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Gertrude Daley, 102, walked from Portland to Kingston barefooted

100 not out

By DONNA HUSSEY-WHYTE Sunday Observer staff reporter husseyd@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, February 02, 2014    

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Tomorrow, Gertrude Pounall Daley will celebrate her 102nd birthday.

The centenarian, who never once fell ill throughout those years, is able to recall the very dates of important events in her life.

Daley, who was born in Montpelier, St Andrew, spoke easily about the days of walking from St Andrew to Portland then back to Kingston barefooted with loads on her head and the incidents surrounding her three marriages.

"Mi carry load on mi head, walking from down where mi live - from Montpelier (St Andrew Hills) to Ray Piece in Portland to buy load put it on mi head and walk from there go to Kingston go sell it," Daley recalled. "And then walk come home," she added.

"And mi have to walk because that time we never have any vehicle ... walk with the load go and come. Because if you never sell off you have to walk back with what was left," she stated.

She said that poverty was so rampant that she could not afford a pair of 'crepe' that cost six pence at the time.

"And we had to walk over whole heap of hill and gully, and you foot bun you," she stated.

Along with the pressure of the load, the long distance and the burning of her feet, Daley had another obstacle to encounter.

"When you walk and go buy the load a bush they didn't cook, so when you reach you hungry. But sometimes they used to make up a big fire and throw the yam in and it roast. Who can't eat roast yam put in their basket and who can eat, eat it. But when hungry lick you, you better eat it. And those times were poor, poor times. Nobody couldn't think 'bout 'salting' to put wid it," she recalled.

Daley said that other times when she and the lady whom she travelled with were hungry, they would "shake off the load on the (river) bank and use yu hand scoop up water and drink it".

But despite how hard people complain that things are now, the centenarian said that things are 'sweet' currently, when compared to 100 years ago.

"Now nobody have to walk with load because they have car parked up at home or car pick them up at their gates," she said. "Plus if you carry yu load to Coronation (market) now by 3:00 pm yu done and go back home."

Daley said that after accepting Jesus Christ as her personal saviour, she had to walk some 10 miles from Montpelier to Ginger Ridge to be baptised at 7 o'clock on the morning of June 20 1948.

Daley is the first of 17 children for her mother, all of whom emerged from the result of two marriages. The first produced 13 and the second, four. With the exception of Daley, all the other siblings from the first marriage have since died. While the four from the second marriage are all living in Freetown, St Andrew, only houses apart from each other. Daley now lives with her brother.

Daley also worked the field as a livelihood and sold her goods in the market.

"I was married three times," she told the Jamaica Observer while sitting in her living room last week. "The first time was 17th of July 1937, the second time was 1954 and the third time was 1986," she said. Her three sisters and niece, who were sitting nearby, confirmed this.

Daley's first husband died in 1953 after a brief illness.

"My second husband now, him go foreign - England - and mi wait 20 years, and when mi go post office one day mi get a register letter. When mi go home is divorce papers. That happen after him leave for 20 years," Daley explained. "I don't even remember how soon after we married he went to England. But him never use to keep in touch with me much, and him never come out," she disclosed.

Her third husband also emigrated to England after his children filed for him. He died there.

"You see how much husband God give me? Three!" she said. "And some people can't even get on!" she laughed. "Sometimes if them fi get one, them have to kill the wife to get the husband. Look how much hoe deh bush and they can't get no stick to fit they hoe! Every 'tump' of hoe have they stick a bush you know. All you do you pray and wait. You will get you own hoe," Daley advised.

She said that when she got married in 1937, those were the days when men had to ask parents for their daughter's hand in marriage.

"When he asked my mother and father for me I was 17 and they say mi did too young. And mi had to wait. After that, my father died and him still have to go ask my mother for me," Daley recalled. That was eight years later.

"And you see when mi suppose to wash clothes for him? Him come and him have to ask her (Daley's mother), and she say 'yes', and you see when mi wash the clothes and spread them on the line, she look on the clothes and say, 'but look how you wash you and the man own clean and look at mine how you wash them dirty'. And she take her clothes off the line and rub them up in the dirt and mi couldn't do nothing but cry and wash them over," Daley said. "But mi did wash them clean from first," she went on.

Daley also played a major role in the upbringing of her siblings after their father died leaving a daughter as young as four months. She was 18 years old at the time.

After the birth of her four other siblings to her mother's new husband, Daley was also straddled with the responsibility of helping to care for them.

"She was strict man," said Leslie Manderson, Daley's 81-year-old brother, and the only male of her mother's 17 children. "But she never used to slap me. She could have done that, but you know why she didn't? My father was a very strict man and when him touch the four of us children, we well touch, so 'Sister' never had no need to touch you again."

While none of Daley's three marriages produced any children, her sister, 79-year-old Francella Manderson-Davis said that she adopted six children and grew them as her own. She agreed with her brother that Daley was indeed very strict.

"She was cross so we had to hear," she said. "She never beat us, but one look and you know what she means. And when she talk she mean what she say, so we had to just hear. And she is kind."

Today, Daley is still able to walk around aided by a walking stick, she sees clearly, hears well and said the only ailment she has is arthritis.

She believes her long life is as a result of her obedience to God.

After attesting to Daley's strictness, her sister 77-year-old Inez Manderson recalls the delicious rice and peas that Daley would cook years ago. She also described her eldest sister as a hard worker who treated people well and would enjoy taking care of their children.

The centenarian's youngest sibling Laura Manderson-Daley, 79, who was married to the son of Daley's husband, simply described her sister as very nice and an 'allright person'.

But it was her niece, Carmen McLean-Pascoe who explained the impact of Daley's strictness on others.

"I remember at church, Woodford Seventh-Day Adventist, if the children doing something wrong, as they see her they quake up because she not afraid to lick them all in church. She draw her 'kerchief or rag and slap them. She was that sort of person," McLean-Pascoe said. "And she thinks about others. Even when I was married and living on my own when 'Sister' go market, she would always bring something say she carrying for me or my children. And she like to work her garden; even when she couldn't do much she would sit on a bag on the ground and plant things and they would come, and come good," she said.

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