By Brian Lindsay-Campbell
Anytime I hear Pamela Bullen-Cherubin making strong and meaningful representation for our youthful national swimmers I always say to myself that the mango did not fall far from the tree, because she is an extension of her father….Evelyn “Brat” Bullen…
It is very true that I always wanted to pay tribute to Evelyn “Brat” Bullen, for his extraordinary contribution towards our community and by extension Grenada.
‘Brat” was the father of Pamela Cherubin who was the manager and PRO of the very successful Grenada swimming team for many years now, and whose daughter, Oreoluwa Cherubin is an outstanding swimmer.
“Brat” met an untimely death on October 19th 1983 when he was executed alongside our former Prime Minister Maurice Bishop with other Cabinet colleagues and friends on Fort Rupert which is considered to be the darkest day in the history of our country.
This is my recollection of this larger than life St. Paul’s persona Evelyn “Brat” Bullen.
Evelyn “Brat” Bullen was a very fierce competitor when it came to competitions and championships in the field of sports and culture.
Allow me to highlight some of his outstanding contributions from 1968 to 1983 before his execution and loss to his family, our community and by extension our country.
In 1968, Commancheros Steel Orchestra entered the St. David Panorama Championship and won playing Lord Kitchener’s “Carnival in 1968” and Lulu’s “Sir with Love. “Brat” arranged those songs.
In 1970, Commancheros entered the national panorama championship and placed second playing the theme song from the motion picture, The Good the Bad and the Ugly. According to all reports, it was a great performance by the boys from St. Paul’s but it failed to get the judge’s approval that year.
Also in 1970, Commancheros Steel Orchestra landed a ten-year contract with a West German company named Neckurman Tours through its local agents W.E. Julien and Company. It was “Brat” who signed on the dotted line on behalf of Commancheros.
One of Commancheros’ long-standing achievement is the bringing of the Christmas cheer to many people from St. Paul’s to Lance Aux Epines and back. In fact, Christmas will not be the same for the St. Louis family of Calivingny and other families if Commancheros did not visit their homes on Christmas day.
For me that activity by Commancheros is almost as old as Commancheros, which was started under Brat’s leadership.
Two years after the tour began, in 1972 Commancheros was able to produce their first long-playing album, Play Mas, and that album was produced in Barbados.
In 1974 when the authorities said no Carnival that year that was not for us in St. Paul’s as under the leadership of Brat, Commancheros rolled out from the pan yard to the St. Paul’s Police Station and playing, the Mighty Shadow’s, “I come out to play” and “Bass man from hell”.
During the 1970’s, Commancheros was established as the best playing steel orchestra on the road under his leadership.
The Southeast Football League started in 1974 and went for many years. Games were played in Mt. Airy and Laborie playing fields. That competition attracted teams from the various villages from St. Paul’s and other communities.
Brat played for a team called Scrunters, along with other players like O’Brian Robinson (Captain), Cecil Phillip, David Lord, Edwin Thompson, David Bullen, Leon Cornwall, and George Noel who was the MVP for the first season with his 24 goals after two rounds of competition in the inaugural year. Scrunters went on to win the competition.
“Brat” played a very important role in that victory by providing assists and scoring goals now and then – he was one of the forwards for the team.
In 1975 and 1976, he led Commancheros from the front as one of the arrangers and tenor pan players to win the two national Pan Festival Championships in order to bring pan glory to his community.
The Festivals were held at the former Regal Cinema which is now carrying the name Reno. I think that the Steel Band Association and the Ministry of Culture should see it fit to reintroduce the pan festivals sometime in the future.
After the 1976 Festival victory, Commancheros was able to produce their second album, “Variations in Tempo” which was done in Trinidad and Tobago. This feat made Commancheros the first steel orchestra to produce two long playing albums in four years under “Brat’s energetic leadership.
In speaking to Carl Cherubim, a brilliant footballer in his days, he said to me that Brat told him he wanted to play first division football but did not want to play for any of the teams in town – he wanted to play only for St. Paul’s.
It is my opinion that “Brat” could have played for any of the teams in the parish of St. George at the first division level but he wanted to play for his community of St. Paul’s.
For the 1978 Grenada Football Association Championship at the second division level, Carl Cherebin came on board to coach and play for St. Paul’s. How that happened is not so important now but I think that Brat was the one who had encouraged him to come on board and in an unselfish act he did so because of his situation with his former club, Honved.
Furthermore, Carl played a very important role on the field of play and as coach in the victory of St. Paul’s Sports Football Team in the GFA second Division that year.
