'Hot mouth' Tobagonian: God has kept me alive to see 100

Bernice Skeete talks about growing up in Tobago and reaching 100. - Photo by David Reid
Bernice Skeete talks about growing up in Tobago and reaching 100. - Photo by David Reid

Bernice Agatha Skeete has lived a decent, righteous life.

She claims she never partied as a young woman or stayed away from her home in Belle Garden, Tobago for long periods.

Her life in the rural community was devoted entirely to her family and loved ones.

Skeete, who celebrated her 100th birthday on Wednesday, said she is grateful to God for letting her experience the milestone.

“God has kept me alive because my faith is very good,” the feisty centenarian told Newsday.

Skeete, who lives with her daughter Gloria Andrews at Hilltop, Belle Garden, said she was baptised an Anglican and never wavered from her faith.

“Me ah Anglican to ah time come for meh dead ah going back to the Anglican church.”

Born in 1921 under harsh conditions in a village known as Zion Hill, Skeete attended the Belle Garden Anglican primary school.

Like many of her peers at that time, Skeete’s education did not go beyond primary school.

At an early age she found work on a “rich man’s” cocoa estate.

Skeete said she learnt the value of a dollar on the estate.

“If me not work, me not get pay.”

Skeete said society has changed drastically from the era in which she was raised.

Long ago, she said, people had manners.

“If you wanted a hand of bananas, you had to ask, ‘Can I get a hand of bananas please?’

“And, if they say no, you can’t get it, story done.”

Now, Skeete said, young men are entering people’s premises unashamedly and taking their produce.

“They just taking it and they gone and nobody could say who take it. Not Harry nor Dick.”

She recalled when Hurricane Flora devastated Tobago in 1963.

“When Flora take, we have to run all under people house with we little baby.”

Skeete was never married but she bore four children, three of whom are alive. Two live in Trinidad.

She also has eight grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

She said she took her role as a mother seriously.

“But me nah go no fete. Nah grow up in that.”

GOING STRONG: Bernice Skeete, who celebrated her 100th birthday on Wednesday, is flanked by her daughter Gloria Andrews (left) and great granddaughter Cindy Andrews, 22, at her Belle Garden, Tobago home. - Photo by David Reid

She said she took pride in bathing and feeding her young children with porridge.

But as they grew older, some were finicky about certain foods.

“If they don’t want food, yuh have to look for something they want.”

Skeete boasted she has never been picky about food.

“The doctor can’t tell me what to eat. Anything ah get ah eating. Me never pick and choose.”

She claimed she never fancied alcohol.

“I don’t drink. Me eh no ‘rumbo.’”

Owing to covid19 public health restrictions, Cindy Andrews told Newsday the family held a scaled-down birthday celebration for her great grandmother.

“We submitted videos sending her greetings and reminiscing on some of the memories we had with her. So, we played that video for her during the day,” she said.

Andrews said the family also held a small thanksgiving service at home because Skeete was “very big” in the Anglican church.

Andrews said her great grandmother also had a birthday cake and balloons.

She said Skeete was surrounded by family and neighbours, all of whom love and respect her.

Andrews described her great grandmother as “very vibrant, full of life with a "hot mouth."

“If you know her, you would know she have a hot mouth. And if you don’t know she has a hot mouth, then you don’t know her.”

Andrews thanked God for her great grandmother’s life.


"‘Hot mouth’ Tobagonian: God has kept me alive to see 100"

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