The Grenada Revolution Online

The Story of the Petit Pere


Many stories are told about Eric Gairy, and here is one of them.


When Eric Gairy was twelve years old he was at the St. Andrew's Roman Catholic Senior School, and was serving as an acolyte in the St. Andrew's Roman Catholic Church, Grenville.

Eric Gairy was one day lying in bed, on his stomach, face on pillows, when he heard a voice he knew so well. It was the voice of the late Father Clarke, an aged Irish Priest of the Grenville Roman Catholic Church.

Father Clarke was calling:

Eric, Eric boy, Eric, this is Father Clarke, boy. Can you hear me? This is Father Clarke. I come to tell you, boy, that I want you to preach the sermon in church on Sunday, next week Sunday. I have brought you here, Eric, the sermon which I have written on these sheets of foolscap paper. You understand me, Eric, my boy?

Eric Gairy, 12 years old and stricken with a hot fever, in a simple and extremely low tone replied:

No, Father, no I really don't understand.

Father Clarke spent some time explaining to the sick boy, who was a Roman Catholic school boy and serving acolyte in one of the loveliest Catholic Churches in the Nation.

Eric Gairy, although quite young, was known for his involvement in religious activities, school gardening and sports in no uncertain ways. However, he was, in several ways a little different when compared with others around his age. He always seemed to have new ideas, and excellent in classes, particularly in his choice of words and his unfailing desire to speak correct English.

Of course, the foregoing was not sufficient for his being selected from among thousands, perhaps, of young Catholic boys, throughout the parish of St. Andrew, to fill the role of delivering a sermon on the pulpit of the Roman Catholic Church when and where no local person, young or old was seen or heard delivering a sermon in that particular church or in any other Roman Catholic Church anywhere else in the Nation.

However, Father Clarke left quite a few sheets of foolscap paper with the young Eric Gairy, to whom he had spoken, saying:

My boy, I will pray for you, and you will get well, you will be alright and ready to deliver the sermon next week Sunday, not Sunday coming Eric, the following Sunday. I will come to see you again and I will tell you how to go about delivering this sermon to the congregation successfully.

Father Clarke left the young boy, stricken with hot fever, and went his way, perhaps feeling confident that Eric Gairy will get well and be able to fulfill this unprecedented duty satisfactorily.

The next week came, and Father Clarke, aged and extremely pious, returned to the home of Eric Gairy who was quite well then, and who had learnt and memorised the written church sermon given to him by Parish Priest for his preachment on the following Sunday, "THE FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY."

Eric Gairy was told how to proceed to the pulpit, how to climb the pulpit and how to face the congregation which was very large as people, in those days, really respected and attended church services in huge numbers.

Alas! that important Sunday came, several acolytes, including Eric Gairy, turned out to assist the clergymen in presenting the Holy Mass to their Lord and Saviour. The Various parts of the ceremony were conducted by the said Father Clarke, the senior clergy, on the pulpit.

Little Eric was to repeat the last sentence of the Gospel read by the priest after which he was to deliver the preachment or sermon as it is called.

At that moment, the priest, Father Clarke, piously came down the pulpit, and the 12 year boy, Eric Gairy, calmly walked up the steps of the pulpit facing the latter for a few seconds, then turned around and faced the congregation repeating the last sentence of the gospel by the priest:

LET THE WORDS OF CHRIST DWELL IN YOU ABUNDANTLY, IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER AND OF THE SO AND OF THE HOLY GHOST, AMEN!

At this time he made the sign of the cross upon himself.

He calmly and slowly began:

Today is the Feast of the Holy Family, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Therefore, with the help of the Holy Family let us talk of the duty of parents toward their children...

The sermon went on and went for the usual length of time in presenting a sermon.

The church was in perfect stillness, the congregation was, in a strange way, under a 'spell' for, never before was a black person, man or boy, given the privilege of climbing the holy pulpit to even say one word. Indeed, the congregation was spellbound.

Little Eric Gairy quietly and unassumingly stepped down the pulpit, the holy mass continued, and little Eric Gairy and the other acolytes (men and boys), about 16, continued their duties.

The mass was over. The crowds fathered to shake hands with that young boy, 12 years of age, but he was very anxious to get away from the crowd.

In fact, he was trying desperately to run to the back of the church when he was held and pulled by a bulky gentleman, Mr. Francis Noel, deceased, who squeezed a coin in his hand and congratulated him. He was father of the late Carlyle Noel and grandfather of Dr. Desmond Noel (deceased), Dennis Noel and others.

Eric Gairy's anxiety was due to his wish to get his share of holy bread, for in those days a large quantity of special bread was given to the church by bakers and business people who thought that the blessing of their bread, after holy mass, would bring them prosperity in their business.

The acolytes were never hesitated in grabbing their share of holy bread, and Eric Gairy was, of course, no exception to the rule.

Throughout St. Andrew, from thence, Eric Gairy was known and called "Petit Pere" (a patois phrase meaning little priest).


Appreciation to Leslie Pierre, editor for this article print in the Grenadian Voice, 9 April 1994. No author is given.


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