Writers often look back in time at characters and events from the past. It is the starting point from which great works of literature often spring. Memory is an indispensible tool for the writer. It breathes life into writing. The mind works in wonderful and mysterious ways sometimes. William Faulkner captured perhaps the essential feature of memory and writing when he said, "The past is never dead, it is not even past." What remains with us is alive and evolving, whether it is in our understanding of people and events, or in the deepening of our own self consciousness and awareness. As we write, we grow as writers and as people. Aldous Huxley expounded upon the importance of 'Memory' when he commented, "Every man's memory is his private literature."
Members of the Writer's Circle bring memories of their own back to life in creative and inspiring ways. Here are some samples:
Prickle Yellow Macca
by Brenda Quin
Driving along the winding country roads of
comes a car - a very sleek Citroen. The roads, I recall, were bridged by small, narrow ‘spans’ over gullies and there was an unwritten law that cars always gave way to big trucks and buses at these spots. Manchester, Jamaica
Imagine the beautiful countryside: great trees of many varieties, and also lots of bushes – some known as Prickle Yellow Macca. Macca, in Jamaican talk, meant prickles - sharp, spiky ones that could hold you fast in their grip.
The Citroen is approaching one of these small bridges, and a large country bus approaches from the opposite direction. It soon becomes obvious that the driver of the car is not going to give way to the bus. The latter, is filled with women going to market, their produce piled high on top of the bus – plus some chickens, and a squealing pig. The car proceeds, the bus does likewise – they meet, nose-to-nose with much honking of horns, and yells from the bus driver and passengers. The bus driver descends; the car driver also. He stands haughtily, waiting, sporting a spiky crew cut. The two drivers argue for a while, then there is silence. A black lady leans through a window, surveys the scene and the white driver, looks him up and down, focuses on his crew cut, and finally says, in a loud voice, “Lawd, him favour Prickle Yellow Macca!”
The Jamaicans always seem able to sum up a situation very aptly, having a great sense of humour. Everyone, myself included, burst out with big ‘belly’ laughs. So what else could the driver of the Citroen do, but pull back and let the bus pass? Still waving and cheering the
victorious ladies in the bus, we all proceed on our way.
Dawn on the
South Coast Beach
Dawn, and the sun blossoming
over the horizon. Beach sand,
a warm softness to the feet.
Night scents, linger, mingle
with the smoke of charcoal
fires, and rise on the gentle
Pale seaweed, wrinkled, drying,
shriveled, ripple washed
on the edge of the morning sea.
Children’s voices, laughter,
feet pattering on tiles,
running to the water,
arms open, hair flying,
bodies lit by rays of
A child shouts “Canoes
coming round the bluff.”
The fishermen paddling
with rapid strokes (of their
oars). The catch was good
Women’s singing, clapping
hands, bodies swaying.
“Lord what a way we
Live good. Hallelujah -Thank
you Jesus. Now we go
Frigate birds soaring
overhead, observing, wings
without motion, riding on
currents of air, waiting
impatiently for their share .
By: Brenda Quin.
Sunset over the open water.
Childhood at Sweetwood
(Mandeville, Jamaica, 1932.)
Blue Jacaranda flowers on my
favourite tree, a small girl
makes mud pies on the
pitted limestone boulder.
Mud pies are fun to make,
but I wish my Dad was
They tell me he has gone
away, but I do not understand
why God has taken him
By: Brenda Quin
A favourite spot with my parents,
the endless miles peppered with stops and fights.
As a twelve year old, there seemed better places to be,
unwieldly weather; heads praying to the wind.
Cold that bit deep.
The corner store, a maze of lanes,
in that small fishing village;
colluding with a sense of survival and reliance. A close unkept place.
I remember the boat, loosely termed.
Barely my weight and a bit in length, rowlocks rattling, scarred paint hanging by
fingertips... and a sense of foreboding on weather-beaten planks.
Alone on the boat with Grandpa Mair.
A heavy day framed the barren coast.
Heading out, anxiety gripped as home leaped up and down.
But Grandpa was calm, pipe firmly fixed and hand at the helm;
steering a course through the dips.
Of few words, his eyes smiled beneath his worn cap as he read my thoughts.
After a lifetime he knew the limits of where we were,
and of me too, that twelve year old boy.
Even the wind and salt splashed spray, my eyes equinted ahead.
There was a sense of passage that waited;
Grandpa had me pull in the lines and lead us home.
Those days with him were few, but best of all.
By: J. Mark Bailey
My Dad and the Dam Busting Bomb
By: C.G. Wilson
My dad, George Henry Wilson, was a small, quiet and almost "invisible" man. My mother ruled the household with a "rod of iron". She made all the decisions. She was the disciplinarian. She spoke for all of us. 'Us' included my sister, Joyce, who was ten years older than me. Sis and I were never close as we had so little in common. When I was four she even kicked me down the stairs and I still today wear a crooked nose due to that incident.
