reviews

Bonnie Greer

Author, Playwright & Columnist

This is actually a book for young people, but what’s wonderful about it is that it also can speak to adults; it’s got a lovely lyrical tone.

And it’s about Mr Archer. He came here from Jamaica in the `50s, as many black British people and ancestors did and he got his National Service, went to Cyprus, came out, started driving the buses, and met a beautiful bus conductress.

It’s just beautiful, funny, rich, human, full of anecdotes about his life, about what life was like in the `50s and early `60s for black people.

Life According To Maas Roy

Stanley ‘Maas Roy’ Archer left Jamaica in 1954 for England en-route to Canada to get rich quick. After living in London for a little under two years, he was drafted by the National Service and sent to Cyprus as part of a peace-keeping battalion in the civil war between Greek and Turkish Cypriots, Cyprus then being a British colony.

After many heroic trips on the ‘Murder Mile’ as a driver and collector of dead bodies and body parts, he returned to London to continue hos dream. His 1969 marriage to Hortense Wright failed, and he was left alone to raise his daughter, Yvonne.

He visited Jamaica in 1972, 18 years after he left. His father had died by then. Another marriage in 1982 failed, but life went on. His mother died in 1984 while he was visiting. In 1989, he relocated to Jeffrey Town, St Mary, Jamaica, where he was born. But it was not to a life of retirement and getting ready to meet his maker. As it turned out, he was to transform Jeffrey Town in ways previously thought unimaginable. Now, he’s a hero once again, this time in his own corner of the universe.

Bonnie Greer, OBE, is an American-British playwright, novelist and critic, who was born in Chicago, Illinois, and has lived in the UK since 1986. She has appeared on Newsnight Review and Question Time and has on occasion written for The Guardian, the New Statesman and Time Out magazine.

Playwright, critic and author she has written a screenplay, an opera for The Royal Opera House, stage musicals and plays, radio plays, and written plenty of books. She was awarded the OBE in the 2010 Birthday Honours.

The acclaimed writer reveals an intriguing selection of the books she is currently reading, although as she observes, a compulsion to read can be hazardous.

I think that’s actually a tragedy in a way, because I don’t know when to stop reading. I usually have books around our bed; I tip over them when I get up. I have one in the bath. I have one at the breakfast table. I sit in front of the TV with a book. I’m always reading.

Maas Roy with daughter Yvonne

Margot Montague

Development Design & Conservation Officer

This is a book which seemingly contradicts itself. The initial chapters lulls the reader into a world of hilarity, I literally laughed myself to near death on reading some of the exploits of Mass Roy. It emerges, however, into some serious reading which gives the reader a true measure of the man.

Having met the author and the subject of the book in person, I can’t say I am surprised at the contents of the book. My meeting was brief but was enough to be seriously impressed by Mass Roy.

Mass Roy is evocative of everything that is West Indian. When I met him, he reminded me so much of ‘home’, I was nearly in tears at the amount of emotion he stirred up in me and on reading the book I had the wishful thinking that I would have liked to grow up with him – he is a combination of old world manners but with a modern twist.

From seeing his pictures and reading the first chapters the picture of a saga boy (Trinidadian term for ‘a player’) emerges, but like all saga boys he comes across as a very lovable rogue.

It’s amazing to see how his character pans out. Although I guess he always had that old fashioned West Indian way about him, being very responsible and commanding respect in the army to one where he goes “home” to become the well respected patriarch. His advice to fellow countrymen on sustaining the economy and their individual means is nothing short of genius. His idea that they sow and reap at different times is amazing, a view perhaps that should have been perpetuated by the Government.

Margot Montague

Development Design & Conservation Officer

This is a book which seemingly contradicts itself. The initial chapters lulls the reader into a world of hilarity, I literally laughed myself to near death on reading some of the exploits of Mass Roy. It emerges, however, into some serious reading which gives the reader a true measure of the man.

Having met the author and the subject of the book in person, I can’t say I am surprised at the contents of the book. My meeting was brief but was enough to be seriously impressed by Mass Roy.

