Reversal of fortune: Montserrat legend Errol Eid’s fascinating life is now defined by struggle

Errol Eid has been a trend-setting musician, artist and businessman, leaving his mark on Montserrat culture. But due to circumstances his life in recent years has been challenging.

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Photo courtesy ZJB Radio Spirit of Montserrat
Errol Eid is pictured during "Rhythm Night" as part of St. Patrick's celebrations in Montserrat in March of 2019.

Errol Eid grimaces as he slowly reclines his aching and aging body onto a sofa. The simple process of lying down has become a chore. These days Eid feels every bit of his 75 years – plus a few more – as he struggles with mobility, propped up by two aluminum crutches and an abundance of pride.

“I take about five different medications and I’m still in pain,” says Eid, who suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, scoliosis and poor circulation in his legs.

His current residence – a “jungle” cabin in Woodlands, Montserrat – was provided as a temporary favor so he can have a roof over his head. The place, once owned by John Wall of the Plymouth business family, is a stone’s throw from the home of Cedric and Carol Osborne, Eid’s longtime friends. Eid visits the Osbornes daily to watch TV and enjoy good company. The couple has served as Eid’s unofficial caretakers as he awaits a Warden Assisted apartment in Lookout Village.

It is quite a downturn for the diminutive Eid, who once lived large. He was gifted with musical and artistic skill and a powerful family of business owners. But he squandered the fortune bequeathed to him by a doting mother. Today, health has superseded wealth as priority in Eid’s life as he tries – in more ways than one – to get back on his feet.

Talk to those who know him best and they say Eid is a virtual dichotomy – prodigal but personable, a flawed genius. Like a boy who never grew up Eid has been a benevolent beatnik, a happy hippie, a local legend. Even in his current fragile state a tinge of arrogance surfaces. Asked if he ever held a job in Montserrat, he retorts: “Why would I work for somebody when I have more money than them?”

Other times he shows a vulnerable side. He laments the fact that none of his family members across the Caribbean has phoned to check on his well-being.

Asked if it’s hurtful, he responds, “Well, naturally,” as he fights back tears.

It’s a far cry from a time when Eid and his family earned legendary status in Montserrat.

Annie Eid photo courtesy “The Watts Collection”
From left: Annie Eid; an ad for the Eid family business in the Montserrat Standard newspaper March 19, 1952; and Lindy Eid.

‘WE ARE NOT SYRIAN’

The Eid family story and its migration to Montserrat must begin with a clarification.

“We are not Syrian,” Errol says. “We are Lebanese. People confuse Syria and Lebanon all the time.” The confusion is understandable. The two countries were one nation until 1943.

Errol’s paternal grandfather was the first member of the family to reach Montserrat.

Says Errol: “I was told that he was just passing through but the people were so friendly that he decided to stay. His English was not very good. Our family name is actually ‘Aide’ [pronounced Ah-Yeed]. When he told them his name they thought he said, ‘I Eid’ and they registered him that way. He sent for his children and they were also registered as Eid.”

One of those children was George Eid, Errol’s father. George’s brothers were John, Anthony (better known as “Hashie”), Emmanuel, Solomon and Faiz. Errol’s mother, Annie, was born in St. Kitts. She was a member of the Coury family that owns several businesses there. One of those businessmen – the late Leroy Coury – was also a well-known cricket player (spin bowler) for St. Kitts and Leeward Islands.

Annie moved to Montserrat and married George Eid. Their first child, Lindy Anthony Eid, was born in 1930. Errol says his mother then lost at least five children – some in childbirth, others shortly after birth. So when Errol was born in 1947 and survived, it was a profound blessing. And it explains why he was a child of immense privilege.

Photo courtesy Randy Greenaway
The variety store run by Annie Eid, located on Parliament Street in Plymouth, is pictured during the 1960s.

