Arthur James Kenneth Streetly was an extraordinary man of the world, distinguishing himself first at my own alma mater, The Lodge School. He had the good fortune of being born and growing up in the Caribbean because his father– an equally extraordinary man – became a priest serving in Trinidad and Tobago. Arthur was born on October 19, 1932 in St James, Port of Spain.
His father, the Reverend Frederick James Fairland Streetly, went to Trinidad in 1925. In spite of a love for engineering, he was drawn to the priesthood, training at the Warminster Theological College, where the principal at the time was the Reverend Arthur Henry Anstey, later Principal of Codrington College in Barbados and futureBishop of Trinidad.
Before he left for Codrington in 1911, Reverend Anstey encouraged young Streetly to come out to the West Indies. But with World War 1 starting in 1914, Warminster closed and Frederick went back to engineering, qualifying without difficulty. Then in 1922, on the advice and urging of Bishop Anstey, he entered Codrington College for his BA, and proceeded to his first priestly post at St. Patrick’s at Mount Pleasant in Tobago, where he was ordained.
In 1932, he was moved to St. Agnes in Trinidad, where he immediately became an instructor in mechanical engineering with the Board of Industrial Training. He was later transferred to St Paul’s in San Fernando and again pioneered technical training by forming a Junior Technical College. His entire career in Trinidad and Tobago was an extraordinary duality as an outstanding priest and a brilliant, leading educator, ending his career once more in Tobago, as Archdeacon. He was hailed as a hero in Michael Anthony’s book Heroes of the People of Trinidad & Tobago because he made a huge difference in many people’s lives. It was into this kind of positive, nothing-is-impossible environment that Arthur was born and raised.
In the joint eulogies given by his daughter Letitia (Tish) and his son Paul, Tish said that Arthur and his brother John had amazing adventures in Tobago and were often in “nuff trouble”, and in some ways his despatch to Lodge School as a boarder from 1942 to 1951 continued that adventurous life.
His achievements at The Lodge included being Captain of Athletics, Captain of Football, Vice Captain of Boxing, House Captain of Emtage House (my house!), Head Librarian, House Prefect, Editor of the Lodge School Record, Quartermaster Sergeant in the Cadet Corps, where he had the key to the armoury, Victor Ludorum in 1951, and holder of the long jump record for 20 years with a jump of 19 feet, 6 and a half inches. This made him one of my heroes, as I fancied myself as a long jumper in my youth…
But his greatest achievement occurred on the night of November 6,1948 (when he was 16) when he met the beautiful Elizabeth Sydney (Sidi) Preece for the first time, at the now demolished Marine Hotel. He was smitten, and so began the romance of a lifetime– the kind of romance of which magnificent films are made. She was a boarder at Codrington High School and Arthur, with his lifelong escapades of derring-do, broke both sets of school rules to visit Sidi, day or night! And yet fate kept them from marrying for another nine years!
Arthur left Lodge for Queen’s College, Cambridge, where he was made President of the College Sports Club, a member of the prestigious Hawks Club, earned his boxing blue against Oxford, and indulged in the usual exploits – often climbing drain pipes – and this perhaps led to his mountain climbing with the university mountaineering club in Wales, the Lake District, the Peaks and the French Alps. Mountain climbing and boxing were his two great passions apart from Sidi! His family has pictures of him hanging on a rope on vertical cliff faces, a pastime that I’ve personally considered madness, but Arthur (Streets or Atta) seemed to have the philosophy that if it’s there, then it must be overcome.
He took his boxing very seriously, taking part in fights for Cambridge Boxing club all over Britain. And he insisted that it’s a healthy sport which should be encouraged much more, with emphasis on both superb physical fitness and defensive boxing. He felt strongly that amateur boxing helps to build character. Amusingly, in an interview with the Advocate newspaper some years ago, he said: “I don’t approve of women in boxing, because they might damage their breasts. As a spectacle, I’d rather they wrestle in mud!”
Sidi, it must be mentioned, was the miraculous survivor of a ship the SS Bolivar, sunk by German mines when she was on her way home to Trinidad with her father at the age of three. In that remarkable tragedy, with the loss of most of the passengers, Mr. Preece was able to survive in the water for an hour, with Sidi in a small wooden crate, while he paddled like mad until they were rescued. She allegedly asked her father as he struggled in the waves to keep her safe“Are we going all the way home like this?” She was clearly a miracle child.
Arthur joined a firm doing major business in East Africa, and so he and Sidi married there, in Lusaka, with an epic adventure honeymoon and a continuing life of adventure– with just time to produce a son Paul – until they moved to Sheffield. There he worked in the steel industry, the life blood of Sheffield, and there Tish was born. But the lure of the Caribbean was too great and Arthur joined his brother John’s business in Trinidad in 1968. They immersed themselves in carnival, steel band, calypso, Trinidad’s amazingly varied gastronomic buffet, and its beaches, birds and butterflies, while Arthur, ever the Type A “get-it-done-because-nothing-is-impossible” man, devoted himself to Rotary and to the Chamber of Commerce, becoming President of the South Chamber of Business and Commerce.
But in 1986 some of the challenges of Trinidad led them back here to their true Paradise, where they had met nearly 40 years earlier. And at the age of 64, Arthur the entrepreneur started his own brand new business, Impex Barbados, selling ceramics, craft rehab, educational supplies and perhaps everything but the kitchen sink across the length and breadth of Barbados, including selling from the back of his car, catering to the large and small businesses alike, and making friends with the whole population. And in his retirement he loved gardening, while Sidi loves singing… I’m not sure if she serenaded him while he weeded!
He loved people and people loved him, for his warmth, modesty and sense of humour. I knew him only in these later years, and I saw these qualities, as well as something that all very special people have– enthusiasm.
In the words of Tish:“I and many others will miss his funny stories … Heaven has gained a special soul, and I hope to meet with you again one day.” And in Paul’s words: “Arthur was kind, loving, respectful of others, rootsy, humble, funny, thoughtful, spiritual and a lover of God. He was an absolutely rock-solid, supportive and so loving Dad to Tish and me. Throughout his life he connected with people in an interested and humble way and touched their hearts. He loved many and many loved him a great deal. He always maintained it was most important to give thanks. These are the true measures of Arthur James Kenneth Streetly.”
Arthur will be missed by many, and of course, most of all by Paul and Trish and his wonderful wife of 60 years, Sidi. But for me, the lesson is that those we admire, respect and love deserve much more time, sharing. So often we’re just so busy taking care of the urgent, but often not really important things, that we neglect the not so urgent but much more important things – friendship, sharing and learning from those we love – often until it’s too late. For those who read this tribute, I encourage you to make contact with those you love but haven’t seen recently – make a phone call, write a letter or send a card with a note. Hopefully it’s not too late.