Mon | May 27, 2019

Laing Family Reunion : Appreciating the beauty of family

Published:Saturday | August 19, 2017 | 12:00 AMCarl Gilchrist
The commemorative plate.
Ellis James Laing presents Hyacinth Henriques-Douglas with a commemorative plaque for her side of the family.

Tracing their roots back to Israel Augustus Laing, who was born in 1867 and who later married Leanthe Elizabeth Turner on Christmas Eve in 1899, 25 members of the Laing family, all offspring of the late couple, had a family reunion in St Ann over the weekend of August 3 to 6.

The Laings originated from Brown's Hall, St Catherine, but their offspring, 14 in all, were not confined to the parish.

It was a wonderful four days for the family as, while they were based at Holiday Haven in Runaway Bay, they had several family outings, dined and worshipped together, making the occasion very special, and leaving with a lifetime of memories.

The schedule included visits to Rose Hall Great House, Burwood Beach, rafting on the Martha Brae, touring Green Grotto Caves, climbing Dunn's River Falls, and sightseeing at other locations.

On Sunday, August 6, they worshipped at Bethel United Church in Brown's Hall before a farewell lunch.

"It was really a good few days. We were able to spend time together," said Ellis James Laing, one of several grandchildren of Israel and Elizabeth and coordinator of the reunion.




"On the final day, Sunday, we went to the community that our grandparents came from, Brown's Hall, participated in a church service then paid homage to the ancestors who have gone before. We went to visit the tombs and then we had a final farewell luncheon. We then separated and some went back to England, back to the US, back to Kingston and St Catherine, and wherever else."

With the youngest family member at age eight and the oldest at 86, the team gathered for a reunion dinner last Saturday at Holiday Haven, laughing, chatting, and reminiscing on good times past and hoping for even better days ahead.

A wonderful presentation by singer Davell 'D. Suave' Thompson added spice to the occasion.

All households represented were given commemorative plaques to mark the occasion.

But beyond the excitement and fun, there was real meaning, real importance, to the occasion, according to Ellis James Laing.

"The thing is, family is the foundation of who I am and who we are as a family. We've always been very close-knit and we've always supported each other in good times and bad. We thought it would be important for us to not only meet for a funeral, which we do very often, but to meet to celebrate ourselves, celebrate our heritage," he pointed out.

"My father was one of 14 children for his parents (Israel and Leanthe) and the strong values that he learnt from his parents, he has passed on to us our cousins, first cousins, second cousins ... we are very close-knit, so really and truly, what we wanted to do was come together to celebrate not only at a funeral, but to celebrate ourselves, to celebrate our lives, and really just to appreciate the beauty of family."

Ellis further underscored the importance of family not just for members, but for the wider society.




According to him, much of today's social decay could be rectified with the upbringing of children based on good family values.

"Family is really very important and I think if Jamaica was to go back to the values of family and family life, we would be able to undo much of what is happening now. I believe that the crime situation and the social decay that we're facing is as a result of the absence of a good strong family unit that I was privileged to be a part of. My father (Randolph Laing) died at 97 and I think that rich heritage that we have got from him has helped us to be good contributors to the rest of the society."

The reunion also celebrated the recent achievements of younger family members, as outlined in the programme and included, among others, Cherise Laing, of Kingston, who earned her degree in Spanish in 2010 from the University of the West Indies and a diploma in teaching methodologies in foreign languages from the University of Chile. She is currently in Japan as part of the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme.

Also, Hyacinth Henriques-Douglas of Spanish Town, a past student of Tacius Golding and St Catherine high schools who graduated from the University of Technology in 2016 with a bachelor's of science degree in business education.