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myddle castle

Gittins of Myddle – Circa 1550 – 1700

The following account of the Gittins family of Myddle was taken from a book titled “An English Rural Community, Myddle, under the Tutors and Stewarts, by Davd G. Hey, Leicester University Press, 1974

Myddle, Shropshire, England

The village of Myddle is a small village in Shropshire, England, about 10 miles north of Shrewsbury, the county town of Shropshire.  Myddle lies in the parish of Myddle with Broughton-le-Strange. The 2001 census recorded a population of 1,142 in the village.

In the early years Myddle village contained two large farms (the Castle and Eagle), while on the outskirts of the township there was the smaller farm of the Hollins.  In the village there was also the parsonage and two freehold tenements (belonging to the Gittins family and the Lloyds), and six tenements and two half-tenements that were rented from the lord.

 

Richard Gittins I ( – 1537)

The Gittinses had come from a tanning business in Shrewsbury sometime between 1524 and 1528.  Richard Gittins I had been a wealthy tanner in Shrewsbury.  He had bought a freehold tenement in Newton from the ancient owners, the Banasters of Hadnall, and a half tenement from them in Myddle, known as the house at the higher well.  These he let to tenants.  Then, he himself came to live as tenant of Eagle Farm and of eight acres of the newly enclosed Myddlewood.  This must have happened by 1528 because he was among the jurors of the manor court in that year.  He was also recorded in 1537, but his widow was occupying the property in 1538.  She was succeeded by her son and grandson, who were both called Richard.

Some families, such as the Gittins chose the same Christian name for the eldest son over several generations.  It was also common for a child to be given the same name as a dead elder brother or sister, but it was not fashionable before the eighteenth century to give  children more than one Christian name.

 

Richard Gittins III

Richard III had been made a freeman of the Mercers’ Company in 1565, but he settled at Eagle Farm upon his father’s death.  He was also one of the five Newton farmers who rented the Brown Heath at Harmer; he renewed the lease of Eagle Farm for three lives, and “builded the house anew and bought the Tymber at a woode sale in Myddlewood”.

The two younger sons of Richard III made their living in Shrewsbury, Ralph as a High Schoolmaster, and William as a tanner.  This connection with the trade and the aspirations to learning remained strong with the family.  There also appears to have been another son called Morgan, and a daughter named Anne who married a Shrewsbury Mercer.  William in fact seems to have ended his days as the gentleman tenant of Castle Farm (he died 1644), but it was the senior branch of the family, represented in the person of Richard IV, that was generally in residence in the village.

 

Richard Gittins IV ( – 1624)

It was this “mild, peaceable, [and] charitable” Richard who married Alice Morgan and inherited Castle Farm, and who later added to his freehold estate by purchasing lands in Houlston.

Mr. Morgan ap Probart, as the Welch name suggests had originated from Wales just across the border from Myddle, likely as a young man.  He owned Castle Farm.  He had no children to carry on his name so he adopted a young kinswoman named Alice and brought her up as his own.   When she was of age she had a large farm (Castle) as her marriage portion and she would have been considered a most desirable match.   The man she choose – or was chosen for her – was Richard Gittins IV, the heir of a family that had risen by trade and which had acquired the highly sought status of gentry as freeholders and tenants of the lord’s second largest farm (Eagle Farm) in Myddle.  The marriage was to mark the height of the fortunes of the Gittins family.

It is worthwhile at this point – the highest rise of the Gittinses – to consider just how much land they were farming in the early years of the seventeenth century.  This included 36 acres in the Bilmarsh Houlston area, and 325 acres of Castle farm in Myddle itself.  The fields stretch east of the village street and south from the castle and can be readily matched with the 318 1/2 acres of Castle Farm.  So, upon the death of his father, Richard Gittins V had something like 625 acres upon secure lease at a low rent, with common rights of pasture and another eight acres in myddlewood, with more freehold property in Myddle , Newton and Houlston, rented out to sub-tenants, and a lease of part of the moss land called Brown Heath.   The extent of his financial interests in Shrewbury is unknown, but it is hard to imagine that he did not have a finger in that pie as well.  Here was obviously one of the richest men, if not the richest in Myddle.

Richard Gittins IV died in the very last days of 1624, ” soe willing to forgive injuryes that he passed by many without seeming to take notice of them”.  Unfortunately, there were men in Myddle less scrupulous than he , ready to take advantage of his mild manner.  A long note by the steward of the manor tells all about the trouble he had over Eagle Farm.  Shortly after rebuilding his house and moving to Castle Farm he let Eagle Farm to Thomas Jux, who was descended from the Juxes of Newton and born in a cottage at the side of Houlston Lane.  This Thomas and his Welch wife, Lowre, took the tenement at £6 a year rack-rent and kept it as an inn.  But Jux, possibly overburdened with his nine children, could not make ends meet and soon ran up a debt of £28 to Gittins.  Having made a bill of sale to Gittins of all his estate, Jux was given two years’ grace, whereupon he “falsly sels his title to Robert Moore combininge together to defraud Gittins and puts Moore in the possession”.  This Roger Moore was the brother of the rector and farmer of the tithes, and was living in the Parsonage House at the time.   His holy surroundings do not seem to have done much for him, for as the steward goes on to say that, “Gittins heareing that Jux was gone away by Moore’s procurement, sends two servants no body being in the house to keepe the possession.  Juxe and Moore violently brake a wall with force and drew out and hurt Gittins’ servants, and forceably kept possession untill the next session wheare they weare both Indicted and convicted by a jury and writ of restitution was graunted in court that the possession should be redelivered to Gittins”.  At this point, 1624, Gittins died, leaving his widow, Alice and his son Richard V, now 22 years old. to carry on the battle.  His younger son, Daniel, had been apprenticed to a Shrewsbury draper in 1621 and had gone to be a merchant tailor in London, and his daughter Mary, was soon to marry a Shropshire gentleman.  Their only other child had died when she was five months old.

 

Richard Gittins V (1602 – 1663)

This fifth Richard lived to be 61 and “Was of good account in his time but hee was too sociable and kinde hearted: and by strikeing hands in suretyship, hee much dampnifyed himselfe and his family.  Hee did not at all derogate from the charitable, meeke and comendable moralls of his father”.  He was soon to run into trouble in order to hang on to Eagle Farm.  Moore took the case further in the courts, indeed as far as Chancery, but finally Gittins recovered possession, costs and damages.

It could not therefore, have been this case that hit the family pockets.  The steward obviously thought highly of him, asking the lord to confirm his possession, and saying that Gittins was “willing to give his lordship such fine and rent as his honnor shall think convenient…[and] hath payd all dutys to Church, king and lord and very many lewnes [i.e. church rates] towards the building of a Steeple on Myddle Church…and have repayred the house and buildings at their great cost and charges:.

Yet Gittins was soon to lose the Eagle Farm.  There is only Gough’s ststement about his standing risky sureties to give any hint as to what must have happened.  In 1634, widow Alice Gittins was paying her usual  £6 6s. 8d rent for Castle Farm.  She also paid 14s. 0d. for Eagle Farm, with 8s. 0d. for 16 acres of woodland, 4d. for a house that Richard Clarke, the labourer, lived in on Harmer Hill, 3s. 0d. chief rent for the house at the higher well in Myddle 11s. 6d. chief rent for some freehold land in Houlston and a further 9s. 4d. rent for just over 18 acres of moorland in Houlston.  By 1650, Richard Gittins V was retaining his freehold, but had relinquished all the rest except Castle Farm.  Trouble seems to have been brewing in 1638, the year after the steward had spoken up for the family, for when the attempt was made to increase the entry fines, “Alice Gittins for the Egle and Child was told that her former undervaluation and offer were so much to the dislike that your honor purposed to take it into your lordship’s hands at Our Lady day next, and she had warning to leave it at the tyme, yet i heare shee hath sowed parte of the ground with oates:.  Underneath was the ominous note, “Robt. More desireth to take the same at the yerely rent of £15”.  Moore had failed to win possession forcibly or through the courts, but now he was to enter unmolested as the Gittins family could not afford the new terms.

At Castle Farm, Richard Gittins V had married Margery, the daughter of Francis Peplow, a wealthy farmer just across the parish boundary in Fenemere.   She bore him six boys and two girls before his death in 1663.  The eldest was Richard VI, “a good country-scoller, [who] had a strong almost miraculouse memory.  Hee was a very religiouse person butt he was too talkative”.  A bachelor, he died suddenly, in 1677, after a meeting of the Grand Jury for the county, and his brother, Daniel, succeeded him at Castle Farm.  He too was a bachelor and he died less than four months after his brother.  The property passed to the third son, Thomas, the Vicar of Loppington, but as he lived in his own parish, the youngest son William, came to be the gentleman tenant of Castle Farm.  Between the births of Thomas and William there had also been twins, but Ralph had died and Nathaniel was provided for as Vicar of Ellesmere.  Of the daughters, Elizabeth died young, and Mary “was a person of a comely countenance but somewhat crooked of Boddy.  She was a modest and religiouse woman and died unmarryed”.

The son of Thomas Gittins, the vicar, was also called Thomas, and after his marriage he lived at the family freehold tenement, the house at the higher well.  He does not seem to have been as placid as some of his ancestors, for the Acta books of the Bishop’s Visitation Courts record a charge against him in 1699 of fighting Mr. John Reynolds in Myddle churchyard.  His defence was “that he being run into his belly with a sword by the said John Reynolds”  he thought that he had a just cause for fighting.  At Castle Farm, William had taken as wife a daughter of a neighbouring farmer.  He died at the age of 72 in 1715, with his wife and four of his nine children dying before him.  But there were two strong branches of the Gittins family ready to continue farming the family lands in the eighteenth century.  Those wealthy Shrewsbury tanners had made a sound investment when they choose to put their money down on land in Myddle.

