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Table of Contents
CALS NELSO ROSO ADM MIHE AU
Copyright reserved and reproduction without permission strictly
4. The Black Caribs Native Resistance to British Penetration
into the Windward Side of St. Vincent 1763-1773.
20. Nanny Maroon Chieftainess
28. Some Desiderata in Caribbean Biography
Joseph A. Borome
36. Dominica An island in need of an historian
42. Shore Whaling in St. Vincent Island, West Indies
John E. Adams
51. Persistent Poverty: Underdevelopment in Plantation Econ-
omics of the Third World
George Beckford NY & O.U.P. (1972)
Carlos I.H. Nelson.
53. Two Critics on Black Marsden -
Wilson Harris, (.
I "A pursuit of archetypes of culture" -
II "A double vision a Tabula-Rasa Comedy"
59. Grant the Unhonoured Innovator
Sir John Peter Grant: Governor of Jamaica 1866-1874,
Vincent Marsala, (Instute of Jamaica 1972)
Publications of the Department.
VOL. 19, No. 4
UNIVERSITY OF THE WEST INDIES
R.M. Nettleford, Director of Extra-Mural Studies (Editor)
Lloyd Braithwaite, Pro-Vice Chancellor, U.W.I., St. Augustine, Trinidad.
Sidney Martin, Pro-Vice Chancellor, U.W.I., Cave Hill, Barbados.
Roy Augier, Pro-Vice Chancellor, U.W.I., Mona, Jamaica.
G.A. Alleyne, Professor, Medical Research Council, U.W.I., Mona.
Lloyd Coke, Department of Botany, U.W.I., Mona.
Neville McMorris, Department of Physics, U.W.I., Mona.
Patricia Williams, Department of Extra-Mural Studies, U.W.I., Mona,
Jamaica. (Assoc. Editor).
All correspondence should be addressed to:
Department of Extra-Mural Studies,
University of the West Indies,
Mona, Kingston 7, Jamaica.
We invite readers to submit manuscripts on recommended
subjects which they would like to see discussed in CARIBBEAN
QUARTERLY. Articles of Caribbean relevancy will be gratefully
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NOTES ON CONTRIBUTORS:
JOHN E. ADAMS
was born in St. Vincent, took his B.A.
& PhD in History at UWI and was 1972
Alexander Hamilton fellow at Harvard.
He is now Associate History Professor
at Brandeis University.
is an English Land Surveyor who
worked in Jamaica in the 1960's. He
led an expedition to the site of Nanny
Town in 1967 and later in 1973
is well known to Caribbean Quarterly
readers for his interest in Caribbean
historical research. He is a history
Professor at City College, New York
of the Geography Department, Uni-
versity of Minnesota, has been survey-
ing the traditional fishing industry of
the Eastern Caribbean over the past 8
is a cultural anthropologist at Case
Western Reserve University, USA. A
frequent visitor to the Leewards he
hoped "to prod some historian into
writing a political & social history of
historian, journalist and notable public
figure in Jamaica for over thirty years,
is General Secretary of the Farquhar-
son Institute of Public Affairs, and
President of the Pen Club, Jamaica.
studied history and Political Science at
Lincoln Drexel & Temple Universities
in USA & taught African & New World
history before coming to UWI, Mona
begin a Ph.D research programme.
took his B.A. in English at UWI where
he pursued postgraduate research in
W.I. literature. He now lectures at
City University of New York.
is a Guyanese literary critic pursuing a
Ph.D. in W.I. literature at University
of Kent Canterbury, England.
The Black Caribs Native
Resistance to British Penetration
Into the Windward Side of
St. Vincent 1763-1773
By the second half of the eighteenth century the Carib
population of the West Indies had been either decimated or driven
out of most of their former possessions by the forces of European
penetration. St. Vincent however was still a major centre of Carib
population. In 1763 when that island along with Tobago, Dominica,
and Grenada and the Grenadines, was ceded to Great Britain at the
Peace of Paris which brought the Seven Years War to a close, its
Carib population was approximately 3,000 souls.
St. Vincent like Dominica and Tobago had been pawns in the
Anglo-French struggle for Caribbean supremacy of the early
decades of the eighteenth century. It was not until 1748 that both
powers at the Treaty of Aix La Chapelle agreed to regard them as
neutral or outside the limits of either's penetration, an agreement
which was violated by France with respect to St. Vincent and
Dominica. The extent of this violation is manifested in the French
and slave population and production statistics of these two islands at
the time of cession. In Dominica, French inhabitants numbered
1,718, their slaves 5,872 and 1,690, 368 lbs. coffee was produced in
addition to cocoa and cotton. In St. Vincent on the other hand there
were 1,300 French subjects and 3,400 slaves,2 and 12,490 pounds of
coffee was produced in addition to cocoa and tobacco.3
But the cultivation of these commodities was not carried on to
any great extent. Only 3,027 acres had been in cultivation in
Dominica,' and 6,477 in St. Vincent in 1763. In Tobago which had
no European settlers the soil had not been scratched at all and even
in Grenada which had formerly been a French colony only one third
of the land fit for cultivation was in crops. The cultivation of sugar
cane was being carried on in Grenada but it was of slight importance
compared to coffee and cocoa.
The mid 1760's however was a time when profits were still being
made from the sugar industry which had been launched in the older
islands of the British Caribbean such as Antigua, Barbados and
Jamaica ever since the second half of the seventeenth century. Even
though these profits were not as great as formerly it was still the
object of British policy to develop the new possessions as sugar
colonies. The Board of Trade therefore quickly formulated
procedures and guidelines for the sale, disposal and exploitation of
the lands and in 1765 Commissioners were despatched to the islands
to carry them out.
The Commissioners completed their task in 1773, eight years
after their arrival in the islands. During this time they had succeeded
in disposing of all the arable lands in Dominica, Tobago and
Grenada.8 St. Vincent however was a notable exception. For
instance the Commissioners were able to dispose of only 20,538
acres9 or roughly one third of the arable land in this island'1
compared to 95,1341/4 acres in Dominica, 57,401 in Tobago and
74,681 in Grenada" This immediately poses the question why such
a comparatively small acreage had been parcelled out in St. Vincent.
The available evidence indicates that the answer lies in the native
resistance of the Black Caribs who formed "a strong tribal enclave"12
in the island, to British penetration into the Windward side, the area
which they inhabited, and which was the most suitable for sugar
It is this native resistance which is the subject of this article,
which also attempts to place in proper perspective the series of
events leading up to the outbreak of what has been popularly termed
"The First Carib War of 1773" the circumstances surrounding the
termination of that war, and also its results. Indeed, an article of this
nature is very timely and necessary since to date (1973) or 200 years
after that event, the popular work on this subject is still that of Sir
William Young who published his 'History' in the year 179513, using
very important source materials, the private papers of his father who
was Chief Commissioner for the sale and disposal of lands in the
islands. To date, this work which has completely distorted the
picture has remained virtually unchallenged. In her study on the
Historiography of the British West Indies, Professor Elsa Goveia
did more than justice to this work by describing it as "a piece of
settler history"," but no one has yet attempted to refute Young's
arguments by a thorough re-examination of the available data.
Indeed, throughout the work, Young views the Black Caribs as a
group of "savages" whose sinister designs against the lives and
properties of "innocent" British subjects created a situation in which
there was no alternative but to use force against them and remove
them from the island at all costs."'
It is important to note also the date of publication of this work.
That date, 1795, marked the termination of the "Second Carib War"
of 1795 when the natives were finally subjugated by the forces of
General Abercrombie and it was also a time when there was a
campaign afoot to expell them from the island so that the areas they
occupied might be converted into sugar plantations, an objective
which the British settlers had at the outset and which the Caribs had
persistently and consistently prevented from realisation. Young's
work therefore, ought to be viewed as a part of that campaign.
This work however, despite its distortions is nevertheless a very
important one, not only because the author had at his disposal very
important source materials, but more significantly because his
thinking has conditioned that of writers on the subject for centuries
and generations. For example, Charles Shepherd devotes a section of
his historical Account of St. Vincent to the war of 1773, and he
actually follows the line taken by Young. But he like Young could be
considered a settler.
Even as eminent a historian as Professor Lowell Ragatz who
published his masterpiece "The Fall of the Planter Class in the
British Caribbean" almost a century after Shepherd accepted with-
out question the arguments put forward by Young and by so doing
adopted the settler position of this author and Charles Shepherd. For
instance Ragatz accuses the Black Caribs of committing "numerous
depredations" on the plantations, instances of which did in fact
occur, but like Young and Shepherd, he refused to consider these
incidents as possible actions or rather reactions to British efforts to
penetrate the part of the island they inhabited. "Matters reached
such a point", he continued, "that it became necessary to launch the
expedition against them." Persons resident in England who
opposed the expedition he describes as "well meaning" but dismisses
as "misinformed" and he goes on to argue that the expedition in
itself was "actually a necessary preliminary step to the development
of the colony
Again Ragatz sees the "acceptance" by the natives of a block of
land in the northern part of the island at the Peace Treaty, as a result
of the fact that their resistance was broken," which seems to imply
that the British won a victory both during the campaign and at the
Peace Treaty It is this author's contention that the British won no
such victory and that from all indications the war ended in a
stalemate. If indeed the British did in fact win such a magnanimous
victory why then did they at the termination of this war get such a
negligible portion of Black Carib territory which the natives quickly
reoccupied., and why were the planters so dissatisfied with the
terms of the treaty? On these points and others, this author
challenges existing interpretations and suggests revised and
The Black Caribs were the survivors of a cargo of an African
slave ship bound from the Bight of Benin to Barbados which was
wrecked off the coast of Bequia, a small island near to St. Vincent.
At the time of the wreckage, some Africans managed to reach the
island of Bequia but were still in distress because of the lack of
adequate supplies of food and water The Yellow Caribs who were
accustomed to resort to this island on their fishing excursions
rescued the Africans from their plight and invited them to the
mainland of St. Vincent, an invitation which was accepted.
In St. Vincent, these Africans settled down, intermarried with
the Yellow Caribs and made a living by hunting, fishing and
cultivating cassava for consumption and tobacco for export to
Martinique. 2' In the process of time relations between the Black and
the indigenous Yellow Caribs became strained and in 1710 the
Governor of the French island of Martinique who acted as arbitrator
divided the island between both groups. The Yellow Caribs were
assigned the Leeward, and the Black Caribs the Windward side of
the island. Those French settlers who were residing on the island in
1763 did so with the blessing of the Yellow Caribs and were confined
to the Leeward side 2 since the Black Caribs wanted no Europeans
In 1719, for instance, the French Governor of Martinique sent
an expedition of 400 men to the island to reduce the Black Caribs to
submission. When this party attempted to penetrate the Windward
side they were greeted by a shower of Carib arrows. The survivors of
this ill-fated expedition quickly fled back to Martinique.26. Again, in
1723, the English monarch George I granted the island to the Duke
of Montague. In fact a party of Englishmen actually landed to
enforce the claims of the Duke but as a result of opposition not only
from the Black but also from the Yellow Caribs, the grant was
When therefore in 1763 the Board of Trade was formulating
plans for land disposal, in making recommendations for St. Vincent,
it was forced to take into account though somewhat reluctantly, this
Black Carib tradition of hostility to settlements attempted by
Europeans in the part of the island they inhabited, and also their
willingness to take up arms in order to prevent these settlements
from being made. Indeed, the Board of Trade stated quite explicitly
that not only were the Black Caribs "jealous of their property", but
that they might be "sufficiently numerous to defeat any settlements
attempted to be made without their consent.""2 Indeed this was the
logic and hard pragmatism which underlay the recommendation that
no survey of the lands they inhabited should be undertaken until
their consent was obtained, and not considerations of "humanity" as
Young makes out29
This recommendation which was embodied in the instructions
given to the Commissioners for the sale and disposal of lands had
the effect of limiting their activities to the Leeward of the island,
which was inhabited by the Yellow Caribs and French subjects.
Indeed, the whole of the Windward side with the exception of
Calliaqua and certain sections of the Marriaqua valley was either
actually inhabited or claimed by the Black Caribs.
Contrary to the prevailing popular belief that the presence of the
Black Caribs would scare purchasers from the island, the first
sales of land were very successful, with bidders coming from
Antigua, Barbados and as far away as North America. 2 At this
time, 1765, a total of 7,340 acres had been sold and indeed, this
figure nearly equalled the combined sales at Dominica and Tobago.
At the end of 1767 a total of 12,507 acres had been disposed off "
since the Commissioners had begun their task.
It was from this time that trouble set in. Indeed, the 12,507
acres sold between 1765 and 1767, represented all the lands on the
Leeward side which the Commissioners had been empowered to sell
in accordance with their instructions. The original purchasers and
others interested in the island were extremely dissatisfied with this
situation for two main reasons. Firstly, the Leeward side of the
island was very mountainous and rugged and the actual number of
cultivable acres was much less than anticipated. Secondly and more
importantly this part of the island was not too suitable for sugar
cultivation. It favoured the culture of coffee and cocoa which the
French inhabitants grew in significant quantities. Indeed, only the
valleys intervening between the hills, accommodated sugar. "
In contrast to the Leeward side, the Windward side was the
most extensive and finest part of the island. This area was generally
very flat, and the soil was regarded as being "perhaps the best in the
world" In addition it was well watered with rivers which would
provide the necessary water power for the sugar mills. It was argued
that if.the lands here were cut up into sugar plantations the island
would in a few years become "a more valuable sugar colony than any
possessed by the Crown" with the exception of Jamaica. But in
1767 this was not a feasibility since the Commissioners had no
authority to put up these lands for sale because of feared native
The Chief Commissioner therefore, in response to settler
pressure, quickly sought to convince the British Government not
only that penetration into this part of the island was desirable but
also how it might, be accomplished. He suggested that the Black
Caribs be told that the King regarded them as his "loving subjects"
and that he would protect them as long as they behaved "peacefully
and faithfully" and submitted themselves to the Laws in force for the
Government of free negroes. They should also be asked not only to
acquiesce but also to assist the Commissioners in a survey of the
areas they inhabited. However, they were to be allowed to choose a
portion of woodland for their habitation in a specific area to be
designated by the Commissioners. An interim period of five years
was to be granted them so that they could reap their crops and
remove their belongings to their new habitat. Finally they would be
granted compensation at the rate of 10 per acre for the areas they
The British Ministry accepted most of their suggestions and
indeed in January 1768, fresh instruments were sent to the
Commissioners concerning St. Vincent. Subject to Carib consulta-
tion and approval, they were authorised to survey in a manner
conformable to their former instructions all the cultivable lands
between the Rabacca River and Grand Sable. The stipulated
compensation for these lands was set at 13.4s. per acre. "
Their proposals were rejected by the Black Caribs. Chatoyer,
one of the most formidable of the Chiefs gave an outright "no" and
refused to entertain any further discussion. But the Commission-
ers refused to accept his sentiments and indeed, they even violated
their instructions by beginning early in 1768 to trace out a road
through Black Carib territory as a preliminary step towards a survey
of the lands. However an armed force of Black Caribs prevented
them from getting further than Iambou near to the River Colonaire,
the boundary of their territory. "
Indeed, this and subsequent acts of provocation perpetrated by
the Commissioners seems to have escaped the notice of those who
accuse the Caribs of committing depredations on the plantations of
British subjects. For instance, towards the end of 1768, the Black
Caribs made it quite clear that they would be prepared to use force if
they were not allowed to enjoy their lands in quiet. But the
Commissioners again, paid no heed to this warning in the same
manner as they had virtually brushed aside Chatoyer's sentiments
on the proposals of a year earlier, and even resorted to the threat of
force to accomplish their design.
It was early in 1769 that they made a second attempt to resume
this road with the aid of one detachment of the 32nd regiment and
four others on standby. Again the Caribs retaliated. They succeeded
in cutting off communication between the Commander of this
regiment and his forty men whom they held as captives. They then
requested the surveyors "to make their escape in the best manner
they could by flight", which they did, leaving their baggage and
everything else behind.
