding "sons and daughters of the Bahamian soil" as national heroes, role models for our young people to emulate. Well the efforts of Rev. Campbell and many others, including Dr. Gail Saunders are beginning "to bear fruit" and so there is now serious consideration about naming Bahamian national heroes. There can be no doubt that this is a step in the right direction!
The question immediately comes to the fore, "who do you think should be designated as national heroes?" I don't know about you: but I know the person whom I think is most worthy of this honor. None other than the late great Timothy Gibson, writer and composer of our national anthem.
Do you know much about Timothy Gibson?
Whether your answer is in the affirmative or negative, it is worth hearing his life story ... again!
So, let me tell you about him: for I happen to be one of the small band of Bahamians who had the privilege of interfacing with him while alive!
Timothy Gibson was born on April 12, 1903 in the picturesque settlement of Savannah Sound in the beautiful Bahamian isle of Eleuthera.
He grew up in an old highly respected Bahamian family, which had long distinguished itself in that vitally important field of human endeavour known as "education." (Bear in mind that more Bahamian institutions of education are named in honor of this family than any other!)
Nurtured in such an environment, it was not surprising that this talented young man, following in the footsteps of his ancestors, decided upon a career dedicated to the physical, mental, moral and spiritual development of his fellow Bahamians, especially those of "the younger generation."
Young Gibson served in several Family Islands before taking up his appointment on the staff of Western Junior School. He moved rapidly through the ranks and eventually was appointed headmaster.
It was during this period that this writer came into contact with Headmaster Timothy Gibson. The professional, serious (but not dour) and dedicated manner in which this great Bahamian educator carried out his responsibilities made an indelible impression upon this individual in those formative, highly impressionable years of his life.
Respected and loved by both his teachers and students, the late great Timothy Gibson had three outstanding abilities.
First and foremost, Timothy was a disciplinarian!
During school hours "the headmaster" patrolled the campus, with cane in hand. And, in those days of corporal punishment on a wide scale, he did not hesitate "to use the cane" in the discipline of unruly students. No need for police on campus in the days of Timothy Gibson! It must be added, in all fairness that Mr. Gibson was reasonable and compassionate in administering the cane, explaining to the student why he had to take such a harsh measure and giving them "a pep talk" encouraging them to do better. It proved most effective as students so punished seldom ever returned "to the line."
This leads directly to his second great virtue: encouragement! Yes, he was an encourager! Whenever you came into his presence or under his influence, you were inspired "to be the best that you can be". As an encourager, he expected every student to perform to the best of his/her ability. Thus, if he knew that you were an "A" student and you came up with a "C," you would be severely "tongue lashed" for not doing better. If, on the other hand, he felt you were a "B" student making a "B", he would encourage you to try to get "A". Concisely, he had zero tolerance for mediocrity!
Thirdly, Mr. Gibson was a talented musician. Thus, he led in teaching music and in conducting the school choir. Thus, when the then extremely popular Princess Margaret visited The Bahamas in 1955, the climax of a tour of the Caribbean, he wrote the song: "Hail Princess Britannia". Our school children lustily sang this song, waving their union jacks as they greeted the beautiful princess to our shores. Yes, Timothy Gibson was a compassionate disciplinarian, great encourager, expecting the best out of his students and a talented musician.
Let us pause to reflect profoundly upon the life and witness of this giant of a Bahamian!
You see, the really great thing about Timothy Gibson was the fact that he practiced what he taught. (We know that preachers should practice what they preach. But the opposite is what is impressive - when one preaches what he already practices). The principles, discipline and virtues that Timothy Gibson spoke about in school assemblies were epitomized in his own daily living. Not only did he call upon his students to be disciplined and kind in all their actions. He was a gentleman who "doffed his hat" when speaking to women.
Now, nowhere is this approach to life more evident than in what is recognized as his main legacy to our nation - our national anthem. Anyone who knew Timothy Gibson will readily testify to those of "the younger generation" that the virtues and principles at the heart of our national anthem were evident in the life and teaching of Timothy Gibson. Indeed, our national anthem breathes the spirit of Timothy Gibson.
Take for instance the opening salvo, "Lift up your head to the rising sun, Bahamaland." This is a clarion call to us as Bahamians to face the future with courage and enthusiasm, zest for life! Timothy Gibson, as an encourager, exhorted his students often "to look up" or "lift up your heads," to be the best that you can be.
Then note this call to the pursuit of excellence, "Pledge to excel in love and unity." Captured here is the exhortation to strive for excellence, which is essential for success "in all walks of life."
Now Timothy Gibson was deeply religious and, indeed, was excellent when teaching religious knowledge. No one who attended his classes could forget the dramatic manner in which he paraphrased Bible verses in order to bring out their real meaning. Note, then how our national anthem ends ... "realizing that the road you've trod leads to your God."
What is Timothy Gibson saying here?
That if you practice the virtues extolled therein, if you adopt a positive approach to life by lifting up your head, and if you strive for excellence and if you are dedicated to bringing about love and unity, then you will discover that, having done so, you are on the way that leads to God. Brilliant!
What, then can we say about our national anthem on the basis of what we know about Timothy Gibson? Our national anthem, properly understood, is an exhortation to us as Bahamians to be optimistic and courageous in our attitude to live. It is a clarion call to pursue excellence, a call to national unity and the confident assurance that dedicated to these virtues will lead us to God.
Called to be disciplined, we are to go through life striving for excellence, trusting God.
As we complete the celebration of the 39th anniversary of independence as a sovereign state with responsibility for our destiny, under God, and embark upon preparation to celebrate the 40th anniversary next year, DV, it behooves us to reflect profoundly upon the Christian principles embodied in our national anthem.
As indicated at the beginning of this meditation, there is much discussion about the designation of certain great leaders of our community as "national heroes." Such being the case, it is quite reasonable to suggest that amongst the features of the 40th anniversary will be the official designation of certain Bahamians as "national heroes". Who can deny that Timothy Gibson should not be high on the list of those to be named Bahamian national heroes?
"Timothy Gibson, composer of the Bahamian national anthem, national hero" sounds good, eh?
"Give everyone what you owe him: if you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor."
(Romans 13:7, NIV.)
© 2012 The Freeport News