Mothers and Mothers-in-Law – by Francis Quamina Farrier

Mothers and Mothers-in-Law – by Francis Quamina Farrier

Francis Quamina Farrier

Today, Mother’s Day 2017, has come at a time when both my mother and mother-in-law are no longer with us. My mother Stella passed away in 1963 at age 58. My mother-in-law Olive passed away in 2016 at age 105. My mother delivered six children. Two died in infancy. My mother-in-law delivered ten children. Two died in infancy. Both my mother, Stella, and my mother-in-law, Olive, were very strong women who laid down the law in the home for their children. Simple though they were, both were fantastic mothers. Their Law-abiding lives were a great contribution to the smoother running of Guyana. I regard them both as unsung heroines.   

Stella Farrier 1905 – 1963

Before I continue, let me tell you about the two great men who were the husbands of my mother Stella, and my mother-in-law Olive. My father migrated to British Guiana from Grenada and worked primarily in the hinterland of the country. He was at home three or four times each year and spent about two to three weeks each time before returning to his job in the interior. My father-in-law was a Georgetown citizen who worked at the Transport and Harbours Department in Kingston, Georgetown. He returned home from work every day. I consider both my father and my father-in-law as unsung heroes.


Mother Olive Blackmore; 1911 – 2016

However, while my mother died before my father, my father-in-law died at a young age (just 48) leaving my mother-in-law, Olive a widow in her early forties, to take care of eight young children. It was very difficult. Both my mother and my mother-in-law were women of deep Faith; both were Protestant before their marriage. Both my father and my father-in-law were Catholic and their wives converted to the Catholic Faith after their marriage. Both my Mother Stella and my Mother-in-Law Olive, became very active in the Catholic Church and were shining examples for their children.

In my humble rural childhood home, my mother, Stella, laid down the rules for her children – three boys and one girl; chores were neuter gender in our home; there was no “boy wuk and girl wuk” in the home. For my two brothers and I, our sister Averil who was the last of my mother’s children, was treated like a princess; something which my mother encouraged. My mother Stella drilled it into our young heads, never, ever to hit our sister, which was a training all mothers ought to instill in their male children at a very young age. “Bend the tree while it is young”, is that wise and practical statement which has been with us for a long time.

There were also non-violent punishments in our home. No dinner being one of them; so the offending child would go to the table, lift the cover over the cup and plate, and discover that they were empty. The system worked perfectly and my mother regularly pointed out that we should always do the right thing. One of the things which proved my mother great, was instilling in her young boy children the art of being brave.

Mothers who also instill into their girl children that they must never, ever allow a boy to hit them, not even in fun, will greatly reduce the oh, so many incidents of domestic abuse.  “The hand that rocks the cradle, rulers the world”, is a well-known saying, and mothers who drill that “no violence” rule into their children at a very young age, are doing societies a great service. I say without fear of contradiction, that if there were more mothers like my Mother Stella, there would be zero Domestic Violence in Guyana.

Putting all sorts of schemes in place after a young man or young woman become perpetrators and victims of domestic violence, is like shutting the barn door after the horse has already bolted. Mothers of young children, therefore, have a very important role to play in the scheme of the reduction of domestic violence. The many influential individuals and organizations which are very vocal about Domestic Violence, never seem to go to the source of the problem, except to harp about the “men of violence”, and really never to say a word about the “Men of Valour”, and the “Men of Purpose”, who were properly brought up by mothers like my Mother Stella, who possessed great parenting skills.

The many individuals and organizations seem to miss the fact that they can recruit the good men as partners in their programmes against domestic violence, instead of treating all men as violators! On this Mother’s Day, 2017, I hold up my dear mother Stella as a shining example of a mother, without much financial means, who trained her boys and girl, the way to treat the opposite gender, and so avoid domestic violence.

As mentioned before, my father worked in the hinterland; he was a ‘bushman’, but unlike the average city mother, my mother used to send her three young sons to visit Daddy in the bush. She would take us to the Sprostons stelling which was located at the extreme western end of Broad Street in Charlestown and see us safely board the all-white river ferry boat the SS RH CARR, which travelled up the Demerara River to Wismar and Mackenzie. Our destination was at Sand Hills and later Dora, where we spent a week with Daddy. My knowledge and love for Guyana started during those trips to the hinterland to visit my Father in the hinterland.

Mother Olive Blackmore with her brood (circa 1955)

My dear mother-in-law, Olive, was a powerful woman in her own right. She was yet a relatively young woman in her early forties when her husband died.  She took the decision never to remarry and worked extremely hard to raise her eight surviving children as a single mother. Being very attractive, there were one or two men who wanted to become her new husband and step-father to her eight growing children, but she would have none of it, and successfully raised her eight children into adulthood.

