Allen Lockington – man with the golden heart

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Allen Lockington (left) during one of his rounds distributing food rations to communities in the Western Division. Picture: FILE/BALJEET SINGH

Allen Lockington, who had a heart that touched thousands of people, left a legacy that will be hard to fill. He will be accorded a King’s funeral in his beloved city today.

Expect a massive crowd at the Girmit Centre today as Fijians will converge to pay their last respect to a legendary writer and social worker.

Dubbed the “people’s man”, Allen had a heart that cared for people. He was a powerful writer.

He had magic in his words and writing. He was confident, and was never afraid to ask questions.

He was witty and fun-loving. His Facebook posts made many laugh.

He was not only famous in the Sugar City, but known all over Fiji because of his inner yearning for service to the people of Fiji.

His loving, caring and kind nature attracted many. His simplicity spoke volumes of his compassionate nature, and that he lived with common Fijians.

Fiji felt a wave of emotions when news of Allen’s passing away was made public and tributes flowed openly via social and print media.

Allen, who was a renowned philanthropist, a wittiest Letters to the Editor contributor and fierce environmentalist, lived a noble gentleman’s life, and will be remembered in years, for he left footprints and an impeccable impression in the lives of many.

Life as a customs officer

I managed to get information from a close workmate of Allen. The gentleman, who preferred to remain anonymous, has known Allen since the early 1990s when he joined the then Customs and Excise Department which now is the Fiji Revenue and Customs Service. According to him, Allen served in Suva, Levuka, Nadi and Lautoka during his time with FRCS. He worked at the Fiji international seaports and airports as a customs officer in the facilitation of trade, traveller and crafts through our international borders, whilst at the same time ensuring compliance of our laws as Customs officers are Fiji’s custodian at the international border. He shared that Allen had an awesome personality. He was a joyous person who was always happy. He had contagious laughter and he was a great storyteller, which was always full of laughter and happiness. Allen’s message to his workmates was, “try your best to always be happy in whatever you are called to do. Always do the right thing that needs to be done. Be humble and always be thoughtful of others – as we are all different”. He said that Allen was a leader/person one could trust. He was thoughtful and always understood that we are all different.  He was effective in moulding and transforming people to be their best, and he was a motivator, effective communicator. He added that Allen was authentic, and he was a leader. With regards to Allen’s writing, the gentleman shared that his writings were one of a kind, and authentic. He said as a fellow Customs officer, he was always proud when people commented on Allen’s writing. In fact, people bought the newspaper to read Allen’s short, effective and good letters to the editor, which definitely made the staff smile and laugh and make their day. As a Customs officer, Allen’s workmate was very proud of Allen’s charity work. He concluded by paying tribute to Allen as having the power to influence and shape many Customs and tax officers during his time at FRCS. Many of these officers have served and currently serve FRCS in leadership positions. In fact, the team at FRCS continues to talk about Allen, and they had the pleasure of working with him and under his leadership. Allen was a leader before his time. He had his own way of doing things back then, which now is very important and relevant in what the team at FRCS does. Allen was an awesome and effective person and leader.

Daughter’s number one supporter

Allen’s daughter Manavesi Lockington has tried hard to digest the news of the passing away of a man who was very brave to be able to see the pain so many needy families went through and not let it take away his joy. She said her dad, at the height of the pandemic, returned home with heartbreaking stories, and the family learned about people’s extent of suffering. The experiences shared by Allen really shone a light on how a lot of people were suffering. According to her, Allen was strong and joyful. He was her number one supporter in her baking business which has been named after Allen (Allen’s Cakes). According to Manavesi, her dad lived by his saying, “people are always more important”. Thus, Allen’s family supported him in all his endeavours. She added that her dad was a man of heart and strength. He was kind and had a loving heart, and was always selfless. He did not get angry, and never forgot his family even during his most busy schedule. She said people always looked forward to his witty comments and his signature punch lines at the end of his letters. The family is proud with the fact that Allen impacted lives, and left an impression everywhere he went. He will be deeply missed by his family!

Joy in writing letters

Allen’s joy was reflected in his letters. Lautoka’s pride was renowned for his tonguein-cheek Letters to the Editor column which will be incomplete without the contribution of the legendary writer and my guru. He was a face and a name people easily related to the letters to the editor column. Allen, who had been writing for many years, set the platform for many upcoming writers and those who contribute to the column. His short, crispy and delightful letters touched many and made a difference in many lives. His views were read widely. He had an opinion on almost every topic he could relate to, and he would get his opinion across with clarity to the masses. He spoke about issues from the heart, and had his own brand of wit and sarcasm tightly woven into many of his letters over the years. Allen was able to force change, and assist in development through his love of writing Letters to the Editor, and it was something he held on passionately to until his death just like his fellow writer Simon Hazelman. Like Simon, Allen’s letters showed he wanted people to speak their minds freely without fear, but with wit and humour.

