He was tall. He was dark. He was handsome and seemingly shy. He also came with a reputation. A sports reputation. I had heard the name from my days at Manchester School and our embarrassingly consistent beating in football by Knox College in Spaldings, also in Manchester. Lance Royale was a star on the football field, but because I never attended out-of-town matches I had never set eyes on him until he came to my place of work. It was June 1963 and I was sent to the Trelawny Parish Library for three months as the Librarian was on maternity leave. Lance was working as a clerk at the Parish’s Inland Revenue Office. He lived at home with his maternal aunt and defacto mother, Mrs. Constance Williams alias ‘Mama Con’ and her husband Mr. Stanford Williams ‘Dada’ who were both teachers in the parish.
My co-workers who later became good friends, Dorothy and Gloria teased him unmercifully about his sudden interest in books. Lance was gentlemanly , charming, courteous and self-effacing. After the strident objections my mother had made to a former ‘boyfriend’ in Mandeville, Lance seemed tailor-made for my mother’s approval. .
To the untrained eye, Falmouth in those days was a typical rural town with old unpainted buildings, narrow streets and an absence of modern amenities. Sandwiched between Montego Bay and Ocho Rios, the bustling tourist towns along the north coast, Falmouth was bypassed by visitors. In addition, the swamp and consequent vibrant mosquito population, which surpassed the humans, virtually held the town captive after dusk, further diminishing its potential as an attractive spot worthy of visiting. Two sugar plantations – Hampden and Long Pond Estates – government offices and a factory that made aluminum pots and soy sauce dominated the town’s economy. Some fortunate citizens obtained employment in the tourist industry in nearby Montego Bay,
But Falmouth is rich in history. Founded by Englishman Thomas Reed in 1769, and named for an English Governor, the town was meticulously laid out – with its streets on a regular grid – in a manner befitting its former status as the largest and one of the busiest ports in the Caribbean, and populated by very rich planters. It was the eighteenth century when Jamaica was the world’s leading sugar producer, with some ninety sugar plantations in the parish and was therefore in effect the island’s commercial capital. That it also had the third deepest natural harbour in the world was a distinct advantage. It is also alleged that Falmouth got piped water, sourced from the Martha Brae River in 1799, forty-three years before New York in 1842.
Falmouth’s townscape, reminiscent of an English Georgian town is reputed to have the largest intact collection of Georgian buildings in the Caribbean. One of the most outstandingly well-kept is the St. Peter’s Anglican Church. The primary school once housed the army barracks at Fort Balcarres and built circa 1774, more than 100 years after the British routed the Spanish in 1655. The barracks were converted to an all-age government school in 1902 and in 1986 was expanded to double its occupancy. The Greenwood Great House once owned by the famous Barretts of Wympole Street – noted for their C19th. love story, with the numerous sonnets we were forced to read as part of the English Literature syllabus – now houses the largest collection of rare musical instruments in Jamaica. The Post Office, Court House and several private houses on Main and Market Streets possess the distinctive wooden gingerbread fretwork and jalousies of the Georgian period.
In 2007 the 25,000 seating-capacity Greenfield Stadium nearby was built to accommodate the hosting of the International Cricket Council’s World Cup Championship among the English-speaking Caribbean territories. . In 2011, to boost the country’s tourism sector, a J$180m port was opened to accommodate the newest and largest class of cruise ships. The ships are able to dock so close to land that at first glance they look as if they have run aground.
Some of Trelawny’s most outstanding sons and daughters include: Usain Bolt, Olympian par excellence; KyMani Marley, reggae artist and son of the late reggae icon Bob Marley; the late Olympian, Ben Johnson, the late Hugh Shearer, former Prime Minister and the late Professor Rex Nettleford, Rhodes Scholar and Pro Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies.
The library was housed in an old brick building – of dubious Georgian pedigree – immediately across from the then home of the William Knibb High School, named for the great C19th Baptist Minister and staunch advocate for Emancipation, who spent most of his life in Jamaica, ministering to the slaves and fighting for their freedom. William Knibb was the first non-Jamaican to be posthumously awarded the highest civil order of Jamaica, The Order of Merit, when the 150th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade in the British Empire was commemorated in 1988.
