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.

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.