Death of a salesman: Montserrat icon Richard Samuel passes on at age 83

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Photo credit: The Lake family
Richard Samuel at his shop in Sweeney's. Samuel's bakery in Kinsale was one of the most popular before the volcanic crisis.

Richard Samuel, the venerable and beloved Montserrat shop owner known for his generosity, cool demeanor and tireless work ethic, passed away early Easter morning, April 4, 2021, at his home in Sweeney’s. He was 83 years old.

Samuel will likely be most remembered for his bakery in Kinsale but his influence stretched much further. He served as a fire officer for 17 years and was one of the first responders following the Pan Am crash at Chances Peak on September 17, 1965. He also helped extinguish the George Street fire in 1966.

Samuel also drew fame in the 1960s by driving one of the most visible and famous vehicles in Montserrat, a long flat-bed truck dubbed “Macco Building” – a name taken from the lyrics of the song Skyscraper by Mighty Sparrow. Samuel delivered agricultural goods, cement and other items with the truck. He even relocated small houses.

Samuel’s parents – affectionately called “Brother Sam” and “Sister Sam” – owned a bakery and small grocery store in Kinsale. After they passed away Richard took over the business and became one of the island’s most popular bread bakers. His bread was in such demand that he sometimes sold loaves before they were completely baked.

Junie Irish grew up about 200 yards from Samuel’s home in Kinsale. He says Samuel’s bread was legendary but his work ethic was even more remarkable.

“He was doing well selling bread, then he started [roasting] beef,” Irish says. “His beef was really good. Sometimes during the day he would stop baking and go out to sea to check on his fishing pots. Then he would go look for his goats and cattle. His energy was amazing.”

John “Flash” Ryan, who also grew up in Kinsale, says he can’t forget Samuel’s generosity.

“As kids he would take a bunch of us in the truck and drive out north for St. John’s Day,” Ryan says. “When I started doing body work I was having a hard time finding a place to set up. He allowed me to do my work in his backyard . . . and he never charged me.”

Despite not possessing a secondary education, Samuel delved into politics and had an unsuccessful run as an independent candidate during the 1980s. His message was simple: “I’m a man of few words. Vote for Richard.”

Following the volcanic crisis in 1995, Samuel relocated his business to Sweeney’s. And many of his customers followed. His shop became a popular hangout. Patrons drank, played dominoes and ate Richard’s grease bread, chicken wings, turkey drumsticks and turkey necks.

Irish explained Samuel’s popularity and why his customers were so loyal.

“He came over to the north and he was the same Richard,” Irish says. “People loved him as a person. It was his personality. He’s a real cool guy.”

Samuel, nicknamed Gabby, was also humble. His shop in Sweeney’s is a simple wooden building with no frills. He continued to tend to his livestock into his 80s.

Samuel leaves behind a large family and an even larger legacy. Dozens of tributes were shared on social media following the news of his death.

Irish says he was stunned when he got the phone call early Easter morning revealing that Samuel had passed away.

“It drove a dagger through me,” he says. “Even though we know we’re all going to go at some time, it’s hard to face the reality.”

RICHARD SAMUEL INTERVIEW

Richard Samuel shares his memories of the 1965 Pan Am crash at Chances Peak during an interview with Radio Montserrat’s George “JGP” Piper on September 17, 2020.

1 COMMENT

  1. This editorial is very enlightening because the young people and older individuals that are connected to Montserrat and our islands culture should know of our legacies, our people, our heritage and vice-versa. We should teach and educate each other as to our experiences in life or growing up in the days before the eruption. Thank you sir for this post.

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