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Long ago customs – Part 3

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I had intended to take to the high seas and honour our hard-working fishermen who toiled to ensure that we had a daily supply of fish. However, I shall continue with customs/traditions once more, as there are a few more stories which need to be told.{{more}}

My youngest sibling has always expressed the view that he cannot live anywhere else but in Barrouallie. When pressed as to his line of reasoning, he would indicate that Barrouallie is a fun place to be. Indeed, it is one of those communities where almost everyone has a nickname; even the Pilot whale, which we identify with, has been nicknamed “Blackfish!!” Many are of the view that Barrouallie is a “college” and it would seem as though there is always an activity in Barrouallie which draws a large influx of people from surrounding communities to our town from time to time.

Let’s start with sports long ago, specifically cricket. It was customary to have visiting teams come to Barrouallie to play that sport. That used to be a big thing, complemented by club ladies. Club ladies long ago were seen outfitted in colourful dresses and purses of a similar hue. The purses contained sweets, which they threw to the children who lined the park to watch the matches. They carried a tin filled with powder. The powder was used in jest to “bathe” the spectators. I was told that it was a spectacle to behold as those women danced their way around the park. At the end of the matches, there was feast galore.

The park, of course, is the one which is located in the town centre and which several generations grew up with. The physical layout, inclusive of its shape, “speaks” of a European design. Do you remember when there was “film show” held at the park? Yes, some members of the current generation will recall how we stood in the park while the picture was shown on Ms Jackson’s wall. One of my friends recalls how many almost got a heart attack one night when they were looking at the film “The Burning Hell.” In the midst of the quiet, still atmosphere, in which one could have heard a pin drop, many were caught off-guard when a fight broke out between two dogs. Those who were there thought the film was coming to reality and that the end was at hand….pandemonium broke out as mankind ran to and fro, some to Morgans Bay, others to Bottle and Glass….

Of course there is sky rocket night held at the park every 5th November. By now we know the story behind Guy Fawkes and the plot which was foiled on 5th November (back in the 1600s)….Well, I really don’t think this is currently done elsewhere in St Vincent and, even though the history behind the activity is not anything to be proud of, the residents of Barrouallie have turned it into their own “family affair”. The crowd which “flows” into Barrouallie on that night is usually unbelievable.

Today, however, the activity has been “watered down” because most of the park has been transformed into a children’s playground. However, the young men continue to do their thing, lighting old tires and branches and turning it into quite a show, using very limited space. You dare not walk into the park….don’t talk about those bamboo joints! Okay, the invitation is yours to come and see for yourself next year, God’s will.

The park holds such fun memories. The last hanging I witnessed was held at the park. No, don’t get scared. Hanging (commonly pronounced “henging”) is a custom which is used as a deterrent to persons who get involved in incestuous affairs or buggery of animals.

Prior to the hanging, a case was filed, judge and jury selected and night after night the court was called to order; several witnesses were called and questioned and cross-examined before the verdict was passed. That proceeding was really a formality, as the accused was always found guilty. The night of the hanging was a grand affair. There was much shouting as the accused (a dummy) was hoisted onto a pole and hanged.

Of course, there is grave lighting on November 1st and 2nd. This tradition extends beyond Barrouallie, but the crowd which moves into this town is beyond compare, especially on the second night!!! You can hardly find standing space at Glebe Road, where one of the two cemeteries is located.

I shall conclude this article by looking at Sundays long ago. This particular day was as solemn as ever. There were no sports, nothing on a Sunday except church. That day was set aside for Sunday school and church services. Do you recall those dresses, stiff as a board, which the young girls wore to church? Sundays long ago was the quietest day…not so today as commercial activities heighten and many boom boxes can be heard passing through the town, as these private and public entities ply their trade….we have really changed!… Well, until next week, God’s will.

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