Calypso is the traditional medium of Trinidad and Tobago’s social commentary, and writer Nasser Khan will be choosing some old time calypsoes that highlight key events in this country’s social history. Today Khan looks at two Lord Kitchener compositions,
One to Hang from the 1973 album We Walk 100 Miles and Stanley Abbott from the 1974 album Tourist in Trinidad.
Lord Kitchener, documents in song the saga that surrounded Abdul Malik (Michael de Freitas, Michael X), Stanley Abbott, Adolphus Parmesar and Edward Chadee, in the murder/slayings of Gale Anne Benson and Joseph Skerritt in 1972. These two trials captured local attention and made international news since Benson was the daughter of an English Conservative MP and Abdul Malik had spent some years in England.
Kitchener no doubt would have had a special interest since the crimes were committed in Christina Gardens, in his home town of Arima.
One to Hang
Trouble in the back of Arima, so the papers say,
Four tesses involved in a murder just the other day.
One fella view the situation like thing getting brown,
He decided to throw in the sponge and turn witness for the crown.
Parmesar, they say you too *congosa,
Parmesar, they say you too congosa.
You swear on earth to tell the truth, you cut their throat.
You talk, you talk, you talk, and they believe you.
Parmesar they say you too congosa,
Parmesar they name you is the ring leader.
When the judge accept the verdict and let the hammer bang,
Three save, one to hang. Parmesar then started explaining this I have to say,
I was asked to help in the digging of the soakaway.
Ah see Abbott push down Joe Skerritt ‘til he reach the depth,
then Mr. Malik up with a cutlass and chop him on the neck.
Up jump a lawyer from St Lucia ‘sir with due respect’,
This witness an accomplice of the murder I strongly object.
Hudson-Phillip dive in a law book ‘my friend take it cool’,
Your worship ‘observe this paragraph’, objection overrule.
This was no surprise to the critic around the corner,
When the jurors brought in a verdict guilty of murder.
They ask Malik what he got to say, he just shake he head,
the judge ‘ah sentence you to hang ‘til you are dead, dead, dead’.
New Years evening Christina Gardens, Arima,
Six men planning to commit a brutal murder.
Well you know according to plan they brutally kill an English woman,
Now the gallows is imminent, everybody bawling they innocent.
Stanley Abbott how come now you bawling for murder,
Bawling for murder, screaming all over.
Stanley this is not the time to be sorry,
Don’t be a baby, face the penalty.
You see everybody say you are guilty,
That’s why the jury, show you no mercy.
As expected Parmesar a vital person,
Illustrated what really happen.
He said ‘your worship without a doubt,
Stanley Abbott cover the woman mouth.
She got the first chop from Kidojo,
And Steven Yeates hammered the fatal blow.
Abbott and Chadee under cross examination,
Fet jijjery when Phillips ask them this question,
he say ‘fellas after all this time, why nobody report the crime.
Their reply make the whole court laugh.
‘We were zombies for a month and a half’.
Justice Garvin went on to address the jury.
On returning they found the both of them guilty.
There was sympathy for Chadee,
They say Parmesar did much more than he.
Now the nation can’t understand how Parmesar walk out a scotch-free man.
Gale Anne Benson’s badly decomposed body and that of Joseph Skerritt were found some weeks following their murder in January 1972 when the Arima commune compound of Abdul Malik was destroyed by fire. The grizzly finds led to the arrests of Stanley Abbott, Edward Chadee and Adolphus Parmesar and the eventual arrest of Malik, who had fled to Guyana.
Another of the group, Steve Yeates drowned before the arrests were made. Stanley Abbott and Edward Chadee were convicted of Benson’s murder, after one of the group, Adolphus Parmesar, turned witness for the prosecution.
Abbott and Chadee were sentenced to death by Justice Garvin Scott, who described Benson’s murder as cold-blooded, calculated and cruel. Chadee’s sentence was commuted to life imprisonment.
Malik was charged with Benson's murder but was never tried for that crime. He was sentenced to death for the murder of Skerritt on August 21, 1972, and eventually hanged in May 1975.
The prosecution had to rely on Parmasar who turned witness for the crown, of which Karl Hudson Phillips was a lead figure. Parmesar told about the killing of Skeritt and Benson. Abbott (who was also convicted in the Skerritt murder) was hanged and Chadee received a Presidential pardon on Independence Day 1987.
Calypsoes supplied by Shawn Randoo, calypso archivist.