Fredrick Bancroft Zenny was consistently last in his class throughout his entire eight years at Munro College……Alphabetically, that is! Academically, however, he came first at Munro in Senior Cambridge 1954 and two years later, first in Higher Schools Certificate.
Freddy was captain of five senior teams- Football, Cricket, Hockey, Athletics and Gymnastics. He still found time for mischief (taking his canings like a man), and extracurricular activities such as debating. He argued that “A third world war is not inevitable” and of course, thankfully, he has not yet been proven wrong. In drama he acted as the king in “Alice in Wonderland” and as the grandfather in “The Dear Departed”. He was a school prefect and captain of Coke House.
He and his elder brother Karl came from Haiti in 1949. He was placed in second form and Baby Dormitory under the watchful eye of Miss Lucy. Their spending some holidays with the Mairs and some with the Meikles yielded lifelong friendships Raymond Mair the poet and George Meikle of “In Praise of Jamaica” fame. O.K. Melhado entered Munro and Coke House in 1951 and another enduring friendship was initiated.
The rite of passage from Upper Fourth to Fifth form was the Gauntlet – five times running around the fifth form classroom, beaten by 30 vicious fifth formers, i.e., about 150 vicious strokes from 30 vicious implements! Then someone shook your bleeding hand you were a proud fifth former with all the rights, wrongs and privileges attaching thereto. Headmaster Basil Ward outlawed it in 1952 but the resourceful fifth formers ran it in the showers. Richard Roper is credited with ending it, but it was Freddy who convinced his classmates in 1954 to cease the practice and that brought the tradition to an end.
There was a fellow student who thrived on cheap popularity. That boy decided to change, and he became different for the sake of being different. When he was criticized for this, Freddy (his junior) pointed out that the boy had to go to the extreme opposite, and that understanding by Freddy caused the boy to become secure in himself and ultimately become head prefect of Munro. Freddy had an aged head on youthful shoulders and dispensed his wisdom quietly.
Freddy left for Haiti en route to Cambridge in 1956. His good friend O.K. intercepted his journey with the insistence that Freddy meet his wonderful girlfriend, Angela. Freddy was, in his own words “greatly impressed….and being of a Judeo-Christian inclination, I gave them my blessing and received in return the gift of Angels’ lifelong friendship”. Freddy mentions O.K. and Angela always being there for him, his wife Marlies and daughter Nathalie.
Freddy spent four years at Cambridge gaining his MA in Law with Honours and his LLD in International Law again with Honours. [His friend from Munro Sixth form, Christopher Bovell, did law at Cambridge at the same time]. From 1961 to 1962, Freddy studied at Lincoln’s Inn, London, ate his dinners, and was called to the English Bar. In 1964 he was certified in Private and Public International Law, Political Science and Economics at the Institute of Higher International Studies, Geneva, Switzerland.
Career meets Politics meets Travel
His world of work began in 1964 in Geneva in the areas of Telecommunications and by 1966 he was an FAO Legal Officer in Rome. Between 1969 and 1975 he was FAO’s Chief for Legislative matters in Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries. In 1975, O.K. Melhado introduced Zenny to Eric Bell, then Minister of Public Utilities and Transport and a special arrangement was made with the FAO to have Freddy spend the next eight years in Jamaica. Between 1975 – 1980 he was on leave without pay from FAO and from 1981 to 1983 he was on loan from FAO. During these eight years he advised the Ministers of Public Utilities and of Agriculture. This involved Directorships of Advisory, Monitoring, Production, Extension, Marketing and Credit departments.
“Oh yes”, you might enquire “Advisor to this Minister and Director of that project but what did you do?” Well here’s an example: In the 1970s Michael Manley appointed O.K. Melhado head of The State Trading Corporation. Edward Seaga vilifies it as proof of a socialist government gone mad. The JLP wins the 1980 election. Seaga keeps on O.K. and mandates him to transform it into the more powerful Jamaica Commodity Trading Company. Freddy, in a desperate effort to save the Jamaica Hope breed and the dairy industry, proposes to O.K. that his Corporation levies a tax on cheap milk powder imports being dumped in Jamaica and use the proceeds to prop up the local milk price. O.K. agrees and they prepare a joint Cabinet submission.
Freddy describes- “Picture the scene- O.K. and I are sitting side by side facing the Prime Minister at the Cabinet meeting….he does most of the talking while his ministers nod in approval and wait each in turn for their instructions. ‘Percy mek me tell you how it go’ and he explains to my Minister of Agriculture the contents of the cabinet submission and how the milk subsidy would work”. Cabinet approves the milk subsidy. Fast forward to 1989. The PNP returns to power and dismantles the Jamaica Commodity Trading Company and with it, the milk subsidy. Freddy says Jamaican politics defies description. Nice try Freddy, your heart was in the right place.
In 1984 the FAO sent Freddy as representative to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean. Of his performances there, FAO Director General Jacques Diouf, wrote inter alia “…..you strengthened considerably the presence of the Organization and its cooperation with the countries of the sub-region”.
1989 to 1992 saw Freddy back in Rome as FAO Directeur de Cabinet (Chief of Staff), in the Office of the Director General. In that position, all things- the disgusting, the politically and diplomatically difficult, and the minority redeeming pleasant came through him to the Director General of the FAO. From 1995 to 1999, he was Assistant Director General where he reorganized the department, reducing staff numbers with efficiency and tact and was at the same time deeply involved in the World Food Summit. Jacques Diouf said of these undertakings, “You handled both with utmost competence and sensitivity”. During this time Freddy became Secretary General of the FAO Council and Conference. One hundred and ninety-two member countries meet every other year at Conference and elect thirty countries to Council.
In 2000, instead of planning a well-earned retirement, he allowed himself to be roped in by Jamaica’s then Minister of Agriculture, Roger Clarke, to serve as Minister, Permanent Representative of Jamaica to FAO. He accepted the post but asked kindly not to be paid it is called “pro bono”. That way he could serve with independence on FAO’s Programme Committee and extend his influence on the rest of the Caribbean including his native Haiti. At present, he is still using his influence on FAO reforms via his friend Mario in the Dominican Republic.
There’s is no rest for the…..er…good! How does he do all this? He speaks admiringly of the fearless courage of his wife Marlies, who has risen above the ravages of World War II, the bombing of Dresden and continuous hardship. In Rome where they live, Marlies is a “Mother-in-Israel” in their community. Their daughter Nathalie has service wired into her DNA; she is a champion of the environment. Fredrick Bancroft Zenny’s career has not been “hand to pocket to bank”, but rather “heart to hand to fellow”.
For the above and other reasons, Fredrick Bancroft Zenny has been inducted into the Munro College Old Boys Association Hall of Fame.