Everywhere in Falmouth was within walking distance of everywhere else. I lived less than three minutes from the Library and Lance about five. His office was another five minutes away. I boarded in a once beautiful, but dilapidated house on the seafront. My landlord and landlady – the fire chief and his wife – Philip and Gloria McCain who were very kind and considerate, treating me more like a daughter than a stranger. His wife was the aunt of a co-worker in Mandeville, Yolande Mittoo who boarded with my mother. Because the town was so small, every stranger became a curiosity as I did. It did not take long for my budding friendship with Lance to become public knowledge, much to his pride and to my chagrin. I still envied my privacy.
When Mama Con heard she demanded to meet the individual who had become ‘Junior’s’ girlfriend. Lance was known as ‘Junior’ to his immediate family. However, given the circumstances of his birth and the absence of a relationship between his parents. – in fact Lance had never laid eyes on his father – I was at a loss to understand why he was called ‘Junior.’ But I digress. When I eventually met Mama Con and Dada, who by then were living in Kingston in their brand new home, I was subjected to a third degree by the goodly lady. Who was I? Where did I come from? Who were my parents? And finally, Lance was far too young to get married! However, when I told her that I was studying to be a Chartered Librarian, her tone and manner changed. I could see her brain ticking over as if to say; ‘Hmm, not too bad, perhaps worthy of joining this esteemed family after all. Let’s wait and see.’ Dada on the other hand was polite and charming. Lance took it all with a type of sang-froid, refusing to be riled by his aunt’s intrusive behaviour. I was to find out later that she spoiled him abominably. ‘Junior’ was her prince who could do no wrong. She permitted no one but herself to advise or correct him, not even his biological mother, her younger sister.
Falmouth’s social life consisted of going to the movies at week-ends – better than Black River – membership in the Jamaica Junior Chamber (Jaycees) service club open to males only, fishing for the more intrepid, visiting the many bars one always finds in small towns – Jamaica is reputed to have the most bars worldwide in relation to its size and population – and dining at the Glistening Waters Restaurant – now the Glistening Waters Hotel and Luminous Lagoon – a delightful place where, beginning at dusk, the natural phosphorescence in the water actually glistens, when you trail your fingers through it. It was quite magical and never ceased to amaze and delight, no matter how frequently you visited. The locals never visited on a rainy night, because Glistening Waters is located very close to the confluence of the Caribbean Sea and the Martha Brae River and the microscopic organisms that omit the bio-luminescent light are submerged whenever it rains. For those fortunate to own a car and enough funds, the nightclubs, hotels and other flesh-pots of Montego Bay – Jamaica’s republic as it was then called – were available for one’s full indulgence.
Shortly after my father committed suicide in August , I took Lance to meet my mother. It was a fast-moving romance. “A wey yu a go wid dey long black bwoy deh? ” was my mother’s response to my carefully choreographed meeting. Strangely I was not particularly upset. From early childhood, my mother had always been super-critical of anything I did. So why should this be any different? Truth is I was hoping it would have been. At least she was polite to him. I told myself that since I was approaching twenty-one and earning my keep, my mother’s approval was not important. I lied. Deep down every child yearns for a mother’s approval of his or her actions. I was no different. My response was a combination of heartbreak and defiance.
After my stint in Falmouth, I returned to Headquarters in Kingston. I had left the family home at Haldane Avenue and was sharing a flat with a co-worker from the Ministry of Education.
I enjoyed my newly-found independence as a flat-mate, my job as librarian –in-charge at the Ministry of Education, and by then my full-fledged boyfriend. I even had the distinction of being the youngest Chartered Librarian- to- be in the JLS. At that time, there was an age barrier to being chartered. One had to be at least 24 years old. There were some displays of petty jealousy by some members of staff who had struggled with the examinations and could not understand how I had managed to pass them seemingly so easily. They did not know that from high school days I had developed a study discipline that worked very well for me. Because there was a finite number of positions for Chartered Librarians, some feared that a relative neophyte like me would cop one of the posts and leave them in the cold when they qualified. So, to mollify them, in Mrs. Robinson’s own words, she was ‘putting me on ice’ (temporarily out of the system) with my secondment to the Ministry. I did not care. In fact I saw it as an opportunity to grow. By then Mama Con and I were on speaking terms and I had met two uncles and some cousins.
