September 26, 2020

Memories of 1939 By: Brenda Quin


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The month was August, a few weeks into summer vacation. I was 11 years old that month, and the best part of the holiday was time at my Great Uncle Sterling Fisher’s property ‘Mount Pleasant’, a few miles above Runaway Bay on Jamaica’s beautiful North Coast. I was a lover of all animals from as far back as I could remember. At Mt. Pleasant I was surrounded by cats, dogs, chickens, but best of all – because it was a cattle breeding place, with dozens of beautiful cows, the bulls were safely kept away. I loved the smell of the cows, they were tame and gentle, and there was one that I could ride. My cousin Jim kept Polo ponies, and a thrill for me was being allowed to ride one, on a lead rope, which I thought unnecessary.

The house was an old one, large with huge rooms – our bedroom, shared by Mum, sister Jac. and myself, had an enormous 4 poster, so high it required 4 small steps to climb up. The windows, also large, looked over the grounds, to the sea at Runaway Bay, and beyond. At night, when the moon was up, I joined a bunch of local kids, kicking a football around, with much laughter. My Great Aunt Sis adopted numerous children, of all ages, from poor families, gave them a home and love, and taught them to read and write.

I have many memories of Mt. Pleasant. On the back verandah, hanging within reach, was a clay water jar, the water cooled by a ‘Thunder Bolt’, a smooth, silky stone, originally made by the Arawak Indians. It was one of their tools, and very treasured, found somewhere in an Arawak midden, perhaps on the property. The Arawaks, a peaceful people, long gone unfortunately.

I would be awoken in the morning by the voices of the cattlemen, calling the cows in to be milked. Happy carefree days – smells of Pimento berries drying in the barbecue, smell of cows and horses – swimming at Dry Harbour (Discovery Bay).

Myself, a child with little understanding of what was on the horizon, the horrors of war. As August went by – the adults discussing their dread – radio constantly on BBC until late at night – Neville Chamberlain the Prime Minister “Peace in our Time” not to be; Poland invaded, September 3rd war declared between Great Britain and Germany – it had begun, with the heartbreak of families. So many young Jamaicans volunteered at once, some who had been ‘big brothers’ to me, gone, many not to return. The day the world changed, to never be the same again.

Brenda Quin is originally from Jamaica but she has spent a large part of her life living in the Cayman Islands. She is a prolific writer and member of Cayman Writer’s Circle.

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