Beryl Scantlebury: There was limited access to transportation in the 1930s to ’70s and it was not as easy to travel throughout communities. Therefore, much of the doctoring was done by the community elders themselves who would have done nursing or midwifery. They patched and calmed many of the children when injuries occurred and were the doctors on call for deliveries.
Scantlebury was one such person, a real community person.
Better known as Marshall to adults and Muhgran to children, she was born in 1909 and was well recognised in her community for her involvement in two variances.
These variances allowed Marshall to be the first person to see many children enter this world and also one of the last to see loved ones leave it. She was there for these occurrences, coincidentally, as she was a midwife and also a worker at the St. John’s Funeral Home.
As a midwife, she was sought after by many families, inside an outside of St. Peter, though mainly in Mile and a Quarter and surrounding areas, to deliver their babies. This gentle soul delivered many prominent politicians such as Owen Arthur and Senator Haynesley Benn, doctors and teachers. She was the first person to touch them and even lashed their bottom, not for being naughty however, but just to ensure there was a cry from the new bundle of joy to assure everyone it was okay.
Husbands, partners and others travelled on bicycle and even trekked many miles just to inform her about a due delivery. She went even further than her midwife duties, as she returned day after day to do any washing, cooking or cleaning as the mothers remained on bed rest for a while.
Her other job at the St. John’s Funeral Home was preparing people to be buried. In those days people said she used to “put up deads”. She worked long hours as well but she did not complain.
In the words of her granddaughter, Mondelle Welch: “In fact I cannot remember her complaining about anything. She was very pleasant and happy lady – a lady who was a wife, mother to her children and grandchildren, midwife, mortician and caregiver for many adults and children in the parish of St. Peter. She could have easily been described as ‘a jack of all trades, and a master of all'”.
Simply put, Scantlebury was well – loved by all.