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Bathol Pallai: A Legacy of Agriculture

There is often a dilemma at the passing of a person who was very well known to all, as to what was their legacy. This thought resonated with me on Wednesday, April 20, 2022, when Bathol Bartholomew Pallai breathed his last in the loving arms of his son Wendell Pallai, a teacher, at their Talparo residence.

Bathol was born on August 24, 1928 to Mary Pallai and Julian Britto. He was the second of three boys. At the tender age of two, his mother died and all her children were raised by their grandmother, Agnes Pallai, affectionately known as ‘Mameetoo’. She taught them all about agriculture on their large estate. Bathol never forgot those early years when agriculture was essential for survival, by providing family subsistence.

In his quest to bring about improvement to his life and living conditions, he aspired to become a teacher. Shortly after achieving that goal, he got married to Mary Caldon and they had one daughter, Karen. After 22 years of marriage, his wife Mary passed, which was a difficult period in his life, having the responsibility of a young lady to father.

In undertaking this herculean task of responsible parenting and grief, he drew strength from many Roman Catholic priests/cohorts he befriended over those years, in particular, Fr Gerry Farfan (deceased) whom he met during his tenure as one of the founding members of an organisation known then as COMFORT, which further developed into what we know today as TTUTA.  Bathol’s registration number in COMFORT was 00007.  Other cohorts within the Roman Catholic fraternity, who were instrumental in assisting him in that regard were Fr Patrick Brennan and Fr Malcolm De Verteuil.

Bathol overcame his grief over a couple years and, forever the romantic, got married a second time around to Louisa Cuffie whom he considered a perfect match for supporting his vision for agriculture and teaching. The person who officiated at their wedding in 1975, at the Laventille Shrine, was none other than the then 45-year-old Archbishop Anthony Pantin. Through this marriage Louisa bore two sons, Wendell and Bevon. Bathol reiterated his vision many times, which was very simple, “If you can feed the world, you ought to be considered as someone important.” He had a passion for detail and a great sense of honour and satisfaction when the interests of students heightened and they executed skills they had learnt successfully.

Over the years, Bathol taught at four Roman Catholic schools: San Raphael being the first, and later transferred to Talparo, Mundo Nuevo and finally Brazil. Farming consumed his life so naturally that he set out to encourage his principals to give him the opportunity to create young farmers in every school that he was appointed. He believed that these boys and girls could have made a living by practising their farming skills which he taught them. Although he loved classroom teaching, his niche was teaching Agricultural Science and having his students create well-laid-out school gardens. From the produce they reaped, some was sold to parents and villagers which was a source of income for the schools.

After his retirement, he could be seen tending to garden plots in his backyard, planting, fertilising and attending to crops with the same zeal and love as when he was demonstrating to young student farmers, to the amazement of his neighbours whom he graciously shared his harvests.  He loved to give of his knowledge, experience and counsel to anyone who tried their hand at planting. He was the epitome of love, humour, and critical thinking. In the face of adversity, he never focused on problems but on finding logical solutions.  He was a tower of strength and very resolute and resilient, with an ever-positive mindset. To many friends and family members, he was a thrifty financial advisor and planner.

It is often said, “When an old person dies a library burn down,” which really meant that the person, who had died, had at their remit or their disposal, valuable knowledge and experience that was now lost to the community. Bathol did not leave that to chance. He ensured that he gifted his students especially, all his knowledge of Agricultural Science intently or inadvertently. Bathol, at the age of 93 breathed his last after a short, self-inflicted fasting period. All his mental faculties were intact to the very end. His lovely wife, Louisa Pallai, his supportive companion for 47 wonderful years of marriage, bemoaned the loss of her partner, but was quick to admit that Bathol had a wonderful life. He did it his way. Farewell Bathol, and may Almighty God welcome you into His heavenly kingdom. You were an amazing grandson, brother, father, grandfather, teacher, neighbour, farmer and friend. Bathol left a rich legacy: “if you choose to be a good skilled farmer, your life will always be fruitful…There is no disgrace in becoming a farmer!”