It was on the next day that the four remaining detachments, all
the white men capable of bearing arms, and some slaves marched
sixteen miles into the heart of Carib territory in an attempt to rescue
the forty men. These were only released after the Black Caribs were
given "a clear and explicit assurance", which they had requested,
that the British "give up all immediate pretensions to interfere with
their country and never again attempt to make roads of
communication through it." "
After this episode the Black Caribs remained relatively free from
British molestation until 1770. In this year rumours spread that they
had made sales of land to French inhabitants of Grenada. According
to these rumours, they had sold 700 acres to a Mr. Pichery and had
made an agreement with a Jean Augier for the purchase of a large
piece of woodland. The Commissioners interpreted the news of these
transactions as an indication that the Black Caribs were really
willing to sell and suggested to the home Government that they
rather than private individuals should be the purchasers. "
As on previous occasions, the home Government acted on the
suggestion put forward by the Commissioners. That Government
instructed them to put forward proposals for purchase similar to
those of 1767, but at the meeting held at Morne Garou with Chief
Chatoyer and forty of his men these terms were as on the previous
occasion flatly rejected despite the endeavours of the Commissioners
"by many arguments to prevail on them to alter their sentiments."'
The rejection of these proposals marked the turning point in
Anglo-Black Carib relations. It occasioned the settlers to pressure
their government for more positive action. In their former petitions
the resort to force as a means of accomplishing their design though
stated, was by no means seen as the only possible measure and in
addition they had urged that the Caribs be given compensation
either in the form of money or other lands or both. Now they no
longer sang this tune. Indeed, after 1771 military force was seen as
the only means, compensation was ruled out and the total removal of
the Black Caribs from the island was also advocated.
For instance it was the Commissioners belief that in future "all
treaty and negotiation" with the Black Caribs, "tho on the most just
and humane terms", would be fruitless and that it would be
impossible to settle the island "without a sufficient force to terrify
them into obedience" They argued that the important point was no
longer only the sale of lands. The very honour and dignity of the
crown was at stake, and also its obligation to protect its subjects
from the Black Caribs whose presence in effect constituted an
imperiumm in imperio"
The British settlers took the same attitude. They argued that
the Black Caribs ought to be subjugated since they were a nuisance.
Not only were they refusing to allow settlements in their territory
but they were also harassing English settlements. It was also
asserted that the danger was more real since they were actually
being aided and abetted by inhabitants of the French island of
Martinique who supplied them with arms and had the long range
objective of preserving a good understanding with them so that they
might gain some advantage in the event of a renewed Anglo-French
conflict. They accused the British Government of failure to provide
adequate protection for their properties and investments against
what they termed Carib depredations and cruelty and concluded by
"The suffering such a separate empire as these Indians claim
within your Majesty's dominions is not only incompatible with
the safety of your subjects, but highly derogatory from the
honour and dignity of the crown, that lenity and every
humane expedient to bring them to a reasonable subjection
has long been tried without success."
The continuance of such measures it was urged would only increase
Even the Governor-in-Chief joined in the war cry He had
reported that he had intercepted a letter sent to the Black Caribs by
the Governor of the French island of St. Lucia. This document was
hailed as confirmation of the opinion long entertained by the settlers
that the Black Caribs were receiving French support. Therefore, he
argued, it was absolutely necessary to use force against them since
the "gentle methods" previously used, instead of having the desired
effect "was looked upon to have proceeded from timidity He also
argued that conditions were favourable for the deployment of this
force since there was no possibility of a war with France, the Spanish
War scare has passed and the troops that were stationed in the
islands as a result of that scare, could be mobilised against the Black
The British Ministry in deliberating what course of action to
take in view of these representations called in for consultations,
Thomas Hackshaw, James Gordon, C.P. Sharpe, Richard Ottey.
William Fitzhugh, all absentee proprietors, and Richard Maitland,
island agent. Of these men, three were signatories to an earlier
petition in which the reduction of the Black Caribs with the aid of
military and naval forces was seen as possible and desirable. These
men were asked whether they thought that the Black Caribs should
be allowed to stay on the 'island or be removed from it. If they
decided on the latter expedient they were also to choose a place for
them to go.
In making their recommendations these individuals deplored
the fact that the Black Caribs were in possession of nearly two-thirds
of the cultivable and richest land in the island and that they had
persistently refused to give up any of it. In addition it was urged
that they were not paying taxes or contributing anything to the
support of Government functions. The British settlers, they argued
could not even make fairly good contributions since their part of the
island was generally rugged and broken and the yields from the soil
were very poor. "
It was further argued that even if the Black Caribs were forced
to yield up any of their land by military might, they would reassert
their "pretended rights" as soon as that force was removed, or they
received assistance from the French. Further the colony would never
prosper while the Black Caribs remained in it since their
depredations on property created a situation in which mercantile
houses were reluctant to extend credit to the island."
These arguments were used in justification for an "absolute and
immediate removal" of the Black Caribs from the island. These it
was argued should be allowed to choose their place of retreat so long
as that place did not "endanger the safety of the other islands" If
however they refused to do so, it was suggested that they be given
10,000 acres of land on some part of the coast of Africa or be sent to
the desert island of St. Mathow. Finally the Yellow Caribs should be
put on the same footing as the Maroons in Jamaica."
Again the British Government yielded to settler pressure.
Indeed, that government, after examining the merits and demerits of
the arguments advanced came to the conclusion that it was
necessary "to take effectual measures for the reduction of them (the
Black Caribs) as the only means of giving security to the settlements
of his Majesty's subjects." This was to be accomplished by the
mobilisation of all the troops in the Grenada Government and
Dominica and two regiments from North America. If these forces
were insufficient those in the Leeward islands should be sent for and
in addition the naval squadron in these parts should be in
But this force was to be used only as a last resort. It was hoped
that its very presence would terrify the Black Caribs into submission
and force them to accept a portion of the island to be decided upon by
the Governor and agree to other stipulations of a Treaty similar to
that negotiated with the Maroons of Jamaica in 1731. If however
they rejected these proposals then that force would be used to
remove them from the island to "some unfrequented part of the coast
of Africa or some desert island adjacent thereto." "
The execution of the whole design was entrusted to a Council
composed of the Governor of Dominica, the Commander-in-Chief of
the land and sea forces, and the Lieutenant Governor of St. Vincent,
with the Governor-in-Chief of the islands at its head. He was
specifically cautioned against any disclosure of the proposed
measures so that the Black Caribs might not get wind of them and
commit acts of hostility before the troops arrived. "
The proposed measures however were generally known in the
island soon after they were formally communicated, by the medium
of letters sent to individuals by their friends in England, with the
only difference that the King had given positive orders to remove the
Black Caribs to Africa. The settlers were jubilant as the
acquisition of the lands of the Windward Side seemed near
realisation. But this mood of jubilation quickly changed to one of
disappointment when the Governor-in-Chief issued a proclamation
embodying the first part of his instructions, asking the Black Caribs
to accept the treaty "Such is the temper of the people" he wrote
"nothing less than a total extirpation of these poor infatuated people
would be satisfactory As the Chief Commissioner then in the
position of Governor of Dominica put it, the general opinion in the
island was that "Delenda est Carthago, and all reports seemed to
justify this notion.
The Black Caribs however were quite aware of the fact that the
settlers had long adhered to this doctrine and would have liked to put
it in execution. They were also aware in view of the fact that the
secret instructions leaked out, of what was contemplated against
them. According to the Governor-in-Chief, shortly after this news
leak they made frequent trips to French islands of Martinique and
Guadeloupe, returning with arms and ammunition. '" In fact even
before the terms of the proposals were formally communicated to
them and at a time when six companies of the 68th Regiment had
arrived in the island they made it quite clear to the
Governor-in-Chief, that they were determined not to yield up any
portion of their lands, "which lands were transmitted to then from
their ancestors and in defence of which they would die." They
reacted in the same tone when the propositions were officially
communicated. They promised to "behave themselves well" if they
were left in peaceful possession of their lands, but they were also
determined that "let the consequences be what it would" not an
inch of their territory would be given up. In view of this refusal and
despite their determination the British troops that had been
mobilised began to advance into Black Carib territory and the war of
1772 had begun.
The foregoing analysis of the series of events leading up to this
war should indicate quite clearly to the reader who was responsible
for the outbreak of hostilities. Sir William Young however places the
responsibility on the Black Caribs. "It was not" he writes, "until
after eight years of patient forbearance by the British Government
that the contumacy of the Caribs under French influence, step by
step led to the necessity of control and the war of 1772." But the
available evidence indicates that this argument cannot be accepted.
This affects his argument that the Black Caribs had no legitimate
right to the part of the island that they claimed since they were not
the original inhabitants and in fact were the usurpers of the
legitimate Carib heritage in St. Vincent.
But even if this was correct, that in itself did not give Great
Britain any moral obligation to dispossess them of these lands. In
fact the aim of that government was not to restore these lands to the
Yellow Caribs but to sell them to its subjects for sugar cultivation. It
is indeed hard to see how the refusal of the Black Caribs or a people
to give up what is legitimately theirs could be construed as
The argument that the Black Caribs were in their actions
influenced by the French also needs examination. It is true that they
would have welcomed moral support and even supplies of
ammunition from the French to resist English attempts to forcefully
remove them from their territory For contrary to what Young
writes, the years prior to 1772 were not characterized by "patient
forbearance" as the attempt to trace the road in 1769 with military
assistance demonstrates. But the important point is that the
available evidence indicates that the decision not to budge was theirs
and theirs only Indeed, they did not need the French to tell them
what to do in this respect and it needs to be recalled that they had
previously resisted attempts at encroachment by these same French
men whom it was now claimed were their advisers.
Indeed. the entire argument that the Black Caribs were in fact
responsible for this war can only be accepted if we admit that they
had no legitimate right to their lands and that they rightfully
belonged to Great Britain. But the available evidence indicates no
basis for such a claim. In fact as a Black Carib sympathiser in
England put it, since these people had a legitimate right to their
lands, at the Peace of Paris in 1763, France ceded to Great Britain
only that part of the island inhabited by its subjects, which was
the Leeward side.
With this belief in mind, this individual asked Lord Dartmouth,
Hillsborough's successor "to put a stop to the murderous
commission sent out by your predecessor to extirpate them." He
accused the administration of "reviving the Spanish cruelties at the
conquest of Mexico, to gratify avaricious merchants, land holders
and venal commissioners, and suggested that the whole affair be
called off before it became the subject of a parliamentary inquiry "
The affair in fact did become the subject of such an inquiry This
was demanded by the opponents of Lord North's administration and
as a result it was finally resolved that the expedition was founded in
injustice and inhumanity Major Dalrymple,the officer in charge of
military operations,was immediately instructed to negotiate a treaty
with the Black Caribs if he had not already effected their reduction.
or if the campaign had progressed to a point where in his opinion the
treaty would guarantee the safety of the island. The stipulations of
the proposed treaty were that the Black Caribs be left in full and
peaceful possession of their lands, that they accept full allegiance to
the British Government, allow roads of communication through their
territory and that if at anytime they were disposed to sell any portion
of their lands they should do so only to such persons ds were
authorised by the king.
But contrary to what Shepherd writes, the conclusion of the
Parliamentary enquiry that the expedition was unjust was not the
only factor influencing this decision. Indeed, the available evidence
makes it unmistakably clear that considerations other than those of
humanity for the Black Caribs carried considerable weight,
especially considerations for the safety of British troops engaged in
The whole affair was examined after the receipt of reports of the
conduct of the campaign in St. Vincent dated October 9, 1772, and
indeed these reports were by no means satisfactory as they indicated
that the Black Caribs were getting the upper hand in the conflict.
Indeed in this campaign the Black Caribs did have an advantage.
Few Englishmen had even been allowed access to their territory and
this access was for the most part limited to specific areas and on
specific occasions such as the conference held at Morne Garou in
1771. Englishmen therefore, had little opportunity of familiarising
themselves even with those parts of the country in which they were
allowed, more so, the whole of Carib territory which was for the most
part inaccessible. So while the troops were strangers to the terrain,
The Black Caribs knew it well even in the dark, and in addition they
were good strategists and fighters.
So effectively did they combine these advantages that when
early in October 1772 the British had lost three men in attempting to
cross Lambou and all the huts built as posts in their attempted
penetration had been burnt down, the Governor-in-Chief despaired
of success. Indeed, this mood of pessimism was reflected in a
despatch to the Home authorities:
I flatter myself, we shall soon be able to give your Lordship
some satisfactory account of our proceedings, tho' I must con-
fess the conduct of the Charibbs is more serious and formidable,
and I see greater difficulty in the execution of His Majesty's
Commands than 1 expected. I very much fear their reduction
will be a work of time, for they possess a country very in-
accessible, and seem to have a knowledge how to avail them-
selves of this advantage. '
A hurricane in the Leeward islands added further complications to
the situation as the ships of the naval squadron were disabled and so
unable to rendezvous at the island. Indeed, so critical was the
situation that additional reinforcements were requested.
It was three months after this adverse report was received that
the British Government finally decided to call off the expedition.
When that Government instructed General Dalrymple to negotiate a
treaty to end the war it was pointed out that the objectives of that
treaty were the "welfare and happiness" of the Caribs and not their
extirpation. Mention was also made of the administration desire "to
end the bloodshed on both sides" but great concern was also
expressed at the fact that "the King's troops were preparing to enter
upon a service hazardous in the execution and uncertain in the
The proposed treaty however was not negotiated until February
1773. This was so because the General was in Carib territory and did
not receive the information in time seems unlikely. So too is the
speculation that the treaty was proposed to the Caribs prior to
February and rejected. It seems more likely that the General, in
accordance with his instructions did not think it politic to negotiate
before February in the hope that more would be gained by either
pressing for a complete victory or a decided advantage so that in
either case he could drive a harder bargain in the negotiations. By
the end of 1772 his forces were divided into two bodies, one stationed
at Majorca and the other at Grand Sable. At this time he complained
that he had suffered many casualties, as a result of the actual
fighting, diseases, and also that the country was becoming more and
more difficult to penetrate." Early in 1773, his forces had still got
no further than Grand Sable and with increasing casualties," he
probably despaired of complete military victory. As for the Black
Caribs their mobility in this vicinity was restricted as a result of
posts constructed by the General. In short at this time the war
seemed to have reached a point of "stalemate" and since neither side
was being able to win, both parties agreed to sit at the bargaining
At the peace treaty the boundaries of the Black Caribs were
pushed inward from the River Colonarie to the River Byeral" Only a
negligible portion of their land or roughly 2,000 acres was ceded to
British settlers. Not only were they thoroughly disappointed "
but the Black Caribs vacated this portion only with reluctance and
finally resettled it in 1775. " Anglo-Black Caribs relations after
1773, the genesis of the "Second Carib War of 1795" and the
resultant scramble for the land vacated by them following their
subjugation are the subject of two articles now in preparation.
Sir William Young, A History of the Black Caribs in St. Vincent, (London
1795) p. 18. According to this source there were only 100 Yellow Caribs on the
2. C.O. 101/1; Answers to Queries on the State of the Islands; Dominica, August,
1763; St. Vincent, May 2, 1763.
Captain Paul the commissioner ,
s to Queries on the State of the Islands: Dominica. August
10' 1. Captain Robert Paul to the Commissioners for Trade and Planta-
March 5. 1764.
Answers to Queries on the State of the Islands; Grenada. May 2.
For the substance of these recommendations and proposals see Bernard
Marshall. 'Society and Economny in the British Windward Islands 1762
1823' unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of the West Indies, Jamaica,
Jamaica. 1972. pp 15 19: L.J Ragatz. 'The Fall of the Planter Class in the
British Caribbean 1763 1833: (New York 1963), pp 113 114.
101 16: Report of the Commissioners for the Sale and Disposal of lands,
John Hyers, References to the Plan of St. Vincent as surveyed from the years
176i5 1773. (London 1777)
The total acreage was approximately 86.000. Of this 20,000 had been granted to
General Moncton and 4,000 to a Mr Swinburne, leaving a little more than
(i0.000 acres for sale. See Byers, op cit.
This information is compiled from data given in C.O. 76/9. and C.O.
106 9 12. which are the records of the proceedings of the Commissioners.
Elsa (;oveia, A Study of the Historiography of the British West Indies to the
end of the Nineteenth Century, Mexico, 1956, p. 37.
p. For her general criticisms of this work see also p. 18.
young. passim, pp. 123 125.
Charles Shepherd. An Historical Account of the Island of St. Vincent, (London
18:1). lie was a Chief Justice of the Colony and identified with the planting
See lor instance. C.O. 18, Lieutenant governorr Morris to the Earl of Dart-
mouth. May 24. 1775.
22. C.O. 101/16 and C.O. 101/17 contains letters Irom the planters to the British
ministry expressing this dissatisfaction.
23. Young, op cit, p. 6
24. See for example, C.O. 260/9, 'An Account of the Island Caribs and their mode
of living', enclosed in Governor Seton's. No. 55. to Sydney, January. 1789.
