Life in Gros Islet was always filled with intrigue, but nothing there generates greater interest than we, the people of Gros Islet. For many generations, we survived off the bounty of the sea by engaging in a thriving fishing industry, which became the epitome of our cultural pride. Every boy and girl, man and woman was a fisherman at heart. We were all bound together by this great economic influence, which symbolized our past, present, and future.
On February 14, 1985, six young men set out to sea from the Caribbean island of St. Lucia. It was to be a brief and routine fishing expedition, but engine trouble left them adrift in a 22-foot open boat with no water or supplies. Most of them were never seen again, Glory Days and Tragedy tells the true story of idyllic childhood friendships in the St. Lucian town of Gros Islet and the harrowing ordeal of thirst, hunger, disease, and madness that a dommed handful of its inhabitants endured.
One of the many aspects that I appreciate about Glory Days & Tragedy, is that it explores a period of maybe 10 years or so before I was born and though it is one person, the author, giving his account, he brings to light vivid descriptions of community life and how the outside world affected us on the island-culturally, economically and religiously.
It’s also very easy for us islanders to make a connection with the author because he gives details sharof island life…
“Mornings were usually greeted by the shrill cries of cocks crowing, the sights of older women on feast days dressed in the eighteenth-century formal garments, their “Wob dwiyet,” and the solitary proclamations of a town crier pervading the morning air. Then there were the frequent stops of Mr. Matiween and his donkey-cart, as they made the early morning rounds of garbage collection.”
A Caribbean view of Satan
“A great quantity of dry coconut husks were attached to the devil’s back, and he was clothed from the waist down with dry banana leaves that extended to the ground. His feet were about the size of a driver’s fin, and toenails jutted out from under the skin.”
Influence of British Culture
“Right aross the street and not too far from the society hall was an English-style pub where the owner, Mr. Herbert Scott, used to entertain his patrons with some of the most popular records of that era. They included songs by Tom Jones and Engelberet Humperdinck, and all night long, “Blue Spanish Eyes,” “Love Me With All Your Heart,” “It’s Not Unusual,’ “Please Rlease Me,” and “Green, Green Grass of Home” would keep them drinking.”
For many who were born in the 21st century, it can be very difficult to imagine that those structure/institutions that are accessible to us now were once non-existent. I was reminded of a child’s creativity and freeness. In some chapters, Prudent describes how they set up a swampy field for games and organized their own cricket matches to making stick horses for an obstacle race. Granted that spirit of childhood freeness isn’t entirely gone, it’s still very rare to witness such a sight today. It made me reminisce and miss the days when my cousins would do “race cartwheels” with a stick and the ring of a bucket and race down the hill trying to keep it steady. I tried but always failed…I never had much balance lol.
The most fun part would be coming across well-known names and surnames such as Leonard “Spider” Montoute, Pulchere & Pamphile.
Even Mr. Volney owned a gas station in those time which was still around while I was growing up-Volney gas station.
“…and in the case of Willie Volney, had gone on to establish a lucrative business of selling gas)…His rise to financial power and political influence made him an icon in the minds of many people.”
The heart of this nonfiction work is the dreadful experience of being lost out at sea for countless days and seeing your friends perish one by one in front of you. While reading, I even became exhausted and anxious that they would never find land, survive or be rescued. It was a difficult journey for those on board the tiny boat and even more heartbreaking for the community, especially the family.
Even in this dreadful experience, you’re reminded that life still goes on. Continuity is constant.
In the end, as many experiences in our life do, we are reminded of elements coming together to help us along our path.
Have you read any book that reminded you of your childhood years?
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