 

Source:  A book titled “An English Rural Community, Myddle, under the Tutors and Stewarts, by Davd G. Hey, Leicester University Press, 1974

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Henry Selman Leach (1891-1975)

Henry Selman Leach Part II

Part II Covering the years 1931 – 1975

 

Part I of Harry’s life sketch ended in about 1930 just following his separation from his first wife Molly Dowler and after the birth of their daughter Barbara.

When Harry’s marriage ended in the late 1920’s he was living in Montreal.  Sometime after this Harry entered into a relationship with Agnes Mary Connor.  We don’t know very much about Agnes, except she was born in Glasgow, Scotland on October 22, 1903.

Harry and Agnes had a daughter, Patrica Mary Conner  who was born in Toronto in 1936.  In 1940 Harry and Agnes married in Toronto, he was 49 at the time and she was  36.

Harry and his family then moved to Niagara-on-the-lake, Ontario.  Two children followed, Margaret Ann Leach was born 1941 and John Andrew Connor Leach (Jack) was born 1944.

Harry’s son “Jack” recalls the following about his father.

“My Dad took a job as a bookkeeper with The Canadian Army Ordinance in Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario.  He & his new family settled in this beautiful town shortly thereafter.  My sister Marg was born in 1941 and me in 1944.

Dad later took a position as the head bookkeeper at the famous Shepherd Boats factory. He was well thought of by the workers; he gave them great advice on money matters. He set up & managed their book for many years until Old Shep (as he was known) passed away. The firm was sold & they brought in their own people.

He then went to work for Canadian Canners in town. They are now known as Del Monte Foods. He set up there accounting system & managed the office until his retirement. He also prepared Income Tax forms for many small business  in Town. He never made an error. He was well respected in the community.

My Dad smoked a pipe; Picobac was his choice of tobacco. He walked tall & erect ( he never forgot his army training). He was an avid gardener he worked his garden all by hand; he was meticulous and had tons of patience. He never held a drivers license or owned a car. He subscribed to the Cricketer magazine and he was an avid Toronto Maple Leafs fan. He would sit in front of the TV on Saturday night, with his pen and paper and record all the stats for each game. His printing and handwriting was perfect. He recorded all his notes etc. by hand. He tuned into the BBC news from London at noon every day.

He was an avid church goer. We attended St. Marks Anglican Church every Sunday. He was a strong conservative and we would have many interesting conversations over supper. His strongest qualities were his great sense of humour and his honesty. He spoke his mind on many occasions. These 3 qualities I have tried to live up to. I am still telling the jokes he told when I was a kid.

He was a very proud man until the day he died. His last wish was to see his grandson Larry, who he adored. He died knowing that the Leach name would be carried on. He was so proud of me when Larry was born. Now we have Rory [Larry’s son] : Dad would have been be so happy.”

 

Harry died on May 4, 1975 and is buried in the Niagara Lake Shore Cemetery.  He was 84 when he died.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harry’s wife agnes died a few years later, on 13 December 1983 in Parry Sound Ontario, she was 80.   Agnes is also buried in the Niagara Lake Shore Cemetery.

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Leading Families in Eigteenith Century Barbados

“In 1651 Barbados was said to be the most flourishing island in the British West Indies and during the following decade it enjoyed the Golden Age of its prosperity. White indentured servants were still plentiful and African slaves were being imported in steadily increasing numbers. Improved methods of cultivation were employed, the production of sugar increased more than fourfold and the price of that commodity remained at a consistently high level.

Out of these circumstances emerged the planters who made their way to the forefront of the island’s affairs mainly at the expense of the yeoman farmers. The pattern of the Barbadian economy suited them well and they took the opportunity to establish themselves in the economic and political life of the colony. The phase to be “as wealthy as a West Indian planter” may well have owed its origin to the affluence of the Barbadian planter aristocrat.

The “Golden Age”, however, did not last more than a decade. The period of great prosperity was followed by one of decline. A host of evils came upon the inhabitants of Barbados. When the woods were cleared, the cultivated fields were attacked by monkeys and racoons. The cane was gnawed by rats which had come across the Atlantic as unsuspected passengers on board the English ships. To cope with the rats, cane fields were set on fire, but these fires frequently spread when strong winds arose and fanned them out of control of the planters. And the practice of burning the canes was imitated by the slaves when they wanted to give expression to their bitter resentment against their enslaved condition.

Moreover, the Barbadian soil began to show signs of exhaustion. The land had grown much poorer and produced much less sugar. A strange kind of caterpillar came upon the scene “like the locusts of Egypt” and devoured everything that chanced to come its way. A fire broke out in 1666, which destroyed Bridgetown and was followed two years later by a drought which was accompanied by one of those epidemics that raged in the island during the latter part of the seventeenth century. Such epidemics, not always clearly identified, were of smallpox, or yellow fever, typhoid, dysentery or elephantrasis.

When this calamitous decade ended, Barbados, with remarkable resilience, seemed about to return to its normal condition. But its efforts to regain a measure of prosperity were frustrated by the renewed conflict between the British and the Dutch who succeeded on one occasion in capturing the whole fleet of ships transporting Barbados sugar to its overseas markets.

Nor was this the end of the troubles. In 1675 the island was visited by a disastrous hurricane and few things seemed to survive the ravages of that tempest. In some areas of the island all the sugar works and dwelling houses were destroyed and few, if any, of the windmills escaped the fury of the high winds. Canes were flattened by the force of the hurricane and some were uprooted from the ground as if by some malignant giant. The pots in the curing houses were all smashed to bits and vessels in Carlisle Bay were driven on to the shore by the gales of wind. Slaves were diverted to the task of rebuilding the shatter houses and, as a result, the damage to crops in 1675 was followed by a total lack of a crop the next year, owing to the lack of an adequate labour force to cultivate the land.” (Hoyos, 1978)

“The Plantocrats (1)

In the circumstances described above, it is not surprising that a number of planters emigrated with all their belongings to seek their fortunes anew in other parts of the world. It was only the wealthier planters, the Plantocrats, who survived to enjoy a period of prosperity that started in 1677 and lasted for some years.” (Hoyos, 1978)

The leading families who remained in Barbados and carried on into the eighteenth are listed in Table 6.

Table 6: Leading White Families of the eighteenth Century (Beckles, 2006)

Adams Ford Jordan Salter
Alleyne Frere Lyte Skeete
Applewhaite Gibbes Maycock Terrill
Beckles Gibbons Maynard Thornhill
Best Gittens Osbourne Walker
Bishop Haynes Peers Waldron
Braithwaite Hinds Pinder Walters
Carrington Holder Powell Waterman
Cumberbatch Hothersall Rous Weeks
Dottin Husbands Salmon Yeamans

Adams
Alleyne
Applewhaite
Beckles

These families through their wealth, and influence controlled the socioeconomic fabric of the island for many years. Many held positions of status such as judges, military officers, politicians, merchants and clergymen, in addition to being wealthy planters. The influence and control they exerted was further strengthen by the inter-marriage of the leading families. For example, our Gittens family married into both the Carrington and Weeks families during the eighteenth century.

Our Gittens family must have certainly been part of the Barbados Plantcracy of the eighteenth century. Research indicates that the listed individuals were actively involved in the political, economic and social affairs on the Island.

Benjamin Gittens (1701-1730) Merchant
Benjamin Gittens (1716-1743) Planter
Benjamin Gittens (1730-1790) Planter (Green’s Plantation, St. George) , Appointed Chief Baron of His Majesty’s Court of Exchequer, Provisional Grand Master of Masons 1783
Isaac Gittens (1739-1819) Planter (Gorings and Gooding Plantations)
John Gittens (1701- ) Captain in Militia, Planter
John Gittens (1712-1768) Member of Assembly 1750-1763, Chief Judge of St. Michael 1768, Colonel in militia
John Benjamin Gittens (1759-1790) Doctor
Joseph Gittens (1693-1761) Doctor
Joseph Gittens (1730-1791) Planter
Joseph Gittens (1763 – 1805) Planter
Joshua Mayers Gittens (1741-1819) Member of Assembly, succeeded his father John from 1768-1807, Commissioned as a Judge 1781, Deputation as Comptroller 1793, Commissioned as Judge of Precinct of St. Andrews. 1797, Judge of Christ Church 1807, Judge of the Courts of Common Pleas 1807, Planter (Pilgrim Plantation)
Nathaniel Gittens (1676-1752) Planter (Thickett Plantation)
Samuel Gittens (1674-1718) Planter (26 acres in St. Philip)
Samuel Gittens (1729-1772) Planter
Thomas Gittens (1753-1759) Planter
William Gittens (1769- ) Planter

Beckles, H. M. (2006). A History of Barbados: From Amerindian Settlement to Caribbean Single Market. Cambridge: University Press.

Hoyos, F. A. (1978). Barbados : A History from Amerindians to Independence. Macmillan Publishers Limited 1978.

note (1) : A plantocracy, also known as a slavocracy,[1] is a ruling class, political order or government composed of (or dominated by) plantation owners.

A number of early European colonies in the New World were largely plantocracies, usually consisting of a small European settler population relying on a predominantly West African chattel slave population (as well as smaller numbers of indentured slaves, both European and non-European in origin), and later, “freed”-Black and poor-white sharecroppers for labour. These plantocracies proved to be a decisive force in the anti-abolitionist movement. One prominent organization largely representing (and collectively funded by) a number of plantocracies was the “West Indies Lobby” in the British Parliament. It is credited (or conversely, discredited) in constituting a significant impetus in delaying the abolition of the slave trade from taking place in the 1790s to being implemented in 1806-1808; and likewise, with respect to prospects of emancipation being proclaimed in the 1820s (instead, a policy known as “Amelioration” was formally adopted throughout 1823-1833), to it being implemented in 1834-1838.

