“Even if you can’t get a rake, take a branch from the coconut tree and sweep the yard. People make the area.” ~ Debbie Ferguson
Debbie Ferguson of Maycock Street
By Hadassah Deleveaux (née Hall)
While on radio in The Bahamas, listeners often heard host, Chrissy Love proclaiming, “If each before his doorstep swept, the village would be clean.”
It is a quote that could be taken literally or figuratively, but certainly Debbie Ferguson of Maycock Street takes it literally, keeping her doorstep, her yard, her whole street clean. She even goes to great lengths, weeding grass on the sides of the street and planting plants in the front of neighbours’ yards.
I recently visited Debbie at her distinct property in Grants Town – the heart of Old Nassau – and was mesmerized by what I saw. Could this be over the hill? Why can’t others take such interest and care in their surroundings? If you drive throughout over the hill, after seeing the dilapidated buildings, abandoned vehicles, overgrown yards and litter-strewn streets, it would be quickly evident that Debbie is a gem in the midst of one of the oldest and most historically rich communities in the country.
It is unfortunate that the way she maintains her property is uncommon.
From you turn onto Maycock Street, off Lewis Street (which is off East Street) you quickly recognize Debbie’s property. She has her own beautification program going on – an effort to paint a different picture of her area, in her own way. Essentially, she is a community leader.
Decades ago, the house situated on the property where she lives was created from clapboard. The original building belonged to her paternal grandmother, Clara Marie Ferguson. It was a four-bedroom house with an outside toilet.
Debbie is shown above at the original house that was on the same property.
Today, it is a white trimmed with blue two-storey stone building in addition to three neat, wooden structures on the same property – all with diverse outdoor wall hangings, wind charms, hanging baskets and a kaleidoscope of plants, which certainly set her property apart from others.
The 62-year-old explained where the inspiration for her creativity came from.
“My son, Trevor, was killed in a motorbike accident in 2001. I threw myself into being creative. It was a way of consoling myself,” she said.
For the past 18 years, Debbie gets up and cleans her yard, followed by cleaning her street.
“I have a dust pan, a broom and two rakes. I don’t want to stand out and everything else look trashy,” she explained.
“It has inspired others to keep their place clean. I need to see cleanliness around me. I can’t take dirt. My neighbours, they appreciate it and encourage the children not to throw thrash around,” said Debbie.
Although Debbie does not look for recognition, she is honoured by the fact that the Bahamas National Pride Association presented her with the Best Kept Yard award in January.
“I was really surprised. I never heard about the Best Kept Yard. I am honoured. I appreciate it. I wasn’t doing this for 18 years for recognition,” she noted.
Questioned as to why she remained over the hill all these years, as opposed to leaving for the suburbs, which has become the norm for so many born there, Debbie hastily stated: “I didn’t have the someplace else money.”
“I born and grow up here. Nobody troubles me. Nobody disrespects me,” she added.
And as we chatted in her immaculate yard, everyone who passed, hailed Debbie – evidence of that sense of community that still largely exists over the hill.
Debbie recognizes that a renaissance of over the hill begins with the people who live there.
If only there were more Debbies over the hill.