This Day In Jamaican History

On this day in Jamaican history: Oliver Isaac Foot, actor, philanthropist, and charity worker was born

Oliver Isaac Foot

On September 19, 1946, Oliver Isaac Foot, actor, philanthropist, and charity worker, was born in Kingston. His father, Hugh Foot, was the last British Colonial Secretary of Jamaica. He later received the title of Baron Caradon. His mother was Florence Sylvia Tod. Oliver Foot was the younger brother of Paul Foot, a journalist. He was also the nephew of Michael Foot, the former head of the British Labor Party; Sir Dingle Foot, Labor government minister; and Lord John Foot, a Liberal Peer.

Oliver Foot attended Leighton Park School and the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester and then went on to Goddard College in Vermont. He returned to England to attend drama classes in Ealing, West London.

He spent much of his childhood in Jamaica, living in King’s House, the governor’s mansion. The British actor Noel Coward, who also lived in Jamaica, took him to a local theater performance, which may have sparked his interest in acting. Foot began his professional life as an actor, and with his first wife Nancy, and several of their friends started the Footsbarn Theater Company in 1971 in a barn near Liskeard.

In the mid-1970s, while staying with L’Abri Fellowship in Hampshire, Foot became a born-again Christian. He experienced a period of inner turmoil as a result of his personal faith and struggled with addiction for much of his life. He was unhappy that he was not living a life that reflected his Christian beliefs. He was an active member of Grace Community Church in Morval in Cornwall and portrayed a cockney Doubting Thomas in several services there. His faith became the core of his identity and motivation. He later wrote an autobiography that described his life and struggles.

Oliver Foot was a strong supporter of ORBIS International throughout his life. ORBIS International is dedicated to preventing blindness and treating eye diseases in Third World countries. It is known for its “Flying Eye Hospital,” an aircraft fitted out as a mobile teaching hospital that transports volunteer doctors and nurses, and state-of-the-art ophthalmic surgical and training facilities, to developing countries.

He served as the organization’s CEO from 1982 to 1987 and as president from 1987 to 1995. He again headed the organization as president from 2004 until his death in 2008. Foot also worked for Air Jamaica and Sandals Resorts as vice-president of public affairs from 1996 to 2004.

Foot divided his time between New York, Cornwall, and Jamaica, and remained a Jamaican citizen. It was his love for his native country that was the motivation for wanting to improve its image by taking journalists on tours of the island. He used his extensive press contacts to promote Air Jamaica, Sandals, and Jamaica in general to the people of the UK.

In 1998, Foot partnered with the Jamaican government to start an up-market chain Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee Shops Ltd. The main location was in the Mayfair section of London. The shop served Jamaica’s Blue Mountain coffee and locally supplied Jamaican foods.. cakes and crafts. The products were transported by Air Jamaica at a discount. Most of the staff at the company were either of Jamaican descent or had some connection to Jamaica, and the shop attracted high-profile customers, including then Mayor of London Ken Livingstone, Suggs, Ian Brown, Linton Kwesi Johnson Joe Strummer and Alton Ellis.

Foot established the shop to help small coffee farmers in Jamaica who were doing badly because of a surplus of Blue Mountain coffee that was created by unstable financial conditions in Japan, the main buyer of the coffee. The Mayfair location proved to costly to maintain, however, and closed in 2001.

Oliver Foot suffered from a heart condition and died suddenly on February 9, 2006, in a hospital in South London in 2006. He was married from 1970 to 1975 to Nancy Bruce, whom he met during his studies in the US. The couple at a son Jesse and a daughter Mary-Rachel, both of whom survived him. He was also survived by his second wife, Gail, his sister Sarah, brother Benjamin, and uncle, Michael Foot. He was survived by his children Mary-Rachel and Jesse, three grandchildren, his sister Sarah, brother Benjamin, and uncle, Michael Foot.

Photo Source: Wikipedia/10foot10 – Own work

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