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WALTER REYNOLD FO®STER (1859 – 1915)

Chapter Three – The Fosters, Descendents of Samuel Foster, butcher from St. Andrew

WALTER REYNOLD FOSTER (1859 – 1915)

Walter Reynold Forster was born on 5th, June 1859. He was baptized at St. George Parish Church on 28th, July. Unfortunately, there is not a lot that is known about Walter Reynold. It may be assumed that he had a strict Anglican upbringing and that he attended the same private “elementary” school in St. George that all the children went to.

As the oldest child, he might well have been the first to go to Bridgetown to find work when he left school, although it is not known where he lived. However, he fell in love with Constance Cromartie Leacock who lived with her grandfather and mother in Suttle Street. Walter Reynold and Constance were married in 1885, a year after her mother, Rosilla, died. They were married in St. Michael and it is very likely that the marriage ceremony was at St. Paul’s Church because this was where Constance was baptized and Walter was buried in the cemetery there on 15th, May 1915.

The popular family story goes that Walter was in a regiment in his youth, but there is no evidence of this. In fact, his occupation in 1887 is a “merchant’s clerk” as stated on his son’s, Walter Neville’s, baptism certificate.

When Arthur Reynold, “Kelly”, was born in 1890, the parents’ address was Beckles Road and it appears that that is where the family home remained until 1912 when Walter Reynold and Constance, rented a home in the Military Prison, St. Ann’s, the Garrison. This building currently houses the Barbados Museum. It is here that Walter Reynold died in 1915.

The Military Prison, Home of The Barbados Museum
The Military Prison, Home of The Barbados Museum

 

Constance Cromartie Leacock’s background was very different from that of her husband. She was the daughter of George Phillips Leacock and Rosilla Lloyd Cromartie. Although Walter Reynold’s father had worked his way up the ladder to be the manager of a sugar plantation, he was not a landowner and none of his family was influential in commerce. The Cromartie’s, however, were wealthy plantation owners, owning two plantations in St. Philip, Woodbourne and White River. The family was also very influential in the mercantile community. In 1847, Colonel Frederick Maitland Cromartie, the Supervisor of Supplies and Ordnance Stores for the British Army, appointed Joseph Leacock, George Phillips’ grandfather, to be the “Deputy Ordnance Storekeeper” (The Barbadian newspaper of the 4th, Dec 1847)

Rosilla’s story is a mysterious one. There is no baptism certificate to be found for her, for instance. The year of her birth, c.1846, is based on her age given on her marriage certificate. Also, her father’s name is not shown on that certificate. Was she the illegitimate child of Sarah Cromartie (nee Nurse)? There is another more likely answer.

Matthew Cromartie, Colonel Frederick’s brother, lost his wife, Charlotte (nee Lloyd) in childbirth in 1839 when his son, Matthew Henry, was born. Who would have looked after his new born son for him? He must have hired a nurse to help. Is Rosilla the illegitimate daughter of Matthew Cromartie and a nanny?  The name Rosilla Lloyd Cromartie suggests that this could have been the case. Rosilla and Constance Cromartie, Colonel Frederick and Sarah Cromartie’s daughter, were obviously very close childhood friends because Constance Cromartie Leacock was named after her.

Rosilla was sixteen years old and three months pregnant when she married George Phillips Leacock in April 1862. George Phillips was a student at Codrington College and intended to follow in the footsteps of his father, George William Leacock, who was a school teacher. The Cromartie family left Barbados for good by 1871. It is noteworthy that Rosilla was not mentioned in either Colonel Frederick’s or Sarah’s will.

The Leacocks lived in Roebuck Street, which was the main commercial street of Bridgetown.

On 24th, July 1863, the following advertisement appeared in the Times newspaper.

 GEO. P. LEACOCK

 The Subscriber begs respectfully to inform the Public of his intention to open

 A SEMINARY

For young Gentlemen, at which instruction will be given in the Classics, French, and the Elements of Mathematics, in addition to the subjects comprising an ordinary English Education.

Due notice will be given as to the time and place of opening, so soon as he shall have received applications for the admission of as many pupils as will enable him to make a commencement.

Parties who might be disposed to place their Children under his care and tuition, are hereby assured of his utmost endeavours to afford satisfaction, by a conscientious discharge of the duties devolved on him.

                                                                                    Geo. P. Leacock.

                                                                                    Roebuck Street.

I have found no evidence that this seminary was ever opened.

 

Constance Cromartie Leacock was born on the 7th, September 1863 and was baptized on the 11th, December at St. Paul’s Chapel. When she married the dashing young Walter Reynold in 1885, both of her parents had already died. Her father died on Christmas Day 1880. The obituary in The Barbados Globe on the 27th, December, read:

 

GEORGE PHILLIP LEACOCK

DIED

On Friday evening last at the residence of his father, in Suttle Street, GEORGE PHILLIP LEACOCK, aged 39 years. His remains were interned the following afternoon at St. Paul’s Cemetery, Bay Street.”

 

Rosilla died in 1884. She was 39 years old.

Walter Reynold and Constance had eleven children; five boys and six girls. One of the girls, Gladys May, died as an infant.

The Fosters must have been very busy parents, interacting with their children in creative and meaningful ways. Constance was a very accomplished pianist and I suspect that Walter Reynold might have played the violin because at least two of his sons, Roy and Donald Vere, played the violin, while “Kelly” played the bass fiddle and the saw! Certainly, the children were encouraged to play music and sing; and the girls, in particular, were also taught art. Auntie Gloria, Cecil’s daughter, remembers Winnie as being a fine painter. The boys were Walter Neville, Arthur Reynold (“Kelly”), Cecil Bertram, Roy Cromartie, and Donald Vere. The girls were Vivian Cromartie, Winifred, Annie Kathleen, Eileen, and the baby of the family, Elsie.

The boys must have participated keenly in many sports, especially swimming, athletics and football. At the turn of the 20th Century, the Garrison area was fast becoming a middle class suburb of Bridgetown. The British troops were withdrawn in 1905/1906, so many of the buildings that may have housed the barracks, hospital, and prison, became available for rent or sale. The Garrison Savannah must have been teeming with boys and girls playing games. Carlysle Bay offered plenty of opportunity for long days spent at the beach swimming and playing. The Fosters would most certainly have been in the thick of things.

Some of the Foster children went to primary school at “Woodville”, Chelsea Road, where Frank Collymore’s grandmother “gave piano lessons and kept a school”. The following extract is from ‘Frank Collymore, a biography’ written by Edward Baugh (page 15):

The school must have had fewer than a dozen children, because the room that it occupied was very small. “I remember the long table running down the centre with the children sitting on either side and the old lady at the head, facing the back door.” (F.C’s diary, July 29th, 1939). He also remembered many of the children very well – the Bynoes, the Fosters, the Richardses, the Waithes, the Sterlings and the Mustors –

“I remember Annie Waithe (correct spelling is Waite), later to be Kelly’s (Kelly Foster’s) wife, then about 11 or so and her two brothers, rather loutish creatures, Freddy and Lennie, with their loud voices and being made to stand on the bench.” (F.C’s diary, July 29th, 1939) 

 Although all of the children would have received a basic education at private schools, supplemented by learning music and art at home, it appears that only two boys, Arthur Reynold (Kelly) and Cecil went on to further their education at Harrison College, the premier boys’ secondary school in Bridgetown. Two of the girls, Kathleen and Elsie also attended Queen’s College, a school for girls which opened in 1883.

Vivien Cromartie Foster (1886 –      )

Vivien Cromartie Foster (1886 -      )
Vivien Cromartie Foster (1886 –      )

Vivien was born on 29th March 1886. She immigrated to the U.S. in the early 1900’s and married John Jackson. They lived in Poughkeepsie where the descendants of Walter Neville still live today. John Jackson died in 1929 and Vivien married a second time to William, “Bill”, Aldrich. They too lived in Poughkeepsie, New York. Phyllis Foerschner, Donald Vere’s daughter, shared some memories of Vivien. She wrote:

“Although my father spoke of his sisters and brothers quite often, I am more familiar with their names than with dates regarding their births, deaths and marriages. The only sister I recall vividly is my Aunt Vivien. As you know, she and Uncle Bill lived upstate New York (Poughkeepsie). As a child, I remember several visits to their home. They visited with us a few times in our Queens, New York, home a few times. Uncle Bill (William) was Aunt Vi’s second husband (a lovely man) and neither her first nor second marriage produced children. I do remember seeing a photo of Aunt Vi’s first husband on a table at her home. He was an extremely handsome man. I do not know his name. Aunt Vi said that he died from gas poisoning during the First World War. Perhaps Aunt Vi’s relatives in Poughkeepsie can fill you in there. The last time I saw Aunt Vivien I was about twenty years old (1948?). She had an eye operation in New York City and stayed at our home about two weeks before she was well enough to travel. Uncle Bill did not accompany her.”

Although Vivien never had any children, as the oldest of the siblings that immigrated to New York, she must have had a strong stabilizing influence on her younger brothers and sisters who lived in the U.S. When Walter Neville, for instance, immigrated in 1923, he lived in Poughkeepsie, and when he died in 1935, it was Vivien and Bill that paid the U.S$70.00 for his burial plot at Cypress Hills Cemetery. No doubt, when Vere, Walter Neville’s son, made his way to the U.S, he, like his father, would have found a home in Poughkeepsie with Vivien and Bill Aldrich.

 

Walter Neville Foster (1887 – 1935)

Walter Neville Foster (1887 - 1935)
Walter Neville Foster (1887 – 1935)

Walter Neville was born on the 8th, February 1887. He was baptized on the 23rd of April at St. Ambrose Chapel in Bridgetown.

