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John’s international family gathers in SVG

John’s international family gathers in SVG

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Fri, Dec 19, 2014

by Joye Browne

It started when three family members met in 2009 and shared reminiscences of our paternal grandmother, Rebecca “DI” Woodley of Bridgetown. “Mama/Granny Woodley” was an iconic family figure, a towering matriarch who influenced and, indeed, shaped the broad development of her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren until her death in 1973 at the age of 78 years. Memories of her in that trademark ubiquitous head-tie, puffing her pipe are etched in the collective psyche of relatives in whose lives she instilled time tested values.{{more}}

But the role of this family icon was not restricted to her family, it extended to community political activism as Robert Fitzpatrick noted in his book, BIABOU, THE STORY OF A COMMUNITY; “When George A McIntosh organised the St Vincent Representative Government Association (SVRGA) in 1919 a branch was established in Bridgetown. By the mid 1920’s the local branch was under the leadership of William Thompson. Women, like Ms Avis Bartholomew, Rebecca “Di” Woodley, Alice Endever, and Leatha Garrick played pivotal roles in the local branch as organisers. The Bridgetown branch was one of the more vibrant branches of the SVRGA and organised activities for the visits of Captain Arthur A Cipriani and Mr Marcus Garvey in 1931/32 and 1937 respectively.”

Out of the reminiscences emerged the decision to hold a family reunion for the descendants of “Di” Woodley. The three family members morphed into a planning committee, which soon incorporated other relatives and extended its mandate to include Granny Woodley’s siblings, with an ambitious objective of holding an international family gathering. A series emerged of national family gathering was held, starting in April 2011 at Bridgetown in the area of Rebecca Woodley’s home. Several activities were held as a result, including fund-raising and research. An extensive network of interwoven has been discovered. We explored the intriguing link of family connections, the names tell the tale of REBECCA “Di” WOODLEY, siblings and their generation; JAMES DONALD, PRISCILLA GERTRUDE (Lucy), VERA MADELINE (Cooley), ELSINA ROBERTHA (Janey), ONA GERALDINE (Mary), ALFRED.

So now the movement is here in real time the international family gathering which runs from December 16 – 29 will among other things, receive a presentation on the family tree covering seven generations beginning with Nicholas John (1858-1939) and his wife Elizabeth Harry (1871-1910).

A church service will be held in Biabou at the St Matthew Parish Church, itself an important part of the heritage of the family. The grand finale will be a recognition event on December 28, which will pay tribute to (i) the oldest female member alive Winnie John (84 years), (ii) the oldest male member alive Prince Woodley (80 years), (iii) Rebecca Woodley for community/political activism, (iv) Kineke Alexander for athletic achievements including running in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics and (v) Tanya Charles, violinist, for international musical achievements.

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