Lance and I got engaged in 1964 and married on June 5, 1965, four days after his 25th birthday. Shortly before the wedding I began to have doubts about the union. I had begun to see signs of immaturity on his part. I was also concerned that Lance seemed to be perfectly comfortable in his position at the Inland Revenue Department, while I wanted to pursue further studies at the University of the West Indies. He assured me that he wanted to pursue studies in Refrigeration and intended to do so. After we were married I successfully applied but had to forego the opportunity, to allay my husband’s fears, manifested as objections.
When I confided my misgivings to Kharl, my uncle-in-law, the only person I felt comfortable with expressing and exposing my fears, he reassured me that my misgivings were natural for anyone going into marriage. Because I was an Anglican and not a Roman Catholic as Lance was, we were required to attend counseling sessions with Father Roy Campbell, a corpulent man who walked with a rocking gait. He was the Priest of the Holy Cross Church in Half-Way-Tree, where we were to be married. I did not feel comfortable discussing my misgivings with him. After all he was Lance’s minister, not mine. And in any case, the very thought of calling off the wedding and the imagined opprobrium that would inevitably be heaped on my head, kept me effectively quiet.
It was a small morning wedding with relatives and close friends. Hopeton Fearon, Lance’s long-time friend from Knox College was his best man. Carmen Greene, my best friend at the time and co-worker at JLS was my sole attendant. The reception was held at Haldane Avenue. By early afternoon, we were on King Street buying beach towels as we headed out to our honeymoon at Hibiscus Lodge in Ocho Rios, chauffeured by Hopeton.
Married life began in Montego Bay. In deference to my new status and the fact that my husband was working in Falmouth, I was transferred to the St. James Parish Library in Montego Bay as a Librarian, under the supervision of Daphne Douglas, a former cataloguer at Headquarters. The timing was serendipitous for me. JLS had just regionalized the service for greater efficiency. The island was divided into four regions to improve management and administration, so that the Director no longer had direct supervisory responsibilities of the thirteen parish libraries – Kingston and St. Andrew had always been regarded as a single unit since the establishment of the public library service in 1958. Region IV, covered the parishes of St. James, Hanover and Trelawny, as well as the regional schools bookmobile service, also headquartered in Montego Bay.
In April 1966 I was offered a British Council Scholarship to England for a year to hone my skills in Librarianship. I was excited and nervous. Lance was neither. In fact he was downright petulant. He could not do without me for a whole year. How was he going to manage? Mama Con, who by then had fully accepted me into the bosom of the family, came to my rescue and pooh-poohed his misgivings. I had yet to meet Lance’s mother, a nurse, who was still overseas. I had however met his step father, a retired policeman, Uncle Charlie, whose treatment of Lance was somewhat similar to my Uncle Lance’s treatment of his wife – scorn and superiority.
It was said that when Lance went home for the holidays from boarding school, Uncle Charlie, would lock the food away from him while his mother was at work. It was also said that he had propositioned all her sisters, Lance’s mother, whom he called ‘Nurse’, was too afraid to challenge her husband. Throughout my years of marriage to Lance and up to Uncle Charlie’s death, I never heard him call her any other name but ‘Nurse” which always had a peremptory sound. He was an amoral, autocratic despot.
I forwarded to England, via New York where I met Lance’s mother and Aunt Iris who lived in a town house in Bedford Stuyvesant with her Persian cat Beauty. I hardly saw Lance’s mother over the few days as she worked at night and slept by day. Aunt Iris was warm and welcoming and took me shopping for winter gear. After flying throughout the night, on a British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC now BA), I arrived in London which was enveloped in a dull grey fog and biting cold, early the following morning. The area around the airport looked like a field of factories. Velma my sister, who had gone to London to law school in September of the previous year and my Aunt Ettie were there to meet me. Coincidentally, they were standing side-by-side in the Arrivals Section.
When Velma saw me and shouted my name, Aunt Ettie turned to her and asked her which Gloria had she come to meet. When Velma told her, her response was that I could not possibly be her niece as that person(me) was ‘too black!’ Poor Aunt Ettie, she had spent too many years in England among too many white people. She had even married one!
