A service of remembrance and thanksgiving for the life of Alexander Ogilvie Shirley, MBE, was held at the St George’s Episcopal Anglican Church in Road Town, on Saturday 16 January. A truly large congregation was in attendance and the service was aired by local radio stations to give everyone a chance to bid farewell to a great man.
“Mr. Shirley was a remarkable and decent man of unique talents – a quiet, soft spoken man widely respected, trusted and admired. A man firmly rooted in old-fashioned virtues of civility, kindness, honesty, integrity and propriety, yet an amazingly progressive man – a family man and a gentleman…For 82 continuous years he rendered sterling service to the St. George’s Anglican Church…he served in just about every manner and capacity possible and often represented the Church at diocesan conventions,” Mr. Robert Mathavious said in his eulogy of the illustrious and popular Ovie Shirley.
In his tribute, BVI Premier, Dr. The Honourable D. Orlando Smith said that Mr. Shirley “not only was an exemplary public servant in his day, but he was also a community organizer and a leading member of the Lions Club, a pillar of his Church, an avid sportsman and true leader. This Territory has indeed lost another icon.”
Statesman and former Chief Minister and Premier, Hon. Ralph T. O’Neal said in his tribute: “We have lost a dependable man, a kind and gracious man, a devoted member of his Church, a devoted father and godfather, a true friend, a great citizen, a respected individual.”
Mr. Shirley was born on 14 May 1927 and departed this life on 4 January 2016. He was the third of six children and the only boy born to James Ogilvie Shirley and Lucretia Shirley.
He was educated at the Anglican School and successfully completed the seventh standard programme, which was the highest level at that time. In October 1956, Mr. Shirley married Phyllis Pickering, and later two children were born of that happy union — John and Theresa.
Mr. Shirley enjoyed a 41-year productive public service career. During his long tenure as a public servant he worked assiduously and industriously in a number of departments and ministries, often at top levels, including Education, Customs, the Post Office, the Registrar’s Office, Agriculture, Inland Revenue, the Ministry of Communications, Works and Industry, Finance and the Treasury.
During his time in the public sector he rose through the ranks of service from his initial job in 1946 as Clerk/Petty Officer, Customs Officer, Senior Customs Officer, Collector of Taxes, Chief Accountant, Assistant Secretary, and Administrative Secretary to the Accountant General.
He also acted as Financial Secretary and Commissioner of Inland Revenue. He still remains the longest serving Accountant General — a post which benefitted from the training course he completed in the UK on public accounts and audit.
Mr. Shirley’s outstanding service to the BVI community was recognized by Her Majesty the Queen, Elizabeth II in November 1969 when he was awarded the distinction of Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE).
He retired from the public service in 1987, however he went on to serve the BVI Community on various statutory boards and non-governmental civic organizations. He was a charter member, past president, and great benefactor of the Lions Club of Tortola and faithfully continued to help that organization fulfill its charitable activities until he was unable to. Mr. Shirley was deservedly honored by Lions Club International with the prestigious Melvin Jones Fellowship, followed by the highest Lionistic honor, the Progressive Melvin Jones Fellowship.`
He was recognized by the BVI Red Cross as one of the longest serving blood donors always willing to contribute day or night to anyone in need. In the ‘70s when emergency service was needed Mr. Shirley and a group of like-minded men became auxiliary police officers and patrolled the streets of Road Town and restored calm and quiet.
From his youthful days Mr. Shirley took a liking to Cricket, mastering the nuances, vagaries and strategies of the game which he played whenever he could. He became an outstanding player — the captain of the Bucs and the national team. He represented the Territory with distinction on the national team throughout the Leeward Islands. When his playing days were over he remained active in the sport by working with the BVI Cricket Association in various capacities.
Mr. Shirley was instrumental in the development of the new recreation; in fact he initiated the drive to enclose the grounds. Therefore it was a fitting and well-deserved honor on 24 June 1990 when the Government officially renamed the new recreation grounds the A. O. Shirley Recreation Grounds.
He also served as Chairman of the BVI Electricity Corporation from June 1990 to September 2003, Chairman of the Legal Aid Board 2000-2015; the Ships Entertainment Committee; and a member of the Recreation Trust, Sir Rupert Briercliffe Hall, and the National Parks Trust. Mr. Shirley also played the tuba in a band many years ago.
The Service was officiated by Rev. Canon Julian M. Clarke, Rev. David Stedman, Rev. Sandra Malone, Rev. Erminie George, and Rev. Esther Georges.
The late Alexander Ogilvie Shirley, MBE, is survived by his son—John O. Shirley; daughter—Theresa M. Shirley-Frett; Sisters—Lilie, Vera, and Sister Gloria Shirley; Son-In-Law—Watkin Frett; Brothers-In-Law—Leonard Pickering; Sisters-In-Law—Patricia McCall; Grandchildren—Darryl Frett, Mandisa Frett, Alexa Shirley, and Nailah Frett; Great-Grandchildren—Cleofoster Alexander Williams III, and Mayah Brathwaite; and many, many other relatives and friends too numerous to mention.
The publishers, management and staff of The Island Sun newspaper convey their deeply felt condolences to the bereaved.