Christmas time in St. Vincent and the Grenadines was special in the 1970’s. Work was at a slow pace and in early December I began to hear about Nine Mornings. This tradition started almost a hundred years ago when the local Catholic Church held early morning services on the nine days before Christmas.
On the nine evenings before Christmas everyone would return from work as usual, have dinner, and go bed. Then at around 3am the island would come alive. People would wake up, bathe, dress and prepare for work. But instead of heading to their workplace they would make their way to a friend’s house, the Crow’s Nest, operated by Bobby Brisbane, The Aquatic Club, operated by Stilly Fraser, or Mariners Inn. Others would make their way to church or just to lime on the street corner or village centre. Myrtles Crab Hole at Indian Bay would open and do a good trade.
The festivities would continue until around 7am when the first LIAT arrived from Barbados. There were no runway lights in those days so the E.T. Joshua Airport closed between sunset and sunrise. The men with the bamboo poles would block vehicles from crossing the runway allowing the aircraft to land. This would tell everyone it was a working day and most would go to work. A bit red eyed but so was the boss.
Kingstown would close for lunch and every one would go home or to a restaurant for lunch. Maybe at this time of the year it closed a bit longer.
On the first morning Mike Nanton phoned me and told me to dress for work as there was a transmitter failure, or something like that. He soon arrived and we headed to a friend’s house that had a lot of food and drink on the table. After that first morning he did not have to call me again.
One morning I was at a house party with Keith Weekes. It must have been the 23rd or the 24th of December. We were close to the airport. The check in staff for LIAT were also there. So we gave them our tickets and passports and told them to check us in and we would make our way there. When we heard the unmistakable sound of the AVRO748 approaching we hurriedly left and arrived just as they were calling the flight. Those were the days when airline travel was pleasant and enjoyable. You could even buy a bottle of Whisky at Becks Liquor store the day before and share it on the flight home.
Maybe it was one of these morning events that a certain C&W Engineer and champion tennis player could not, or would not, enter the Aquatic Club. He remained just outside the ticket window where he was supplied with many drinks by his friends inside.
Mike Harvey, a C&W Head Office Engineer, and a Barbados Rigger, both of whom had to make periodic visits to the island scheduled several visits during this time.
Nine mornings is a Christmas tradition unique to St. Vincent. I am told it is still observed. It is time for me to partake in it again.