Dr. Robert ‘Bobby’ Moore was an exceptional man

Dr. Robert ‘Bobby’ Moore was an exceptional man

Dr. Robert “Bobby” Moore was many things to many people.

The teacher, diplomat, public servant, mentor, raconteur and audacious Anglican passed away last week at his Ottawa home after a lengthy illness. He would have celebrated his 84th birthday on November 26.

Graduating from Guyana’s Central High School, the octogenarian taught for nine years at Queen’s College (QC) where his students included public relations consultant Vic Insanally, University of the West Indies (UWI) professor emeritus Gordon Rohlehr, new University of Guyana chancellor Dr. Nigel Harris and the late Dr. Walter Rodney and media executive Terry Holder.

Moore taught mainly History, Latin and Scripture.

“Bobby was an exceptional man blessed with intellect, wit and remarkable communication skills – both written and spoken,” said Harris, a former UWI vice-chancellor. “As a student at QC, I interacted with him in honing my debating skills. His ideas and vision lifted us beyond the somewhat parochial limits of Guyana to the wider world. He contributed to my being bold in expressing my ideas even when they were controversial, an attribute that served me well in life. As a university student, I followed his career in the United Nations and diplomatic corps and these served as an inspiration for me and doubtless many others.”

An accomplished radio broadcaster, Moore and Insanally were part of the exceptional team that covered the funeral of Guyana’s first governor general Sir David Rose who died in November 1969 when a nine-storey scaffolding collapsed and crushed the limousine he was sitting in near the British House of Parliament. 

The funeral coverage is still considered one of Guyana’s best live radio broadcasts.

“Bobby made the teaching of history a living study, challenging us to question long held beliefs and in the process made most of us good debaters and public speakers,” said Insanally. “He treated us as equals and sessions often spilled over from the classroom into his Kingston home.”

Rohlehr, who resides in Trinidad & Tobago, said Moore was an outstanding teacher.

“He was the first person that introduced me to West Indian history,” he recalled. “He was very warm, generous, friendly and quite close to a number of us.”

Educator and diversity trainer Dr. Clem Marshall, an occasional contributor to Share, was also a student of Moore who often said his teaching days at QC was a pivotal point in his various careers.

“He made us all feel valued and valuable at a time that I was steeped in the superficial ideas about all the other groups that floated around me although I knew my own 'Caribbeanized' and ‘Afrikan’ community and culture very well,” said Marshall. “It was precisely at that moment that Bobby breezed into our lives at QC. He was, in fact, the first stranger of another ancestry whose thinking I was exposed to in depth and over a long term. It was our good fortune that he was already a superbly talented multidisciplinary educator. It was only after I became a teacher myself that I truly realised what rare gifts Bobby shared with us over the years and how they enriched our absorbent minds.

“Being in his classes brought us a host of social skills. They not only included the art of witty repartee and the give and take of good humour, but also scrupulous respect for anyone whose background was different from our own. Today, I remember how along the way we learned to make presentations in class, to enjoy writing our own poems and plays, to produce radio shows and to take delight in exploring the intellectual unknown. The skills Dr. Moore passed on probably still shape my own approach to teaching to this day.”

Had it not being for the intervention of Sir Philip Sherlock who conceived the University College of the West Indies (UCWI) in 1945 that became UWI, Moore’s career path would have been different.

He was preparing for a monastic communal life when Sherlock showed up in Guyana in 1951 to recruit him to attend UCWI.

Raised by a great aunt after his American-born father left the family when he was six years old and his mother went to Aruba, Moore had become a protégé of Alan Knight, the Archbishop of the West Indies and the Bishop of Guyana from 1937 until his death in 1979.

“His idea was that I would become a priest and when he retired or died, I would succeed him,” Moore told Share in an interview last year.” 

Brushing aside Knight’s request to go to Codrington Theological College in Barbados, Moore went to UCWI where he excelled in public speaking, debating and acting and was the Student Christian Movement chair prior to graduating in 1955.

While at the university, Moore met Guyanese-born Elsa Goveia who he credited with playing a key role in shaping his life.

The brilliant scholar and the university’s first female professor died in 1980 at age 55.

Moore promised to dedicate the UWI honourary degree he was expected to receive a year ago to the trailblazer. He was, however, unable to attend the convocation ceremony in Trinidad & Tobago because of illness.

“Once you went to her lectures, you became a West Indian nationalist,” he once said. “…Very lucid, she opened our minds and was excellent on the topic of slavery. She not openly talked about the political aspects of slavery, but also the psychological aspects too. When she wanted to describe a particular social atmosphere, she had the capacity to bring it alive in such a way that you almost felt you were there. Nobody missed her lectures. If any single person made me what I am, it was her.”

Completing his Master’s at Cambridge University and his doctorate at Sussex University, Moore was the Dean of History at the University of Guyana and the country’s high commissioner to Canada for almost five and half years. During his first and only diplomatic assignment that ended in 1979, he was the Dean of the Commonwealth Group of Diplomats and worked closely with secular and religious non-governmental organizations that were devoted to the alleviation of poverty in the Global South as well as with Canadian universities with outreach programs in the Caribbean. 

Moore, who co-founded the now defunct Caribbean Contact newspaper, returned to Guyana with the promise by former president Forbes Burnham that he would head an institute for the study and teaching of Guyanese history. When Moore was informed that funding wasn’t available to get the unit off the ground, he came back to Canada and, after a three-year stint with Carleton University’s International Affairs School, joined the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) as a senior policy advisor in public engagement. 

Retired in 1997, Moore was the recipient of an honorary doctorate from a theological college in Saskatchewan, the author of “Third World Diplomats in Dialogue with the First World” and co-author of “Audacious Anglicans: Heroes of the Anglican Communion” that was published seven years ago. 

In 2010, he was presented with a UWI vice-chancellor award at the annual Toronto fundraising gala.

Moore is survived by his wife Barbara and children Fauzya, Lilah and Rayad.

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