Former Manchester custos remembered for his dedication, vision

MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Former Custos of Manchester Dr Gilbert Allen, who died on Friday at age 92 after ailing for years, is being remembered for his dedication to public service, including 17 years as custos.

Former Custos Sally Porteous, who succeeded Dr Allen in 2011, described him as very supportive and dedicated.

“He was a wonderful man and I think that Jamaica has lost a true son of the soil. He always put himself forward to help the parish and the country. As a medical doctor he treated people very well and then when he became custos he dedicated so much of his time to public service — which is not an easy thing,” said Porteous.

“He was a very kind and gentle person and always had time to listen to everybody. When I was made custos of Manchester, I spent a lot of time with him and he gave me a lot of valuable advice and was always very supportive of me,” she added.

Custos Garfield Green, who succeeded Porteous in 2019, described Dr Allen as a “gentle and kind” man who was always willing to share “advice and encouragement”.

“During his illness I visited him and talked to him on many occasions by phone. My fondest memories of him were how he always showed much strength and exuded positive energy as best as he could, and he never failed in sharing advice and encouragement with me,” said Green who also expressed his condolence to Dr Allen’s family.

Dr Allen, who for many years was contracted as Alpart’s (Alumina Partners of Jamaica) medical specialist, was central to the donation of 40 acres of land by the bauxite and alumina company at Kingsland — west of Mandeville — to the parish council (now municipal corporation). The land was proposed as the site for a justice centre, which would have facilitated Allen’s dream of the historic Mandeville courthouse becoming a museum.

He also negotiated the donation of nine acres of land by the bauxite and alumina company at Newport, south of Mandeville, in the parish.

Former Mayor of Mandeville Brenda Ramsay described Dr Allen as a visionary who had great plans for Manchester.

She described him as a humble and unassuming man with high integrity.

“He was loyal to his parish and country and wanted to see many advancements to make it better. Mandeville town is a very congested one, with the courthouse and the market in close proximity to each other. As beautiful as the courthouse is, he [Allen] felt that justice would be better served if we moved that sort of activity out of the town centre to the outskirts of Mandeville where a proper justice centre could be developed,” she said.

Ramsay said that after successfully negotiating Alpart’s land donation at Kingsland, he worked “tirelessly” to get the justice centre approved.

“Funding became an issue, but not only funding. There were those who were not really mindful of seeing that happen, because it naturally takes a lot of business out of the town centre [Mandeville town centre],” said Ramsay.

She said although funds were eventually allocated by the then Administration, his plans didn’t come to fruition.

“Also in Newport, he got lands donated by Alpart for a civic centre and it would house the police station, a clinic, a library and a sort of social and recreational facility, so the people in that area would best be served by all of these amenities,” said Ramsay.

She said a community committee was formed and is now trying to build the civic centre.

Dr Allen was lauded for his efforts in having well-trained and dedicated justices of the peace in the parish.

Governor General Sir Patrick Allen described him as committed and dedicated.

“Custos Allen was a humble, committed and dedicated individual who exemplified the meaning of selfless service. His entire life was devoted to caring for his patients, serving the parish of Manchester and the nation,” said the governor general.

Former president of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce, Wendy Freckleton described Allen as a “source of history and inspiration”.

Dr Allen, along with his widow Georgia, were honoured by the Lay Magistrates Association of Jamaica (LMAJ) Manchester Chapter in 2012 following his retirement, for his 17 years of service as custos.

Among his achievements were the commissioning of Jamaica’s current Governor General Sir Patrick Allen as a justice of the peace in 2003, and the establishment of the Gilbert and Georgia Allen Educational Trust.


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