Barbadians counting their blessings this Independence
(from left) Wendy Reid, Hermione Parris, Terian Reid and Eldona Reid.
Among the thousands of Barbadians celebrating the 50th anniversary of Independence are four women hailing from the same family and the close-knit parish of St. John.
At 99 years old, Hermione Parris is the matriarch of her family. The former labourer at Poole Plantation and seamstress had seven children, five of whom are alive today.
Loop had the opportunity to chat with her and three other generations of women from her family – daughter Wendy Reid, grand-daughter Eldona Reid and great-granddaughter Terian Reid.
Sitting on the peaceful and picturesque ground of the iconic Codrington College in St. John, it was easy to see why this family holds St. John so dear.
But, as highlighted by the ladies throughout our interview, beyond the natural beauty of St. John, what makes the parish so special is its close-knit community spirit that has stood the test of time.
“We are still very close to our neighbours and that is what brings the atmosphere that St John has and I hope that doesn’t ever change,” said Terian, who served as the 2015 St. John Parish Ambassador and is the reigning Miss Barbados Caribbean. “Being the ambassador for St John was an amazing experience – I gained more love for the parish and by extension, Barbados as well,” she added.
Her mother, Eldona, the St. John Parish Independence Committee Chairperson, pointed to this too:
“If your next-door neighbour sees your clothes on the line and the rain’s coming down, they will either shout you and say ‘The rain coming down’ or they will go pick them up and put them in the house. So we still have that in St. John – where we live it is still there.”
Wendy wants to see this continue and is concerned about the social ills that threaten this way of life. Emphasising that as the bedrock of society, families need to spend more time communicating with each other and making plans, she added, “We have put other things before God [but] life is like a puzzle and the centrepiece is God. So if we put God at the centre, then everything else will come into play.”
“At this time, we need more to hold onto than what we have now. We need to put back God into our lives and into our country…. Let’s get back to the place where we all realise we are one and we shouldn’t fight against each other.”
Recalling her memories of that first Independence in 1966, Wendy said:
“I’m so proud! When Barbados first became independent I was a little girl and I remember that night clearly! We went to St. John Parish Church and they provided us with televisions… and we watched right through until everything was over. I remember the rain fell that night – ever so much. And I can remember hearing the older people say, ‘This is a blessing!’ and people stood up in the rain, accepting their blessings! Thinking, ‘Well this is it! We are independent!’”
Her mother, Hermione, certainly sees that moment in Barbados’ history as a blessing and is looking forward to celebrating this golden Jubilee.
“I’m excited – I’m looking forward to it. There’s so much to think about and so much I could talk about,” said the 99-year-old as she reflected on life in the days before Independence.
“I used to walk from home [in Poole, St. John] to St. Philip; walk from home to Ellerton [St. George]; walk from home to Branchbury in St. Joseph. But now you all have [modern transportation]… so you see the blessing?” said a pensive Hermione.
Recalling her days as a labourer at Poole Plantation, where she made 36 cents a day, she said, “In those days, you doing a lot of things and you working hard and no money. But after Independence, there were a lot of people that come to understand what Independence means. Today we see a lot of things that people don’t be thankful for but we need to give God thanks - even for the one who brought about Independence [Rt. Hon. Errol Barrow, MP for St. John]. He had a lot of ups and downs but he pressed on… People should be giving thanks to God because He’s the one that helped him [Errol Barrow] to do what he did.
Hermione, who received the commemorative Broken Trident when it arrived in the parish of St. John in June, told Loop about that special experience.
“I was very glad that I had that opportunity… It was a good experience; it was a blessing. You know, many people don’t know what is a blessing – they more rather a curse than a blessing. But it was a blessing for me to be out and see so many people that I haven’t seen for a long time.”
That being said, Ms Parris, whose 100th birthday is coming up on December 29, is a sprightly senior – still active in her church and, as we learnt, even taking part in missions to the neighbouring island of St. Vincent. And according to her family, she’s as sharp and ‘up to the times’ as you could imagine – staying abreast of the latest news and information as she is a voracious reader. In fact, it’s through her love of reading that she knew exactly what to do when Barbados was rocked by a 7.4 magnitude earthquake on November 29, 2007.
“I was home alone at the time, but I remembered I read when an earthquake happens you should go to an open space, so that’s exactly what I did,” Hermione said matter-of-factly, while her family laughed but recalled the panic they felt knowing that ‘Ma’ was home alone.
And even though Hermione claims she’s not one for the modern technology, Terian was able to point to her great-grandmother warning her to be careful because “they’re hacking the cell phones now.”
As the family looks forward to celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Independence, Terian shared her vision for Barbados for the next 50 years as a place that embraces a wider variety of career paths that would allow Barbados to flourish.
The 19-year-old university student asserted, “If we move forward and look into alternative ways of making a living and acknowledging those as real careers, I think we have a lot more where we can develop and we could become a booming society.”
Watch the video now for more from our interview with this family hailing from St. John.