Mass Roy is evocative of everything that is West Indian. When I met him, he reminded me so much of ‘home’, I was nearly in tears at the amount of emotion he stirred up in me and on reading the book I had the wishful thinking that I would have liked to grow up with him – he is a combination of old world manners but with a modern twist.

From seeing his pictures and reading the first chapters the picture of a saga boy (Trinidadian term for ‘a player’) emerges, but like all saga boys he comes across as a very lovable rogue.

It’s amazing to see how his character pans out. Although I guess he always had that old fashioned West Indian way about him, being very responsible and commanding respect in the army to one where he goes “home” to become the well respected patriarch. His advice to fellow countrymen on sustaining the economy and their individual means is nothing short of genius. His idea that they sow and reap at different times is amazing, a view perhaps that should have been perpetuated by the Government.

Life According to Maas Roy is a book to treasure – if you are from the Caribbean, it will strike cords and pull at the heart strings. You will remember significant periods in your life, your school days, the horror of hard labour in the 60s and 70s such as no running water inside the house, no washing machine etc, and marvel at how the Caribbean has emerged today.

We have made great strides and it’s down to people like Mass Roy who returned to give something back to his country. As long as Mass Roy does not object, you will see him as a father figure because he is a font of wisdom. Long may he live.

Ivan Flynn

Kentucky, US

Life According to Maas Roy has attracted all kinds of support for the Jeffrey Town Farmers’ Association and for the Health Centre – mainly thanks to the articles in the Jamaica Gleaner written by Mr Paul H. Williams. We’d like to highlight two special supporters of the Our Peace of History project.

To date, Mr Ivan Flynn who resides in Kentucky, US and is now retired, thanked us profusely for telling his story whilst telling that of Maas Roy’s. Mr Flynn is originally from Halifax, a neighbouring community, and he’s been very generous in the level of interest he’s shown for the project. Also, he is the first to have made a donation to the Health Centre (unsolicited).

Mr Flynn told us that he has never managed to finish reading a book in his life, but he certainly completed this one. He told us the amazing story of how he only managed to attend the Jeffrey Town Elementary school for three months of his life, the same school also attended by Maas Roy. Mr Flynn has been in regular telephone contact with Maas Roy since hearing about the book and was inspired to write his own autobiography, with Yvonne’s help, as part of the ‘Our Peace of History’ project.

I feel as though I have accomplished a lot this year, thanks to you and your dad; I read a whole book that actually inspired me to become a writer myself. I know I am a long way from being published but never again will I be intimidated by the cover or size of a book – not as long as I shall live.

Yvonne, I have been told by countless individuals that I should write a book about my life and now, when I tell friends and families of my desire to actually start writing, they all wish me well and want to know when they will be able to read about my secrets. Many talk of writing themselves in the future; my hope is that my efforts and honesty will inspire them – just as you and your Father have inspired me.

Dr Tony McFarlane

Medical Practitioner

He is originally from Jeffrey Town (the Salisbury Plantation) – and is amazed by how Maas Roy’s vision for the community has coincided with his own. He has shared his own story about growing up in the district as it was very different and rather privileged in contrast to that of Maas Roy’s.

Dr McFarlane is very excited about the opportunity to volunteer his time whenever possible as a medical doctor at the Health Centre and with the community despite his advancing years. He also has a licence to practice medicine in Jamaica. He’s been encouraged to write his own story and has already shared a first chapter with Yvonne. He was welcomed to Jeffrey Town in September when he visited his family for the Jewish festival of Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah.

Mrs Velma Walker (left), Dr Anthony McFarlane who was born and raised at the Salisbury property in Jeffrey Town but is now living abroad, Dr Erna Broadber (right), University Lecturer from the Woodside Community with Maas Roy who takes them on a tour of Jeffrey Town’s radio station, Jet 88.7 FM.

Lovely nite last night. It’s super to know you and your dad – truly inspirational human beings.