A BUSINESS FAMILY

At one point at least five members of the Eid family operated businesses in Plymouth. One of their first shops, run by George and John Eid, was located on Parliament Street at the future home of Royal Bank of Canada, across from the “Mary G. Pond” shop. The brothers were dubbed “Mooshay George” and “Mooshay John” (Mooshay means “Mister” or “Sir”).

The Eids were not just business owners. They were pioneers. Emmanuel opened the Rialto Theater, Montserrat’s first cinema. Lindy introduced Montserrat to the juke box in the 1950s. He imported dozens of them and placed them in bars and other establishments around the island, splitting the proceeds with the proprietors. Lindy later ran the “New York Store” on Strand Street. “Hashie” owned a variety store that was the main depot for fowl feed, notably “Grow-inna” and “Lay-inna” – the names literally explaining their purpose. Hashie’s son, Joseph Eid, also became synonymous with the store.

In the early years several members of the family shared a home in Plymouth. The Eids were devoutly Catholic and would fill up the first two rows during service at St. Patrick’s Church in George Street.

In 1949, George Eid passed away. Says Errol: “Even though I was only two and a half years old I still remember seeing him lying in the coffin in our house.” After George Eid died, Annie married George’s brother John. Explained Errol: “The priest told my mother it was not proper for her to live in a house with a man and they’re not married.”

Annie and John ran a variety store at the intersection of Parliament and Harney streets. They sold flour, sugar and other dry goods plus a wide array of textiles. The store was downstairs and the residence upstairs. It was close to the old police station and across from Esso gas station and the public market. That is the home where Errol grew up and started his first business.

Photo courtesy John Perkins
Errol Eid, far right on guitar, is pictured in the 1960s with the band Blue Rhythms. Members included, from left, Nigel Thomas, Lorenzo Cassell, Joseph “Lamdam” Edwards, Otwell Maloney and John Perkins (behind Eid).

THE BOY WONDER

Errol admits he was a pampered child.

“My mother spoiled me,” he says candidly. “Anything I wanted I got.”

But he was also profoundly talented. By his early teens Errol could play several musical instruments, including the drums, guitar, piano and ukulele. He was self-taught.

One of Errol’s first bands was Blue Rhythms, formed around 1963. His fellow members included Justin and Lorenzo Cassell, both former calypso monarchs and the brothers of soca legend Alphonsus “Arrow” Cassell.

“We were a very good band,” says Lorenzo Cassell, who played trumpet. “I remember one year Laviscount Brass came down from Antigua and a lot of Antiguans came down for their show. When they heard our band they came to see us instead.”

Cassell not only recalls Errol’s talent with the guitar but also his frivolity with money.

“One day he said to me, ‘Let’s go to Trinidad to buy some instruments,’ ” Cassell says. “He went to his mother and she gave him about $15,000. When we got to Trinidad, Errol was walking around with the cash in his hand. I said, ‘Man, put that away!’ “

To illustrate how much $15,000 was worth in the mid-1960s consider that William H. Bramble, Montserrat’s Chief Minister at the time, earned $9,600 a year.

Errol is asked if Cassell’s recollection is truly accurate – that Miss Annie gave him a whopping $15,000 all at once. He quickly issues a correction: “I think it was more.”

Errol, who later formed a steel band called The Flaming Recoils, was also artistic. He designed winning costumes for several Queen Show contestants, including Rose Willock (1965), Florence Allen (1966), Daisy Kirnon (1967) and Leona Tuitt (1968).

“I won Best Costume about six times,” he says. “My mother told me to drop out and give someone else a chance. Designing came natural to me.”

By the way, Errol is also known as “Briggs” – a nickname he got from his friend Desmond Taylor. “One day I was at his garage and I was walking all around the shop. He said to me, ‘Who are you, Mr. Briggs?’ ” It was possibly a reference to Briggs & Stratton, the company that produces engines for power equipment.

Photo courtesy Randy Greenaway
Errol Eid receives an award for his matador costume and performance at Sturge Park on Boxing Day 1966.

