James A. Belgrave (1909-?)
James A. Belgrave
James A. Belgrave was born on 15th August, 1909. He was educated at the Castries Anglican School, and reached the highest standard in his day, The Sixth Standard. After leaving school he took up photography and became a very good photographer of which there were few at that time.
From his early days he displayed talent as an actor and this led him on to becoming one of St. Lucia’s greatest actors. He was also a comedian and playwright. He spent most of his life doing Social Work. His interest was in helping the poor and needy.
Mr. Belgrave founded the Victoria Social Amateur Dramatic Club – VSADC – in 1935. This club took part in athletics, cricket, football and volleyball. He was the choir master and leader of a singing group. This group sang at many institutions and homes during the Easter and Christmas seasons.
To help rescue the young boys· who roamed the streets and became nuisances, he formed a Boys’ Club at Conway and began training these boys to become useful St. Lucians. He was a strict disciplinarian. It was not an easy job for him to discipline these boys, but he did it with will power and love and succeeded where those who tried before him failed.
His wife helped him in his social work. Because of his good nature many people loved and admired him. In 1956 he attended a course in Social Work in the United States of America.
For his outstanding service he was honoured by the Queen in 1946 with the British Empire Medal B.E.M. For all the work which James A. Belgrave did in the field of Social Work he received little or no reward.
St. Lucia lost a loyal and sincere worker, who put duty to others at all times above self. He was a great son of St. Lucia.
James A. Belgrave – Who was he?
James Alexander Belgrave was a St. Lucia who had a great love for humanity. In fact, he was often referred to as a man with a stout heart, great determination and very patriotic. He was always willing and ready to sacrifice leisure time, talent and money in order to be of assistance to his fellowmen and in particular, the unfortunate and wayward youth in this land of his birth.
Coupled with that was his seep faith in God. In his Christmas message 1973 he exhorted St. Lucians to keep in touch with God at all times and do not try to succeed in anything without the help of their creator. “Love ye one another, for love is the one connecting link of oneness, which binds heaven and earth”, said he.
His remarks were not mere words. But he backed it up with noble deeds. To put it simply, he was a man of action.
His actions did in fact expose him as a great leader. To demonstrate his leadership skills he founded what he termed “the unique youth organisation”: The Victoria Athletic Dramatic and Cultural Club, VADC, on 16th September, 1935.
He chose a motto which reflected the true man: Mens sana in corpore sano – “A sound mind in a sound body.”
The VADC nurtured scores of young men and women in the areas of sports, drama and music. In fact, the club won the football championship. In 1954 capturing the Wright Cup with players like the Floissac brothers Vincent and Don, V. Devaux and Kitchner Hinds, to name a few.
In drama, he organised a drama group that took to the stage to put on a few wonderful performances. He himself wrote and directed his plays. Two of his well known plays were: “Life and its coincidence” and “A woman and brave army”. His plays were well received by the theatrical audiences of the day.
His contribution in the field of music was substantial. He was known by many as an ardent choirmaster,-leading a choir on Columbus Square during the Jaycees Christmas tree celebrations. His group always rendered Christmas carols which were well received by scores of town dwellers who thronged the Square for the occasion.
To show how astute a leader he was, James Alexander Belgrave founded the Castries Boys’ Club in 1951. The club occupied a building which was formerly a soap factory. The boys he trained could be seen in town doing their own shopping; preparing their own meals; and cleaning their rooms under his supervision and guidance. They also learnt to wash and mend their own clothing.
His musical skills did come to play during the club’s activities. He taught the boys to play the steelband. In fact, he formed “The Melody Brothers All-Steel Orchestra” which won the island competition in steelband music in 1953.
It is in the field of sports that I wish to highlight James A. Belgrave. He emerged as an excellent sports administrator in St Lucia.
In 1949 he was elected Secretary of the St. Lucia Football Association; in 1953 he was elected treasurer of the same association; and in that year also took up the treasurership of the St. Lucia Table Tennis Association. He was also a member of the St. Lucia Athletics Association.
The name Belgrave was really synonymous with sports. He loved boxing and trained many of the boys at the boys’ club in that sports. Indeed, he trained many of the local boxers at that time.
Mr. Belgrave always sought to promote friendship among youth organisations. His main aim was always to strengthen the ties that lie among youth groups and increase the mutual understanding and co-operation which then existed In the island.
He was able to do that as President of the St. Lucia National Youth Council where he ‘touched base’ with all the youth groups on the island. He was elected the first president of that organisation in 1967.
He was also elected vice president of the St. Lucia Mental Health Association in 1974. He later became a member of the St. Lucia Boys Scout Association.
In his latter years, he found the James Belgrave Kindergarten Child Care Centre in lower Maynard Hill or ‘Trou Rouge’, Marchand.
One of his greatest desires was to make men and women of the ‘common’ boy and girl on the streets of Castries. He succeeded in large measure. The actual number of men and women he “made” may never be known, but one person who has identified himself is Reverend Victor Matthew who had been known as a pastor of the Free Church of England.
Mr. “B” as he was affectlonally known, never looked forward to receiving praises for his service to humanity.
However, on 10th June 1954 James Alexander Belgrave was honoured by her Majesty Queen Elizabeth with the British Empire Medal B.E.M. (Civil Division). And an avenue has been named after him in Sans Soucis.
Indeed, the residents of Marchand are delighted to have had the privilege one year ago, of accepting the sports complex as a dedication to James Alexander Belgrave.
And to do the honours was the district representative himself Romanus Lansiquot, with whom Mr. Belgrave had the honour to work.