Michael Reckord, Gleaner Writer
This is the final instalment of a two-part article on the late Archie Lindo. Part one covered Lindo's childhood and early involvement in the arts, up to writing the play Forbidden Fruit (in which, Lindo said, Louise Bennett made her Jamaican stage debut), as well as Lindo's poetry being aired on BBC.
When he was in his 20s and working with the Hookworm Commission, Archie got a chance to travel around the island. As a singer, he took part in about 30 concerts, mainly in St James. Archie said "I lived in Cambridge at the time and I formed a little cultural group and put on a variety show called Stolen Sweets."
He formed another club while stationed in Bath, St Thomas, putting on concerts and organising debates. Later, when he went to live in Kingston, Archie took part in elocution contests there, along with Ernest Cupidon, Una Marson, broadcaster Joe Pinchin, and actress Dorothy Blondel Francis.
One organiser of the elocution contests was the Poetry League of Jamaica. Another was Marcus Garvey. Archie was still living in Bath when he entered one contest staged by the latter.
Chuckling at the memory, Archie said he persuaded another member of staff at Bath to go to Kingston and enter the contest, too. "The other fellow who went with me came first," Archie said ruefully. "I came second or third."
He also remembered some of his friends scolding him for being at Edelweiss Park "with all those black people". His reply was, "Look, don't talk that way to me. These are my friends and I have no apologies to make about going".
In 1938, when Archie was 30 years old and working as a staffer at the Quarantine Department, he was witness to a watershed event in Jamaican history. "I saw the first strike on the Kingston waterfront," he said. "I saw that strike developing from one wharf to the other. It was a fantastic thing to watch. They (wharf labourers) were getting little and nothing and were striking for more pay."
While a member of the Poetry League of Jamaica, Archie began producing a weekly column called The Poets Corner for The Gleaner. It meant compiling poems by, mostly, Jamaican poets and writing an introductory verse for each column. Later, he added another column, Theatre Chatter.
For the Poetry League, he published five annual yearbooks, from 1939-43, and also published his book of creative writing. In it were his poems, short stories and play, Under the Skin.
At about the time his last play, The Maroon, was being produced, Archie started working at Jamaica's only radio station, ZQI, on Seaview Avenue. This was mainly as a reader of poetry from the Poetry League, but he also did broadcasts on health issues and would introduce the regular pop music programme featuring local bands. (Dennis Gick, the station manager, would introduce the classical music programmes.)
Archie was asked to take over the station when Gick left for Canada to study. After the war ended, Archie made the programming more Jamaican by, among other things, getting the Jamaica Military Band to play (from the lawn, for the studio was tiny) and putting Louise Bennett on radio.
"That made her popular," Archie said. "Some big St Andrew man heard her on radio and she (subsequently) got a job to write poems for The Gleaner, for which she got the magnificent sum of one guinea for each poem."
Archie also started broadcasting cricket matches - with Jamaican voices. Few people had radios at home then and people would gather at bars and listen to the radios there.
Other notable events for Archie as a radio news reporter were covering the first general election in 1944 - alone, he said - at ZQI and, years later, when the station had become RJR, his reporting of the Kendal train crash.
In the 1940s, Archie had his first photographic exhibition at the Institute of Jamaica and then another at Hills Galleries. After that, he had a number at the Tom Redcam library.
When I met Archie some 50 years ago, he was a critic for The STAR and wrote reviews of both performing and fine arts shows.
Louise Bennett's diary, published on August 8, 2006 in The Gleaner, contains these excerpts:
October 31, 1942: People in the theatre world say I am a natural actress, and I am cast in Forbidden Fruit, a play written by Archie Lindo. It opens tonight at the Ward Theatre in Kingston and stars George Bowen, Vere Johns, Eric Coverley, Inez Hibbert, Ivorall Davis. The theatre pack and, according to a reporter in the audience, "hundreds are turned away". Them vex, so till.
July 2, 1943: Once again I appear in another play by Archie Lindo. It opens at the Ward Theatre. This one is called Under the Skin and it is produced by the Jamaica Arts Society. It is a comedy-drama and is described in the programme as "a daring exposť of the colour question blended with the old charm of comedie a la vernacular", which is right up my speed. Plenty plenty tourist is in the audience and them join the native folk in the laughter."
For his outstanding contribution to the arts and journalism, Archie was awarded a Silver Musgrave Medal by the Institute of Jamaica and an Order of Distinction (OD) by the Government.