“The last thing I did was touch my son’s toes and my son wriggle he toes in my hand and when I [went] back my child did [dead]. I am not going to tell you a lie but God hold me from then till now, He tell me ‘don’t cry any more. I take him out of his pain because he was in pain.’”Elsa Small, September 11, 2018
There are several hard-working communities in Barbados, peopled by strong, patriotic, conscientious individuals, committed to their families, beloved by their friends and counted among the bedrock of their profession. They are simple but great folk who are nationally obscure because they do not reside in any seat of political, religious or institutional power. But their presence within their social communities is so impactful that when their unexpected departure comes it presents a most excruciatingly painful void.
Barbados’ fishing community is arguably one of the most closely knit in the island. Whether in the parish of St John, St Philip, St Michael, St James, St Peter or Christ Church, fisherfolk tend to know each other, help each other, depend on each other and defend each other. As in most human interactions, there will be the occasional impasse, but the experience has been that there is often some cooler head, some strong yet gentle spirit always available to restore equilibrium.
A pall of hurt, anguish, and significant anger has descended on the Bridgetown Fish Market, and indeed on fisherfolk and fishing complexes across Barbados. On Friday, Stephen “Molly” Small, a strong gentle spirit, lost his life at the hands of robbers. The outpouring of grief from those in his professional circle, those who did business with him from his stall in the fish market and those who would have known him from his boyhood days has been a testimony to the impact he had on many lives.
Several have shared memories of the 57-year-old since his tragic demise. Of Molly, one co-worker noted: “When I got the news I was shocked. I burst into tears. I would have known Molly, as I would have worked with him for like close to 20 years, he was a humble man, a great man. You know the market had a lot of noise but I have never heard Molly curse or be angry. This man is a gem. There is not another person in here that I can identify Molly’s ways with, not one other person,” the distraught female colleague noted, while adding that Molly would give fish to persons who were in need or did not have enough finances to cover their purchases.
Another worker dismissed the suggestion that Molly was just a mere colleague.
“My colleague? He is more like a father to me. When I got the call the morning, Sharon called me and told me that Papi get stab up. I said, ‘How you mean Papi get stab up?’ I said, ‘You have the wrong person, not Molly.’ It hit me like someone actually hit me in my head with a rock. I was so confused. I was in pain, I came to work and when I got to work the atmosphere was different. In here was dead, everything was down-spirited. Look when I think about it, it does got me off-set,” the young man said fighting back tears.
Earlier in the year fisherfolk at the Bridgetown Market had held an impromptu birthday celebration to show the respected St John resident just how much they loved and respected him. Now amid their grief, those same fisherfolk have made a condolence board in the fish market for friends, family, acquaintances and customers at Molly’s former stall to pay their respect.
But the pain felt by all and sundry paled in comparison to that being endured by mother Elsa Small who, within earshot of Molly’s siblings, stated emphatically he was the best of her children. “I got one foot and I lost my baby. That is one there sitting down too [referring to his sister Sylvia Small]. If the first did dead, I wouldn’t mind, if the second did dead, I wouldn’t mind, but praise God them carry along the best.”
Outside the market, some remembered Molly, the tough and powerful forward for the Hawks Basketball Club that competed in the island’s first division league in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He was called to national trials on a number of occasions without quite making the final cut at a time when local basketball was at its zenith. One former associate also recalled the 17-year-old schoolboy who would always be willing to lend his cherished basketball to others less fortunate to possess their own.
Stephen ‘Molly’ Small did not walk with kings and queens. But to those who knew him, laughed with him, dined with him, played with him, worked with him and loved him, he was royalty personified. Rest in eternal peace.