A giant among men!
Last week I had Panama on my mind; however I turn, every morning all I could hear was Carol Roberts holding forth on what must be one of the most innovative promotional radio campaigns as VOB 929.9 went on a mission to de Central American country in celebrating the centennial of de canal and the thousands of Bajans who went there, many never to return, some giving their lives in de building of this amazing feat; others choosing to remain and live there, while still others not only returned home but sent major remittances to build de economy!
Look, like we need Bajans to do a repeat rescue job and send back money fuh de economy. De timing might be right ’cause they expanding de canal to tek bigger ships.
Well done, Starcom Network! Wunnah show why wunnah is boss. An awesome promotion, but de execution was de real gem, and Carol Roberts deliver like de gorriliphant dat she is! Dat show, her interaction with Maurice Norville in de studio should have been mandatory listening for anyone aspiring to be be or pretending to be a broadcaster. And don’t doubt De Vendor, we got plenty pretenders out dey!
But Carol mek one major blunder. What her research didn’t show, and she miss, was dat De Vendor also help to build de Panama Canal, along with de late Chief Justice of Bubbadus Sir Denys Williams, Lady Williams, Aubrey Choy and Roslyn Williams. Not de physical canal of 2014; dat was a li’l before my time, but de modern-day Panama Canal through de dollars we spent there in de late eighties.
And since Carol did not or would not interview dis Vendor and get de facts, once again I am left to do de job myself. Like Fruendel I kept quiet all last week; not a word from my lips; but now I ready to talk –– in my own time.
But before I get into de details, let me say dat it was an honour to have known Sir Denys Williams, Barbados Scholar; graduate of Oxford University, wid more degrees than my thermometer, and two knighthoods to boot; a man who never had any of his judgments successfully challenged in any court, including de Privy Council; a giant among men; quiet and dignified; respected and loved by all who came into contact with him!
I am happy to also clarify that I never knew him in de legal sense, thankfully, but socially! Any time I went before him, it was not in chambers but in his home by de Garrison.
But to Panama. When Sir Denys’ daughter Roslyn won Miss Barbados in de second half of de eighties, De Vendor and Aubrey Choy accompanied de Williams family to de Miss Universe contest in Panama and we had nearly two glorious weeks there.
Travelling with de CJ was an experience. De Vendor was de designated driver, and every day we would pick up Sir Denys (would de Dean of St Michael’s Cathedral please note his name is not pronounced Denise; it is Dennis, like menace) and Lady Williams, and we would tour places of interest, share breakfast and go to dinner and so on. But de big trip we planned was to the city of Colon, where we heard yuh could buy anything from a motor car to a mop duty free, and as Sir Denys had a diplomatic passport and we were in his entourage, we would be allowed to take all of our fake designer stuff with us while all de other buyers had theirs sent to de airport.
In de days before GPS, De Vendor who is not known to be able like David Edwards to read maps, relied on notes, road signs, helpful people along the way and gut instincts to get me across foreign countries –– sometimes with spectacular success, other times monumental failure, a topic for another day.
Pun de appointed day we set off, Toyota Cressida handling like Lewis Hamilton at Bushy Park race track, a long journey, passing by de Colombian border, thick jungle pun both sides and any minute expecting fellas from one of de drug cartels to emerge and kidnap de CJ fuh a ransom! We quickly decide it was not a good idea to set foot in Colombia, ’cause if we disappear dem gine be looking fuh we in Colon not Cali!
Anxious to get to de shopping de Cressida flying pun asphalt. Suddenly a corner seem to come from nowhere, and yuh boy, still driving like Hamilton, slide through de corner.
From de back seat where de Williams family was strapped in like patients pun gurneys I thought I heard a male voice call out de two names of our Lord, quickly and consecutively. Had I brought religion to the Williams family?
My foot decelerated ’cause when I check there was only one male in de back seat, and I didn’t want no summons to appear in court on my return to Barbados for driving without due care and attention, nor endangering the lives of the CJ and family.
Roslyn later told me it was the first time in her life she had ever heard her dad utter those words, in that order: Jesus followed by the other name, and in such a tone.
Leaving Colon dat day, I know we had done our bit for de Canal and fuh Panama. De Cressida was considerably lower to de ground on de return trip, every crack and crevice loaded up with de goodies, looking like a banana truck heading to Castries rather than to de Canal.
Sir Denys shared some jokes with the boys –– two classics that I will save fuh another time. At de Miss Universe after-party, classily attired in full tuxedo, he danced with every pretty girl in the room. He was light on his feet and partied away the night!
It was a memorable trip and the experience of being in the presence of this great and gracious man is one I will always cherish.
As I sat at his funeral service last week and listened to his eldest son deliver the eulogy, I reminisced that I might have been the only person at whom the CJ swore in his lifetime.
May he rest in peace and rise in glory.
I Market Vendor gone fuh now. You have a blessed and a wonderful day, yuh hear?