Needham’s passing a tremendous loss, says PM

Merrick Needham, the man regarded as Jamaica’s foremost ceremonial and protocol expert, passed away on Thursday, December 29, six days after he marked his 89th birthday.

Needham, who had been hospitalised three weeks ago, died just after 9:00 am, his wife Camille told the Jamaica Observer.

“Jamaica and the world have lost a most wonderful human being, a decent and generous man,” Mrs Needham, executive director of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association, said when she confirmed his passing to the Observer about mid-morning.

Reacting to the news, Prime Minister Andrew Holness stated in a tweet, “What a tremendous loss we must now live with as we learn of the passing of protocol expert and passionate Jamaican nationalist Colonel Merrick Needham.”

Holness’s use of the military rank stems from Needham creating history four years ago when he became the first Jamaican to receive an honorary commission by the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) that granted him the rank of Colonel (Hon).

The citation, read before the presentation of the commission on November 22, 2018 at the JDF’s Up Park Camp headquarters in St Andrew, noted that Needham had been a dedicated supporter of the JDF for four decades and had participated in numerous military activities by freely offering his services in the production of the JDF’s Alert magazine over many years, the Change of Command parades as a narrator, and the Military Tattoos in 1983 and 2012.

After the presentation ceremony Needham had told the Observer that honorary commissions are very rare, even though the practice is well-established within Commonwealth nations, adding that he was “extremely honoured” by the gesture.

“Honorary commissions,” the JDF had noted in the citation, “are granted to ex-service members or distinguished citizens who, through their work, are guardians of the regimental traditions and history of the force and who seek to promote the force’s identity and ethos.”

Needham, who arrived in Jamaica as a seven-year-old evacuee from the Nazi bombing of London in World War II, was Jamaica’s principal logistic, ceremonial and protocol consultant for more than four decades. His work ranged from large banquets to major international conferences with up to 2,400 participants.

He was Chief Executive Officer (Conferences) at the Commonwealth Secretariat in London from 1980 to 1983, during which he serviced and partially coordinated Heads of Government and Ministerial-level conferences in a dozen countries on every continent except Antarctica.

Needham was a member of the Order of Distinction (Commander Class), a member of the Royal Victorian Order, and a member of the Order of St John. He amassed an enviable record of coordinating the logistics and other aspects of Royal, State and official visits to Jamaica, among them the 1977 State visits of Cuba’s President Fidel Castro and Mozambique’s President Samora Machel, the unofficial visit of The Princess Royal in 1990 and, nine years later, that of Prince Albert of Monaco, as well as the 2012 Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Caribbean Royal visits of Prince Henry of Wales and the Earl and Countess of Wessex.

On Thursday, veteran broadcaster and actor Fae Ellington paid tribute to Needham, noting that she was privileged to have been in attendance when he was accorded the honorary commission from the JDF.

“What a legacy he’s left. I thank you for all you shared with me. My condolence to his wife Camille and his children. RIP, Merrick,” Ellington wrote on Twitter.

Naomi Francis, press secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, in a Twitter post, hailed Needham as a master of his craft who was detailed and artful in his executions.

“Brilliant at protocol matters and one of the strongest most iconic voices in media and advertising. I’m grateful to have known him. Rest well. Condolence to his widow Camille and his family,” Francis wrote.

Generated by Feedzy