I worked for 2 years in St. Vincent with Cable & Wireless. These were some of the good times of my life. Work hard and play hard.
C.O. Williams operated a quarry in Mespo Valley and did general road works. It was managed by a Bajan, Keith Weeks. Keith was not the type of manager that held meetings, or had any time for protocol. He told you as it was. If there was a problem he would give the person a good cussing using some good Bajan language. Once that was done a few drinks would appear and that was the end of it.
C.O. Williams had the contract to resurface the runway in Mustique and carried a lot of equipment across on the ferry. When the job was completed Keith went to collect the equipment and have a few drinks and food with the workers. I accompanied him. Mike Harvey, who worked with Cable & Wireless Head Office, was also on the Seimstrand that day.
The jetty in Mustique is close to Basil’s Bar. The road down to the shore is a concrete slab with a 90 degree turn at the bottom.
Keith left the equipment, including a small 2-wheel vibrating roller, close to the jetty, to be collected when he returned with instructions that no one was to touch it. Someone borrowed the roller to do some repairs to their yard and forgot to return it before he returned. When he heard that Keith was on island and asking for his roller he drove it back. He was wearing a cap. Now this roller has 3 gears. Reverse, slow and very slow. NO Brakes. Braking relies on the compression of the engine and friction of the wheels. When he got to the top of the hill he was in a hurry and was in Slow.
After gravity came into play the roller accelerated. He tried to downshift into Very Slow but failed. He got into neutral. He was now in control of a heavy roller accelerating down a hill with a 90Deg Turn fast approaching. To the drivers credit he almost made the turn. The roller went broadside, in a manner that any rally driver would be proud of, until it hit the sand and flipped several times.
Keith and & I had a grand stand view of all of this from a few meters away. The machine came to rest upside down. The driver was thrown clear and was unhurt. His hat was squashed between the ground and the solid metal wheel. Keith immediately held his meeting giving the man a full cussing including some choice Bajan words that would make a fish seller blush.
While this was going on those present quickly turned the roller upright and found that there was little damage apart from the steering wheel partially broken. This helped to bring the meeting to a close. But not before Keith took up the cap and gave it to the driver saying “Your #$*%&@! head should have been in this hat!”
We adjourned the meeting to the Rum Shop at the top of the hill. A goat had been killed and was made into the national dish of St. Vincent – Curry Goat. Large quantities or various refreshments were consumed. Keith and the driver shared many a drink together and everything was forgotten.
I think that this management style has its good points. In some companies there would be an investigation, a report, a disciplinary committee, and several warning letters, Intervention by the health and safety committee and reams of paper work. The issue would have simmered for months. Here it was dealt with on the spot.
I am sure no one present would ever drive a roller downhill in high gear. The day’s excitement did not end there.
On the trip back to Kingstown the sea became very rough! With the heavy load on the deck the Seimstrand rolled alarmingly. As soon as we got to the Bequia Channel the buckets came out for those needing them. The captain did not want his deck soiled. When Captain Ollivierre took off his uniform and put on swimming trunks I remember a bottle of whisky appearing. We had to settle our nerves, and the empty bottle could be used as floatation device!
We made it back to Kingstown safely and docked at the Grenadines Warf. Just another day in Hairoun.