TA May and her times: by Collis DeCoteau, author of a”APlace Called Gouyave.”*
To not know who “Ta May” was, was tantamount to admitting that you knew very little about our illustrious little town of Gouyave. Yes Ta May was one of the many colorful characters that gave Gouyave its unique flavor. Ta May and her sister “Tan Phyllis” whose husband was the venerable “Shilling,” both had their homes in what is today called Gun Battle. Among other residents there were Prego’s mom, Miss Christina, Mr. “Crazy” Ethelbert, and Bomb’s grandma, Ms. Maida. To be sure the area was where you’d find Swell, Kootoon, Voom Po, Bi Toe, Rags, Bolee Head and others hustling each other while pitching marbles for money; but it certainly was not an area to be avoided at all cost, nor was there anything scary about it except perhaps Mr. Ethelbert during one of his days. In fact some like myself could argue that it was the prettiest section of the Bay. The numerous tall majestic coconut trees that lined the pathways were like an early preview of the landscape that I was to later see on my first visit to New York City.
Therefore it saddened me greatly when during visits to Gouyave, I was warned specifically not to go through Gun Battle!! How could that be! How could that area that I loved so much as a youth turn into the unsavory stories that I was now hearing? Then came the heroics of Kirani James, and the old fond memories of the area began to flow once more. My recollections went back to the old residents of the area like Ta May and her children, Spencer, Gina and Walcott. To be honest I never imagined Ta May was still alive. After all, her son Spencer had already left us, so to my mind, Ta May had to have gone long before him as things usually go.
Ta May and her contemporaries represented the bulwark of what former Prime Minister Eric Matthew Gairy could always rely on. They were Gairyites to the bone! When they sang “We’ll never let our leader fall, for we love him the best of all” they were in effect thanking Uncle for making it possible for them to shed their flour-bag bloomers and step into the new world of panties. Small wonder that as far as they were concerned, they would even vote for a ‘crappo’ if that’s whom Uncle chose to represent the parish of St. John in elections. What a fascinating sociological thesis it would have been to record from Ta May and her contemporaries’ own mouths, how they regarded the “ungrateful” succeeding younger generations that rebelled and kicked out their dearly beloved Uncle Gairy from power.
So let’s give thanks to Ta May, her contemporaries and oh yes, Uncle too, for paving the way for succeeding generations to have the opportunities to live a more educated and savvy lifestyle than they ever dreamt possible. May God bless our Ta May as she rests peacefully forever.
*We may not have known “TaMay” from Gouyave, but people my age will remember the “TaMays” of our own villages and their life and times.