Wednesday, 8 January 2014

In memoriam of my beloved Great-Aunt, “Aunt Millie”!

By Stanley Collymore

Your valued life here on earth inevitably reached its
end but the durable and cherished remembrances
of the immense good that you did whilst among
us; what you clearly and conscionably stood
for and tirelessly, in frequently difficult
circumstances, worked exceedingly
hard to implement and against
seemingly impossible odds
to achieve, in order to
improve the lives of
others, will live
on forever.

A touching testament of your altruism, tenacity
and dogged commitment to the challenging
belief that essentially, although quite
invariably obscured by the frailties,
stubbornness and selfishness of
our nature that are themselves
often and greatly influenced
by the conditions we find ourselves
in, there’s nevertheless always there in
each of us, although usually buried deeply
within our psychological makeup, an
inherent reservoir of good simply
waiting to be fully explored,
determinedly tapped and
beneficially utilized.

And not solely for the benefit of ourselves but
correspondingly too the advantage of those
who we regularly encounter, and in the
identical manner that we promptly
engage in doing so with regard
to ourselves, we’ll likewise
undertake to favourably
reach out to; assuming
of course we truly
and charitably
are of a firm
mind to.

So rest peacefully and deservedly so from your earthly
labours Aunt Millie: mentor, inspirationalist and
dependable friend; and continue to shine
gloriously in your illustrious and
Celestial home, just as I know
you automatically did from the very start of
your arrival there after your farewell
journey to the After Life, and had
of course previously done while
you were still here on Earth. Happily
secure in the full and enduring knowledge
that though you’re no longer physically
here with those who knew and still
love you immensely, in spite of
that your comforting presence
is still very much here with
us and will unfalteringly
remain forever; since
the simple and quite
satisfying truth is
you’ll never be

© Stanley V. Collymore
28 December 2013.

A Personal Tribute:
In an affectionate and deserved celebration of the life, the commemoration of her memory and remarkable legacy, and as an overall and personal tribute too to the great Lady herself, this poem was inspired by and is complimentarily dedicated to Mrs Millicent Griffith: my late, dearly loved and deeply revered Great-Aunt who reciprocally in response to her committedly assured, open and demonstrable love for me I adoringly referred to her when she was alive, and still do now in all references to her, as my “Aunt Millie”.

A deeply devoted but none the less an independently minded individual, in that specific respect as in so many others we were bonded soul mates, Aunt Millie was a wife, mother, grandmother, a great grandmother, sister, aunt, great-aunt, great-great-aunt and loved relative of her racially diverse and markedly extended family.

For most of her life she resided with her family, her late husband was my Godfather, in the picturesque village of Belleplaine itself centrally located in the stunningly beautiful parish of St. Andrew where she was widely known, universally loved and deeply respected and equally so throughout the wider Scotland District of Barbados of which St. Andrew was a constituent and vital part.

Renowned for its nationally approved of, legislatively enforced and protected scenic landscape of rolling hills, verdant valleys, leisurely flowing rivers and crystal clear streams interposed with well-established centuries old hamlets ensconced with pleasant rural folk who’re nevertheless highly sophisticated and well educated with it, Barbados is just one of a tiny minority of countries worldwide with a 100% percent adult literacy rate as confirmed by UNESCO, that of the UK’s is only 75% and the USA’s is around the same, St. Andrew is the original and enduring home of the Alleyne Grammar School, Latin motto: “Aliis Non Sibi – For Others Not Ourselves” –  and just a five minute leisurely walk from Aunt Millie’s former home and in whose co-educational precincts at a time when grammar schools were gender separated in Barbados and in England severely restricted in relation to girls, although the latter situation was never the case in Barbados, it was at the Alleyne School that Aunt Millie’s own family and other relatives of hers were educated, with her eldest son one of them going on to be a teacher and school principal himself.

Interestingly enough, the Alleyne School was slated in the bequest of its founder Sir John Gay Alleyne to be the first grammar school on the island of Barbados. Sir John a prominent Barbadian and an extensive landowner within Barbados and throughout some of the other Caribbean territories as well as the colony of Carolina founded on the North American mainland by Barbadians themselves and perhaps better known nowadays and to you as North and South Carolina, two constituent states of the United States of America, in addition to being a very wealthy man was also the longest serving Speaker in the history of the House of Assembly: the national Barbados Parliament, established in 1639 and after the House of Commons in London is the world’s second longest surviving and continuous, elected working parliament anywhere globally.

