Two Islands One paradise - Beautiful St. Kitts and Nevis

   
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  Charles Ashton Halbert
 


              Charles Ashton Halbert

                                                  1880 – 1971

                                             Bath Village, Nevis

Charles Ashton Halbert was born in Bath Village, Nevis in 1880.  His mother was poor and worked for the famous Parmenter family. She sent Charles to school with the hope of every poor but ambitious parent, that he would be good. Mr Halbert came out good, earning his Standard Seven Certificate and became a pupil teacher in Nevis. Perhaps it was his brief stint as a Teacher that gave him his love for books, an interest which was to remain with him up to the end of his life.

      In 1896, at the age of sixteen he started work as a store boy at the Charlestown branch of S. L. Horsford & Co. Ltd. In 1900 when the business of the branch was acquired by R. B. Parmenter, Halbert was sent to work at Dieppe Bay branch as a clerical assistant. A year later, Halbert was promoted to the position of clerk-in-charge.

      In 1904, he decided to try his fortune in Santo Domingo, like many other Nevisians who saw Santo Domingo as the easiest escape from the dying Nevis Sugar Economy. Mr Halbert was frugal in Santo Domingo and saved enough money for his return to Nevis in 1911. He found employment as a steam-ship agent's Clerk, shipping cotton out of Nevis. He was later sent to work with the Delisles’ in St. Kitts and was employed at the Warehouse, working for all the shipping agents as a Tally Clerk. Even while he worked at the warehouse, Mr Halbert kept company with books, collecting mater pieces for his library.

     With the money he save, he set up his own business, the Halbert Bookshop and Circulating Library in which he tried to share the treasures of books with the Community. The business was set up at the south west corner of Fort and Central Street, St. Kitts selling cards and stationery. In the 1930s he brought a property on Main Street, Charlestown, Nevis where he established a similar enterprise. His shops stocked socialist and Trade Union publications, works on Black History and publications on Black authors and poets. Halbert often allowed promising youngsters the chance to borrow books from his shop. In education, he encouraged achievement by donating reading material, school prizes and by promoting scholarships. In later years he contributed articles to The Labour Spokeman.   

      Mr Charles Ashton Halbert was no orator, and thus made no moving public speeches, but in the quiet corner of his bookstore, He exercised a powerful influence on the minds of many young men of Basseterre. His bookstore was the only public place in town in which hung portraits of Marcus Garvey and Haile Selassie. Mr Halbert never failed to take the opportunity to espouse the cause of Africa. When youngsters went to his shop to brouse, he introduced them to books and magazines about black achievement. If he could have done it, he would have inspired all the Youths of Basseterre with pride in themselves and in their race.

     In 1940 his services were terminated under pressure from the shipping agents because of his activities in support of the Factory workers’ strike of the same year. During the strike, Halbert had been instrumental in opening food distribution centre in Irish Town to assist the workmen and their families in the crisis.

    Charles Ashton Halbert died in 1971.

  In 1972, the Netball Pavilion built for the hosting of the West Indies Netball Tournament in St. Kitts was name the Charles Halbert Pavilion. In later years, because of his devoted service to the Labour Movement, Halbert was recognized by Robert L. Bradshaw and The Labour Spokeman as the “Father of Labour”

     The Public Library in Basseterre is name in his honor.

 
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