His first son, Vere Burtram, was born in the U.S.A in 1911. This would indicate that Walter Neville and Ruby Bourne may have married in 1910. For whatever reason, the young family returned to Barbados shortly after Vere’s birth. Emily Foster, Ron Foster’s wife, shares a family story about Walter Neville:

“Walter and Ruby were here in the US when their first son was born. Vere Burtram Foster was born in a New York City hospital. They returned to Barbados and had two (actually three) more sons and a daughter. Vere was teased and called a Yankee. As the story goes, Walter Neville and some of his buddies bought a ticket for the Irish Sweepstakes and they won. I guess Neville didn’t use it wisely and made a few investments and it became necessary for him to leave Barbados. We don’t know much about him until Vere leaves Barbados and lands in the US.”

Please note, Ronald Foster is Vere’s Burtram’s son.

Walter Neville’s passport shows that he made two further trips to the U.S., one in 1920 and the last in November 1923. His occupation on the passport is “Seaman”.

The 1930 U.S. Census records show Walter N. Foster living in Poughkeepsie, Dutchess, NY. His relationship to the head of household is “employee” and it lists his father as being born in Ireland and his mother in Scotland! No mention is made of Vere Burtram, his son, although he must have immigrated to the U.S by that time.

Emily and Ron write:

“Vere must have taken a few trips with the Cunard Lines – when he met up with his father, Neville he had $800 – a lot of money – you could buy a car for $400. I know Neville told him to send it home. Vere did not smoke or drink at that time. It wasn’t until he met up with a couple of Irish men that he took them both up. Neville worked as a doorman or an elevator operator for big hotels or exclusive residents.

Like many they traveled up state for work. There were many state hospitals for the mentally disabled that provided employment. Aunt Vivian and her family moved to Wingdale, NY and found work at the state hospital there.”

Walter Neville spent eleven years in New York before he died in 1935. He never did reunite with Ruby and their children, with the exception of Vere who was born in the U.S.A. Walter Neville was 47 years old when he died.

 

Clement Lisle Foster (1891 – 1891)

Clement Lisle died as an infant.

 

Winifred Foster (1892 –  )

Winifred Foster (1892 –  )
Winifred Foster (1892 –  )

Winnie, or Aunt Winnie as she is remembered by Auntie Gloria, never married. She had a very good job at a bank and was an independent woman. Her mother, Constance, lived with her for many years in Hastings. When Constance died in 1938, her address was “Beach Gate”, Hastings. Uncle Geoffrey remembers Winnie living at Pavilion Court when he was a little boy (circa 1950). Apparently, Winnie was very fond of art and was quite an accomplished painter.

She accompanied her mother on a trip to New York, probably in 1937, to visit their family who had made the US their home. This visit was referred to by Phyllis Foerschner, Donald Vere’s daughter, in a letter to Barrie. The highlight of the trip was seeing Yehudi Menuhin, the violinist of all time, in concert at Carnegie Hall in New York.

 

Cecil Bertram  Foster (1893 – )

Cecil Bertram  Foster (1893 - )
Cecil Bertram  Foster (1893 – )

Cecil was born on the 7th of June, 1893. He attended Harrison College from 1908 when he was 15 years old and left in 1910.

Auntie Gloria (Goddard), Cecil’s daughter, told me that he met his wife, Stella Arnold, in Guadeloupe where he worked in the sugar industry. Stella was born in St. Kitts, but she spoke fluent French and she too was working in Guadeloupe at a bank. The young couple actually built a house there, but, unfortunately, Cecil contracted malaria and before they could move in to their new home, they had to return to Barbados.

Upon their return, Cecil worked as Chief Field Officer, assisting with the development of new strains of the sugar cane plant. Auntie Gloria remembers living in one of the apartments that made up the Married Women’s Quarters located along a road that ran behind where the Barbados Museum now stands.

The family later moved to “Woodside”, a beautifully appointed house with spacious grounds. According to his daughter, Cecil was very particular about his work uniform. This consisted of a pair of brown shoes which he polished every day after work, long socks, khaki shorts, a white shirt and a broad brimmed white hat! She pictures him in his uniform leaving for work in the family car, an Overland. Cecil was a very quiet man who loved to read, unlike Kelly, his brother, who was very active in sports, especially football, music and acting in plays.

 

Kenneth Roy Cromartie Foster (1895 – )

Roy Foster Remembered
By
Chris Spencer
Kenneth Roy Cromartie Foster (1895 – )
Kenneth Roy Cromartie Foster (1895 – )

In the early years Roy showed an interest in sport and was a keen footballer.   Unfortunately, a cycling accident when he was very young caused an injury to his left leg resulting in a permanent limp. Despite this, he later developed considerably skill at lawn tennis – his back hand was said to be unreturnable!

As a young adult he immigrated to America with my aunt Leila where they were married.   They did not, however, remain for any length of time in the US and soon returned to Barbados.

He joined the staff of R.M. Jones & Company, eventually becoming a director of the firm where he worked until retirement.

Roy and Leila had no children. However, I lived with them from infancy and was raised as their own.   Known always to me as Fossie, Roy was passionately fond of music. He had a pleasing light tenor voice and played the violin, being largely self-taught. Some of my earliest memories are of musical family gatherings where my Aunt Vi, who played and taught the piano, would accompany in performances of songs and instrumental music (Leila also played the guitar). They were fond of late Victorian and Edwardian ballads which were still popular at the time.

Roy’s abiding passion – much more than a hobby – was his collection of gramophone records which continued to grow over the years. He was always changing and upgrading speakers, amplifiers, etc, with the latest equipment. On arriving home after work he would have his ‘tea’, then put on a stack of records- automatic coupling was the latest thing then – and listen quietly while reclining in his favourite armchair, until supper, after which he would turn the records over and continue to listen until bedtime. Thus it was that I grew up being exposed to great orchestras, conductors and soloists. So important was it to him that his listening would not be interrupted, he would not allow a telephone anywhere in the house! To this day it is a mystery to me how, as a businessman, he got away with this even in those more relaxed times!

The impression should not be gained that Roy was in any way a recluse. He did have a social life and in his younger days, as a keen member of Summerhayes Tennis Club, his circle of friends included the Gale family (Val and Louis) and others.

He was an avid reader, owning a comprehensive collection of books, fiction and non-fiction.   I remember in the days before I learned to read fluently, his reading aloud to me the Iliad, not a children’s version, but an English translation of the original Greek. It is not surprising therefore that I enjoy reading as much as I do. He had a great influence on me growing up and I regarded him as a loving and caring father. I am forever grateful that through him I was afforded the opportunity to study music in London.

Roy was not a religious man in the formal sense as he did not adhere to any prescribed dogma. Throughout his life he gave help to others anonymously, often unknown to the individual recipients themselves. His core values were simple: Love is better than hate, forgiveness and mercy are better than vengeance, and tolerance is better than prejudice and bigotry. In life we should strive to follow the golden rule in all our dealings with each other – not for hope of reward but simply because of our common humanity.

Annie Kathleen Foster (1896 – 1975)

Annie Kathleen Foster (1896 - 1975
Annie Kathleen Foster (1896 – 1975

Annie Kathleen Foster was born on the 27th, October, 1896. She was one of two of the Foster girls that attended Queen’s College. She is listed as a student there in 1912. A note in the school register states the she had previously attended a private school for three years. Her address was c/o Mr. Foster, Military Prison, St. Ann’s, Garrison.

Kathleen married C.L. Abrams who was a magistrate. They lived in Strathclyde. When her younger sister, Eileen, died of cancer, the Abrams looked after her daughter, Ruth. The Abrams had no children of their own.

Kathleen was buried in Westbury Cemetery on August 12th, 1975. She was 78 years old. Her address at the time of her death was Garden Gap, Worthing, Christ Church.

 

 

Gladys May Foster (1899 – 1899)

Gladys May died as an infant

 

 

Constance Eileen Foster ( 1901- )

Constance Eileen Foster ( 1901- )
Constance Eileen Foster ( 1901- )

Constance Eileen was born on the 21st of February 1901. She was one of the Fosters who emigrated to the U.S. in the 1920’s. She married Percy Reece and they had a son who died as an infant, and a daughter, Ruth. When Eileen and Percy divorced, mother and daughter returned to Barbados. Uncle Geoffrey remembers Ruth living with Winnie at Pavillion Court (1940’s). This might indicate that Eileen was still alive at that time. However, when Eileen died, Ruth lived with Kathleen before she returned to the U.S to live with her father.

 

Donald Vere Foster (1902 – 1982)

Donald Vere Foster (1902 – 1982)
Donald Vere Foster (1902 – 1982)

Donald was born in Barbados (26-04-1902) where he worked as a wireless operator before emigrating to the U.S.A. in the early 1920’s.

The following paragraphs are taken from a letter, written to Barrie by his daughter, Phyllis.

“I remember a visit to our home (in New York) by Grandma Foster (Constance) and Aunt Winnie. My father talked about this visit often because the highlight was obtaining tickets to Yehudi Menuhin in concert. They were able to see him perform close up as they were given seats on the stage because the house was full. This event was quite a thrill, as my father loved the violin. After my mother died in 1981, Dad returned to his violin.

In 1963 my parents visited Barbados; my father’s only visit since coming to America. This trip was in quest of getting a copy of his original birth certificate. There was a discrepancy in the date, and he was in need of the right info for retirement purposes. I know he saw his sister, Kathleen, at that time as I have some photos of that visit.”

 

Elsie Collin ( 1905 – 1962)

Elsie Collin ( 1905 – 1962)
Elsie Collin ( 1905 – 1962)

Elsie was the baby of the family. She was born on the 12th of October 1905. In 1920, she was in Form IIIB at Queen’s College. She had previously been educated at Miss Ellis’ school which she attended for two years. Her address in 1920, according to the Queen’s College register, was Edlaville in Chelsea Road. Edlaville was the Weatherhead family home at the time, so after Walter Reynold’s death in 1915, Constance must have moved there with her younger children, Eileen, Donald Vere and Elsie.

