When the thanksgiving service for Gertrude Hall was held at Ark of the Testimony of Jesus Born Again in Papine last Sunday, the church was not large enough to hold all of her family members.
There was barely space for walking in the churchyard, but this was not surprising for those persons who knew the Hall family.
Gertrude was a fruitful woman whose union to her husband, Uriah, produced 16 children. She had three sets of twins.
Only six of her offspring are alive, but no worries as the former bishop has a total of 120 grandchildren, 85 great-grand children, 35 great-great-grandchildren and 10 great-great-great-great grand.
Her daughter, Yvonne shared with THE WEEKEND STAR what it is like being part of one of Jamaica’s largest family.
“It was 20 of us in all. My mom had 16, and my father had four before he met my mother. We all lived in the same household. Our parents didn’t have enough money, and there were days when we would go to school without shoes because my mom couldn’t afford it,” Yvonne said.
“We had one pair each, and it used to wear only on special occasions like when inspector coming to school,” she said.
Yvonne, her parents, and her siblings lived in a four-bedroom house on Mannings Hill Road in St Andrew. In order to make ends meet, Gertrude operated a small stall at their gate while her husband ploughed the fields as a farmer. But even with all that hard work, the Halls still struggled to feed their children.
“It was so rough! At one point in time, all my parents could afford was yam, dumplings, and butter for, like, two years. It was our breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The thing is, at the time, we didn’t know how poor we were because we were always playing,” she said.
Determined to have a better life for her children, Gertrude sought employment overseas as a domestic helper and Yvonne said that their lives improved drastically.
“My mom then went to America and did domestic work, and when she came back, she bought a property on Mannings Hill Road, and she never stopped until she build a mansion. We grow in very humble beginnings, and we didn’t have much friends, but we didn’t need any because there was a lot of excitement in our household. There weren’t, any fights. We lived very good, and this is one of the qualities we still have today,” Yvonne said.
As there financial fortunes improved, the Halls gradually weaned themselves off yam, dumplings, and butter.
“It would take seven loaves of bread, four pounds of saltfish, and eight pounds of flour to feed us,” she said in between laughter.
Now in her 50s, Yvonne herself has five children and 24 grandchildren, 18 of whom are from one of her sons. She now calls England her home but states that Jamaica is never far from her mind. Using childhood memories as her inspiration, she frequently makes donations to her former school, Swallowfield All-Age.
“We struggled so hard. We never had toys growing up. Our main toy was probably a milk tin with a string. My mother couldn’t afford to buy pencil or even reading books. We used to steal other children pencils sometimes. I remember getting a beating from a teacher because I never have my reading book, and my mother was so mad she went back to the school and deal with her and let her know that we weren’t responsible for buying our own stuff,” she said.
According to Yvonne, she does not sees her siblings on a regular basis because they all reside in different parts of the world. She, however, stated that their mother had the opportunity to meet most of her 120 grandchildren.
“My mother lived in England with us, but earlier this year, she kept saying she wanted to come home, so I came home to stay with her, but she didn’t make the trip back home. She took ill and died at the Kingston Public Hospital on September 26. We loved our mother. She lived her life for all 20 of us,” she said.