Packed church bids farewell to Walton Brown

  • Walton Brown. (Photograph by Nicola Muirhead)

Hundreds of mourners packed the Anglican Cathedral to bid farewell yesterday to MP and former government minister Walton Brown.

The standing room-only congregation at the Hamilton church heard that Mr Brown combined a fierce commitment to social justice with a level-headed approach to politics.

George Brown, Mr Brown’s younger brother, thanked him for “saving my life at the age of 12” when he almost drowned at a family picnic at Admiralty House.

He said: “I am for ever grateful and indebted to you.”

George Brown added that he had on impulse visited the grave of their father, also Walton, the day before Mr Brown’s sudden death on October 8.

Taryq Brown, one of Mr Brown’s three sons with former wife, Irmgard Ong-Aban, told the congregation: “Whenever I got in trouble, he did not get angry.

“He was forgiving, and kind. This kindness is what characterised him most in his career.”

He added: “My father was a teacher. The biggest lesson he imparted to my brothers and me was the importance of personal responsibility and self-determination.

“My father was a man of greatness and a man of fortitude. On that, despite his passing, he will not be forgotten — thank you.”

David Burt, the Premier, fought back tears as he said the 59-year-old Pembroke Central MP was a “gentle warrior” and “an example of consistency and principle in politics”. Mr Burt added: “Walton did not let his passion or emotion cloud his judgment and prevent progress from being made — even if he did not get what he wanted.”

Mr Burt said that the 2016 demonstrations against the One Bermuda Alliance’s Pathways to Status immigration legislation were sparked by Mr Brown’s call for “direct action”.

He added that the campaign was “one of the most powerful expressions of democracy that I will likely witness in my life”.

Mr Burt also announced that the members of a Commission of Inquiry into historic land losses in Bermuda, a cause championed by Mr Brown, will be revealed in the House of Assembly at its next sitting on November 1.

Kim Wilson, the health minister, said Mr Brown was a confidante and friend with whom she shared wine and debate.

She added he was “a man so easy in his skin that crossing what others would see as divides, whether political, cultural, social or economic, was of no consequence to him”.

Ms Wilson said the author, businessman and politician’s life had included the negotiation of “high-level international agreements”.

She added: “The special thing about Walton is he did not proclaim what he had done. He did not sit at the table of self-congratulation.”

Ms Wilson said: “Some of the qualities people saw in the political figure are what those of us lucky enough to have him as a friend enjoyed tenfold.”

She added that Mr Brown was “quick, analytical and just — at all times striving to seek all points of view and find the common elements within”.

Ms Wilson said her family said their group became “the three musketeers” when they were joined by Wayne Furbert, now the Minister for the Cabinet Office.

Ms Wilson highlighted Mr Brown and Mr Furbert’s disagreement over same-sex marriage, which Mr Brown supported and Mr Furbert opposed.

She said: “It was a very sensitive and highly emotive issue that both men felt passionately about, though their opinions were worlds apart.

“On this particular issue, Walton would patiently allow Wayne to share his views, based on the facts, research and whatever other points that he had in support of his position.”

Ms Wilson added: “I would finally step in and demand that they call a truce. Walton would always end by saying, ‘let’s agree to disagree’.”

She said: “Many will say his was a life gone too soon, but I prefer to think his was a life richly lived. Rest in peace, my friend.”

Longtime friend and former Cabinet Minister Dale Butler drew laughter from the congregation as he told them of Mr Brown’s reluctance to swear the oath of allegiance to the Queen when he entered Parliament.

Mr Butler said: “Walton’s life was so marked by this one point of seeking independence for Bermuda. Today, we celebrate him. But who will pick up his challenge?”

Mr Brown was buried at St John’s in Pembroke, the parish in which he grew up, canvassed and served his constituents.