The life and legacy of Mr Elmore
by Anika M. Christopher

Captain, what’s your cargo? echoes the familiar refrain of Elmore Stoutt’s melodic song, one that carries the weight of history and heritage. In this edition of Virgin Islands magazine, the cargo is the captivating tale of the life and legacy of Elmore Stoutt, a true cultural treasure of the British Virgin Islands.


Mr Stoutt’s passion for farming can be traced back to his early childhood when his father and uncles first introduced him to the world of agriculture. “When I grew up, my daddy and uncles did a very good job introducing us to farming,” he recalled with gratitude. From bananas to potatoes, yams, okra, tomatoes, avocados and mangoes – these crops were not just plants but symbols of a thriving agricultural economy that once sustained the islands, with weekly shipments of produce to St. Thomas. Livestock like goats, pigs, and cows were also part of the bustling shipments. Despite the challenges faced by modern farming, Stoutt remains driven by a deep sense of purpose. “I don’t like to be idle. I like to be purposely occupied,” he affirmed. With a commitment to structuring his time effectively, he finds solace in activities like fishing, ensuring that his connection to the land and sea remains strong.

Young Elmore Stoutt playing music.

Growing up, Stoutt’s childhood memories were not only filled with farming but also with the vibrant sounds of fungi music. “When we were growing up, you could pass at Little Apple Bay after school and hear fungi music ringing through” Stoutt recalled with nostalgia. Local men who, having finished their day’s work of fishing or tending to the land, would gather under a tree, instruments in hand, to create music together. At this point fungi music was more than just a genre. Fungi music means cook up and refers to the blending of different instruments, it also speaks to the coming together of the community, fostering a sense of unity. “Fungi music was a communal experience,” Stoutt shared. It provided a space for connection and camaraderie, adding a touch of cultural richness to his formative years.


For 46 years, Stoutt was a dedicated educator who believed in enriching the lives of his students by instilling in them a sense of appreciation and understanding of their own culture. As principal at the Road Town Primary School and later the BVI High School, Stoutt was able to integrate the importance of farming and fungi music into every classroom.
As the leader of the Sparkplugs Fungi Band, Stoutt played a pivotal role in keeping traditional music and stories alive, often finding joy in organising school concerts for the students. “I liked to break the monotony of academics with impromptu concerts and performances,” Stoutt reminisced. His dedication to both farming and education led to a unique and enriching experience for his students.

Fishing in BVI

He would often have his students visit his farm without revealing that he was the farmer until they arrived. “I used to leave from home early in the morning, with work uniform in the truck. Reap 400-500 pound of bananas, fill the truck and when I got to school, went to the bathroom to wash off and was ready for school again,” Stoutt would reveal. The surprise on the students’ faces when they discovered Stoutt’s role as the farmer was priceless. As a result of his outstanding contributions to education, culture and public service, Stoutt received a number of honours and awards, including the BVI High School being renamed Elmore Stoutt High School in 2007.

In 2012, Stoutt was bestowed with the Order of the British Empire (OBE) medal by Queen Elizabeth II, in recognition of his unwavering dedication to enriching the cultural and educational landscape of the Virgin Islands.


A champion of community empowerment and agricultural development, Stoutt continues to play a vital role today by encouraging young people and landowners to engage in collaborative farming practices. With a deep understanding of the challenges faced by idle young people and under utilised land, he persists in promoting the benefits of teamwork and shared responsibility in agriculture. Drawing upon his wealth of experience and cultural knowledge, he actively advocates for young people to come together in groups to cultivate the land and reap the rewards of their collective efforts. His message remains clear and inspiring: “Give us an acre of land to work together with and everyone will benefit.” By emphasizing the importance of cooperation in farming, he continues to empower young people to take charge of their future.

Elmore Stoutt’s life story serves as an inspiration to all who aspire to make a profound impact on their communities. Much like his fungi music, his legacy continues to resonate in the hearts and minds of those who have been touched by his passion and wisdom.