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Remembering Bert Davy

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I should have been part of a tribute paid to Bert Davy on the Global Highlights programme, which is coordinated by Luzette King and forms part of Randy D’s Saturday morning stint at Nice Radio.{{more}} I was regrettably unable to attend and therefore decided to use my reflections for my column this week. Bert was a couple of forms below me at the Grammar School and although I knew him then, we were not close friends. In fact I only have vague memories of him doing hurdling at Grammar School sports.
 
I went off to Canada to further my studies and two years later Bert went to the University of the West Indies at Cave Hill, Barbados. Our friendship really started in 1971 when I returned to teach at the St Vincent Grammar School. He returned that same year and also took up an appointment at the Grammar School. Although he was in Natural Sciences and I was in Arts, as teachers on a relatively small staff, we were constantly intermingling and Bert and I became almost inseparable. I bought a blue, second-hand Vauxhall Viva, incidentally from Arnhim Eustace. Bert also purchased a Vauxhall Viva, but a white one. My car’s number, if my memory serves me correctly, was P 399 and Bert’s was P722.

We continued our relationship outside of school and really enjoyed life to the fullest. We toured just about every part of St Vincent where the roads allowed access. Moonlight picnics were common, but those, of course, were the good old days with little crime and when there was always a strong sense of community. Bert was fun loving, but worked hard. There was, however, more to life than this. StVincent and the Caribbean were in a process of change.

The Rodney affair in Jamaica had ricocheted throughout the Caribbean. The Sir George Williams University disturbances had happened and involved some students from St Vincent. Then, the Black Power/Civil Rights movement was beginning to raise a level of consciousness in St Vincent. Persons associated with the New World Group were looking at options to the developmental model that existed in the Caribbean. The Education Forum of the People had already been in existence when we returned home. Bert and I became members of the ‘Forum’, attended indoor meetings at the home of Kenneth John and participated fully in the production of the ‘Forum’ magazine.

Bert left his job at the Grammar School in 1972 to return to Barbados, where he took up a job as a teacher at the Combermere School. I followed shortly after to continue my studies at Cave Hill. I lived for a period of time with Bert, first at an area near to the Carlton Supermarket and later at a house we called ‘Felicity’, at the Grazette’s New Road. When Bert left, Lenny Daisley joined me, along with a friend of ours, ‘Bouncing’ from St Kitts. Bert and I continued a close relationship. I left Barbados to return home in 1974 and Bert left Barbados to continue his studies in Canada in 1975, before moving to the USA to work and further his studies. After this we were not regularly in touch, but there were occasional phone calls and I met him once at Labour Day in New York.

For three years, 1997-2000 I attended meetings of the Non-permanent Executive Committee of the Inter-American Council for Integral Development (CENPES) of the OAS in Washington. Bert was then living in the Washington area. My meeting schedules were so tight that even though I was able to phone him, I was able only once to visit his home, meet his family and have dinner. Bert visited St Vincent on at least four occasions while I was here, on at least two occasions, I believe, with his wife Penny. On his last visit, which might have been in 2009, we went to the Chateaubelair/ Richmond area with another friend. This particular trip stands out in my mind, for on our way from Spring Village toward Cumberland a delivery truck skidded into us and damaged my car. After settling the formalities with the Police, we continued our journey and on our return stayed off at a restaurant on the Bay at Chateaubelair where we had a few drinks.

That was the last time I had seen Bert, for shortly after that he began to experience medical problems that eventually led to his death. I was, however, given updates on his state of health by his brother Michael. A friend of mine had met Bert at Caribana this year. Bert indicated that he had not heard any calypsos from St Vincent for the year. My friend organised to have a CD with local calypsos sent to him. Reports from his wife were that he enjoyed the CD immensely and was constantly playing it in his car.
 
The fact that he was able to go to Caribana had convinced me that he was on the mend, so I was completed shocked when one day I got a call from a friend indicating that he heard Bert had died and was seeking confirmation. I was not privy to that information, but when his brother Michael phoned me shortly after, even before he said anything, I knew that Bert was no longer with us. Bert devoted himself to his lectures at Morgan State University. He had, it appeared, a profound impact on the students whom he taught at University. He was active in the St Vincent and the Grenadines Nationals Association and served at one time as president. He loved music and loved partying and socializing. He, however, found time for his family.

My best wishes go out to Penny, the children and other members of his family.

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.

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