A Totally Amazing and Generous Man – Happy Birthday Bally

Keith Richards (14th June, 1946) born in Barbados to Eldon, father and Adina Richards, mother – now both gone to the great beyond. His siblings still alive are Hartley Richards, Gregory Richards Ciceley Walcott and John Dottin. An older brother, Erington Jackman passed away several years ago.

He received primary education at the St. John Baptist Boys’ School, Holders Hill, St. James and secondary school at the University of Waterford, also know as the Combermere School. On leaving school, he worked first as a customs clerk in government and then in private employment. He subsequently started and is still actively engaged in his own successful customs brokerage business here in Barbados.

Known generally to close friends from various walks of life as Keith or Bally or Richie among others, he has worked assiduously from an early age to improve his knowledge and to assist those who were close to him. He has been generous to friends in need and demonstrates care for the welfare of the less fortunate whom he encounters.

In his early adult years, he was thought to be a quick left arm bowler. He is the father of two Mark and Tracey, both residing in Canada. As a past time Keith travels globally with a group of friends who meet up on weekends to play tennis, among other things, at the St. Michael School.

In December 2004, I was fortunate to met Keith Richards along with his friends while he was visiting Cuba where I was studying at the time. He and his friends offered that I travel in their taxi en route back to the university as we were all returning from a independence party which were attending.

We talked a bit about my studies in Cuba as well as my family back home in St. Lucia. During the conversation he asked if I was going to St. Lucia that Christmas to visit my mom. I indicated that I had no plans since I really could not have afforded it at the time.

During that conversation, Keith asked for my number and promised that I would be visiting home that Christmas. I really did not make much of it; after all, I had just met him and did not know much about him. But what I had noted that it was indeed nice to meet a group of decent men and hoped that I will in fact get to visit home that Christmas. 

A few days later, I got a call from the school’s fixed line (mobile phones was a luxury in Cuba at that time) and it was Keith on the other end. He had asked me my passport details and promised to call back. I could not believe that he actually called. At that point i hoped for a favorable outcome. Soon after I got another call from Keith indicating that I had a first class ticket from Cuba to St. Lucia to visit my mom. I was shocked and happy; but at the same time asking how could I be so lucky? These things never happen to people like me? Well … so I thought! 

I went home, had a good Christmas and went to Barbados on my way back to visit Keith. At this point, I had to have this discussion about expectations, which was always in the back of my mind. I was somehow also used to the “culture” of men making promises with the expectation of something in return. Mind you, he never once suggested anything of that nature … it was all in my head …, I just did not know how to embrace such a gift. I’d never experienced such altruism before.

The discussion with Keith turned out to be better than expected. It was at this point he made me another offer. To build the home I had dreamed of for my mom, or to pay for my education elsewhere. I opted for the education because the opportunities would be endless.

I went back to Cuba, but we stayed in touch, looking for potential schools. Mind you, he had to take the lead in this since internet connection was also limited in Cuba. At the end of one year in Cuba, I went home and Keith visited my mom in St. Lucia.

One notable gesture was that Keith always introduced me as his daughter. That was also hard for me to embrace. Nevertheless, it did feel good. I felt loved, accepted, appreciated, valued and most importantly, I finally felt like there was someone who believed in me to give me such a chance in life. My mom never said it, but I knew she has been forever grateful for him.

After this year in Cuba, I went on to the University of the West Indies where I studied Civil and Environmental Engineering where I graduated with first class honors. During that time, I wondered how could I pay back for such an opportunity and thought the best gift to him was to do my best and make him proud. I then went on to the Netherlands where I did my masters in Hydraulic Engineering and then further to Exeter University in collaboration with DHI where I did my PhD.

I always spoke of Keith as my dad, especially because he took me in his arms as his daughter. He gave me the feeling of security that I never experienced before especially growing up with a single mom (for the most part – I also spent time with the biological father parents) who was struggling to make ends meet.

I have always hesitated to tell my story so publicly, out of fear of being judged. I thought people would not have accepted that I would be so lucky; I would have had to reciprocate with sexual favors. It is unfortunate that I had this feeling, but my feelings were somehow justifiable. This was the talk in town …, people were making so many assumptions because how could a poor girl get so far ….

Outlook: There are still some good people around. Have a positive outlook on things. Be proud of each others achievements and successes. Let’s not be so quick to judge others. We do not know their story. Be more supportive! 

Today Keith Richards is still part of my life and the lives of many others like me. Join me in wishing him a Happy Birthday!!!! Love you loads … we will forever be grateful for you.

I would like to express my gratitude to Deborah Carrington and Dr. Hartley B. Richards who assisted in providing details for this story.