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In memoriam, Constance Mc Tair and Molly Ahye

Friday, May 4, 2018

Two women of stature, Constance Mc Tair and Iyalorisha Molly Ahye died on the same day, April 19, this year.

They were from the same generation, ten years apart in age, Ahye was born on May 29, 1933 and Mc Tair on March 11, 1943. They grew prominent as they and their peers guided us forward from early Independence. But the remarks made about them following their deaths have left me thinking about the unfortunate way we persist in treating our achievers, their accomplishments and our history.

From a newspaper column I gathered that Molly Ahye’s funeral was not representative of her life.

Ms Dara Healy, performance artist and founder of the Indigenous Creative Arts Network wrote that her article was “…a continuation of my personal campaign for us to institute a structured, mainstream approach to honouring and giving respect to our cultural icons”.

She also lamented, “As I sat in her transition ceremony, I pondered the curious fact that it was taking place in a chapel, although she was a proud, practising member of the Ifa/Orisa belief system. Indeed, she was no recent inductee to this form of worship. … I pondered, too, the fact that there was no dance”.

For a different reason I was also dismayed when I had to read former teacher and broadcaster, Mrs Marcia Riley’s recollection of Mrs Tair because it reminded me of a matter that I had experienced many years ago when I was researching some lectures on Calypso at the Government Broadcasting Unit.

Mrs Riley said Constance, who was Deputy Director of GBU, was “the first producer to record Despers Steel Orchestra on the hill, not to mention several calypsonians, musicians and artists whom she would interview for her weekly radio magazine programme Focus on the Arts”.

She added “It pained her that those programmes were erased together with interviews of Dr Eric Williams and other builders of the nation when funds were unavailable to purchase new recording tapes. A large chunk of her labour and our Media heritage gone! Pamela Benson … recalled the work Constance did with her at NALIS to save the photographic heritage of the Government Information Division, but their success was stymied…”.

I remember that I had gone to the GBU in the basement of Trinidad House, St Vincent Street to hear some recordings by Dr Gordon Rohlehr and I was disappointed when I discovered just what Mrs Riley revealed. Several tapes had been “processed”. I found out the same thing at the library of Radio Trinidad. More recently, while researching Young Kings Calypso Monarch competition, I encountered similar problems locating material at GISL.

I often wonder how many of our citizens are aware of the inharm that was done to Trinidad and Tobago when public servants (and other persons in the private sector) callously erased or dispensed with our written as well as our audio-visual records.

The “and others” refers to persons in charge of radio stations, the newspaper libraries, the former AVM television station and books as well as documents at certain homes.

What is important about the two ladies is that in their lifetimes they worked tirelessly to develop this country. They have left us with a mountain of precious memories and they have both published books which are now a part of their legacy.

Mc Tair’s book “The Bocas and the Bulldog –The Story of Sea Communication between Trinidad and Tobago” has relevance to the set of problems that we recently suffered with the sea bridge.

Molly Ahye wrote ““Golden Heritage: The Dance in Trinidad and Tobago.” As Emelda Lynch-Griffith, president, National Dance Association of TT said, “she was the “first dancer to author a book that is used extensively by students at both the secondary and tertiary levels”.

May they have peaceful eternal rest and may their families be comforted.


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