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WHITE RACISM in Barbados PART III – Interview with SAM HEADLEY

posted Dec 6, 2009, 5:15 PM by Caribusiness Admin   [ updated Dec 7, 2009, 10:00 AM ]

The denials about white racism at Lodge School orchestrated by Richard Hoad and people like A. White and other whites in the press, where Trevor Marshall and Peter Simmons were subject to “Liar! Liar!’ are hoaxes.  There are always whites, who are not like that. 

“The headmaster reverent Harry B. Gooding was a Christian-minded intellectual, who had been a lecturer at Oxford or Cambridge.  He was not a local narrow-minded white.  He evaluated the results of the exam and I ended up being nominated to the vestry by the staff at Lodge for a scholarship.   A black man was on the vestry but the vestry did not nominate me.”  Sam Headley - first black head boy of Lodge School. 

“Headley we ain’t see you cry today yet!” 

From 1st form to 3rd form some white boys at Lodge used young Sam as a rope.  Six grabbed one hand and more grabbed his other hand and pulled him – tug of war time!  He was nine-years old and there were too many so he learnt to relax his body, let go of all tension and as a limp rope prevented serious shoulder injuries.   

He winced and rubbed his shoulder as he related that experience.  To fall and break a hand is physical pain but spiritual pain can be far worst with which to deal.  He was alone,  outside of a father and a mother, who, when her husband came and put her son’s education to her, she, who had grown up in Panama - her father was a diggers of the canal - had witnessed segregation by “the American cracker and its effect,” and it highlighted the need for education to escape that kind of treatment.   

Sam told his mother, when things got too painful and she withheld most of the suffering from his father for fear he may have done something.  At a tender age of nine he rode a rage of racism from a lot of angles and loads of sides.  In general he was not wanted around - primitive whites could not tolerate an idea of a black being able to compete on equal terms in a classroom.  There were blacks at Lodge School before him, the influence of boys like Val McComie and the revolution that took place at that time, but Sam was different: he was the first“scrawny”– “he look too scrawny - bony hungry.”   While he may have looked scrawny he was not under-nourished. His parents had cows.   The five miles walk from Venture, his home, to Lodge was a torment.  Some black girls toyed and taunted him each time they meet him: “You ain’t had no right going to Lodge School; you come from St. Joseph and you ain’t had no right going to Lodge School.”   When his father eventually managed to get enough money to make a down-payment on a 26” frame Frederick bicycle from Harrison – the girls took it and pushed it from one to the other.  They frustrated him.  He tried to recover his bicycle and each time he grabbed to the left they pulled to the right until eventually they threw it at him, it fell on the white road and twisted the sprocket.  The bicycle was added to his school bag in that he had to carry both - bag in hand and bicycle on shoulder.   

Headley disclaims the family story that Charles Miller Austin went to his white friends and said:  “The same way you could give your poor white friend scholarships to Lodge School you can give my chauffeur’s son one.” 

HEADLEY:  Miller Austin was my father’s employee, he was Austin’s chauffer; he drove Miller Austin, came in close contact with him, learnt certain values and came to understandings by what he heard around Miller Austin.  This impressed on him to give his children education.  The ground had been set in various discussions.  My father overheard the existence of a vestry scholarship for St. John, at Lodge.  Bunkus Medford, whose father was an overseer and therefore a poor white at Hothersal plantation, was thirteen; he and I sat for entrance.  When the vestry did not recommend me, the headmaster was devastated.  The porter at Lodge School came and told my father, “Fields,’ (Headley’s father nickname) Rev. Gooding, the head master of Lodge School want you to come and see him about your son.’  My father was anxious to have a call like this.  He was driving omnibus, J33, belonging to the white people called Eckstein Bros. from Palmetto Square or Trafalgar Square to Martin’s Bay next to the route of the bus O28 to Bathsheba. 

MY NOTES:  Headley paints vividly word pictures despite his age.  These sequences would add to Kadooment.  They bring back memories of a father, who had vision and guts.  He remembers that conductors and drivers used to congregate at Barry Springer barbershop in Trafalgar shop.  Springer’s place was of politics.  Grantley Adams used to be there.  

HEADLEY: My father took the bus, for which he could have been fired and drove me to Lodge School.  ‘I will let him in as a boarder. Do you have $20.00 that you can pay his first term’s fees?”  Rev. Gooding asked my father.   

MY NOTES:   A chauffeur’s son becoming a boarder at Lodge School was averted, when Headley’s mother found it inconceivable that her child would have to sleep out of her home.  “He has to sleep home here.”  Miller Austin’s grand children, Bree St. John and Eric St. John were at Foundation School and the chauffeur’s son was at Lodge and they played cricket in the yard at Malvern with the Brown boys - Johnny Alexander and Philip, Ronnie and Oliver Browne, who all went to Harrisons College. 

HEADLEY: Dr. David Payne [Annie’s first son] grew up at Malvern with my father. He was David Stonewall Payne’s son and he used to hide away and not get ready and wait until the time for school passed.  One of my father’s jobs was to make sure he went to school.  My father got fired wherever he went until he went into government and he nearly got fired for my performance at Lodge school.  “Who he think he is a chauffer and his child going to Lodge.” The next job he had was with Miss Annie Sealy and Miss Polly Sealy, the aristocracy, from Easy Hall plantation owned by the Sealy, who spent their vacation in England.   

MY NOTES:  The difference between poor whites and the “aristocracy” – a misuse of the word  - is that the Sealys had a seemingly humane approached.   

