A moment of daily life

I cherish my childhood memories in Bequia during the 1970s.

Bequia and Antigua & Barbuda have the best memories of all the places I've lived. I don’t remember the dates1, but we lived in Bequia in the 1970s. My memories are that I was about five when I attended the Bequia Seventh Day Adventist Primary School. I remember walking to school and taking a shortcut through a cemetery to get to the school. I remember my Uncle Errol, mom’s baby brother, lived near the school.

We lived in a two-bedroom flat on the top floor of the Barclays Bank office in Port Elizabeth, just a few doors down from the Frangipani Beach Hotel. The flat had a view of Port Elizabeth Beach, just a short stroll from the front of the building.

This is another scan from Mom’s photo albums. Living in Bequia meant that I got to hang out with my maternal cousins and my grandparents. In the photograph, right to left, are my Wallace cousins, Cashena (Susie), Jacinta and Bronte and me. We are standing outside the Barclays Bank branch office in Port Elisabeth. This is either before school or after school.

In the rustic background, you can see lush trees and a wooden structure, possibly a residence or an outbuilding, which contrasts with the formal construction of the bank. The ground is unpaved, conveying the rural feel of Port Elizabeth at the time.

  1. I need to keep jogging Mom’s memory. 

Picking plums with cousins in Friendship, Bequia

Unlike the lush tropical forests fed by the mineral-rich volcanic soils of St. Vincent, Bequia’s ecology is more spartan. Bequia is mainly covered with smaller trees and shrubs and brush. However, many families cultivated tropical trees brought centuries ago from Indonesia, India, and other parts of South East Asia, as well as fruit plants native to the Americas such as cashew, almonds, sugar apple (cherimoya), and soursop.

One of my favourite native fruits is the Bequia plum. Mom’s younger sister, Mary, had a lot of plum trees in her steeply sloped front yard. Whenever we visited my grandmother in Bequia, we would walk over to see my cousins. Part of the excitement of the trip was picking plums and filling our little bellies.

The thin edible skin of the plum has a waxy appearance, and the pulp is yellow when ripe and sweet. In the centre of the fruit is a large pit, or stone, which is inedible. Peeling the plums is time-consuming. I usually popped the whole fruit into my mouth and transferred it from cheek to cheek, nibbling my way around the plum and then sucking on the seed until the flesh was gone and only the pit was left.

Bequia people love their plums! I never saw plims rotting on the ground because they are picked before they can fall from the trees. As children, we watched the red fruit ripen, sometimes impatiently eating the partially ripe fruit. We often got bellyaches from eating them too soon. My aunt had a lot of plum trees, and when she had a bounty of fruit, she often made stewed plums with cashew fruit. It’s super sweet and sticky.

So what are Bequia plums? I did my best Google-Fu and found the following on Wikipedia. Bequia plums are Spondias purpurea.

Spondias purpura is a species of flowering plant in the cashew family, Anacardiaceae, that is native to tropical regions of the Americas, from Mexico to Brazil. It is also very common in most of the Caribbean islands. It is commonly known as jocote, which derives from the Nahuatl word xocotl, meaning any kind of sour or acidic fruit. Other common names include red mombin, plum, purple mombin, hog plum, ciriguela, ceriguela, seriguela, siriguela (Brazil) cocota, ciruela huesito (Colombia), ciruela, ciruela traqueadora (Panama), ciriguela, cirigüela, cirguela, cirguelo (Ecuador), makapruim (ABC_islands_(Leeward_Antilles)), and siniguelas (Philippines). It is a popular fruit throughout Central America, particularly in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras and in Costa Rica.

The plums come in two colours, red and yellow. The fleshy red ones are the only ones that grow on Bequia, but the yellow ones can be found all over St. Vincent. Bequia plums do not grow well on the mainland. They require dryer weather, and the more arid ecology of Bequia is ideal for growing them. It’s for this reason the red ones are called Bequia plums.

Mom doesn’t remember when or who took this photograph or what camera was used, or what film stock.

Mary Victoria McLaren

My grandmother is no longer with us. She passed on 28 July 2006. Today marks the 106th anniversary of her birth.

My grandmother Mary Celena Victoria McClaren's life came to a close on 28 July 2006, in Bequia, Charlotte, St Vincent and the Grenadines, when she was 90 years old. Today marks the 106th anniversary of her birth. We affectionately called her "Mama".

"Mama" was born on 3 June 1916 in Carriacou, Grenada. Her father, Francis, was 25, and her mother, Miriam, was 24 when she was born. "Mama"r had one son and four daughters with my grandfather Louis "Papa" George Ollivierre.

Ollivierre (maternal) Family in Bequia at Grand Parent Home in LaPompe.
Left to Right
Back: Aunty Mary Wallace, Aunty “Bird” Cyvia Ollivierre, Aunty Jeanie MacDonald, Papa (Grandfather) Louis George Ollivierre, Mama (Grandmother) Mary Marguerite Ollivierre (nee McLaren), My mom Helena Williams (ne Ollivierre)
Middle: Cousin Bronte Wallace, my brother Shane, unknown, Khürt, unknown, Cousin Jacinta Wallace
Front: Cousin Patmore Wallace, Cousin Carlisle Wallace Jr., my brother Richard (Bruce).
NOTE: The two girls on either side of me are not family. They were visiting from Canada. I do not remember their names.

The birth of her sisters marked "Mama"’s early years. "Mama"’s younger sister, Olive Miriam was born on 25 December 1920, when "Mama" was four years old. Her family continued to grow with the birth of her daughter, Martha Euthina, on 14 November 1944 in Bequia, Charlotte, St Vincent and the Grenadines. Tragedy struck in 1966 when her mother, Miriam, passed away in Grenada at the age of 74.

The family endured further loss when my "Papa" died on 8 October 1988 in Bequia, Charlotte, St Vincent and the Grenadines, at the age of 73. The passing of "Mama"’s sisters followed, with Olive dying on 30 May 2006, and Miriam passing shortly after on 2 June 2006, both in Bequia.

Mary Victoria McLaren