Monday, April 15, 2024

ROCKING CHAIR STORIES – Home, sweet home


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MALVERN, the old plantation house at St John, has been referred to as “Lazarus  Come Alive” by those who have seen it rise from the ashes.
It followed closely  the marriage proposal by Herbert Percy Cheeseman to his business partner, June Bentham.
June said  yes . . . but with a proviso – that he give her her own home.
According to the couple featured in this Hollywood-type story shared by both: “Herbert was married for over 30 years and he lived at Bloomsbury, St Thomas. I told him I didn’t want to live in that house.
“When we got married on June 1, 1990 we rented a place in St. Philip while we looked around to buy our own. We sold Bloomsbury House. We were looking for a house to buy and couldn’t find one.
“Then one day June noticed this ad in the paper – Plantation house for sale – it was Malvern in St John. The interesting thing is that we used to pass there and look at this house and laugh; we used to say . . . who would ever want to live in that rambling old house.
“We were coming from St Philip so we arrived earlier than we had anticipated. We parked the car in the garage and waited for the agent to arrive. As we did so we both had the same feeling: You have come home; you have come home.
“Everybody said ‘You would be crazy to buy that place; it is a complete ruin. But when the agent opened the door and we entered we had that feeling as though we had come home. The two-acre property costs the Cheeseman’s $376 000 and Herbie whispered: ‘It cost a similar amount to put in shape’.
“It took us about five years to get things manageable,” recalled June who added: “To clear one lawn we removed ten truckloads of stuff.”
Herbie continued: “Malvern is the only house in this part of the world that I know of, which has a fort attached to it. The walls in Malvern Fort are over three feet, six, compared to the two-foot thick walls in the house.
“It has triple bars [barring you into it]. Once you are in there you can’t get out.”
Reflecting on his boyhood days and the church, Herbie said: “The greatest hurt you could do to me was to tell me that you can’t go to church. When I was three years old I used to go to the Cathedral [St Michael’s] and sit upstairs, right by the robing room. You could leave and go for Communion; no running about or playing the fool. One of the wishes that I have now is to go down there  and give God thanks . We don’t go; we do a prayer meeting here.”
There was a time when Herbie was known across Barbados as an outstanding vocalist. He was often featured with the Police Band, led by Captain Raison.
There was also the time when Herbie was bitten by the entrepreneurial bug. It wasn’t a big business; but it was a start: “I opened a small depot at Moollers Avenue off Roebuck Street. I would collect and wash bottles.
“At one time I employed over 80 but had to close when government decided it wanted the area for development purposes.”But Herbie doesn’t give up that easily – the battle continues. 


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