The morning after my arrival I realized that my aunt’s boisterous, contagious laughter had not changed. Her husband however was ‘amazed’ that we were so closely related but looked so different! Aunt Ettie pursed her lips and winked at me. I was overjoyed to see my Uncle P who had left home in the face of Uncle Alton’s behaviour and Mama’s complicity that had led to Uncle Butt’s suicide. He took me to the British Council’s Office at Hans Crescent in the heart of the city. We spent the day together and he gave me my first ‘tourist’ view of the city. Because the nature of my scholarship required stints in libraries across the country, I did not see as much of Uncle P and Aunt Ettie as I had wished. What I did see on the few occasions when we met was a sombre Unclew P who had lost his booming laughter. He died a few years later. Aunt Ettie who had been the ‘fey’ one from childhood eventually cracked under the pressure of living in England. When her husband decided to migrate to Canada, she refused to accompany him, but could not cope after he had left. He eventually returned and died shortly after. Aunt Ettie ended up in a psychiatric hospital, then a nursing home where she too died.
My year in England debunked the myth I had harboured from my childhood – the carefully orchestrated ‘mystique’ of the superiority of white people by our colonisers. Consider my shock when I saw dirty, homeless whites who had no reservations about begging me. But the scholarship gave me the opportunity to broaden my knowledge and experience of librarianship, as well as a plethora of new ideas I could adapt at home.. The year went very quickly. And it was time to reacquaint myself with my husband. Lance had valiantly tried to get me to cut short my scholarship, by feigning illness. He could find no willing accomplice – not in Dr. Magnus, the family doctor, not in Ma. G. his mother, not even in Mama Con, who he felt he would have had in his pocket.
We met in New York and had a beautiful reunion, shopped and went home with suitcases of clothes and household paraphernalia. I went back to the St. James Parish Library. During my absence Lance had lived in Falmouth so we had to set up house in Montego Bay. In short order I was transferred to the Trelawny Parish Library as Senior Librarian in charge. By this time the library had been removed from its old accommodation to a spanking new building. We rented a new three bedroom house at an very reasonable price and set up house once again.
But this time it was with a difference. For one, I was now in charge of a parish library. Lance would no longer have to commute daily. We could spend more time together and he could indulge his passion for football with his colleagues and for social work through his membership with the Jaycees. And, we were saving to buy a car. We planned to start a family soon. An added bonus to the move was Blossom Mullings who was the Librarian and automatically my deputy. Blossom and I hit it off immediately. We became fast friends and professional colleagues. To cap this friendship, Blossom found out through her mother that we were actually related on my father’s side. We have remained close friends to this day.
And then, the doubts I had felt immediately before the marriage began to resurface. Lance was abysmal at either making or maintaining a monthly budget. Everything was left to me. He was perfectly happy skimming the surface of life. He reveled in his popularity as a past footballer and a Jaycee. He loved being a big fish in an exceedingly small pond. He was excellent at impression management. He had ceased talking about further education, was frustrated at the lack of upward movement at the job, yet he was caustic about my responsibilities as Librarian. After a particularly bitter quarrel about his irresponsibility, when he had given me a sewing machine for a birthday present, had failed to make the monthly payments and the machine was seized, he told me that I should remember that he was not an employee at the library. His attempts at teaching me to drive inevitably led to bitter quarrels. A mutual friend, Desmond Leaky, who became Christopher’s god father, took over.
The unvarnished truth was that he did not want me to have a license because it would add to my independence which, I was to find out later, made him feel threatened. In hindsight, both of us, as only children, were selfish and self-centred. Both of us were immature. Neither of us had lived in a family setting with both parents. Both of us wanted to be in charge and to trumpet our exalted position over the other. Lance was accustomed to dominated subservient women. I was accustomed to powerful, dominant women – my grandmother, my mother, my boss. It was not a good recipe for marital harmony.
Lance’s Jaycee connections eventually paid off and he was offered a position as a salesman at a leading insurance company in Montego Bay. He was ecstatic. He was boastful. He was still immature. I began to notice that he left later and later for work and when I queried he loftily told me that I did not understand the insurance business. He left for a three-day Jaycees convention in one of the Caribbean islands and came back more than a week later, without even a telephone call, or I was to find out later, even to his employers, some of whom had returned to their jobs, including his boss. Lance was definitely feeling his oats.
