CHESTER ‘TARTAR’ PRIME
The year was 1953; the place: GBSS Form 2A; the subject: English Literature; and the text: Midshipman Easy. Midshipman Easy sailed through the seas of our young minds. And left its legacy in nicknames among us; the skipper: Captain Tartar; the hero; Jack Easy; the villainous Bob Acres. For reasons that I do not now recall, Chester Prime was called ‘Captain Tartar’. I was called ‘Bob Acres’ because I was aka Bobby. Jack Radix was called ‘Easy’. As usual, nicknames became abbreviated in time and Chester was called just ‘Tartar’ (or Tartar Prime), and I was called ‘Acres’.
Tartar Prime came to us from Carriacou with soundings from Aruba. Almost immediately, he gained a reputation as the source of those 2(1) for 3 cents high quality sweets being selectively distributed in the class. Demand soon outstripped supply, and Tartar had to find ingenious ways of enjoying his own sweets in class. Well I remember Snobies (George Griffith) calling him out as he slipped one down his face and into his mouth, on which he was forced to share what he then had, grumbling. In later years, he could amplify his already heavy voice into a menacing growl if one of us gave him cause to do so.
I do not now recall the character of the book’s Captain Tartar, but Tartar Prime’s whole demeanor was solid. He clean-cut look matched his clean, smooth style of writing; His books were perhaps the cleanest in our classes, all a reflection of an ordered mind. He favored Mathematics and the Sciences, and as the only Math student in Form 6B he used to regale us with his prowess in Trigonometry. When in my later student years I had to do Mathematics, I remembered Tartar’s sines, cosines and derivatives standing neatly in his exercise book.
Tartar was a promising Sub-Junior and Junior for Archer House; a Prefect; a Sergeant in the Cadet Corps; an excellent Badminton player; and a Founder-Member of the GBSS Tennis Club, which surfaced after Eric Gairy threw open the doors of the Tanteen Tennis Club. He avidly took part in Speech Night Shakespearean plays produced by Mr. H.D. Baptiste. But he really excelled academically. He was bright, cerebral, and always ready for the odd debate. Throughout school, he was almost always among the top 5 of his classes, and added to the academic competitiveness of the day. Interestingly, in the 1960 Island Scholarship examination, the first, second, and fifth places were taken by people with Carriacou connections (must be the fish), Prime securing the 5th place, for an almost GBSS sweep. He was, in the words of our Headmaster, K.I.M. Smith, truly “made of sterner stuff”!!
Living with the Phillip family of Scott Street, Tartar’s closest friends were Ronnie McLean and Freddie DeAllie, but in class he was always paired with his Carriacou colleague, Alfred “Rice” Brathwaithe. “Rice and Tartar’; ‘Tartar and Rice’ was to us a familiar combination. I lost direct touch with him after UWI, but was regularly supplied with the good news and the not-so-good through the informal network of the GBSS 1953 Form 2A class.
It is my belief that ‘we’ are spirits placed in a body to live life on this earth. Our bodies begin to die from the moment we are born, and eventually we all must die. So long as we have to be here, our spirits, which are forever, must find a new body. In this context, body death is inevitable. So instead of treating Tartar’s death as a “loss”, I want to thank him for ‘coming out to play with us in this life’, and hope that we will meet again in another.
RIP, Tartar! Bobby Phillips. 2/4/2012