25. Young, op cit, pp. 8-11
27. ibid, pp. 13-14
28. C.O. 102/1, Representations to His Majesty on the method of disposing of
lands in the Ceded Islands, November, 1763.
29. Young, op cit, p. 30
30. C.O. 106/9, Instructions to the Commissioners for the Sale of Lands, March
31. See for example, 'Correspondence relating to the Estates of Sir William Young
in the West Indies with claims for compensation 1768 1835; 6 volumes, Rhodes
House Library, Oxford; Volume 6.
32. Shepherd, op cit, pp. 27 28.
33. Compiled from date in C.O. 106/9
34. C.O. 101/11; Sir William Young's propositions for Surveying and Selling the
Carib lands on the Windward side of St. Vincent, April 11, 1767.
36. Similar proposals dated August 13, 1765 had been put forward to the home
Government by the Commissioners in their first report (See C.O. 106/9), in
which the removal of the Black Caribs to the Grenadine Island of Bequia was
also advocated. But no immediate action was taken.
37 C.O. 101/11; Draft of Instructions to the Commissioners for the Sale of Lands
to Survey and dispose of lands on the Windward side of St. Vincent, January,
38. Young, op cit, p. 38
39. ibid, pp. 44 45
40. C.O. 101/13, Lieutenant Governor Fitz Maurice to Lord Hillsborough, No.
17, December 18, 1768.
41. C.O. 101/13, Lieutenant Governor Fitz Maurice's, No. 27, and enclosures,
Lord Hillsborough, May 11, 1769.
42. In a letter to the Lords of Treasury, September 4, 1770; C.O. 101/16.
43. C.O. 106/12; The Commissioners to the Committee for Trade and Plantations;
August 12, 1771.
45. C.O. 101/16; Governor Leyborne to Hillsborough, No. 3, November 30,
1771. The alleged letter from the Governor of St. Lucia, written in French, is
enclosed in that despatch.
47.- C.O. 101/14; Memorial of Sundry proprietors now in London to Hills-
borough, January 22, 1770.
48. C.O. 101/16; Memorial of the Gentlemen interested in St. Vincent to
Hillsborough, April 4, 1772.
52. C.O. 101/16; Hillsborough to Governor Leyborne, No. 4, Separate and Secret,
April 18, 1772.
55. C.O. 101/16; Governor Leyborne to Hillsborough, No. 21, June 18, 1772.
57 C.O. 71/3; Governor Young to Hillsborough, (St. Vincent), July 28,
58. C.O. 101/16; Governor Leyborne to Hillsborough, No. 26, July 30, 1772.
60. C.O. 101/16; Governor Leyborne to Hillsborough. No. 34, October 9, 1772.
61. Young, op cit, p. 51
62. ibid; see also p. 8
63. See p. 11. Also, soon after the Black Caribs had stopped the second British
attempt to resume the road through their territory, the belief was current that
those of them who resorted to St. Lucia in their canoes were bringing back
arms and ammunition as well as runaway slaves to augment their numbers for
hostile designs against British settlers. In an effort to counteract this the
island authorities put a guards costas on patrol in these waters giving the
Captain instructions to stop, search and seize all canoes he suspected of having
such cargoes. On August 24, 1769 four canoes with eighty men, which refused
to stop when signalled, were fired on and sunk. It was the Captain's belief that
all eighty men perished. See Young, op cit, pp. 54 56.
64. See p. 7
65. Probus (pseudonym), to Lord Dartmouth, November 30, 1772; in the Scots
Magazine, Volume XXXIX, 1772, p. 558. 'Injustice of the Proceedings in St.
67 Shepherd, op cit, p. 30
68. C.O. 101/16; Dartmouth to Major Dalrymple, December 9, 1772.
69. Shepherd, op cit, p. 30
70. C.O. 101/16; Governor Leyborne to Hillsborough, No. 34, October 9, 1772.
70. C.O. 101/16; Dartmouth to Dalrymple, December 9, 1772.
71. C.O. 101/16; Governor Leyborne to Hillsborough, No. 34, October 9, 1772.
73. C.O. 101/15; Dartmouth to Dalrymple, December 9, 1772. (Emphasis Mine).
74. C.O. 101/17; Dalrymple to Dartmouth, December 26, 1772.
75. C.O. 101/17; Governor Leyborne and enclosure to Dartmouth, May 19,
1773. At this time, British casualties were 72 killed in fighting, 80 wounded,
110 dead from diseases, 428 sick, and 4 deserted.
76. C.O. 101/17, Dalrymple to Dartmouth, February 22, 1773.
77. C.O. 101/16, Report of the Commissioners, July 19, 1773.
78. See p. 27, footnote 22
79. See for example, C.O. 101/17; Governor Leyborne to Dartmouth, No. 11, May
80. See p. 27, footnote 21
Nanny Maroon Chieftainess
To most Jamaicans the name 'Nanny' is respected because of
the legends passed down from generation to generation, from the
time of the 'First Maroon War'. During that period she inspired and
helped lead the most formidable band of Maroons in the Blue
Mountain area in their triumphant resistance against the
government of that time.
Since the signing of the Peace Treaties in 1739, Nanny's name
has lived on among the Maroons, particularly those of Portland, and
to this day the most incredible tales are still told of her exploits, and
her descendants regard her memory with awe.
Nanny's name can be seen on most maps that cover the Blue
mountain area, on which'The Site of Nanny Town' is shown. Her
name frequently passes the lips of the farming community of
Portland who are engaged in the preparation of huts for shelter
against the heavy rains of that Parish. That member of the palm
family, the limbs of which are used for preparing these huts, is
commonly known as 'Nanny Thatch'
Histories of Jamaica mention little or nothing of Nanny,
although most refer to the fall of Nanny Town in 1734, when a
Captain Stoddard fired on the stronghold, with swivel guns,
purportedly creating havoc and great losses among the fleeing
rebels. The most recent writer of a Maroon history suggests that
Nanny may, in fact, not have existed at all. 8
However, the legends and grossly exaggerated accounts by the
Maroons of the deeds of this awe-inspiring woman impressed
Herbert Thomas eighty years ago and they are none the less
impressive for their continuing persistence. *
This writer hopes to unravel some of the mystery shrouding
Nanny and perhaps justify the high regard in which she was held by
nor followers in her own day and by her descendants at present.
Unfortunately, the conditions under which the Maroons lived and
fought prevent us from easily establishing her existence as a fact.
Of Nanny's origin we must rely on the conclusions of an
American priest, Joseph J. Williams, who, in 1938, wrote an
exhaustive paper on some aspects of the Maroon history. He relied a
great deal on 'The History of The Maroons' by R.C. Dallas
(published in 1803) and the Journals of the Assembly of Jamaica.
Williams also spent considerable time and patience gathering
informationn from the Maroons themselves, particularly those of
Williams wrote six members of an Ashanti family,
consisting of five brothers Cudjoe, Accompong, Johnny, Cuffee and
, uaco, and one sister, Nanny, made their escape from slavery and
assumed leadership of the Maroons, as well as of the rebellious
slaves. Nanny as a sister of Cudjoe and Accompong was clearly
herself an Ashanti and her name may well be a corruption of the
Ashanti word, Ni, mother.
This family at first made its headquarters in the mountains of
the Parish of St. James, at a settlement called Cudjoe's Town from
which settlement Accompong was sent to establish the town that
bears his name in St. 'Elizabeth's' Just when Nanny assumed
charge at Nanny Town in Portland it is difficult to determine...
Williams made a rather sweeping generalisation here. There can
be no doubt, based on contemporary documents, that two distinct
groups of rebels7 operated independently for many years. It is highly
unlikely that in the early 1730's a member of the Leeward gang could
have risen to such an exalted position as Nanny held in the ranks of
the Windward gang. However, there is reason to suppose that
Cudjoe, Accompong and Johnny were brothers for the Treaty with
Cudjoe mentions such a relationship in the fifteenth clause "That
Captain Cudjoe shall, during his life, be chief commander in
Trelawny-Town; after his decease, the command devolve on his
brother captain Accompong; and, in case of his decease, on his next
brother captain Johnny
Some writers have suggested that Nanny was a wife of Cudjoe
but this seems doubtful as reference is later shown concerning Nanny
and her husband.
Although stories told of Nanny by the Maroons are without
doubt exaggerated, some are so gruesome that she must indeed have
held rather extraordinary powers" She was supposed to have kept a
huge cauldron "Nanny's Pot" which boiled without the aid of fire,
into which were lured to a watery grave unsuspecting British soldiers
and Militiamen. She was also attributed with the ability to catch the
bullets of the soldiers with her posterior and hurl them back at her
assailants in an obscene but effective manner It seems that there
may have been substance in the remark of Col. Rowe of Accompong,
when he told Joseph Williams that Nanny had a lot of science
During the period of 'The First Maroon War' (about 1729 to
1739), the increasing development of the island, particularly in the
east, was such that the rebels in the Blue Mountains had less
freedom to use the land unhindered as they had long been used and
their access to the coast became more restricted. Consequently, they
increased their marauding activities with devastating effect. This, in
turn, drew upon them more serious attempts by the government to
effect their dislodgement. The rebels had a complex of camps in the
Stony River Valley in Portland. Many attempts were made to
capture these by both Regular troops from Britain and parties made
up of local volunteer militia and 'willing' slaves. These rebel bases
were referred to in contemporary reports as the 'rebels towns' or,
sometimes, as the 'Negros towns' The largest and most formidable
of these was known as the 'Great Negro Town' which was situated
below 'Carrion Crow Peak' The term 'Carrion Crow' has long since
been replaced by 'John Crow' and the Peak is now curiously known
Such was the importance and effect of the 'Great Negro Town'
and its inhabitants that a map of the island produced some years
after peace was made depicts only one mountain in the eastern end of
the island "Carrion Crow Hill"'"
The 'Great Negro Town' was known to the rebels as 'Nanny
Town' The fact was revealed in "The further examination of Sarra
alias Ned taken by Order of His Excellency October 1st 1733"" The
unfortunate prisoner disclosed that the old Towns formerly
taken by the Soldiers goes now by the name of Nanny Town, that
there are now, or were when he was there three hundred men, all
armed with Guns or Launces, that they have more fore Army than
they use, that the Number of Women and Children far exceed those
of the men, that the Rebels have one head man who orders
This town was eventually taken and held by a very strong force.
commanded by Col. George Brook(s) in December 1734, during a
period of Martial Law The much praised William Stoddard was one
of four captains serving under Col. Brook. However the cost in lives
and money is inestimable there have been no less than ten attempts
on the stronghold, during a four-year period.
From the middle of 1735 Nanny Town was referred to in official
reports by that name, many references being made in connection
with the occupying force, the barrack, surgeon or Commissary
The first conclusive proof of Nanny's existence was contained in
information obtained from an Ebo named Cupid, described as having
escaped from the rebels and captured on the estate of a Mr Bendish
in St. Mary's in January 1734-5, about two months after the fall of
Nanny Town. Cupid revealed that a gang of about forty rebellious
men with a far greater number of women and children were in the
valley of the Wag Water and were intending making their way to
John Cuffee's Town to Leeward and were apparently having a very
difficult time. The information continued Adou keeps still to
Windward with a great party and amongst them Mr Orgill's
Scipio, Cesar and Adubah, also Nanny and her husband, who is a
greater man than Adou but never went in their battles."'" It appears
that Nanny's position was an important one and perhaps this wasthe
reason that her husband did not risk his life in battle.
Further proof of Nanny' existence can be found sometime
before, in 1733, when a number of negroes were rewarded after
service in parties commanded by Christopher Allen, Henry
Williams, and Sambo, a negro captain who commanded a party of
"black shott" throughout the campaign against the Windward
rebels. A negro described as "William's Cuffee, a very good party
negro", said to "have killed Nanny, the rebels old obeah woman"
was rewarded with the "sum of five pounds, a common silver-laced
hat, a good blue baize coat with a red cross on the right breast and
ten yards of ozaburghs" He also qualified for a similar coat and hat
and ten shillings on the twentieth day of December annually' This
is confusing, for it is doubtful that there were two Nannys of
importance. However, it must be remembered that Williams
suggests that the name could have been of Ashanti derivation. It
must be assumed that the claim of William's Cuffee was a false one.
When the treaty was signed with the Windward rebels there was
a very ferocious obeah woman in attendance. In his fascinating
account of this ceremony Philip Thicknesse, who served as a
Lieutenant in the Regular Army, wrote that she had a girdle
round her waste with nine or ten different knives hanging in
sheaths to it, many of which I have no doubt, had been plunged in
human flesh and blood...""
There is no reason to conclude that this obeah woman was
Nanny, unless an obeah woman was a particularly unusual
phenomena among the 'free' Africans.
Williams was told by the Maroons that after the destruction of
Nanny Town in 1734, Nanny had brought her followers to Charles
Town"5 The treaty was signed in this same area at a settlement
known as Crawford Town, which some years later, when the
Maroons settled nearer the coast, became known as 'Old Crawford
Town' The new settlement was called 'New Crawford Town' and was
near the site of present day Charles Town in the Buff Bay Valley'"
However 'New Nanny Town' was sited near to the present
Moore Town in Portland. Although it seems logical to name the new
settlement after the old it was in fact occupied by Nanny, still very
much alive after the treaty The land patent for 'New Nanny Town'
reads wherefore the commissioners underwritten being met
together do certify that the above Thomas Newland did lay an order
for Negro Nanny and the people residing with her on five hundred
acres of land in the Parish of Portland....""
The earliest record of the populations of the new settlements
was given in 1749 by Edward Long. That for Nanny Town totalled
70 persons whilst that for Crawford Town was 233'" It is puzzling
that Nanny and her followers did not settle with the main windward
groups. Perhaps the group was forcibly split up by the government.
However, it is possible that at the signing of the treaty Nanny's
group were not with Quao but further east, though still subject to
the same terms. The Portland Maroons today mention a 'Womens
Town' that was situated somewhere in the rugged hills of that
Parish. This was presumably a secret haven for the women, children
and non-combatant men. An official report in 1733 made reference to
"the great fires from a settlement believed to be a womenn' town'
near the Great Plantain Walk"'"
The site of the original Nanny Town is seldom visited today
Recent generations of Maroons have kept away from the area and
firmly believe that no straight-haired man can visit the area without
some harm befalling him. C.L.G. Harris writes "It is also claimed in
all seriousness by the Maroons that no outsider, without being
conducted by them, may reach this place and return alive After
the treaty of 1739 the troops abandoned their barrack and the site
became rapidly overgrown with creepers and lianas and gradually
secondary growth of tropical rain forest engulfed the area.
It is recorded fact that several parties have attempted to locate
the site of Nanny Town and met with mixed fortune. The most
noteworthy illfated attempt was made in the late 1930's by a group
of schoolboys from Jamaica College. These eager lads set out from
Blue Mountain Peak and became lost for about two weeks. The
'Daily Gleaner' of that period carries some interesting accounts of
the efforts of search parties to locate the missing boys:"
The search for the site and Stoddard's swivel guns had
previously held a great fascination for Herbert Thomas, an Inspector
in the Jamaican Constabulary Referring to the mounting of his
expedition in 1890 he writes "I at once set to work to make
enquiries as to the probabilities of procuring a guide to the spot: and
I then began to realise the awe and superstitution with which the
population of this parish (St. Thomas) regard the place and its
Reginald Murray, a well-known explorer of the Blue Mountain
area, several times visited the correct site in the 1930's. He wrote
that "application to be guided to the locality is generally met with
point black refusal""
Murray described some of the evil fates awaiting the unwelcome
explorer ...Hunters affirm that strange noises are heard by night
and will not be satisfied that they may be due to the crash of a forest
tree, waking the echoes and reverberating from spur and cliff down
the winding valley, or maybe the hurtling of a rock dislodged from
the heights by the action of recent rain.
At times an unclassified speckled bird with a red tail has visited
a hut and occupants have returned from hunting late in the day to
find their lodging gutted by fire. Fire-arms have gone off
spontaneously, causing wounds or death.
A vocal monster, the 'whooping-boy' a legless dog. floats
across waterfalls and through the mist of dark ravines, when he
gives tongue the hunter regardful of safety had better make tracks
for his yard..."
