Alister Hughes

Respected Caribbean journalist

Alister Hughes, one of the Caribbean's best-known journalists, arrived late at his vocation. When he came to chronicle years of revolution and invasion on his island he used the habits of industriousness and care learnt in 36 years in the retail trade. A. Norris Hughes and Sons, the family sewing-machine business, was a power in a small, poor West Indian colony where clothes were mostly home-made.

Alister Earl Hewitson Hughes, journalist: born St George's, Grenada 21 January 1919; Editor, Grenada Newsletter 1972-94; married first Cynthia Copland (died 1989; one son, two daughters), second 1997 Margaret Murphy; died St George's 28 February 2005.

Alister Hughes, one of the Caribbean's best-known journalists, arrived late at his vocation. When he came to chronicle years of revolution and invasion on his island he used the habits of industriousness and care learnt in 36 years in the retail trade. A. Norris Hughes and Sons, the family sewing-machine business, was a power in a small, poor West Indian colony where clothes were mostly home-made.

The eldest of four, with Welsh, French and black blood in his veins, Hughes was educated to secondary standard and shortly afterwards went off for a spell in neighbouring Trinidad, then as now, seen as Grenada's metropolis.

Back home, he threw himself into the world of commerce, insurance and auctioneering, though always with an eye on politics. Politics revolved round the rabble-rousing union leader Eric (later Sir Eric) Gairy and his thugs, the Mongoose Gang. Gairy came to power as Chief Minister in 1954 in one of the Caribbean dependencies which Whitehall was planning to push helter-skelter towards independence. The West Indian sugar-producing islands, prized possessions bloodily fought over between Britain and France in the 18th century, were now indigent, troublesome and surplus to Whitehall's requirements.

Hughes joined the National Party of Herbert Blaize, Gairy's principal opponent, and was its general secretary from 1957 to 1968. He was also deputy mayor for St George's, president of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce and Grenada's representative on the Incorporated Chambers of Commerce in the Caribbean.

In 1969 he left business for journalism and became a local correspondent for the BBC, the Caribbean News Agency and Associated Press. Three years later he and his capable wife Cynthia started the simply produced Grenada Newsletter, which was to survive till 1994, a valuable source of news as politics grew stormier.

Hughes received his first beating from the Gairy's Mongoose Gang in 1973 as he awaited at Pearls airport the Chief Minister's return from independence negotiations in London. Undeterred, he reported on the attack for a radio station in Trinidad. The next year, on his 54th birthday, his life was endangered as he reported live on radio on the Mongoose attack on 6,000 anti-Gairy demonstrators in St George's. They were beaten, gassed and fired on and a man, Rupert Bishop, was killed. Hughes's reputation as a journalist was made.

Seven weeks later amid a general strike and electricity black-out the colony became an independent Commonwealth monarchy under Prime Minister Gairy, free to do political deals with such as General Augusto Pinochet of Chile and the US Central Intelligence Agency without Whitehall having to bother. Hughes and the newsletter somehow survived.

In March 1979 the petty tyrant was removed by a bloodless coup, the first in the Commonwealth Caribbean. It was led by the New Jewel Movement headed by Maurice Bishop, son of the man Gairy's gangsters had killed. Predictably Hughes, the conservative, and Bishop, the revolutionary and admirer of Fidel Castro, were distant. Hughes failed in an attempt to start an opposition newspaper: Bishop's People's Revolutionary Government would brook no opposition.

After Bishop himself was murdered by a rival revolutionary group in October 1983 Hughes was locked up with others in Richmond Hill prison by the new leader Hudson Austin as the US moved to invade the island. With St George's in a no-man's-land between the US invaders and the fast-melting Grenadian resistance two colleagues and I drove up to assure them it was safe to quit the jail. As we all drove back into St George's we realised how close they had been to death: inaccurate US bombing had caused fatalities and destruction at the nearby mental hospital known as "the Crazy House".

Hughes fairly reflected Grenadians' rejoicing as the US consolidated its hold on the island. Yet to the disappointment of many of his friends Hughes went on to support US efforts to justify an obviously illegal invasion. "Don't call it an invasion, call it a rescue mission," he said.

Hugh O'Shaughnessy

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
newsAnother week, another dress controversy on the internet
Life and Style
Scientist have developed a test which predicts whether you'll live for another ten years
health
Life and Style
Marie had fake ID, in the name of Johanna Koch, after she evaded capture by the Nazis in wartime Berlin
historyOne woman's secret life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
News
news... and what your reaction to the creatures above says about you
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executive - Call Centre Jobs

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - Covent Garden, central London - £45k - £55k

£45000 - £55000 per annum + 30 days holiday: Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ...

Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator - Lancashire - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: 3rd Line Support Engineer / Network ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Web Developer

£26000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Web Developer is required to ...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn