Original photo by Ann-Lisa Wells, but shot at The Bahamian Project exhibition with my cell phone.
By Hadassah Deleveaux (née Hall)
Leroy. Leroy Archer is his name.
He’s in his 90s and still tailoring in his shop, Nassau Street, Over-The-Hill. His portrait was one of 52 hanging in The Central Bank of The Bahamas’ art gallery in summer 2017, as part of The Bahamian Project.
I viewed the exhibition in solitude, and intentionally so. I did not attend the exhibition’s launch the evening before as I wanted to connect with the people in the photographs away from the crowd and chatter. What an impressive mix of people, but it was Leroy’s photo that resonated with me! There is certainly power in portraiture and many of the striking images bore witness to this.
“Uncle Lee” as he is affectionately called, represented the diverse range of subjects in the photographic exhibition which reflected the diversity of our Bahamaland. I applaud the duo behind the highly-anticipated showcase, Duke and Lisa Wells, and the notable photographers they pulled together, including Ms. Wells, who was behind the lens of this shot of Uncle Lee (my phone’s lens doesn’t do the photo justice!).
Meanwhile, in this photo, Uncle Lee looks happy, healthy and amazingly strong. He must be teeming with stories! And I would think he has more than a thing or two to teach us about life, loss and perhaps love. Moreover, he is living proof that once you learn a trade, you can earn a living!
Keep on keeping on Uncle Lee! You are a wonderful example of what Over-The-Hill has produced!
UPDATE as of 17th September, 2018:
Check out who I spent my lunch time with today! 94-year-old veteran tailor, Leroy “Uncle Lee” Archer! Can you believe he is almost a century?!!!
I first learned about Uncle Lee last August when I came across his photo at the Central Bank Art Gallery during The Bahamian Project exhibition. I was amazed that someone his age was still working! As his tailor shop was on Nassau Street, Over-The-Hill, I wrote a short feature on him (above). But today, I was able to track down Uncle Lee’s number after learning he no longer works from his Nassau Street location. He told me that he was there for 30 years, but the building was sold a year ago. During our brief telephone conversation, I asked if I could see him after noon. He did not hesitate!
I got to finally meet him in person; when I arrived at Uncle Lee’s new location, immediately east of John Watling’s Distillery, I walked up the steps and was delightfully greeted by him. He welcomed me with a huge grin and warm hug into his Delancey Street space. Interestingly, when I stepped into the room, he was listening to the radio talk show, Issues of the Day, hosted by Wendall K. Jones on a stereo that has been around for 25 years. He made it known that Mr. Jones is “the best” and has shows “of substance.”
I digressed! Well, while in his sewing workshop, I was in awe that this man, at his age, was standing so strongly, working on a tuxedo for a “special friend.” Although Uncle Lee works six days a week, he said these days, you have to be “special or a friend” for him to sew for you.
It’s been 76 years since Uncle Lee picked up tailoring as a trade. In fact, he learned the trade at 18 from Noel Gibson and his own brother, Oscar Archer later helped him as well. Today, with aging hands, he is using his chalk, cutting, hemming…tucking. Nearby was his Singer machine that is still working after 70 years!
This talented, humble man has dressed the likes of former Governor General, the late Henry Taylor and former Attorney General, the late Paul Adderley. He also had contracts to sew uniforms for Bahamasair, the Port Authority, the Immigration Department and others.
It was truly a pleasure being in the presence of a living legend! He is a stellar example of not wasting one’s talent and what thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might (Ecclesiastes 9:10)!