Barry Maragh had a colourful history with local motorsports over many years. He departed this life on the afternoon of 12 September and it is pertinent that I, Carl Brown, say why he will be missed and not forgotten.
A moist Sunday evening, in the foyer of the old Cinema on West Bay Road, greeted an eclectic group, a gathering of interested motor enthusiasts, gear-heads and a few traffic officers.
That was the nucleus of the Autocross Association of the Cayman Islands, (later to evolve into the Cayman Motoring Club) formed in the first quarter of 1982 with Beatman Ebanks, O’Leary Cranston, Johnney McLaughlin, Ezzard Miller (the first president), Billy Ebanks, Lance Bramwell, Jerry Holness, Lloyd Rochester, Hennie Webster, Claudie Glasgow and about fifty others about to embark on another journey, a mission for motorsports.
Barry was over in a corner, taking in the testosterone talk like who got away from then traffic denizens like Joey Ebanks (who rolled and ruled in the low slung, white, 360 Dodge Diplomats). At that time, before cell phones, important facts were computed prior to an illegal run on our few paved roads.
Cayman was about 15,000 people. Jim Bodden was leader of government and 19 Hole Pizza was the hot eating spot. Illegal quarter mile racing was held in South Sound at unsuspecting hours. Quiet but vigorous betting spiced with macho challenges, in conference at Beatman’s Esso, (then across from the Cayman Free Press offices). Some guys even bet their keys.
The formation of the autocross association was welcomed at that time by authorities. Cayman had the highest traffic fatality rate in the world. We looked inward for solutions. Our club invited violators and potential violators to do action in a regulated environment with the blessing of then police commissioner Jim Stowers.
The result was a partnership that bore fruit. Accident and fatality rates went down and violations declined while former traffic sinners had scoops of fun. The police joined us in racing, such as Sergeants Courtney ‘Butch’ Myles and Clive Smith in Toyota Corollas and the unforgettable Tony Echinique in a Mini 1000. Stowers did a ceremonial dash in Hennie Webster’s red BMW 320i, a sweet sedan that did a summersault in a latter race.
At that time, there was no North Sound Way and Queens Highway. ByRite and Coemart Supermarkets were alive in the centre of town. Kirk Supermarket was situated where CIBC First Caribbean Bank is today. George Town froze like a cemetery after 6pm, with Sheila’s little cubby on Hog Sty Bay dishing up a burger that could keep you through til breakfast, in competition with McDonalds.
Maragh was the reputed chief physician in Cayman for NCR cash register machines by day. He and Tony DaCosta kept Cayman business cash points on smooth free flow. Things were different after hours and on the weekends. His passion for motor vehicles and motorsport was tantamount to religion.
Barry would congregate with Alton Fraquison (Farqy), then chief auto technician/high priest, for mass at TomSun Garage, a cathedral back then on Shedden Road. DaCosta had one of the hottest Minis with the cartoon persona of Tweety Bird overwhelming the body work and Roger Corbin was commander of a fully race-prepared Morris Marina 1300 GT that represented Cayman abroad at international events.
Farqy and later George Sherwood of Jamaica, administered regular medical care and surgery on his red Mini and later a British Racing Green Clubman, which evolved into black. This sweet lollipop of a 1275 GT, the envy of Cayman motor fanatics at the time, has remained in a ‘safety deposit box’ as a family jewel. Anyone who needed to know heard of the sweet little pocket rocket, the Colin Chapman English jewel, the only Lotus Elan on the Island at the time. It would take years of negotiation before the Lotus changed living quarters.
Barry was an active member of the autocross association. We started with that first meet at the Cinema, moved to Paul Bodden’s place, Fairbanks marl pit, rolled around on old Buddy Wood’s Everglow drive-in theatre in Pease Bay before ending up at Jay Bodden’s Lakeview Raceway behind CUC.
If you were there, the picture of a Mini with Echinique and Bruce Moore defying laws of physics doing war with a Corolla owned by Barry is indelibly etched in the mind.
Our club had two historic races which Barry took part in as a helmeted man, competing behind the wheel. The road race around industrial park, in early 1984, featured Barry in his freshly painted black, Sherwood-prepped Mini with twin 45 Webbers spitting fire in to the bulk head. Barry had fan assistance, dousing flames whilst chalking up a record win. The Mini lived on.
The other event was a dexterity race on the main tarmac of the Owen Roberts International Airport. Barry used a road car in happy contribution to a milestone event. The chosen few who made that event are a special fraternity. We raced quickly between cones making sure we left no hint of our presence before the next flight arrived.
Barry did his part to make Thursday night dexterity events in the late 80s, on the old Kirk Supermarket site in the heart of town. He was part of the unforgettable dexterity race held behind the public library where the Paul Bodden ‘Smokey and the Bandit’ TransAm filled the acreage with tire smoke, while breaking sound barriers.
The Bandit has had a lengthy, checkered record, breaking limits island wide. It was one of eight cars originally built for the movie. Former Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts was the original owner and navigator, driving the Bandit Burt Reynolds-style from virgin days. The once a month Thursday Club nights offered the most rewarding sleep, after post-work stress relief racing.
The patriarch of Godfrey Racing Stables was Barry. Three stepsons in Jeff Larmond, Frank Williams and Jerry Holness, were to become his three musketeers. During that era of racing, when Cayman was the dirt centre champions of the Caribbean, Godfrey Racing marched to the medal table with regularity. Barry and his spirited guys punished the field making headlines, becoming the subject of spectacular crowd-pleasing, nail-biting finishes and breath-taking crashes.
As a team manager/director he knew how to energise the teams, motivate sponsors, set up strategy, celebrate with manish water soup and curry goat seasoned with good reggae sessions. From the baby blue Supra to the Auto Pro Starlets and Corollas, all faced foes like Lance Bramwell’s Mini, Chuck Thompson’s 510 Datsun, O’Leary Cranston’s Ford Escort and the Robert Campbell/Bodden Brothers Starlets. The overseas guys, like Peter Rae and David Summerbell Jr, have tear-stained shirts and furrows in their brows, in part because of Barry’s crew.
Frank Williams came across in 1986 and joined Barry at Cayman Business Machines. He would go on to light the fires on many a Godfrey Stables machine from the wicked two litre, 3T Starlet to the Mazda Rx2. Later, the matching mild-mannered duo went on to make their name as the ‘Bouncing Castle Guys.’
Behind stars Larmond and Holness, Barry managed the team to multiyear wins. The guys ran a smooth outfit of short-order cooks, pit crew efficiency and machinist precision.
Holness always knew how to “hook up the power,” the lights never went out even when the engines went quiet. Even after a heart-stopping crash, he escaped injury-free and went on to sweep trophies for Barry’s crew.
Yet Richard Maragh, Barry’s treasure of a son, was the epicentre of Barry’s life since 1982. From the Maragh family home on Elgin Avenue, he would come to races with dedicated mum Valerie, always cheering on dad’s team. You know who should win and you heard about it loudly when they did.