Barbados Heroines

Submitted by Yardbroom

We celebrate Heroes Day, honouring those men and women who by great achievements have made us proud to be Bajans.  Their acts recorded, names well known and images in some instances, adorn the bank notes we spend in our daily lives; a constant reminder of the contribution they made to our society.  In some instances their names are known on the international stage and there, accorded the same reverence as in Barbados for deeds accomplished in specific endeavours…..we are proud of them all.

It is fitting that just a few days since the celebration of Mother’s Day in Barbados – dates in other countries sometimes differ – a gentle reminder should be given of other heroes. May I introduce you to my heroines.  Individually their names are not written in books,and perhaps you have only a fleeting thought of them but here they are.

Women on the plantations working in the fields, backs bent under an unremitting sun, then like sentinels stood erect when the driving rains came.  Far distant from any structure or shelter they just were drenched.  Yet they toiled and toiled again, to ensure their sons and daughters were able to attend those schools and colleges they thought were a gateway to a good education.  Now many attorney’s chambers in Bridgetown, with brass plates burnished bright, record the names of eminent professionals whose grandmothers and great grandmothers made that sacrifice, for them to glide easily in their flowing robes and pristine white collars.

Domestic servants, who kept their children “mentally” far away from how they earned a living.  Early to rise in the morning, family chores outlined, responsibilities delegated and in some cases, through the muddy tracks they trod to work in other people’s houses.  Until the return journey late at night, when only lamps flickered in humble abodes.  They kept their thoughts to themselves, mindful of where they wanted their children to be schooled and not to give the impression to their employers that they wanted their children to attend the same school as theirs.  That could be a mistake, and they knew it.

Hawkers, who plied their trade with a business acumen built on life’s hard experiences.  Be nice to customers, for repeat trade and price your goods to make a profit, and then save and save again.  They might not have known how to write their names with a flourish, but they knew what they did not want their children to do.  Therefore willingly they carried a heavy burden, not only on their heads but in their hearts.

Those who sold pudding and souse by the side of the road on Saturday nights and built a reputation for cleanliness, honesty and the taste of their fare, all under the illumination of a kerosene lamp.  Activities and sacrifice the youths of today in modern Barbados, know nothing of.

Some a little more genteel, clinging to respectability but yet equally driven, sold sweet breads from a side window in a private dwelling.  Everyone in the neighbourhood knew of their baking skills and pencilled in as a Saturday treat one of their loaves.  I can think of one particular very well established family, but so far are they removed from such activities….it is as if it never happened.

Those mothers surely achieved their objective.  They sought not riches but an education for their children and a gateway to better things.  For the children who found exacting a programme of education.   Extra lessons after school were sought, they had to be paid for on a tight budget this was not easy.  The family “mantra” then came into play “cut and contrive” and the money was found.

I should not forget the dressmakers beavering away to ensure those who had withdrawn money from the Civic in Swan Street and had purchased cloth were able to have it made and ready for the Exhibition in Queens Park….a delight for many.  Often those mothers stayed at home and allowed their sons and daughters to parade their finery in the Park.  The family budget could only stretch so far.

Mother’s Day has now passed but after it we have time for reflection, it is not only a day it is more than that, for some mothers it was a lifetime.  Many mothers in Barbados “laboured” long and very hard for the education they allowed their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren to have.

It would be a dereliction of responsibility, now that some are highly placed and have influence, not to use that education to uplift those less fortunate than themselves.

The “women” who made great sacrifices are no longer with us, their names are not recorded for what they did, but be in no doubt they are Barbadian heroes as well, because they gave little Barbados a resultant professional class from working class roots.

When those who were not born on the rock – Barbados – or lived here for sometime, accuse us of being insular for holding on to the little we have with both hands.  It is because they do not know our history, and i do not mean the history that is written in books….women of the soil you are not forgotten.

19 thoughts on “Barbados Heroines

  1. YB, you have done it again. Well said. All of us Barbadians should be proud not only of the sacrifices made for us by our parents and grandparents but also of your presentation here which you have clearly put in perspective.

    Thank you.

  2. @ YB

    As a result of this article you can now go to the head of the class and take full marks (that is what I imagine “De Skipper” (Rudder) would have said in my day! (In case you aren’t aware to whom “De Skipper” refers, just ask anyone who may have attended the Barbados Academy up to around 1968).

