Net mending a dying art

by Latoya Burnham

netmendingOne former fisherman who now mends and makes fishing nets for a living, says he is trying to get into the schools to stop the art from dying in Barbados.

And 69-year-old Levere Netman Brome has called on Government to help put a schedule in place that he can do just that in the primary schools.

Brome, who said he had to quit fishing because of a bad knee, told Barbados TODAY that few people realised how profitable mending fish nets was and some days, “if I really push myself”, he could make upwards of $400 a day.

The fishing industry itself contributed millions to the economy, Netman said and it was clear by the overflowing requests and backlog of work he has, that there is a market in the island for the skill. But Brome noted that it was the children between ages five to 10 who were most interested and with whom he was anxious to work.

“I used to go to St. Lukes/Brighton Primary, but you know anytime Government gets involved in something you get the hiccups. So I had to make my own plans. This is three months now that I have been waiting on them, but I have decided to go into my pocket and spend my own money and I am going back there next week,” he said during a career showcase at St. George Secondary yesterday.

“It is an art that the fishing industry needs and it is a dying art in Barbados. I don’t know why Government is dragging their feet because the fishing industry pumps something like $48 million into the economy per year and all I am asking Government to do for me is get me into any school, primary school preferably because at the secondary school it is kinda hard because those children, their minds already set.

“If I can get into the primary schools and catch those young boys at seven, eight, nine years old, when they graduate from primary to secondary school, they leave with something along with their education.

“Every child in school is not going to escalate. You will find someone falling by the wayside and if they can have this in their repertoire, believe me they have something to be proud of,” said the net maker who admitted that at his age, he was one of the youngest in the profession.

And this comes from getting into fishing at a very early age, even before he hit his teenaged years. A fisherman at Oistins for most his life, Brome admitted that he then began mending nets in that Christ Church-based market before recognising the wealth of opportunities in the City.

“I realised that it was more profitable in the City. There was a lot more demand for it.”

He said all the other net makers and repairmen were at least 20 to 30 years older than he was, and with old age came the issue of death and hence a loss of the art if there was no one to pass it on to.

“It may look simple to people, but this is a money making thing. This is very profitable. Last week was my worst week doing this for the year and I made $1,100 doing this last week. That was my worse week because I was not feeling too good. This is thousands of dollars a week and you can make more with the gill net that is used to catch flying fish…

“So I would hope that Government would wake up. I am not asking for a salary. If they want to give me a salary no problem, but I am asking for them to help me get this out because I would hate that the good Lord call me home tomorrow and I take this talent with me.

“Of all the people doing it now, I am the youngest and I am 69,” he lamented, listing the men he knew, from St. John to Oistins, to Silver Sands, who were still in the trade, at between 91 and 93 years old.

“All of the guys that do this used to be fishermen… I am in the Bridgetown fishing complex and some days I don’t go home. I have a couch I put there because some days I don’t finish work until 2 o’clock, 3 o’clock. Or when I go home, take a shower, catch a bus about 5:30 a.m. back to the market.

“There is a demand for it. If you go to the complex where I work, you would see about 20 nets there waiting for me to fix them. When I got the call to come here, I was between two minds because I have such a backlog of work, but I said yes because I am hoping that someone would come and catch on. It is something that needs to be taught.

“All I want is to get into the minds of these young ones and get them to learn it… I would stand up under a tree at the roadside and teach this if needs be. I would like Government to help me line up the schools that I can go in and teach it because the children are really interested,” he pleaded.

He said it was the interest of the children he had worked with at St. Lukes/Brighton that convinced him to continue pressing forward in teaching others, and their enthusiasm was worth the time it took out of his otherwise busy schedule.

“It hurts me [not to be able to do it] you know because some of the kids were really hyped about this thing. For two days and you see the improvement that they made in two days. They might not be able to tie the mesh perfectly, but that was only in two days. All I can do is appeal to Government. It hurt my heart believe me.”

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