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Hats off to Bun Pan Guy


Many years ago, 43 to be exact, on our way to Barrouallie, dey was dis elderly fellar, well dressed in “funeral wear”, standing on de ole Cane Grove bridge, hitching ah ride. He thanked us foh picking him up, den introduced himself: “I am de man dey call Bun Pan Guy” he said. Ah was meeting him foh de first time, ah did hear ah lot of him, how he was de Founder and President of “Bun Pan,” de Marriaqua United Friendly Society, de country’s biggest and most popular Society, wid thousands ah members from practically every community throughout SVG.

Ah financial member of de organization had died and he, as de Society’s boss, was heading to Rose Hall to certify de man died and actually disbursed de $900 death benefit money at dat time. Today, Bun Pan pays $5, 300 death benefit. Ah was asked to mek an appeal to citizens to join de Society and keep one ah we rich Heritage alive. Lie-Za say ah don’t have long to live, so she signing me up and putting her name as de beneficiary. She nah know “Me hard fee dead!”

Dis “Bun Pan Guy” was ah humble man wid ah vision. Way back den and before, poor people were afraid to die, couldn’t afford ah decent burial. Many folks had to hussle to de Prisons to buy ah rough looking $5 Breadfruit board coffin made by prisoners in de apprenticeship program.

So Bun Pan Guy came up wid a simple I-dear dat allowed everybody, poor as well as rich, to have a respectable burial. All he asked for, was members to make small, but regular monthly savings towards dey Funeral expenses. De key word was Strength! “Strength in numbers, Strength in Unity!” Ah member dies, de Society buries him/her, at de end of de financial year, all death benefits paid out were counted, de total was divided among de thousands of surviving members. Interestingly de ‘annual fine’ or ‘death contribution’ per person was as low as $20 a year, but dat was actually one’s contribution towards his/her funeral expenses later. Back den people lived longer. Cancer and AIDS were unheard of! Fewer cars and vans, so people got exercise from walking! We ate what we grew, KFC was “Keep Fish Cooking!” Sugar was ah sweetener not ah Disease, Tyres and not people had Pressure.

Bun Pan Society also served as ah “Save All” at Christmas foh members who made good monthly payments thru de year. December when all Society Books were made up, death fines deducted, members had nuff money left over to draw-out and go Christmas Shopping at Chippy Browne’s Shopping Centre in Freeland.

Ah Friendly Society is good foh de community and de country. Dat’s why it vex me to read Searchlight’s Back Page headlines: “ Members’ Funds may be at risk in Friendly Societies in SVG.” How de president of de Buccament Wise and Prudent Friendly Society got 12 months up Be-Lie foh stealing $ 85, 000 of de Society’s Funds. Den dey’s talk dat “hanky-panky” going on in de Troumaca Temperance Friendly Society. Dem non-cents can’t happen in Bun Pan, not anymore. Not under de distinguished Press-he-den-see of Mad-is-straight Ricky Burn-it. And all dem pussy-cats in dem Societies wid dem deceptive names like “Wise and Prudent and Temperance and Friendly?” send dem Courts ley Ricky prosecute dem; he reserving ah short ten years up Be-Lie fee dem!

Before ah close, Lie-Za say to tell de PM dat “Coconut Bat” and Ed-yuh-care-shun went fuh a race and “Coconut Bat” won. And wid dat is gone ah gone again.

One Love Bassy

Bassy Alexander is a land surveyor, folklorist and social commentator.