Photo by Small Fry Stills

Michaela (wearing the hat,) has her copy of the book signed by Maas Roy

Cyril Husbands,
Poet and Diversity Consultant
Cyril Husbands,
Poet and Diversity Consultant
Cyril Husbands,
Poet and Diversity Consultant
Mr Archer, You are an inspiration and a genuine hero in a time when these are sorely needed and in short supply. Blessings to you, sir!
Juanita,
visitor attending an event
Juanita,
visitor attending an event
Juanita,
visitor attending an event
It is good to know there are Black men like you. Thank you for your story.
Veronica, visitor attending an event
visitor attending an event
Veronica, visitor attending an event
visitor attending an event
Veronica, visitor attending an event
visitor attending an event
It is a pleasure to see that someone like you has done so much for our generation and to write a book, which I appreciate very much. We need more about our Black history, especially our Jamaican heritage. My sister was the first Black teacher that came to Birmingham, England in the 1950s and my grandfather was an Irish flyer. Also, my dad was a also in the war. Now, my grandson is a guard at Buckingham Palace.
Ann Gumbs,
single mother of 4, visitor attending an event
Ann Gumbs,
single mother of 4, visitor attending an event
Ann Gumbs,
single mother of 4, visitor attending an event
I am going to read page 137 first. I so love to get first-hand information on how to raise our children born in England. I realise that the old traditional ways our parents brought us up was the best advice that we need today, which is so precious now. So a big ‘thank you’ to you and Yvonne for taking the time to remind us how we should bring our children up.
Anonymous message,
visitor attending an event
Anonymous message,
visitor attending an event
Anonymous message,
visitor attending an event
Dear Maas Roy, It’s great to know that there are people like you and your daughter who are keeping our history going. We need to keep it alive for the generation that’s coming up!
Irina Staneva,
Head of Student Support Working Men’s College
Irina Staneva,
Head of Student Support Working Men’s College
Irina Staneva,
Head of Student Support Working Men’s College
On behalf of the college and the students I would like to thank you for a wonderful session and truly mesmerizing presentation! Many of my colleagues commented that it was obvious you were a teacher because you were able to connect with the learners and engage them not only with the story itself but with the way you spoke. The description of your father’s life in Jamaica, his move to London and then his army life in Cyprus, struck a cord with a vast majority of our ESOL students who have gone through similar experiences themselves. At the same time your amusing description of London life in the 50s and 60s was very informative to everyone who’s only familiar with London as it is today.

Here is what one of my colleagues who comes from Eritrea and works as an administrator at college, said: “Yvonne was incredibly good interacting with students being an Esol teacher herself. I liked the fact that she wrote a book about an important figure in her life, her father. Again it was inspiring and left me feeling like I could one day pay homage to my parents in the same way Yvonne Archer did, picking up pen and paper.

Once again, I truly and thoroughly enjoyed working with you on this project and sincerely hope that we will continue to work together. It will be fantastic to see you next Thursday evening. We definitely need to keep in touch.

Yvonne talking to ESOL students during an event at the Working Men’s College, 10th November 2010 Photo by staff at the Working Men’s College.


Photo by Glen Hibbert

Student of the Year, Roger Hamilton is pictured beside Yvonne.

Jeffrey Beckford,
a ‘non-reader
Jeffrey Beckford,
a ‘non-reader
Jeffrey Beckford,
a ‘non-reader
I read the foreword yesterday and I read the whole book today!

Photo by Small Fry Stills

Maas Roy with Aunt Ruby and her son Jeffrey

Lê Hải, (message sent 06.20am)
BBC Vietnamese Service
Lê Hải,
BBC Vietnamese Service
Lê Hải,
BBC Vietnamese Service
Hi Yvonne This is my private email because I’m still at home. I’ve started to read your father’s story on the tube and cannot get away from it. Just finish.

Oanne Ainger – Information Officer,
London Borough of Tower Hamlets
Oanne Ainger – Information Officer,
London Borough of Tower Hamlets
Oanne Ainger – Information Officer,
London Borough of Tower Hamlets

Just wanted to say what a wonderful and enlightening seminar it was yesterday and I’m so glad that I came to hear your father’s story – thanks for sharing it with us.

