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At home in the cave

Lisa King

At home in the cave

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In 1976, word spread that excavation work was set to begin at Harrison’s Cave to develop it into a big tourist attraction.  
When David Carrington, who lived just five minutes’ walk away, heard about it, he wanted to be a part of the action.  
“I turned up on site and stated my interest about being a part of the team,” Carrington recalled.  
Thirty-six years later he is still there and is the longest-serving staff employee at Harrison’s Cave.
The 59-year-old recalled that over the years he has worked in almost every area of the cave’s operations. When there was a shortage of tour guides, he acted as guide and driver and is now the assistant to the tours coordinator, acting as coordinator in her absence.
Carrington, who started as a truck driver, would occasionally operate the excavators during the development of the site and when the cave was closed for nine months in 1979 he worked as a watchman.
“I did some of everything because you didn’t stick to one task; you had to be multitalented and fit into every area,” he said.
In 1981 when the cave was opened to the public, Carrington took on his role as tram driver at a time when the staff included just three drivers and three tour guides with only two buses. Carrington said it was a hive of activity and some days as many as 28 tours were conducted with between 600 and 1 000 people visiting.  
“It was a challenge trying to get them in and out of the cave but I try to do a tour to the best of my ability . . . . Being a tram driver is a job of great responsibility because you have to bear in mind not only your safety, but the safety of the tour guides and the patrons, so you have to be in total control at all times,” he said.
Waking up every day to go to the same job could become monotonous, but Carrington said after 35 years the cave is now a part of him and he is a part of the cave.
He has accumulated many fond memories.
He shared his experience when the first trams arrived at the Harrison’s Cave site.
“The trams looked to me as if they were 100 feet long and seeing the tight bends and curves in the cave I said to the maintenance supervisor they would not work but he said that I have to make them work,” he remarked.
“With a few runs, we started to manoeuvre in and out of the cave with ease.”
During the excavation phase, when he first entered the big room or the great hall, “There was the cave in its wild and natural state”, he said.
He added: “None of the formation was discoloured at the time and that was really beautiful and also the area we call the rotunda or crystal room, that was another spectacular sight.”
The people that Carrington has met over the years have also been memorable.
“What really makes me feel old or what keeps me aware of the length of time that I have been working here is when some adults come in and say that I drove them when they were in second form or Infants A and then it strikes me that I have spent a lot of time here,” Carrington said.
He recalled the trepidation of some first-time visitors, stating that it was okay to be a little scared.
He reported that a lot of people who live on top of the cave have not toured it yet. He said it was something worth seeing.
“For the first you are going to be tensed up because here you are in the bowels of the earth and you are wondering what is going to happen and you cannot really appreciate it for what it is,” he remarked.
“But after you have been a couple times, then you will be able to accept Mother Nature for what it’s worth.”
He added that many places in the world make a big fuss over some of their attractions and they market some of the simplest attractions and are quite proud.
But in Barbados, “there is the Eighth Wonder of the World and some of us cannot really appreciate it,” he complained.
Carrington is calling for the youngsters who are joining the organization to maintain the professionalism.
“I hope that the younger generation would try to preserve [the cave] for our future generations because at this point it would hurt to know that it is destroyed after all the hard and dirty work that we did,” Carrington said.