Hot on the heels of Ray Price, is another confirmed favourite of mine, incidentally, the favourite of millions of Country Music Fans, throughout this planet, the name of George Jones stands out like a beacon, and yet, there was not “much” of this Music Legend, nicknamed “the possum” for this very reason. A “little guy”, huge “rebel” & “Super-Star”, served in the American Marines, making it obvious to those around him, that here was another “classic Country Star, in the making, and proving, beyond doubt that this was the case indeed.
In an Era when there were so many Country Music Geniuses to contend with, it must have been something of a nightmare to try to figure out which songs to record, in order to have a “hit”in the business known as “Country”. American Country Music has always been noted for being far ahead of all others, not because it is BETTER, but simply because it is “better-presented”, has far more ” followers”, perhaps, because, even TODAY, they have more Radio-Stations, State-wide that “play Country-Music 24/7.
At the same time, when “Stars” of the calibre of Gene Watson, another of my top-favourites, was struggling to reach the top rungs of the “Country-ladder” of fame (he was 70 years old, singing like an angel, with the devil on his back), one does tend to wonder what it is all about.
Back to George Jones. He proved that it didn’t matter what size you were, it didn’t matter that you loved your liquor with a vengeance, it didn’t matter how many times you got married (& he was an absolute “sucker for punishment”, God bless him, George Jones went on to prove that, when he died at 82, EVERYONE knew that George Jones, Country Music Star, had passed-on. No more, would the “Possum” have to “ride” on his motorised lawn-mower, into Town, to buy his “drinks”, after the wife, at the time,(2nd time), had to hide the keys of his famous “Corvette”to try and stop George from getting to the liquor store.
Tammy Wynette tried and failed, other wives tried & failed, but the JONES’ BOY always did what he wanted to do, and that was that!.
Here he is, Ladies & Gentlemen, the “Possum” George Jones
The story of the song, it is, and the story of the song, it will remain. One of the most traditional Buddhist “processions” held in “our Island Paradise” every year.
I am really at a loss, as to who “wrote” the “original Sinhala version, don’t even know if it was ever recorded, so decided that “this writer” would give it a go.
This said, I have the utmost respect for Prince Siddehartha Gautama (The Buddha), Here was a Man who could have lived a life of absolute luxury, yet, gave up everything, wealth, “titles”, even himself, as Jesus Christ did, in another Country, much later, to try everything that was humanely possible to do in order to make a sordid Planet Earth, a better place to live in. In so doing, the Buddha attained “Nirvana” just as Christ rose to Heaven on the Sunday, following the tragically sad “Good Friday” .
“The Procession” in Sri Lanka, every August, pays it’s respect to this wonderful Man, who tried to show us the negativity of “life” complete with all the “Human illnesses, the pain & the suffering” every one of us go through during our short stay on Earth. He cast away Regal-Robes, donned the simple ” Saffron” ones to sit under what is now known as the “Sacred Bo-Tree” to meditate on what HE could do, to try & STOP as much of the unnecessary grief we all suffer at one time or another.
I have always loved “reading”, read volumes on the life of The Buddha, still keep reading, whenever I get the chance, & am also privileged and honoured to write the lyrics to “The Procession”. The “Story of the song”, tells it all, my friends.
By way of an introduction, I am happy to share this personal story with readers of eLanka. It is a story from the edge of darkness bordering on the supernatural, and one which involved my Mum and Dad, and to an extent my Dad’s younger brother Uncle Norman and his wife Aunty Lena, my aunt. I was eleven years old when the incident depicted in this article took place, my younger brother was eight, and my sister and infant of three. The passage of time has not dimmed the horror I experienced when my parents told me of their experience the following day. My Dad at the time was an Assistant Superintendent on Carolina Group Watawala, one of the largest tea plantations in the lower Dickoya district, and my Uncle Norman was Assistant Superintendent on Chryslers Farm Estate, in Kotagala.
The tea plantations of Sri Lanka are located in landscapes of exceptional beauty. The mountains and valleys – up hill and down dale – are carpeted with acres and acres of green gold, and the bracing climate, fresh mountain air and the rolling mists of an evening make the region a masterpiece of nature. Nature in fact has run riot with her paintbrush painting the plantation areas with colours of every hue which no artist can reproduce on a canvas. Hence the hill country has always been a popular destination for holiday makers. To those who spent their childhood on a tea plantation, precious are the memories of having grown up in those salubrious climes, which will forever remain a special part of the world. But as night falls, even though the entire plantation sector and corresponding regions remain breathtakingly beautiful by moonlight, it has a sinister and dark side which can be traced back to a time after the tea (and rubber plantations in the mid and low country) were opened up. Varied are the many stories about the supernatural, the spirit world, ghostly hauntings and apparitions, unearthly visions, all compounded no doubt by the superstitious nature of the simple estate folk. I personally am aware of ghostly tales told to me by some planter friends of mine whose character is beyond reproach and question. But I digress. The story which follows is one set against this backdrop. I am convinced of its veracity because it involved my Dad and Mum. Part the veil of time and go back to the year 1955. Uncle Norman and Aunty Lena were on Chrysler’s Farm Estate Kotagala, and Dad was on Carolina Group Watawala. This was the year Lushion one of my cousins was born and his birth is the genesis of this story. A day before Aunty Lena went into labour, Uncle Norma telephoned Dad on Carolina and gave him the news. Dad then decided to leave for Chryslers farm with Mum early the following morning and leave her there to render any assistance she could. Our Grandma (Uncle and Dad’s Mum, Alice) had already arrived a few days before, in anticipation of the big day. As I recall, Dad and Mum arrived at Chrysler Farm around 7.00 am. Having dropped Mum, Dad returned to Carolina straightway as he had to get back to work. Before he left he told Mum he would return to pick her up that same evening after work, assuming that Lushion would be born by then. When he returned about 6.30 pm, Lushion was born and it was a happy event for the family – the birth of a new born child is always an occasion for rejoicing. A few celebratory drinks were on the cards and Dad and Mum stayed for dinner as there was much to rejoice and talk about ! After a joyous evening which turned into early morning (!) it was time for goodbyes as Dad had to work the following day. But Grandma cautioned Dad about leaving at that ungodly hour (it was after 1.30 am !) stating that it was “not safe” to venture into the dark lonely night specially after the birth of a new born.
