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Remembering Patrice Reddock

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What I remember most about Patrice is the occasion on which I first met her. This I am fond of relating because it says something about the kind of person she was. It was in the mid-seventies and I was returning from St. Vincent to Barbados where I was studying. I was awaiting transportation when I saw coming along a lady colourfully and fashionably dressed, with about four ‘red caps’ behind her carrying her luggage. She seemed to be having some issues with them, since it appeared that they were charging her more than they were entitled to. As she was passing, she handed me something, saying “Adrian this is for you”. She disappeared before I could respond. It was a John F Kennedy commemorative coin. But who was this lady and how did she know my name?

The answer did not come until I returned to SVG some two months later. I was struck by a news item which indicated that Patrice Reddock had set up a garment factory at Campden Park. Things then fell into place. Relatives on the Quow/Lampkin side of my family living in New York had indicated to me that there was a cousin named Patrice Edwards who was doing remarkable work as a seamstress and fashion designer. Patrice’s grandfather was the uncle of my grandmother. Patrice obviously knew me.

I visited her factory at Campden Park and organised to get a shirt made. The style and colour were settled, and she told me to collect it the following week. I realised that she took no measurements and when I told her about it, she said that was OK. As I left, I remembered Lord Nelson’s calypso “King Liar”. The finalists for the “Lying” competition were “Will the Outrageous” and “Liar de Lion” who were supposed to be lying about a tailor. “Will the Outrageous” said his tailor was so good that you just had to show him a man walking around a corner and he will make a suit for him. He used to sew for Shakespeare and Hamlet and never made a mistake yet. Then came de Lion’s time. He smiled. He said his tailor named Rawle T was the best. You didn’t have to show him the man, just the corner where he passed, and he will make a suit with a perfect fit.

     When I returned the following week, my shirt was a perfect fit. Since then with the exception of four years when I was out of the country, she had been making dress and working shirts for me until my retirement a few years ago. I had at that time discarded ties and got her to make my “jack suits”, among them one for my wedding.

Patrice had received valuable assistance from and had been friends to many, but the persons who stood out for her were Arnhim Eustace, Shafia London and John Horne. Arnhim Eustace who headed the Development Corporation facilitated her entry into one of the Industrial estate factories and remained a friend who continued to assist her. When Shafia was going to secondary school, her father E. G Lynch asked Patrice to ‘take her in’, which she did. She said Shafia never forgot that and had been extremely helpful to her over the years. John Horne was her dear friend who was always willing to assist. When her son and family visited some years ago John even hosted a party for them when they were about to return.

Patrice was a “political animal” who apparently developed her interest when as a young girl she sang at one of Sam Slater’s political meetings in her home village. She committed herself strongly to the NDP, but never allowed that to interfere with her friendships with others who were not of that political dispensation. She was always willing to voice her opinion and became very passionate in doing so.

The eulogy delivered at her funeral service by her daughter Tricia was perhaps the best tribute I have ever heard. It captured Patrice in her many dimensions and did so poetically. To understand Patrice, you had to get to know her. She had an aggressive streak which might have turned off many persons, but once she cooled down, she was the most pleasant and endearing person one could find. The eulogy put it best, “My mom to me was the most iconic, frustrating, creative, demanding, visionary, talented, stubborn, funny, dramatic, charismatic person that I ever met. The most criticising, exciting, delighting, high tasting woman around”.

 That was Patrice, a perfectionist, a proud black woman always willing to voice her opinion on matters of state. (This is a reworked extract from a tribute delivered on August 5.)

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian

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