Friday, July 27, 2007

Two Days in July - Pt 3

Sir Richard Collingwood was a worried man. As he thumbed through the day’s paper in the back seat of his Bentley, a frown creased his usually jovial, ruddy face.

Small in stature and nondescript in looks, the Englishman possessed a keen intellect and quick wit that belied his appearance. As the Special Advisor to the Governor, he was one of the most influential men on the island.

Dolphus had first met Sir Richard 25 years previously in Panama, where the Englishman was one of the directors of the construction company contracted to build the Canal. From the beginning, Dolphus was amazed at how humanely the man treated all the workers, whether White, Black or Hispanic. When he failed to convince the other directors that black workers should be paid the same wage as white labourers, Sir Richard supplemented the wages of the Blacks out of his own pocket.

After he decided to quit his job on the plantation and move to Bridgetown to seek better wages, Dolphus had the good fortune of running into the Englishman. Sir Richard had returned to London after the completion of the Canal and had entered politics. Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin was so impressed with his contribution to the party that he posted Sir Richard to “that little gem of an island Barbados” to enjoy his pre-retirement years. Never one to rest on his laurels, the Knight warmed to the task and was known for writing lengthy reports to the Governor recommending several social problems which needed correction.

“You very quiet today, Mas’ Richard. Someting wrong?”

Sir Richard glanced up from the paper and smiled. “How many times do I have to tell you, Dolphus. Call me anything but Mas’ Richard. I employ you, I’m not the master of you.”

Dolphus chuckled. “I know dat full well. Years ago we din’t have nuh choice but tuh call de boss Massa. Now I choose tuh call you dat.”

Sir Richard laughed. “Fair enough, you made your point, my man.”

He became serious and leaned closer to the driver. “Have you been following what’s happening with Payne and his people?”

Dolphus snorted. “My son is one o’ dem people. He tink I is a traitor ‘cause I doan’ agree wid Payne. But I know how tings does work in Buhbados.”

“And how’s that?” Sir Richard folded the paper and placed it in his briefcase.

Dolphus slowed the Bentley to give way to an old man on a donkey-cart coming out of a side street along the Garrison Savannah. The man raised his whip in thanks and the donkey ambled across the road.

“From de time we get ‘mancipate, Black an’ White in dis country had tuh try and get ‘long, ‘cause de country small and we did all close up unda one anudda. But dey doan’ like we an’ we doan’ like dem. Sorry, chief.” Dolphus halted, hoping he hadn’t offended the Englishman. Sir Richard waved him on.

“Once we keep in we place an’ let dem do wuh dem want, everyting good. But as soon as we start talkin’ ‘bout uprisin’, dem gine get scared an’ somebody gine dead. Simple so.”

“So don’t you think the workers have a right to fight for better wages and living conditions? I’ve toured Bridgetown and I’ll tell you, what I’ve seen made my hair stand on end. I just recently convinced the Governor to grant me some funds to do something about it.”

“Doan’ get me wrong, Mas’ Richard. I want de good tings in life just like anybody else! I jus’ sayin’, dis ain’ de way. We can’ win. Look at de size o’ Engalan’ compare tuh we. De best ting tuh do is leh Mudder Engalan’ do wuh she want. De same way we get freedom, de same way we gine eventually be free tuh run we own country.”

Sir Richard sighed. “Well, all I know is that we’re in for some trying times. I don’t even think with Payne out of the picture the tidal wave is going to turn back. I’m afraid we’re going to make a martyr out of him.”

“Sorry, chief? I doan’ understan’.”

“Never mind, Dolphus, never mind. What I will say is this; warn your son to keep out of Bridgetown this evening. I hear there are meetings planned for Golden Square and the Lower Green.”

“Oh? I din’t even know. Dat boy probably gine be de firs’ in line.”

“I’m deadly serious Dolphus. Keep him at home. Promise me you will.”

“Alright, Mas’ Richard. I gine see wuh I coul’ do. We here now.”

Dophus pulled into the driveway of the redbrick building in Hastings, which served as the headquarters of the colonial government. Dolphus went around to Sir Richard’s door and held it open.

The government official collected his belongings and exited the Bentley. He turned and laid a hand on Dolphus’ shoulder.

“Remember what I said, Dolphus, keep your son away from those meetings until everything dies down.”

The chauffeur nodded his assent and watched as the gray-haired man heading inside the building. He then climbed into the Bentley and pointed it in the direction of Bridgetown.

Half an hour later, Dolphus perched uncomfortably on a bench under the evergreen tree in Trafalgar Square as he received a haircut from one of the outdoor barbers operating from the popular site. He shifted slightly to ease his aching posterior and the barber grumbled his disapproval.

Dolphus watched as about 200 yards away, the Chamberlain Bridge started to swing open to allow a well-laden boat into the Careenage. He reflected on another, much larger waterway in another part of the world, where he and thousands of other men had braved the hazardous environment of the Culebra Cut to construct the Canal.

He was so deep in thought that he did not realise the barber had completed his task and was holding up a piece of mirror for him to view his hair. Satisfied, he paid the barber one shilling and got up from the bench.

“So, yuh hear wuh happen?” the barber asked as he placed the money in his pocket and leaned over to brush off a few stray follicles from Dolphus' shirt collar.

Dolphus shook his head and the man continued. “I hear how dey plan tuh sen’ back Payne tuh Trinidad. Dat ain’ gine guh down too well ‘bout hey!”

Dolphus remembered the warning from Sir Richard and frowned. “You tink Babajans gine care dat much wuh happen to Payne?” he queried.

“Ef! You ain’ know dat he is one o’ de few people dat payin’ black people in dis country any min’ right now? De Governuh ain’ care nuttin’ ‘bout we, de Queen ain’ care, an’ fuh sure dese white people ‘bout hey doan’ care if we live or dead!”

“So wuh we suppose tuh do? Bun down Bridgetown to get dem attention? Wuh dat gine prove? Is we dat got tuh buil’ it back, yuh know!” Dolphus retorted.

By then the other barbers and customers under the tree had turned their attention to Dolphus and the barber.

“Man, doan’ min’ he! He does wuk fuh de white man, so he tink he is one o’ dem!” shouted a man whose jaws were lathered with shaving cream.

A chorus of murmurs arose, and a few of the men cut their eyes at Dolphus. Sensing a growing hostility among the men, Dolphus donned his hat and coat and headed quickly to the Bentley.

I like I betta doan’ let dis boy come down hey tonite fuh trute! Dolphus mused as he headed back to Hastings to pick up Sir Richard for an 11 o’clock appointment.

*********** ************* ****************

That's it for now folks. I have the rest of it outlined and hope to finish it soon.

In keeping with the theme, here's some info on what's happening for Emancipation Day, Wednesday, August 1, 2007. The theme for this year's activities is Breaking the Chains.

3:00 p.m. Emancipation Celebration Parade/Walk
Begins at Heroes Square - Chamberlain Bridge - Bay Street - Esplanade
Included in the procession will be the Barbados Landship, Rosehill Tuk Band, Ife Moko Jumbies and the Iron Band. Bring a flower!

4:00 p.m. Bay Street Esplanade
Activities include remarks by government officials, reading of Emancipation Day message by Nyahuma Obika of the Caribbean Historical Society, laying of flowers for our ancestors, and performances by the Lion Soul Band and the Israel Lovell Dancers. Performer Damien 'Bobo' Bowen will also launch his song for Emancipation Day.

7:30 p.m. Frank Collymore Hall
Roots Experience Emancipation Show

Enjoy, reflect, remember.

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