Love of literature

by Latoya Burnham

Margaret Busby and Luke Daniels are similar perhaps in more ways than they are different.

Writing is a passion for both, and so are social causes, but it’s their link to Barbados that brought them all the way from London here for a two-week holiday that ended with their journey back to the cold just today.

For Busby, it was the first time since the early 2000s that she had set foot on Bajan soil, the land from where her father came; while it was the very first trip for Daniels, who also has a few local connections of his own.

To sit down with the couple, in the verandah of their holiday apartment, both come across as unassuming individuals, enjoying the island and the offerings of the south side where they are staying. A chat with them however, revealed facets one would never have guessed at, never in a million years.

Beyond her Bajan roots, Busby, for example, is the holder of an OBE, awarded in 2006 by Prince Charles for her pioneer work as a black publisher and editor in Britain; while Daniels is a strong activist against domestic violence, a counsellor, author and consultant on the issue the world over. But these are things you wouldn’t think about until both start chatting about their works.

Busby’s independent publishing house, Allison and Busby, founded with her friend and business associate the late Clive Allison, began back when Busby was at university. An English major and lover of all things literary, she said back then it was just a passion and vision that led her down the road of part-owning her own business.

“I was still at university when it was conceived, that was the late 60s and here I still am. All my working life I have been doing things that are book related.

“I was always interested in books and reading and writing and that sort of thing and I read English at university and that was an option when I met my then business partner when we were still at our respective universities. He said what are you going to do when you graduate and I said I might get into publishing… so we did,” she said with a laugh at that long ago memory.

Over the years, the company published such writers as Barbados’ own George Lamming, whom the couple visited and had lunch with while on holiday here; regional writers C.L.R. James and Roy Heath among others, and Busby said it was not even a case of them deciding to publish Caribbean or black writers but simply looking for good work. It would take them around the world, from the Caribbean, to the east and back.

“The company reprinted a lot of George’s books in the 70s and 80s like Of Age and Innocence, the Emigrants, The Pleasures of Exile, Season of Adventure, so that is how long I’ve known George. It wasn’t only a black publishing company, but we had writers from Africa, the Caribbean, America, Europe… We wanted to publish good writers, but I am black so obviously I had an interest in that, but we published white writers as well,” she noted.

Beyond publishing, she was also the editor of many works published by her company, and even when she laughed and joked that she was retired, she admitted that she is still involved in a lot of other literary related work, whether it be judging Caribbean or other competitions, or editing other works, like that of her partner Daniels.

His book Pulling The Punches: Defeating Domestic Violence was one that took him 10 years to write, he admitted, noting that he did bits and parts of it in his spare time. It began as a sort of how-to and a discussion guide mostly for men, about domestic violence and gradually morphed into a self-help guide for anyone needed assistance dealing with it.

For Daniels, it was the culmination of a period where he was part of a programme for the Everyman Centre by the same name, and otherwise the start of additional focus on the issue of domestic violence. For Busby, it is a pride and a joy to be still associated with good work that can help make a difference.

Daniels said: “I don’t think there will be another book like this around for quite a while. It took me 10 years and there is quite a bit of work in it. I’ve led a full life, but doing a full-time and writing is not easy.

“I always thought I could write this without losing too much sleep but I had to decide I would loose some sleep and a lot of it was actually written in South Africa. I took some time out and did some work there.”

Most of the work he does now he said is travelling to train and counsel others about domestic violence, a topic he noted was very close to his heart, and is still his great passion.

The history of the two and their Caribbean connections is so wide that they can almost be now termed children of the world. While Busby’s father was born here, his family moved to Trinidad while he was a baby, before as a man he moved to Africa and later sent his own children to be educated in London. Daniel’s family which was from Guyana, with links through a Bajan grandfather, also to end up in London and he too worked in Africa for some time.

Both say at this point, their connection to Barbados is about finding and linking relatives whom they either have not seen in years, or are hoping yet to meet.

Daniels, who said there is still an ongoing debate in his family about whether their surname was originally Daniel or Daniels, said he knows about some cousins he has here, but he knows there are more, while Busby, despite other trips here said she is yet to meet the family she knows still live here in Barbados.

“I actually went to school in Britain, but my father is a doctor in the rural parts of Ghana and he was one of the few West Indian doctors who settled in Ghana in the early part of the 20th century… We had to go school somewhere and he had this belief in the British education system and I believe in part it is because in Trinidad he had been to Queen’s Royal College, he went school with CLR James…

“I still want to find, I know there are Busbys still here. I’d quite like to find out more about any Busbys and they can get in contact because I am always trying to fill in the family tree, who’s related to whom and who moved where, just like Luke. He is also going to have to follow up his Bajan connections as well,” she said.

Daniels explained: “My granddad was a Daniel but I don’t know about any of the links or anything. I’m trying to find out as well. I go by Daniels, but one of my brothers is convinced it is Daniel rather than Daniels. I think he’s done some research.”

Busby said some of her grandfathers brothers and other relatives stayed in Barbados and it is those people she would love to find. She offered her email address as a possible link to her, while Daniels was more than willing for any relatives of either of them to contact him at

Theirs is a journey that continues, with Busby taking part now in literary festivals mostly in Trinidad and elsewhere as a judge or resource person, and Daniels considering how he can use his expertise in the area of domestic violence to help the populations of the Caribbean where he said the scourge is still very prevalent.

So their links have brought them back to the home where it began, but their love of literature, social work and wanting to trace their roots is what will likely keep them coming back.

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