In the darkness that the COVID-19 pandemic has cast over Montreal, Mrs. Sylia Goin remains a special light shining for members of the Goin, Boldon and Corbie families, all prominent in the Black community here in Montreal as they are in their native Trinidad and Tobago.
On August 19, the woman who stands as the matriach of the highly regarded clan, marked her 100th birthday surrounded by her son Colin, daughter Sharleen as well as grand-children and other family and friends for a golden celebration, which was dampened only slightly by the Covid-19 outbreak.
The occasion offered those around her an opportunity to bask in the presence of a woman who took life by the horns and excelled in the many endeavors in which she participated throughout her sparkling life.
Born in Trinidad to Grenadian and Barbadian parents, Mrs. Goin (nee Dedier), grew up in Belmont, a thriving little bed-room community on the outskirks of Port of Spain. It has always been a hotbed for sports, arts and culture.
As the lone girl growing up among her two brothers Julian and Clinton Boldon and two male cousins, Rudolph and Lennox Corbie, she inevitably became involved in many of the sports and other activities that they were engaged in, playing football and cricket with the boys.
As one of her contemporaries the late Mr. Adolphous Lewis who resided in the South Shore, used to tell it: Sylia was also known to have fought alongside her brothers and cousins as well.
He remembered her climbing the fence that separated the girls and boys primary school to defend the girls whenever the boys stepped out of line or to defend her brothers in any altercation.
As an enthusiastic sports fan, she found love and married an avid footballer and cricketer, Mr. Eugene Goin, which drew her closer to the games especially when her brother and husband played on opposing teams.
But it was her involvement in the performing culture of Trinidad and Tobago that defined much of Sylia’s early life, shining in the spotlight as a founding member and a dancer with the internationally renowned Boscoe Holder Dance Company.
She also stands tall as a member of the world’s first all-female steel orchestra, The Girl Pat Steelband, which was formed in the early 1950s and earned acclaim for their virtuosity, touring several islands in the Caribbean. Today, the once proud second-pan player is one of two or three surviving members of the famed group.
She was also big on Trinidad and Tobago’s ‘Mas’ scene, playing pivotal roles in helping her cousin Rudolph Corbie and brother Julian Boldon two of the leading masquerade bandleaders at the annual T&T carnival, with their band.
Mrs. Goin worked equally as hard as she played, building a career over 50 years as a Senior Customs Compliance Officer at the ministry of Industry and Commerce with the T & T government. She is remembered for not ever taking a vacation or time-off except for a few weeks during her pregnancies.
Always popular and upbeat, Sylia Goin surrounded herself and tried to associate herself with those she deemed to be progressive and forward-thinking. And earned the distinction of been recognized both as a leader and a supporter.
She immigrated to Canada in 1980s to be with her children and grandchildren.
According to her son Colin: “To this day she will always find a way to encourage everyone … urging them to keep moving forward, even as she herself is suffering during these covid times by not seeing her family as often as she would like.”
Her family-line extends far and wide as grandmother to Ayana, Akil, Aamir, Brandon, Kira, Adrian, Emil and her great grand-child Nikei.
Her many nephews and nieces in Montreal and beyond include George Corbie, Steve and Terri Ann Cooper, Bertram, Guy, Leroi and Cyril Boldon, Marlene and Pam, Brian James and Athee, Ato, Kyle, Haneefa and Jelani.
She continues to maintain and nourish longtime friendships with many including Marlene and Jerome and remarkably, she remembers them all and never fails to inquire about each and everyone’s well-being… “wondering how they were making out during these times,” urging her children and grandchildren “to go look for them.”
Through it all Sylia Didier Goin remains a source of inspiration not only to her family, extended family and wide network of friends but for the glorious history she continues to chart in a life that always is beyond the boundaries.
For that he family encourages her in the parlance of cricket (one of her favorite games) to keep hitting the ball out the park: “Bat mom, bat and watch dem googlies…”
Notes: in this story
Sylia’s long list of family members who represented Trinidad and Tobago and Canada in various sports.
T&T: Julian in football, Eugene in cricket, Ato (Olympic Silver Medalist) in Track & Field , Emil, Kira and Adrian in swimming
Represented Canada: Sharleen in netball, Emil in swimming