ERROL’S DISCO

In the mid-1960s Errol converted a storage room at the back of his mother’s store into a nightclub he called Errol’s Disco. He traveled to New York and Puerto Rico to purchase the lighting and sound equipment. The club also featured a live band. The entire venture was bankrolled by his mother.

Already possessing a knack for decoration, Errol turned the disco into a hot spot that drew patrons from around the region. It featured a popular section called “The Dungeon” in which light was projected only up to knee level, leaving the rest of the room dark. “The Dungeon” became a den of hedonism. “A lot of craziness went on in there,” Errol says.

John Wilson, who grew up in the Plymouth area and was a longtime proprietor in town, recalls the disco.

“It was amazing,” Wilson says. “Errol used ordinary things like egg boxes to decorate. He had strobe lights. His disco was comparable to anything in the region.”

Errol Eid plays the drums in an undated photo. Eid taught himself to play several musical instruments.

Errol’s club was lucrative but he lacked financial discipline and prudence. Like a typical young man he treated himself with toys.

“At one time I had about six or seven cars,” says Errol, who also fancied motorcycles. “I had a speedboat. I went to Trinidad and had it specially built. I bought the hull and they fixed it up. I used to drive the boat from Montserrat to Antigua in 50 minutes. I used to drive it to other places like Guadeloupe and St. Kitts.”

As for his schooling, Errol attended St. Augustine Catholic School and then the Montserrat Secondary School. In 1964 he attended Marathon High School in the Florida Keys while residing with a family friend. During his senior year at Marathon he visited Montserrat for Christmas and never went back. That marked the end of his formal education.

Change came about in the early 1970s. Errol rented out the disco, and when Lindy opened a nightclub in Gingoes called Maximus, Errol sold all his musical instruments to Lindy, allowing his brother to have a live band. It was the era of local bands such as Calibre Nine, Aquarius, Libra One and Livewires.

“A lot of the instruments the bands used in the 1970s were my old instruments,” says Errol, who has also been generous in sponsoring instruments to local musicians over the years.

Errol Eid’s band recorded a cover of Georgia on My Mind.

ERROL LOSES HIS ‘ANGEL’

During the 1980s Errol continued his life of luxury and privilege. He sported a ponytail and a six-pack. He hung out at Air Studios, the beach and other popular spots, hobnobbing with expatriates and locals alike.

“I never worked,” he admits. “Anything I wanted I would go to my mother, even for food.”

In 1993, Annie Eid suffered a leg injury and was placed in traction at Glendon Hospital. Her situation took a turn for the worse when she fell off her bed one day. She developed gangrene and passed away April 14, 1993. The matriarch was 86 years old.

“My mom was an angel,” Errol says. “She used to go to church seven days a week. She almost lived there. She was kind to everybody.”

Years earlier, Annie bought houses in Old Towne for Errol and Lindy.

“My mother had the first two houses in Old Towne,” Errol says. “I sold one to a Canadian. I got about $500,000 for it. I got way more than I expected.”

That half-million is now history, as is the speedboat and other items Errol acquired during the height of his wealth. The volcanic eruption in the mid-1990s also destroyed what was left of the Eid businesses and properties in the Plymouth area.

In the late 1990s Errol relocated to Jost Van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands. He teamed with local club owner Foxy Callwood, touring and playing music. “I was there for 15 years,” Errol says. Foxy played the guitar and sang, and Errol played keyboards. They played yacht clubs, including Nantucket and Marblehead in Massachusetts.

Errol later spent time in London and could often be found at Ridley Market with fellow Montserratians.

Photo courtesy Randy Greenaway
Errol Eid, right, and Gus White travel to Cuba for Carifesta in July of 1979 as part of The Mighty Arrow’s contingent. Eid played drums for Arrow at the event.

