Confusion and controversy erupted at the funeral of former Transport and Industrial Workers’ Union (TIWU) general secretary Desmond Bishop at the Mt Carmel Spiritual Baptist Church, St Joseph, yesterday. The furore began when there was no acknowledgment of his three wives, stepchildren or spiritual children and questions arose as to who controls the church’s property since it was reported to be in the name of his second, deceased wife.
According to Mavis Simon, her sister Veronica, now deceased, was married to Bishop and was his second wife. He was divorced from his first wife Althea. Veronica had no children with Bishop but had two children of her own. She had bought the land where the church is situated. Simon said: “That is not the Desmond Bishop I had known. He was a hard taskmaster and if you didn’t know him, he would sink you down into the grave.
“The spirituality belongs to my sister and he is not the backbone of the church. Now that the family is reading the eulogy and giving him all the credit, there is no mention of my sister, although she is deceased,” Frank Lewis, an elder and first spiritual leader and baptiser of the church, said he felt “great surprise” when the eulogy was read and Bishop’s three children, the spiritual children he baptised, and his last wife, Veronica, were not mentioned.
Mourners and church officials also were unsure of the marital status of the purported third wife, Nalon, who was also not mentioned in the eulogy. “We don’t know if the church is owned by the deceased wife, the present wife or members of the church,” Lewis said. Anna Lewis, one of Bishop’s spiritual children, said it was Veronica who financed the church and moulded her husband to become a Baptist, as he converted from Roman Catholicism.
Former TIWU president Clive Nunez said he met Bishop during the 1970s. Nunez said he was one of the key people involved in the Neal & Massy negotiations during the 80s and Bishop became an officer in the union and worked his way up to general secretary. Nunez said even though he and Bishop stood on opposite sides during the TIWU struggle in the 1980s, he saw it fit to pay respects to a union comrade.
Also present at the funeral service were Industrial Court judge Albert Aberdeen and former TIWU president Aldwyn Brewster. Bishop was later laid to rest at the Mucurapo Cemetery.