By Laughton Pemberton
The Honourable Dr Daniel Reynold Walwyn, founder of the Nevis Cooperative Bank. was born November 27, 1892, in Bath Village, Nevis, to parents Ernest Walwyn and Rhoda Walwyn.
From an early age, “D.R.” as he was affectionately referred to, exercised a strong will and determination. This was revealed at the age of seven, when he saved his life, as well as that of his aunt, Berl Walwyn. This led to his destiny of consciousness, fearlessness of the common, and constantly challenging the Establishment whenever the opportunity presented itself.
D.R. attended primary school in Charlestown ,Nevis, and later obtained a pupil teacher’s certificate after completing his primary school education in Montserrat.
After leaving primary school, he was apprenticed as a tailor to ‘learn the trade’. He soon decided that becoming a tailor was not for him and he left the trade to become a primary school teacher.
He taught in Brown Pasture, Nevis, and in 1913, encouraged by the Inspector of Schools for the Leeward Islands, he left Nevis to teach at Rousseau Boys School in Dominica. He taught in Dominica until 1915 and then worked in the Treasury in Portsmouth, Dominica, from 1915 to 1920 when he returned to Nevis.
His father, Ernest, died suddenly in 1914, while he was teaching in Dominica, and because of the state of communication technology at the time, it took him more than a week to learn of his father’s death.
On his return to Nevis in 1920, he taught once again at a primary school. He married Mabel Wilson in 1924 and the family lived in a two-bedroom house built by his father in Bath Village.
CAREER CHOICES AND TAKING ON THE ESTABLISHMENT
While teaching, D.R. enrolled in a correspondence course in accounting from an American institution. Upon completing the course, he applied for a job in the colonial civil service. The entry requirements for the civil service were O’ levels and he argued that the accounting course was equivalent to O’ levels. His application was summarily rejected and this led to him personally taking his case to the colonial office in London, which ruled in his favour, and he was appointed to the accounting area of the civil service in Nevis.
In 1930 D.R. was appointed as an audit clerk in the Treasury in Antigua ,where he moved with his young family, which eventually included six wonderful children. The family lived in Antigua from 1930 to 1937.
There are two noteworthy highlights of D.R.’s tenure in Antigua. He was required to serve as a lay magistrate in petty session courts, and every week he had to preside over cases brought by sugar cane estates against workers who did not turn up to work.
The existing law mandated that the absconding workers be sent to prison. He saw this as tantamount to slavery and directly petitioned the Colonial Office in London to have the law changed. The Colonial Office agreed with him and the law was changed.
Also while there, famed Antiguan medical practitioner, Sir Luther Wynter applied to the Antiguan Government for a job in Antigua. The application was made from Canada and the colonial powers assumed that he was white. When he arrived and the all-white welcoming party discovered that he was black, he was abruptly and shamefully abandoned on board the ship and left to fend for himself.
The Harbourmaster realising what was happening, sent for D.R., because he was a senior black civil servant, and got him to do the job of the welcoming party. The white colonial establishment proceeded to completely ostracise Sir Luther, and it was left to D.R. to try to make life tolerable for him.
A breakthrough came when the visiting daughters of Alexander Moody Stuart, the head of the sugar syndicate in Antigua, became stricken with a tropical illness that seemed very serious and that left the white doctors nonplussed.
D.R. suggested to a very sceptical white establishment that Sir Luther be allowed to treat the girls. The treatment was successful and Alexander Moody Stuart made him his personal physician. Sir Luther then became the very first black physician in Antigua to have white patients and his trajectory in Antiguan society was altered forever.
In 1937 Walwyn took up a nine-month appointment in Tortola as Treasurer, Post Master and Additional Magistrate. He spoke of travel in Tortola in those days being difficult, travel was by boat along the coastline,
His next civil service appointment was in late 1937 as Post Master for St Kitts, Nevis and Anguilla. He served in that position throughout the ravages of World War 2. He served in that position until 1947, when he was appointed to the civil service in Montserrat as Treasurer.