Dad told me he opined that this was pure superstition without any basis in fact, but he told grandma he had a busy schedule on Carolina and had to be fit for work ! She then pleaded with him to stay at least until daybreak – until dawns golden light – and depart when the world had woken up ! But Dad politely refused, and around 2.00 am he and Mum left the nurturing love of family and the warm cosy comfort of the Chryslers Farm bungalow, and set off on the trusty BSA motorbike on the long and winding road home. Little did they know that it was a journey they would never forget…….. Uncle Norman too cautioned Dad to take extra care (due to the thick mist) and ride carefully. Leaving the confines of Chryslers Farm Estate, they were soon on the main road to Hatton, and then onward to Watawala. As Dad later recalled, other than the light of the motorbike and that of any oncoming vehicles, the night was pitch black devoid of any moonlight or starlight, and deathly quiet.
FEAR IN THE NIGHT Since time immemorial, there has been a belief as recorded in ancient books and manuscripts that after midnight till dawn known as the bewitching hours, denizens of the netherworld, evil spirits, souls who don’t find rest, and entities in all guises wander the earth causing terror and even inflicting harm to any human being who has the misfortune to meet them ! There are numerous stories of ghosts who walk at night not only in Sri Lanka but all over the world. The haunted castles of Britain are one example. So prolific were the hauntings and apparitions in many of her ancient castles and manor houses, that a few years ago, a prestigious publication “The Readers Digest” carried a special article in one of its editions titled “The Haunted castles of Britain”. Having read this article I visited the United Kingdom and in the course of this tour visited two of the castles mentioned. But that is a story for another time ! The silence of that dark night was only broken by the throb of the BSA motorbike as it negotiated curve after curve, and mile after mile on a road which tested the skills of any motorist. Just past the junction on Carolina division where the road branches off to Norton Bridge, there is a straight stretch of road with a cliff on one side and a precipice on the other. It was along this section of the road that the ghostly encounter as Dad and Mum remembered it occurred. Dad was riding quite fast when suddenly he and Mum felt the bike go over something very solid with a terrible bump which caused the bike to go into an uncontrollable skid. She held onto Dad, but he managed to control the bike with the skill he had acquired riding some of the worst estate roads. Sensing Mum’s fear he told her not to worry as they were now close to home. It was after they arrived that Mum blurted out “Fred – did you see it ?” To which Dad replied that he had, and posed her the same question. She replied in the positive. What they had both seen was the hideous figure of a black lion, with its tail extended across the road. But neither mentioned it, not wishing to alarm the other. Dad said that when he did see the spectre it was too late to stop in time and throwing caution to the winds he decided to ride across the “obstacle” and damn the consequences ! And when he did, this was the terrible bump they both experienced which caused the bike to skid. The unspoken words were spoken only days later. Had Dad not been able to control the bike, and if it had veered to the right of the road, they would have plummeted down the precipice in that dark night to certain death in the valley far below. The spectre of this hideous lion was a manifestation of some evil being from the netherworld and stories of similar apparitions are many……… Dad normally very stoic and calm was so affected by this incident that he telephoned his boss Mr.David Gibbon saying he would be doing his field rounds rather late. To Mr.Gibbons credit, he sensed all was not well and not going into any detail told Dad to take the day off. As the years passed, Dad and Mum would often relate this story to Errol my younger brother, Cherryl my sister, and to me. It must be mentioned that when Dad first moved into the Kadawella bungalow ( Kadawella was one of five divisions of Carolina Group) which was locked up for four years he was told that this bungalow was haunted ! A former Assistant Superintendent, a Scotsman by the name of Iain Young occupied this bungalow and died at the very young age of 28 due to tetanus, following an injury he sustained during a rugger match while playing for the Dickoya Club. He was wounded by the hobnail on the boot of an opposing player, but did not treat the wound. Returning home he had a warm bath, and then took his gramophone and a bottle of whisky onto the lawn where he celebrated in true bachelor style, the wound still unattended. That night he became gravely ill and was rushed to the Fraser Memorial Nursing Home in Colombo where all the European planters were treated. The following evening he died of tetanus. Dad was asked to look after Kadawella division after his death, but the bungalow remained locked for four years. The rumour began to spread by some of the former bungalow staff that the house was haunted. A few years later Dad on being promoted to Assistant Superintendent moved into this bungalow. However, no evil manifestations bothered us ! On the contrary this was the home where my brother sister and I grew up in a very nurturing atmosphere, with beautiful mountain scenery, flowing streams, many tea trails to wander amidst carpets of green, ensconsced in the wonders of mother nature. We were blessed with parents who were angels, who fine tuned our values and characters by their love, and who related to us as children. To this day my siblings and I reminisce on the family walks we took almost daily, marked by a sense of adventure and full of fun and laughter. But many are the stories of ghostly encounters and hauntings on lonely estates far away…….There is a lot more to our existence than materialistic science would like us to believe.