Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Remembering My Brother, Micky

If he had lived, my brother Micky would have been eighty-one years old today. Sadly, he died far too young, at thirty-six, leaving a wife and three very young children. This post is dedicated to his memory.

My parents, Michael Leopold Levy and Maud Dey Smedmore, were married April 27, 1926. A year later, April 2, 1927, their eldest child, a son, was born and christened Michael Owen Dey Levy, but known by everyone as Micky. He was the first nephew and grandchild in the family. Although my mother was one of nine Smedmore children, and my father, Michael, was one of seven, their generation had not proved as fruitful. Only two of the Smedmores were married by 1927 -- my uncle Lucius, who had two daughters, and my mother. Two Smedmore men, Rodney and Julian would marry eventually but they had no children. Micky, therefore, occupied a unique place as the first boy in that generation. Here he is with his mother, probably at their first house on Anderson Road:

My mother kept his hair long till he was about two years old, a fact he hated to be reminded of. Here he is again, sitting on the steps of the house at Anderson Road.

My mother did not get pregnant again until Micky was about six, so he was the only child for quite a while and, according to my mother, quite spoilt by his aunts and uncles. My mother had a miscarriage, which was a great disappointment to her, and then shortly after became pregnant with me and I was born at the end of May in 1935, by which time Micky was eight years old. He had been the favourite of my great aunt, Tess, but when I came along Aunt Tess turned all her attention to the new baby and "Micky's nose was out of joint", as my mother put it. This was her explanation for why we were not close as brother and sister, but I think the difference in age had a lot to do with it.

Micky went to school at Jamaica College when Reginald Murray, known as "Reggie", was Headmaster.

I believe he sat the Senior Cambridge Exam but left school without going on to the Cambridge Higher Schools Examination. With the help of a family friend, Cyril Tame, Micky went to work at Barclays Bank in Kingston, where he worked for many years. Men who joined the Bank at that time could expect to be sent all over the island and even to other islands where the Bank had branches, so I did not see much of Micky in this time period. One of his postings was to Trinidad so he was away for some time and there was little chance for us to develop a relationship. In fact, I would have to say that our relationship consisted of a certain amount of hero worship on my part and bare tolerance on his. He was a dreadful tease and would make my life quite miserable at times, so we just weren't that close.

Micky was incredibly popular, however, with his friends both male and female. He was very involved in rifle and pistol shooting and competed in the sport and was also a motor car enthusiast and took part in motor rallies.

One of his favourite sports was hunting alligators,(actually crocodiles), which are now an endangered species in Jamaica, but were fair game back in the forties and fifties. He would tell the story of how, on one of his alligator hunting expeditions, his life was saved by the gristle in his mother's roast beef sandwich. Micky was squatting by the shore, eating his sandwich, and turned to spit out a piece of gristle. There, aproaching him, was an alligator with its jaws wide open. He just had time to grab his rifle and shoot it.

At a time when I was older and we could have developed a closer relationship we were once again separated by circumstances. Micky got married and emigrated to Canada where his eldest child was born. Here he is, with his son, Michael, reading one of his favourite magazines.

By the time he and his family returned to Jamaica it was I who was getting married and leaving the island. We would see each other whenever I returned home for a visit. In 1963, when he died of a cerebral haemorrhage, I was living in Winnipeg. We had never really gotten to know each other as adults, and that is what I regret most of all.

8 comments:

patricia said...

Wonderful post. And I've always loved that crocodile hunter/gristle story.

It was indeed a great loss that he died so young. I would have liked to have got to know him, too.

Judith said...

This is too sad! Dorothy, are you in touch w. Micky's children?
And did that croc get any of that delicious gristle before meeting its reptilian maker?
Judith

Delishmish said...

Wonderful blog.

My family is also Jamaican, we now live on the West Coast. You know, for such a small island, the people have certainly gotten around and made a huge mark on the world.

I recently read a book that reminds me of your blog, (and of a Jamaica, that I am far too young to have ever experienced) The book was called the Pirate's Daughter. It is written by a Jamaican woaman who is a Professor at an Ivy League School, and it is really quite good.

Your brother left the earth much too soon, but what a lovely tribute you have made to him here.

GOD bless Jamaica

Out of many, one people.

Delishmish said...

Sorry for the misspelling of the word woman...I was typing too fast.

Dorothy Kew said...

Thanks for all the comments, folks!Yes, Judith, I am in touch, from time to time, with my niece and nephews,and my sister-in-law, who all live out in British Columbia. Unfortunately, we're not very good correspondents! I"m afraid the croc get a bellyful of lead not gristle and ended up hanging on the wall of Micky's bedroom for some time. Delishmish is right ... there's a regular diaspora of Jamaicans all over the world!

Shena said...

Dorothy, I'm glad to have found your post as I am particularly interested in your brother's early hunting activities. I work for a publishing company in Kingston, Jamaica and our latest work is a history book of Portmore (i.e. south-east St. Catherine)...you said Micky did much hunting back in the day...can you tell if he hunted in south-east St. Catherine? Are there any images of Micky or anyone else hunting there? Any assistance rendered would be greatly appreciated.

Dorothy Kew said...

Hi Sheena:

Thanks for your comment and I'm interested in your forthcoming book. I really don't know where Micky hunted crocodiles ... I rather thought it was Alligator Pond, but it may well have been in St. Catherine. I was quite a bit younger than him and didn't really pay much attention to his exploits!

Shena said...

Hi Dorothy,

Remember we spoke here sometime in April about your brother Micky's croc hunting? I'm from the publishing company in Kingston, Jamaica.

We are still working on that history book of Portmore(i.e. south-east St. Catherine), and although you cannot be certain of where he did his hunting, we can be sure it represents early hunting in Jamaica and would love to use his photograph to help to illustrate our book. Of course, proper photo credits will be made accordingly and you can see the accompanying caption before we publish.

Anticipating your favourable response!
I can be contacted at sgraham@greathouseomnimedia.com.

Arras Memorial

Arras Memorial

Trooper Victor Dey Smedmore

Trooper Victor Dey Smedmore
My uncle Victor