When George McMahon Toppin married his wife Erlyn almost four decades ago, Justice Sandra Mason officiated at the wedding ceremony. Thirty-eight years later, he found himself face to face with her again – this time in her capacity as Governor General as he became the island’s latest centenarian.
Dame Sandra joined Toppin in celebrating another special moment at the Ocean View Nursing Home in Graeme Hall Park, Christ Church today.
Although the distinguished jurist admitted she did not recall Toppin’s wedding, noting that she would have performed many ceremonies over the years, she said: “I think this would be my most special visit that I have made as Governor General.”
During her visit, Dame Sandra read the words in Toppin’s greeting card to him: “For a wonderful father and grandfather, happy birthday. You have celebrated 100 years, that is 20 decades, 1200 months, 5,400 weeks, 36,500 days, 876, 000 hours, 52, 560,000 minutes and 3,153, 600, 000 seconds. Congratulations.”
The spritely senior was all smiles.
“Wow, this is a special day,” he responded as he was surrounded by family, friends and well-wishers. “It’s wonderful to have a lot of happy people around you. The birthday must be happy because you have happy people around you.”
Toppin, the first of four boys, was originally from Gall Hill, St John.
The father of one daughter and grandfather of two, known for his hard work and no-nonsense approach, left Barbados in 1942 to travel to England where he had several adventures which he has detailed in his book, Survival.
Dame Sandra, who was recently gifted with a copy of the book, said it was a worthwhile read.
“I read it last night and I went to sleep extremely happy. I think some of the younger people here…should read it. If you haven’t yet read it, you should, because it shows a lot of courage and dedication. It shows what he and his friend would have gone through to reach England, basically to make way for some of our people.”
Toppin nodded in agreement and reflected on some of his experiences, including battling for his life after the ship he was travelling on was torpedoed by Germans.
He is a happy man today, though, and credits his longevity to “a good wife and trust in God”.
And with a chuckle, Toppin advised those who want to follow his lead and live to see their 100th birthday: “Trust in God…Only God can take you through.