Eric Ardon Daisley 29 Sep 1930 11 Feb 2004

by Lennox E.A. Daisley

 

This is not a time for crying, weeping, or sobbing. Neither is it a time for prolonged grieving and being sad, Instead, it is a time for thanksgiving, reflecting, celebrating and honouring the life and times of the man we called Comic, Panner, Teach or Dad.   

 

Eric Ardon Daisley was born in the village of South Rivers on the 29th September 1930. His mother. Charlotte Williams, was a quiet, reserved, pleasant and humble young lady; while his father, Hubert Daisley, was the active head teacher of the primary school. From all reports, Ardon inherited many of his mother's qualities and characteristics which apparently served him in good stead throughout his lifetime, but, more particularly, towards the end when he became ill with difficult and trying times.   

 

Eric, as he was then known, was taken at age five to live with his paternal grandparents on their estate, called "Daisville", at Stubbs. Daisville contained a piano and was a household where strict adherence to Christian principles, ethics and moral rectitude was routinely monitored and accordingly enforced. Part of this estate is now the site of the Carapan Secondary School. Eric's early formal  education was at the Stubbs Primary School, where he created history by being first among a group of three students - St. Clair Dacon, Earle Falby and himself - to win scholarships to the Grammar school in 1942. In those days, scholarship winners only came from town. 

 

Eric entered Grammar school and was an instant hit, apparently because: He came over as a natural comedian that seemed always to draw a crowd and make people laugh - hence his nickname "Comic".    He was exceptionally talented musically - He played   the piano, guitar, violin, quatro, drum and many other instruments with equal dexterity and a high degree of skill -the school's piano was his toy during breaks; He was a gifted sportsman - a general all-round athlete, skilled at football and table tennis, but stood out at cricket. He represented the Grammar School in most sports, and made the touring team while still a junior in short pants; He was the scout troop leader; and he was good academically. 

 

While still at school, Ardon engaged himself in a host of extra-curricular activities - all of which he seemed to put in 100% effort and ensured that they were done to perfection. Upon leaving school, he followed in his father and grandfather's footsteps by embarking upon a teaching profession. He taught at the Kingstown Methodist, Evesham and Gomea Schools, before he took up an assignment to lecture in mathematics, sports and music, at the Teachers College. His contribution to the teaching profession is legendary and a matter of record. Many of his students affectionately characterize him as a meticulous, but strict disciplinarian, with an exceptional skill to impart knowledge. And, once he taught you, you stayed taught.   Incidentally, I am advised that, at home, he preferred the subtler forms of punishment, such as the withdrawal of privileges, rather than utilize the rod, or the strap. That was quite a difference from the options available to his students at school.    

 

Music 

Ardon was a pioneer of the steelband and its development in St. Vincent. He was the first person to make, tune and play a pan in St. Vincent. He started the steelband, which he called "Syncopators", in a friend's backyard at middle street, Kingstown. This band primarily played classical music and was the first steel band to play in a church in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, when it played for a service at the Anglican cathedral in Kingstown. Of course, "Syncopators" played calypsos and other types of music. Friends of the band insist that, during Carnival, the band always seemed to win everything - the best playing band, best dressed steelband, best historical, best j'ouvert, etc. etc. It is reported that Ardon and Lance Collymore would accomplish the remarkable feat of listening to the steelband competition from Trinidad on 610 radio, write out the scores for the top performing steelbands, then rush them to Syncopators' band members to play on the road, a matter of hours later, for J'ouvert: truly amazing, when you realize that tape recorders were not available to them in those days.     

 

Further, it should also be noted that all Syncopators' members read music, and each would practice his part by himself and not as a group; for fear that another band 'would snoop by and steal their music'. For this reason, the first time that the band would play a song together, as a unit, was when the band was actually performing, or competing. And, how good they sounded! Need I remind you that all of this occurred at a time when the steelband was anathema and looked down upon with righteous anger by society - even by his school and perhaps family? So, he had to constantly hide and everything was done in utmost secrecy. For example, Syl Mclntosh related to me how Ardon would ride his bicycle, along the back roads, from Kingstown to Evesham to collect Lance Collymore and take him to the pan yard at Middle Street for practice then back to Evesham, before Collymore's parents could suspect, or realize, anything. Ardon is credited for his contribution in gaining the acceptance of the Steel Pan as a legitimate form of our nation's cultural heritage.

