Obituary: Sir Jack Dear

Jack Dear was one of Barbados's best-known, best liked, most respected citizens; and in one sense certainly its most prominent.

Educated at Harrison College, Barbados and Pembroke College, Cambridge, Dear was called to the Bar, Middle Temple, in 1947, and admitted to practice in Barbados a year later. He became a powerful advocate - West Indian oratory powered by a shrewd legal brain. His services were much sought after - once, to his pleasure, by the so-called Anguillan rebels, when Britain's Gilbertian invasion of that island raised spectres of treason trials, at the very least. There weren't any, of course; but he would have greatly relished the chance.

Politically he was a major force behind the Barbados Labour Party, and served as a senator from 1964 to 1966. His standing in the legal profession was such that in 1968 he became the first President of the Organisation of Commonwealth Bar Associations.

He was deeply involved in all aspects of Barbadian life - a man of great generosity (the Museum and the National Trust of Barbados owe much to his support), a crusader for racial harmony, and the most loyal of friends, of whom there were untold numbers. For he was above all a jolly man, raconteur, wit, avid reader, excellent company. His knighthood in 1996, for his contribution to the development of the legal profession and charitable causes, was universally applauded.

But that was not all. Jack Dear had another, very personal, claim to local fame. He came from a family of renowned trenchermen, but became the mightiest eater of them all.

In his prime - fit, athletic - he challenged one Mango, a famed eater of Trinidad, to a contest involving eating, twice, a six-course dinner. Mango gave up after nine courses; Jack ate all twelve, and then - so it is said - gobbled up Mango's last three. Gargantua, incarnate in the Caribbean.

Sadly, he never overcame his addiction to food. His increasingly vast bulk became less and less mobile; unsurprisingly his health deteriorated in tandem, until he could barely stand in court, nor occupy other than an extremely outsize chair. Yet to the end he remained himself: cheerful, gregarious, uncomplaining - and still hungry.

Rabelais represented Gargantua as "a mighty eater . . . as befits a giant, but also as a studious, athletic, good- humoured and peace-loving prince". There you have it: Jack Dear to the life.

John Stanley Bruce Dear, lawyer and politician: born St Lucia 18 July 1925; Called to the Bar, Middle Temple 1947; QC 1963; Senator, Barbados 1964-66; First President, Organisation of Commonwealth Bar Associations 1968; CHB 1981; KCMG 1996; married 1949 Jeanne Rawlins (one son, two daughters); died Bridgetown, Barbados 2 April 1997.

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