Centenarian Mildred “Milly” Ifill has a lot to be proud of as she reflects on her long life.
She has gone from being a motherless child who never received the opportunity to attend school, to the person after whom the fish market in Weston, St James is named.
Today, as the rain fell, those who gathered in the living room of her small wooden home at Douglins Road, Weston where she received a visit from Governor General
Sir Elliott Belgrave, heard her inspiring story. The centenarian, who celebrated her birthday on Sunday, was left by her mother in the care of an aunt when she was just months old after her mother decided to migrate to Trinidad. She went to work in the fields at an earlyage as an agricultural labourer, initially earning four cents per day.
When the opportunity presented itself, Milly started a career as a fish vendor, selling in a number of markets in the north and also walking through villages delivering to households.
Some days, she walked in the broiling sun from St James to St Peter, even going as far as Bridgetown sometimes in an effort to make a dollar.
She was also the first at shore, waiting for when “Mr. Whiting” hauled in his boat, full of a fresh catch. Everyone knew that if she did not get to purchase some of that catch, “she would do very bad”.
“She and a gentleman named Aeroplane would walk the road selling with a box on her head and when the box was too heavy on she head, she had a string and she would say, ‘fish, fish’ all day until sometimes almost night she up and down the road. I wonder how she used to manage. I know Milly from way back,” her caretaker Arlette Worrell said.
Worrell, who witnessed Milly at work when she was a little girl, added: “And though Milly never even went to school, not even to hang she beret on the rack, nobody could have robbed her when she was transacting business. Let me tell you, yuh can’t rob her. She know money. She would make some strokes on the ground with a nail or a piece of stick. I tell she if you did went school, you would be a lawyer and lock up a lot of people.”
“I had to get out there and work cuz I ain’t had no choice. I never expect that I would get a hundred because I work so hard. But I tell the Lord that I want to get to one hundred and I thank him. He was with me from a child until now,” Milly told a gathering of well-wishers who listened attentively.
Worrell said Milly, a sprightly and at times quiet old lady, is still capable of moving around the house, especially to open the windows and doors on mornings. She loves to eat what Worrell called “sweet food” and rice must always be on her plate.
“I would give her other things in between and she would look at the plate and look up at me. I would say ‘Mel, I am not giving you rice everyday’, Eat your food and praise your God that you have someone to look after you.’ She would say ‘Alright little girl, I will do what you say,” Worrell said.
Sir Elliott praised Milly, the mother of one child who is deceased, for her hard work, determination and success. He urged her to continue to enjoy her golden years. [email protected]