With that victory “Brat” and St. Paul’s Sport Club saw their dreams being realised when they were promoted to the GFA first division in 1979 but their stay at first division level was short-lived because of a world event that took place in Grenada on the 13th of March 1979.
At the end of the GFA football season, the team was relegated back down to the second division level because it finished at the bottom of the table.
It should be noted that most of the players were deeply involved in the revolutionary process, which severely hampered their performances on the field in my opinion.
As a young person growing in St. Paul’s I could not understand why we were unable to win the St. George Cricket Association Championship with the wealth of talent we had as a team.
In fact, cricket is supposed to be our main sport, even though we do not have a team playing today but we still have a wealth of talent in St. Paul’s.
During the 1960s and 70s, we had so many outstanding players who went on to play cricket for the Grenada national cricket team.
I can recall players like Richard Smith, a swing bowler and to date I have not seen one like him around, also Ashley Roberts, a stylish and hard hitting left-hand opening batsman, Hubert Lord, left-hand swing bowler, Pewee Adams, left hand fast bowler.
Other top players in the team back in those days were Raymond Steele, an elegant batsman, Emmanuel “Zorro” Braithwaite who was an All-rounder, “Ox” Duncan, a very diminutive opening batsman.
Mr. Robert Robinson was the team captain and wicket keeper, Ruffin Horsford used to bowl off breaks and was a good lower order batsman.
The team also had Mr. Lewis, a hard hitting batsman and Evelyn Bullen was another of the batsmen.
I can recall as a little boy that when I saw St. Paul’s play for the first time in 1972 against Happy Hill Sports Club Cricket team in front of the Old pavilion at the park, I was amazed by the batting of Roberts and the bowling of Lord, Adams, Smith and Brathwaite.
In doing some research for this document, I found out that the only time a St. Paul’s Cricket team had won any cricket championship in St. George was some time before 1960.
It was done by a group of young men who formed a cricket team that was called Sports Boys.
It had players like Claudius Lloyd Campbell, the opening fast bowler, Denis Phillip (wicketkeeper), Lennox Julien Thompson and Godwin Bullen who were very good batsmen in their own rights.
The next time would be in 1980, under the leadership of Evelyn “Brat” Bullen with the emerging young talents such as Croney, John Jeremiah (deceased), Eastman, the two Stewarts as well as Xavier, Thwaites, Bernard Thomas (deceased), Duncan, Theo Davis, Lord and Lindsay among others.
That team also had some very seasoned and experienced players of the past such as Brat Bullen, Smith, Horsford, Brathwaite, Arnold, Carl Cherebin, Hugh Dolland, and Matthew Lawrence who was the wicketkeeper and vice-captain to “Brat”.
We were able to bring the trophy up White Gun for the first time in decades of trying.
It was indeed a very proud moment for me and all of St. Paul’s. We were able to defeat Ashley “Ram” Folkes and his Cricket team from Point in that game that was described as high in drama at the Tanteen Playing Field, now known as the Roy St. John playing field to bring the curtains down on the 1980 St. George Cricket season.
“Brat” led from the front – his 89 runs against Police Cricket team on the former College Ground in which he shared a hundred run partnership with Carl Cherebin who went on to score a half century put St. Paul’s in an unbeatable position. We were able to secure first innings points in that game which was the game plan.
Brat’s innings was second best to that of Croney’s 95 against Dauntless Cricket Team at the Roy St. John playing field – a game we won easily.
From the very first game of the season against GBSS, in which Lawrence captained because Brat was in Trinidad on a business trip, we were really fit and ready to take on any eventualities.
Both Lindsay and Cherubin scored half centuries in the game. In fact, in every game we played, all our players did well particularly our bowlers – Braithwaite, Eastman, St. Bernard, Xavier, M. Stewart and Horsford and Thomas. The fielding was also very good from our players.
We did what many generations of St. Paul’s cricketers failed to do which was to win the St. George Cricket Association Championship under the leadership of Evelyn “Brat” Bullen.
Commancheros re-entered the panorama competition after a ten-year break. This is when “Brat” produced his best arrangements for me and the year was 1980.
He did a wonderful job with the Might Scrunter’s “Woman on the Bass” for panorama championship that year.
The band played to perfection but was not good enough to get the judges’ nod.
With the formation of Commancheros and Associates Carnival Committee in 1983, “Brat” was manager of Commancheros Steel Orchestra at the time and became a founding member of what has become the most dominant carnival organisation in the history of carnival in Grenada.
The outfit has won the Band of the Year title in our annual carnival activities a record 21 times to date.
“Brat” was also the chairperson of the Carnival Development Committee (CDC) during the latter years of the Grenada Revolution of March 13th 1979-83 thus adding to his outstanding accolades.
