Donald Monplaisir (1910- unknown)
Born: 1910, St. Lucia
Born into a reputable St. Lucian family, he established himself as a highly successful businessman on the neighboring island of Martinique. At that time, he had the distinction of owning the tallest building on the island. He was responsible for advancing the necessary capital that was needed to start what at the time was called the “Penny Bank” (formerly St Lucia Cooperative Bank, now First National Bank). He also then built the first four storey building in the city of Castries, on Brazil Street.
St. Lucian Greats – Donald Monplaisir
This series of articles come from manuscripts for a book by prominent City Barrister Vernon Cooper on prominent citizens.
Donald Monplaisir was born into the well-known and established family in St. Lucia in 1910. He, like every St. Lucian boy, went to the Primary Schools and after to St. Mary’s College where most of the St. Lucians attended.
Although at the time he left St. Mary’s College he showed no inclination either for academic achievement, or for concentrated studies in the humanities or the Arts, he quickly knew what direction to take in life, and having once decided upon the direction there was no turning back. He went straight into Banking, and did very well along with his brother Ralph Monplaisir, working at the Royal Bank of Canada. He then left St. Lucia.
The next I heard of him was that he was in Canada, in some part of Quebec. He returned to the Caribbean and decided that a place near St. Lucia would be his best base and he settled in the French island of Martinique, where he married his very charming wife Emma who was largely responsible for his rise in that island. In any event, Martinique presented more economic advantages than St. Lucia could ever hope to offer.
He carried on in business in Martinique and has become one of the leading merchants in that island, much to the envy of his competitors and the Frenchmen over there. He has the distinction of owning the tallest building on the island and of course he has been an extremely successful businessman. There is nothing that he did not put his hand on that did not turn into gold, and indeed, he has a remarkable brain. I would describe him as a commercial genius, and just as we have geniuses in other professions, he is a genius in his own profession. Who can deny that business is not a profession. He was not a Graduate in Business Administration, nor were highly successful businessmen like Harold Devaux, J. Q. Charles, Joe Devaux, Russell Belizaire and others.
He reared a family of seven, four of them are now grown and some of whom are married and live in Martinique and France.
But the distinguishing feature of Donald Monplaisir is that he never forgot his homeland, St. Lucia. He is largely responsible directly for the advancement of many St. Lucians and I refer particularly to the St. Lucia Cooperative Bank, a local institution owned by St. Lucians, managed by St. Lucians and shared by St. Lucians.
It was the year 1939, when men like Sir Allen Lewis, J.B.D. Osborne, Clive Beaubrun and many others decided there was need for a “Penny Bank”, which would operate for the benefit of the poorer classes. Indeed, it was known, not as the St. Lucia Cooperative Bank but as the “Penny Bank”, the poor man’s Bank, and at the time there was little optimism for its success. Indeed they were short of the necessary capital to commence business according to Law. They went to Donald Monplaisir in Martinique, and he and his wife promptly advanced the necessary capital that was needed to set the Bank in motion, and that Bank today has never turned back. Indeed, it built men like J.Q. Charles, Ralph Giraudy, Russell Belizaire, Clive Beaubrun and a number of other people, men in those days, repeat in those days, who had difficulty in getting credit from the Colonial Banks as the were then called.
The Bank grew from a mustard seed and today it is St. Lucia’s most outstanding success. It is an answer to the criticism of outsiders and the European elements that coloured St. Lucians cannot manage their own affairs, but needed some European Colonial master to do it for us.
The Cooperative Bank as a commercial venture is a signal of success and one of which St. Lucians can be proud, and Donald Monplaisir and his wife Emma must be thanked because had it not been for their substantial contribution, the promoters of that Bank would have failed miserably, having regard to the fact that the metropolitan Banks were not looking upon the advent of such a Bank with the welcoming sign that should have been expected of them.
However, the Bank today continues to grow from strength to strength. This was Donald Monplaisir’s signal contribution to the public welfare, regardless of the fact that it was an investment. My answer to the critics who say that he did it by way of investment, is that they benefited more than he could ever hope to benefit. It has saved quite a few from embarrassing situations.
He was not satisfied with merely putting money in a Bank, he showed his confidence in the Government and people of his island home by purchasing an Estate in Soufriere and he made a point to come here as often as possible to settle with his children in the month of August.
Not satisfied with investing all that amount in his island home, he proceeded to build properties which now house Banks and other commercial institutions, and then he built the first four storey building that St. Lucia has ever seen in Brazil Street. It stands out as a monument to the man’s success, genius and foresight, and also his great love for his country, his respect for the Government of St. Lucia and his confidence in the future of the island.
In other words, he has taken such large amounts of money into his island home in the hope that it will help it rise.
Indeed, he went further; in all the ventures such as Coconut Growers, Banana Growers Association, Agriculturalists Association and in many other projects he has sunk some money , some of which he lost and some of which continues to succeed.
This is evidence of the man’s desire to help his island. The critics will say, he himself derived the benefit, so what is wrong with that? What about those who make money here and send it abroad, he did not make his money in St. Lucia, he made his money abroad and sent it back home and this is the most laudable feature of this man’s voyage back to his homeland.
Regardless of the man’s immersion in commercial activities, he has never lost his sense of humour. He has never deprived himself of a hearty laugh, nor has his sense of humour been blunted by the multifarious misfortunes and fortunes which have attended his life. He continues to enjoy it and make his contribution to his island as well as to the island of Martinique. He remains a pillar of St. Lucia and it is a wonder and great disappointment to me that he has not been honoured by the United Kingdom Government through Her Majesty for his services to commerce in St. Lucia, a conferment which is long overdue.
Such honour have been conferred in England for contributions to commerce and business. Why should he not be similarly honoured? Is it that a man is not a prophet in his own country?