For decades Carson Small touched lives through his radio programmes, his voluntary efforts and his dedicated ministry.
Though blind, he saw the good in people and encouraged everyone he encountered to “put your hand in something clean”.
Today, as those who knew him best turned up to bid a final farewell to the man generations of Barbadians came to know through their Rediffusion sets, and later on Voice of Barbados, as Uncle Carson, there was no shortage of words or sentiments to describe Carson, who died on August 23 at the age of 75.
“[He was] a giant of a man with a photographic memory despite the fact he was blind, and someone who always saw the positive side of things,” attorney-at-law Keith Simmons said as members of the Salvation Army, the disabled community, the broadcast media fraternity and others gathered at the St Thomas Parish Church this afternoon to celebrate his life.
Carson’s first foray into broadcasting was in 1974 when veteran broadcasters Dame Olga Lopes-Seale, Alfred Pragnell and Frank Pardo introduced him to the microphone at Rediffusion where he was the receptionist.
It was there that he cemented his relationship with the old and the young, including the children because of his part as the hapless George to Aunty Olga as ‘straight man’ in a comic double act segment during the Children’s Party on Saturday mornings.
Stephen Callender worked with Carson at the Starcom Network, the latest incarnation of Barbados Rediffusion.
“It was a pleasure for us to be a part of his life. He always started the day with greetings, referred to every female staff member as ‘pretty girl’, and then admonished everyone he met to ‘put [your] hands in something clean’. It was also simply amazing how he could navigate the entire building without a cane or any assistance. It was hard to be a complainer when you looked at Carson and recognized his lifestyle. He challenged his challenge and his positive and independent attitude affected all the staff,” Callender said.
It was former Chief Executive Officer of Starcom Network Vic Fernandes who rectified the situation immediately when he found out that Carson was not a full-time member of the Rediffusion staff.
Fernandes today said they would often joke that Carson was not truly blind as “he was always colour coded in his attire, and I was amazed to hear that he travelled overseas alone and navigated the streets in big cities like New York without any help”.
“Carson was truly a wonderful human being,” he said, “and in all the time I knew him, I never saw him angry, he was always smiling.”
Eudalie Wickham-Ashby, who once served as president of the Barbados National Organization of the Disabled, said Carson encouraged her to join the association, and “he was extremely generous”.
“He would give to people in need until he had nothing more to give,” she said, while Acting President of the Carson Small Foundation Natalie Whitehall described him as “the most dynamic blind person I have ever met”.
In addition to all that he did, Carson was also dedicated to the Salvation Army and had been close to Major Denzil Walcott from the time they were teens.
“He was an expert in making you feel good about yourself,” Walcott said.
“He loved people and people loved him.”
In delivering the eulogy on behalf of Carson’s brother Peter, who lives in the United Kingdom, Carl Downes said Carson lost his sight as a teenager, but “it did not stop him from living a full life and he travelled up until 2016, visiting several islands in the Caribbean as well as the United States, England and Canada. He loved people, cricket and food, loved to share the history of Barbados Rediffusion and the Seaview Road neighbourhood where he lived most of his life, and was known for his many sayings like, ‘don’t look at me in that tone of voice,’” he said.
In his sermon, Reverend Coleridge Darlington reflected on all the late radio personality and community worker had achieved in his lifetime.
“If we could think more and be more like Carson, we could make more significant changes in our society. Carson has run his course now, but we who are still alive are expected to give of ourselves as much as we can, and when we falter, bear in mind God’s forgiving spirit and put our hands back into something clean,” he said.
After the burial in the churchyard, Gerald Seaman Hunte played one of Carson’s favourite songs, If I can Help Somebody, while the Salvation Army band gave an up-tempo performance of some well-known hymns in their final tribute to Uncle Carson.