Grenada: Hand John Robarts and Audrey visit Grenada in 1980

John Robarts
Hand of the Cause of God
Visit to Grenada – 1st-6th March 1980
(Memories of Arthur Winner)

Prayers at Pearl’s
Hand of the Cause of God, John (and Audrey) Robarts arrived in Grenada on the last flight of the evening of the 1st March 1980. Pearl’s airport was quite basic without night landing, so when the last flight had landed, it shut-up-shop and closed. Rick Berry and I had come to welcome John & Audrey and take them to their hotel in St. George’s . My car could be, at best, described as unreliable and we had parked it on a small incline just in case the battery wasn’t up to the job. It wasn’t and so we opted for plan “B” that was to push and bump-start the car. That didn’t work either as in addition to having no ignition, the clutch cable snagged and the clutch pedal stuck-down, thereby preventing the push and bump start. The airport had emptied and we had no plan “C”. Turning to John & Audrey we asked if they knew any good prayers. John recited the Remover of Difficulties and within a few minutes the only car mechanic I knew* (see note 1) came driving towards us. We explained the situation. He popped the bonnet and restored power from the battery then disappeared under the car and fixed the sticking clutch cable. He said that should get us back home and it did. John & Audrey stayed at the St. James Hotel, in St. George’s. (see note 2).

The Baker cottage
One of the places visited by John & Audrey was the home of Graeme & Jackie Stratton in Grande Anse. This property, known as the Baker cottage was purchased by Frank Baker, husband of Hand of the Cause of God, Dorothy Baker. Frank & Dorothy had intended to move to Grenada when she was taken from us en-route to Grenada. Notwithstanding his great loss, Frank Baker came to live in Grenada.

On the porch of the cottage, daughter of Dorothy Baker, Louise Matthias asked John about his memories of her mother. She was gathering information for a book (From Copper to Gold). Also there was Louise’s husband, Herbert. (It was at this meeting I took a photo of John. He asked me why I was taking his photo now? I said that Hand of the Cause of God, Dr. Mohair had kept me so busy during his visit ((November 1979)), that I didn’t get a picture of him. Well, we laughed about it and he started pulling my leg. Sliding down the chair he would say to me, “take me now, I think I’m going now” . He had such a twinkle in his eye and we got along like a house on fire.

Presentation to Governor General, Sir Paul Scoon
Hand of the Cause of God, John Robarts made a presentation to His Excellency the Governor General, Sir Paul Scoon at his Official Residence. I am not a 100% sure, but I believe he presented the book “A Crown of Beauty”.

What I do recall was the conversation they had. Sir Paul asked Mr. Robarts “what kind of person becomes a Baha’i? Mr. Robarts replied, “Thank you for asking Your Excellency. There are banana farmers who are Baha’is, there are doctors who are Baha’is, even members of Royal Families that are Baha’is, but Your Excellency, I don’t think we have a Governor General yet.” Well, that brought the house down, with hoots of laughter. As we were leaving Mr. Robarts said to me. “Sir Paul is a nice guy, why don’t you tell him about Baha’u’llah”. My foolish reply was a question. I said that The Governor General was the Head of State and I was one of the mass of unemployed and asked how exactly our paths would cross? The essence of his reply was that Baha’u’llah could do anything. (see note 3)

Meeting at the Wilson home
It would be remiss of me not to mention the fact that they paid a visit to us all in Perdmontemp, but the meeting worthy of note was the one that took place at the home of Laurie & Eleanor Wilson in Woodlands, as it gave the Baha’i community the opportunity to meet them. Hand of the Enoch and Elizabeth Olinga had also graced this home before.

I recall Louise Matthias asking what it was like when he (John Robarts) received the cable from the Guardian, appointing him as Hand of the Cause? John said that the cable stated “Robarts” so they didn’t know if it was for Audrey or himself and they read and re-read it, each passing it to the other, until after some hours Hand of the Cause of God Musa Banana arrived at their door and said “John congratulations”
This was a great meeting and we were all the beneficiaries of their company.

The Rotary Lunch in Grenville
Another of the engagements that had been arranged for John & Audrey, was to attend a lunch being held by The Rotary Club in Grenville. Mr. Robarts was the guest speaker. Before being introduced, the chairman reported on the club’s activities and in particular on the outcome of a fund-raising event they had held.
In effect, the event didn’t raise the monies they had hoped for. With that Mr. Robarts was introduced to the attendees.

