Sir Cyril's presence made a difference
Those Who Made a Difference
in Grand Bahama
By Fred Sturrup
FPN Acting Managing Editor
Sir Cyril Fountain is a man of letters, initially with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Economics, History and Ed-ucation from St. Benedict's College in Kansas. That's a lot to go on, through the rest of one's life.
He acknowledged he could have gone to great heights in the field of Education, especially.
For the 80-year-old Baham-ian statesman, his education began at the Quarry Mission Public School on Nassau Street (later known also as the Base Road). Then, he advanced through Western Junior and Senior Schools before his tutorship at Johnson's Private School, where he passed his Junior Cambridge Certificate. From 1945-47, he was a student of Govern-ment High School where he took his Cambridge Senior Examination. He worked for a couple of years at various places inclusive the Bahamas Telecommuni-cations Department before going off to St. Benedict's in 1949.
Upon his return home after graduation in 1953, he worked at several short-term jobs before becoming en-trenched in the educational system as a special Out Island Teacher On Contract from 1955 to 1958. He enjoyed teaching in the islands, in places like Abaco and West End, Grand Bahama and it appeared as though he had found his niche, but that was not the case.
There would be much more high level training and learning for Sir Cyril Fountain.
During his teaching stint, once when chatting with friend Kendal Issacs (later to be known as Sir Kendal Isaacs), the nation's Solicitor General, he was asked whether he had an interest in becoming a lawyer. Sir Cyril acknowledged the desire but wondered how he would go about getting the required legal training. Isaacs offered to assist and pointed him to noted attorney at the time, Leonard Knowles (later Sir Leonard Knowles).
The rest is history. Fountain articled with Leonard Knowles for a year before going off to England in 1959, and he has fond and appreciative memories of the period.
"He (Knowles) was very good to me. He did a lot for me. When I decided that I would finish my training in England, Kendal had ar-ranged for me to attend the London School of Eco-nomics. However, and when I informed Mr. Knowles, he had other ideas and steered me to King's College of Lon-don University and later Gray's Inn," informed Sir Cyril.
He completed his studies and was called to the English Bar in January and the Bahamas Bar in February of 1963.
He began private practice and quickly established a reputation for detailed re-search work.
It was his keenness for the technical points in law and the many judgments made in English Courts that served him well when appearing before the Supreme Court before men of a British background like Sir Ralph Campbell.
There was the case early in Fountain's career as an attorney when he defended an Acklins native who had killed a man with his shotgun because of a relationship the man was having with his daughter.
"My client spoke with the man and tried to reason with him but the man would not stop the relationship. One day, my client took his shotgun went to the bar where he knew he would find the unsuspecting individual, pushed the door open, trained the gun on him and fired, killing him. My defence was that he didn't know the gun was loaded. I had found a case of similarity in my research and based my representation along those lines. My man was not convicted," informed Fountain.
A lesser charge of manslaughter might have ended differently but the charge was murder and Fountain presented circumstances that resulted in his client being freed. Such was the shewredness that characterized his private legal work and stamped his tenacity for details while on the bench and as Chief Justice.
Sir Cyril was named Chief Justice in November of 1995 effective January 1, 1996. In June of that year he was invested at Buckingham Palace after having been made a Knight Bachelor in The Queen's New Year's Honours List.
It was a crowning achievement for a man for all seasons, one who had been a star athlete, a standout coach and a successful politician, apart from his legal work and judicial service. He was a Member of Parliament, serving in the House of Assembly on behalf of the constituents of Northern Long Island, Rum Cay and San Salvador 1972-1977.
What is his connection to Grand Bahama?
Well, in 1994, he opened the Freeport Supreme Court. It was an occasion that further tied Fountain to the island history forever. In that regard, although he had spent the vast majority of his earlier years in New Providence, his appointment as Justice of the new Surpeme Court enabled him in a very special way to make a difference in this island.
Following his tenure as Chief Justice, he returned and has made his home here ever since.
He continues to make a difference while providing legal and consultative service to the island's citizens from his Mable House Office on West Sunrise Boulevard, across from the entrance to the settlement of Hawksbill.
© 2010 The Freeport News