(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.
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.”
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.