And then I noticed that he seemed to have an inordinate amount of spare time on his hands. But then, I did not understand the insurance business. It was not like working at the library where I had a fixed daily schedule. He operated on a fluid schedule. That I could fully appreciate, but there was still this niggling feeling that something was not right. The penny, which I had suspected, finally dropped when his Jaycee buddy who was also his boss, visited me at home one evening and dropped what he thought was a bombshell, but which subconsciously I had already ‘known.’ Lance had been fired for more than a month! Yet, he had dressed and left for work every day, at various hours. While his boyish charm and good looks allowed him to sell policies – especially to the ladies – his servicing was unsatisfactory, resulting in an unacceptable number of lapses. When I confronted Lance with this bit of ‘news’ he informed me that he had not been fired, he had been asked to resign! Big difference!
My doubts about the viability of the marriage resurfaced yet again. But we were still young and I was loath to have a failed marriage before I turned thirty. I was too embarrassed to tell anyone, least of all my mother. So, at my mother-in-law’s encouragement, like a dutiful wife, I applied for a leave of absence and went to New York, registered at an employment agency and worked in various temporary secretarial jobs. My mother was not pleased when she eventually heard, but kept her counsel. For three months I lived at Aunt Iris’ house where Ma G also lived and worked and scrimped and saved, while my husband sought employment back home in Jamaica.
I eventually came home because I had to keep my job at the Library Service. After several false starts, Lance finally secured employment at Grace Kennedy’s Dairy Industries on Washington Boulevard. We moved to Kingston and once again I went to work at the JLS Headquarters on Tom Redcam Drive. After six years of marriage and interventions by a gynaecologist, our daughter Naala came into the world, to the everlasting wonder and delight of both Lance and myself. It was Lance who named her Naala, which he claimed meant Little Princess in Swahili. I cannot ascertain this but I loved the name. As is customary, for a first child we saddled her with many names. She was christened Naala Francis Antoinette Royale. Antoinette was my choice for Lance’s middle name Anthony and Frances was named for her paternal grandmother. I had had a difficult pregnancy during the first trimester. Mrs. Robinson, who ran the organization like an extended family and referred to us as ‘her girls’ took on the role of surrogate mother, counseling and supporting me.
With my mother in the USA I was extremely appreciative and grateful. Moreover, at twenty-seven and hypertensive, my gynaecologist Dr. Keith Tang had classified my pregnancy as ‘special’. When I developed toxemia in my third trimester, Dr. Tang advised me that I would have to have a Caesarian section. And so it was that our daughter’s birth, which should have been in early April, was determined by my gynaecologist to be March 18, 1971. The section was done at the St.Joseph’s Hospital in Vineyard Town on a Thursday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. but I did not see her until the following day, after all my friends had done so. It was not until I began to get almost hysterical that something must be wrong with her that the nurse relented and brought her to me. Premature babies are kept in the incubator for several hours and she did not want to remove her until Dr. Tang had given the order. A stickler for professionalism, the nurses were afraid of him and handled his patients with kid gloves.
Naala was sleeping peacefully when she was finally placed in my arms and I met my daughter. When I carefully examined her she seemed to have no neck. So I fearfully and tearfully asked the nurse if something was physically wrong with her. She reassured me that she was a perfect baby. I had never seen a newborn before and to see this perfect miniature human being was a reaffirmation of the presence and power of God in your life. There is no question. It is not debatable. Birth is a miracle.
After a week in hospital, and a few setbacks, including a frightening attack of ague where my body shivered uncontrollably and in danger of rupturing the sutures, I took my little bundle of joy – read challenges – home to four hourly feeds, innumerable diaper changes – Pampers had not yet arrived in Jamaica – a baby who slept when you were awake and refused to sleep when you were dying to. Every day after her afternoon feed, Naala refused to sleep. For two hours, she would rub her little heels together and fret, fuss and cry intermittently. Nothing seemed to pacify her. Ma G who had come home from with a spanking new chevrolet she could not manage, told me that it had to do with the time she was born and the trauma of a Caesarean, vis-à-vis- the gentle process of a normal birth. She was extremely supportive, coming every morning to bathe her until I had fully recuperated from the surgery. Lance doted on his daughter whom he called “Chunkie.” Naala grew into a delightful, high-energy toddler. Seems, there was some hope for the Royales after all.
