James Derrick Cardin also known as Jim Cardin or Johnnie Bull was born on November 13, 1871. He was one of several children of Alma Demming, a street sweeper. His father was the manager of Canada Estate.
The family income being small, Jim did not receive much of an education. However, things would soon change. One day while walking down Fort Street, Jim could not resist the temptation to pick a few roses from the Auld sisters’ garden. He was caught and after a frightened apology and an explanation of his mother’s poverty he was sent on his way with the flowers. Jim was then eleven years old. Later the sisters looked up Alma Demming and asked her to allow Jim to live with them. Seeing this as an opportunity to ease the burden of maintaining a large family on a meagre income, Alma agreed. As the sisters ran a school, the young boy was soon able to make up for the lack of education in his early years.
At fifteen years of age Jim signed on as a sailor to the southern islands. Eventually the Aulds sent young Cardin to the USA where he worked mostly as a Pullman Porter eventually rising to the position of head porter of the Wagner Palace Car Company which operated luxury railway carriage between New York and Washington DC.. Working on the trains brought him into contact with many wealthy and famous people such as the Vanderbilts, the Roosevelts and Bishop Dean of Albany. He also met Gene Stratton Porter, a millionaire, whose personal valet he became. James Cardin worked hard in the US and invested his savings wisely. This enabled him to return to St. Kitts after 18 years of service to personally look after his aging guardians, and to open a bookstore on Fort Street.
While in the States he found time to learn boxing and became a sparring partner to the renowned heavyweight, John Jeffries. He also traveled to England and France. He developed long lasting relationships with the persons he served. Cardin was a generous man, who was interested in the welfare of young people. He urged them to study and lectured them on the importance of education and the value of such qualities as honesty, good manners and politeness. When the Mutual Improvement Society opened a Library, Cardin, who was an honorary member, donated half of the books that were made available to members. He assisted many experiencing financial difficulties, often helped to settle disputes, and facilitated the schooling and employment of many persons. He was also willing to speak frankly to persons in authority regarding the needs to the community. Governor Fiennes in particular was, from time to time reminded by Cardin of what St. Kitts lacked.
Cardin was often deeply distressed by the stream of beggars he saw every Saturday morning in the streets of Basseterre and he did not cease in his effort to impress on the government to build a house for them. His efforts met with success in 1927 when Governor St. Johnston opened the Infirmary to admit the first inmates. Cardin volunteered to serve on the management committee and was appointed its chairperson, a position he continued to hold till 1953 when illness forced him to retire. Jim Cardin’s hallmark was charity and he could be seen daily going through the wards giving good cheer and distributing gifts for the comfort of the residents. In recognition of his untiring interest Administrator Burrows had the institution renamed The Cardin Home.
In 1918 Cardin became a member of the Freemasons by joining the Mount Olive Lodge in Basseterre. He was an ardent mason and worked hard to revive the interest in Masonry in the island. So active was he in the work of the Lodge that within a few years he had risen to the position of Master.
He was honoured with an MBE for his services to the Community. He also received a Coronation Medal from Queen Elizabeth II and a visit from President Theodore Roosevelt and Mrs. Roosevelt while they were touring the Caribbean.
James Cardin died on the 15th May 1954 after a six-month illness. In his will he bequeathed a sum of money to the Infirmary to provide two treats a year for the inmates for ten years after his death. This gesture continues to be carried out by the Brethren of the Mount Olive Lodge.