But crucially Sir John Gay Alleyne was also a distinguished philanthropist who loved his native island of Barbados immensely and just as profoundly his fellow Bajans, the affectionate name that Barbadians call themselves. However with minor but quite prolonged, all the same, squabbling that lasted for just under 20 years by the Board of Trustees set with the task of establishing the Alleyne School over where it should be located; whether in St. Andrew, Sir John’s familial seat and very rural in character or St. Michael, which boasted as it still does to this day Barbados’ capital Bridgetown, the country’s parliament and was a major New World port and principal city at the time, this petty squabbling allowed a much later rival and contender Harrison’s College to pip the Alleyne School to become the island’s oldest grammar school.

And with Harrison’s College established in Bridgetown the Alleyne School’s Board of Trustees eventually saw sense and opted for Belleplaine in St. Andrew as the school’s designated site, which many of those associated with the project personally favoured in the first place.

Even so the Alleyne School, apart from Harrison’s College that is, is still considerably older than any other educational institution elsewhere in the New World outside of Barbados, and significantly predates the creation of the United States of America, Canada, several European countries, including Germany, as well as Australia and New Zealand and is still very much an educational institution of excellence that is passionately supported, deeply loved and profoundly respected by Bajans of all backgrounds and both genders, but none more so than the community of St. Andrew; among whom it’s still located on its original site.

Meanwhile, St. Andrew as it has always been known ever since 1627 is situated on Barbados’ north-eastern coast where it’s bordered on its seaward perimeter by an unbroken thoroughfare of expansive and pristine, sugar white, dazzling sandy beaches lined by an immaculate collection of casuarinas trees, coconut palms and wind-shaped sand dunes atop of which and intricately linked at periodic intervals are impressive sea breeze-sculptured, and quite appealing to the eye, intertwined and fantastically cosy canopies of dark green tropical grape bushes ideal as intimate hideaways for courting couples or serving, as they frequently do as well, as the natural habitat of mini colonies of harmless Concha crabs scuttling about on their everyday business.

And the beaches here have to be physically seen and personally experienced to be properly appreciated, with sand so delicate to the touch that even the mildest of footprints are automatically trapped on it, the duration of their pleasurable and quite variable captivity very much dependent on how close they were to the seawater’s edge and the teasing playfulness of the gentle ebb and flow of the tide.

The tropical Trade Winds are likewise very much at work here too and in tandem with the azure blue waters of the expansive Atlantic Ocean that aquatically controls this coastline and with nothing between the west coast of Africa, 3000 plus miles away, and Barbados, the most easterly country within the region, to exert their abundant interest on, increasingly turn their spirited attention instead to meticulously manicuring this coastline and its constituent parts, with their similarly impressive and kaleidoscopic backdrop, that comprise the wider Scotland District of Barbados.

Related to the Springer, Walkes, Griffith and Collymore families mostly biologically so but in some instances through marriage, the Diaspora of these families even during Aunt Millie’s early lifetime stretched beyond the borders of Barbados to include other territories within the archipelago of Caribbean Islands, Guyana, other parts of South America and also Central America, and significantly too the United States of America, Canada and the UK where collectively within these three specific countries the largest concentration of them outside of Barbados were born, raised and do reside.

And justifiably proud as she evidently was of the academic qualifications gained, the successes achieved and the professional statuses earned by her immediate family members and their Diaspora – there’s hardly a profession worthy of the name that one or other of us doesn’t hold – Aunt Millie, even so, was never reluctant in encouraging her family members, whether they were born in Barbados or not - pushing at an open door was how I described it - to have the same abiding love and respect for her beloved Barbados and especially her adored St. Andrew: accumulatively her birthplace, homeland and tropical paradise, as she always did. And where fittingly her mortal remains lay buried alongside those of her late husband and in the company of other departed family members and friends in the tranquil setting of the centuries old St. Andrew’s Church graveyard.

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