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Tribute to the Mighty Toiler [Quintyn Toby]

Tribute to the Mighty Toiler [Quintyn Toby]

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by: Kenneth ‘Scakes’ Alleyne Fri Jan 11, 2013

We have come here today to honour the memory of the Mighty Toiler for the songs and the many messages of positive thinking. He has left us a rich legacy in his music. As a calypsonian, he has immortalised many events of historical importance, most of which would have faded from our memory were it not for these songs.

I was asked to do this eulogy in honour of the Mighty Toiler and thought it fitting to open by highlighting one of his appeals in one of his most nationalistic songs, “Honour Dem”. Could we, or would we honour him? To quote the fourth verse and chorus in which he spoke for all calypsonians, both past and present. Some may call it timeless, but it’s the reality of the life we live as calypsonians or messengers of the people.{{more}}

The fourth verse goes like this: and don’t forget this was written in 1980.

Every year, I up here, singing loud and clear, But like Billy Button, ah working fo noth’en
I does hear, all yo cheer, while yo drinking beer, And then yo left me to scrunt the rest ah the year
Nobody never bother about folks like me, Professor, Summers and Hawk, or Reality,
Sometimes we don’t have a bob
Not a cent to put in we fob
Yet still nobody won’t even give we a job.

Chorus:

If a man is a good wire-bender
Or else he could beat a good tenor
Honour him I say
Do so right away
Or else an outstanding musician
Or Calypsonian
I am warning you
Give honours where honour is due

[The Song “Honour Dem” By Toiler, some members of the Calypso Association]

Toiler’s Death

I want to digress a little from calypso to speak of the man I knew outside of the calypso arena; a man who loved life.

I was building a part for a door at home on Saturday, 1st December when I heard my neighbour saying to a friend and I quote: “They found Toiler dead at his home.” I tuned in further from across the street where I live and realised that it was my friend Toiler she was speaking about.

The Toiler I knew was like a cat with nine lives, and I thought that he would always have something left if he got into trouble with a few lives. But, on further investigation, I realised that his nine lives had run out and he was to be no more.

Like the real comeback kid that he was, he loved life and would not have thrown it away. So no way as the rumour had it, was he ever going to kill himself.

Proof of that, at independence time 2011, I encountered Toiler at the market, shopping for provisions and vegetables. It was a usual Saturday morning lime. He had just come back from the USA, where he had gone to seek medical attention. On hailing Toiler, I got no response from where he sat on a bench next to a market vendor. I interrupted my shopping and went across to him, only to find out that he was sitting there as if in a trance, not breathing. Immediately, on instinct, I put him to lie on the same bench and revived him with some chest pumping that got him breathing again. An off duty nurse, who was also shopping at the moment called the ambulance and they took him to the casualty. They started testing and advised Toiler to remain at the hospital for further observation, but he insisted that he was OK. Dr Jerrol Thompson passed by and also encouraged him to stay, but he never listened.

By two o’clock he was out of the casualty and I took him home. That very night Toiler went to Chateaubelair and was partying at the independence celebrations in North Leeward. When I chatted with his family, I was told that he had a kidney problem. I was also made to understand that he fell down in Kingstown one more time and was assisted by his long time friend and ardent calypso fan Nina Maloney, who happened to be nearby.

So, you see how he was using up his nine lives.

In the days of the motor vessels :”The Madinina” and “The Carib Clipper”, Toiler was a sailor. When I visited my eldest brother on board, Toiler would be there as Chief Mate or Second Engineer. [In those days of the 60s, the stains on your clothes exposed what work you were involved with on the ship]. At that time I was still at school, while he sailed up and down the Caribbean, working as a seaman and singing calypsos.

Toiler was an avid supporter of cricket. On the occasion of many great one-day matches at the Arnos Vale Playing Field, he could be seen entertaining the crowd between intervals of water breaks, lunch break and tea. Something funny had to happen between himself and one Mr Todd, who behaved like a duo of mascots at one-day games.

Toiler would be most remembered for his contribution to the calypso art form; not for smut, or vulgarity, but for many positive messages left us in his many songs, even those which he did not remember too well because of stage fright. He was a master exponent of calypso in SVG. Performing like a great fast bowler when he was on to a song that had a good swing.

In 2008, Toiler was awarded the SUNSHINE Award in New York for his contribution to Caribbean Art, Comedy, Dance, Drama, Music and Poetry Category. He had to travel all the way to New York to accept the award.

Title: Calypsonian
Country: St. Vincent & the Grenadines
Name: Quintyn Toby Joseph (The Mighty Toiler)
Winner: Yes
Year: 2008
Quintyn Toby – Born on the 16 of May 1939.

Toiler’s Winnings and Successes in the art form

He started singing calypso in
 
1964 Calypso Finals SVG

1967 Entered National Calypso Finals SVG.
1967 Won Mr. Calypso Title In St. Vincent.
1969 Won the Calypso Crown In Tortola.
1970 Performed in St. Croix & St. Thomas with King Fighter
1971, 72, 73 Performed In The Calypso Finals In SVG.
1974 Won The Double Crown first SVG “Calypso King” & “Road March King” With one of his most memorable songs “Who Shoot The Puppy”
1975 1st runner-up in the Calypso Finals SVG.
1976 Calypso Finalist SVG One of his songs that year was “How To Fight inflation”
1977 Calypso Monarch SVG. One of the two songs was – “C. D. C. Killing We”
1977 He placed third in the Caribbean Calypso Competition In Antigua.
1977 Also Won the Buy local Competition in S V G
1978 Calypso Finalist SVG. One of his songs that year was “ Ah Go Make Ah Jail Fo Them”
1979 He was the opening Act, For The Mighty Sparrow’s [Original Young Brigade] In Trinidad.
Also the opening act for “Clash of the Giants Queen Park Savannah”, Skinner Park, Fizyabad, Tunapuna, Point Fortin & Tobago.
1979 He was 2nd Runner Up In The First “National Independence Calypso Competition SVG.”
1980 Calypso Finalist SVG With the songs “Events Of the 70s and 80s” & “Honour Dem”
1982 Calypso Finals SVG 1st Runner-up
1986 – He sprang to fame once again with Mr. Nancy, which turned out to be one of his most memorable songs, actually renaming a prime minister of the day “Nancy” and the prime minister accepting it gracefully.
2000 He was also the 1st runner-up National Calypso SVG Finals

There are more memorable numbers sung by him in recent times:

2001 – Too Much Flaws In The Laws
2002 – Law Breakers
2003 – Tribute To Lokesha – The Judges
2006 – Tribute To Glen
2008 – The Power Of Prayer
2009 – HIV & AIDS

 
Song Writers:

Contributors to many of the songs are prolific writers like the Late Tanny Peters, Chester Rodgers, and Bobby Fraser to name a few. Olson Peters our great musical arranger, arranged most of his earlier songs.

It will be useless to eulogise his boyhood days when he has such a rich legacy in calypso to remind us of what he stood for. The Mighty Toiler was a force to be reckoned with, exposing numerous problems of life in his calypsos. Whether political, social, economic, nationalistic, satirical or just plain jumpy. He brought important subjects to the fore in his songs in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and for this his name would always be remembered.

 
But, a prophet has no honour in his own land. The messenger is sometimes chastised for awakening the society to new ideas with his songs. I want to leave you with three excerpts from songs performed by Toiler which I am sure few people heard on radio, even though he made an effort to take his songs to the various radio stations. 2002 – Law Breakers; 2009 – HIV & AIDS; 2006 – Tribute To Glen. My Condolence to his family. May he rest in peace.
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