From left: Vivian Crawford, acting executive director of Institute of Jamaica; Clayton Coverley — grandson; Fabian Coverley — son and co-executor of the Miss Lou Estate; Olivia “Babsy” Grange, minister of culture; Dr Pamela Appelt — co-executor of the Miss Lou Estate; Joy Douglas, chairman of the National Library; Poet Laureate Professor Mervyn Morris; and Winsome Hudson, national librarian.
JAMAICANS will now have access to some personal documents of cultural icon Louise “Miss Lou” Bennett-Coverley.
The National Library of Jamaica on Thursday launched the the Miss Lou Archives, a collection of some of Miss Lou’s private documents and writing which she agreed to donate when she was leaving Jamaica to take up residence in Canada. The arduous process of sorting, collating and filing the documents, which include hand-written manuscripts of some of her poems, personal and professional letters and other forms of correspondence, took the staff years to complete.
In time, material belonging to Miss Lou’s husband, theatre impressario Eric Coverley, will also be included in the archives.
Speaking at the downtown Kingston occasion, Fabian Coverly — stepson to Miss Lou — was tearful as he described what his stepmother and father meant to him, and how proud he was to be witnessing the launch of the archives.
“You will never understand what this means to me. Most people lay their parents to rest and are able to forget about them. That does not happen to me as I have to speak about them so often. But I am so proud of the work they did and that it is now at the National Library of Jamaica,” Coverley told the gathering.
The Miss Lou Archives is housed in special collections at the library and can be accessed online with the actual collection available to researchers.
Culture Minister Olivia “Babsy” Grange noted that the Miss Lou Archives, like the just-opened Peter Tosh Museum, respresents that piece of Jamaica history of which we can be proud.
Born in Kingston in 1919, Miss Lou was educated at Excelsior High School. Through her body of publications in Jamaican creole, and her acting skills, she raised the dialect of the Jamaican folk to an art level, capturing its subtlety and its humour. She was awarded an Order of Jamaica by the Government for her contribution to the island’s culture in 2004. Her husband, Eric, predeceased her in 2002. She died in Canada in 2006. Her remains, and that of her husband, were returned to Jamaica for interment.