 Elsie married Donald Connor. Unfortunately, I have not been able to learn very much about her life, although Emily did send me information on her death. She died on December 20, 1962, and is buried in South Dover Cemetery, Wingdale, New York.

Certainly, by the early 1920’s, many of Walter Reynold’s and Constance’s children had immigrated to the New York area to make better lives for themselves. The difficulty and hardships that they endured in search of the American dream can be imagined as we read through some of their profiles. There is, however, a sense of strong family bonding that kept the Fosters close together. Vivien, Walter Neville (and his son, Vere), Donald Vere and Elsie made their homes in NY, and raised their families there. Eileen and Roy returned to Barbados; Eileen because she and her husband were divorced, Roy because he and his wife, Leila (nee Spencer), chose not to stay.

Of those that remained in Barbados, Arthur Reynold (“Kelly”) married Annie Waite a year after he left Harrison College and entered the Civil Service. Cecil, after working in Guadeloupe, returned home to continue his career in agriculture. Kathleen became Mrs. C.L. Abrams and Winnie remained a spinster all her life. Constance lived with Winnie in Hastings until she died in 1938. Her address at the time of her death was “Beach Gate”, Hastings.

 

Constance Foster (nee Leacock)

Constance Foster (nee Leacock)
Constance Foster (nee Leacock)

 

The Foster Girls

 

 

Back Row (left – right):

Elsie Foster, May Stephens (nee Arnold), Winnie Foster, Robert Arnold (May’s brother).

Front Row (left – right):

Mrs. Arnold (mother of May and Robert above also of Stella Arnold who married Cecil Foster)

Kathleen Foster (who married C. L. Abrams)

Constance Foster (nee Leacock) mother of Elsie, Winnie and Kathleen.

 

 

Note: This is part 3 of a 4 part series which chronicles  the descendants of Samuel Foster, the butcher from St. Andrews, Barbados.  The articles were researched and written by Dennis “Denny” Foster  who lives in Barbados.  

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SAMUEL JAMES FOSTER (1825 – 1903)

Chapter two – The Fosters, Descendants of Samuel Foster, butcher from St. Andrew

SAMUEL JAMES FOSTER (1825 – 1903)

On 10th, January, 1856, Samuel James Foster and Catharine Ann King were married in St. George’s Parish Church. Samuel James’ address was recorded on the marriage certificate as “The Farm” where he was a planter.  Samuel’s occupation was also recorded as a planter on the certificate. Interestingly enough, in 1853, a John Henry Forster, aged 27 years, died on “The Farm” estate. It is probable that the Fosters that lived and worked on The Farm in St. George were all close relatives.

Marriage Certificate Samuel James Foster and Catherine Ann King on January 10, 1856
Marriage Certificate Samuel James Foster and Catherine Ann King on January 10, 1856

Catharine Ann King’s address at the time of the marriage was King’s Cot. King’s Cot was located near to Thorpe’s Cottage in the Walker’s area in St. George. The Fosters and the Kings appear to have been very closely connected to The Farm. In 1882, when Annie Constance, Samuel James’ and Catharine Ann’s daughter, married George Ernest King, her first cousin, Samuel James was the manager of The Farm. John Thomas King, George Ernest’s father, although deceased by 1882, had also been a planter at The Farm. John Thomas’ wife was Mary Elizabeth Whitehall, a niece of the owner of The Farm, E.H. Whitehall. George Ernest’s occupation at the time of his marriage was “planter” at The Farm. So, the Fosters and Kings both worked and lived at The Farm for at least two generations.

It is noteworthy that neither Samuel James nor Catharine Ann attended the wedding of their daughter, Annie Constance, to George Ernest King. The wedding took place at St. Augustine Chapel in St. George on the 1st, April, 1882. The Anglican priest was J. Went King and the witnesses were C.T. King and J. T. King. Catharine Ann died on the 4th, April, 1882, a few days after the wedding. This would explain the absence of both of Annie’s parents at her wedding. However, the inter-marriage would not have sat well with members of either family.

Edward. H. Whitehall owned The Farm from 1842 – 1871. This covered most of the time that Samuel James and Catharine Ann lived at The Farm. Robert Challenor Jr., who married Mary Whitehall, E. H. Whitehall’s daughter, in 1868, was the owner from 1879 – 1887.

In 1879, The Farm consisted of 239 acres, with a steam mill driven by an 8 hp engine. (Bowen & Sons and C.F. Harrison’s 1887 edition)

The factory yard at The Farm was around four acres. As one entered the yard, a coral stone boundary wall extended the entire length of the yard up the right side and along the boundary at the back of the yard in an L (inverted) shape. This wall also served as the back wall for the stables and other animal sheds. The land sloped away down the left side into a gully. The boiler house with a cooling pond was located to the left of the yard, while the horse stables and mule/oxen pens were on the right. The manager’s residence was set back in the yard on a gentle uphill slope that dropped away to an orchard behind the house. The house was a wooden structure on a coral stone foundation with substantial storage rooms for provisions underneath. Beyond the orchard, along the back wall were the pig and cattle pens. There may well have been another house towards the back of the yard behind the boiler house. Two evergreens on either side of the entrance completed The Farm’s yard.

Photo showing remains of the boundary wall of the Factory yard
Photo showing remains of the boundary wall of the Factory yard

 

Although there would most certainly have been a wind mill on site to grind the cane prior to the steam driven mill, there might also have been a water mill. It is reported that there was a well over 200’ deep in the yard.

Not far from the yard there is a small quarry where the coral stone for the buildings and the boundary walls would have been cut.

Directions to The Farm factory yard ruins
Directions to The Farm factory yard ruins

It was here that Samuel James’ and Catharine Ann’s children were born and raised. There were eight children in all, but only six survived to adulthood. The firstborn, Clement Allan, died when he was three years old, while the first girl, Emma Burton, died as an infant.

The six children that survived were: Walter Reynold (b. 1859), Annie Constance (b. 1861), Samuel Clement (b. 1862), Allan Percy (b. 1864), Arnold Evans (b. 1866) and Rupert Darcy (b. 1868). All of the children were baptized at St. George’s Parish Church. Samuel James, Catharine Ann and their two infant children, Clement Allan and Emma Burton, were also buried there.

 St. George Parish Church, Barbados
St. George Parish Church, Barbados

Before profiling the life of Walter Reynold Foster, my great grandfather, in as much detail as is possible, let’s take a look at his brothers and sister. Please understand that these profiles are very incomplete because it is extremely difficult to gather enough accurate information to paint a reasonably complete picture of each member of the family. It is somewhat easier to recognize the general trend that our family worked their way out of the “poor white” environment of the St. Andrew Fosters in the early 1800’s by Samuel James working his way up the ladder to become manager of The Farm in St. George by the late 19th Century. It is interesting to note, however, that by the end of the century, all of his children, having benefited from an elementary education, left the “factory yard” to work and live in, or in very close proximity to, Bridgetown. This exodus away from the sugar plantations in to the mercantile community must have been a consistent trend with many “white” Barbadian families at the time, especially those families that still did not own land.

 It is also interesting to note that, although Samuel James’ and Catharine Anne’s sons all pursued careers in Bridgetown, none of them ever owned their own business. Some earned enough to purchase their homes, but generally, the entrepreneurial spirit necessary to start and develop a business enterprise was not forthcoming in this generation of Fosters.

 

Annie Constance  Foster (1861 – circa 1940’s)

 Annie Constance and George Ernest King had four children. According to her great grandson, Dr. George King, Annie was still alive in the 1940’s, although when he went to visit her as a little boy, she was bedridden and not very lucid. At this time, she lived in Hastings with her daughter, May. George Ernest died in 1894 when he was only 34 years old, so Annie could not have had an easy time raising their four children. Rupert Darcy, her youngest brother, was certainly a great help to her after he married in 1910 because he provided a home for Annie and her two daughters in Belmont Road next door to his family’s home, “Abbeville”.

Samuel Clement (1862 – 1936)
Samuel Clement (1862 – 1936)

Paul Foster, Samuel Clement’s grandson, has written about his grandfather.  Although Paul’s memoirs are unfinished, he says it best:

“Our grandfather Samuel Clement Foster was born in 1862. He ran away from home when he was 14. He and his father could not get along with each other. At 14, he must have had the equivalent of what we know today as “an elementary education”. He secured his first job at 14 in Bridgetown. His wages were six cents a day. In due course he bought books and studied and improved himself culturally and financially, eventually becoming a stevedore with DaCosta and Company.”

 In 1881, however, Samuel Clement decided to change his career path as Barrie discovered while researching the validity of the story that his older brother, Walter Reynold, had joined an Irish regiment as a youngster. She writes:

“I did find a record for his brother Samuel Clement at National Archives, UK under Registers of Seamen’s Services.  It seems he served on board the “Tenedos” a few months in 1881 (before his mother died).”

 Barrie’s research followed HMS Tenedos and Samuel Clement on their journey:

“As far as I can tell, the “Tenedos” was in Barbados waters in April 1881.  It then sailed to Bermuda and by the end of May was in Halifax.  It seemed to be based there that year as it went back and forth to other ports in that area.  Then towards the middle of October 1881, it headed back to Bermuda where it had to be docked en route to Jamaica. Samuel Clement’s connection with the “Tenedos” was from 21st April 1881 to 14 August 1881.  His trade is shown as Clerk.  So my questions are:  (1) was he working for a Shipping Agent in B’dos as at 1881?  (2) then worked his way over to Halifax on board the Tenedos?  He would have been age 19 then, and it probably was his first connection to Nova Scotia.  Paul mentions in his story that he bought the lumber from Nova Scotia to build “Boylston”.

By 1884 he was back in Barbados as that was where he and Gertrude were married.  Some years later passenger lists show that he and Gertrude made many trips to Canada & USA and in one particular year (I think it was 1907 while touring over 4 months) their final destination was Halifax.  His occupation by that time is listed as Shipping Agent.”

