Ska Funeral Mash Up

Jamaica 231

This is the site of Don Drummond’s funeral on May 14, 1969, Madden’s Funeral Home. I visited there in 2011 while doing research and it is still in use today. The site is seemingly quiet here although it wasn’t so on the day of Drummond’s funeral. A few weeks ago I wrote about May Pen Cemetery and the chaos of the grounds, overrun by gangs aligned withe the JLP and PNC, and the reason’s why Drummond’s exact grave site cannot be located (which is discussed further and with great detail in my book), but today I wanted this blog to focus on the funeral and the controversy surrounding that event.

Madden’s Funeral Chapel is located in downtown Kingston on North Street, not far from Jubilee Hospital where Don Drummond was born. He was buried at 9:25 a.m. on May 18, 1969 in the May Pen Cemetery in grave number A346. He is listed in burial records as a Roman Catholic. Entombment was private, for only family. Musicians such as Sonny Bradshaw took up funds to pay for Drummond’s funeral since his mother was unable to afford the cost. Sister Ignatius paid for the burial. The burial included a few attendants other than just family. Present at the cemetery were “a few CID men from Denham Town and Central Station . . . in case of any incident,” according to the Daily Gleaner. This was done in order to keep a sense of decorum for the family in a time when emotions were still raw, and is likely one reason why the exact location of Drummond’s grave is still not known today.

Just four days earlier on May 14th, 1969, pandemonium broke out at Drummond’s funeral when drummer Hugh Malcolm moved past an enormous crowd of those paying their last respects to Drummond. He burst into the packed funeral home just as the officiating priest was about to administer the services. Reports that Malcolm tore up the death certificate are merely rumor or embellishment, unless it was a prop certificate, since the death certificate was not issued until August 22, 1969. But Malcolm did demand the service be stopped and that there should be no burial until the results of the post mortem were known.

Administrators today claim the record has been destroyed. But during the funeral, Malcolm demanded to see the post mortem because “a relative of Drummond said that the protestor declared that he had been informed that Drummond had not died from natural causes but that before his death he was beaten by four men in the institution,” according to an article in the Daily Gleaner. The service was then called off because the family did not want anyone to get hurt or for a riot to break out.

What do you think? Was Don Drummond murdered at Bellevue as Hugh Malcolm claimed? Did he commit suicide? Did he die from natural causes? Or did he die as a result of the rudimentary treatment and terrible conditions of Bellevue? I give my thoughts in my book, Don Drummond: The Genius and Tragedy of the World’s Greatest Trombonist, but the answer is not certain and I would love to hear your thoughts.