Posted on / in Family News, In Memory Of

Tribute for Mama Tit

Tribute for Earline “Mama Tit” Wilmot,

delivered at St. John’s Church, Ocho Rios, September 29, 2012.

Earline May (Tit) Wilmot was born on August 25, 1933 in St. Ann’s Bay, into the large Cole family (she had 10 siblings) and 6 are still with us. She grew up in Milford and Breadnut Hill and attended the Wesleyan school at Ocho Rios. She worked for a short period in Madam’s supermarket in Ocho Rios, and in 1950 she met the love of her life, young Alfred Wilmot, then a mechanic at Beckford’s Garage and they married here in St. John’s Church in November 1956.  Alfred predeceased Mama Tit in 1999 and today we will lay her remains beside his in this churchyard.

Mama Tit Wilmot lived at the Wilmot family homestead at Sixty Acres in Breadnut Hill for 57 years and was the matriarch of the present generation of Wilmots from Sixty Acres. Samuel and Priscilla Wilmot were the first Wilmot family to live there after they married in1849 and they parented eight children (4 boys and 4 girls). One hundred years later Alfred and Mama Tit repeated the formula exactly, including the gender distribution of their 8 children, (4 boys: Ruddy, Lenny, Clyde and Merrick, and 4 girls; Sandra, Vivienne, Sherrell and Marcia, all born at Sixty Acres on the four poster bed, with the head post which came from the old family home whose foundations are adjacent to Alfred’s and Mama Tits home. Mama Tit also had three step children, Lavern, Claudette, and Joan.

Mama Tit was a homemaker and she developed an amazing partnership with her mother in law Mary (Minnie) Llewellyn, and with Alfred they raised the large family in testing circumstances, since prior to the 1960s Sixty Acres had neither electricity nor running water, and therefore none of the modern conveniences that would ease the domestic demands of raising a large family.

Mama Tit’s days began as early as 4:30 am in the outside kitchen, preparing Alfred’s breakfast, and then his hot lunch, before he set off for the 6 am shift at Reynolds mines. There he often boasted to his co-workers about his hot lunch that Mama Tit had lovingly prepared and neatly arranged in enamel carriers. With Alfred off to work, the children had to be fed and readied for school, especially the four girls whose hair she expertly groomed.

The outside and later the more modern kitchen was Mama Tit’s kingdom where she reigned supreme and kept her family nourished and fed. No matter the size of the gathering or the amount of food, she had a special gift of sharing. Whether it was a regular meal, Saturday soup, or the huge mug of hot chocolate drink or Milo for the children’s nightcap, everyone, residents, visitors, her children, and sometimes their cousins from the bottom yard, always received a sufficient amount. Indeed, Mama Tit’s skills at sharing embodied the biblical story of the five loaves and two fish.

Mama Tit was an exceptional cook, and she was particularly famous for her rice and peas, (and since she has taken the recipe with her I suspect there will be even more rejoicing in heaven). On returning from Sunday service here at St. Johns, Alfred and the children would be greeted by the welcome aroma of Mama Tits’ Sunday chicken while the car made its way slowly up the rocky road to the home at Sixty acres. Her culinary skills will be missed at the extended family Christmas gatherings.

Mama Tit was also an amazingly skilled laundress who performed miracles on her bleaching stand where she expertly removed the bauxite brick red stains from Alfred’s overhauls.  With three adults and eight children, and sometimes more, laundry day at Sixth Acres was a busy family affair under her direction. The older children fetched water from Spring Gully before leaving for school, and after school they assisted with the rinsing and then the pinning out of the yards of laundry that she had washed in their absence.

On other days there was the general housework, and since Alfred had a special love for animals and also reared livestock (once he had 32 piglets), the yard at Sixty Acres often resembled a zoo with a variety of four legged and two legged animals, whose care MamaTit always assisted with.

Family was at the very core of Mama Tit’s being. She was a wonderfully caring mother and was intensely proud of her children. She luxuriated in the company of her twenty three grandchildren and her seven great grand kids. Indeed, even in the midst of her final illness, she was more concerned about her children’s health and stress levels as they worried about her, than she was about her own health.