A very strange experience befell a group that visited the site in
about 18602" Writing about thirty years after his visit, Mr. Williams
a member of that group referred to their reaching the site "I
remember that on arriving at the spot, the 'enchanted ground'
according to negro tradition, we chaffed those who were with us
about their superstitious fears and set out on our return to the hut
with light hearts feeling satisfied that we had achieved the object of
the expedition and that there was nothing to be alarmed at in
anything we had seen or met" He continues "About 3 o'clock in the
morning Barrett woke me up and said 'Did you hear that awful row?'
I said 'No' Then he went on to say that he had been woke up by the
most awful, extraordinary sounds he had ever heard in his life -
which seemed to come up from the valley and pass close over the roof
of the hut ... Barrett was certainly much impressed by the sounds he
heard that night, and when reminded that the noise might have
been made by sea birds2" flying back to roost, he replied that he was
in the habit of sleeping out in brooks and forests and was accustomed
to the noises made by birds at night, or at least acquainted with
I forgot to say that when he woke me up and asked if I had
heard the row, he added 'I was so terrified that my flesh shrunk
up and though you were sleeping next to me I could not move a
finger to wake you'
There is no doubt whatever that what he heard made a deep
impression on him and I have never known anyone so alarmed or
confess to being so terror stricken. If anything had occurred that first
night, it might perhaps have been put down to excited imagination,
but the next night we were under no apprehension of being
This writer was more fortunate when in July 1967 a successful
expedition was guided to the site of Nanny Town by a group of
hunters from the Rio Grande Valley It was proven beyond doubt
that the site visited was that captured by the force led by Col.
George Brook(s) in December 1734. No lasting ill-fortune was
suffered by any members of the party, perhaps Nanny's 'influence'
had mellowed after 237 years. However, many minor setbacks and
rather odd accidents were experienced, although the very nature of
the rugged terrain encouraged these occurences.
More recently a group of British soldiers abandoned an attempt
to descend from Blue Mountain Peak to the area around Nanny
Town when one of their number fell and injured his back. Th_
difficulties of traversing the terrain led the Maroons to establish this
stronghold in the first instance.
According to tradition Nanny was buried on a hill in the
settlement of New Nanny Town, now Moore Town, near which the
soil has never been tilled nor houses erected. There is a mound
opposite the school in Moore Town and Colin Harris, the present
Colonel of the Maroons there, believe this to be the spot where
The lasting preservation of the site of her former stronghold
would seem a fitting memorial to this remarkable woman who
played such an important role in the long hard and successful
struggle of a few hundred negroes against all the might and
resources of one of the richest possessions in the British Empire.
The Treaty with the Maroons in the West of the island, known as the Leeward
band, was signed at Trelawny Town on March 1st 1738-9 between Captain
Cudjoe and the governments representatives John Guthrie and Francis Salder.
The treaty with the Windward band who inhabited the eastern part of the island,
was signed at Crawford Town on June 23rd 1739, between Captain Quao and
2. Frederic Cassidy in 'Jamaica Talk' wrongly suggests that Nanny Thatch was
associated with goats.
3. Carey Robinson, 'The Fighting Maroons, 1969, p. 54.
4. Herbert T Thomas 'Untrodden Jamaica', 1895.
'The Maroons of Jamaica' by Joseph J. Williams S.J. Prof. of Cultural
Anthropology, Boston College Graduate School, U.S.A. 1938.
6. ibid. p. 467.
7. The term 'Maroon' does not occur in contemporary documents referring to
Jamaica until some years after the treaties were signed.
8. See article 'The Spirit of Nanny' by C.L.G. Harris 'Sunday Gleaner' August
9. Joseph J. Williams, 'The Maroons of Jamaica' p. 388
10. "A New and Correct Chart of the Island of Jamaica" by Mount and Page
Original documents in Public Record Office, London, C.O. 137, 54, 354.
12. Calendar of State Papers America and West Indies 1735. 484 (ii).
Journals of the Assembly 29 March 1732 3.
14. Philip Thicknesse "Memoirs and Anecdotes" 1788. Note: Thicknesse was more
more notable for discovering the artist Gainsborough than for his exploits
against the Maroons.
15. Joseph J. Williams 'The Maroons of Jamaica' p. 387
16. See early maps of Jamaica, especially that by Thomas Jeffrys in 1794.
17 Patent Liber 22 Folio 16 Jamaica Archives.
18. Edward Long 'History of Jamaica' 1774. Vol. II p. 349. The figures for the
Leeward settlements were 276 at Trelawny Town and 85 at Accompong.
19. Journals of the Assembly 26 April 1733.
20. See footnote (8).
21. Douglas Hall "Lost in The Blue Mountains" 1938.
Note: The writer is now Professor of History at U.W.I.
22. Herbert T Thomas "Untrodden Jamaica" p. 35
Note: Thomas claimed to have visited the site but in fact visited a different
location situated at an elevation of several hundred feet above the actual site
although in the Stony River valley.
23. See article "A Visit To Nanny Town". Sunday Gleaner 28th October 1951.
24. A letter from W.R. Williams concerning Herbert Thomas's book, published in
Victoria Quarterly Vol. IV No. 1 1891-2.
25. The seabirds referred to were no doubt the Black-Capped Petrel, or 'Blue
Mountain Duck', now thought to be extinct in Jamaica. They roost on steep
mountain sides and fly out to sea at dawn and return at dusk.
Some Desiderata in Caribbean
Twenty years ago Eric Williams published a bibliographical
essay on books (including novels and poetry) that constituted a
basic collection for West Indian history It was a striking fact that
among the titles on economic, social and political history, but three
quasi-biographies appeared. Since Williams' effort, which coincided
with the rise of West Indian history written from the West Indian
point of view, there has been an upsurge of serious and professional
writing on the field in English language books and periodicals. It has
been reflected in the formation of the Institute for Caribbean Studies
at the University of Puerto Rico (1961), bodies such as the Historical
Society of Guadeloupe (1963) and the St. Lucia Archaelogical and
Historical Society (1963), and the Caribbean Historical Association
(1968), as well as the establishment of the Caribbean Universities
Press and the launching of the Journal of Caribbean History (1970),
which continues the short-lived Caribbean Historical Review that
Williams initiated in 1950. It is seen too in the recent flood of
reprints cascading from the press that offer serviceable volumes long
out of print, and the increasing number of doctoral and masters'
theses coming from institutions of higher learning in America and
abroad. All this activity notwithstanding, one cannot but be struck,
in surveying the scene, by the relative absence of biographies.
Indeed, two decades after Williams' enumeration, one is hard put to
cite but one or two works he would be compelled to include in a
revised version. Even judging on the score of utility, rather than
indispensability, there is altogether too little deserving the attention
of the student, not only on those individuals who helped to shape the
destiny of the Caribbean, but of those who contributed their mite, for
good or ill, to the unfolding pageant of history, whether local or
To be sure, the story of the first three hundred years, when the
Caribbean was of supreme importance to the European mother
countries, attracted biographical notice to explorers and colonizers
(e.g. Thomas Warner), buccaneers (Henry Morgan), and figures
caught up in the struggles for power (Admiral Rodney). The fare for
English language readers on non-English characters was largely
limited to biographies of Columbus and Las Casas (the latter a good
stick with which to beat the drum of the Black Legend) and
translations from the French on men of warfare. Although the
abolition of slavery and its immediate aftermath inspired an
occasional biography, the landscape remained largely barren2 Even
today biographical hunger on nineteenth century figures not to
mention twentieth century ones remains little appeased. The
great personalities await scholarly and full-scale treatment; the
minor ones lie in limbo.
The first is Toussaint Louverture, who may be considered of the
nineteenth century both from his date of death and from the
overwhelming impact of his thought and action on the twin themes
of slavery and emancipation that constitute a force in the Caribbean
until 1886, when complete freedom came to the slaves of Cuba. At
present Louverture enjoys three volumes of merit (Alexis, Korngold
and James), but they do not exhaust their subject. Not one of them
has been based on that essential task: a study of all Louverture
letters extant, without which no biographer can hope to separate fact
from fiction and pronounce on the many disputed points (e.g. the
birth date, the paternity, the substitution of the name Louverture
for that of Breda) that have plagued every modern investigator3. A
sweeping study of Louverture requires too an intensive examination
of his close associates, especially Dessalines, who awaits a book in
his own right, and Christophe, whose life has been portrayed by
Hubert Cole in a volume (1969) that is compassionate and just a
far cry from the Hollywood scenario of Vandercook although it
leaves some questions unanswered.
Before coming to the second towering figure in the century,
Victor Schoelcher, two names should be mentioned as worthy of life
and times treatment, building around them causes and movements
in which they played historic roles. The Reverend John Smith, who
was condemned for the 1823 riot in Demerara and died in jail there
before the King's pardon could arrive, became the martyr who fired
up the British anti-slavery movement. A biographer, having first
edited Smith's manuscript journal in the possession of the London
Missionary Society with copious annotations, might then turn his
eye on the relations between missionaries and slaves in the colonies,
the renewed anti-slavery crusade that would bring in Clarkson,
Sturge and Cooper (who have been selected for articles in the
projected Dictionary of British Radicals), and the increasing
attraction of emancipation ideas for the rising captains of industry
that would result in the Reform Bill of 1832 and the Emancipation
Act by the Reformed Parliament in 1833. No better subject for a
biography to carry events forward could be found than Evan
McGregor. As executive in the Leeward Islands and then Barbados
and the Windward Islands, he brought a high intelligence, tactful
decisiveness and unfailing sympathy to bear on effecting the freedom
of the slave and the apprentice. Into the McGregor framework could
be fitted the appointment and experiences of the Stipendiary
Magistrates, and the exertions of officials like Henry Light whose
unpopularity in Dominica was equalled if not exceeded in his
subsequent ten years of service in British Guiana that ended in 1848.
1848 is the great year for the French West Indies, and no man
contributed more to its significance than Schoelcher. It is a matter
for profound regret that nothing exists, other than an article by
Andre Midas in the defunct Caribbean Historical Review (December
1950) on this Alsatian who became the greatest European authority
on slavery after Clarkson, wrote incessantly against the institution,
and guided the drafting of the 1848 Decree on Freedom. A deserving
biography would encompass the French anti-slavery movement after
the Revolution of 1830 that involved De Tocqueville and Lamartine
among the reformers, the constant battle of the free coloured like
Cyril Bissette for equal civil rights, the contest of the cane and beet
sugar interests of France over emancipation, and Schoelcher's
abiding interest in the progress of men and women of African descent
during his lifetime, and he died in 1893.4
French abolition without any apprenticeship period touched off
black riots in St. Croix, and it fell to that humanitarian governor
Peter van Scholten to declare immediate freedom. How he was
deposed by angry planters and supported on reaching Copenhagen
by the Danish Government, how the rebels were handled and what
was the fate of their leader Buddoe who subsequently reached New
York City, how the Labour Act of 1849 that imposed a sort of
apprenticeship did not end until rioting in 1879, could be built
around the figure of van Scholten. He served in the danish islands as
early as 1804 and, as he went up in rank, fearlessly championed
Negro education in the face of planter hostility, loyally supported the
Moravian missionaries, and successfully urged the Government to
inch towards emancipation between 1836 and 1847.
The long indifference of the Dutch public to English, French and
Danish example, interrupted by a momentary flurry over van
Hoevell's 1854 anti-slavery volume, as well as the attitude of the
parliamentarians and planters who haggled over four niggardly bills
in three years from 1857, before passage of the final Emancipation
Bill in 1862, provide a fine background for a life of the liberal-minded
Reinhart van Lansberge. As governor of Curacao he greatly aided
the slave ameliorative ministering of that notable missionary
Martinus Joannes Niewindt, and later presided in exemplary manner
over the peaceful acceptance of emancipation in Surinam, where the
danger of violence ran far higher than in the other Dutch colonies of
Equally involved with the ending of slavery is Antonio Maceo of
Cuba, the doughty warrior who also fought against colonial rule.
Delineating his career affords the opportunity to trace the rise of the
Spanish anti-slavery movement that took a higher key with the
organization of the Abolition Society in Madrid in 1865, the
participation of Spaniards, of Cubans and of Puerto Ricans like Jose
Acosta and Juan de Viczarrondo in the campaign, the realizationof
the Moret Law and of complete emancipation in Puerto Rico by 1873
and Cuba by 1886, as well as the struggles to throw off the Spanish
political yoke that brought the invasion of 1895. His biographers
must also wrestle with the question of the free Negro in Hispanic
Caribbean society, the intellectual climate of the times, and other
aspects that draw in a fascinating case including Carlos Manuel de
Cespedes, Maximo Gomez, Jose Marti, Juan Gualberto Gomez,
Arsenio Martinez de Campos, and the entire Maceo family5.
Storms swirled about several strong personalities of the
nineteenth century who were touched by two important British
Caribbean developments: the rise of the coloured middle class and
the spread of Crown Colony government. On Edward Eyre the last
word has not yet come in, despite at least three very serviceable
volumes6 The Jamaica "Rebellion" of 1865 that central
occurrence of the century continues to attract analysis. One will
be better off with two long-desired and forthcoming publications in
hand: M.C. Campbell's Edward Jordan and Ansell Hart's The Life
of George William Gordon. Much controversy turned too around
Benjamin Pine, who had to self the unpopular medicine of federation
to the Leeward Islands. The entire subject bears an investigation
that will involve the genesis of the federation, Pine's antagonists like
George Falconer of Dominica, Pine's somewhat Froudian views of
"negro character", and his methods of imposing federation that are
fully revealed not in the published parliamentary papers but in the
manuscripts at the Public Record Office in London. To the south the
tactless James Pope-Hennessy, who set Barbados to rioting in 1876
and ruined the scheme to federate that colony with the Windward
Islands, met up with many men who are worthy of biographies.7
Outstanding is Samuel Jackson Prescod, the first coloured member
of the Assembly, editor of the newspaper The Liberal, and founder of
the Liberal Party, who profoundly influenced Conrad Reeves, the
Solicitor General who resigned his office to become a leading
opponent of Pope-Hennessy and died, full of honours, as Chief
Justice.No less attractive than Prescod and Reeves is James Young
Edghill. A welcome contribution within book covers would be the
completed form of Hilton Vaughan's well-written and well--
documented study of Edghill scattered in issues of the Barbados
Museum and Historical Society Journal.
The twentieth century offers innumerable subjects that await
full biographies. Readers interested in the restoration of
representative government, the birth of labour unions, the rise and
fall of the Federation of the West Indies, and the emergence of
independent nations are mainly empty-handed on A.A. Cipriani (so
slender is Jame's life of 1932), on T.A. Marryshow, on Eric Gairy
(save for his years 1951-1962 as seen in 1968 by A.W Singham in
The Hero and the Crowd in a Colonial Polity), on Bustamante,
Manley and Williams. One of the first writers to realize that end for
the Commonwealth countries was F.O. Hoyos, with his The Rise of
West Indian Democracy, the Life & Times of Sir Grantley Adams
(1963). It is indicative of the biographical market waiting to be
stocked that since Adam's death a second edition has been
commissioned by Hoyos' publishers Macmillan. Outside the
Commonwealth Caribbean many names present themselves,
including Fidel Castro and Aime Cesaire. The argument that living
protagonists of history are more fittingly written about after their
demise hardly satisfied those familiar with Thomas Aitken's Munoz
Marin (1964), with Robert Crassweller's Trujillo, and with Papa Doc
(1969), which Bernard Diederich and Al Burt authored on Francois
Duvalier.' Of course men of Caribbean birth who have had a more
regional influence have been generally better served: in Hollis
Lynch's Blyden (1967), James Hooker's Black Revolutionary:
George Padmore's Path from Communism to Pan Africanism (1967)
and a spate of books on Che Guevara, and Peter Geismar's Franz
Fanon (1971).' Marcus Garvey has been well treated, but the major
work, E. David Cronon's Black Moses (1955), views him rather from
an American vantage point. Adolph Edwards sets a more balanced,
but all too brief, course in Marcus Garvey 1887-1940 (1967). Until
island newspapers and Public Record Office files have been
exhausted on such topics as Garvey's tour of the colonies in the wake
of the Trinidad riots of 1937 (Bermuda refused to let him land), and
until the U.N.I.A. manuscript papers discovered in a Harlem, New
York, tenament in the spring of 1970 have been made available to
qualified researchers, the tale will remain that much partial.
In sum, the field of full length biography large or brief -
remains wide open, and its cultivation is one of several desiderata.
