Witty Walkes turns 100
Eilene Meta Walkes, the first Barbadian to celebrate her 100th birthday for the year, is a witty and interesting woman.
Her sharp mind and ability to respond to questions in the quickest of time would be admired by those who communicate with her. And her warm personality and gentle jokes would put a smile on many faces.
Barbados TODAY had the opportunity to sit down and converse with the Bellplaine, St Andrew resident on her birthday yesterday at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre where she celebrated her great milestone with a visit from Governor General Sir Elliott Belgrave, family and friends.
Other than eating “good food” and maintaining a loving heart and close relationship with God, Walkes said she lived “to get old because the old people pray that I may I live to get old”. What exactly does she mean by that?
“Them that can’t see so good to get home on a evenings when it get to twilight, I use to lead them home. And they use to pray . . . and tell me that may you live until you get old and your sight be with you and up to this day nobody don’t got to thread no needle for me.
“Not the small eye needle, the fair size one. I can cut the cotton and thread it and mend my clothes. I can pick rice for you if you want it pick without these [eye glasses] on, I only put them on when I going anywhere,” she boasted.
As for how her body was feeling at its advanced state, Walkes responded that she felt ordinary, “as a body accustomed feeling”.
“If it want to pain you it pain you. When it ready, the pain would go off and it would get back normal. I feel very happy,” said the centenarian who spends her days “sitting down, eating, sleeping or reading muh quarterly and muh Bible”.
The long-standing Seventh Day Adventist recalled her days as a hawker outside the Alleyne school where she was loved by all of her little buyers who attended that secondary institution. She said that many days, she gave or loaned bus fare and lunch money to those students who confided in her that they had to go to school without lunch because their parents could not afford to give them any.
“All things that I could do good for the children I use to do. The children use to pray for me and thank me for how good I treat them”.
But as much as she loved and looked out for the well-being of the students, she did not allow them to be disobedient or engage in wrong activities.
“You know how much of them that I put a lash on when them wouldn’t behave themselves and let them know them place?” she asked in a stern voice.
She added: “I didn’t frighten to cut them backside if them don’t hear and them can’t go home and tell them parents that I hit them when them do wrong things because they would get more licks. Parents didn’t use to uphold children doing wrong things to people. You had to have respect for people.
“In them days, you couldn’t look in people face and don’t speak, you and to say good morning, good evening or good night. Things get so far out of place that I don’t know how it would be able to get back as it did in my young days.”
Walkes was not only a popular hawker, but she was also known as the third umpire who played a pivotal role in cricket matches while they were being played as she sold her delights.
“At the Alleyne School them use to call me the third umpire because if somebody out I can say them out and if them ain’t out I can tell them that that body is not out,” she explained.
The mother who has nine surviving children out of the 12 she gave birth to, 45 grand children, 40 great-grands and 19 great-great grands had some sound advice for young people – the same path she told her children to walk as she raised them.
“All of we sin but do the things that right to do and don’t follow bad company nor don’t do no mischief. If you with somebody and they are going to steal, don’t wait for them, go long.
“If you wait for them, you are going to get the same punishment because you uphold them. I warn my children that if somebody going to thief something from at somebody don’t follow them. My children couldn’t follow bad company, they couldn’t interfere with people, they couldn’t do no wrong thing.”
The centenarian’s daughter Mary Walkes, with whom she currently lives, confirmed her mother’s strictness which she believes did a lot of good for her and her siblings as they grew up.
“She was very strict. She was so strict that at 19 she got married, and at 19 I couldn’t even talk to a fella. I found that very strange. When I did my research I found out she got married at 19,” Mary said.
But according to Walkes who was born in Chalky Mount, St Andrew, “the point is that the Lord help me and he will finish help me and he will help me through the balance of my time. He help me to reach 100 years and many people don’t live to reach that”.