It is a great pleasure to have Therold Prudent with us today. He has written a thought provoking book that gives us a glimpse of what life could be like when tragedy strikes a small community. Welcome to Reader Views.
Irene: Please give us the gist of your book Therold.
Therold: The gist of “Glory Days and Tragedy” is about the untold story of what life was really like growing up in a small Caribbean town called Gros Islet, and a heart wrenching tragedy at sea which followed. The book brings into direct focus the meaning of childhood innocence and friendships in its purest form, while at the same time refusing to ignore the existence of the societal ignorance and religious bigotry which for the most part influenced our early perception of right and wrong. However, as the story grows to paint a colorful picture of a way of life not known in many developed countries and societies, it gradually brings into clear focus the unifying sentiments of a divided community after it is struck by a tragedy at sea. Six young men from the community of Gros Islet are presumably lost at sea.
Irene: You talk about societal ignorance and religious bigotry. However, that is “normal” in their society. By leaving the island and being exposed to other cultures is when I would assume you realized that life could be different. Am I correct in assuming this?
Therold: Not at all. While leaving the island and being exposed to other cultures aided in broadening my understanding of the world and fortifying my sense of personal independence, it should be noted that the process of freeing my mind of ignorance and religious bigotry began in St. Lucia. I have a very intelligent mother who never accepted everything that was passed on to her in the society as norm. She was in every sense of the word a societal rebel. In fact, in the early days when women in St. Lucia would shy away from politics and other social and religious issues and too afraid to speak their minds, my mother was never afraid to speak to up. From a very early age she impressed upon us the virtues of always searching for truth and standing up for our principles even when the majority would laugh in our faces.
I understood then, like I understand today, that I should always show respect for the religious and political convictions of others no matter how far removed it is from my own. However, having said that I do not want to leave you with the impression that societal ignorance and religious bigotry exist today in St Lucia. As a nation we have moved a very long way. We have lots of educated young men and women in the country who have shown that they can think for themselves.
Irene: What inspired you to write this book?
Therold: The painful nature of that tragedy, my love for Gros Islet, its people, and a life long desire to place our small island of St Lucia on the world stage.
Irene: St. Lucia is on a stage – but as a tourist attraction. You are teaching the reader about the life of the local inhabitants. What reactions have you had from the locals about your book?
Therold: I am very pleased with the local reaction to my book. Judging from the many persons who have taken the time to contact me personally after reading the book, the general sentiment is that I have truly presented a very compelling story which simply isn’t just about the tragedy which occurred but of the forgotten memories of what life was once like in St Lucia in the olden days. Also, if I may for a moment return to your statement that “St. Lucia is on the stage- but as a tourist attraction”, I’d like to say that I do agree. However, is that all there is to St Lucia?
Certainly not! And so, it is for that very reason that I have decided to pursue a path of educating the world that St. Lucia is not just about sun, fun, rum, casino gambling and calypso. As a matter of fact, while it is true that the Tourism Industry plays a pivotal role economically, the world must also recognize that there is a local society out there with a very interesting history and unique way of life. As St. Lucians there is more to us than what is seen through the eye of the tourist. Our local customs and traditions far supersede the natural and physical beauty of our island.
Irene: There is much talk these days because of Frey’s book being nonfiction with some, shall we say, admitted creative additions. Your book is considered non-fiction and is based on a true story. How much creativity did you allow to enter into your book?
Therold: None at all! In my book “Glory Days and Tragedy,” what the reader gets is an honest and candid reenactment of a factual series of events by an author who spent years researching and piecing together the story. The focus of my mission was not to embellish any parts of my book, but rather to use my God given abilities to write in clear, precise and very descriptive form in order to capture the reader’s interest. Moreover, unlike Mr. Frey who could not provide any sources to substantiate some of his claims, I do have a legend of living persons in a beautiful island called St Lucia who undoubtedly will vouch for the authenticity of “Glory Days and Tragedy.” I hope that Oprah is taking note (Laugh). There are some real heart wrenching life stories out there, that aren’t a fiction of the writer’s imagination.
Irene: Of six young men that went out into the sea, how many survived the ordeal? And, in what emotional state are they now?