Following closely is the need for autobiographical volumes,
whether memoirs or reminiscences (recollections of the times, or of
family and friends respectively), whether collected opinions or
chronicles of a life's events. Students of twentieth century biography
have richer resources of this type than those of the nineteenth'." The
rill brings before one G.W DesVoeux, My Colonial Service (1903),
Reginald St. Johnstone, From a Governor's Notebook (1936),
Edward C. Eliot, Broken Atoms (1938), H. Hesketh Bell, Glimpses
of a Governor's Life (1946), Alan Burns, Colonial Civil Servant
(1949), C.L.R. James, Beyond a Boundary (1963) the first part of
which is autobiography, Edgar Mittelholzer, A Swarthy Boy
(1963) carrying the story to 1929 -, Hugh Foote, A Start in
Freedom (1964) notable for its animadversions on Manley, Eric
Williams, Inward Hunger; the Education of a Prime Minister (1969),
and Rex Nettleford's Norman Washington Manley and the New
Jamaica: Selected Speeches and Writings 1938-68 (1971), which
incorporates in the introduction, parts of Manley's diary and sketchy
autobiography. The one tool that will better assure the future here is
oral history, that is, the recording and transcribing of
autobiographical interviews with the actors of history as well as
those who challenged them. Bruce McFarlane's taped talks with
Manley, termed the Manley Papers, are doubtless a harbinger. To
ensure frank statement, it may be necessary to place a time limit on
the release of such material to investigators. High on the list of
memoirists should be the name of Bustamante, whose con-
temporaries under the letter "B" alone would number, among
others, Errol Barrow, Vere Bird, Robert Bradshaw, the Brambles,
father and son, and Forbes Burnham.
Not all men and women are sufficiently important to warrant
an entire printed volume. The call, in this respect,.is for biographical
essays, either collected or individual. Enthusiasts of local history
can readily illuminate it while contributing to a wider knowledge. An
example that might be imitated is F.O. Hoyos' Our Common
Heritage (1953), which succinctly recounts the lives of thirty men
who played a part in the history of Barbados. (A revised edition as of
July 1972 will be titled Builders of Barbados.] No less useful is W.
Adolphe Roberts'-Six Jamaicans (1952). There is not an area that
does not offer possibilities on individuals. Thus St. Lucia has that
contentious merchant and proprietor William Muter, firm as flint
against emancipation. At one time he owned almost one half of the
leading estates, controlled much of the commercial life of the colony,
organized a merchant's boycott against the 1831 Order in Council,
and quarreled with everyone including his brother whom he did not
hesitate to sue. Yet Muter championed the coming of Mico charity
schools! Before he left the island forever in the 1850's he had been
removed from the island Council for being too independent, but he
continued to wield influence from England until his death.
Three other publications, of a strictly reference nature, are
wanted for Caribbean biography First, a Dictionary of Caribbean
Biography. Modeled on the Dictionary of National Biography for
Great Britain and Ireland and the Dictionary of American Biography
for the United States, it would contain scholarly articles, with
bibliographical notations appended, on men and women who made a
contribution to the history of the region from 1492 to 1950, whether
born within or outside the Caribbean, and would be supplemented
from time to time for those who died after 1950." It would not treat
of living persons, therefore, nor be of the one paragraph sort like the
Dictionary of Latin America and Caribbean Biography 1971/1972
(1971), or the thumb nail listing and occasional photograph of
Women in the Caribbean (1968) or Caribbean Personalities 1970-1971
(1971). Within its purview would be Indian leaders such as Caonaba
of Hispaniola, Hatuey of Cuba, and Chatoyer of St. Vincent (and of
course "Indian" Warner of St. Kitts). Among those of African origin
or descent would be the maroon leaders of Jamaica and Surinam,
plotters like Macandal of St. Domingue, alleged plotters like Placido
of Cuba, and free coloured pioneers like Delgres of Guadeloupe.
Crowding in would be outstanding governors (Chacon, Lord Harris
and Arthur Hamilton Gordon of Trinidad, for example), scandalous
rascals (Governor Andrew Cochrane Johnstone of Dominica), and
dedicated public officials (H.H. Breen of St. Lucia) as well as
planters ("Monk" Lewis of Jamaica), estate managers (Atwood of
Dominica), clergymen and missionaries (Labat and James M. Cox),
merchants (John Hazell of St. Vincent), educators, jurists,
scientists, men of letters, newspaper editors and historian-
antiquarians. Entering the pages as outsiders would be the Quakers
who visited and resided temporarily in the West Indies for
benevolent purposes such as John Candler, the promoters of
emancipation like Sigismundo Moret, and stirrers of controversy like
James Anthony Froude.
Second, there is wanted a Who Was Who in Caribbean
Biography, a directory with full names spelled out (a special need
where the French are concerned), dates of birth, death and service in
specific positions, and field of contribution, of all governors,
lieutenant governors, members of assemblies and councils:
legislative, privy and town, high government officials and such
persons of the categories already enumerated for the DCB*as may be
determined by an editorial board.." Ransacking island almanacs
(e.g. Dominica 1821, St. Lucia 1840, Grenada 1896), bluebooks and
yearbooks, newspapers, periodicals especially of church organiza-
tions, manuscript missionary reports (such as the Baptist, Moravian
and Wesleyan Methodist societies in London and the Moravian
archives in Herrnhut, Germany, and Bethelem, Pennsylvania),
official records in mother countries and local repositories,
common-place books, antiquarian publications like Caribbeana
(1909-1919), and the scanning of tombstones will supplement printed
volumes of history and standard reference tools.
Last, but not least, of the desiderata is an index to biographical
writing, a basic volume with periodic supplements issued initially
perhaps in Caribbean Studies. It would encompass published and
unpublished items, with cross references for collective biographies
like Mercer Cook's Five French Negro Authors (1943). A glance at
the first division would easily disclose Ivor Waters, The Unfortunate
Valentine Morris (1964) and A.P. Brede, "Cornelius Winst Blyd; the
First Negro Presbyter in Surinam," Journal of Negro History 8 (Oct
1923), 448-453; a glance at the second P.A. Emmanuel, "Marryshow
and the Movement towards Self-Government," (M.A. Thesis,
University of the West Indies, 1966) and Marlene Manderson
Jones," "Richard Hill; a Biographical Study in Nineteenth Century
Jamaica," (M.A. Thesis, University of the West Indies, 1971).
Biography, which is the history of an individual, humanizes the
past. It can also enrich the present. Any steps to encourage writing
in the genre will be all to the good.
*Dictionary of Caribbean Biography
JOSEPH A. BOROME
1. Eric Williams, "A West Indian Book Collection," Caribbean Commission
Monthly Information Bulletin 6 (October 1952), 59-62, 72. The quasi
biographies are C.L.R. James, The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L'Ouverture
and the San Domingo Revolution (1938), a study of the slave revolution and
leadership in St. Domingue, S.H.O. Oliver, The Myth of Governor Eyre
(1933), an historical narrative of the Jamaica "Rebellion" of 1865, and Richard
Pares, A West India Fortune (1950), an account of the Pinney family through
generations and the island of Nevis.
2 Among good examples are George E. Sargent, The Jamaica Missionary:
A Memoir of William Knibb (c 1850) and Edward B. Underhill, Life of James
Mursell Phillippo, Missionary in Jamaica (1881).
3. Even Horace Pauleus Sannon, whose invaluable three-volume Histoire
de Toussaint-Louverture (1919-1933) is carefully documented, did not mine the
resources of several countries, including England.
lie wrote a sound life of Toussaint Louverture (1889) and left his library to
Martinique. where his name is today honoured by a school, a district, and the
public library at Fort-de-France.
While Richard B. Gray's University of Wisconsin doctoral dissertation Jose
lMarti. His Life, Ideas, Apotheosis and Significance as a Symbol in Cuban
Politics and Selected Social Organization" (1957) saw publication as Jose
A.Mrti: Cuban Patriot (1962), Lawrence R. Nichols's "The Bronz Titan: the
Mulatto Hero of Cuban Independence: Antonio Mlaceo" (1954) remains an un-
published and somewhat pedestrian Duke University doctoral dissertation.
op. cit.. Bernard Semmel, The Go'ernor Eyre Controrersy (1966).
;eoffrey Dutton. The Hero as Murderer (1967).
Proceeding along this avenue the biographer may make additions to the
penetrating observations on the governor expressed in Bruce Hamilton,
Barbados and the Confederation Question, 1871 1885 (1956) and in James
)'ope-I lennessy's colourful chapter on the riots in his Verandah: Some Episodes
in the Crown C'olonies 1867 1889 (1964).
Of course there is much biographical information on F Duvalier in Robert I.
Rotberg. Haiti: the Politics of Squalor (1971) and on the Jagans in Peter
Simms. Trouble in Guiana (1966). in contrast to the limited amount on James.
Padmore and Williams in Ivar Oxaal, Black Intellectuals Come to Power; the
Rise of Creole Nationalism in Trinidad & Tobago (1968).
Among Guevarana are Martin Ebon. Che; the Making of a Legend (1969).
Daniel James. Che Guevara: a Biography (1969). Ricardo Rojo, My Friend Che
(1968), and Andrew Sinclair. Che Guerara (1970). Unlike the Rojo book. no
translation has yet been made of Rene Maran. Felix Eboue. Grand Commis
et Loyal Serriteur 1885-1944 (1957).
Snippets be had, for Caribbean purposes, from Henry Taylor, Auto-
biography 5) for example.
There would naturally be duplication with names in the DNB. But the emphasis
would be lile and service in the (aribbean. A skillful example of that
approach 1) (; lall. "Sir (harles Metcalfe. Caribbean Quarterly 3
(September 1953), 90-100.
l)aitl Ii licige has ailradn helped the compiler with his listing of Colonial
(or irinor', F" the Fi'ifeenlth ('ntury to the Present (1970) and the dates of
their iincull)mbCn' although he gives nothing lor St. Lucia, Marie-Galante and
I)e".irade h lehr 17l(: and nothing for Dominica 1778-1784. Very instructive is
tIle table ol the meinlbers of the Jamaica Assembly lor 1787 and the various
positions they held in ldw ard Braithwaite, D)erelopment of Creole Society in
Jluaaica. 17710-1820 (1971). an eloquent demonstration of the influence and
poIwer of control in the hands ol the planters. While it contains fuller entries
than are called lor in the WH'Hl'H' Emile Ilayot's Ies Officiers dil ('Coseil
SNn cr i, t dI la I Martinique et I,eurs Success'eirs Le. Conscillers de Ia ('our
di'Appil. 17i ISf30 11(i-l) is beyond all praise and worthy ol wilde imitation.
an island in need of an historian
The history of Dominica does not begin, as some would have us
believe, when Columbus sighted the island (the first to be seen on his
second voyage) on a Sunday, November 3, 1493. There were neither
large settlements on Dominica nor numerous inhabitants, but there
is evidence that the island has been frequented by Amer-indians for
at least 1500 years'(Evans 1967:101). The Caribs, and the Arawaks
before them, probably used the east coast of Dominica as a
way-station between the more populous islands of Martinique and
Guadeloupe. Clifford Evans offers several reasons for the sparseness
of the pre-Columbian population: the coasts, consisting of frequent
cliffs, lack shallow, sheltered bays where plankton attracts fish, and
the fast falling streams are too swift to contain many fish, so this
important food was difficult to acquire on the island; similarly, the
lack of mangrove covered mudflats meant that shellfish were not
easily available; and the ruggedness of the mountains further
discouraged permanent settlement (94-96). Pierre Verin tells us
that the Caribs preferred to locate their villages near a river on the
coast of an island, having gardens far back in the forest (1968:116);
such an arrangement would be difficult to achieve in the rugged
coastal terrain of Dominica.
With the influx of Europeans in the 16th century, Dominica
became considerably more attractive to the Caribs because now the
mountains of Dominica discouraged European settlement and served
as a haven to which the Caribs could safely retreat after attacking, or
being attacked by Europeans. The Spanish were the first to attempt
to suppress the Caribs in Dominica, intending to colonize the island,
but they failed, and the Caribs continued to raid and plunder
plantations on other islands, even successfully attacking ships and
abducting Africans and Spaniards as slaves (Borome 1966:32-33).
However, the Caribs, who were cannibals, did sometimes
discriminate between different European nationals; although they
clearly despised the Spanish, "ships of other nations called freely at
Dominica" (IBID.:38). Drake, on his last voyage to the New
World, was forced to stop at Dominica because 300 of his men had
died from fever and many others were ill, and we are told that the
Caribs provided a welcomed cure 6 (Waugh 1964:85). But the
Spaniards were never this well received; when they sent missionaries
to convert the Caribs, the fortunate ones were enslaved. However,
"by the end of the 16th Century the Caribs had almost ceased
eating Christian Europeans, for on one occasion all who had dined on
a Spanish friar had fallen deathly ill or died" (Borome 1966:31).
In the 17th century, Governor Stapleton of the Leeward Islands
led a campaign against the Caribs of Dominica, but he failed to
defeat them (Thornton 1956:236-244). When the first settlers
arrived in 1632, Frenchmen from Martinique, we are told by Thomas
Coke that they developed a friendly relationship with the Caribs.
Although Coke is generally critical of the French in the West Indies,
he describes how both groups respected each other, and "secluded
from those devastations which accompany the sword, they were
satisfied with their conditions, and lived in peace" '(1810:333).
When in 1660, the French and the British agreed that Dominica,
along with St. Vincent, should be left in the hands of the Caribs
(Williams 1970:81), they may have hoped that Caribs from the
islands where Europeans were more established would all leave, as
many already had, and settle in Dominica or St. Vincent. There were
Frenchmen who did not seem to mind sharing an island with Caribs,
and they continued to settle in Dominica after the agreement
In 1748, by the Treaty of Aix la Chapelle, the French and the
British officially sanctioned the neutrality of Dominica (Edwards
1806:94), but this agreement was honoured by neither side. After
1756, the island changed hands so many times between the French
and English, that in the second half of the 18th century, it is difficult
to determine just how many exchanges took place. In 1759 it was
captured by the British, and in 1763 it was recognized as being an
English possession by the Peace of Paris, being at first administered
as part of the Leeward Islands and becoming a separate colony in
1771. In 1778, it was captured by the French and restored to the
British in 1784. The French made attempts to recapture the island in
1795 and 1805; after this final French effort, Dominica remained
under the direction of England.
Joseph Borome describes what life was like on the island during
a period of French occupation, from 1778 until 1784 13 (1969a). The
British minority was greatly disturbed by the French administration
and particularly critical, suggests Borome, of the Governor's equal
treatment of the free coloured Dominicans; but this was a difficult
time for everyone on the island, because of devastating storms, low
prices for agricultural produce, and numerous raids by Maroons "
(51-55). Life was far from tranquil when the the British were in
control, because then, in addition to hurricanes and raids by
Maroons, there was the recurring danger of invasion by the French.
In one such sortie, they burned roseau; another time, the local
French residents, pretending to be friendly with the British soldiers
in the fort, spiked the cannons to aid an invasion force from
Martinique 15 (Edwards 1806:119-120).
When the French were no longer a constant threat, the Maroons
were. After one raid in 1813-14, "Governor Ainslie adopted a policy
of extermination for the fugitives, killing every one caught and offer-
ing a reward for every one hunted down and slain. He was recalled to
explain his inhuman conduct, but he carried home a testimonial to
his clemency and humanity, signed by 160 citizens of Roseau, with
the rector of the English church at the head of the list" 16 (Fiske
The racial composition of the island was sharply altered during
these turbulent years as a result of the development of the sugar
industry and the subsequent importation of large numbers of slaves.
From 1763 to 1780, the European-African ratio changed from 1:3 to
1:12, but in Grenada at this time, the ratio was 1:27. From 1767 to
1773, Dominica imported nearly 20,000 Africans (Williams
1970:105,145), but still the topography of the island continued to
dictate the course of its history, preventing Dominica from
developing into a sugar island like its neighbours.
The only period of economic prosperity enjoyed by Dominicans
seems to have occurred after the American Revolution when they
were again permitted to trade with the United States. For a time,
Roseau was a thriving free port (Edwards 1806:117), but with the
outbreak of the war of 1812, the considerable trade with the U.S. was
again, terminated, and this disaster was followed by others -
hurricanes in 1813 and 1816, which devastated much of the island "
(Lovell 1818:5-5). By 1817, prices on the island were exorbitant and
money was extremely scarce. By the time of emancipation, some of
the owners were probably relieved to be unburdened by the high cost
of feeding their slaves under these conditions, since before 1833, they
were forced to pay a fine for each slave freed.
