St Philip – a parish of gems
by Fernella Wedderburn
It takes pride of place in being the biggest parish in Barbados but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. “Philippines” boast of having all the “gems” on this 166 square mile stretch of Caribbean beauty and a “cut above” the other 10 parishes.
And when they say gems, they are not simply referring to places, they are counting people as well. Driving around the eastern parish, residents proudly declared that from religion to sports and entertainment, St Philip has it all and not only that, they are “the leaders”.
They dished out names like Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite, Stedson “Red Plastic Bag” Wiltshire, Mac Fingall, Adrian “AC” Clarke, James “Jim” Wedderburn, Rev. Beverley Sealy-Knight, Sam Lord’s Castle and the Bushy Park race track, to name a few. “When Plastic Bag gone down to the Stadium, every Philippine with a plastic bag gone too, waving their red plastic bags,” Rosita Broome says with a beaming smile.
“And we got Mac Fingall and James Wedderburn,” whom she described as an unsung hero, saying he was the one to open the athletics doors for Barbados. “They want to say that it is a West Indian thing. That’s ignorance. He is from Barbados, he is from St Philip!”
Wedderburn was the first Barbadian athlete to win an Olympic medal, running as a member of the West Indies’ 4×400 relay team (Barbados then belonged to the West Indies Federation) which took bronze at the 1960 Rome games. Another resident who only gave his name as Sam said: “Boy, we got de only race track [Bushy Park] in de country. We got Culpepper Island, and we got one of de only four historic lighthouses back dey in East Point”.
“Another thing people don’t know is that, as an Anglican society, we got one of de first female priests. She come from bout hey and since then, two more come and I tink we only got 11 of them in Barbados. So what you tink? St Philip, it sweet fuh days.”
The priests he is referring to are Rev. Beverley Sealy-knight, who grew up in Woodbourne, and was one of the first two Anglican priests ordained in the country, Rev. Stephanie-Ann Wedderburn and Rev. Sandra Hazell. “We are leaders. We are leading in most things you know.
If you go around Barbados, the Prime Minister of Barbados is a Philippine. He come from Marchfield, born and bred. The Attorney General is a Philippine, and so we are leaders. [David] Estwick – Philippine!” Broome declared. Names like the historic Sunbury Plantation House, the Crane Hotel and others were thrown in the mix as places to go and only found “bout hey”. However, when one talks about being proud of being from St Phillip, no community shows more pride than Long Bay, where the historic Sam Lord’s Castle is located.
“It was beautiful; it was plush and the surroundings, beautiful, breathtaking,” recalls Broome who grew up in Kirtons and worked at the front desk of the establishment some 30 years ago. “The guests would check in and always come for Room 125 because, it was told, that was the one that Sam Lord slept in. So they would always come and look for that room and we tried to make them happy. Sometimes, we got a room that was close to 125 or sometimes, we promised to house them in the Castle.”
She said what made Sam Lord’s Castle a cut above the rest was that it was “like a family hotel, everybody in the community worked in that place”. “You had the cousins, the aunts, the fathers, the mothers, grandmothers. We had people up there that were like 90 [years old]. There was a guy — his nickname was Jonesy — he was walking like this [demonstrating a severe stoop] and still working then because he used to do the flowers. “Man, he was a fantastic florist. When he arranged the flowers, it brought the Castle to life.”
Remembering the Castle in its former glory days, Broome recalls that fateful evening in October 2010 when fire torched the once stately building. “It was painful. It was painful to see it.” However, she is ecstatic that Government is now in the process of remodeling the pride of Long Bay. The ground-breaking ceremony for the $240 million redevelopment project took place on Monday this week. Broome, however, is unsure that the new Castle will ever be like it was before. “I would have to see that. That would be amazing to me.
It would be shocking to me. I know they would not be able to bring back that family atmosphere, the close knit family they had up there, I don’t see that happening. It would be amazing to see that they recapture the main house. I would scream if I went up there and I saw it.
I would be like, whaaat? I would be like surprised”. “It was beautiful. The ceiling was very unusual. I am wondering if they would ever bring back that ceiling. It was fantastic architecture,” Broome reminisce about the original castle. Asked what differentiates St Philip from the rest of Barbados, Broome declares: “St Philip is a nation within a nation. St Philip is the best parish because (the people) stand up for each other. We are family. You would not find that in any other parish”.
“And I am talking about Philippines because there are a lot of ‘com-yuhs’ now. “Com-yuhs’ are people who come into the parish,” she says, turning to me and adding: “like you!” “You come into the parish. You weren’t born here so you are a “com-yuh”. “Me, I am a Philippine to de bone!”