Paul continues:

“He married our grandmother, Gertrude O’Riordan on February 26th 1884 at St.Patrick’s

Roman Catholic Church on Jemmotts Lane. She was Irish, with a name like O’Riordan what else. They had two sons and four daughters.

 The last two daughters were twins but they did not live long after they were born. Our father was their eldest son, James Percival Roynan (Percy) Foster. He was born on March 7th 1891.

                                                     

In 1905 our grandfather was able to buy “The Barracks Store” (located) on the eastern side of the Garrison Savannah at a cost of L150.00 sterling. In 1905 he would have been 43. He purchased the lumber to convert the Barracks Store into the family home from Boylston, Nova Scotia in 1905. He called their new home “Boylston”.

 We have little information on our father’s early life, except that before they moved to Boylston the family lived in a house at the top of Dalkeith Hill. My father said he went to school at a small private school at the bottom of Chelsea Road, near the Bay Street end. He used a tricycle with iron wheels to travel to school. I have a memory that the teachers were members of the Collymore family and he told me that he and Frank Collymore were close childhood friends. Frank Collymore became a literary icon in Barbados.

 Our mother Kathleen Garner Bellamy (Kitty) was born in British Guiana (now Guyana) on December 5th 1901. Our parents met when our father traveled to British Guiana (BG) in 1917 to be Best Man at his brother, Mike’s marriage to Mary King. Mike had settled in BG several years earlier and had become a successful commission agent.

 Our mother was the bridesmaid and it was love at first sight. My father returned to BG the following year and the engagement was announced.

 On the morning of May 24th 1919 my father and his parents arrived in Georgetown aboard the SS Parima for the wedding. They were married the same afternoon May 24th. She was only 19 years of age. The newly weds left for Barbados in the same vessel on the day after the wedding.

 Our parents set up their first home in one of the apartments in Pavilion Court, Hastings, but later, just before I was born on May 27th 1925, they moved into an apartment off the ground floor at “Boylston” that Granddad built especially for us. The following year my sister Jessica was born on July 27th 1926. About 1927 our parents moved into “Cottage Louise” a middle class bungalow in St.Matthias Gap in Christ Church, obliquely opposite St.Matthias Church.”

Samuel Clement died on the 4th, November, 1936. He was buried at St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church.

 

Allan Percy Foster (1864 -  1941)
Allan Percy Foster (1864 –  1941)

Allan Percy was born on the 14th, January 1864. He married Alice Kitchin in 1891. Interestingly enough, they were married by J. Went King, the same priest that presided over the marriage of Annie Constance and George Earnest King. Alice was the daughter of Capt. David James Kitchin from Nova Scotia. She was 18 years old when she got married. Allan and Alice had two daughters, Vera, who married Frank Groggin, and Esther, who married William Herche. Here is an extract from Paul Foster’s notes to Barrie:

“Allan Percy worked at Johnson & Redman Bakery which used to be on Broad Street (Ithink the location was actually Roebuck Street). Percy’s wife, Alice, managed the Seaview Hotel in Hastings.”

Auntie Millie, Reyn’s wife, remembers that three Foster brothers used to sit outside DaCosta’s every afternoon after work and socialize. I am thinking that the three must have been Samuel Clement, Allan Percy and Rupert Darcy.

 

Arnold Evans Foster  (1866 –  1933)

 Arnold Evans was born on the 7th, November 1866. He married Constance Maria Barrow on the 26th, December 1887. Between 1890 and 1900, they had three children; Miriam, Evan. A., and James Keith. As a young man, Arnold Evans was a merchant’s clerk in Barbados. However, in 1902, according to Miriam Feldman, Arnold’s great granddaughter,

“He moved his family to NY to expand his opportunities and give his children a better life. Constance did not adapt well to the climate in NY; she was taken ill quite frequently, so she made several return trips back to Barbados. Arnold died as the result of a mysterious assault by a mentally ill person at Bellevue Hospital in NYC. My Grandmother, Miriam Elise Foster-Kyle, worked to help educate her two younger brothers Evan and Keith.”

 To clarify how Arnold died, Miriam further explained as follows:

“The name of the hospital Arnold Foster died at was Belleview (Bellevue). It is the oldest public hospital in the US and has a famous psychiatric facility. Arnold was a cardiac patient; the other patient escaped from the psychiatric ward and he came across Arnold and attacked and killed him.”

 Although all of Samuel James’ children left the plantation life and moved to the Bridgetown area to earn a living, Arnold Evans was the first Foster to seek a better life “over and away”. The difficulties of starting over can only be imagined in the above description of what life must have been like for his family living in Manhattan, Ward 12, in the early 1900’s.

 

Rupert Darcy  Foster (1868 – 1955)

 

Rupert Darcy Foster (1868 - 1955)
Rupert Darcy Foster (1868 – 1955)

Rupert “Darcy”was born at The Farm on 17th, November, 1869. He attended a private school in St. George; no doubt the same “elementary” school that his brothers and sister would have gone to. Samuel Evan, his son, recalls that his father told him that the headmaster was very strict and did not spare the rod! Although Rupert wanted to further his studies so that he could be ordained as an Anglican priest, he never fulfilled his ambition because he had to look after his father until his death in 1903.  This suggests that Samuel James suffered a prolonged illness or was not financially secure after he retired from The Farm in 1888.

 

This would also account for Rupert marrying so late in life. He married Susie Eleanor (better known as “Nellie”) Boyce in 1910 at James Street Methodist Church. “Darcy” and Nellie had five children – Daphne, Phyllis, Dorothy, Samuel Evan and Geoffrey. They were all baptized at James Street Methodist Church. “Darcy”, as might be expected, became a lay preacher and preached at Methodist churches around Barbados; but particularly, at James Street Methodist Church.

 

He worked all of his working life at Ince & Co., a general grocery store located in Roebuck Street. When he retired in 1943, due to blindness caused by cataracts, he was manager of the store.

 

“Darcy” and his family lived in Belmont Road. The house that they lived in, Abbeville, was owned by Nellie’s mother, but when she died, the Foster’s inherited the property. There was a small cottage next to Abbeville where Annie and her two daughters, May and Annie, lived for many years.

 

Note: This is part 2 of a 4 part series which chronicles  the descendants of Samuel Foster, the butcher from St. Andrews, Barbados.  The articles were researched and written by Dennis “Denny” Foster  who lives in Barbados.  

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St Andrew Parish, Barbados

Chapter One – The Fosters, Descendants of Samuel Foster, butcher from St. Andrew

SAMUEL FOSTER

Butcher & Planter from St. Andrew.

Samuel Foster and Elisabeth (?) had a son, Samuel James, who was baptized on the 19th, December, 1825, in the parish of St. Andrew. Samuel’s occupation at the time was listed as “butcher”. This information is seen on Page 3 of the church register of BAPTISMS solemnized in the Parish of SAINT ANDREW, in the Island of BARBADOS in the year 1825 and 1826.

St. Andrew Parish Church, Barbados
St. Andrew Parish Church, Barbados

 

Unfortunately, there are no records for the parish of St. Andrew prior to 1825. Apparently, the registers were taken to England by Rev. John Brome, the incumbent of the parish. He died in 1828 in London, however, and the registers have never been recovered.

Although there is plenty of evidence of Fo(r)sters living in Barbados from as early as 1628, it has proven impossible to trace our family history with any certainty beyond Samuel Foster, the butcher from St. Andrew, circa 1800.

Common sense, however, suggests that a butcher from St. Andrew, whose son was born in 1825 in that parish, would himself have been born in Barbados of parents that were likely to have been Barbadian as well. Further, we can assume that the parents of a butcher from St. Andrew were not substantial land owners, or owned land at all. All of these assumptions point to a family of “poor whites”, or, perhaps, a branch of a Foster family that had once been land owners, but which, through the years, had lost their land and their wealth and had, therefore, been marginalized to the parish of St. Andrew. The Foster surname is still very prevalent in the Chalky Mount/Cambridge area.

The first Forster that was connected to Barbados was Edmund Forster. He was a merchant in London who was contracted by the Earl of Carlisle, along with other London merchants, to finance an expedition to colonize the island in 1628 under the command of Charles Wolferstone. The merchants who backed the venture were granted 10,000 acres between them. Edmund’s wife was Elizabeth Rawdon, the daughter of Marmaduke Rawdon, another of the London merchants who financed the venture.

“Wolferstone, accompanied by sixty four persons, arrived in Carlisle Bay, and landed on the twenty fifth day of July, one thousand six hundred and twenty eight. Each of the settlers was entitled, on his arrival, to one hundred acres of land.” (John Poyer, History of Barbados from the First Discovery of the Island in the year 1605…”)

Among the colonists was John Forster, one of Wolverstone’s captains. He married Elizabeth, the widow of Col. William Sandiford.

While it is unlikely that Edmund Forster ever set foot on Barbadian soil, there is a Rev. John Forster who is recorded as owning 100 acres in 1640. When Ligon’s map of Barbados was published in 1657, he recorded the name Foster as owning 100 acres in St. Peters.

Section of Ligon’s map published in 1657 showing that “Foster” owned 100 acres or more in St. Peters, close to All Saints Church.
Section of Ligon’s map published in 1657 showing that “Foster” owned 100 acres or more in St. Peters, close to All Saints Church.

Section of Ligon’s map published in 1657 showing that “Foster” owned 100 acres or more in St. Peters, close to All Saints Church.

This property was known as Ellis Castle. It was situated close to All Saints Church and on Richard Ford’s map of the island, dated 1674, Rev. John Foster’s neighbors were the Sandifords, Gays, Yeamans and Berringers. It is more than likely that Captain John Forster and Rev. John Forster is the same person. Rev. John Forster’s daughter, the infamous Margaret, is alleged to have conspired with her lover, Col. John Yeamans, in the murder of her husband, Col. Benjamin Berringer, in 1661.