EMBARRASSMENT OF RICHES

Errol has lived a carefree lifestyle for decades. He raced cars, raced motorcycles. He has been married twice. The first union – to a Canadian expat in the late 1970s – lasted only three weeks. His second marriage is still ongoing – technically. His wife and step-children reside in Birmingham, UK. Asked why they are apart, Errol – who has no biological children – simply says: “Well, they don’t need me now.”

Despite Errol’s capricious existence, his friends say there has been one constant. He has always been down to earth.

“Even when I was rich I would hang out with poor people on the streets,” Errol says.

He also has a wry sense of humor. Errol was once busted in Montserrat for planting marijuana on his property and fined $2,000. Livid, he paid the entire fine in coins.

“I paid them in ha’pennies and pennies,” he says. “They wanted work to do . . . so I gave them work. I used to be disgusting like that. If you did something to me I would react.”

Errol is the last surviving member of the Eid business dynasty from Plymouth. Lindy died five years ago in a nursing home in the UK. Much of the family wealth is gone. It is a sad realization for a once-affluent clan.

Now pained and penniless, Errol relies on the charity of old friends for survival. He also depends on government assistance. Due to his physical condition driving is not recommended. His derelict car is up for sale.

He is asked if he has any regrets.

He evokes a defiant chuckle.

“None,” he says.

Errol Eid is interviewed on February 17, 2022. In center photo he winces in pain.

14 COMMENTS

  1. A complex and fascinating story. Brilliantly delivered by no more skilful a writer and biographer than Montserrat’s own Edwin L. Martin. This article is such a compelling read for me having known Errol up to the mid-1960’s when I left Montserrat for college overseas. Did not see him again until some fifty years later (2019) at Little Bay, where he was, you guessed it, playing music with Ozzie Carty’s string band. No disrespect intended, but to say Errol was shockingly unrecognizable is an understatement.
    I have read most of Mr. Martin’s articles on Strat and Stratians. They are all rich in historical detail. I genuinely recommend his book: Stranded Batsman. But none has peaked my interest and curiosity as this one, Reversal of Fortune. It has filled in so many gaps related to this iconic Stratian family. Thank you, Mr. Martin.

  2. Thanks for this well-told and fascinating tale – very fair, I think, and Errol’s final word is fitting. I always wondered what became of him – and now I know. I look forward to further articles – this has been a wonderful series of portraits of individual Montserratians. Congratulations.

  3. I Picasso once met Errol while I was playing a GiG with SYLVA Rythm at the SKSF golf Club annual Fete ; he was visiting and said he had heard me play on the radio , We struck up a friendship Because I knew all about him and his reputation for Extravagance I LET HIM PLAY BASS For most of the rest of the gig .

  4. EROL he is my Elder and my legend ❤️ I love him so much he is one of the most loving, caring, helpful man in this world never stop helping youngsters and also adults. ❤️ I was there 2 years ago and he was my torguid lol 😆 I got lot of love for him his family 👪 ❤️

  5. I have often wondered about this family and how they ended up in Montserrat, all of which were answered here, you ought to be the ‘Historian of Record’, not that other guy who just regurgitates European falsehoods without any research whatsoever, thank you Sir.

  6. He is also known as Bambo
    He is and will always be one of the most fun loving and interesting people I have ever encountered
    He taught me how to save coins
    I will never forget when he took me to his house in town and showed me buckets of coins which he called Montserrat’s people money because he used to pick up the coins on the street and keep them in buckets
    He also used to burn charcoal and sell like the locals

    A very fitting Tribute
    Well Done Edwin

  7. I don’t normally like to comment on individual cases but this one struck me: firstly it was well written and secondly I knew both the writer and the subject matter personally. People seem to forget that wealth is not a right it’s a privilege. You either acquire it or you don’t. Hardly anybody was born into wealth. I never had money I just pretended I had and people were stupid enough to follow me around because of that ruse. I have gained eternal happiness because of the four children I have managed to father. No lack of money can diminish that.

