Today, I am saddened to learn of the passing of a true Barbadian stalwart, Melville Uriah Williams, at the ripe age of 111. But equally, I am honoured to have known someone who was able to speak firsthand of so much of our island’s history. He could because he lived it.
Mr Williams was born in 1910, four years before the start of World War I. He was already a young man “with responsibilities” when the Second World War changed the course of history.
The country boy was one year old when electricity came to Barbados and was around for the introduction of wireless radio, television and the telephone.
He followed in the footsteps of his father to become a renowned maker of saddles — he was around when horsepower referred literally to horses, yet was fortunate to be here for the arrival of the first automobile with a combustion engine, but lived to see a world focused on making electric vehicles a part of our daily experience.
He was born into the era when letters and air mail were the principal forms of communicating with family overseas, saw the introduction of telegrams as modern technology, but had the privilege of celebrating his 111th birthday using the Zoom technology of today’s digital age.
Mr. Williams experienced a slice of life few before him have been able matched, and perhaps fewer after him will. But his story cannot just be about the things he experienced purely as a result of being here on this earth.
His determination to enjoy life until the very end, his humility and lifelong desire to share what he knew with others, and the unmatched work ethic that allowed him to operate as a saddler even when he was 100 years old, speak to the quality of the man he was.
Melville Uriah Williams, supercentenarian and master saddler was, without doubt, a Barbadian worthy of emulation.
On behalf of the Government and people of Barbados, I extend heartfelt sympathy to his family and friends. May his soul rest in peace.