One of A kind Bajan judge
Greaves looks back on 50 years of Nationhood
Justice Carlisle Greaves believes it is not just up to Government to improve the state of Barbados and he has called for a “re-culturing of every household where we change our way of thinking.
“In my view we have moved too much away from being a nation of pride and industry to a nation of entitlement and laziness,” he said.
Greaves is firmly of the opinion that every Barbadian can offer something to this society but says warns that it can no longer be about “who your family is, what school you went to, good school or bad school, or your complexion”.
The Barbadian jurist spoke to Barbados TODAY about the state of his country as it celebrates 50 years of Independence.
His childhood memory of Barbados’ Independence in 1966 was of students of Welches Primary School wearing to school shirts with the Independence colours and singing “God Bless Bim” and “I Say B, I Say B-A”.
Greaves, who was “born, raised and still lives in Bennetts [St Thomas]” reflected on the differences between Barbados for someone growing up in the mid-50s and now.
As a member of a household consisting of a mother, sister and three cousins, being the eldest child meant that he had to lead by example. On mornings his daily chores included catching water from a standpipe a quarter of a mile away; cleaning the pig pen and mixing feed for the pigs; taking out the sheep to pasture and finally bringing more water to fill the barrel.
After that was done, he headed to his grandmother Viola Austin’s home close by in Arch Hall which had running water. It was there that he got dressed and caught the bus for school.
By evening, it was another set of chores, this time inside his home where he took part in “picking rice” and washing it, picking peas, “peeling the food” and putting the peelings in the “pig bucket” to be fed to the pigs later.
His morning chores were also repeated in the evening, sometimes with more added like “cutting meat for the sheep”, bringing them from the pasture and giving them mash.
During fish season there was gutting, scaling and boning fish while during crop season, Greaves was one of the young men who cut, tied and loaded canes as well.
With all those chores, he still had “to get to school on time”, although he admits to not being “too successful” at that after going on to St. Leonards’ Boys.
A rule which his mother Kerene Belgrave implemented and which he did not like “at the time” but which he has applied professionally was “work and then play”, even as he recalled having to “sneak away to play gully cricket and road cricket”.
Comparing his childhood to what obtains now, Greaves says nowadays it’s more about “children going to ballet, football practice, lessons and piano lessons. It seems more like fun to me,” the judge said.
“Our chores were a contribution to the household . . .. Today you have to give children an allowance to get them to work,” he said.
And even though he acknowledges that “we cannot go back”, he says today’s adults have a responsibility to educate the children “about how life was and to show them how important it is to continue working hard to preserve what their parents have achieved”.
Law was not always on the cards for this St. Thomas resident though. As he reflected, growing up in a rural village meant that for the most part “our dreams were influenced by the environment in which we lived”. He remembers the village producing teachers, firemen, policemen, nurses and a few people who had small businesses. As for Greaves, initially he wanted to teach even though many thought he would be a good lawyer, based on the oratory skills he displayed during debates under the street light while he was growing up.
However, Greaves said he had no interest in law at the time. Pursuing law at A’level and getting it back at O’Level did not help either, but it was while he was preparing to go off to England to study Art that he decided to take a shot at law by enrolling in the para-legal programme at Barbados Community College.
He later became the first para-legal graduate to gain entry to the University of the West Indies to study law in 1983 and after completing his law degree, spent some years attached to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions before becoming a magistrate.
After sitting in the District ‘A’ Magistrates Court from 1992, the popular former magistrate was seconded to Bermuda six years later to serve as a member of the magistracy there from 1998 until 2001 before he was promoted to senior/ chief magistrate and later, in 2004m, to the position of judge in the Supreme Court of Bermuda.
Sharing his views on this country’s development, Greaves said although Barbados has made significant advancement since Independence, which he is grateful for, he is still not satisfied with its level of development. He pointed out that other countries which started at the same level as Barbados had either caught up or surpassed the island.
However, referring to the island’s education and health care systems and its National Insurance Scheme among other things, Greaves said he felt they had served their purpose while cautioning that “Government cannot continue to operate them like it is still in the 1960s”.
He further suggested that whether on the job or in the classroom, “things have to be done differently.
“Maybe even our methods of teaching might be boring some children and that is why we are losing them,” he told Barbados TODAY, added that “we have to stop thinking that only certain people are bright enough to speak on our behalf.
“I am no brighter than anybody else,” Greaves declared. However, he said over the years he has tried to learn something from every encounter, to sift out what is good and retain it, to reject what is detrimental and to learn wisdom “even from a fool”.
Although reluctant to speak publicly on the judicial system in Barbados while still working part-time on the Bermudian bench, Greaves said he was willing to present a paper on what has worked in Bermuda where he found a backlog of cases which has now been eradicated. He also pointed out that it was done “without legislation”.
He also pointed out that crime in Bermuda was down, adding that he and his team were also “very successful in reducing the scourge of gangs”.
Greaves, 60, retired from his full-time position as a judge last year.