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Guyana’s oldest centenarian celebrates her 111th birthday

By admin / Posted on 10 January 2012

Written by Jeune Vankerick
Wednesday, 28 December 2011 02:43

…worked on Skeldon Estate for 6 cents per day

Ismay Spooner accepts her favourite choclates from Pandit Suresh Sugrim.“OBEDIENCE brings many blessings, but when you are disobedient, you allow a curse to come your way”, Ismay Spooner said, when asked about the secret of her longevity. 

Spooner, Guyana’s oldest citizen, celebrated her 111th birthday yesterday, reminiscing on her long life and her relationship with Jesus Christ.
When the Guyana Chronicle visited her home aback Corriverton, in an area called ‘Little Africa’,  yesterday morning, Mrs Spooner was well dressed and powdered, hair neatly braided, as she sat on her bed , prepared to meet her guests, which included Pandit Suresh Sugrim, along with his wife Devi Gossai and daughter Sandyha, of the New Jersey Arya Sama Humanitarian Mission.
The overseas-based visitors, who took nutritional items as gifts, along with her favourite chocolates and ice cream, had visited to celebrate and share with Guyana’s oldest citizen, and were in turn treated to hymns and spiritual songs, and tons of advice.
She was born on December 27, 1900, to Barbadian parents, Ebenizia and Livingston Hinkson, in their ‘flying fish’ homeland.
Her father died prior to her birth, so her mother was forced to work as a domestic in order to care for her and three other siblings.
‘My mother had to wash, cook, scrub, and bake, doing all the work for the same money. Not like now, a washer, a cook, a baker and a cleaner would receive different sums of money … in those days you had to do all the work for a little something.’
Laughing, she recalled being told by her mother that she was a’ baked cake’ at birth. Curious to known what she meant, Spooner explained, “I was a dried up baby and my mother used to cover me up, so that no one could see me. But one day, one of my mother‘s friends asked her why the baby was always covered, and on seeing me, the woman advised my mother to find a donkey which has a young foal, and give me a spoonful of the animal’s milk mixed with her breast milk for nine mornings. After complying with the order I became a fluffier baby.”
Ismay Spooner singing 'God be with you till we meet again'Then she sang ‘The sheep knows his Shepherds voice, ‘and thereafter reminded the visitors that when one is young, the world is full of glamour and there is no time for God. But when salvation is found, all of one’s thoughts are on God.’

Continuing her life story, she recalled leaving Barbados as a young girl, at about ten.
“My uncles heard about indentured labourers in the then British Guiana and told my mother, and she decided to bring me along with her. But on our arrival, the work on the sugar estate was hard
and my uncles along with other Barbadians, returned to their home.”
But her mother remained and worked at the Skeldon Estate.
Mrs. Spooner recalled being taken advantage of by white superiors, one of whom had impregnated her, resulting in her giving birth to a‘mulatto’ daughter, Elsie. The child died.
Then she married Harold Spooner, a fellow Bajan and a cane harvester. The union produced no children.
‘But, I worked hard. I baled punt. Throw manure. Cut cane. Weed grass. Break bricks. Fetch bagasse, all for six cents a day. Those days it was big money. We did not have notes in those days. When my mother and I first came at the estate, we were given a few sugar bags to spread as a mattress, a ‘caban’ [a cot] and a list to take to the shop. The shop keeper would keep the list, in which he will add whatever she took, and on Saturdays, when she got paid she would pay the bill.
“But after we embraced the Adventist message, we never collected our monies on Saturday, instead we would uplift it on Mondays, and one day the boss man asked why we were collecting the money on Monday, and we explained that it was because we were Adventist and that we were not doing any business on Saturdays anymore.
“The money was not much, but you could have done so much with it. I worked real hard when I left the estate, I worked in people’s kitchen, I worked from dawn to dusk … is now I am not working” she said.
Meanwhile, Ms Iris February became her caregiver in 2000, after realising that the old woman could not manage on her own.  Mrs Spooner had cared for Ms February’s mother until she attained the ripe old age of 102. Ms February told this publication that it is a joy caring for Ms Spooner, who was her mother’s best friend. The centenarian has no major health problem, except glaucoma, which has rendered her sightless.  The caregiver noted that Mrs Spponer is not a beneficiary of the National Insurance Scheme as it was not in existence when Spooner was in the workforce though she receives a weekly pension from the estate. To celebrate this special day, a thanksgiving service was held at the Corriverton Seventh Day Adventist Church.

 

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