In 1831, the Brown Privilege Bill "granted full' political and
social rights to free non-whites" 20 (Borome 1969b:26). In 1832, three
"coloured men" were elected to the Assembly, and by 1838, the
Africans were in the majority. The European's newspaper described
the House as being composed of ignorant, destructive, and
revengeful men. Borome's observation that the African politicians
were "intelligent and well-spoken individuals" interested in getting
progressive legislation passed indicates a parallel to the American
South during reconstruction.
Borome suggests that Dominica's political history is stormy
and that the island has a reputation for turbulence (1969b);
however, Dominica is today one of the most peaceful islands in the
West Indies. As its past was marked by constant change, its present
is equally marked by stability.
This brief glimpse at part of Dominica's fascinating history is
not meant to be a complete picture; it is offered as an illustration so
that some of the problems involved in compiling a comprehensive
history can be discussed. There were no intensive archaeological
studies done in Dominica before 1966, and the work reported by
Evans (1967) is the only such study to date. Since the island was
not settled by Europeans until relatively late, we must rely on
ethnographic descriptions of the Caribs on other islands, such as
that done on St. Lucia by Pierre Verin (1968). Verin and Douglas
TaylorZ have had to rely heavily on the writings of Raymond
Breton, Jean-Baptiste du Terre, and others who lived with the
Caribs in the mid-seventeenth century Tayror tells us that Father
Breton deplored their "moral laxity" concerning "drink, women, and
especially their insensibility or indifference to the call of religion"
(1938:109). The Caribs were raDidly decimated by contact with
Europeans on most islands* and on Dominica the Caribs seem to
have been forgotten after they stopped raiding the Europeans'
estates. In the 1763 Peace of Paris assigning Dominica to England,
there is no mention of the Caribs "6 (Edwards 1806:95). It was not
until the administration of Hasketh Bell in 1899 that the government
showed any official interest in the Caribs. Bell describes them briefly
and suggests that their history should be written "as the material is
copious, and the exploits of this dauntless race ... are full of
instances of heroism and high adventure" (1910:15).
Edwards describes Dominica's political history as being "a mere
blank previous to the year 1759" (1806:115). This, of course, is the
year that England took the island from the French and made serious
efforts to hold it. Edwards relies heavily on Thomas Atwood whose
1791 history of Dominica shares Edwards' pro-British bias. There
are, undoubtedly, voluminous sources to be explored in the
archives of London and Roseau to overcome the gaps and biases in
the history of this island. The Dominicans are a people in need of an
historian to sort out these materials so that they can come to know
their own unique history and share it with anyone interested in
reading an exciting story.
Evans, Clifford. "The Lack of Archeology on Dominica", Proceedings of the
2nd International Congress for the Study of Pre-Columbian Cultures in the
Lesser Antilles, Barbados, 1967. p. 101.
Fermor, Patrick. "The Caribs of Dominica, Geographical Magazine. Vol.
23, No. 6, Oct. 1950.
2. Evans, Clifford. "The Lack of Archeology on Dominica',, Proceedings of the
2nd International Congress for the Study of Pre-Columbian Cultures in the
Lesser Antilles, Barbados Museum, 1967. p. 94-96.
Fermor, Patric. "The Caribs of Dominica, Geographical Magazine. Vol.
23, No. 6, Oct. 1950.
3. Verin, Pierre. "Carib Culture in Colonial Times, trans. by Rev. C. Jesse.
Proceedings of the 2nd International Congress for the Study of Pre-Columbian
Cultures in the Lesser Antilles, Barbados Museum, 1968.
4. Borome, Joseph "Spain and Dominica, 1493-1647" Caribbean Quarterly. Vol.
12, No. 4, Dec. 1966.
5. Barome, Joseph. "Spain and Dominica, 1493-1647, Caribbean Quarterly.
Vol. 12, No. 4, Dec. 1966.
6. Waugh, Alex. A Family of Islands. Doubleday and Co., 1964.
Borome, Joseph. "How Crown Colony Government Came to Dominica by
1898," Caribbean Studies. Vol. 9, No. 3, Oct. 1969b.
8. Thornton, A.P West India Policy Under the Restoration. Oxford: 1956.
Coke. Thomas. A History of the West Indies. Vol. II, London: 1810
Williams, Eric. From Columbus to Castro: The History of the Caribbean,
1492-1969. Harper and Row, 1970.
Pares, Richard. War and Trade in the West Indies, 1739-1763. Clarendon
Edwards, Brian. History of the West Indies. BVol. II, London: 1806.
Borome "Dominica During the ibidd) French Occupation: 1778-1784,"
The English Historical Review. Vol. 84, No. 330, Jan. 1969a.
Barome, Joseph. "Spain and Dominica, 1493-1647," Caribbean Quarterly. Vol.
12. No. 4. Dec. 1966.
Edwards, Brian. History of the West Indies. Vol. II, London: 1806.
Fiske, Amos. The West Indies. G.P Putnam's Sons, 1902.
Williams, ERic. From Columbus to Castro: The History of the Caribbean,
1492-1969. Harper and Row, 1970.
Edwards, Brian. History of the West Indies. Vol. II, London: 1806.
Lovell. Langford. A Letter to a Friend Relative to the Present State of the
Island of Dominica. Winchester: 1818.
Borome, Joseph. "How Crown Colony Government Came to Dominica by
1898," Caribbean Studies. Vol. 9, No. 3, Oct. 1969b.
Borome, Joseph. "How Crown Colony Government Came to Dominica by
1898',, Caribbean Studies. Vol. 9, No. 3, Oct. 1969b.
.:vans. Clifford. "The Lack of Archeology on Dominica, Proceedings of the
2nd International Congress for the Study of Pre-Columbian Cultures in the
Lesser Antilles, Barbados Museum, 1967
Fermor, Patric. "The Caribs of Dominica, Geographical Magazine. Vol. 23,
No. 6, Oct. 1950.
Verin, Pierre. "Carib Culture in Colonial Times, trans. by Rev. C. Jesse.
Proceedings of the 2nd International Congress for the Study of Pre-Columbian
Cultures in the Lesser Antilles, Barbados Museum, 1968.
Taylor, Douglas. "The Island Caribs of Dominica, American Anthropologist.
Vol. 37, No. 2, April-June, 1935.
Additional Notes on the Island Caribs of Dominica, American Anthro-
pologist. Vol. 38, No. 3, July-Sept. 1936.
"The Caribs of Dominica, Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin.
Smithsonian Institute, No. 119. U.S. Printing Office (Anthropological
Papers No. 3). 1938.
Petitjean-Roget, Jacques. "The Caribs as Seen Through the Dict. of the Rev.
Father Breton," Proceedings of the 1st International Convention for the Study
of Pre-Columbian Cultures in the Lesser Antilles, Martinique: 1963.
Williams, Eric. From Columbus to Castro: The History of the Caribbean,
1492-1969. Harper and Row, 1970.
*Williams reports that they were "exterminated" in Grenada (1970:95).
Edwards. Brian. History of the West Indies. Vol. II, London: 1806
Bell, Henry H. Glimpses of a Governor's Life. Sampson Low, Marston and
Co. 1946 or 1910.
awardsds, Brian. History of the West Indies. Vol. II, London: 1806.
Atwood, Thomas. The History of the Island of Dominica. London( 1791.
30. Baker, E.C. "Stephen Haweis of Dominica," Caribbean Quarterly. Vol. 16,
No. 3, Sept. 1970.
Candler, John. "Diary: Visit to Martinique, Dominica, and Guadeloupe,
"Caribbean Studies. Vol. 5, No. 2, July 1965.
Grieve, S. Notes Upon the Island of Dominica. Adam and Charles Black,
Haweis, Stephen. Anything About Dominica. Dominica:n.d.
H.M.S.O. Conditions in the Carib Reserve and the Disturbance of the 19th of
September, 1930. No. 3990, 1932.
Shore Whaling in St. Vincent
To most people whaling calls to mind large steel-hulled vessels
that cruise the oceans for months at a time hunting giant cetaceans.
Little-known are the shore-based fisheries which, in striking contrast
to deep sea whale hunting, involve small boats that are launched
from beaches and chase their quarry within sight of land. Shore
whaling accounts for a small percentage of the world's annual whale
catch but for an undetermined number of coastal communities
scattered throughout the world it is an important economic activity.
One such community is Barrouallie, a small farming and fishing
village (1970 population estimated at 3,000), located on the west
coast of St. Vincent Island in the southern part of the Lesser
Antilles, West Indies.
Barrouallie is a poor community of small frame and shingle
houses and shops, enclosed on all sides, except seaward, by steeply
sloping hills and ridges. In the immediate outskirts, small patches of
cassava, yams, and maize cling precariously to the lower slopes
buttressed by grass terraces. In addition to working the small farm
plots, a number of Barrouallians work as day labourers on nearby
government-managed estates. But the pay is only $2.00 (B.W.I.) per
day and there are not enough jobs for all employable members of the
community,' The only means of communication to the outside world
is by sea and by a narrow, winding road that runs along the west
coast. Kingstown, the island's major commercial and administrative
centre, is located 12 miles south of Barrouallie.
Repelled by the absence of remunerative employment on land,
many of the able-bodied males have turned to the sea for their
livelihood. Many are engaged in seine fishing for jackfish (Selar
crumenophthalmus), while others depend upon handlining for
various species of redfish (snappers, and groupers). However,
the most important fishing industry in Barrouallie is whaling which
offers year-around employment to nearly 100 men, of whom the
majority are young males without any other means of financial
In addition to providing a source of income, the development of
Barrouallie's whaling industry has been stimulated by (1) the
relative abundance of whales in nearby waters, (2) a strong tradition
of whaling skills which were inherited from the old New England
whaling industry and (3) a large and reliable market for whale meat
in St. Vincent.
The more important whale hunted in Barrouallie is the Blackfish
(Globicephala macrorhyncha) or pilot whale, a small whale with jet
14 ; 14
St. Lucia e
I IN MILEs
JEA '70 S1
black skin measuring from 7 to 20 feet in length, and weighing up to
2 or 3 tons.' Large numbers of Blackfish frequent the waters near St.
Vincent's coast. The whales travel in groups numbering from a few
individuals to herds of over one hundred. Slightly greater
concentrations of the gregarious Blackfish are seen from January
Sperm whales (Pyseter catodon), known locally as "sea-guaps",
and killer whales (Orcinus orca) or "whitefish" are also landed by
Barrouallie fishermen throughout the year but they contribute only a
small share of annual whale catch. Humpback whales (Megaptera
novaeangliae) are seen, mainly from January through May, but not
In addition to blackfish, sperm whales and killer whales,
Barrouallie fishermen also actively pursue porpoise or dolphin
(Stenella spp.) which congregate in large numbers off the Vincentian
The concentration of whales and porpoise off the coast of St.
Vincent and neighboring islands (St. Lucia, the Grenadines, and
Grenada) are believed to be associated with the plankton and
fish-enriched waters of the South Equatorial Current which
dominates the oceanic circulation of the South Caribbean Sea.
Apparently the movement of the South Equatorial Current over the
volcanic sill separating the Atlantic from the Caribbean results in
turbulence and upwelling of nutrients necessary to support marine
Rise of Whaling
Throughout most of the 19th century American whaling vessels,
based at lower New England ports, made regular cruises to the warm
waters of the South Caribbean Sea in search of sperm whales,
humpback, and blackfish. In 1868, the St. Vincent Bluebooks
(Anon. 1868) noted that "American whaling vessels annually visit
these islands (St. Vincent and the Grenadines) and take large
quantities of oil from the Hunchback (Humpback) whale, and
Blackfish." From 1867 through 1870, 6,702 barrels and casks of
whale oil amounting to over 250,000 gallons and valued at 28,000 t.
was shipped from St. Vincent and its dependencies, i.e., the
American whaling activity declined sharply in St. Vincent and
neighboring islands after 1870. However, American whalers
continued to operate in the islands, at least intermittently, until the
turn of the century
In the quest for whales, American whalers worked close to the
coasts, affording the local populations an excellent opportunity to
observe whaling activities. Whales were chased, killed, and butchered
in sight of the island's coastal settlements. Yankee whalemen
probably came ashore to collect firewood needed to boil out oil from
whale blubber, and it is likely that whale boats were repaired on the
beaches. It was also customary for Yankee skippers operating in the
Caribbean to recruit West Indians for whaling. On the long whaling
cruises, West Indians learned whaling and boatbuilding skills that
were later disseminated to the islands.
Toward the late 19th and early 20th centuries a number of local
whaling fisheries were started. These were shore-based operations
owned and manned by West Indians. The small whaling companies
used open sailing boats to hunt whales and crude facilities to process
oil and meat.
One of the most active whaling centres in the West Indies was
Bequia Island, lying nine miles south of St. Vincent.' Other fisheries
were erected in Barbados, Grenada, St. Vincent, St. Lucia and
Whaling was an intermittent activity in Barrouallie, St.
Vincent, since the turn of the century. It wasn't until 1931 that
whaling became an important enterprise in Barrouallie. In that year,
a local resident, Griffith Arrindell, started a whaling company of 3
boats to hunt blackfish, sperm whales, and porpoise. 'In the course
of time others became interested in whaling and the fleet was
expanded to 15 boats. Today the whaling fleet fluctuates between 8
and 12 boats, involving upwards of 90 men including crew members
The Whaling Boat
The Barrouallie whaling industry employs small, open sailing
boats to hunt cetaceans and to tow the carcasses to shore. The
Barrouallie whaleboat is modeled after the Nantucket-type whaler
which was introduced to the West Indies in the 19th century by
Yankee whalemen. The whaleboat is double ended, has a deep
V-shaped hull, and a powerful foresail and mainsail, of which the
latter is set on a bamboo sprit and boom of equal length. The craft is
also equipped with a centreboard, which lowered through a slot in
the hull, helps to prevent lateral drift. The boat is heavily ballasted
with stone placed in the bilges. The over-all length of the Barrouallie
whaleboat is approximately 27 feet.
Barrouallie whaling craft are purchased from boatbuilders of
Bequia Island, also the scene of a whaling industry. In Bequia,
whaleboats are strongly constructed of locally-cut white cedar
(Tabebeuia pallida) whose natural curvature is ideal for framing ribs.
Pitch pine, imported from the United States, is used for planking. A
completely outfitted boat, including masts, sails, and oars cost
about $1,500 (B.W.I.). In recent years a number of boats have been
outfitted with engines.
The majority of the whaling boats in operation are owned by
shopkeepers, tailors, and other non-fishermen, who buy one or two
craft as a small-scale investment and leave the whaling to others.
For the use of his craft, a boat owner receives half of the value of the
catch (meat and oil). From the boat's share the owner pays the
upkeep on the boat and whaling gear, and replacement costs. The
balance left over is profit, which is negligible if the catch is poor.
The yearly blackfish 'catch in Barrouallie ranges from
approximately 200 to over 400, the average being about 250.' Daily
catches vary considerably On May 6, 1966, whalemen made a near
record catch of 21 blackfish, one boat taking six. In addition to
blackfish, whalemen land from 6 to 12 sperm whales annually, and a
larger number of killer whales and porpoise.
One whaling boat, with its complement of 6 men, lands an
average of 30 blackfish annually. However, this figure masks a wide
range in the number of blackfish landed by the different crews. Five
or six crews hunt blackfish and other cetaceans on a regular basis,
while an equal number hunt only occasionally, resulting in a
The success of whaling depends mainly on the boatowners
ability to organize ambitious and reliable crews and on weather
conditions. High winds and rough seas often account for lost whaling
days, especially during the high wind velocity months of November,
December, and January. Periods of calm weather, which are common
in the low wind velocity months of July, August, September, and
October, also restricts whaling activity. However, the growing use of
engine-powered boats has greatly alleviated the problem of chasing
and towing whales in calm weather.
Other factors reduce the number of whaling days. Quarrels
between the boatowner and his crew or among members of the crews
often disrupt plans to go whaling. Whaling is usually suspended
during holidays (Christmas, New Year's, Carnival, etc.), and social
and family occasions (weddings, funerals, etc.). For example,
whaling practically ceases between the middle of December and the
middle of January in observance of the Christmas and New Year's
holiday period. The above mentioned weather and social factors
probably restricts whaling to less than 150 days of each year for even
the most active crews.
