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MONDAY MAN: He keeps grounds spic and span


Lisa King

MONDAY MAN: He keeps  grounds spic and span

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John Clarke’s face has been a familiar one at the Welches, St Michael headquarters of the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) for almost four decades.
He even knew the Cyrus family that owned the property before the BUT bought it. Clarke, who lived in Welches Garden, said he “easily” got the job of caretaker in 1976 when the union moved in at “Merryhill”.
He has been there ever since, a constant presence who has seen presidents and general secretaries come and go.
He recalled that when he first started, the grounds were like a forest. There were many trees, lilies, bush, vines and a fruit orchard.
“The evergreen tree in the middle of the yard was spread so wide that it reached over the main building, over the guard wall, and it had the property so dark that even at evening when the sun was still up, people could not see you,” Clarke stressed.
“I am the person who brought this property to where it is,” he said proudly. “You would have to look at the pictures to see up in here now and then think back to how it was and understand what I am talking about.”   
Now the well manicured lawns are a welcome sight for visitors.
Many trees remain, but Clarke said he levelled off some of the ground and put some order to the way the trees were planted and set up the garden.
Reflecting on the almost 40 years he has spent at the Welches compound, Clarke said what stood out most was the level of responsibility that he had.
He said the job of caretaker was not as easy as some people might think, as the responsibility for someone else’s property was “immense”.
He has account for everyone visiting the property; if there is an incident he has to be able to provide details because when the police come, the caretaker is their first point of reference.
The property is used for events ranging from weddings to dinners, fairs, children’s parties and even rehearsals for the Junior Monarch calypso competition.
Clarke said he took his job and the accompanying responsibility very seriously.
He has had to interact with most of the BUT members at all levels, adding that working under the many presidents and other officers had been a good experience.
“Dealing with people, everybody is not the same way,” he said. “Yes, sometimes you may have a little disagreement, but we all used to get along very well.”
He said his most memorable time was working with John Cumberbatch, the first president of the BUT after it broke away from the Civil Service Association, ending a 25-year association.
“John actually fought for this union to get teachers to where they are now,” he added.
Though the BUT took up much of his time, Clarke said when he was not busy with his duties, he would lend assistance behind the scenes to several non-governmental organizations, including the Barbados Red Cross, Cancer Support Services, St Paul’s Fiesta, St Leonard’s Boys’ School Old Scholars’ Association and the National Parent-Teacher Association.  

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