  3. Barbados Academy Head Master and owner Willie Rudder. I was from that school. Well done job **YB** you have hit the nail on the head for sure; I am proud to be a Barbadian. But I have not been living in Barbados for over 45 years. But I do remember all what you have said very well. My mother was one of the people who made the ultimate sacrifice for me to achieve a good education; For my mother, I did all that I could to let her know that I was never ashamed of her, and ever day was Mother’s Day for her.

  4. We speak of heroes ,but pay lip service to the common people like my grand and great grand parents whose sweat and blood built this country.
    On a recent visit to a split Caribbean island, I was impressed with the many statues in place at roundabouts across the island. ‘Arthur’ the village Butcher, ‘Joe’ the Bus Driver, etc etc.

  5. @ Yardbroom….

    Well done sir!!
    I have never read anything on BU that hits home like this. I am not an emotional person but this has left me all teary eyed.
    My mum worked on Ridge/Balls Plantation all her early life until a slipped disc made her stop, after which she migrated to the USA.

  6. Is all this sentimentality for real? Or is it a pretence? How come we have honoured none of these but are given to raise up and idolise duncy political low-lifes who have achieved little or nothing personally?

  7. David/BU, thanks for making this site a place where people can express their feelings and remind us of things that are so easy to forget.

    To YB, yet many of us may forgetful be you put it together to remind we. Cheers

  8. Truly a gentle reminder of what was. Women who made the ultimate sacrifice of putting their chilren first in order to give Barbados the best of the best! Hopefully their living was not in vain. Good job Yardbroom!

    Glad to hear from you! Check in more often!

  9. Thanks to “everyone” for your kind remarks, I tried to show in some small way, why we are Bajans, it means more than simply being from Barbados.

  10. jack spratt | May 13, 2011 at 4:42 PM |
    Is all this sentimentality for real? Or is it a pretence? How come we have honoured none of these but are given to raise up and idolise duncy political low-lifes who have achieved little or nothing personally?

    I am with you JS. As a lad I remembered a nurse attached to the then St Joseph Almshouse in Horse Hill, part of her duties was that of a District Nurse.Nurse Nichools walked the length and breath of the parish administering to those on need. She was known and well respected by all. Her crisp and sharp blue uniform, was a sight of comfort and reassurance to those in need of medical assistance. Nurse Nicholls has passed on many years ago, and no lasting memory of her has been recorded. Recently we saw a new building in St Joseph, not far from Nurse Nichools base,being named after a yankee.

  11. Thanks, Colonel Buggy, exactly the point I was making. After all the sentimentality and crocodile tears, we will raise up the self seeking and the feckless.

  12. Yardie
    You’re so sweetttttttt, O my gawddddd. you sure kno how to woo a girl. i’m touched by your expression. mwahhhhh

    my motha was a ‘needle-worka’, my papa was a store-clerk. they raised 12 of us in a good way. (except moi, LOL). dese peeple toiled hard n long for little or nutton but we survived n made it thru de rain. to dis day I still get a lil emotional on Father’s Day tho my papa passed 36yrs ago. my momma died when i was about 10yrs, old and being the 2nd last of twelve, my papa meant more to me than my momma. I rememba my brothas n sistas crying a river a tears at me momma’s funeral. i wasn’t dat attached to her but when papa died, I thought i would die too. He was a gentleman, just like you Mr. Yardie.

  13. This submission demonstrates why it is important for our elders to scribe the stories of the past so that they will never be forgotten. It is important to educate the young so they can have an appreciation of the past.

  14. Nowadays the clarion call to many young men ,and ladies, is to learn a trade. From as long as I know , it was always our mothers, God bless them, who were instrumental in ensuring that their sons become Artisans and Technicians, many of whom have contributed tremendously to the development of this nation.Many of these mothers went as far as to pay established tradesmen a fee weekly to “learn” their sons a trade. These women had vision.

  15. jack spratt | May 13, 2011 at 4:42 PM |
    Is all this sentimentality for real? Or is it a pretence? How come we have honoured none of these but are given to raise up and idolise duncy political low-lifes who have achieved little or nothing personally?

    With only 18 responses, your question has been answered.

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