Her­il­ton Ce­lestin. . . a long road well trav­elled. (Part Two)

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Peter Josie

Said Ce­lestin, “Dur­ing 1970 and fol­low­ing, my pop­u­lar­ity grew among the peo­ple at Babon­neau and my work was show­ing pos­i­tive re­sults. Banon­neau Es­tate be­gan to out­per­form the rest of Mar­quis Es­tate. I think that I suc­ceeded in bring­ing a new cul­ture of re­spect and ci­vil­ity to the work­ers who lived on the pe­riph­ery of these es­tates and oth­ers in the nearby com­mu­nity. I re­spected the or­di­nary man and woman and they in turn re­spected me. That would ex­plain my pop­u­lar­ity amongst them.

“By then the gov­ern­ment planned to es­tab­lish a ru­ral com­mu­nity coun­cil in Babon­neau and the peo­ple there were al­lowed to vote and se­lect ten per­sons to head and man­age that coun­cil. I was among the ten nom­i­nated and elected. Mr. Peter Joseph, a for­mer head­mas­ter at the Babon­neau Pri­mary School who was well loved and re­spected, was se­lected as Chair­per­son of the Coun­cil. Soon af­ter­wards I was also elected on the Board of Man­age­ment of the Babon­neau Pri­mary School. The parish priest Fr. Vrigneau and Mr. Peter Joseph were the other mem­bers.

“Jeal­ousy soon raised its ugly head and I was fired from my job as As­sis­tant Man­ager of Mar­quis Es­tate in 1974. The Man­ager thought that I was putting him in the shade, so to speak, while oth­ers thought I had po­lit­i­cal am­bi­tions. I there­fore left Mar­quis Es­tate at the end of 1974. Be­fore I de­parted I pro­duced doc­u­men­tary ev­i­dence to prove that Babon­neau Es­tate was out­pro­duc­ing Mar­quis Es­tate. As for the po­lit­i­cal side, I al­lowed peo­ple to think what­ever they wished.

“From my Mar­quis Es­tate job I worked at Morne For­tune with the Bil­harzia Erad­i­ca­tion Pro­gramme. This had three com­po­nents: it aimed to kill the worms in in­fected per­sons around Mar­quis Es­tate; at Culde-Sac it aimed to poi­son the snails in the streams and river, but this also killed fish which the peo­ple used as pro­tein; the third was to change the habits of the peo­ple in the Den­nery val­ley who used rivers and streams for bathing.

“The Den­nery pro­gramme needed an ed­u­ca­tor who would con­vince the in­hab­i­tants to stop us­ing rivers and streams to bathe and do their laun­dry. They had done this all their lives and it was no easy task stop­ping them. Luck­ily, I had stud­ied the life cy­cle of the blood fluke in cat­tle dur­ing my ear­lier course in Eng­land which had ba­si­cally the same sort of life cy­cle as the Bil­harzia vec­tor. I had to ed­u­cate the peo­ple to change their habits of us­ing the river for all their wa­ter needs. I showed films, held classes, spoke to lead­ers in the com­mu­nity, and con­vinced as many per­sons as pos­si­ble to do a stool test twice a year.”

Ce­lestin was just get­ting into his stride. “I was em­ployed on the job of Bil­harzia con­trol for two years, af­ter which time the pro­gramme ended. What con­trib­uted to the suc­cess of my work in the Mabouya Val­ley was the avail­abil­ity of pipeborne treated wa­ter which was sup­plied by the gov­ern­ment us­ing a very large reser­voir tank.

“I was im­pressed by the premier. Compton put his sweat and ef­fort into get­ting pipeborne wa­ter to the peo­ple of the east coast vil­lages from the Den­nery Val­ley all the way down to Des­ruis­seaux. His ef­fort struck my at­ten­tion. I there­fore de­cided to join Mr. Compton and help him con­tinue the work of help­ing the peo­ple of the east coast of the is­land. I be­came a mem­ber of the United Work­ers Party (UWP). Af­ter my suc­cess­ful spell aid­ing with Bil­harzia erad­i­ca­tion in the Mabouya Val­ley and see­ing what Mr. Compton had done to as­sist in that re­gard, I be­came fully in­volved help­ing bring piped-wa­ter to the peo­ple.”

Ce­lestin dis­closed that prior to all this he had at­tended pub­lic po­lit­i­cal meet­ings of both the St. Lu­cia Labour Party (SLP) and of the UWP. He had met and known Henry Gi­raudy, the chair­man of the UWP, who, like him, was from Vieux Fort. He also met and spoke to lead­ers of the SLP. “I re­peat that it was the work of party leader John Compton which fi­nally got me into party pol­i­tics,” he de­clared.

Ce­lestin con­tested the Vieux Fort North con­stituency on a UWP ticket in 1974, against a well-known son of Vieux Fort, Boswell Wil­liams. Boswell was from the pop­u­lar Wil­liams fam­ily of Vieux Fort. Soon af­ter the 1974 gen­eral elec­tions, which were won by the UWP, Ce­lestin was elected Gen­eral Sec­re­tary of the party, even though he lost his bid for a seat in par­lia­ment.