However, there is one incident that stands out like a beacon, shining so bright that it overshadows all my other childhood memories. It showed a side of dad I never knew existed. Emotion. Yes, he laughed. He could joke. But there was never any soul to these, He was not a man to play or communicate with me. He never read me a story or engaged in any games that I saw other fathers do with their children. But he did something not many other children's dad's did. He made me "things". When I saw a friend with a gun when we played 'cowboys and indians', and I wanted something similar he made one. Handcrafted out of a piece of wood and metal and complete with a firing hammer. My friends were envious. When someone had a toy car he made one for me out of an old pram. A cricket bat came next. Even a train set complete with engine, carriages and track. There were so many more things and that's when I first saw the emotion. He was proud of the toys he had made. A real beaming smile would come across his face when he saw me play with them. Everything he made worked. Dad could make anything.
His workshop was a garage as we never had a car. Filled with all sorts of old bits and pieces. He never threw anything away and he would spend all his hours in there driving Mum mad. I knew he worked for an engineering firm as a capstan/operator making machine parts. He even demonstrated these machines at exhibitions in London. He was their top machinist and he trained others in the art.
I was born during the war years. The Second World War, towards the end in 1943. I envied other friends' dads who had served in the services because mine didn't do anything that exciting. Dad worked for an aircraft company called Vickers-Armstrong (Aviation) Ltd at Brooklands, nr. Weybridge, in Surrey, England throughout the whole of the war. When I questioned him about what he did there, he was always a little vague. "Aircraft parts," he would say. What he didn't tell me was that he worked alongside a very famous engineer and designer, Sir Barnes Wallis.
I found that out when a movie called "The Dam Busters" came out in 1955. It was a huge hit and starred Richard Todd as the dashing wing commander, Guy Gidson, and Michael Redgrave as Barnes Wallis, the inventor of "the bouncing bomb" that was the subject of the film. Dad actually showed some interest in this as films were never before on his agenda.
"We'll go and see that, son," he said. I was amazed. Dad taking me to the cinema? This was a first. Before, I would either go on my own, or with my friends or more usually with Mum. At the age of 13, Dad was going to take me to see a movie. Wow!
"Dad knew Mr. Wallis, you know." Mum piped up when she learnt Dad was taking me. He even came to our house. Him and Dad would spend hours pouring over pictures -"
"Blueprints." Dad would correct her.
"Is this true, Dad?" I was incredulous. Dad knowing Barnes Wallis and he even had come to our house! What a story to tell my school friends. "Did you work on the bomb?"
"Go on, tell him." Mum urged Dad on.
"Yes. Sort of." He reluctantly replied. "I designed and made the coupling that triggered off the bomb causing it to bounce on water."
"Mr. Wallis invented the bomb and your father made it work." Even Mum sounded proud.
"Yes." Dad now got into his stride. "Barnes got the idea of the bomb by looking at a table tennis ball. The dams were alongside the German armament factories and heavily guarded by artillery and protective mosquito nets. It was virtually impossible to bomb the dams and flood the factories with water unless you could find a way to get past the nets. Hence Barnes' idea of a bouncing bomb. It worked fine when fired off the ground but not from an aircraft. When it was dropped it just bobbed on the water or sank. The coupling we used on the plane couldn't give it the same forward momentum as it had when fired from land. So I came up with a coupling that could achieve that momentum."
How proud I was. "Will you be in the film?" I asked.
"Someone will be playing me. Yes." He replied.
I was so excited. I remember that afternoon so well. It was a Saturday and we had to queue up in the rain. I stood and my knees were even shaking I was looking forward to watching someone play my Dad.
At last we were inside the cinema. We got our tickets and we sat down. I looked to see if I could see any of my friends. I had told everyone my Dad was going to be portrayed by an actor in the film. I found six and they gave me the thumbs up sign. I pointed Dad out to them just in case they weren't sure the man by me was Dad!
The lights went down and we had to see the "B" movie first. I can even remember the name of it. "Alias John Preston". A very boring and long film. Well it just had to be boring and long when it was a "B" movie and you were waiting with baited breath for the main feature to start. I only remember the film because it starred an actor I came to know very well only a few years later, Christopher Lee, but that is another story.
Then there was an interval when ice creams and drinks were sold. Then the coming attractions and then Pathe News. How irritating all this was for a fourteen year old boy. Finally the big moment came. "The Dam Busters" came on complete with rousing march composed by Eric Coates.
Barned Wallis was the first to appear. The table tennis incident Dad had spoken about was actually shown. Then the problem of the coupling. But where was the actor playing Dad? There were some non speaking actors playing factory technicians but it was Barnes Wallis who was taking the credit for designing the coupling. He was the one who solved it.
"Is that you, over there?" I asked pointing to an actor who actually said something to Barnes Wallis.
Dad said nothing. He sat staring at the film.
"Is that you?" I again pointed to another person in a later scene. Silence. Only once more did I ask and I looked hard at Dad. His eyes did not waver from the screen.
When the filming was over we walked out in silence. Although I could not see his disappointment I could feel it. It was a long walk to home from the cinema. Nothing was said. It was only when we reached the gate to our house that I flung my arms around him.
"I'm proud of you, Dad," I said and tears welled up in my eyes.
"Then that's all that matters, son." Then with a smile, he added, "And it worked."