Therold: Of the six young men that went out into the sea, only one survived. His name is Kennedy Philip, a young man whom I am proud to call my friend. After weeks at sea, his boat made landfall in the South American country of Columbia. Among the dead was his brother George and first cousin Perry. Today, although the memories of what occurred nearly 20 years ago are still painfully fresh in his mind, Kennedy has been able by the grace of God to rebuild his life.
Irene: How much of the information about the ordeal was Kennedy able to give you?
Therold: Other than my account of what transpired back ashore during the ordeal, the entire story of what really occurred at sea and later in Columbia came from Kennedy himself. At this time I should also make mention of a very good friend by the name of Stanislaus “Nourgearo” Phulchure. He is also a personal friend of Kennedy who took it upon himself to attempt a series of rescue mission at sea during the ordeal. In the summer of 1994, which is about the time I decided to begin work on the book, I relied a lot on “Nourgearo” to help me piece the events as they occurred ashore during the ordeal.
Irene: The story is very close and dear to you. Did you have to write this book as part of your own grieving process in losing close friends?
Therold: Yes I did. It was also something which I believed I owed to my childhood friend (George) who perished in that tragedy. Had I not attempted to write the story, his memory and that of the other boys who perished at sea would be completely forgotten. I have also pledged to use some of the proceeds from the book to erect a memorial to the boys. I know the road ahead will be very rough, but I am a very small but tough guy who knows how to make things happen by keeping his word.
Irene: What was the major belief by the island people when the boys didn’t return within a given time?
Therold: Not many people were aware of what had transpired. In fact, the news did not break fully until Saturday afternoon, which was almost a whole day after the boys had set out to sea. Other than “Nourgearo “and a few close friends, many people were kept in the dark. However, by the time the news broke on the streets at around 4 or perhaps 5 pm, a crowd of people had begun to gather in the streets. At first it was sheer disbelief, but this would all change.
Irene: And, how did they react?
Therold: I saw grown men with tears in their eyes, which moved me tremendously as a teenager. Later, everyone had a story to tell about their personal experiences with each of the boys. I think it was this kind of humbling atmosphere which brought the community together, and helped to sustain it during the entire ordeal.
Irene: Did they give up on the boys’ return?
Therold: Oh boy! As the days went by I wouldn’t say that they gave up on the boys. This was perhaps one of the saddest periods which I had ever experience on the island and in particularly the town of Gros Islet. But eventually with no signs of their return, there were a great number of people who seem to have gradually accepted the probability that the boys had perished at sea.
Irene: What was the reaction by the locals when Kennedy returned to St. Lucia after his ordeal?
Therold: Kennedy’s return to St. Lucia was like a celebration fit for a hero. A large number of people had traveled to the airport to witness his grand entry into the island. I was not present at the airport that evening, but I was one of the fortunate few to seat with him in private the following morning. To this day, that moment has continued to resonate with me. As if it were just yesterday, I can still see Kennedy’s thin frame and the paleness in his face as he walked to greet me for the first time since the ordeal.
Irene: Your home country is St. Lucia. Where do you reside now and what made inspired you to leave?
Therold: While St. Lucia will always be considered home to me, I reside in a very quiet and lovely town in Queens, New York, called Laurelton. I consider it my home away from home. My main reason for leaving was to pursue a life long goal of educating myself. I have accomplished that goal quiet successfully, and have therefore turned my attention to conquering another passion called professional writing.
Irene: There is much belief in spirits and mysticism in many of the Caribbean countries. Tell us about some of the beliefs and how they are passed down the generations.
Therold: (Laugh) I don’t know how to really answer this question. However, I should point out that where St. Lucia is concerned (when compared to countries such as Haiti); the belief in spirits and mysticism isn’t a widely acknowledged norm or religion in our society. Now this isn’t to say that there aren’t a few people in St. Lucia with very strong beliefs in spirits and mysticism. Instead, what I am saying is that, those who do are often very secretive about it. Therefore, it would be very difficult for me to explain how those who believe in it have been able to pass it down from generation to generation.
Irene: Thank you so much Therold. I find this conversation fascinating and would love to take more time to chat with you. However, we need to end for now. I’m hoping that we have given a glimpse of you and your book. Is there anything else that you would like your reading audience to know about you or your book “Glory Days and Tragedy”?
Therold: I’ve truly enjoyed this interview and the opportunity to talk about my book and beloved country. It was certainly a pleasure. Thank You.