REMEMBERING BREE: Oistins a town in mourning
“OISTINS will always miss Mr St John.”
These words from fish vendor Juetta Prescod summed up the mood in the fishing town represented for many years by Sir Harold St John who died Sunday, February 29.
Black flags fluttered in the breeze at Oistins, Christ Church, from then until he was buried on March 8 and a sombre mood enveloped the fishing complex. Some workers wore black or black and white in a show of mourning.
It is no secret that Oistins always held a special place in the heart of Sir Harold and Government, in organising the state funeral, saw fit to ensure that he passed that way one last time as his flag-draped casket was taken to its final resting place at Christ Church Parish Church.
According to Prescod, Sir Harold “made Oistins into Oistins. We would love to change the name into St John Town”.
It was the personal things that many in Oistins remembered about “Bree” as he was familiarly known to them.
“He gave me the first tin of milk for my son,” recalled Prescod. “He was a very nice man. If he could help you, he would. Don’t go to him with things he couldn’t help in, though. We always leaned on him, when he was well and when he was sick.”
Her desire to perpetuate the memory of Sir Harold was echoed by another vendor, Diana Callender.
“We should put up a monument somewhere in the heart of Oistins in his memory,” she said. “You could ask him anything,” she added.
“Mr St John has done a lot for Christ Church, especially Oistins. Everybody can give thanks to him. Without him we would never have had a good market and the fish bay.
“Ten years ago my brother was selling pig tails in the rain,” recalled a young woman who would only give her name as Maxine. “Bree (Sir Harold) saw him and others down there and that is how we got the Bay Gardens.
“Any time my brother wanted anything he could ask Bree. He is one politician who looked after his people.”
Lucille Clarke, who has been selling fish in Oistins for 50 years, pointed to her black hat, adorned with a Bernard St John pin of several years’ vintage: “See the hat I’m wearing? If not for him we wouldn’t be sitting here in the cool. We going miss Bree so bad, very bad.”
For fisherman and fish vendor Patrick “No Name” Brathwaite, Sir Harold was a man of action: “He would come, look and you would see changes start to happen. You could stop him anytime. He wouldn’t pass you by.
“Sir Harold helped me get this spot, from getting wet in the rain,” said physically challenged vendor David Scantlebury. “I’m very grateful and thankful for what he has done for me. For the 13-14 years I’ve been here I’ve never heard anything bad about him.”
This article was published March 14, 2004.