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News : Bahamas Information Services Updates Last Updated: Sep 8, 2018 - 9:07:16 PM

Chief Justice Funeral Service was a Solemn, Uniting Event
By Eric Rose
Sep 7, 2018 - 12:51:30 PM

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Congregation. (BIS Photo/Kemuel Stubbs)

NASSAU, The Bahamas – As the Bearers' Party solemnly entered the Supreme Court and draped the Bahamian Flag over the coffin of the Late Chief Justice of The Bahamas, the Hon. Mr. Justice Stephen Gerard Isaacs, on September 7, 2018, it represented to some what his life meant to the island-nation – he was a “true son” of the Bahamian soil.

That day, the country paid its respects to the first Chief Justice to die in his post with a State Funeral Service that brought together not only the Executive, Judicial and Legislative Branches of Government; but also family members, friends and well-wishers for a man who served his country in the public arena for almost 25 years.

Governor-General Her Excellency the Most Honourable Dame Marguerite Pindling, Prime Minister Dr. the Hon Hubert Minnis and Acting Chief Justice Vera Watkins also held representative roles; but with them stood Parliamentary and Judicial colleagues. Provost Marshall / Commissioner of the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) Anthony Ferguson and Commander of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) Commodore Tellis Bethel joined with the fellow members of their uniformed branches, as well as other uniformed departments in The Bahamas, including the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services, the Customs Department and the Department of Immigration.

There was a sea of colours and uniforms and regalia that made its way from the Supreme Court, north on Bank Lane and west on Bay Street that morning. One could even spot the Mace of the House of Assembly and the Rod of the Senate making an appearance among the sea of marchers. Once again symbolizing the unity, RBDF and RBPF members led the way as firing party and Tap Sections, ceremonial guns and musical instruments polished and shining in the Bahamian sun, matching well with their uniforms. Chief Justice Isaacs' flag-draped coffin rode quietly on the gun carriage, clacking slightly on the cobbled bricks on Rawson Square, passing flags at half-mast, local and tourist onlookers, and surrounded by persons who held him in high esteem.

Pomp and pageantry. (BIS Photo/Derek Smith)

As they turned onto George Street on their way into Christ Church Cathedral, unity could again be seen as Parliamentary members such as the Leader of the Opposition the Hon. Philip Davis and colleague Glenys Hanna Martin and Cabinet Members intermingled with judges and lawyers there present – a number of whom briefly shared personal comments and anecdotes as they remembered Chief Justice Isaacs.

Once in the Cathedral, the State Funeral Service began with the Reception of the Body and Opening Sentences. Officiating were the Venerable Keith Cartwright; the Most Reverend Drexel Gomez; the Very Reverend Harry Bain, and Deacon Bryton Ward. However, clergy members from throughout The Bahamas, former Prime Minister the Hon. Perry Christie and several other prominent Bahamians joined with foreign dignitaries and persons just there to pay their respect for a man they admired.

Mr. Harvey Tynes, QC, and Prime Minister Minnis brought tributes early in the service, and his nephew and journalist Chester Robards and his son Stephen V. Isaacs read the Old and New Testament Lessons, respectively.

Throughout the Service, there were solemn songs and readings. Other family members also took part in the Service and Most Reverend Gomez brought the Sermon.

In the Cathedral, one could see a united Bahamas in its pews, as white wigs and robes, uniforms and suits were like waves throughout the congregation sea. Communion was another opportunity for all to take part in the service and the swell of voices singing the National Anthem near its end spilled out the doors and into George Street, causing all outside – including passersby – to stand at attention out of respect.

At the end of the Service in the Cathedral, there was another solemn march back out to George Street. Honorary Pallbearers from the family, Parliament and Judiciary re-joined with family pallbearers in the march, while the ever-present Bahamian Flag fluttered before them just behind the officiating clergy and the combined uniformed parties that led them there. The Bearers' Party carried Chief Justice's coffin on their shoulders – a mix of police and defence force representatives who worked together to bring him north to the funeral gurney that lay in wait for the Committal service. The two forces conducted a 21-gun salute and a bugle quartet of Reveille echoed throughout Downtown Nassau during that service.

Prime Minister Minnis showed his respect to the Flag and presented Chief Justice Isaacs' son Stephen with it – the Flag of a country that gathered that day to show its love and respect for him.

Many things happened that day. There was ceremony. There was a march downtown. There was a State Funeral.  Pomp and pageantry intertwined with respect and love, and revealed some of the tapestry of what is uniquely Bahamian.

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