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Margaret Reckord Bernal Launches Island Reliquaries

Margaret Reckord Bernal author of Island Reliquaries

On Tuesday evening, in the gardens surrounding the Emry James Museum at St. Andrew High School, Margaret Reckord Bernal’s Island Reliquaries: Voices of a Jamaican Past made its official introduction to Jamaica. A stronger source of illumination, than the ‘home sweet home’ kerosene lamp which graces its cover was required to shine light on its title, as the word ‘reliquaries’ delighted in tripping up all who approached it carelessly and even some who used great caution.

Yet, as Bernal would explain, although she had been warned by many not to use the word, she had stuck to it, finding this word which means, ‘container of sacred relics’ apt for the task to which she had put her poetry. The sacred bits and pieces gathered and held dear for this reliquary of words was an anthology of poems about Jamaica and Jamaicans matched by images of the island.
Blossom O'Meally-Nelson played a witty host for the launch of Island Reliquaries
“She’s (Bernal) not only rescuing our culture,” quipped the evening’s witty host Blossom O’Meally-Nelson, “She’s also rescuing the word from instant demise, never to be used again.”

By the time of the launch, the school grounds had been long deserted by most of the current students. In their stead, in the gardens in the far corner of the grounds were several of the ‘old girls’ including Bernal who had chosen to return to her alma mater for the launch. She explained that Island Reliquaries was a family affair, including not only her husband, children and grandchildren, but also the extended family of St. Andrew High.
Margaret Reckord Bernal (left) sits quietly in the audience
The evening, featuring a touch of music by Rosina Moder and Norman McCallum, moved swiftly and easily. Saffrey Brown, General Manager of the Jamaica National Foundation which had sponsored the book outlined the various partnerships the foundation undertook in the pursuit of cultural preservation and social change.

The launch closed with Bernal’s short reading from Island Reliquaries as she delivered ‘Miss Elsa’s Hope Chest’, ‘Grandpa Pinnacle’ and a few other pieces.