While serving as Treasurer in Montserrat, D.R. was also required to serve as a member of the Executive Council, which was a colonial approximation to a cabinet. He was additionally required to serve as a lay magistrate, presiding over petty session courts
D.R. retired from the civil service in 1953 and returned to live in Bath Village. His first priority was to extend the two-room house into more convenient accommodation. At the same time, he started to cultivate cotton and later peanuts on the land around the house. He and his wife also raised a few small animals, such as chickens, sheep, goats and pigs.
NEVIS COOPERATIVE BANK
That same year, D.R. and a small group of prominent residents of Charlestown and Bath Village conceived a plan to start a cooperative bank. The goal of the bank was to provide financial assistance to marginal individuals like small peasants, who were shut out of the mainstream financial sector.
The Nevis Cooperative Bank started its operation out of rented space on Main Street in Charlestown in 1954, with D.R. as its executive chairman (a position he would hold until his retirement in 1990). The bank constructed its offices on Chapel Street and relocated there in 1959. D.R. and the directors oversaw the evolution of the bank to embrace a broad customer base and the offering of a standard suite of banking services.
According to his granddaughter, Attorney at Law Ms. Jacqueline Walwyn, who resides in Antigua and Barbuda, the bank was created to give an option to black people who were then excluded from the banking sector.
“The bank’s employees were all white except for the cleaners and messengers. They did not accept deposits from black people or lend them money. People would save their money by hiding it in crab holes and the tides would wash it away. They saved in butter cans they dug holes in the ground… and hid their money. So he started the Co-op bank. The bank also owned a tractor with a plough which they rented at affordable rates to small farmers. Many persons borrowed money to migrate to start a new life, and they honoured their obligation and repaid their loans.”
In the late 50s and early 60s, in addition to being executive chairman of the bank, D.R. had to supplement his income by doing accounting work for a number of companies in St Kitts and Nevis. He used to commute between the two islands at least once a week to service his accounting customers in St Kitts, and do business with a correspondent bank in St Kitts on behalf of the Nevis Cooperative Bank.
Another of D.R. accomplishments was the starting of a Copra factory that manufactured edible oils. This Company, which was named NEVISOTA, eventually ran into difficulty and the bank took it over then sold it to a new owner in the Commonwealth of Dominica.
The earlier mentioned forays into small farming declined and disappeared altogether in the years following the death of his wife in 1971.
D.R. was extremely active in Nevisian society from 1953 to his retirement in 1990. He enthusiastically participated in many social events and was a member of the local chapters of the Red Cross and the Lions Club. He also served on the board of the Charlestown Secondary School, and was active in the Charlestown Methodist Church.
He received an Honorary Doctorate from the University of The West Indies, Cave Hill, Barbados campus in 1991, which was received by one of his sons, Dr Alford Walwyn, a few months before he passed away in January of 1992.
The Observer was able to contact Dr. Donald Walwyn, the youngest of D.R’s six children, who, in summing up the powerful legacy his father left them, said, every time he thinks of his father, he is reminded of the statement he drilled into him and his siblings that “Knowledge is Power.”
His children in order of age: Mr. Eugene Walwyn (Deceased, Attorney at Law, lived and practised in St. Kitts-Nevis); Mrs. Helen Crabbe (Retired Nurse, Lived in New York State, USA); Dr. Alford Walwyn, (a retired medical practitioner, lives and worked in Antigua); Mr. Ira Walwyn (Deceased, Retired civil servant and banker, who lived and worked in St.Kitts-Nevis); Mrs. Valarie Henry (widow and housewife living in Antigua) and Dr. Donald Walwyn, (Retired lecturer in Physics at UWI, Mona, in Jamaica, and currently lives in Jamaica).
The courage and humility of The Honourable Dr Daniel Reynold Walwyn, led him to become a pioneer in many aspects of his journey with us. He took every opportunity to advance himself and his community. The community has saluted him in so many ways. The D.R. Walwyn Plaza is a beautiful reflection of this. He will always be remembered as a pioneer and an icon.