Each boat is manned by a crew of six, including the captain who
operates the gun harpoon at the bow, a boatsteerer at the stem, and
four oarsmen who also bail, shift ballast, set sails and help in killing
the whale. Early in the morning, boats are launched from the beach
at Barroualie and sail west, southwest, and northwest of the
community. The maximum range of whaling is about 10 to 15 miles
from shore. The boats usually keep in sight of St. Vincent's rugged
coast and interior, and only a few miles out from shore St. Lucia and
Bequia Island come into view.
Each boat sets out and hunts independently. When a herd of
blackfish is sighted the jib sheet is lowered. This serves as a signal
for other boats to join the chase and they quickly cluster over the
herd of blackfish.
A gun harpoon is used to strike the whale. Before its
introduction from St. Lucia in 1958, Barrouallie whalemen relied on a
hand harpoon which could be thrown only a few feet. The gun
harpoon, on the other hand, has a range of about 50 yards. It
consists of a shotgun mounted on a swivel and a carriage seated in
the bow deck. The barrel of the shotgun is replaced by a 1-1/2 inch
diameter pipe into which is placed a harpoon made fast to 32 fathoms
of line (box line) which runs aft to the loggerhead, a stout piece of
wood stepped through the stern deck, around which a turn is taken.
The box line is spliced on a 3 inch diameter manila rope or
"standing line" which is coiled down in a wooden tub amidship. The
harpoon is discharged from a 12 gauge shotgun shell, from which the
shot has been removed. Three or four harpoons are made fast to the
box line to give the harpooner several shots in quick succession.
If the barb opens correctly and penetrates deeply into the
whale's flesh, the whale is secured. The whale pulls the boat until
exhausted. Its frantic movements often attract other whales which
in turn are struck. The whale is killed by repeated stabs with soft
iron lances which are sunk deep into the lung cavity. The dead whale
is either lashed to the side of the boat or cut into sections and placed
The journey back to shore is a tedious task and often
complicated by darkness, stormy weather, strong currents and wind
running contrary to the direction of the boat. It may take 6 or 7
hours for the crew to reach land with a large whale in tow. However,
in celebration of the catch, fishermen strike up a melodious whaling
chant, recalling the old whaling days. Upon reaching shore it is
customary for the crew to retire to a local shop and partake of
"Captain Bligh", "Sunset" and other Vincentian rums.
Processing and Marketing Whale Meat and Oil
Early in the morning, the whale is removed from the boat and
placed on palm and banana fronds laid on the beach to keep sand
from mixing with the meat. Using cutlasses, whalemen strip the thin
layer of white blubber from the carcass, and hack off sections of meat
which are carried to a cement platform located near the shore. The
meat is auctioned off to a dozen women of the village, known as
"hucksters", who buy the meat and prepare it for sale in the island's
markets. The captain of the whaleboat starts the bidding by asking
"Who wants this piece of fish to buy?" While the hucksters
purchase large chunks of meat, members of the whaling crew butcher
the whale and collect money.
In preparing blackfish meat for market, the meat is cut into
strips and salted. After half an hour the salted meat is hung on
bamboo racks to dry for one or two days. The process of salting and
drying meat in the West Indies is known as "corning"
The principal economic value of the blackfish is in its meat
which is relished in St. Vincent. Corned whale meat is sold
throughout the island but the leading market is Kingstown. The
Saturday market in Kingstown draws thousands of people from all
portions of the island who arrive in public omnibus, automobile, and
on foot. Large quantities of vegetables, fruit and meat are sold from
open stalls and under sheds. The blackfish hucksters, who arrive on
bus, sell their product near the meat market located at the harbour.
The best customers for corned blackfish meat are poor people;
namely small farmers and agricultural labourers who typically buy a
small quantity of blackfish meat to supplement their starchy diet of
cassava, yams, eddoes, tannias and plantains. The lack of cold
storage facilities in the homes of the country folk make it mandatory
for them to buy preserved meat, including corned blackfish meat,
which can be stored for one or two weeks at a time.
The popularity of blackfish meat also stems from the fact that it
cheap. Three bundles of corned whale meat, weighing about one
pound, retails for between 25 and 30 cents (B.W.I.) or from 8 to 10
cents per bundle. Fishermen, in auctioning meat to the hucksters,
receive much less money for their meat. In one instance, a whaling
crew collected $84.00 for a 1400 pound blackfish, or only 6 cents a
pound. Half of this amount was allocated to the boatowner leaving a
balance of $42.00 to be shared equally by the six man crew.
In preparing whale oil, blubber is first flensea from the meat and
cut or "diced" with mincing knives into two square inch chunks for
easier extraction. Approximately 100 pounds of diced blubber is
placed into a "copper", a giant tea cup-shaped cauldron formerly
used to boil out sugar. A hot fire, kindled with wood and dried palm
fronds, melts out the oil. Pieces of fried fat called "crocklings" and
"crisps" float to the surface and are separated from the oil. The oil is
cooled and stored in 4-gallon tins, and cast iron barrels. The average
size adult humpback yields approximately 20 gallons of oil.
The demand for whale oil is very limited. Local markets
consume the bulk of the oil, but a small amount is also exported to
Trinidad, Barbados and St. Lucia. In 1965, 1364 gallons of whale oil
was exported from St. Vincent, valued in West Indian currency at
$1,088.00 In the West Indies, whale oil is used mainly for cooking,
and as a medicament for respiratory infections.
Efforts have also been made to find markets for whale oil
outside of the West Indies. Blackfish oil is rated as an excellent
lubricant for fine instruments. The product does not oxidize at high
temperatures, or coagulate at low. The best quality oil is extracted
from the dome-shaped head of the whale, known locally as "head
melon," which is valued at $20.00 per gallon. A small amount of
melon oil is shipped to a firm in New Bedford, Massachusetts.
Shore whaling in Barrouallie is hard and often disappointing
work. Two or more weeks may pass before a kill is made and there is
no pay for the crew until the whale is beached and auctioned off to
hucksters. Moreover, the individual crew member receives only a
small fraction of the total proceeds from the sale of the meat and oil
and even the boatowner, who claims half the proceeds, may suffer
financially if the catch is poor. For these reasons, whalemen often
express disattisfaction with their work and most would emigrate
from the island or find a regular paying job, if they had the
opportunity to do so. Unfortunately, only a handful of Barrouallians
have been able to find new homes in foreign lands (mainly the United
States and Canada), and jobs are scarce in St. Vincent. As a result of
these restrictions ma.y of the community's unemployed males are
forced to turn to whaling.
Despite the depressed nature of shore whaling in Barrouallie
today, the prospects of the industry look good. Blackfish and other
cetaceans are usually plentiful year-around in St. Vincent. The
adoption of boat engines has already resulted in a substantial
increase in the whale catch, and Barrouallians can expect increased
landings in the future as boatowners continue to outfit their craft
with engines. At the same time, there is little likelihood that the
small whaling industry will threaten local stocks of cetaceans
through overfishing. The export of whale oil will probably increase
now that there is an established market for the product in the United
States. Local community leaders have been very helpful in finding
markets for whale products. At the same time, there is a firm and
growing demand for corned whale meat in St. Vincent. The island's
poor people desperately need protein and corned blackfish meat is
the cheapest source of animal protein available in the local markets.
JOHN E. ADAMS
1. Before devaluation in 1969, one British West Indian dollar (B.W.I.) was valued
at approximately 66 cents to the American dollar. In this study monetary values are
quoted in West Indian currency.
2. A small blackfish industry also exists in nearby St. Lucia and Dominica.
3. I am grateful to Professor David K. Caldwell, University of Florida, for the
technical names of cetaceans caught off the coast of St. Vincent (see bibliography).
4. These figures are based on the Annual Reports of the St. Vincent Bluebooks
which are held in the Government Offices Building, Kingstown, St. Vincent.
5. Bequia Island (estimated population 3,600 in 1970) is the northernmost island of
the Grenadines archipelago and a dependency of St. Vincent. The majority of its
gainfully employed male population is engaged in fishing and inter-island trade. The
island also supports a small whaling industry. Three or four boats are engaged in
hunting the humpback whale from late January through April or May, (see
6. 1 am indebted to Mr. Griffith Arrindell for supplying me with many details of the
Barrouallie blackfish industry.
7. Data on monthly blackfish landings are taken from the Barrouallie Fishermen's
8. Porpoise meat is also a marketable item in St. Vincent. It is sold fresh to male
vendors in the Kingstown meat market and retails for about 20 cents a pound.
Approximately 8 to 10,000 pounds of fresh porpoise meat are sold annually in
Kingstown and other communities in St. Vincent.
9. Data on the exports of whale oil from St. Vincent are taken from the St. Vincent
Annual Trade Reports, Kingstown, St. Vincent.
1. Adams, John E. "Historical Geography of Whaling in Bequia Island, West
Indies" Caribbean Studies. Vol. II, No. 3 October, 1971, pp. 55-74.
Univeristy of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico.
2. Caldwell, David K., et. al. "Cetaceans from the Lesser Antillean Island of
Vincent." Fishery Bulletin, U.S. Nat'l. Mar. Fish. Service., Vol. 69, No. 2
(1971), pp. 303-312.
3. Hickling, C.F The fisheries of the British West Indies: report on a visit in
1949. Development and Welfare in the West Indies, Bull. 29, 41 pp. Trinidad.
4. Rathjen, W.F. and Sullivan, J.R. "West Indies Whaling" Sea Frontiers., Vol.
16, No. 3 (May-June, 1970), pp. 130-137. University of Miami, Florida.
From my limited knowledge of the history of Whaling, Adam's
emphasis on the role of Yankee knowledge and technology in the late
19th century seems doubtful. In Trinidad, at least, a whale fishery
had been established by the 1820's, based on local know-how and the
labour of blacks from Bermuda. Yankee whalers who tried to
penetrate the Gulf of Paria were officially excluded.
Dept. of History, U.W.I, Mona
Beckford, George L. Persistent Poverty: Underdevelopment in
Plantation Economics of The Third World
New York, Oxford University Press, 1972.
ix, 303p. (Paper back edition) J$2.50
This book is essentially an explanation of the various facets that
make up a plantation society, with clear and vivid illustrations of
the various nuances that are an integral part of this type of society
The author's approach is multi-purpose, in that he draws from
various disciplines in developing his topic, within the framework of
third world countries. Some of these are sociology, psychology,
political science, geography and economics. It would be unreason-
able in a thorough explanation of plantation society, not to use some
of the essential elements which form this type of society
The author spends a great deal of time in'defining his subject,
also showing the differences and similarities within other types such
as peasants, ethnic, state and feudal societies. He also claims that
the analysis, conclusions, and suggestions, can only be relevant to
Throughout the book the author argues for the seeming
dissolution of plantation societies, based on the fact that the
infrastructure of such societies perpetuates poverty and degradation
for its people. The only positive way that a society of this nature can
-have any meaningful development is to put in motion the mechanics,
that will ultimately create this apparent dissolution. It is foolhardy
to think or believe that a system which self-perpetuates in such a
fashion can be structurally modified to accrue meaningful benefits
for most of its people. In essence, plantation society based on the
author's thesis is a definite stumbling block to any real development
within the areas of politics, sociology, and economics.
The author further supports his argument by describing the
quantitative aspects of plantation society. Despite the limited
amount of data within this context, he was able to present
reasonable figures that would enable his readers to have some
understanding as to the manner in which the metropolitan countries
were able to, and still do, exploit the people who make up plantation
societies for their own benefit. A number of case examples were cited
and explained, such as Unilever's, Tate and "Lyle and Booker's
Companies. The monograph introduces the various relationships
which enable this type of society to disfunction. One of these is
based on the metropolitan country (father) and its third world
"children" In a realistic sense this father and child coalescing
transcends the normal behaviour patterns of father and children.
This negative relationship is based on the fact that in the eyes of the
metropolitan countries, its children will never reach the stage of
adults. They will always be dependent on the father. This father and
child relationship enforces actions that will accrue enormous benefits
for the father, and little or nothing for the children. The plantation
society is fully dependent on the metropolitan countries. It should be
noted that plantation societies did not create themselves. They came
into being through the efforts' of metropolitan countries. Thus the
demise of this type of society will not be due to the originators and
perpetuators, but rather the protagonists.
The author does contend that the debilitating effects of society
will be tempered to some extent, by positive pressure implemented
by the people who suffer most from this type of society.
The author not only describes the retrogressive and negative
aspects of this type of society, but he offers a skeletal plan as to how
the people could begin and ultimately create the death of plantation
society, thus making it possible for most of the people to reap the
fruits of their labour.
The author, in my view, offers no concrete method as to the
demise of plantation society He alludes to certain methods which if
applied within the society would ultimately cause the death of
plantation society. He claims that each plantation society, should be
aware that other "isms" might not necessarily be useful in resolving
their situation. It should be realized that maybe the solutions for
plantation society lie within itself. It would appear that the author is
somehow addressing himself to the particular rather than the
general, seeing the trees instead off the forest. This is an error which
is quite prevalent throughout the monograph. It is a definite attack
on the symptoms, rather than the root. This in my opinion renders
his skeletal plan or solution unworkable within the framework of
meaningful development for most of the people. One gets the feeling
that plantation society can be so reformed by the controllers, to
obtain meaningful benefits for the oppressed. This is definitely
foolhardy, in that the system which creates plantation society is not
capable and will not allow itself to be reformed to effect meaningful
changes for most of its people.
The only medium whereby the people that suffer from the effects
of plantation society can achieve maximum benefits from their
labour, thus minimizing suffering, is the total destruction of the
system which is the creation and cause of plantation society.
Therefore it is imperative that the members who suffer from the
chronic disease which comes from this type of society, become aware
and realize that the seed for change is enveloped within themselves.
They should not become moribund or frustrated with their plight,
neither should they believe that the metropolitan masters are
interested in meaningful development for them thus eliminating the
erroneous idea, that the metropolitan masters in collaboration with
the oppressed would create a just society for all the people.
This is not likely to occur, what is more likely to happen, if
apathy and lethargy becomes the dominant influence among
plantation workers, is that the metropolitan masters will intensify
their oppression of the workers.
Therefore the framework that should be unveiled in succinctly
bringing about the dissolution of plantation society, must be based
initially on a concrete analysis of plantation society. This should be
followed by the organisation and mobilisation of the plantation
workers. These should form the basis of a working plan to destroy
the system which is the backbone of plantation society. The demise
of plantation society will only be realized through the courageous
efforts and ultimate victory of the sufferers over the privileged,
plantation workers over the masters, and oppressed over the
The book is plagued throughout by the author's reliance on a
one-sided view. The author seems to place great emphasis on the
external factors, rather than seeing a duality. That is, within every
situation there is both the internal and external factors operating at
all times. This obvious oversight caused his interpretations and
projected solutions concerning the problems of plantation society to
be categorized within the 'reformist' framework. It would appear
that the author would be a supporter of those that would argue for
piece-meal alternatives rather than real change.
This monograph given its metaphysical materialist apparent
approach would be accepted by the reformists and questioned
vociferously by the conscious revolutionary.
CARLOS I.H. NELSON
TWO CRITICS ON BLACK MARSDEN
Wilson Harris Black Marsden pplll Price
"A.pursuit of archetypes of culture...
Wilson Harris is one of the most interesting, if not the most
profound writers in the English language today. His new novel:
Black Marsden, which is set in Edinburgh, and which for a
West Indian masterpiece, has nothing peculiarly West Indian about
it, is an indication that the writer's scope extends beyond any charge
that he is limited to a few metaphysical West Indian themes. For any
writer who has written &s prolifically and as profoundly about the
West Indies as Harris has done in the past ten years, Harris does not
surprise his readers by producing a novel which is set outside the
Caribbean. Yet one cannot help remarking on the uniqueness of the
novel, even within the context of Harris's own style.
The main character is an Everyman who has won over
half-a-million pounds in the football pools, has toured the world, and
has returned to the ancient city of Edinburgh, with a dedication in
his heart to become a moral conservative. Fate does not conspire on
his behalf. For while visiting the ruined Dunfermline Abbey at Fife
he stumbles on "a frozen spectre of a man" Black Marsden and
immediately he is charged with the companionship of this waif of the
Abbey The magical forces of Marsden's awakening, after God
knows how long a sleep, translates Goodrich's mind into a theatre
wherein the vibrations of Marsden's consciousness become
personnae in Goodrich's life. Once the "rapport" has been
established Black Marsden becomes an invisible force, so that if one
were to produce a version of the novel in the theatre, there would
arise the absurdist situation in which Goodrich appears to address
his own shadow.
