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A Dream Come True – A review (final section)

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Dr Cyrus was very conscious of the colonial society in which he lived; with the legacies of slavery that produced the stigma relating to shades of colour; our mimicry of things and the development of an inferiority complex, especially among children born in the country. He remembers vividly having to go to the Victoria Park for Empire Day sports where they had to sing lustily ‘Rule Brittania! Brittania rules the waves! Britons never,{{more}} never shall be slaves!”- part of the colonial brainwashing.

One of the things I found most gripping about this book is the author’s account of the pursuit of his ambition to be a doctor; a dream really that he pursued with fixed determination. He met many obstacles and had to struggle against social hang-ups. He was seen by some simply as the Tailor’s son. At one of his exams to achieve qualification for entry to medical school, he had not assembled his papers in order because of the amount he had written. Appeals to the invigilator for time to organise them were unsuccessful as he seemed determined not to send them off to the examining body. Other persons also appealed to him but he remained unmoved until eventually giving in, but not before telling one of the persons who appealed to him that he couldn’t see why the Tailor’s son should go to study medicine.

His years at the Grammar School make for interesting reading. Like others, he was fascinated with Don Lopey and writes about some of his colleagues at school, Shake Keane, Owen Campbell, Chippy Brown and others. He failed in his attempt to win an Island Scholarship and realised that his dream was disappearing. Fortunately after a brief period at the Tax office he was informed by headmaster Lopey that he was offered a place on the staff at the Grammar School where he would be making 3 times his salary then. With input from his father he came up with an answer to his worries. He decided to save his full salary, to be supplemented monthly by his father. After two and a half years he was able to save enough to cover 4 years of his study. One major obstacle remained. He was an Arts student and needed the Science subjects. He was determined to do them on his own and with some assistance from Archbishop Maxwell was able to write three examinations in 18 months to qualify himself for entry to medicine.

He left St.Vincent on September 11, 1950 by the Gruman Goose. His period in Belfast is of immense interest in seeing how he prepared himself for service at home. It must be said that he stormed the University, driven by that burning ambition and the discipline that went with it. He won scholarships consecutively over a period of six years- six scholarships, 1 medal and one prize. About him it can be said that he came, he saw and he conquered. He provides us with a great deal of information about his relationship with his father and was eager to share news of his successes with him, very much to his delight and that of his friends who gloried in the fact that he as a young Vincentian man was topping students from around the world. News of his successes was carried in the newspaper. After all we are dealing with the 1950s. He eventually achieved his ambition of being a Surgeon by completing the FRCS exams in England and shortly after in Ireland. Following that he spent time acquiring the experience and tools needed to serve in his homeland. When his professors tried to steer him in another direction, he informed them of his ambition to serve at home.

We know much about his encounters or attempted encounters with different women from his time at the Grammar School to the period in Ireland. He nevertheless did not allow anything to shake him from his medical pursuit. Then he met Kathrayn and his life changed. He sought the advice of his father, mother and colleagues about the decision he was going to make to marry a white woman. You see at a send off gathering with six close friends before his departure for England he was warned not to marry a white woman so he agonised but got support from all his colleagues especially since five of the six had themselves married white women.

Then it was time for St Vincent. He sent an application for a position at home and had to wait an inordinate length of time from June 1963 to October. Even when a decision eventually came he was told that the appointment would have to be confirmed on his arrival. 36 hours before he was due to leave by boat his wife had her appendix extracted. His job was therefore to look after her and their young baby but for a long period of time he became sick as the boat danced to the huge waves and very rough sea.

On his arrival he was not extended the courtesies that were normally granted to the expatriate doctors. No house had been organised for him; even assistance with the clearing of his baggage from the boat was not forthcoming. Fortunately for him, he met persons whom he had known, chief among them George Bailey, known as Chukka Out. He and his friends took things under control; carried all his stuff to the house he had secured with the help of his father at Cox Heath. They helped him unpack but refused to accept any payment from him.

The rest will be for his next book but I must say that apart from his photographic memory, he is astoundingly organised. This book with many pictures of his childhood and period of study in Ireland really makes for interesting reading. It will be of tremendous benefit to young people preparing themselves to study to read about the path taken by a poor young man to achieve his dream. His discipline, determination and organisation are what had seen him through. As he says ‘limitations exist only in the mind’. This book is a Must Read for young and not so old. I recommend it highly.

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.

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