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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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David Errol Wyndham Gittens (1936-2011)

Farewell David Gittens

The following sketch of David’s life appeared in the Barbados Today publication of April 14, 2011. The author was not mentioned in the newspaper.

With sadness, I learned last week of the passing earlier that week of David Gittens, known to Barbados as DG and later in life as Mu the Jeweler.

I don’t think I remember DG from Harrison College, but made his acquaintance when he ran the Music City Record Shop in the City.

DG was a man who moved differently, for his whole life it seems. At the time he left Kolij, young men of his social grouping were expected to take a safe job in one of the established businesses in town and stay there. He ran a record store and played in a band with young black men, including Al Gilkes. That may seem like nothing of note now but in the 60s it was a very big thing and would have caused serious rumblings among certain sectors of society. The band was named The Soul Kings and its recording of Al Martino’s Mary in the Morning, featuring DG on sax and with Al rolling pretty on drums, remains a Bajan classic, sadly only heard around Independence.

One of my treasured photos is of DG and The Soul Kings playing at the Prime Minister’s residence in Culloden Road, now shamefully derelict. In that picture Prime Minister Errol Barrow can be seen playing a mean scraper, with not a security person in sight. How life has changed!

As Mu the Jeweler DG was one of the most patronized and loved businessmen in the City. The ladies loved him for his friendliness and warm sense of humour. Later, under a variety of whimsical noms de plume such as Bajan Piedpiper, Simple Simon, Le Compte D’Orient and Commander D’Orient, DG posted some entertaining videos of himself playing harmonica and wood flute on YouTube, where they can still be found.

His views on religion, mysticism and spirituality were not those held by the mainstream but DG was always in touch, his impish sense of humour keeping him grounded and yet always seemingly smiling at the pettiness of the world. One of his favourite quotations reveals the essence of the man – “Some see things as they are and say why. Others dream of things that have never been and say why not.”

Farewell, Bajan Piedpiper. You are joining an awesome band.

Special thanks to Pudding Clarke for use of his picture.

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