Having introduced them to Baha’u’llah, he referred to their efforts to raise funds and then shared with them a story of fund raising in the Baha’i community in Africa. ( I assume this was in Bechuanaland ).

Mr. Robarts said that as the treasurer for his Local community, he was asked to consult with the National Assembly that were aware of his local community’s inability to raise funds. He said that they (the local community) “didn’t have two pence between them” and that he didn’t have the heart to ask them to sacrifice the little they had. The National Assembly knew only too well the plight of the poor and down-trodden, but none the less encouraged him to address this matter as sacrifice and giving to the fund was a sacred duty and privilege that they should have.

At the next Feast, he spoke about the nature of sacrifice and spirituality and the need for everyone to examine in the privacy of their hearts, the question of contributing to the fund. With that, a tin started to go around the room and as it went it began to jingle and jangle with the sound of coins within. When it ended up in his hands, everyone said he should count it. It contained 5 shillings and 8 pence. No one had ever seen so much money! On the way home, Audrey said to him, (Audrey was sitting next to me during his talk and said it was so), “John, that was such a moving talk on the fund, that the friends gave all they had”. He said to her that he couldn’t make that claim, since he had contributed 3 shillings, to which Audrey added, and I put 2 shillings and 6 pence. None the less the friends did contribute the two pence he said they never had. After that that local community prospered and grew.

Parting at Sam’s
On the evening of 5th March I conveyed John & Audrey to Sam’s Inn close to Pearl’s airport, where they stayed the night, ready for their first flight out the next morning. It struck me as we drove up through St. Andrews that it had been a bounty & blessing to have been in their company. Notwithstanding their ages (John 79 and Audrey75) they seemed to possess eternal youth and John always with a twinkle in his eye. At Sam’s, John recited a most beautiful prayer for me. He invited Barbara and I to visit them at their home in Canada. (Sadly we never did). Now he offered me a sum of money ($60) to cover the petrol we had used. I refused saying that Baha’u’llah would give me ten times that amount and what I would really like was if he would write down for me the prayer he had recited. He said of all the things in the world he could do, writing down the prayer wasn’t one of them, as it was a prayer of The Guardian’s who didn’t want the friends to pay any attention to himself, and so I would have to settle for the tenfold repayment. (See note 3 )

That, by and large, are my memories of Hand of the Cause of God, John and Audrey Robarts and their visit to Grenada. It would be useful to ask others who were there (Wilsons, Strattons, Berrys, Paccassis etc) for their memories.

Note 1 The car mechanic was Arthur St. Bernard and use to live in the house below our home in Perdmontemps. That house subsequently became the home of Ed & Viv Povey and after them, the home of Rick and Lynn Berry.

Note 2. John & Audrey occupied the same room that Hand of the Cause of God, Enoch (and Elizabeth) Olinga had stayed in a few years before. The hotel was opposite the Kirk where Graeme Stratton had addressed the congregation at the invitation of Reverend Michael Chandoo. (We liked Reverend Chandoo very much. He was open minded). Graeme had prefaced his talk by asking the congregation for a show of hands asking how many of them accepted the 10 Commandments? They all raised their hands and Graeme used that to talk about the renewal of Religion. At the end of his talk Reverend Chandoo thanked Graeme and said they now all, at the very least had a better understanding of Christianity and could all become Baha’is.

At the time of their visit the Government of Grenada (People’s Revolutionary Government) was approaching it’s first year in Office (13thMarch) and had invited many people to attend the celebrations. Some of them were staying at the St. James Hotel. Among those was a gentleman from one of the French islands. He spoke no English and the only French speaker was Audrey and the only piece of literature in French at the hotel was a Baha’i teaching book. There was something ironic about that as he represented the Communists. Audrey described him as a “perfectly lovely Communist” I don’t remember much else except that John said the hotel was fine but the church bells that chimed every quarter of an hour did keep him awake.

Note 3 About a week after John & Audrey had left Grenada I had a call from the Secretary for Information , Phyllis Coard, asking if I was interested in taking up the position of Government Photographer? I said yes. She asked when I could start? I suggested the following Monday. She said, how about Sunday. I said yes but why Sunday? She said to cover the Governor General’s visit of the new airport site at Pt. Salines. At Pt. Salines, the Minister of Communications and Works and Labour, (Selwyn Strachan), introduced me to the Governor General, asking him if we had met before. Sir Paul replied that we had indeed met before and that he was in fact reading Baha’i literature. After that I got to speak with the Governor General almost every week. Lastly, my salary was a little over $600,(per month) ten times the amount John had offered me, and of course I got it every month.