Augustine Fournillier

95 years - Paramin

Known as 'Ms Fairy', her great grandparents came from France, most likely under the Cedula of Population. Thirteen children were born to Ms Fairy's mother. In her neighbourhood, "everyone was a midwife" and some would be paid 5c tobacco for their trouble.

Paranging in Paramin would start in the evening at the furthest house and go on through the night, making its way through the village. The Lewah [January 6-end of the Christmas season] and the Anare would signal the end of the season where a sacred staff would be passed on to a new elder until the next year.

First Communion for the children was a major rite of passage. In Paramin, girls were taught to comb their hair in two plaits over the shoulder. They would travel by donkey cart or walk to the Calvary Church in Maraval (which was once considered Paramin) visiting all 14 Stations of the Cross wearing their long-sleeved gowns and veils. The girls would be required to rinse their mouths without spilling a drop. They would pray all day.

The calabash was a medicinal fruit; drinking water from it was considered a way to cure ailments. Bush tea with calabash and sugar was taken on mornings and at night. A mattress was made from crocus bags stuffed with silk cotton seeds and covers were made from flour bags – four stitched together. These required approximately two weeks from start to finish. The smaller flour bags, made of durable white cotton, were used to make clothes and were coloured with roucou dye which was very abundant: petite coats, blouses and shirts were made this way. Hats were made from plaited razor grass. Babies play pens were made from old crates.

Patois was the everyday language in Paramin. They learned some English in school but only up to age 10 when their schooling ended. "You could never finish learn Patois," Ms Fairy explained. It is as much an expression as a language, passed on orally and not in written form.

Mal Yeux was to be feared and was the source of many village conflicts. Ms Fairy is renowned for offering prayers for those seeking protection from Mal Yeux. Ms Fairy roams her garden barefoot and content up in the hills of Paramin where she helps her family prepare chive for sale in her old fireside. She is quite willing to sit and chat with you about the way things were and even has a hardcover book published on traditional gardening techniques. Her family spans far and wide now and with it her name; forever queen of her domain atop the hills of Paramin.