Ronald Lightbourne: Bermuda’s “Renaissance Man”


Jonathan Bell writes that the late musician, artist and activist Ronald Lightbourne (who passed away this week) was Bermuda’s “renaissance man.”

An accomplished piano and trumpet player, Mr Lightbourne, who was 71, performed with top island artists in the heyday of Bermuda’s music scene.

Gene Steede, a veteran musician who played with Mr Lightbourne at hotel venues for years, said Mr Lightbourne was a “brilliant” teacher. [. . .]

Meredith Ebbin, a journalist and historian, said Mr Lightbourne was “one of my dearest friends”. She added: “Our love of books, writers and writing established our friendship when we were young adults. “A brief conversation would be all one needed to be aware of the breadth of his talents. He was a gifted writer, musician and a thinker.” Ms Ebbin added that Mr Lightbourne was a prominent member of Bermuda’s anti-apartheid movement and had lobbied for its abolition during his student teacher days in London during the 1960s, “long before such activism became widespread”. She said: “His friendship with the late Margaret Carter informed his activism on behalf of people with disabilities and his world view of inclusion for all, no matter your race, gender, nationality, ability or sexual orientation.

“Born in Guyana, he was a Bermudian, thanks to his Bermudian father, and a child of the Caribbean, because of his mother, who was from St Kitts. [. . .] He did not live in Bermuda until he was a teenager when he entered The Berkeley Institute to do A-levels.” Mr Lightbourne’s parents Albert and Violet were Salvation Army officers who worked in several Caribbean countries during his childhood. Ms Ebbin said: “Their last posting before relocating to Bermuda was Jamaica, where Ron was educated at one of the island’s top schools.”

She highlighted Mr Lightbourne’s “multifaceted” interests that made him “a poet, playwright, songwriter and mentor to writers”. Ms Ebbin said: “He spoke Spanish fluently. His wife Grisell was Cuban and he spent many summers in Cuba. He was a devoted son, husband, father, brother, and grandfather, and a friend to many, of all races and nationalities, both here and abroad.”

Glenn Fubler, a community activist who taught alongside Mr Lightbourne at The Berkeley Institute, said he was “a renaissance man” mentored by musical great Lance Hayward.

Angela Barry, a former Bermuda College lecturer and author, said Mr Lightbourne wrote plays like Dead Lines for the Bermuda Musical and Dramatic Society, and Wilson’s Weekend for Black Box productions. He was a member of the Bermuda Writers Collective, contributed fiction to several local anthologies, and received a James Michener creative writing fellowship at the University of Miami. Ms Barry said his poetry earned him invitations to overseas conferences.

Mr Lightbourne was also a regular contributor to the Bermudian literature class at Bermuda College and presented a variety of classes at the Lifelong Learning Centre.

Dale Butler, a historian and former Progressive Labour Party minister, said Mr Lightbourne was one of Bermuda’s “truly best” trumpeters and pianists. Mr Butler added: “I don’t think he ever received the recognition that he deserved. He was very humble, always trying to be of assistance.” Mr Butler said he had hired Mr Lightbourne as an English teacher when he was principal of St George’s Secondary School.

David Burt, the Premier, said in the House of Assembly yesterday that Mr Lightbourne was “without question instrumental in the arts in Bermuda”. [. . .]

For full article, see

[Photo by Nicola Muirhead: “Poet and musician Ronald Lightbourne (left) was among speakers at a discussion on Bermudian dialect.” Source:]

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