When I started visiting her daughter Patricia at her Cummings Street, Georgetown home, Mom sat me down and announced the rule; “You leave at nine o’clock.” At 8.59 p.m., Mom would commence closing all windows. After my wife and I became engaged, I respectfully requested an extension to the visiting period. Moms Olive extended it to 9.30 p.m. She was always clear in her rules; no ifs and buts. If only there were many more mothers like my mother-in-law, Olive! On matters of policy, she was firm, and on matters of the heart, she was a darling.

She was small of stature, but an Amazonian of character, and was the envy of those who had financial means. Her children were never a constant headache to her as were some children of some well-to-do mothers. With eight children – five boys and three girls – Mom Olive never had the police visit her home to look for or arrest any of her children for breaking the law. She made a positive contribution to Law and Order in British Guiana/Guyana. Just imagine if there were many, many more mothers like my Mother-in-Law Olive, what a greater country Guyana would be!

However, I have to say that the female Police ranks at the Alberttown Police Station in Georgetown began visiting my Mother-in-Law when she reached the age of 100. They visited her twice every year at her Cummings Street home; at Christmas time and also on Mother’s Day, and delivered goodies and their welcome company. Those female cops recognized the contributions my Mother-in-Law Olive made to Guyana over her long and productive life of 105 years.

This year, for the first time, both my mother and my mother-in-law, are no longer physically in my life, and I wonder whether they are now sharing their stories about their special brand of mothering, now that they are in the Great Beyond.

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY, 2017, to all mothers and mother figures in Guyana and in the Guyana Diaspora.

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  • eileen keating  On May 14, 2017 at 3:42 am

    A lovely story.

  • demerwater  On May 14, 2017 at 5:49 am

    “God gave us mothers and tried to be fair.
    But when he gave me you, mother dear, I got more than my share”.
    Were the last lines in the very first Christmas-card I bought for my mother. (I was the poster-boy of a mother’s boy).
    I had spent the ‘sixpence’ coin ( ‘bit-‘na-half’) my uncle had just given me before he boarded the “Queriman” – the first leg of his journey home to Leguan.
    I bought the card from a street vendor on Lombard street. I did not have any money to buy the (four-cent stamp) to send it to Leguan. By the end of the week, I myself was going to Leguan for the Christmas.
    Imagine my pleasant surprise, not to mention my mother’s unbridled joy, when the card arrived in Leguan – two days before Christmas.
    I had left the card ‘hidden in plain sight’ – a cry for help, if there ever was one; and my father had obliged, as he always would do, by addressing the envelope and affixing the stamp.
    But by far, the most memorable “Mother’s Day” was at LBI. A group of us organized a cricket match, Fathers vs. sons; mothers in the stands. Unremarkable, you might say.
    What you would not know was that Lawrence “McG” Stuart, a 27 year old Mechanical Engineer, had to go through his whole house to ‘seek and destroy’ every bit of evidence that he smoked. His parents were coming to spend time.
    A few years later, at Albion, I went through a similar experience. We had bought half of a pig for the Christmas season. Imagine our consternation when my mother-in-law announced that she would be spending Christmas with us.
    We had about one week to rid the house of pork and beef products.
    Mothers and Mothers-in-law! What collective influence!
    In East Indian culture, there is a saying that the ambition of every Indian girl is to be a mother-in-law. I had a ringside view of that concept, in my maternal grandmother.
    I later found the full quotation – more relevant and poignant – now!

  • Deen  On May 14, 2017 at 10:06 am

    Beautiful article Francis Quamina Farrier, thoughtfully written in recognition of your mother, Stella, and your mother-in-law, Olive. They were angelic maternal role models, but more importantly, good mothers.
    Thanks for sharing your personal experience.

  • Ken Corsbie  On May 14, 2017 at 11:05 pm

    Good one from Francis… as usual..

    On Sun, May 14, 2017 at 12:03 AM, Guyanese Online wrote:

    > guyaneseonline posted: “Mothers and Mothers-in-Law – by Francis Quamina > Farrier Today, Mother’s Day 2017, has come at a time when both my mother > and mother-in-law are no longer with us. My mother Stella passed away in > 1963 at age 58. My mother-in-law Olive passed away in ” >

  • Carol  On May 17, 2017 at 5:36 am

    Really great article. Thanks for sharing Mr Farrier. Your mom reminded me of my own mother. What a legacy to hand down to our children and our children’s children.

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