The personnae which are released onto the stage of Goodrich's
life are: The Gorgon or Muse, a beautiful woman and enchantress,
the spectre of freedom. There is The Walking Knife a combination
of a rowdy Jamaican immigrant and a white television secret agent;
he performs all his duties with a fore-knowledge of all the
consequences. Then there is the Walking Harp; he is a Socratic
North American whose father disappeared into the heartland the
same time that Goodrich's father disappeared into the heartland of
Brazil. In the revelation of the affinity there occurs a telepathic
exchange between this stranger and Goodrich, so that they each
share each other's most intimate thoughts.
Sharing his mansion and existence with these telepathic
personnae a quality of magic is released in Goodrich's own mind. He
is himself, so distracted by the new occurrences that his
housekeeper, Mrs. Glenwearie, needs constantly remind him of his
simple chores and appointments (if not of the identities of objects in
the real world of three-dimensional surfaces).
Harris terms the novel a "Tabula-Rasa Comedy"
If the Miracle and Morality Plays released the obsessions of
moral education in the Medieval mind, Harris's novel releases a
submerged link between common-sense and the forth-dimension
Miraculous in the mind of modern city-dwelling people. In this sense
the spectre-characters are not only take-offs on the Theatre of the
Absurd, but they function as telepathies of the unconscious need for
psychic and psychological controls of the environment and of the
future in modern man. The Miraculous in Black Marsden is
intensified by the living relics of a real history where saints and
archetypes of Old World myth seem to break out in suspense-fiction.
Harris is in fact treating old themes with the modernistic expression
of the novel. He is, at the same time, making use of modern literary
conventions which help twentieth century man to get into the psyche
of his myths and to explore if not explode the imaginative hold
that these myths have had for so long. One such convention which
has recently grown up is the theatre of the Absurd in which
dramatists like Samuel Beckett, creator of Waiting For Godot, takes
the archetypal images of certain myths and present them in all their
absurdity that the stage will provide exploring at the same time
the psychological burden which the characters represent on the
serious level. Like Beckett who writes in French, despite his Irish
background, Harris had, it would seem, decided to explore his West
Indian consciousness through the cultural images of another
country For a writer like Harris this is an important experiment
since his art of fiction is preoccupied with the archetypes of culture,
despite the breaks of historical time which have been experienced by
this region in particular. It stands to reason that Harris's vision of
consciousness should be as acutely operative in an alien culture as
much as it is in his own history and environment, if the premises on
which he operates are true.
In Black Marsden one sees Harris as the writer who has
renounced an overt sense of commitment to the New World cultural
syndrome in favour of an open consciousness to the more intangible
nuances of literary and imaginative continuities in modern
existentialist thought. The novel is not so much a departure from
Harris's earlier themes of the complex womb of Caribbean man's
cultural origins, as it is a shift in landscape and in characterisational
focus. The change of setting is as refreshingly inventive,
nevertheless, as when Harris writes about the transplanted peoples
of the Caribbean reliving in his characters the fragments of
cultural memories which run continuously through their history
The writer of self-imposed and self-accepted exile that one sees
in Black Marsden is a continuity of the author of The Eye of the
Scarecrow (1964) and of Ascent to Omai (1970). The particular
passage in Black Marsden which bears the strongest connection to
the earlier works is the Narrator's apologia on p94 of the novel:
My notes are corrections and revisions of an earlier
"Diary of Nameless" in order to build a new eye of the
Scarecrow or stage or theatre of essences occupied by
phenomenon of personality reaching back into the slate of
In the Eye of the Scarecrow the I Narrator (who has not been
named in the novel) signs himself as "Idiot Nameless"
I do not wish to presume upon the connection but there may be
something of a dialectal variation between Namless" and
"Nameless" The Eye is indeed written in the diarist style. It
25-26th December 1963
This year in Autumn I visited the ancient city of
Edinbrugh, travelled across the wind-swept Pentlands
and descended to the steel-grey Firth of Forth...
The rest of that novel was concerned with the eye of consciousness of
the diarist-narrator and did not remain long on the landscape of the
Scottish scene. But to judge at least by the entry which records the
point of location at which the process of memory, which builds into a
bank of consciousness, begins there seems to be an anchoring of the
later novel upon the earlier. Whereas the earlier novel grows out of
nemonic imagery that recall the world of childhood and youth of the
Narrator in the changing circumstances of the Guyanese social
scene, the later novel deflates this concern with the Caribbean
'otherworld' and concentrates upon the writer's present world of
The telepathic characters of Black Marsden are the receptors of
an historical subconscious which breathes like a spirit in the streets
and ruins of the ancient city, in its mysterious landscape. One is
hereby reminded of the progression of ideas in Ascent to Omai in
which Victor, the vision of consciousness personna, is looking
through the windows of fragments of history, of technology and of
alchemy, at the images of his consciousness. He is reviewing his past
through the extensions of experience into imaginative characters
who address him out of his own mind. True to Harris's style there are
layers and layers of historical imagery representing stages of the
build-up of a collective unconscious in the historical ruins, myths
and collective psychoses of the Scottish scene. Harris quotes Kurt
Wittig's statement on the way in which Scottish literature cannot but
reflect these various levels of the cultural consciousness:
The frequency in Scottish literature of "theme and
variation" duality, split personality (which) demands
an explanation, which at best can only be tentative...
represents an oddity in the literature which can only be explained in
terms of the inner discontinuous stresses of history in that particular
city In his earlier essays Harris also remarked on the neurasthenic
nature of the New French novel to assert the relationship between a
tormented historical psyche and an unconventional manner of the
literary art. From a literary point of view it is not inconsistent, from
these arguments, that Harris should write a novel based upon the
metaphysical Scottish experience for in Harris's vision of
consciousness there is an essential homogeneity in all societies which
have suffered the stresses of a fragmented history.
Notwithstanding the existence of novels written by other West
Indian writers which are set in an alien land in which the characters
are the products of their own cultural background rather than the
writer's perception of his own world, Harris's Black Marsden
may, among West Indians, raise a few eyebrows as a start. Part of
the reason is that it is unique, the other part of the reason is that we
have and perhaps quite rightly grown accustomed to
identifying our writers with our own Caribbean world. Harris's novel
is neither committed in spirit nor in expression to patronising the
Caribbean society. If one wishes to approach the novel from the
point of view that it can only be relevant to the Caribbean only if it
says something about the Caribbean then one must be prepared for
the educated and intellectual similarities which Harris is presenting
- and not only in this, but in the rest of his works through the
archetypes of cultural symbols and imagery.
Technically the novel is perfect, with the 'narrative' and the
absurdist wit very closely knitted into inextricable levels of
consciousness and characterisation. It is composite in the grips
which the individual sensibility of the Narrator hold upon the stream
of traditional myths and contemporary urban living. Coming from
the pen of a West Indian writer it is sympathetic to the language
rhythms, lore, and mythic traditions of the Scots.
In this novel we see, for one of the few instances in literature a
literary masterpiece which has not the self-consciousness nor the
assertiveness of nationalistic literature. And this is a point well
worth considering in one's approach to the regional idea of the West
Indies and the literature which has been formed out of the experience
of living in the region. In the need for our own nationalistic cultures
we have, perhaps, grown a little self-conscious about the Colonial
cultures by which we used to judge our thinking until the idea of our
uniqueness began to permeate our consciousness some decades ago.
Yet if Colonial and British Isles' cultures of nationalism have become
the nemeses of our nationalistic cultures in the Caribbean countries it
is probably good to determine to what extent they form part of our
consciousness. For we might grow self-conscious in repudiating their
effects upon our minds and deny some of the uniqueness they have
added to our style.
Whether intentionally or unintentionally, Harris has revitalised
one of the functions in literature one which British Isles' literature
had not favoured us with the sympathetic and compassionate
understanding of other people's habits of thought and the meaning
of their history and myths to them. This is especially important in a
world that has grown too fragmented with the dissentions of
nationalistic cultures, and the iniquities of cultural conquest.
Harris's novel represents a pursuit of archetypes of culture and of
the historical consciousness for which he has argued so forcefully in
all of his essays. He shows how functional the imagination can
become, once the sub-conscious elements of culture can be caught
and reconstructed in the literary art.
"A double vision a Tabula-Rasa Comedy...
The book's subtitle 'a tabula rasa comedy' hints both at a
New Beginning and at an alchemical activity. Indeed,'Doctor Black
Marsden', a tramp, shaman and conjurer, is an ambivalent,
Merlin-figure representing both the hero's personal (and archetypal)
shadow, and the creative, magus-like activity of the author himself.
This novel is another remarkable rung in the unique ladder or scale
with which Harris seeks to discover an 'inward dialogue and space';
and also something of a departure.
To begin with, its locale is the city of Edinburgh, not the Harris
heartland of South American rain-forest (although the latter is,
inevitably, there: the hero's stepfather 'had vanished in the
heartland of Brazil'. p. 64). Harris's symbolic language seems even
more tightly packed, his style, in spite of a deceptively 'straight'
narrative approach, more audaciously allusive, surrealistic:
He clapped his hands again beneath the cloth of his flesh -
clapping a hidden church or choir or theatre he carried in his
Lusty camera. I saw now as he clapped that knife, sharp as bone
or sin, had stepped forth from him. And that Jennifer too had
stepped forth from him naked as a sea-shell. (p.21)
There is also more evidence than usual of Harris's peculiar double
vision, his strangely austere ironic humour. 'The post is free' says
one character, 'once you lick the right stamp' Yet this is not a
humorous book, except in the special sense in which a novel like
Hermann Hesse's Der Steppenwolf (1972) is. And despite the novel's
unexpectedly strange setting, its bizarre comedy, a closer look
reveals familiar psychological terrain. .An epigraph from James
Hoggs, The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner:
I have two souls the one being all unconscious of what the
suggests the 'doubles' in Harris's fiction from Donne and the
Dreamer of Palace of the Peacock (1961) to the young boys of the
autobiographical sketch'Kith and Kin' (1972)'- the victory/victim
theme which runs throughout Harris's work. The epigraph from
Kurt Wittig's The Scottish Tradition in Literature, discussing the
"Caledonian Antisyzygy", further explains Harris's interest in and
response to a Scottish locale.
The conjunction or opposition of contrasting psychic elements
(the syzygy) holds a deep fascination for Harris, who sees in the
classic, apparently static, opposition of 'conqueror' and 'conquered'
(whether in a Scottish or Caribbean past) a possible digestion of
catastrophe within a historical, temporal 'gateway':
...a 'vacancy' in nature within which agents appear who are
translated one by the other reappear through each other,
inhabit each other.2
This is actually the novel's effect. The wealthy Clive Goodrich (he
has won the football pools) finds the tramp, Marsden, huddled
half-frozen in Dumfermline Abbey and invites him to his large
edinburgh home. Soon Marsden's 'familiars' arrive: the beautiful
Jennifer (called 'Gorgon'), an obscure musician ('Harp') and a
beggar ('Knife'). Like Marsden, they are aspects of Goodrich,
changing their names, shapes, acting as spiritual 'guides',
inhabiting his dreams. Goodrich's role as patron is subtly reversed.
Benefactor becomes beneficiary. He gains insight and self-
confidence, but succumbs to pride in his secret attachment to
Jennifer; and in a fit of pique at her 'betrayal' of him, rashly orders
them all to leave. He relents, too late: they have vanished for ever.
Harris is clearly advocate, like Gabriel Marquez, for 'magical
reality': for a society in which Man's 'realistic' right hand knows
what his 'visionary' left hand is doing. The book's message is that
disaster awaits all one-sided, static biases. Change, however, must
come from within. Goodrich therefore keeps a tabulaa rasa' diary in
order to construct 'a new eye of the Scarecrow' (p. 94); and as
self-knowledge dissolves static pre-conceptions, uniting self and
anti-self, a new 'I' emerges from the old Goodrich. The writing
reflects this wedding of opposites, initiating a reversal of 'reality';
Goodrich stared into the mirror ... which caught the reflection
of the sky outside the window and also the furniture inside the
room so that it seemed to rain the very objects around him.
The effect is of an Escher print, where each object often contains its
opposite, the boundary of one immediately becoming the outline of
Black Marsden, informed by Harris's imaginative insight and
compassion becomes a vasa alchemicum in which contrasting
landscapes, images, ideologies are distilled to create a new source of
wealth: the lead of reality is transformed into the gold of the
See Journal of Commonwealth Literature (Vol. 7 no. June, 1972) pp. 1/5
2. Wilson Harris, 'Interior of the Novel' From a talk delivered at the Conference
of Commonwealth Literature, Univ. of Queensland, August 1968. (See
National Identity, Heinemann 1970, p. 146).
GRANT THE UNHONOURED INNOVATOR
Vincent John Marsala Sir John Peter Grant, Governor of Jamaica,
1866-1874, Published by Institute of
Jamaica pp. 125, J$3.00
This Review is printed with the kind permission of the Editor, Daily
Gleaner, February 5, 1973
An account of the governorship of Sr. John Peter Grant is long
overdue. He was the first of the Crown colony governors: how, then,
did the new system of government function?
He effected gigantic changes and initiated others. Yet there is
no statute to this man, no street is named after him in Kingston,
which he made the capital, no institution commemorates him -
there are the Musgrave Medals, the Manning Cup, the Oliver Shield,
but nothing recalls Grant in that way. The one building specially
associated with him, the Victoria Market, was light-heartedly
demolished while Dr. Marsala's work was in preparation.
Dr. Marsala is an American who was in contact with the
Institute of Jamaica through his work in the West India Reference
Library. The Institute was glad of the chance to publish a book
which filled so conspicuous a gap, and the typography and
illustrations provide an adequate presentation of this important
contribution to knowledge of our past.
The author has presented the facts in an unsensational but
effective way. Curiously, one does not find in the book any
misunderstanding of atmosphere such as one would consider
inevitable to the work of a visiting scholar. This, I think, is to be
ascribed to the good use he has made of the contemporary
The reader will not find any cut-and-dried answers to such
questions as "Was Crown colony rule a Good Thing?" or "Were
Grant's reforms colonialist shams?" Dr. Marsala regards Grant's
work as revolutionary in character, he recognizes Grant as a great
administrator who was determined to alter the terms of the Jamaican
problem by advance on all fronts, in spite of much obscurantist
If however, you wish to estimate the total impact of Crown
colony government on Jamaica, you are obviously not going to get
the data from this book. What it tells you is what happened in the
first few years, and then you have to decide whether there was a
pattern all through the Crown colony period, and if so whether Grant
led the country up a cul de sac or.whether, alternatively, something
else blocked the progress which Grant set on foot. You must not
expect much in the way of social history significant social changes
would hardly appear in less than 16-20 years. But Dr. Marsala can
certainly give you a good deal to think about.
There is something paradoxical about Grant's work, which I
suppose is what accounts for the neglect of his governorship. It is
very hard to make Grant fit into a conventional scheme of historical
For example, he is undoubtedly in a sense the heir of Gordon
and even Bogle. His dis-establishment of the Church of England, his
reform of the law courts, his abolition of grand juries, his
encouragement of education, were measures which sought to secure a
greater equality in the society. Even the organization of an efficient
centrally-controlled police force was intended to ensure that the
police were not used simply to protect local class interests.
At the same time, he undoubtedly strengthened the estate
system. Properly organized East Indian immigration saved sugar in
certain areas. New opportunities were created on the St. Catherine
plains by the Rio Cobre Irrigation Scheme which the
conservatives, however, opposed.
The extraordinary improvement in medical services, the
expansion of internal and external communications, the face-lift
given to Kingston water supply, the Parade gardens, street-lighting,
effective street-cleaning' were benefits felt by all classes. Nor was
his concept of progress limited to the material, for he started a
University College at Spanish Town.
Undoubtedly Grant's Indian experience was important. For one
thing, Jamaica's problems must have seemed rather trifling to him,
and he just had no intention of being held up in solving them. Again,
he never shrank from State intervention he introduced a sort of
gas-and-water socialism in Kingston, he insisted on the Rio Cobre
Scheme, and refused a guarantee to private enterprise in the case of
But does this show that Grant's liberalism was merely British
Raj paternalism? No more, I think, that it shows he was a socialist. I
think that the figure which emerges from Dr. Marsala's book is that
of a man of civilized habits of thought and an extraordinary
practicality, the latter quality enabling him to draw on his vast
experience without being fettered by theories, while the former
quality gave him a certain moral force.
We all agree that the Crown colony system had disastrous
consequences. But Grant can hardly be blamed for them he gave
the system a good start.
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