Mon | Oct 23, 2017

Dad far from feeble at 104

Published:Wednesday | June 17, 2015 | 12:00 AMRenee Dillion, Gleaner Writer
Bailey prepares to cut his birthday cake with (from left) grandson Courtney Goulbourne, great-grandson Damion Reid and granddaughter Sandra O’Meally.
Ragland Bailey, who celebrated his 104th birthday at his home in Clarendon on Sunday, is still active on his farm.
Bailey (centre) with family members who turned out to celebrate his birthday.
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The smell of chicken foot soup and fried chicken greeted The Gleaner on the way up the stony track.

A blue tarpaulin as a tent, a yard filled with people and a table decorated with cakes were the first things in sight.

It was Ragland Bailey's birthday party.

If you live in Morant, a small community on the outskirts of Frankfield in Clarendon, then you know him and he knows you, your parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. After all, he has been living in the community for more than 100 years.

"Mi born June 10, 1911. I am 104 years old," he said as he shook his grey-haired head.

The deep wrinkles on his face seemed to carve a map of his life but 'Man-Man' Bailey, as he is known in his community, is far from feeble. In fact, on the day of The Gleaner's visit, instead of sitting on the chair provided for him, he was perched on the high wall of his verandah.

"I am comfortable here, I sit here all the time," he said.

His voice was slow and he stumbled on his words sometimes, but the wizened old man is filled with vigour. The sun never catches him in bed.

"Mi wake up very early, like 7, 6, 5 and sometimes 4 o'clock. I don't like to sleep in the bed at all. My nature wouldn't give me to sleep late. I prefer to be on my feet," he said.

His family members describe him as a hard-working man, of which there is no doubt, as his hands are gnarled like the orange trees on the way to his house.

"Every morning I go to the field and tie out mi animals. I love to do my chopping. If I wasn't looking for you people, I would be in the field a chop."

 

his best friends

 

It quickly became apparent that his tools are his best friends. His pupils widened and his frail cheeks curled into a smile as he shared his secret to staying strong and healthy.

"A mi cutlass and mi fork, a jus' dat keep me. Young people need to do what they see me doing."

When his grandson, Courtney Goulbourne, handed him his fork that was being kept safe under his bed, Bailey could not hide his excitement.

"Yes, sir!" he said as he stepped on his fork, reached down into the soil and started digging as though he never wanted to stop.

His hands are filled with strength, as is his quiver. He has six children alive, 29 grandchildren, 66 great-grandchildren and 30 great-great grandchildren. He told The Gleaner that he is a happy man.

After 104 years, Bailey only has one regret. He is no longer able to go down to the market to sell his produce.

"I would load up my donkey with my meat and go to the market, but dem thief the donkey sometime in the year before last."

But family members have had to hide the animal in order to prevent him from working so hard.

"All now him woulda still waan work, you know. So we have to hide the donkey, take it away from him so him no see it or him would still be going on it," said Ezra Gayle, a friend of the family.

But hard work is not the only thing that Bailey is known for.

When asked what kind of father he is, in unison, all those who had gathered gave out, "Strict!"

His oldest daughter, 76-year-old Theslyn Bailey, recalled her fondest memory of her dad growing up. She revisited the time she saw a lady at the river with sores on her neck.

Theslyn said she shouted: "Sorey neck a come!"

The lady, who knew her father had a zero-tolerance approach to that kind of behaviour, went to him straight away. Her father met her on the road and gave her a flogging that she still remembers more than 50 years later.

The Gleaner asked Theslyn what is one value that her father instilled in her that she has taken throughout life.

"Never call people nicknames," she responded.

Her father's disciplinary method seemed to have worked.

Theslyn was not the only who has had to face Man-Man's court of discipline. His great grandson, Damion Reid, told The Gleaner how he was disciplined for not wearing a shirt on the road.

Though they all seemed to agree that the centenarian was a stickler for discipline, he believes he was quite lenient.

"I am easy-going, man. I may talk a little word that I shouldn't talk, but I always go back to God and ask Him to forgive me."