Allen’s influence on my writing

I was inspired by Allen, and when we became friends, he continued to encourage me to write, but stay away from political and sensitive issues that could jeopardise my job. He analysed my letters, opinion pieces and sports write-ups and highlighted the areas of improvement. I have been reading the Letters to the Editor column, and found Allen’s letters rock-solid. Furthermore, his letters appeared on a daily basis and I kept wondering how the man could write every day. He wrote on a countless number of topics and raised a lot of issues that raised eyebrows. I wanted to emulate his success, but as a beginner it was hard. I acknowledged him in a few of my letters and came into touch with Narayan Reddy of Lautoka who introduced me to the famous writer. We then started exchanging views and because I was a civil servant I restricted my writings to sports and appreciation letters. I did not want to touch on controversial issues, and I’m glad Allen kept me on track. We became closer when he indulged himself in charity work as I was doing the same in the Central Division. He kept me abreast with his work in terms of stories and pictures. While some of his stories brought laughter, others tears to the eye.

Assistance to Fijians during COVID-19

Allen assisted thousands of families struggling to put food on the table at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. He did not have much, but if there was someone who needed help and he could find a way to assist, he would find his way to the hungry, an unemployed or a malnourished person. Allen’s closest friends Narayan Reddy, Nigel Fiu and Wise Muavono stood by him, alongside his taxidriver Navnit Ram, whom Allen nicknamed ‘TD’. The pandemic hit the people living in the Western Division hard, as Fijians were driven into extreme poverty and those who had lost jobs were doing everything they could do to hold onto homes with mortgages and mouths to feed. Allen and his team got to work, putting together relief and ration packs and necessities and getting them out through whatever means they could muster, to the people in desperate need. The team pushed themselves to the limit, getting up in the early hours to sort and load the hampers and driving around all day delivering and reaching home late.

King of his castle

The man, who stood by Allen, during his last few days, was his loyal ‘TD’ Navnit Ram. According to Navnit, Allen was like a father to him. Allen was his mentor and guided ‘TD’ whenever he needed support and assistance. Whenever Allen travelled with ‘TD’, he would tell him about his travelling plans. His message to Navnit was, “have a good heart”. ‘TD’ described him as a person who was kind as whenever people came to him for assistance, he did his level best to reach out to them. He reminded Navnit to write short letters, and the last line should drop the atomic bomb and make the reader kaila. Allen loved to help the underprivileged and ‘TD’ shared that when a family was stuck due to the pandemic, he gave his own sleeping mattress. ‘TD’ added that Allen was the King of his castle. He said with a heavy heart he would be bidding his father goodbye. ‘TD’ had fond memories with Allen.

Reddy shares experiences

Renowned Lautoka businessman Narayan Reddy was one of Allen’s best mates and a man he often referred to as ‘son’. According to Reddy, Allen walked the talk. Reddy added that Allen did not help people for show, but he went out of his way and often dragged Reddy and his friends into his philanthropic schemes because he genuinely loved and cared about people. His spirit of helping Fijians struck Reddy who shared a story of how generous Allen was. He shared that one day they were in town and came across a family walking barefoot on the blistering hot pavement. The children were in agony, so Allen, with the few dollars he had in his pocket, went and bought the kids’ flip-flops and made Reddy and Wise Muavono hand over their flip-flops to the parents. They were forced to walk around pato (barefoot) because Allen didn’t want to see the poor family suffer. Indeed, a man with a golden heart!

Power of an ordinary man

The editor-in-chief penned a solemn and heart- touching piece titled ‘Power of an ordinary man’. I allude to the following lines, “Allen Lockington wasn’t the prime minister of Fiji. He wasn’t the president! He wasn’t even in the opposition or a member of parliament. He did not own a business and he wasn’t a famous sportsman! In fact he wasn’t a man who craved the limelight. He preferred to work behind the scenes. He was decent, kind, and loved life. He did not profess to be a rich man. He did not have millions of dollars to give away, but he had a heart that cared for people. He carried with him the power of the ordinary man! He leaves behind a legacy that speaks highly of his passion to help people. He will be remembered for that and for the passion with which he lived life! We can all learn lessons about giving, about selfless service to people, and about enthusiasm to commit to that service.” Beautiful tribute! Allen is survived by his wife Sera Lockington, three daughters, two sons-inlaw and three grandchildren. He will be remembered for his selfless acts and bravery. He was a hero, a role model. Rest high champ!

• RAJNESH LINGAM is a regular contributor to this newspaper. The views expressed are the author’s and do not reflect the views of this newspaper.

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