Apr 22, 2018 News
By Feona Morrison
When Helena Maud McAllister was born, Guyana was still colonized by the British. A vibrant Helena, née Yard, was born on April 16, 1914 in British Guiana, to James Yard, a carpenter and native of Barbados, and Albertha Bunyan, a housewife.
Last Monday, she celebrated her 104th birthday in fine style with family and friends at the Herdmanston Lodge in Georgetown. Then again on Tuesday (April 17) a gathering was held at her home for members of a Bible class for which she is the principal. This pleasant old woman was seated in a chair at her Lot 208 Duncan Street, Georgetown home and business place, when Kaieteur News visited her.
While her memory is still perfect, her sight has to some extent deteriorated. But from home, she runs the family business Mac’s Housing and Facilities—an apartment rental company — with the aid of her three children —Ruth Cumberbatch, Hilton McAllister Jr., Dr. Godfrey McAllister — and Nadira Ramoutar, who has been the family’s confidential secretary for over two decades.
“I am full of joy. I thank God for bringing me to this point. He has been keeping me all through the years…His goodness, mercy and compassion,” McAllister reflected. To mark her 102nd birthday, she chronicled and published her biography—‘A Century with Jesus’.
She revealed that she is the only survivor of four siblings. She is also a grandmother of two and great grandmother of one. Helena is overseen by her daughter Ruth who occupies one of the apartments.
Helena has seen a lot of changes in her hundred years and spent her early life with her mother, whom she adored. She recounted, “My mother was very attentive to me. I could have told her anything and I did. Whatever the situation, she would instruct me how to behave and what was the appropriate thing to do.”
“Growing up, my life revolved around school, home and church. My father was an elder at the ‘Collier’ Brethren church at Camp Street and South Road, Georgetown. Every morning we had devotions. We were brought up in accordance with strict standards. I had a happy childhood, and lived largely without the ensnarement of worldly pleasures.”
Helena recalled being taught all the primary school subjects. After completing sixth standard, she left the Freeburg School and attended sewing classes at the Carnegie School of Home Economics. She expressed, “I enjoyed sewing, and this became a large part of my life. I learned embroidery and eventually I would sew at home for all my family. I took some instructions in tailoring and making artificial flowers. Later I would make artificial flowers for sale.” However, tragedy struck the family when she was just 12—her father died, he had been suffering from a bad stomach. The Brethren movement assisted the family onwards.
Helena met Hilton McAllister, who would later become her husband, at church. She added that she and her husband were both from poor family backgrounds and that “I felt that if someone wanted to marry me, I needed to be independent”. They tied the knot in the 1940s. Her husband was the founder of Mac’s Secretarial School at the above mentioned address. The educational institution for which her husband was the headmaster churned out well rounded students for decades.
The late Desmond Hoyte was Assistant Principal at the school before he became the country’s president. Both Helena and her husband held posts at separate medical institutions before joining the teaching profession. Their children later joined the teaching staff.
Due to various reasons, the family was forced to close the school in 2001. Helena writes in her biography, “Some parents were not paying fees. Hilton (her husband) decided not to pursue the parents and closed the school instead.” The senior McAllister was described by his widow as an incredible individual who worked around the clock to support his family. Helena also writes that sometime after 1956, her son Godfrey who was then four years of age, became very ill with a stomach problem. “Godfrey was always inquisitive. He was four years old and would reach up onto a table, steal tomatoes and eat them. It seems he ate so many that they destroyed the lining of his stomach. All we knew is that Godfrey could no longer keep down his food. I took Godfrey to the out-patient department at the Georgetown Hospital, and then to other private doctors, and they all said they could do nothing for him and he was given up to die.”
The centenarian further writes that her husband, who was at the time in Barbados, was notified of his son’s condition and soon after travelled to Guyana. “He (her husband) picked up his son from the hospital bed; ignored the doctor’s protest that he could not take his son away from the hospital until the child is discharged; stormed through the door and took his son home.” Helena said that her son had become so ill that he looked like a skeleton and that his father used “nature cure” techniques to restore the young child to health. According to Helena, “Godfrey recovered and went to a private school where he took the Common Entrance Exam and got a scholarship to go to Queen’s College.” Her husband lost his vision to glaucoma at age 96 and passed away in 2008.
At 104, Helena is still thriving. She is still active in church and has been successfully managing the family business. She was featured in the Guinness Book of Records at age 102, for being the world’s oldest managing director. And whether for business or pleasure, she stays in touch with her contacts around the world via Skype, email and occasionally from her Android phone. She expressed that she has been privileged to live a long life and has learnt some wisdom along the way which she is willing to share.
Helena advises to “train your children in the way they should go and be an example to them in your walk, talk and so on”. She underscores that one must be loving and firm, humble, honest and contented. She further encourages others to “read the Bible and serve the Lord”. Although she has never been bestowed with a National Award of any kind, this centenarian has been the personification of the accomplished and virtuous woman. When asked if she had a best friend, Helena replied, “The only best friend I have is Jesus. He is my best friend, because He is always there for me. But don’t get me wrong, I do have some very good friends.”
Apr 23, 2021BCB/Dr Puran Singh Educational Trust Fund 2021 Kaieteur News – Berbice Cricket Board (BCB) President Hilbert Foster on Wednesday last urged young players across the County to complete their...
Apr 23, 2021
Apr 23, 2021
Apr 23, 2021
Apr 22, 2021
Apr 22, 2021
Kaieteur News – From now, way into the future, the March 2020 rigged election will be remembered and discussed. Some... more
By Sir Ronald Sanders Kaieteur News – As undesirable as it may be, governments of Caribbean countries that are not... more
Freedom of speech is our core value at Kaieteur News. If the letter/e-mail you sent was not published, and you believe that its contents were not libellous, let us know, please contact us by phone or email.
Feel free to send us your comments and/or criticisms.
Contact: 624-6456; 225-8452; 225-8458; 225-8463; 225-8465; 225-8473 or 225-8491.
Or by Email: [email protected] / [email protected]