Mr B

Samuel B. Bandara, editor of the original Caribbean Review of Books, 6 December, 1944–25 September, 2006

Samuel Bertram Bandara, who died on 25 September, 2006, in Jamaica, was a senior librarian at the Mona Campus of the University of the West Indies. He was also the founding editor of the original Caribbean Review of Books.

The university circulated this note:

“Mr B, as he was affectionately called, began his career in the education system of his native Sri Lanka . . . He then migrated to Britain in 1968, and worked as an assistant with teaching and research duties at the School of Oriental and African Studies.

“Later, Mr B returned to Sri Lanka to work as an assistant librarian and head of the Periodicals, Gifts, and Exchanges Division at the University of Sri Lanka. In November 1974 he answered the call to become headmaster of Primary School, Trinity College, in Kandy, and there he stayed until July 1977.

“In September of that year, Jamaica beckoned, and this adventurous gentleman made the University of the West Indies his next work station. He started out as head of the Gifts and Exchanges Section of the library, and remained in that position until 1983, when the section was merged with the Orders Section and became the Acquisitions Section, which he headed until 2000.

“Mr B’s life has been a very productive one. At one time or another he has been visiting lecturer, general secretary of a teachers’ association, editor, archeological field director, programme co-ordinator, author, and ‘counselor.’ His pleasant personality made him very approachable, and many persons sought him out for assistance in a variety of matters. He never refused to advise and help, and thus impacted many lives positively. He had an encyclopaedic mind, and loved to share his knowledge with others.”

His widow, Swarna Bandara, is also a librarian, head of the Medical Library at UWI, Mona.


Annie Paul, who worked with him on the original Caribbean Review of Books, writes:

“For those of us who knew him, Sam Bandara was a walking compendium of information; a living, breathing, talking archive of knowledge about Caribbean and scholarly publishing. The Caribbean Review of Books which was published at Mona in the early 1990s was his brainchild. I was a novice to publishing in those days, and working with Samuel Bandara and Janet Liu-Terry to produce CRB was a great learning experience.

“Mr Bandara’s CRB editorials were as prolix as he was in person (we often joked that no one could find his ‘off’ button), and if he noticed the drastic slashing I subjected them to, he never let on. He was an easy person to work with, a rather unworldly type who might have strolled out of an R.K. Narayan novel, the smell of cigarettes preceding him by several feet. Inevitably, lung cancer set in.

“Mr Bandara kept the small publishing community at UWI up to date with the latest trends in the dissemination of scholarly information. Open Access, a popular global movement for free access to scholarly and scientific knowledge, became his crusade in the last few years of his life. He was an indefatigable cataloguer and bibliographer. He is sorely missed.”


I never met Sam Bandara, to my deep regret. When Media and Editorial Projects decided in early 2004 to revive the CRB, I wrote asking for his blessing. He readily gave it, along with gracious, modest, but frank advice on various aspects of the magazine. In May 2004, with copies of our pilot issue fresh off the press, I visited Jamaica and hoped to meet Mr Bandara then, but my trip was brief and time ran out.

In the general fret and fray of life and work, I have not travelled to Jamaica since then. Last August I wrote Annie Paul proposing that I plan a trip before 2006 was over, and that the three of us might do an “interview” that we could publish in the magazine. She replied to say I should come as soon as I could; Mr Bandara had cancer, quite advanced, and there was “a question of time.”

My plane tickets were booked for the weekend of 23 September. Then life threw up a flurry of interruptions. I postponed the trip by a fortnight. We didn’t think time would run out so fast.

On 25 September, late at night, the telephone rang; it was Annie. She’d just heard Mr Bandara had died that day.

In his editorial note in the August 1991 CRB, Mr Bandara wrote:

“This first issue of Caribbean Review of Books is the first step of a dream about to come true. I mean these words literally. It is the first step because I know that there will be more and still more to do in our second and third and later issues . . . The dream of a single sharing community of Caribbean book people working together for the common good can become a reality . . .”

Fifteen years later, there is still “more and still more to do” to fulfil Mr Bandara’s dream. This issue of the CRB is dedicated to his memory.

Nicholas Laughlin


The Caribbean Review of Books, November 2006