Saint Lucia
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Remembering Ira d’Auvergne: St. Lucia Loses Another Great Son!

Former UWP stalwart and Agriculture Minister Ira d’Auvergne, pictured at a public meeting, passed away on Thursday 1st June 2023 at his home in Errard Estate, Dennery.

Ira Augustin d’Auvergne was born in 1932, in Faux-a-Chaux, Castries. The last of three children, and the only son of Klebert d’Auvergne and Georgiana d’Auvergne, he attended the Castries RC Boy’s School and St. Mary’s College, before going to College in Barbados. He was always active as a youth and enjoyed swimming and rowing his chaloupe along the seashore and even up the Castries river—quite deep in those days—to collect water at Marchand.

Ira was nearly ten years old in 1942 when a German U-Boat torpedoed the MV Umtata and the MV Lady Nelson in the Castries harbor. By his account, the drain-pipe trousers among the cargo salvaged from the vessels were named “chichit,” after the release and subsequent explosion—“booy”—of the German torpedoes.

During his school days, Ira was a great fan of the movies and would usually earn the price of his ticket by secretly washing down fishing boats owned by friends of his father, a former policeman and a strict disciplinarian. Ira often told a story about himself and a fellow RC Boys’ classmate. Together they had skipped lessons to see a four-part movie. When eventually they were found out, each received twelve lashes from their teacher. Years later, Ira encountered him at a watering hole. Having reintroduced himself, Ira bought his teacher his declared favorite potion, in the name of let bygones be bygones!

When Ira returned from school in Barbados he joined the Castries Development Corporation, helping to oversee reconstruction after Castries was reduced to ashes by fire in 1948. He furthered his schooling with the legendary Mr. Carmichael, who was fluent in five languages, at least.  He later trained as an agricultural extension officer at the Union Agricultural Station, where he met Joe Cox and his lifelong friend Cuthbert Henry. He was posted in various districts throughout the island. In those days, transport was not easily available. Ira walked regularly from Anse-la-Raye to Millet, or from Anse-la-Raye to Canaries. 

Here’s another of Ira’s favorite stories, this time about a meeting in Vieux Fort with a particular farmer of Indian extraction. He had been coached on what to say to the farmer, in Hindi, by a more senior extension officer. Upon meeting the farmer, Ira carefully recited his speech, only to learn after noting the farmer’s shocked expression that he had inadvertently sought permission to go out with the farmer’s daughter.

In 1955, Ira wed Magilta Bastien, a teacher from La Ressource, Dennery. The couple had first met as students at Mr. Carmichael’s school. They had three sons: Ausbert, Goodwin and Crispin. In 1958, while still employed with the Ministry of Agriculture, Ira was involved in a vehicular accident. A lorry driven by a learner had collided with Ira’s motorcycle. In consequence his leg was broken, so badly that amputation was seriously considered. Ira refused, even though he spent close to a year in hospital. He often recalled it was during this time that he developed an intense dislike for luncheon meat and macaroni and cheese.

After he had been repeatedly commended for his work as an extension officer, Ira decided it was time to move on in favor of a career in law. Alas, he did not have a pass in Latin, a prerequisite. Once again he turned to Mr. Carmichael. After some months of intense study Ira successfully sat the Latin exam.

In 1962, mere weeks after the birth of his third child, Ira proceeded to England to study law. A year later his wife and their first son joined him. Upon returning to Saint Lucia in 1965, he established with his friend Kenneth the law firm Monplaisir & d’Auvergne.

In 1969 Ira entered Saint Lucia’s political arena. Regardless of what some might say about his time in politics, most would agree he was always cordial with everyone he encountered, regardless of political affiliation. His sense of humor and humility endeared him to all who met him. Only on the rarest of occasions was an unkind word heard about him. Usually from an over-anxious campaigner  for public office.

Most Saint Lucians knew Ira d’Auvergne only in his professional capacity, so protective was he of his private life. As a father, he was firm but always fair. His sense of humor was always evident. When he had cause to discipline, he always drew on his own youthful exploits as well as on his strict upbringing. In addition to his three biological children, he raised or housed at different times, at least seven cousins and several grandchildren. He and his wife warmly embraced an endless procession of classmates, cycling club teammates, friends, and other associates of their children. Ira would often play soccer, cricket and table tennis in the family living room—until some prized ornament was broken, at which point Ira would vanish and leave the youngsters to contend with their mother’s wrath.

He had a close bond with his grandchildren and looked forward to taking their calls from all over the world. In his final weeks, they came from far and wide to spend quality time with him at his bedside. He was overjoyed at the birth of his only great-grandchild shortly before his eyes closed for the last time.   

As a farmer, Ira was always quick to assist others and to provide advice. He truly loved life on his farm St. Joseph Estate, nestled in the Errard Valley. He derived much pleasure from rising early to check on his animals or to chit-chat with farmhands about the day’s activities.

When Ira d’Auvergne passed away on Thursday June 1, 2023, it was for his children and grandchildren the end of an era. Their memories of their patriarch, mentor, best friend, chief storyteller, brother, doting father, grandfather, and great-grandfather will never die.