I’d really like Daniel to meet you and your Dad as you are both so inspirational and I like him to meet positive role models. I could really relate to what you were saying in your seminar about the young people and funnily enough I have discussed this before with my partner in that there are not enough positive role models promoted to young people, especially boys. You hear a lot about footballers and singers, but for many it’s not a very realistic aspiration, as only a (very) small percentage actually succeed in these areas. That’s why it’s nice to hear about people who have succeeded in other walks of life.

I commend people like you and your father who are trying to help others. I liked what you said as well that even if you’re ok, it’s in your interests to ensure everyone else is ok, as it’s for the good of everyone :). We studied something quite similar in economics about how the environment is sustained by communities as they all help each other. Sorry just a digression, but thanks once again.

Margot Montague – Development Design and Conservation Team
London Borough of Tower Hamlets
Margot Montague – Development Design and Conservation Team
London Borough of Tower Hamlets
Margot Montague – Development Design and Conservation Team
London Borough of Tower Hamlets

Dear Yvonne Thank you so much for sharing your father with us. It was extremely selfless and a true gift. I thoroughly enjoyed the lunch time session. He reminded me of when I was growing up in the West Indies and we would sit on the veranda with my grandmother, now sadly departed, and she would tell us stories of Ananci spider and of her growing up in Trinidad, not as exciting as the life your father has lived but fascinating none the less. When these old people are gone then we truly miss the meaning of life.

I can only hope that we have the same privilege of sharing our life in England with our offspring. I could question him (Maas Roy) all day; I am sure he would grow tired of me but I am sure he enjoys telling his story as well and you have a rich tapestry to pass on to your children and all those you meet along the way. Safe journey back to your dad. He is a true West Indian. I hope he lives for many, many more years and I have the privilege of meeting him again.

I went to every event held at the Council office last year and had criticism of them all but this one touched the spot as none ever had Possibly because your dad reminded me of home. I was born in Trinidad. We like to think that we are Jamaicans, Bajans, Trinis etc but ultimately we are all the same.

Lorna Jackson,
Small Fry Stills & Films
Lorna Jackson,
Small Fry Stills & Films
Lorna Jackson,
Small Fry Stills & Films
Just listening to you sharing your brilliant ideas. (response to Genesis Radio interview)
Christine Bramble,
Magazine Editor/Writer
Christine Bramble,
Magazine Editor/Writer
Christine Bramble,
Magazine Editor/Writer
What a fantastic inspiring evening. You must be so proud of each other.
Colin Grant,
Author/BBC Broadcaster
Colin Grant,
Author/BBC Broadcaster
Colin Grant,
Author/BBC Broadcaster
It’s been fun being in the same room with my mum as she’s been reading Life According to Maas Roy. There are a lot of ‘that’s right and ‘aahumms’ coming from her direction.
Meg Phillip,
Author of Love by Text
Meg Phillip,
Author of Love by Text
Meg Phillip,
Author of Love by Text
<>Morning Yvonne, If you did ever see the land speed I broke to get there (Waterstone’s reading). Batter-batter wid did bus an de tube, go to de wrong shop den leg it dung Upper St! I was slightly breathless when I arrived but I made it and it hadn’t even started yet!

I really enjoyed it. I mean really, really enjoyed it. It was very inspirational,educational and fun; which makes all the difference.

Pete Spence,
Musician, South of France
Pete Spence,
Musician, South of France
Pete Spence,
Musician, South of France
I’ve read four chapters so far and I feel like I’m right there with him, I like the ‘chatty’ style, I’ve laughed a lot reading it.
J.E.Philip “Michelle” Wow,
10 Oct 2009 (Amazon.com)
J.E.Philip “Michelle” Wow,
10 Oct 2009 (Amazon.com)
J.E.Philip “Michelle” Wow,
10 Oct 2009 (Amazon.com)
An absolutely fantastic read; so good I finished it in less than a day. It was very informative, educational, inspiring and oh my god! It’s one of those books I’ll read repeatedly and never grow tired of. Well done!