HEADLEY: The Sealys liked my father and treated him better but fired him because one of the workers saw him talking with Grantley Adams, when Grantley campaigned quietly in St. Joseph for election to the House of Assembly.  As to why certain parish are more independent. The ones less so were mainly tenants on plantation land.  St. Joseph, St. Lucy and St. Philip have been parishes with independent-minded people and they elected to the House rugged individuals.  They were less cowed by whites. 

Wynter Crawford representative St. Philip for years and years.  St. Lucy is the parish, where people used to grow peanuts and corn and fed themselves and their children and gave them nutrient that were necessary.  St. Lucy had no bread fruit to speak of but St. Joseph had hawkers and vendors, independent people.  This was birth out of an ability to feed themselves from their own plot of land and from fishing - from their own efforts - in the sea.  St. Joseph in essence had no tennantry going down Horse Hill down to Jose’s River factory and then further down to the sea Jose river tennantry, near the woods.  To show the important of St. Joseph - on my way to Lodge School there was a lady called Miss Wenty with her tray full with breadfruits and other fruits walking to St. Philip to sell them to people, who did not have breadfruit trees.  We walked from that well know bridge, McCullock’s Bridge, near Blackman’s, between Easy Hall and Cotton Tower Hill, where there was a signal station.   

The Headley family - the Smalls and the Headley are long time dwellers in those areas even to today, where you can link COW Williams with the Smalls because, when Williams’ father took over Foster Hall those people the Small and the Headleys were ready and willing to work and accustomed to it and Mr. Williams approach differed significantly than the planters from long ago.   

I grew up hearing that Austin got him money from down in St. Andrew.  He found it on the beach.  My father in the early days was well treated by Miller Austin.  He used to drive Austin to Broad Street once a week, where the plantain managers used to go, the Bridgetown Club, where Austin gambled.  He also carried Miller Austin to my father’s cousin at the back of District A.   He had two children from her - Bridgeman by name.  They are Cowards. One of them went off to Trinidad, San Fernando.  He eventually became Dr. Eric Williams’ bodyguard then he qualified as a lawyer and the other son to my knowledge is alive still in Scotland.  He came back here.  Miller Austin is his father.  Skaggs land at the back of District A is managed by his lawyer.  On my father’s side, two cousins, two sisters had children for Miller Austin; it was called “hog and goat.” 

The social interaction of certain men like Miller Austin and like Cox in breeding women was that they went into families and took control of all females in them.  In Blackmans, George Hutson visited families and had a number of children.   

ME:      Back to Miller Austin and your father. 

HEADLEY: He fired my father. I do not know what happen with Austin and my father but it was a very bad break.  I was a little boy of nine and I would not have known why.  I remember my father taking my pregnant mother and me to Malvern to show Miss Lucy that my mother was pregnant.  I do not know the reason for I was a small child but I dare anybody to challenge me on facts.   

When Miss Lucy got married and was living in Maxwell my father was made to drive her home from Malvern to Oistins, leave the car overnight with her and walk back to Venture and back to Oistins the next morning.  That was the requirement.  Her husband was not in charge.  The vehicle belonged to Miller Austin.   

HEADLEY: That is Noel St. John there is no other child.    Is it possible to get DNA test to be done.  My father would not be shown on the birth certificate it would be her husband, St. John’s name would be on it.  She could not say that it was the chauffer’s son that is father to her child, when she had to get married to St. John.  Confirming evidence was one day I was in uniform as an officer and traveled to St. George and at the top of Bridge Cot, Cave, a respectable man, a boss mason and overseer at Andrews factory had a few drinks and told him about Noel being my father’s son.  I asked his mother and with tears in her eyes she acknowledged the fact.  She said: ‘your father was not always what he should have been.” 

ME:   Is this why Bree had this legendary hatred of you even, when you were his Chief of Security.   

HEADLEY: That was demonstrated in many things.  His Aunt Marie befriended me when, in 1953, I came back from England and the hurricane was approaching. I, having traveled, took the opportunity of moving out the home and went to Miss Marie and asked her to allow me to use the long house, which later was occupied by Jean.  She charged me $20 dollars a month and I never forget.  I was most grateful.   When the hurricane struck my family was able to come into a house that was secure for them all the shame they had heaped on me as a single man for I was not married and therefore not supposed to leave home.  It was felt that I went up there in order to have women.   In those days I had a number of young brothers and my friends went visiting and used to use all kind of language and in a small house it was not the best thing for my young brother to be exposed to.   I was able to work and pay the rent out of that and Eric was very helpful and very kind to me during that period and has never shown any hostility to me.  Oliver was always nice. 

HEADLEY: Let me tell you a more direct connection Leo Austin, who worked in the Ministry of Agriculture had a sister called Kay (Kay Howell nee Austin) is Leo Austin’s sister.  

MY NOTES:  The picture gets eerie for Kay Austin married a Howell and was the one that was on tapes with a Chief Justice.  Kay was also Eric’s girl friend. (See Boys in the Band by Tatanka Yotanka andReflections by Angela and Gary Cole.) 

Leo Austin was one brother and another brother wrote a fascinating book about his childhood.  He claimed that he saw his father tie his mother up and beat her and she ran away and then came back tamed and them he performed some kind of bondage sex on her.   The father ran a shop at the corner of Martindales Road before King James took over from him.  He was also a policeman.  The book ends with the birth of Kay, the first daughter, and seems to be headed to some strange relationship between father and daughter.  There was a drive on to discredit the book to the point of a telephoning call to the library to say that the book was un true.   

HEADLEY: I neither emigrated, married a white woman nor did I move to a different more “comfortable”area.   I over came all of those difficulties and brought along one or two people with me.   

musings for november 2009

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