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Dame Sandra celebrates Florence’s 100th with Masons


JOHN SEALY

Dame Sandra celebrates Florence’s 100th with Masons

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Governor General Dame Sandra Mason paid an official visit yesterday to Barbados’ latest centenarian, Florence Matilda Mason, at Bayfield, St Philip.

But it was more than an official visit.

It was an occasion for the members of the Mason family to reinforce a uniqueness of that northern part of the parish which carries the nickname Mason Town because of the many residents who hold the common surname.

Siblings, grands, great-grands, nephews, nieces stretching over generations; friends and well-wishers celebrated the milestone of the matriarch who sat quietly and soaked up the occasion.

Former parliamentary representative for St Philip North, Sir David Simmons, was also present and traced his association with the Masons back to when he was contesting the constituency seat in 1971.

Florence, an avid St Catherine churchgoer, continues her birthday celebrations today with a church service.

Though her memory comes and goes, she still possesses her physical strength.

Ruphene Clarke, one of 14 children; nine of whom are still alive, said her mother was born at East Point, went to school at Bayley’s and St Catherine and moved to Bayfield at 18. She married at age 21 to Joseph Mason, now deceased. 

Clarke, the caregiver, described her mother as very strict and “up till today I cannot swim ’cause she would not allow me to go the sea”. She said she lived with her mother for 28 years.

“Her favourite food is cou cou, soup, steamed fish, and sea egg. She was a maid, labourer, a housewife; she was everything,” Clarke said.

Dame Sandra, who said she grew up knowing some members of the family from just across the street, noted that in spite of travel arrangements, she rescheduled to be at the celebrations.

“When I was growing up, people did not want to be a Mason . . . it was almost an anathema to be said to be a Mason. We were fish people, we were raw people, we lived in Mason Town, but we were proud people, we were a happy people, we were a healthy people, and we all loved each other.

“I grew up across the street, so I had to be here this morning. It has nothing to do with visiting a centenarian, this was a special occasion,” she said.

However, Dame Sandra evoked laughter when she tried to recall her interaction as a child with the centenarian and quipped, “. . . You are only a Mason by marriage. But you are still a Mason . . . you have got all the Mason traits.” (JS)

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