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Faculty of Humanities and Education

Department of Language, Linguistics and Literature

Allsopp Centre: News

A tribute to Dr Wendy Griffith-Watson
Dr. Wendy Griffith-Watson, former Chief Education Officer of Barbados and co-editor of the upcoming School Edition of the Dictionary of Caribbean English Usage, passed away on 22 May, 2020. Below is a tribute from Honorary Research Fellow in Lexicography Dr Jeannette Allsopp.



I first met Wendy Griffith-Watson (1947 – 2020) over 35 years ago through my husband, Richard Allsopp, when she was a graduate student and part-time lecturer at the University of the West Indies Cave Campus. From the time we met, we realized that we were kindred spirits, both linguists, passionate about language and language education, both highly appreciative of English and Caribbean literature and both with a good sense of humour and able to enjoy a good joke or amusing situation. She was many things, starting out as a nurse in England and ending up as an educator, having become an English teacher, Senior Teacher, then Deputy Principal and Principal of the St. Michael School and finally Chief Education Officer of Barbados. 

We grew closer when I went on to teach English and Spanish at the St. Michael School from September 1985 to March 1987, and we were of course both in the Department of English which she headed. I was impressed by her grasp of English and Caribbean literature, as before going fully into Linguistics, I taught Spanish and Latin-American literature at the University of Guyana, some of it in translation. We were also very much into the English language, as taught in Barbadian and Caribbean schools, and we were both members of the Barbados Association of Teachers of English, BATE, as it was more familiarly called. and participated in panel discussions organized by the Association. 

At the time that I met her, my husband, Richard and I were fully taken up with trying to complete the Dictionary of Caribbean English Usage (DCEU), which he had begun in Guyana by collecting Guyanese words, phrases and expressions, and continued in 1963, making it a fully Caribbean English Dictionary, when he was appointed as Vice-Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences which later became the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus. 

Later in the 80s, as I got deeper into the work of the Multilingual Supplement to the DCEU that Richard invited me to do, but was also fully involved in item-writing to help him with the compilation of the dictionary, our then University Dean, Professor Helen Pyne-Timothy, suggested that he be assigned a full part-time team of research assistants, including item-writers, so, as head of that team, I immediately invited Wendy to join us. Her experience in both English language and literature made her an ideal member of the team and I enjoyed introducing her to the duties of an item-writer, which she quickly learned and her work proved most valuable. I was at the time Tutor in Modern Languages and History at the Erdiston Teachers College, and she had been transferred to the Ministry of Education and Culture as Deputy Chief Education Officer first, then as Chief Education Officer. Together, Wendy and I organized teacher workshops, and she also invited me to head a team to produce an alternative curriculm to the CXC curriculum in Modern Languages for the Ministry of Education and Culture, as it was then. 

It is not indeed not surprising, that when she retired as Chief Education Officer in 2011, having done a really outstanding job in that post, and I told her of my plan to produce a School Edition of the DCEU, as my late husband had made me promise to do, she was very excited at the chance to work with me as the co-editor. Our long collaboration continued and we started work in 2013 after I retired from the UWI Cave Hill Campus. We completed our work in late 2019, and went over it carefully together, then I proceeded to try to obtain some pictures to illustrate the dictionary, which I was able to do and early in the new year I began to seek a publisher. We were very happy to have completed the work so when she left on one of her periodic visits to her son in the United States, I could hardly have thought that she would not be there to see the School Edition published.  

Indeed, before she passed away, I had already obtained a publisher, but when I told her and tried to get her CV, I sadly realized that my dear friend had really taken a turn for the worst and I tried to come to terms with the fact, but could hardly get my head around it. I fearfully inquired of her condition, but nothing I heard was positive and so I had to face the fact that she was gone on the morning of Saturday, May 23rd, 2020, as she passed away on the night of Friday, 22nd May, 2020. 

I can definitely say that we had a wonderfully profitable and meaningful personal and professional relationship over the many years that I knew her. She is, and will continue to be, sorely missed, especially as she will not be here to see the School Edition of the DCEU published and launched. Nevertheless, may she continue to rest in peace eternal. Ave atque vale, Wendy. 

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