Festus Williams scores 100
GAYLE, St Mary:
Last December, St Mary-based farmer Festus Williams celebrated his 100th birthday with family and a group of close friends at the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Gayle, St Mary.
Williams, who was born on December 9, 1915 in Blytheston, St James, is a witty and good-humoured man whose memory stretches deep into the last century.
Speaking from the home of his neighbour and primary carer Verona Danvers, he told Rural Xpress: "When I was a boy, we used to play gig and catch a lot of birds. There are less birds now, but nobody can say why or where they have gone.
"One of my earliest memories is when my mother took me to an estate. That's the first time I saw a man cutting sugar cane real fast. My mother didn't have anybody to leave me with so she took me to work. I remember those days; I was walking, but still very young.
"My mother died when I was a baby, so I didn't have anybody to send me to school. My father wasn't worth nothing; he was just good for breeding women. When he died, he didn't even leave a cutlass (laughs). But I forgive him still because he worked to look after us."
Williams, who has 10 (six surviving) siblings, added: "I've done carpentry, worked in a rum distillery, cut sugar cane, and worked in a factory, which was from 1944. I liked it at the time because nuttn more nuh deh (laughs)'.
Williams' hearing is failing, and he is undeniably perturbed at no longer being able to walk. He explained: "Yes, I'm 100 years old, but sometimes I wonder if a disaster deh pon mi' because I don't feel good, and my belly hurts."
In spite of his ailments, the centenarian looks healthy, has fairly good vision (considering his age), and is able to reveal the much-coveted secret to longevity. "'[In Exodus 20:12] God said honour your father and mother that your days may be longer on the land, which the Lord thy God has given thee,' and that is important."
As a young man, Williams, also known as Masha, relocated to the district of Gayle, where he currently resides. He believes Jamaica has changed significantly during the seven decades since he moved into the community, and not necessarily for better.
He explained: "Jamaica was much better before, but it wasn't civilised (laughs). Back then, people were more fool-fool, and things like food and nourishment were more plentiful. I wonder how things were so cheap back then, even the things that came from foreign. You used to be able to get a big piece of bread for a shilling or 10 cents; it was so big you couldn't eat it off (laughs)."