Section of Richard Ford’s map of 1674 showing “Foster” owning land in St. Peters
Section of Richard Ford’s map of 1674 showing “Foster” owning land in St. Peters

Margaret subsequently married Col. Yeamans and they immigrated to South Carolina where he became governor.

Section of Richard Ford’s map of 1674 showing “Foster” owning land in St. Peters

Richard Ford’s map of 1674 also confirms that two Foster’s owned large tracts of land “Belowe the Cliffe” in St. Joseph and St. John.

Section of Richard Ford’s map of 1674 showing “Foster” owning land in St. Joseph and St. John
Section of Richard Ford’s map of 1674 showing “Foster” owning land in St. Joseph and St. John

These Foster’s were cousins, Thomas and George. In George’s will dated 1670 he mentions “land bounding cousin Thomas Foster”. George’s wife was Hester (nee Smith?) Foster. In 1680 Thomas owned 188 acres in St. Joseph, while Hester owned 133 1/3 acres in St. John.

These Foster’s were Quakers. Hester is listed as a Quakeress in Barbados in 1677. She attended meetings at Thicketts and Clift. (The Journal of the Barbados Museum & Historical Society, Vol. IX, pg 195-197.)

Her husband, George, who converted to the faith in 1660, was a known activist in the cause of the Quakers. “Foster was one of five Quakers who sent a lengthy letter to Governor William Lord Willoughby, the Council, and Assembly in 1669 detailing the “sufferings of some of us People called Quakers in this island”. He was described as “a prosperous sugar planter in St. John parish who also had property in Bridgetown.” (The Quaker Community in Barbados: challenging the culture of the planter class” by Larry Dale Gragg)

By 1721, Thomas’ grandson, the Hon. George Foster, a member of the House of Assembly for St. Joseph from 1721-1724, owned Belowe the Cliff plantation and it remained in the Foster family until the mid 1700’s when it became the property of the Hon. Henry Evans Holder who had married Elizabeth Foster, a grand daughter of the Hon. George Forster. When it was sold to Benjamin Alleyne Cox in 1781, the name Belowe the Cliff had already been changed to Foster Hall plantation.

Is it possible that these Fo(r)ster families were connected? Which branch does Samuel come from? These are questions that we do not have the answers for. However, it is not unreasonable to assume that our Samuel Foster is a descendant of a long line of Foster’s that lived in the St. Andrew/St. Joseph area for generations.

We must also remember that the first laborers on these developing sugar plantations were indentured servants imported from England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. There were certainly Fosters among them. In 1658, for instance, one Thomas Foster sailed to Barbados from Bristol as an indentured servant. In 1659, Edward Foster from Dorsetshire followed, and in 1669, another Thomas Foster left Bristol to work as an indentured servant on the island. (Centre for Barbados Studies in History and Genealogy)

So, all of the early Fosters in Barbados were not necessarily prosperous land owners. Maybe, Samuel was a descendant of one of these “poor whites”. One thing is certain, the Fo(r)ster name in Barbados dates back to Carlysle’s expedition in 1628. Hopefully, the missing link between Samuel, the butcher from St. Andrew, and his ancestors will be discovered one day.

Note: This is part 1 of a 4 part series which chronicles the descendants of Samuel Foster, the butcher from St. Andrews, Barbados. The articles were researched and written by Dennis “Denny” Foster who lives in Barbados.

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Trevor Maxwell Wyndham Gittens (1949-2011)

Trevor Maxwell Wyndham Gittens (1949-2011)

I was very saddened recently to learn of the passing of Trevor who died on November 3, 2011, following a battle with ALS.

A service of thanksgiving was held November 9th at 2:00PM at St. Matthias Church, Hastings, Barbados. Internment followed at Westbury Cemetery.

Trevor and I first connected through my family history web site where we discovered that we were related, albeit very distantly as half 9th cousins. At least that’s what the genealogy program told us.

Donna and I first met Trevor over lunch in 2008, during our first visit to Barbados. By the time we finished lunch, which took over 3 hours, Trevor’s warm and friendly manner made us feel like we had known him all our lives. We again met Trevor, Valerie and their boys in our next two Barbados visits.

We will really miss Trevor in our future trips to the island.

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Henry Selman Leach (1891-1975)

A life Sketch – Henry Selman Leach (1891-1975)

Introduction

What a surprise it was to receive this e-mail a few weeks ago from Carolyn Hawkins who lives in England.

“Dear Cliff,

I just googled my grandfather’s name (Henry Selman Leach) and solved a huge mystery.  I am at present in my mother’s house and we spent an hour in total amazement and astonishment.  My mother, Barbara Ellen Clinkett Mair (nee Leach) was born in 1921 in Saskatoon to Henry Selman Leach and his wife Molly (nee Dowler) who died 28 March 1948 in England.

After exchanging e-mail’s with Carolyn I learned that Henry Selman Leach and his first wife Molly had a daughter, Barbara Ellen Clinkett Leach.  Henry and Molly separated in the late 1920’s.  Molly and her daughter Barbara move to Italy and Barbara never saw her father again and had no knowledge of her father’s whereabouts.

To make the story more interesting, Henry Selman Leach married a second time and had three more children.   Henry’s second family knew of Henry’s marriage to Molly and that Henry and Molly had a daughter, but they had no further information about the daughter.

Well, what a delight it was to bring these two families of Henry Selman Leach together, as a result of my web site.

I have prepared a Life Sketch of Henry Selman Leach and will be publishing it in two parts, the first of which follows.

Part I  Covering the Years 1891 to 1930

Henry Selman Leach (“Harry”) was born February 27, 1891 in Bridgetown Barbados, the son of  Joseph Seale Leach ( 1858-1905) and Ellan “Amey” Letitia Clinkett (1863-1951).   Harry had a sister Edith Gretton Leach who married Julian “Ben” Hyde Gittens in 1911.  Edith and Ben had three daughters.  Harry also had a brother John “Jack” Clinkett Leach who died in 1905 at age 16.  Family stories say that he died in a dentist chair.

Harry’s father died in about 1905 when Harry was 14 years old.  After his father’s death Harry was raised by his maternal grandfather, Abel Clinckett (1828-1912).  Harry was very fond of his grandfather and often spoke very highly of him.  Harry was educated at Harrison College and was an avid cricket player.  There is not very much else know about Harry’s early life in Barbados.

Harry’s first job at age 17, was with the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company.  He worked there for about a year and a half, from July 1908 until January 1910.  The Royal Mail Steam Packet Company was a British shipping company founded in London in 1839 by Scot James Macqueen. After good and bad times it became the largest shipping group in the world in 1927 when it took over the White Star Line.  The company ran into financial trouble, and the British government investigated its affairs in 1930, resulting in the Royal Mail Case.  Chairman Lord Kylsant was imprisoned in 1931 for misrepresenting the state of the company to shareholders. So much of Britain’s shipping industry was involved in RMSPC that arrangements were made to guarantee the continuation of ship operations after it was liquidated.

Harry was next employed in the Civic Service of Barbados for three year, after which time he immigrated to Canada.  Harry arrived in New York City aboard the ship Suriname on 25 February 1913, just 2 days before his 22nd birthday.  The ship’s passenger list stated his final destination as Toronto, Canada.

Harry’s first job in Canada was with the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce where he was employed from April 1913 until June 1916.  It is not entirely clear whether Harry then lived in Montreal or Toronto.    Apparently Harry brought several bottles of Rum with him when he immigrated to Canada, and it seems this made him very popular with his fellow employees.  Harry also played on the Bank’s cricket team.

The Molson Bank Building on Saint Jacques Street in Old Montreal.

Harry’s next employment was with Molson Bank in Montreal.  The Molson Bank (sometimes labeled Molsons Bank) was a Canadian bank founded in Montreal, Quebec, by brothers William (1793–1875) and John Molson, Jr. (1787–1860), the sons of brewery magnate John Molson.  Harry worked for Molson Bank from February 1916 until he enlisted in the Canadian Army.

Harry enlisted in the Canadian Army on January 7, 1918, in Montreal, Quebec.   He was a clerk in the 1St Depot Battalion, 1stQuebec Regiment and was promoted to Corporal on March 19, 1918, while in Montreal.  He shipped overseas aboard the S/S City of Marseilles and left Montreal May 15, 1918 and arrived in London, England on June 5, 1918.  He was subsequently stationed in Bramshott England, and then served in France and Belgium.  Henry was discharged after the war on March 29, 1919 having served  15 months.

CITY OF MARSEILLES Launched 1912

Harry ‘s son Jack recalls his father telling him that ”He was wounded when a bullet went through his wrist and he also told me he took shrapnel in his chest.  When I was a boy he used to let me feel where the bullet entered and left his wrist.”

Harry was award two service medals

  1. The British War Medal – Instituted in 1919 to commemorate the successful conclusion of the Great War, and the arduous services rendered by His Majesty’s Forces.  The Army awarded it to those who entered a theatre of war on duty between 5th August 1914 and 11th November 1918, both dates inclusive.
  2. Victory Medal – The medal was issued to all those who received the 1914 Star or the 1914-15 Star, and to most of those who were awarded the British War Medal – it was never awarded singly.

After returning to civilian life Harry was employed with the Merchants Bank of Canada (which in 1921 merged with the Bank of Montreal).  Harry started with the bank on a temporary basis December 3, 1919.  In December 1919, he became a full staff member and was posted to Saskatoon.

 

Harry also married after returning to civilian life.  In about 1920, Harry married Minnie “Molly” Etta Dowler in Montreal.  Family lore has it that when Molly arrived in Canada from England she became engaged to someone in the Canadian Army who was killed in action in Europe.  Further, this someone was a friend of Harry’s.  Unfortunately, we don’t know anything more about Harry’s friendship with this someone, but we can conclude that this friendship in some manner brought Harry and Molly together into their marriage.  In Saskatoon, on September 11, 1921 Harry and Molly’s only child, a daughter Barbara Ellen Clinkett Leach was born.

