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Roving with Lalah - Welcome to Maggotty

Published:Tuesday | April 20, 2010 | 12:00 AM
A fisherman and his son row through the lower Black River Morass, St Elizabeth, in search of shrimp. - File Photo
A man gets ready to dive into the Black River in Maggotty, St Elizabeth. - Ian Allen/Photographer

On the banks of the Black River in Maggotty, St Elizabeth, Roxborough Shakespeare, known to the good people of the community as Roxy, is cheerfully towelling off from his midday swim. His greying hair is dripping wet as he quickly manoeuvres the towel up and down his arms, trying to get dry as quickly as he can.

"Water warm tiday, young bwoy!" he said to me as I stood on a rock about 50 metres away. "Yuh can get in a swim before yuh go back to town. Town water nuh sweet so," he added with a smile.

I had met Roxy, a 70-something-year-old shoemaker earlier that morning at his cramped shop in Maggotty. He was sitting behind a huge machine with a spinning wheel with a woman's shoe in his hand.

"Welcomes to Maggotty!" he said. "Meck mi done wid Miss Darling boot and den we can conversate."

I had arrived in the community no more than 20 minutes earlier and stumbled upon Roxy's shop while trying to find someone to ask about life in Maggotty. "Me will tell yuh, man. Just have a seat," he said.

Smelly feet

So I had a seat on a wooden stool at the entrance to the small shop. The smell of feet was hard to stomach as the shoes hanging all around threatened to get the best of me. I tried to take my mind off this by asking Roxy how long he had been working in Maggotty.

"Well mi is 70-plus now, so is about tutty year now, mi son," he said with a hint of surprise in his voice, as if he had only just realised how long it was himself.

"Yuh see me doing di shoemaking and yuh believe is dis mi doing long time, but dat is not so. I used to work pon di trainline dem doing maintenance work, but dat dry up now. Mi move to di shoemaking after dat," said Roxy, using a rag to wipe beads of sweat from his forehead.

I asked him how he learned the trade. "Well mi always used to see di shoemaker dem at work when mi was into short pants and mi did like it, so me always used to watch dem and try to learn. When di time present itself, mi just work at it until mi catch it proper," he said.

"Yuh done now, Roxy? Mi have tings fi do yuh know," said someone behind me. I looked around and saw a woman poking her head inside the shop. She was middle-aged and wore glasses low on her nose.

"Yes, Miss Darling, dem done. I was just chatting to di gentleman," said Roxy. "Gentleman or no gentleman, mi need di shoes fi go market."

Roxy handed her a pair of freshly polished shoes and she took them with a grunt.

"When mi passing back I check yuh," she said and walked away.

"Dat old woman yuh see," whispered Roxy. "Run mi down fi di shoes and den don't have nuh money fi pay.

"Anyway, dat is what I did was have to do. I going river now to go have a swim, for di place is very hot. Walk wid me and come look pon di river. Yuh can't come so far and not look at it," said Roxy, walking outside. I asked him if he didn't need to close the doors of the shop. "No sah, is pure old boot inside, nobody nuh want dat," he said.

I walked with the man to the river and as he took his shirt off and jumped into the water, I looked around. In the distance there was a boat with three men on board and, on the other side, there was a handful of young boys swimming. It was a serene scene at the Black River, not something you see everywhere these days. It seemed going to the river at some point during the day is a must for the people of Maggotty and nearby communities and, from the few minutes I spent there that day, I can completely understand why.