Jamaican-born activist lost his battle with a short illness on Oct 6
Written by George Ruddock
RAS SEYMOUR McLean, a well-known advocate for the return of priceless Ethiopian relics and hundreds of books and manuscripts of Ethiopian history, has passed away in London on October 6 after a short illness.
He was also best known an activist for the recognition of land given by Emperor Haile Selassie to Jamaican Rastafari who wished to return to their spiritual home in Shashemane.
Ras Seymour McLean was also a regular campaigner who would attend most public events when Jamaican government ministers were visiting the UK pleading for assistance to the Rastafarians who had set up home in Shashemane but were neglected by the Ethiopian government.
There will be a special African-themed funeral service for Ras Seymour McLean on Thursday (Nov 6) at the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, Phillips Square, Battersea, London SW8 3RT starting at 10am. Interment will be at Putney Vale Cemetary, Stag Lane, London SW15.
Seymour Antony Mclean was born in Jamaica on November 6, 1956 and he grew up in Beckford Kraal, Clarendon. He was the third of four brothers and one sister. He spent his formative years in Jamaica where he attended Mount Liberty Primary School.
At the age nine he left Jamaica for England with his older brother Ronald to be reunited with his mother in Battersea, south London. He attended Wix’s Lane primary where the knowledge of his maths times tables positioned him way in front of his peers, he recalls being sent to the back of the class for “knowing to much”. He later attended William Blake Secondary School.
In his teenage years, Seymour studied karate. He went on to represent the UK in the European championships at the semi-final stage.
Seymour followed in his elder bother’s footsteps into electrical engineering and started work as an apprentice at Clarkes Electrical Constructor. He rapidly worked his way up the ranks and he went on to work at Lloyds of London, the prestigious central London-based specialist insurance organisation. He then moved on to work at Sterling Westminster as a Financial Consultant until 1982.
In 1982, Ras Seymour Mclean came to the Ras Tafari House (temple) in Brixton, south London, at the time of the famine in Ethiopia.
After expressing his concerns and reasoning with the elders, he and others were sent to research the best ways to support Ethiopia. A series of fundraising events followed this.
His further research led him to spearheading a campaign calling for the return of priceless relics and hundreds of books and manuscripts of Ethiopian history to Ethiopia, which were stolen from the Ethiopian church during the British invasion of the African nation in 1868.
His struggle was chronicled in a 1991 television movie, The Book Liberator, which was based on his trial after he had recovered several of the manuscripts from the British museum ¬ including the Kebra Nagast (Prayer of the Virgin Mary) from the Pankhursts’ museum – an offence for which he spent nine months in prison.
In June 1990, Ras Seymour McLean joined the Ethiopian World Federation Inc and he devoted most of his life to research and repatriation in the true sense of the words, exploring the ancient Ethiopian royal and cultural history.
He was part of the delegation for the 1992 Centenary Trod to Ethiopia, and in1996 he was part of the delegation for the Centenary of the Adwa Victory celebrations in Addis Ababa. He was well known for his one pound educational documents, which he sold on the streets of London.
Ras Seymour was known globally for the liberation of ancient Ethiopian manuscripts and books looted from Magdala, Ethiopia, in 1868 by the British. His research led him to uncover priceless information about the magdala loot, this has been documented on TV and again Seymour spent significant time campaigning for the stolen relics return.
Through his own business project, Ras Tafari International Consultants, he also retrieved public records detailing the British parliamentary involvement in the looting of Magdala, as well as their interest in, and reports on, the Rastafari Movement in their early days in Jamaica and the Caribbean.
Ras Seymour held the offices of President, Vice-President, Sergeant-at-Arms, and Chaplain in the Ethiopian World Federation, Incorporated. He always strived to create ways and means to administrate and develop the organisation. Whilst serving as President he used his business skills and initiative to generate income for the locals.
In this connection, he hosted Ethiopian clothing exhibitions, and the Empress Menen Accolade was established during his presidency.
Likewise, the “Papa Dyer Flags Project” was established to financially assist Papa Dyer’s family in Shashemane, Ethiopia, giving testimony to his great awareness of humanitarian needs.
Whilst in office, he met with various officials at the Ethiopian and other Afrikan embassies, the Jamaica High Commission, and with the late Patriarch of Ethiopia, Abuna Paulos.
Ras Seymour McLean was a prolific public speaker on topics including ‘Protection of Ras Tafari Movement including Intellectual Property, Music, Arts and Culture’. He shared the stage at the RAS Tafari Global Reasoning 2003 conference held on the Mona Campus, Jamaica, were he was welcomed with several Rastafarians from around the globe.
He is survived by six children, Claudine, Farriea, Pharoah, Negus, Theodore and Janhoy as well as six grandchildren, Theo, Timone, Nkhai, Athaliah, Kirah and Delarno.