Trinidad carnival king, Roland St George dies of cancer

Roland St Gorge

(Trinidad Guardian) The mas fra­ter­ni­ty has been plunged in­to mourn­ing fol­low­ing the death of vet­er­an mas man Roland St George, 73, at around 4 am yes­ter­day.

St George, who had been un­der­go­ing chemother­a­py af­ter be­ing di­ag­nosed with Stage Four lung can­cer last No­vem­ber, passed away at his home.

His wid­ow, Fran­cis­ca Farmer-St George, grief-strick­en at her loss, could on­ly say: “Life with Roland was very in­ter­est­ing and there was nev­er a dull mo­ment.”

As news of his pass­ing spread, mem­bers of St George’s Car­ni­val band, D’Krewe, ex­pressed shock and sad­ness.

The mas camp, lo­cat­ed at Dun­don­ald Street, is a year-round hive of ac­tiv­i­ty where cos­tume pro­to­types are de­vel­oped for car­ni­vals in Mi­a­mi, New York and Toron­to as well the lo­cal fes­ti­val.

King of Carnival 2015 Roland St George portrays his costume Ahtwaje.

Among those pay­ing trib­ute to the mas vet­er­an was chair­man of the Na­tion­al Car­ni­val Com­mis­sion (NCC) Win­ston “Gyp­sy” Pe­ters who of­fered con­do­lences the fam­i­ly.

He said while St George’s death came as no sur­prise be­cause to his ill­ness, he was sad­dened by his pass­ing.

“In­deed, we have lost an­oth­er icon . . . so close to Car­ni­val but when is the best time for God to call to you back? I knew he was not well. He was very, very ill, so the news was not sur­pris­ing,” Pe­ters said.

St George, a long-time mas­quer­ad­er known for his ex­pert­ly-craft­ed cos­tumes, had par­tic­i­pat­ed in the King of Car­ni­val com­pe­ti­tion for more 40 years but won the ti­tle on­ly once, in 2015.

Last year, St George and an­oth­er for­mer King of Car­ni­val, Ger­ard Weekes joined their bands to­geth­er for the Pa­rade of the Bands. Weekes owns and man­ages the band Mas Pas­sion, said while he too is sad­dened, St George’s pass­ing was ex­pect­ed.

“I saw him on Fri­day and I think he knew too,” Weekes said.

Eight-time Car­ni­val King Pe­ter Samuel de­scribed St George as a man ded­i­cat­ed to the arts.

“I re­mem­ber tak­ing out my keys from my four-by-four ve­hi­cle and hand­ing it to him (St George) and say­ing, ‘You go­ing need this to cross the stage’. That was the kind of ri­val­ry we had. I am go­ing to sore­ly miss him back­stage.

“A lot of peo­ple don’t know what Roland went through. He was ded­i­cat­ed to the art form. Even last year when he wasn’t feel­ing too well . . . I was so shocked he played. It’s some­thing that was in his blood and some­thing he loved and he did it to the end,” Samuel said.

He said it was known in the mas fra­ter­ni­ty that St George had not been well in re­cent months but he was in shock when he found out about his ill­ness late last year.

“Roland and my­self go way back, many years, not just as ri­vals on­stage but as friends and it was con­stant pi­cong year af­ter year,” he said.

“Al­though Roland on­ly won King of the Band once I don’t think there is any­body in the his­to­ry of Car­ni­val who has crossed that Sa­van­nah stage as king for as many years he did. As far as I know, Roland played king for 41 years. That is a feat by it­self.”

Fu­ner­al arrange­ments

Joseph Lopez, spokesman for the St George fam­i­ly, Bel­groves is han­dling fu­ner­al arrange­ments which are still be­ing fi­nalised.

He said a press re­lease is ex­pect­ed to re­leased to­day with full fu­ner­al de­tails.

“The fam­i­ly is very dis­traught. Roland was a very fam­i­ly-ori­ent­ed man and it’s very un­for­tu­nate he passed away at this time, dur­ing Car­ni­val,” Lopez said.

“He was very much in­volved with his band and oth­er bands, pro­duc­ing mas and mak­ing cos­tumes for oth­er peo­ple as well, so it will be sig­nif­i­cant­ly hard for them at this time of the year where he’s al­ways ac­tive and in­volved in the sea­son.”

He said he was not cer­tain whether St George had plans for this year’s Car­ni­val as he had been “re­cu­per­at­ing and rest­ing” for the past few weeks.

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