At my six-week check, Dr.Tang advised me that I had fibroids which would have to be cut in a few years and so if I wanted to have any more children I should do so quickly. Christopher Anthony Hylton made his appearance on the morning of November 8, 1972, a day after my birthday. 1972 was a momentous year in the political and historical life of Jamaica. It was the year Michael Manley, son of Norman Washington Manley, national hero, was first elected to office on a wave of euphoria. Campaigning on a platform of socialism and equality for all Jamaicans, under the slogan “Better Must Come” Manley, the quintessential charismatic leader and former trade unionist sparked a fire never to be seen again in the hearts and minds of the Jamaican electorate. Calling himself “Joshua” who in Biblical times marched round the walls of Babylon – an analogy to capitalism – attended meetings with his ‘rod of correction’ given to him by anti-colonialist and political activist Jomo Kenyatta, who was imprisoned by the British government, but became the first Prime Minister of an independent Kenya in 1963. Caught up in the euphoria, I attended political meetings with my friend Rita. Michael Manley and the People’s National Party won a resounding victory over the Jamaica Labour Party on the night of February 29, 1972, a leap year. February 29 was his mother’s birthday and it seemed that all of Jamaica wanted to give Michael a birthday gift to his mother.
Conceived on election night, Christopher it seemed also wanted to give his mother a birthday gift, despite Dr. Tang once again determining the birthdays of our children. Chris decided he would make his own decision on his arrival, a personality trait that has been his hallmark since his birth. I was scheduled to go into hospital on the 9th for my second Caesarian. At about 10:00 p.m. on the evening of my birthday, I felt some discomfort which escalated to pain. I decided I had eaten something that disagreed with me. It was not until some two hours later that, because of the sporadic nature of the pain, it dawned on me that these must be labour pains. I called Dr. Tang who advised me to get to the hospital immediately.
Christopher made his appearance at 8:00 a.m. on the morning of November 08, his true birthday. Dr. Tang had come very close. Chris decided that close was not good enough. Where Naala was fractious, Chris was a calm, complacent baby. Another personality trait that has not changed. My son is not easily ruffled. Growing up, I was incensed at times by what I saw as his lackadaisical approach to school, despite the fact that he consistently got good grades. To me, he lacked the necessary fire in his belly. I now respect that this is how he is. We are not all balls of energy. Slow and steady does and can win the race.
It is a fallacy to think that children can save a marriage. They did not save mine. Lance and I grew steadily apart. We inflicted tremendous psychological hurt on each other. We decided to seek counseling. It did not work.. The starkest manifestation of his immaturity was his ‘decision’ to spite me by refusing to support his children after we had separated. My mother gave me what I consider the best advise at the time. She said, ”Gloria, just pretend that your husband died suddenly and did not make any provisions for you and the children. So you’re left on your own and must cope.” With strict adherence to a very tight budget and help from my mother, in the form of regular barrels, I managed.
When Naala graduated from Wolmers Preparatory School, I invited Mama Con. As head girl Naala was the valedictorian. She congratulated me on the good job I had done in raising her grandchildren. It was one of the best compliments I ever received, coming from a woman who had been initially skeptical of my relationship with her ‘son.’ Years after Lance and I had divorced, Ma. G. still insisted on introducing me as her daughter-in-law and when I reminded her that I was really an ex-daughter-in-law now that Lance had remarried, she told me that I was still her daughter-in-law because she had known me first. . At her funeral, I gave the tribute to her life. She had had a special relationship with Chris who she called ‘Christo.’ He never comes home without visiting his ‘Ma G’ at Dovecot, where she is interred. We developed a routine. I take him to her grave spot, walk away and wait for him out of earshot while he ‘speaks’ with her.
When the children were attending school in the USA, Lance tried to reach out to them. . Understandably, his efforts have been less than successful. He lives in Florida where Chris also lives and has met his two granddaughters. He has confessed his enduring love for me to Chris who finds it amusing.. We have become, good friends and speak often. He belongs to a different lifetime. All was not lost in this marriage, I have two beautiful, productive, well-balanced children and two marvelous granddaughters. For this I will be eternally grateful to Lance.