January 2013 Volume 10

Barry Huie: From Book to Book

Ray Ford
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As I first arrived and sat at the November 3rd Reunion & Awards Banquet, I was expecting a gentle tap on my shoulder, like it had been in the past for so many years. That tap usually came from Barry Huie, because the quiet way in which he walked, one wouldn’t hear him coming. But of course, this year, that tap would never come. At least, it wouldn’t come from him.

Everard Hoo as part of his recollections, and much to his credit, included Barry’s eulogy and remembrance, as read by his daughter Kimberly. From them, it was evident that a brilliant man with a wide range of interests had passed.

Going by the age of my younger son, I have been visiting Toronto on-and-off in November, for at least twenty-five years. And it has been for close to that period that I have known Barry. Surprisingly most of his outstanding achievements, and his leading role in the creation of Soccerfest, until recently, I had known nothing about. And because Barry and I would on several occasions have our little Sunday afternoon chats, this fact confirms what I already knew. That Barry wasn’t a man to toot his own horn. Also, he had the remarkable ability to compartmentalize.

I got to know Barry as a man who introduced me to books in his spare time. I could never characterize Barry as a book-salesman. His overarching goal was to further within the wider Caribbean diaspora an interest in, and a knowledge about the Caribbean region. And that was so important a mission and so noble a cause. His books were almost exclusively penned by Caribbean authors, as if also to promote writers in the Caribbean. Two of his – The Ketch-Up Book and Tell Me Fi True – remain close at-hand.

One of Barry’s bailiwicks was the history of the formation of political parties in Jamaica. And it was after we had bid farewell to Maurice MacDonald that he was in his element as he expounded on this.

Barry was also a good writer who was always the first to pen a tribute to a fallen Fortis, as he did so expertly for Wally Johnson. He was also a good orator on his feet, as he exemplified at Frankie Tenn’s memorial. “Where ever you go, always be prepared to say a little something,” he would say later when we huddled.

He was a kind and gentle soul who didn’t suffer fools easily. So somehow, I managed to beat the gate, because he certainly had a lot of time for me. I spoke with him a couple of times towards the end. And he was lifted a mile high when the City of Toronto honored him for his efforts. He was oh so grateful. And that’s another characteristic of him. He was so appreciative of any token he received.

“I have another book for you, and I’ll give you as soon as I get home,” he strained to say over the phone from his bed. That, to my sadness, was not to be. And so I will cherish The Broken Vessel by C. Everard Palmer, the last book he gave me.

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