“At that time I was em­ployed at the Roseau Model Farms which were small tenacre plots of land dis­mem­bered from the Roseau Es­tate which was for­merly owned by John Van Geest of Geest In­dus­tries Ltd. My job en­tailed the su­per­vi­sion of sys­tems of ba­nana pro­duc­tion which led to greater ef­fi­ciency of fer­til­izer use and proper farm­ing prac­tices, and fruit qual­ity con­trol by these new ba­nana famers.”

He con­tin­ued: “In the mid-1980s I was ac­ci­den­tally struck by a stone thrown reck­lessly by some­one whilst I was driv­ing home from work. I was struck in the left eye and blood came stream­ing down the side of my face. I im­me­di­ately stopped my ve­hi­cle, pulled out my hand­ker­chief, ap­plied it to my left eye and drove my­self to hos­pi­tal which was a mere fif­teen to twenty min­utes away. I was treated and dis­charged but over the years I have con­tin­ued to lose sight in the left eye and now the right eye is fol­low­ing rather quickly.

“By 1997, when a new gov­ern­ment took of­fice in Saint Lu­cia un­der Prime Min­is­ter Dr. Kenny An­thony, I had lost much of my sight and so I de­cided to throw in the towel, call­ing it quits on my po­lit­i­cal and work­ing life.”

It was plain to see that at the time of this in­ter­view (11th April, 2015), at Ce­lestin’s res­i­dence, his sight was a chal­lenge. He was proud to say that his mem­ory had not failed him and even more proud of his vi­sion that one day Saint Lu­cia will be self-sus­tain­ing in food pro­duc­tion par­tic­u­larly in milk, beef and other an­i­mal pro­teins.

A week or two be­fore we sat for this in­ter­view Ce­lestin had at­tended a gala fundrais­ing din­ner or­ga­nized by new UWP party boss Allen Chas­tanet and wife Raquel Du Boulay, at the Jef­fer­son Clin­ton ball­room of the San­dals Grande Re­sort. That evening Ce­lestin was im­mac­u­lately dressed in white and, per­haps fit­tingly, re­ceived a prize for best-dressed male at the din­ner.

Ce­lestin re­calls that he is from the Voltaire fam­ily on his ma­ter­nal side. Voltaire was a white French­man of sus­pected Jewish an­tecedents who at one time owned most of the lands in the cen­tral part of Grace, north of the town of Vieux Fort. He had three daugh­ters and no sons. One daugh­ter be­came Mrs. Du­rant Beau­soliel by mar­riage. A se­cond be­came Mrs. Wil­liam, again by mar­riage, and the el­dest helped her fa­ther man­age the fam­ily busi­ness and later be­came as­so­ci­ated with the Clotide fam­ily, from that part of the is­land.

Mrs. Du­rant Beau­soliel be­came the mother of Josephine Beau­soliel (Josephat Josie’s mother), and Abella Beau­soliel be­came Mrs. Mathurin Ce­lestin by mar­riage, and the grand­mother of Hed­wick and Her­il­ton Ce­lestin. Her­il­ton Ce­lestin’s mother, Dox­ina, was born to one Louisa Hunte of Bar­ba­dos. Louisa came to Vieux Fort to work on the re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of the sugar in­dus­try in that part of the is­land.

Mrs. Wil­liam later moved to Augier, west of the town of Vieux Fort, where she had three daugh­ters, one of whom mar­ried a Wil­liam (no re­la­tion). From the younger Wil­liam fam­ily was born a son named Charles Peter Isaac (CPI), who be­came a pop­u­lar busi­ness­man in Vieux Fort.

CPI trav­elled reg­u­larly to the USA and re­turned with sav­ings which he in­vested in his thriv­ing night­club busi­ness. It was a pop­u­lar hang­out for US sol­diers at the US Air Base in Vieux Fort in the 1940s.

Voltaire’s third daugh­ter be­came Mrs. Fon­tenelle by mar­riage. She was also known as Ma. Clo­ton. Mrs. Fon­tenelle gave birth to two daugh­ters, one of whom left for work on the Panama Canal while the son mi­grated to Cayenne. The other daugh­ter be­came the mother of one Eness and Nenn-Audie.

Grow­ing up in Vieux Fort, the writer no­ticed the close con­nec­tion be­tween CPI, Nenn-Audie, and Eness and his fa­ther, Josephat Josie. As a young­ster, Josephat Josie lived in the town of Vieux Fort with Nenn-Audie af­ter his mother, Josephine, left for work in Panama. Josephine was ac­com­pa­nied by her sis­ter Abella, Her­il­ton Ce­lestin’s grand­mother.

A search of the birth and bap­tismal records at Vieux Fort may re­veal much more about Her­il­ton Ce­lestin and his fam­ily tree, in­clud­ing Mr. Voltaire, than this brief ac­count could ac­com­plish.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Saint Lucia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.