 

He is clearly a national treasure. In addition, Ardon was very active in many other spheres of music: He played tenor horn for the Philharmonic Orchestra; he sang and played  bass for the Kingstown Chorale; he sang with the Methodist and Anglican Church choirs; he was part of the group that provided musical accompaniment for the two musical classics - the Gondoliers and the Mikado; he was a foundation member of the Blue Rhythm Orchestra, in which he played a range of instruments; and, he was instrumental in reviving the "Cavite Chorale" at UWI, Barbados, in the mid 70' s, after many years of the group's dormancy.    

 

Cricket    Ardon made the national cricket team while he was still at school. He was a brilliant, but patient batsman who made several centuries and could occupy the crease for Weeks. Eddie Sealy and Molly Arthur suggest that his 121 not out, in St. Lucia, as a schoolboy, is one of the best innings they have seen. He was an excellent gully fielder, team player and off-spinner.

 

He was a member of "Malverns" for years, but left it to form a team, which he called "Lancastrans". It was believed that he only formed a team in order that he could captain his own team. He easily made the Windward Islands cricket team and was the first player to make a century in each of the countries where the tournament was held. He was a key player on the first Windward Islands team that went to St Lucia to play against Pakistan. That game was played around Carnival time and the team was stranded in St Lucia as the boat in which they had to travel was unavailable. The team members grasped the opportunity to demonstrate to St Lucians how to jump on the streets for Carnival.

 

Previously, the St Lucians merely drove around on the backs of trucks with music. So talented was Ardon, as a batsman, that Frank Worrell journeyed from Barbados to St Vincent to look at him play in order to consider him for selection on the West Indies team. However, Ardon advised me that shortly after he began to bat and had made only 16 beautiful runs, the skies darkened and it began to rain; thus, the game had to be abandoned and, he lost his chance. He soon left the game. 

 

Incredibly, many years after he had stopped playing competitive cricket, he went to the UW1 campus at CavehillBarbados to study mathematics. Having nothing else to do on afternoons at campus, he would join the cricketers at their practice sessions on the field just outside his dormitory. Soon, he was to walk on to the Cavehill cricket team. He was easily selected on the combined UW1 team to play against the touring New Zealand team, in Jamaica. In that game, he made 40 odd, not out, which prompted many observers to suggest that he should be on the West Indies team. He was also highly rated by the New Zealanders, who claimed that they had never seen a batsman, his age that was so technically correct. At that time, he was fast approaching his fiftieth birthday.   

 

Ardon married his former student and fellow teacher, Eileen George, on the 17th February 1962. That union produced five children - three boys and two girls. But, like so many good Christian sinners, his numbers were in excess of those. I suspect Ardon might well argue the mathematical (or medical) concept - synergism? Despite all his remarkable achievements, there was little or no recognition, save from his friends and family who were very proud of him. Through it all, he remained a calm, reserved, humble man. Even when most people felt that he was blatantly wronged and even sought to spur him into action, he remained calm and showed no outwardly visible signs of disgust, anger or hatred, nor took any unpleasant reaction; He seemed oddly to take everything in stride. Many of his friends are of the opinion that his staunch membership of Solomon's Cloister Lodge #1, since 1960, might have further contributed to his innate meekness and modesty. 

 

Ardon passed on to the great beyond on the 11th February 2004. He leaves to mourn his wife, children, brothers, sisters, other family members and friends. All who knew him would miss him dearly. What a man! 

 

He was indeed a man of infinite resources, sagacity, pulchritude, tenacity and talent. May God have mercy upon his soul? And... May he rest in peace.

 

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