Jason Griffith: Voyage of the Sailor Mas

Jason Griffith shares with Douglas and Oba
Left: Jason Griffith shares with Douglas and Oba

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What I remember as a boy Reporters
April 15, 2005

I was born on this spot, (51 Pelham Street Belmont) on 20th June 1927 and I have lived here nearly all my life on this spot. My parents, especially my mother, she was this church going lady so she was never involved in carnival too much. So, what I had to do as a boy when I was around seven to eight years old, I would run away from here to go and see mas. What I am speaking about here now, was way back in the thirties, so I will be able to tell you a little bit about maybe around the thirties. What I will be able to do too, is to tell you about the mas in Belmont, not out of Belmont, because when I run away and come back I can't go out again. Anything that happened in 'town', Jason didn't know about that one at all.

The mas that I loved from a youngster was the sailor mas, and somehow or the other, the guy who was the pioneer of that mas was a guy by the name of Jim Harding. His name was really George Harding but his nickname was Jim. He had a long spell in football and cricket for Trinidad and Tobago. Anyway, he invented this thing. I was always with the sailor mas, seeing everybody in white, chipping and going down, no music, singing. So, I run away from here and went on the corner of Erthig Road and Norfolk Street. We had a post office out there at the time, and I would stand up there by that post office to see Jim Harding. And when that band passed, you know, these sailors were just chipping and singing in rhythm an' thing, and they had their little head piece. It was so nice to me, because I wasn't seeing any other mas as Jim Harding's. I always tell myself, well when I get big, the first mas I have to play is a sailor mas.

We had other characters in Belmont that I would have liked to see before I went home, but they were individual characters and not bands. We had a fellow by the name of Gregory right here in Meyler Street. He used to play Robber. Well before I came home, I had to hear Gregory talk one or two Robber thing and stop one or two people and collect some money. Then, there was another fellow who use to play Black Indian, his name was Turks, I had to see Turks and one or two other characters from Belmont before I went home. There was another fellow who use to play a mas climbing lamppost, I must see that fellow before I went home. And when I reached home, (well the house wasn't like this, it was an old board house,) then I had to go and bathe and change my clothes, and we had a window somewhere around where you are sitting, and the balance of my mas, I would see it through the window.

We had a little group that used to play "Burrokeets, the Distinguished Force". They would pass and I would see them through the window. Then we had some people they called Martiniquans. If you ask the young people to play in that now, they don't want that. They had on about two skirts and their head tie and basket, wire frame mask - you don't know who is it - and they sold nuts. So I would see them, and then from the Valley road, it wasn't steelband in those days, it was tamboo-bamboo, and when the tamboo-bamboo passed, all mas finish for me, because nothing else passing there again. The guy who use to play this mas and climb lamppost, his name is Raphael. He did the 'Rarahoon', so he use to climb lamp post, and then you might get one or two 'fellahs' out there playing 'stick'. So that is what I remember as a boy in the thirties.


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