By Stephen Weir:
Toronto bookstore owner Itah Sadu is busy organizing hundreds of books that have just been donated to her Different Booklist Cultural Centre on Bathurst Street in preparation for the unveiling later this month of the Colin Rickards Collection.
Rickards, a tireless reporter and columnist for the Caribbean Camera, suffered a fatal heart attack at his East York home eight years ago, just month before his 74th birthday.
“Colin was voracious reader and a book collector of all things Caribbean,” Sadu told the Caribbean Camera.
“ The oldest book in this collection dates back to 1896. He had a real interest in all aspects of the Caribbean from the Indo presence to the Chinese presence to the Afro presence. This is probably the most complete library of the Diaspora culture in the city.”
Apart from collecting books about the Caribbean, Rickards also loved stories of the American West and wrote about historical figures such as Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid and an account of English settlers in the West called Bowler Hats and Stetsons. He was also an expert on the French Foreign Legion – a subject he wrote about extensively.
Rickards was born in England in 1937 and was a writer and reporter for a number of British media outlets. He travelled extensively in the Caribbean and Central America as a foreign correspondent for several British newspapers and the BBC before settling in Canada in 1970. He edited Toronto’s Caribbean Business News and wrote for many community newspapers.
.Rickards authored nine non-fiction books, including The Man from Devil’s Island.
“ Colin not only collected books but he knew the authors as well,” Sadu noted.
“ He was on a first name basis with Guyanese novelist Edgar Mittelholzer, and people like Jamaican poet Andrew Salkey, playwright Jan Carew and Barbadian writer George Lamming, Many of the books in the collection are signed by their authors.”
The Different Booklist Cultural Centre is attached to the Different Booklist bookstore. It is a warm comfortable space with community photographs and art hanging on the walls. There are musical instruments on tables and now a wall of Rickards’ books.
“ The books have been donated by his widow, Ida and their son, Damian in his memory,” explained Sadu.
“These books will not be loaned out. We encourage people to come inside, take a seat and use this incredible resource for research and study.”
When the Collection is formally opened on May 31, another donation – a Grand Piano – owned by the late Charles Roach will be unveiled. The Trinidadian lawyer, painter, musician and Caribana pioneer, worked in the Bathurst Street area and his family felt the Cultural Centre was the best place for his beloved piano.