Harry’s son Jack recalls his father telling him about life in Saskatoon just after the war.  “They must have moved to Saskatoon shortly after the war as my Dad told me he would dive for the closest doorway when he heard a car backfire. It was in the winter as he told me it got so cold one day, the window blew out of The Hudson Bay store.”

Harry resigned from the bank of Montreal in March 1922 leaving Saskatoon and returning to Montreal.  In the same year Harry, Molly and their daughter Barbara, departed Halifax bound for Barbados.  For some unknown reason Barbara remained in Barbados and stayed with the Clarke family of Bridgetown.  Barbara was baptized at St. Cyprians Church,  Bridgetown in 1922.  Henry and Molly returned to Canada aboard the ship Chignecto arriving in St. John, New Brunswick on 10 September 1923.  The ship’s passsenger list noted that Henry was a Clerk and he intended to be an accountant.

Barbara returned to (Montreal) Canada for her schooling at age 6 aboard the vessel Canadian Pathfinder from Barbados to St. John, New Brunswick arriving 20 September 1927.  Barbara was traveling with Agnes Lavinia Clarke, who it is assumed was the person who cared for Barbara in Barbados.

Henry and Molly separated in the late 1920’s.  After the separation Molly met a retired professor from McGill University in Montreal.  Molly and Barbara left Canada in about 1930 with the Professor and went to live in San Remo, Italy.  They stayed there until just after the Munich Crisis in 1937, when it looked as though Europe was on the brink of war and came to England to settle.  Molly died in England on 28 March 1948.  Molly was cremated and no burial site exists.

Barbara, Molly’s daughter, married Michael Mair in 1945, in England and they had three children.  Michael passed away in 1991 and is survived by Barbara who currently lives in England.

Regrettably Barbara never saw or heard from her father again, and her mother (Molly) gave her no information of his whereabouts.

Part II of this Life Sketch will follow shortly.

Many thanks to Jack Leach and Carolyn Hawkins for their assistance in writing this life sketch.  As always any errors or corrections that may be required to the above sketch are appreciated.  The beauty of electronic publishing is the ability to make corrections as required.

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Stede Bonnet – The Gentleman Pirate

Introduction:

Family history research often uncovers small surprises and the pirate Stede Bonnet is one of them.  Recently Andrew Gomes who lives in Edmonton e-mailed me telling that Stede Bonnet, the Gentleman Priate, was the great-grandfather of Anne Thomasine Clarke, the wife of General Robert Haynes, who for 36 years was Speaker of the Assembly of Barbados.

After a bit of intricate research I was indeed able to prove the family relationship between Anne Thomasine Clarke and Stede Bonnet.  Unfortunately, us Gittens folks are not directly related to Stede Bonnet but all of the Clarke family in my database are related to him.

Stede Bonnet (c. 1688 – December 10, 1718) was an early 18th-century Barbadian pirate, sometimes called “the gentleman pirate” because he was a moderately wealthy landowner before turning to a life of crime.  Bonnet was born into a wealthy English family on the island of Barbados, and inherited the family estate after his father’s death in 1694.  In 1709, he married Mary Allamby, and engaged in some level of militia service.  Because of marital problems, and despite his lack of sailing experience, Bonnet decided to turn to piracy in the summer of 1717.   In A General History of the PyratesCharles Johnson wrote that Bonnet was driven to piracy by Mary’s nagging and “[d]iscomforts he found in a married State.  He bought a sixty-ton sloop, which he equipped with six guns named the Revenge, and traveled with his paid crew along the Eastern Seaboard of what is now the United States, capturing other vessels and burning other Barbadian ships.

Details of Bonnet’s military service are unclear, but he held the rank of major in the Barbados militia.  The rank was probably due to his land holdings, since deterring slave revolts was an important function of the militia. Bonnet’s militia service coincided with the War of the Spanish Succession, but there is no record that he took part in the fighting.

Bonnet set sail for Nassau, Bahamas, but he was seriously wounded en route during an encounter with a Spanish warship.  After arriving in Nassau, Bonnet met Edward Teach, the infamous pirate Blackbeard. Incapable of leading his crew, Bonnet temporarily ceded his ship’s command to Blackbeard. Before separating in December 1717, Blackbeard and Bonnet plundered and captured merchant ships along the East Coast.  After Bonnet failed to capture the Protestant Caesar, his crew abandoned him to join Blackbeard aboard the Queen Anne’s Revenge.  Bonnet stayed on Blackbeard’s ship as a guest, and did not command a crew again until summer 1718, when he was pardoned by North Carolina governor Charles Eden and received clearance to go privateering against Spanish shipping.  Bonnet was tempted to resume his piracy, but did not want to lose his pardon, so he adopted the alias “Captain Thomas” and changed his ship’s name to Royal James.  He had returned to piracy by July 1718.

In August 1718, Bonnet anchored the Royal James on an estuary of the Cape Fear River to careen and repair the ship. In late August and September, Colonel William Rhett, with the authorization of South Carolina governor Robert Johnson, led a naval expedition against pirates on the river. Rhett and Bonnet’s men fought each other for hours, but the outnumbered pirates ultimately surrendered. Rhett arrested the pirates and brought them to Charleston in early October. Bonnet escaped on October 24, but was recaptured on Sullivan’s Island. On November 10, Bonnet was brought to trial and charged with two acts of piracy. Judge Nicholas Trott sentenced Bonnet to death. Bonnet wrote to Governor Johnson to ask for clemency, but Johnson endorsed the judge’s decision, and Bonnet was hanged in Charleston on December 10, 1718.

 

Bonnet’s pirate flag

Bonnet's pirate flag

Bonnet’s pirate flag

Bonnet’s flag is traditionally represented as a white skull above a horizontal long bone between a heart and a dagger, all on a black field. Despite the frequent appearance of this flag in modern pirate literature, no known early-Georgian period source describes any such device, much less attributes it to Bonnet. This version of Bonnet’s flag is probably one of a number of pirate flags appearing on an undated manuscript with unknown provenance in Britain’s National Maritime Museum, which was donated by Dr. Philip Gosse in 1939. Bonnet’s crew and contemporaries generally referred to him flying a “bloody flag”,[74] which likely means a dark red flag. There is also a report from the 1718 Boston News-Letter of Bonnet flying a death’s-head flag during his pursuit of the Protestant Caesar, with no mention of color or of any long bone, heart, or dagger.[75]

Walking the plank

Bonnet is alleged to have been one of the few pirates to make his prisoners walk the plank.[76] No contemporary source makes any mention of Bonnet forcing prisoners to walk the plank, and modern scholars such as Marcus Rediker, Professor of History at the University of Pittsburgh, generally agree that the whole concept of pirates forcing prisoners to walk the plank belongs to a later age than Bonnet’s.

This post was taken from Wikipedia the free encyclopedia and the full article can be seen at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stede_Bonnet

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David Gittens

An Appreciation -A hand in many things

DAVID GITTENS, better known as “DG”, or “Mu The Jeweler” died on Monday, April 4, at his residence in Inch Marlow, Christ Church. There was no obituary on the radio or in the newspaper, no church service, no eulogy. For David, just a simple cremation. News of his death surfaced many days afterward, for that was his way.

DG was truly a “character” or a “personality”. Who could forget his appearances on Television? Advertising his black coral and silver jewellery, in a thick drawling voice, he’s say “and the price is right, daaarling, yesss the price is right”

Let us look at his many ventures:

  • Stationery salesman for Brydens and H.N. Rogers.
  • Restaurant owner at Top Rock – he even cooked the meals.
  • Owner of a top quality music shop, stocking musical instruments and LPs imported from London and United States.
  • Organizer of one of the first fencing clubs.
  • Private detective – how well he is remembered at Seawell, newspaper covering his face as he records names of locals who were returning from the islands. Perhaps he was working for jealous husbands or wives. A quick trip to St Lucia with a secretary, and your name was on his list!
  • Jeweller in Norman Centre.
  • Stockist of Masonic and esoteric books.
  • Introducer of kayaking in Barbados. He once tried to Kayak around Barbados.
David Gittens
David Gittens standing on left side.

Quite a repertoire, but music was his forte. There are photos of him in a small musical group which included Errol Barrow. He gave lessons by e-mail on playing harmonica and flute – remember his bearded face?

He was married first to Agnes Vieira, a Vincentian who worked at the Royal Bank of Canada. I recall visiting the newly-weds in Upper Bay Street – no furniture, because he considered furniture to be a low priority.

We respected his wishes and squatted of the floor. Second wife was Muriel Parris, daughter of the renowned Captain Parris. Muriel was his guardian angel, but he seemed not to believe in angels.

His religious career took several divergent avenues. He was an active Rosicrucianist, then a Bishop in the Gnostic Church, the Ordre Martiniste et Synarchiste. There was a brief flirtation with freemasonry, followed by being a Nowherian or a DG.

David once told me that he was living temporarily in New York. Down to his last $1,000, he aimlessly took a train to the end of the line. On the way, he received a “message” to return to Barbados and open a jewellery store. He alighted at the next stop and immediately took a course in gemology. Returning here, he started his business in Norman Centre.

He was not one for the safety and security of a peaceful existence. He sought forever, tried everything, but always returned to his love for music. His last few years were spent happily at his residence in Inch Marlow, watching the surfers, enjoying the beauty of that lovely stretch of beach, near to Long Beach, in an area which has not yet been discovered by many Barbadians.

Now DG is no longer among us, but he will be remembered by his many overseas friends who delighted in his knowledge of old school chums, and his local fans will search the Web, hoping for a last e-mail from “Simple Simon, as he frequently called himself.

We shall miss this unusual person. There never was anyone like DG.

The above was published in the April 21, 2011 edition of the Nation newspaper, Barbados

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