Special mention must be made of Mama Tit’s exceptional friendship with Mary Llewellyn (Aunt Minnie), her mother in law, who shared the family home at Sixth Acres up until her passing in 1998. They partnered as homemakers and it was special to see Mama Tit and Mary, after their day’s labour, relaxing on the barbecue, in the cool of early evening, before the TV 7 pm news, conversing and laughing, like two young girls sharing special secrets.  When Mary’s general health declined and her eyesight deteriorated, Mama Tit became her devoted left and right hand, preparing special meals for her, and responding to Aunt Minnie’s every need, yet another testament’s to Mama Tits’s admirable loyalty and unqualified love for family.

Mama Tit was the family peacemaker. But, she was no push over for even when she agreed to a particular position, because, in her words, “everything for a peaceful life”, she did not necessarily embrace it with any degree of enthusiasm, even if she flashed her disarming smile. She was firm in her views and convictions and held them, regardless who disagreed. This was best exemplified by her strong political views and her support for the Peoples National Party was well known, and she, with Alfred and Miss Minnie were always among the first to vote at the Breadnut Hill Primary School. Sometimes she worked as an outdoor agent bringing out the voters whom she had previously canvassed. Her party loyalty was wrapped up with her love for the land of her birth and she was always eager to go on the family outings in the school holidays when she, Alfred, Mary and sometimes Tit’s mother, and the children would pile into Alfred’s Ford Consul to travel to see another part of Jamaica.

Mama Tit’s social circles spread far and wide and she loved to sing and she enjoyed music. She and Alfred used to cut a dancing style, especially at Old Hits parties. None enjoyed a fete more than Mama Tit and it was not unusual for their adult children to reach home from the same party before their parents did, sometime after sunrise.  Mama Tit’s social life narrowed and slowed, during an extended period of mourning after Alfred passed in 1999, and she really never fully recovered her very active social life. Often alone at home in the days,  she was attached to her radio, especially RJR, and she a devoted follower of “Hotline”, in particular Miss Gloudon, and then interestingly for her generation, she never missed “Miss Kitty on her radio programme, “Ruption”, and made sure she met them whenever they broadcasted from Ocho Rios.

Mama Tit’s regular Friday trips to the market in Ocho Rios remained as a very special outing for her, moving from friend to friend, philosophizing, laughing and connecting to her wider family as she enjoyed the fellowship of her good friends, chatting , sharing stories, learning and contributing to the wisdom and social commentary that pervade our markets each weekend.  There was a certain ritual to her Fridays. Up early as usual, she did her housework, fed the pets, and after fortifying herself with her delicious cornmeal porridge, Mama Tit, by around 10 am would walk out to the main road from Sixty Acres, stopping to visit first with her dear friend and cousin in law, Mr. Edward, while waiting for the taxi to Ocho Rios. Having arrived there, she quickly dealt with post office and banking matters and then set out for her main, central destination, the market to spend the rest of the day with her friends: Miss Thelma who supplied her vegetables, Leroy, who reserved his best ground provisions for her; from Sandra she got her meat, and from Shorty, bananas, and of course there was the special stop at Marva for fried fish and pudding. One of her daughters would collect her at around 7 pm, and they were sometimes hard pressed to convince Mam Tit that it was time to return to Sixty Acres.

On my visits to Sixty Acres, I always looked forward to being greeted by Mama Tit with her shining eyes, warm smile and embracing hug, invariably, saying, “Mr Swithin”. After enquiring for my family the next question was “ are you hungry, do you want  a cup of tea?” I recall well the more extended Sunday visits with her and Alfred, and how after a sumptuous lunch, yes the chicken and rice and peas, we would sit in the kitchen and talk, sipping cups of tea, with the old hits playing on the radio in the background, and  I imbibed the calming tranquility that Mama Tit radiated.

Mama Tit was unpretentious, plain and warm and her generosity and kindness had no end and I was blessed and privileged to know her. I will always treasure her caring warmth and bountiful goodness.  Her sudden loss is devastating for all her children and friends. But we must give thanks for Mama Tit was a special soul, with a huge heart and a loving smile. She had a full and rewarding life and her family was her all!!!

Now, she has gone home to be re-united with her beloved Alfred and all her other loved ones. With that faith, we say our loving goodbyes and wish for her a most deserved, peaceful rest.

 

Rest well, my dear Mama Tit, rest well.

 

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