My last conversation with him was held in the early hours of Saturday, September 3, 1983, hours before I left for Cuba for the second time in a year.
During the conversation, I told him that I was leaving the country and I will be missing the 1984 cricket season – he was not pleased at all because he always said to me that I should devote more time to cricket.
“Brat” was concern with my involvement in the revolutionary process which was taking place in the country and he went on saying to me he was prepared to engage with our former Prime Minister Maurice Bishop since he felt that he was losing too many sportsmen from his community of St. Paul’s to the Grenada Revolution.
Despite this, he wished me well and I had no idea that was going to be the last time I would ever be in his company.
“Brat” Bullen was a very good man to many people including me. I remember when I scored my first century in 1981 in the St. David Cricket Council Competition, when I opened the batting for Glassy, La Borie senior cricket team, Brat came home to look for me to congratulate me on the feast but I was not there as I was still basking in my celebrations.
When he finally caught up with me a few days later, “Brat” congratulated me and then asked me what I wanted. I could not have answered then because I was in a state of shock by his question.
In fact, I was only fourteen years old when I was told by him that I should try to become an opening batsman because I played very straight.
He also said to me that position will become available in the St. Paul’s team in the next couple of years.
I can remember him telling me that I should quit bowling leg spin and change to off spin because I had more control of the ball when bowling off spin, which I did.
I made my first appearance for St. Paul’s Sports Club Cricket Team in the St. George Second Division Cricket Competition against the Royal Grenada Police Force Cricket Team at the power station Ground in 1978 at the age of seventeen and I was promoted to the St. Paul’s first division cricket team in 1979.
Thwaites and I opened the batting for the first game of the season against Atoms Cricket Team in front of the old Pavilion.
Moreover, when I needed someone to stand security for me at the bank, “Brat” did that for me so I was able to help my mother in the renovation of our home.
When the loan was repaid I told him (Brat) thanks and he said to me: “Do not mention it because that was my contribution”.
I know that many people would have similar experiences throughout our community and in St. George as a whole with “Brat”.
I am also certain that a lot of people will have many more nice things to say about Evelyn “Brat” Bullen. In fact when we finally write our history in St. Paul’s he could be considered as our first mayor.
I have not known or seen anyone who has contributed his time, talent and treasure as Brat did for the development of his community.
Just look at the Noel Collins Complex or the St. Paul’s Community Centre which was recently renamed as the St. Paul’s Resource Centre.
During construction, “Brat made financial contributions when there was no money to pay the skeleton staff that worked full time on the project – and he did so just for the love of community.
Whether it was his money, Commancheros or M.A. Bullen and Sons, he did so wholeheartedly.
In addition, “Brat” also worked during the construction of the project on Sundays as anybody else in the community.
It is my firm belief that a monument should be constructed in his honour at the St. Paul’s Community Centre grounds or when the outside stage is finally built it should be named after him.
“Brat” should join Rupert Bishop on one of the walls with a larger than life painted portrait of him.
Keith “Lion” Gilkes, one of the founding members of Commancheros said to me: “Evelyn’s most important contribution as a person was instrumental in unifying the players from the different steel orchestras”.
He recalled something that happened when Commancheros and Angel Harps had to play at a concert at the St. George Market Square many years ago.
When the information was handed down to the rest of the other members, the initial reaction was no because in those days to be a pan man you had to be a bad man.
“Brat” intervened and said that he had a very good relationship with the players from that orchestra and nothing bad was going to happen. That was the beginning of a good relationship between Commancheros and Angel Harps players.
In closing, I know that Evelyn spirit is present to me and I am sure he is always present with all of you.
His spirit lives through all of us and especially those of us who were touched by his goodness.
In a recent conversation with a friend of mine, he said to me that right now in our community we need plenty Brat Bullens’ as his untimely passing left a void that needs to be filled.
Every December 26th, was “Open House” day as “Brat” opened his home in the late afternoon to early evening to offer many of us in the community free drinks and to engage in all kinds of discussions.
I think we should have a Brat Bullen day in St. Paul’s to commemorate and celebrate this extraordinary soul as an example of how we should live with one another with great humility.
I also feel strongly that we should have an award in his name for community service in that respect on the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Commancheros Steel Orchestra.
I salute “Brat” and recognise his altruistic and exceptional contribution towards Commancheros and our community in sports, culture and others areas of community service.
Long live the spirit and memory of Evelyn “Brat” Bullen and may his soul rest in peace!
(The above was dedicated to a Sportsman, Cultureman, Musicman, Businessman, Communityman and Humanitarian)