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Caldwell Taylor  

His voice seemed to me the sonic signifier of a smile.  It wasn’t a big voice: it was just a voice that elicited attention; a voice that  illustrated the geography of a temperate mind; a magnetic and manicured voice. 

It is no wonder that that voice won him the moniker “ Mario”- known to hundreds in Grenada, Carriacou, Petite  Martinique and elsewhere around the world.  How George Bullen came to be called “ Mario” is story well worth the telling. 

Mario Bullen poses with Jean Augustine

Mario Bullen poses with Jean Augustine

The Hon Jean Augustine, the First Black woman in the Canadian Federal Parliament. Jean comes from Happy Hill and is first cousin to former PM Keith Mitchell

The Hon Jean Augustine, the First Black woman in the Canadian Federal Parliament. Jean comes from Happy Hill and is first cousin to former PM Keith Mitchell

George was a student at the Grenada Boys  Secondary School (GBSS), when a movie named “The Toast of New Orleans” (1950) came to the Empire Cinema in St George’s:   The movie tells the story of  Pepe Duvalle, a fine-voiced shrimp fisherman who falls in love with a beautiful soprano played by Kathryn Grayson.  

Opposite Grayson, the part of Pepe Duvalle, the fictive fisherman, is played by none other than the great American tenor Mario Lanza: This story of a fisherman in love was guaranteed to tug at the heart strings of lad who had been born and raised in Carriacou, a seafaring-fishing community.     

Mario Lanza sings many great songs in this movie, including Jose’s aria from Carmen, “Libiamo”, “La Traviata”, and “Be My love.” The latter song stole George Bullen’s young heart and after coming out of Empire on that day he would sing it as if his whole  life depended on it: 

Be my love
For no one else can end this yearning
This need that you and you alone create
Just fill my arms
The way you’ve filled my dreams
The dreams that you inspire
With every sweet desire

Be my love
And with your kisses set me burning
One kiss is all I need to seal my fate
And hand in hand
We’ll find love’s Promised Land
There’ll be no one but you for me
If you will be my love.

 Bullen sang those intoxicating words over and over and over  until his friends had had enough: they reacted by naming him Mario Lanza. The moniker stuck and George Bullen would become “Mario” for the rest of his life.  

“Mario”George Randolph Earle Bullen, scholar, diplomat and  businessman died  after a prolonged battle with prostate cancer. He was 69.  

 Bullen was an outstanding Grenadian and Caribbean diplomat and he served  his country and  the Organization of  Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) with great distinction. 

It bears noting that Ambassador Bullen viewed diplomacy as the ritual in which the world community expressed  its kinship,  an idea that came right out of Carriacou’s world famous Nation Dance (Big Drum), a gathering of the “nations” in the spiritual presence of their  ancestors-the benevolent  “old heads”.  

The Nation Dance is an occasion when individuality is dissolved  in a community of song and  dance;  it a time of atonement and  peace-making.

The peacemaker is one of the noblest souls in Carriacou society.  On the two days of the island’s annual Shrovetide Carnival, the  peacemaker comes out to ensure that the Shakespeare Mas’s  agonistic recitals of passages from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar do not cross the line into what Kayaks will called “stupid  violence”.    

Ambassador Bullen was a peacemaker in the best Carriacou tradition. Indeed, he was keenly aware of the fact that it was diplomacy that allowed  small and vulnerable states to  be heard in the noisy halls of world affairs. He understood that flexibility  and creativity were the small states’ biggest assets  in global politics.   

The current financial and economic crisis –the worst since the 1930s, will impact the foreign policies of the big players in world affairs and ultimately small states will have to fashion new and creative responses  if they want to survive. In the teeth of this world-changing moment Mario’s demise seems a “cosmic injustice.”        

We will remember Mario for his diplomatic cool, his searching scholarship, his golden  smile, his voice,  and his song. 

We extend heartfelt condolences to his dear wife, Celia (nee Radix), his  children Sean, Trevor and Celine and  his siblings and other members of the Bullen family.   

Mario will be laid to rest on April 6.


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