Thu | Aug 24, 2017

Footprints | Viola McLean-Brissett - Western woman gone to cook elsewhere

Published:Tuesday | May 23, 2017 | 5:00 AMPaul Williams
Viola McLean-Brissett and her granddaughter Ornella Spencer.

Viola McLean-Brissett was truly a western Jamaica woman. She was born in Balaclava, St Elizabeth, and moved to live with her then husband-to-be Vivian Brissett of Warsop, Trelawny. She settled with Brissett in New Hope in the same parish, and out of that union came four children - Termita, Evadney, Eunice and Emmanuel.

Mr Brissett met and befriended Viola in the market at Balaclava, where she sold ground produce. She continued to sell there even after moving to Trelawny. After her husband predeceased her, she peddled her goods in Charles Gordon Market in Montego Bay, St James.

In the latter part of her life, Viola lived with some of her grandchildren in Paradise, Norwood, St. James, the parish in where she died in March. On Sunday, April 23, her remains were interred in the New Hope Holiness Born Again Pentecostal Church Cemetery. The thanksgiving service was held at the church.

Among the relatives Viola has left behind are one son, two daughters, 16 grandchildren, 41 great-grandchildren, one brother, one sister, nieces and nephews. One of her grandsons, Kenrick Picknight, said she was not "hamstrung by her humble beginnings."

"She was a go-getter. I admired that," Picknight told Footprints.

Viola had to fend for herself from a very early age in the Balaclava market, Picknight said, and did not attend school for any long period of time. Her hard work continued when her husband died shortly after their fourth child was born. To provide for the young children, Viola farmed and took her produce to market.

Picknight said Viola would travel for years, with loads on her head from New Hope to Christiana to get to the market truck that would take her to the Balaclava Market. She also operated a shop and bar in her community, and was regarded as the community matriarch because of her industriousness.

Miss Vi's shop was a popular Sunday-morning eating spot for the men in the community. Picknight remembers her cooking in her thatched kitchen on Saturday nights after returning from the Charles Gordon Market. She would prepare the food for the men, who were expecting her rum, coffee, bread and fried fish the following mornings.

Now, they can only savour the memories of Miss Vi's delights.