by Margaret Sullivan and Nelcia Marshall Robinson
Miss Amby went to town every Saturday, whether she had to walk or ride. She carried, on each occasion, a large heavy basket of load on her head, and a smaller one in her hand. In those baskets she had everything for everybody in the village – a few peppers, a few mangoes, a few dry coconuts, a few plums, a few tomatoes, a bundle of mint, a hand of bananas or figs, a pound of dried cocoa, a local chicken, a few plumroses or golden apples, a few ears of corn, a root of ginger, a heap of pigeon or blackeye peas.
It seemed that whatever was grown in the home garden or in the mountains or farm, she journeyed with into ‘town’ to be sold and the money earned to buy, for her return, a bottle of kerosene oil, a quart of lard oil, an ounce of tobacco for the elderly, a cake of soap, a half pound of salt fish, soft grease, a candle, a pound of rice, and more, something for everyone from whom she had taken farm produce. She also took her own goodies to sell.
She never made notes of who gave her what to sell, nor what she was asked to buy, yet she was able to sell and buy everything for everybody. Everyone was always amazed at how she was able to ‘make reckoning’ to everyone. She was not one of the persons who went to market at the crack of dawn. She went a little later, maybe because she still had to go and collect the goods from some people in the morning. As a result, she would be one of the last persons to leave the market in the evenings.
Recollections are that “Miss Amby”, as she was known, always caught Herman Roberts’ bus, “GTS” back home. She took the last trip on Saturday evenings because ‘Miss Amby” had to run to this market shop and that market shop to ensure that she got everything for everyone. She was not leaving Kingstown until she had bought everything that she was supposed to buy. The passengers always made fun of her, saying she was the one “to close up Kingstown”. But she was devoted to the people whom she served so willingly and gratuitously.
That was what you call community spirit and conservation of resources and energy, because she did it all for everyone, rich or poor, relative or friend, man or woman, adult or child, and she did it without frown or fret, with the true spirit of goodwill and service to her community and humanity. Nothing was too small nor too large for her to take to sell or to buy. She was the quintessential epitome of humanity. That is what we call classic survival strategies, strategies for coping with poverty and true and genuine community support.
Since her death, the village has never seen another like her. Few believe there would be another Miss Loretta Amby. It is a pity that her daughter Mrs Thomas is not alive to share in this moment of recognition. Her grandchildren, all the other villagers, and all Vincentians should relish this moment and take note in the words of the song: The way we were.
The Honourable Loretta Amby – nation builder – is long dead, but her touching, wise and sometimes mind-boggling actions are a symbol of tender care, an example of sustainable livelihood and genius in grassroots economics.
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