Our Readers' Opinions
January 17, 2014
Basil Balcombe should not be forgotten

Fri Jan 17, 2013

Editor: I read with interest an article by Luke Brown concerning Basil Balcombe. I happened to become a very close friend of Basil’s when I returned from university with a degree in Agriculture to join my father at Orange Hill Estates. I would, on many an occasion, stop in at his house at Sans Souci on my way back from one of the numerous meetings that I attended. He would regale me with stories of his past, while we consumed the better part of a bottle of Scotch.{{more}}

He told me that he had started working for my grandfather, Walter Barnard, at Orange Hill Estates. Walter had purchased the estates after the 1902 volcanic eruption of La Soufriere. His first job, as he related the story, was to work in the stables caring for the horses and possibly mules. For this he was paid 10 cents per day. Walter then rented him a piece of land at Waterloo, where he grew cotton. The area that he leased was called Basil and from then on there was no holding him back. It remained so until I left in 1984.

I recall travelling with him by schooner, “The Mandalay”, from Barbados as a schoolboy for my summer holidays. Another famous seaman, Rual King, was our captain. We sat together and consumed Mount Gay rum on the foredeck, which promptly made me sick. He pretended not to notice.

When he first met my wife Mary, he was somewhat critical, in that she was very fit and lean, and this figure was not to his liking. He told me that his wife was a Carib lady and was built like a “battleship” and this was what he really liked. He wanted something that he could hold on to!.

He taught me a lot about estate labour and I employed many of the practices that he passed on to me. During the arrowroot crop, he would get up at 3 a.m. and make coffee for the factory hands before the start of work that day. We, too, followed his example and butchered two animals for the distribution of meat at Christmas time.

He was extraordinarily kind and we would often see him pass with Benedict on his way to Fancy Estate in his green Willis Jeep. If we wished to go to Fancy, Benedict would always take us.

He had many children and gave each one some money on a regular basis. He knew each and every one’s name.

Benedict was a very gentle soul and was his father’s right hand. Lucky, on the other hand, was a very capable person, but more pugnacious in his dealings. He too, was a great guy. There were many others, such as Clemmy, and some that I was not close to. They were all very kind people.

Say what you like, but Basil Balcombe was an outstanding man and should not be forgotten.

Martin Barnard, BSc Agr, OBE,