After years of calls for a book of memoirs from statesman Hon. Ralph T. O’Neal, it was confirmed last weekend that the promised book is in the pipeline. The announcement was made by Leader of the Opposition, Hon. O’Neal at the opening of the Virgin Gorda Easter Festival.
Hon. O’Neal after expressing his appreciation for being honored with the Festival Village in his name gave a brief historical overview of how the Easter Festival began, and explained that more will be added in his memoirs: “I will have more to talk about in the book that I hope will be published soon.”
The most recent call for Hon. O’Neal to publish a book was made last year during the Leader of the Opposition, and Ninth District Representative’s announcement of retirement. In response to the announcement there was a call for the elder statesman and first Premier of the BVI to publish a book on his experiences during his long and uninterrupted tenure as district representative.
The call for the book was made by Douglas Wheatley, popular commentator and host of the ZBVI talk show ‘Speak out BVI’. Mr. Wheatley’s show was aired in May 2014 hours after Hon. O’Neal announced that he will not be contesting the next general elections and that he would hand over the Chairmanship of the Virgin Islands Party.
As a result of the announcement, Mr. Wheatley dedicated his show to Hon. O’Neal and used the hour to reflect on the impressive public service career and legacy of the legislator. It was during this time that the Commentator made the call for Hon. O’Neal’s book to be published.
“One of the things that I am hoping he would do, and I know that he has started to write a book…I think that he has been able to get a lot of his information as he was working…whether he was civil servant or he was a politician he has been able to get his information and put it down for the day when he would put it all together in the form of a book, and so we look forward to reading this very interesting book, that would tell us about what the service was like in the 1950s, what the young Legislative Council was like in the 1950s, because he also served as Clerk of the Council in the early days,” Mr. Wheatley explained.
In emphasizing the importance of a book from Hon. O’Neal, Mr. Wheatley stated that the seasoned Legislator is a man of great knowledge of the system and was fortunate to serve in many capacities in the government. “He got a wide range of knowledge and every time there is an occasion he has a story to tell about his own involvement and knowledge with things.”
“There is an African proverb that when an old man dies a library is burnt down, well RT is very much alive, and we know that he has a fantastic institutional memory of things BVI and he can take you right back to the 50s very easily and bring you forward with information of the way things were in those days. It is very important for us to learn of those things. Sometime the younger people certainly think that the BVI was always the way it is now but far from it,” he added.
Mr. Wheatley went on to say: “We had hoped that a lot of other persons might have written some books, persons who had a lot of knowledge about governmental operations but unfortunately persons like McWelling Todman didn’t get an opportunity to write a book or Mr. Henry Creque, Mr. Ulric Dawson and my Dad Mr. Willard Wheatley, but may be some of their relatives may one day still write books about them so that we get an understanding of what life was like at that time. We look forward to the book that RT will no doubt publish and we also look forward to him being on radio, being interviewed about things of the BVI and so forth.”
“His presence in the House of Assembly will be missed because from time to time when an issue is being discussed you can always bank on RT getting up and giving you an historical perspective, and there are not too many of us left now who are in a position to give that kind of historical perspective. That contribution of his is always a very valuable contribution and everyone looks forward to it,” the Talk Show host said.