  8. Wow, great article, and thank you for it!
    I knew Errol had a lot of genus, but some of these facts I was not unaware of. Errol, regardless of where he came from and where he is now, he has a very kind heart. I want to thank William Wall for helping him out, as well as the Mr. and Mrs. Osborne. In our years on Montserrat, he was always a good friend, and one of the funniest people on the island!
    My brother Carrll and I have a few stories about Errol and his adventures, but I’ll share just two.
    One is a great memory of Errol coming over to hang out at our house with John Locke, the keyboardist of Nazareth. John lived on Montserrat as you may all recall, with wife Fran.
    Those two opened my baby grand piano and started jamming to an improvisation tune. It was a great moment, especially seeing Errol jam for the first time. I hadn’t known the man had this talent, it was great!
    The other story… (it’s ok now, we can’t be charged for the crime, the car nor the golf course are no longer around). Carrll, aka ‘Fro’, was driving home late one night from Town. I had been long asleep, Carrll woke me to alert me that he had flipped the Toyota Land Cruiser on the golf course! Fro had taken ‘That’ short cut (we all did I it across the river). Apparently he decided to extend his drive along the course, and at some point locked the steering and took a flip. His arm was outside the window and had broken. In pain and a nervous wreck, Carrll said, the Toyota is on the golf course, we need to get Errol! So we did, of course we did, Errol loved that sort of adventure! Errol opened his door in his undies, and jumped for joy at the request to assist! He had the blue Toyota Hilux, a rope, and a grin, and yes, we all went and rolled the Land Cruiser back in its feet.
    Another story, another time. Much love to you Errol, wishing you peace and strength.
    Gary and Carrll Robilotta (the surfers).

  9. Props to you, Sir Edwin, for a very well-written biography on one of Montserrat’s most colourful characters, the inimitable Errol Eid. Truly a one-of-a-kind human being, we shared many great times with Errol during our dozen years in Montserrat.
    Errol’s villa/estate in Old Towne was extraordinary, with beautifully-landscaped grounds resembling a sort of Lord of the Rings/middle earth environment.
    I’m saddened to learn of our old friend’s current physical challenges but heartened by the kindness of his many friends in ‘strat who are helping him out.

    Much Aloha to you, Errol!

  10. One of our memorable misadventures with Errol was when dad had shipped over a speedboat from California. For whatever reason, the container ended up in Antigua and we thought it would be a good idea to ask Errol to fly over with us so that he could help us navigate the boat across to Montserrat.
    As it happened, the boat had been wrapped in plastic sheeting and upon opening up the container at Customs, the heat and humidity inside the container were overwhelming. The moisture and condensation had effectively swamped the electrical system and we spent the next several days in Antigua with Errol and a hired mechanic, trying in vain to get the inboard/outboard motor to start. Adding insult to injury, we’d not packed any clothes other than what we were wearing.
    Between the stifling heat and a diet consisting of ‘cutters’ and Coca-Cola, we were all running on fumes and by day four, the ‘fumes’ emitting from Errol and my brother Gary were overwhelming. One night while lodging at Montgomery’s Guest House in St. John’s, their combined cloud of methane prompted me to evacuate the room we were sharing so I simply found a vacant room down the hall and crawled into bed, hoping for some much-needed shut-eye. I don’t know whether that noxious cloud of theirs awoke Mrs. Montgomery, but when she found me in a room I was not supposed to be occupying, she proceeded to scold me and put me out on the street. If memory serves, the following morning, Errol and Gary found me down the road, curled up in the fetal position and fast asleep alongside a rum shop.
    Later that afternoon feeling defeated, dirty, and dehydrated, my brother and I boarded a LIAT flight back to Montserrat, leaving Errol behind to accomplish the mission. Much to our amazement, the following day, the boat appeared at Isles Bay, with Admiral Eid beaming behind the wheel:)

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