Class, Race and Old Memories In Barbados – White vs Black vs Red
Dear Barbados Free Press,
The Nation newspaper has not published the self explanatory letter attached. Please feel free to post on line if you wish.
24th March 2009
Dear Ms. Martindale
Re: Mr. Peter Simmons’ column on Sunday 22nd March
I am submitting another letter in response to the captioned subject which, irrespective of any further comments by Mr. Simmons are my final words on the subject:
My dear Peter,
I have digested your ‘Dear Rodney’ open letter which appeared in the Sunday Sun of 22nd March and I have to advise that this is my final reply. I suspect that we may run the risk of not only testing the Editor’s patience, but readers may soon regard us as being two silly old Lodge boys beating up on each other, still living in a bygone age. Whats more, my Captain has warned me that whether or not I get past your defence, this is my last over, so here goes: six deliveries with no wides, byes or no balls (I hope).
If the outcome of this very public dialogue between us was judged on the eloquence and flair of the discourse, it would be a veritable no contest. You would be the winner by daylight as they sometimes say in racing circles. But, my friend, the issue is not about persuasion by grammatical expertise, it is about the facts and facts alone.
I note that you have checked with old (Lodge) boys across the generations up to 1961 when we left the school and that their recall is the same as yours. Hmmmm, I admit that I sometimes think that my short term memory is not what it used to be, but I insist that my long term memory is still crystal clear regarding the important issues we are now contesting. Therefore I have absolutely no need to check the facts with the many men of our generation who know only too well what took place. I will say that without exception, all those who have commented to me about the culture of Lodge School during that period are in complete agreement with my version of events. So, have we arrived at an unbridgeable factual chasm? It sure looks that way.
Peter, the rules do not provide for the shifting of goal posts during the game. For you or rather for callers to the radio talk shows to now say that the boarders (who you claim to have been all white —– they were not) were in situ before the first day of term and were therefore able to grab the front desks before the day boys is rubbish. It didn’t happen. Firstly, the classrooms were locked up until term started, secondly no one knew with certainty which class would be in which room, thirdly no such preemptive strikes would have been permitted and fourthly desks in the front were not some sort of treasure to be horded or were the keys to academic success and excellence. For if they were, all the bigger, badder boys would have commandeered them. It was as I repeat; generally the studious boys who selected them, friends sat close to each other and most of the academically disinterested boys sat at the back of the classroom. I think its time for you to have a little chat with your imagination as it seems to be winning the battle over your memory.
Gosh Peter, dear oh dear, the irony of your advice to me “to steer myself, stop vandalizing the historical reality of The lodge School beyond recognition by reputable alumni by setting up a straw man to shoot him down”. Strong stuff indeed, but methinks you protesteth too much. Are you not in fact describing yourself precisely and accurately with those words?
Now, the boarders and the boarding establishment. The boarders were not all white boys as you now want to claim. Do you not remember the Savoury brothers from Antigua? Or the Hughes brothers/cousins from Grenada? What about Stud Mc Clean and my own cousins the Grells from Trinidad? Were they all ‘white’? I don’t think so. They were all boarders, but much more importantly they were just regarded as boys, Lodge boys.
Last Saturday, an ex (white) Lodge boy of our generation reminded me that far from being able to play tennis, he nor any of us other day boys could even take a short cut through the area, surely you remember that. It had nothing to do with race, you know that well enough Peter. You claim that Pappy would not let you play tennis, but you must remember that he, being the Headmaster had no control or authority over the tennis courts. It was the Housemaster, Besse Walcott or Critchy who would have had to refuse you permission as you claimed. Might I suggest that you check out some memory aide vitamins?
A hotbed of racism etc. etc. What are you talking about Peter? This is a lot of unfair, untrue, inflammatory assertions. I have refuted (again) the foundations of your claims and you have not yet provided any credible evidence to support your ‘remembering racism’column.
Your reference to your appointment to the school’s governing body in 1976 and supporting the closure of the boarding establishment reminds me of an incident when watching the horses train at the Garrison a number of years ago. Just after the grassed inner walking area was covered over with an asphalt surface, some trainers thought that horses might slip or fall. One morning, the Frenchman Gilbert Yvonet looked at me and pointing at the surfaced area said “Rodney, are you responsible for that?” (As I was part of the management of the Turf Club at the time I said that yes I was partially responsible). He replied with 3 choice words —- “you beeg sheet” and walked away. Well as things have turned out, I am not aware that the resurfacing has ever caused any horses to fall, so the Frenchman’s choice words were not really justified.
But the closure of the boarding establishment is another matter altogether. Whatever the reasons were, and whatever influence the perception of it being a mostly ‘white’ establishment played in its closure, it seems to have coincided with the distressing deterioration of the school from one of the finest schools to be found anywhere in the Caribbean to an academic shadow of its former self. What about the physical plant? Were you partly responsible for constructing the building on the middle of ‘the small field’? Sometimes I used to take visitors to see where I went to school, but have not done so for many years. It simply became too depressing to do so.
Peter, you must lighten up a bit. Its too bad that you didn’t realize that my comments about the books you borrowed from the school library being ‘subversive’ etc. were entirely tongue-in-cheek with a dose of sarcasm thrown in. You really thought I was serious? On this subject, surely you were being a little naughty in trying to have us believe that the Headmaster was aware of what books you borrowed from the school library.
By the way, listen out for my call as there’s a lot more we have to talk about (in private).
With best wishes and much respect also.