Friday, April 07, 2006

"Doc" Kirby -- An Interview

INCAPACITATED, a victim of an ageing body, Dr Ian Earle Ayrton Kirby remains
an icon and one of this country's national treasures.

And though his body may be frail, his colledive mind
remains intact, fresh with the history of St. Vincent
and the Grenadines.

Last Tuesday,( Tues 15 Mar, 2004) SFARCHLIGHT visited Dr. Kirby at
hîs Edinboro home where he has been bedridden for
the past two years after suffering a fall. .

Undoubtely, who is more fitting a characor than Dr.
Kirby to be featured. in the month of March as the
nation celebrates National Heritage Month and marks
National Heroes Day?

With a wealth of knowledge about this country
the father of Ashley and Melanie Ann, enjoyed taking SEARCRhlIGHT back
down memou lane for an hour and a half

While his has presence not been very visible during
the last few years, in his heyday he left a lasting
impression on the minds of many school children.
Some are now prominent citizens of this country, as
he told them storiès and
related to them the historica1 accounts of the artefacts
that were stored at the museum he operated in the
Botanic Gardens.

Sadly, though, the musemum cherished by the doctor
and the rest of St. Vincent and the Grenadines has
with the passing of time faded, just as Dn Kirby
seemed to vanish of the scene. The museum
which held pre-colombian materials, stone implements and
pottery, had left so many of us in awe.

Dr kirby claims that he has handed it over to the
state, but to date the museum remains virtually nonexistent.
'The persons who should have had interest in it, the
interest was not there, Dr Kirby lamented as he
refected on as legacy that is now stored in boxes. 'i
gave it to the people of St.Vincent but the minister in concern
had different ideas.*

[In 2006 the museum collection is in the hands of the National Trust.]

On December 16.1921 Dn Kirby, OBE,DICTA
DVM, VS, DTVM, was born to Olive and Otto Kirby.
Before attending the St.Vincent Grammar School where he attempted the
Island Scholarship exam, Dn Kirby was a student of the lntermediate 'High

'My life has turned out much more interesting this
way than if I had won a scholarship to study medicine. Had l got the Island
Scholarship I would have ended up in the same mould as other men in
medics' the doc said, humerously. Tracing back history today one realises
that had Dn Kirby won be Island Scholarship this country could well have
been denied his conthbution to local archaeology and history

Spenking of a scholarship that was granted to him to pursue studies at the
lmperial College of Tropical Agriculture Trinidad and Tobago in 1942/5, Dr Kirby said this is probably the best thing that ever happened to him. Three years later he received another scholarship to pursue studies
in veterinary medicine at the Guelp University in Canada.

Over the years Doc has had the opportunity to
serve as a veterinary officer in the Ministry of Agriculture
and as an acting chief agricultural officer.

During his stint in the field of agriculture he
became very fond of archaeology and history and has
become a connoisseur in that regard.

"This was developed in the same way as agriculture.
wherever i went and whàtever I had to do 1
always kept my eyes open, whether it was animals or
plants or artefacts' Dr Kirby explained.

The knack for paying interest to things that most people
would take for granted triggered off a desire for archaeology and
history'that had never been unearthed in him before
when, at Sàndy bay a qùantity of pottery was exposed as a result of some erosion in that area
From then on Doc's hunger for historical items increased and
over the years he was successful in accumulating
hundreds of items.

"What I used to do at first was to take whatever artifacts I collected on
any trip and clean them up and leave them at the agricultural department.
all of a sudden I was not having enough space for the vet business", he stressed. He made a request that the building which was once
the curator's home at the Botanic Gardens be granted to him to house the museum.

From a hisorical standpoint, Dn Kirby used this
interview to challenge several theories which dealt
with me genesis and colonisation of the people of the
Caribbean. "Whenever you talk of colored people, black people, in these areas they always tell you they are the descendants of be runaway
slaves; that to me is bunk".

Dn Kirby ehnllenged this theory by stating that not many slaves
ran away since they feared being caught and punished by the
breaking of their arms before they were killed.

He also contested the theory that the Europeans were the first to travel to
the Western Hemisphere. He stmngly believes that
the people of Mali from the African continent were the
first to travel to these parts of the earth around the early 1300s

"I would like .to know what it is that made Abubakar want to leave
Mali in 1300? He got this directive to leave Mnli with
his people and bring them across the Atlantic."

Dr Kirby added that long before the Europeans came
here, very dark skinned Indians were found in Central America.

Local historical evidenœ shows that at Union Island,
if the rain didn't come or if it was late they would have
this big drum dance in Union and that is a direct
translation from what they do in Mali. The people were
called Garifuna in Mali meaning 'the peple of the
savannahs' Dr. Kirby explained.

He pointed out it cannot be coincidehtal that the people of
the Caribbean, living directly opposite Mali are called
Garifuna also. Dr. kirby said Guyanese Historian Van Sertimer supports the
claim. Evidenoe that the africans came here prior to Columbus, he added,
is found on petroglyphs at Barrouallie, Buccament and
and Colonare,

[To see these petroglyphs go to and click on petroglyph]

And how does he feel about Paramount Chief Joseph Chatoyer being
declared a National hero?

Dr Kirby expresses: "I am glad that the powers that be think that there are
other people who am more important or as important as they are especially with
this partisan politics now."

Dn Kirby feels that national heroes should be selected on the basis of
what they have done that has affected most people in a positive way.

He lashed out at the politicians for wanting to be national heroes by putting themselves on pedestals. " politicians will like that because naturally being a politician is the only criterion some of them have".

Dr Kirby, notwithstanding his incapacity was in very good spirits and expressed the wish that he'd like to see some of his friends come visit him again.

Kendrick Nanton
Searchlight Newspaper, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, 15 Mar 2004