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Edgar Adams – A man of many parts

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I first met Doc, as he was affectionately known, many moons ago at a party at the home of Kenneth John at Villa. He was the centre of attention, balancing a bottle on his forehead and performing a number of dances.His many stories kept the crowd alive. I had known about him before as an optician and owner of the night spot “Cheddies” which was located at Lower Edinboro. He also briefly operated at “Seaview”, also at Edinboro. Then there was “Hairouna” from the house at which Kenneth John lives, and from the Bella Vista Hotel at Kingstown Park. Later there was “One to Go” at Villa on the approach to Calliaqua. I remembered him most for the “Fishnet”, the building now owned by Becks Gonsalves. He had before these worked as an optician in St. Lucia.

Fishnet was a popular restaurant that attracted a number of persons in the afternoons/evenings. Downstairs he ran his optical services. A frequent visitor was Shake Keane, a close friend of Doc. It was from the “Fishnet” that Shake got the inspiration that led to the composition of his famous ‘Soufriere 79’ poem, which is among the outstanding Caribbean poems. I remember George Lamming, who was quite impressed with the poem, phoning me to enquire about Empire cigarettes. Shake had written, “An old friend, phoned from Ireland to ask about the future, my Empire cigarettes have lately been tasting of sulphur”. It formed part of “The Volcano Suite” – a series of five poems. In that publication he paid tribute to Edgar. “For publication of the poems I am indebted to the kind sponsorship of the Fishnet Restaurant”. I visited there frequently, particularly during the period of the eruption of the Soufriere. Keeping things calm were two different but excellent story tellers, Shake and Doc.

Doc had indicated to me his love for history, stating that it was one of his best subjects in school. He remembered vividly and quoted extensively from Ebenezer Duncan’s Brief History of St.Vincent, which at that time was out of print. Some 17 years later he decided to pursue his love of history and produced what I called a labour of love, Linking the Golden Anchor with the Silver Chain. I refer to it as a labour of love because he was never trained as an historian, but was able to transform himself into one, making use of documentation that was not widely available to the general public. That first work was inspired by his father, Randolph Adams, whom he said loved ships and learnt how to build them. He dealt with shipbuilding in the Grenadines, looked at the impact of World War 11 on local shipbuilding and examined some local maritime disasters, among them, “The Island Queen,” the “Federal Queen,” and “The Lady Angela” disasters, using as his sources the Vincentian newspaper of the relevant years. His treatment of passenger service and cargo handling before the construction of the Deep-Water Wharf is useful in reminding us of the transformation that had taken place along the Kingstown waterfront.

At a time when we are trying to build our tourism infrastructure his work National Treasures is extremely valuable. It builds on and he gives special thanks to the work of Norma Keizer, done for the Organisation of American States, on the country’s Historical Heritage. It is good that he was able to access this work and make it widely available.

Doc was a prolific writer who sometimes thought outside the box. He must be commended for pulling together and making widely available so much information about the history and heritage of the country that could not have been easily accessed by the general public.

My condolences to his family! 

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian

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