WorldSaga 6ii – Yeamans Story of Love and Murder

Round House has stood on the corner at the foot of the big hill in Bathsheba for over 200 years. John (later Sir John) Yeamans had it built before he shot Colonel Benjamin Berringer and fled to Carolina. The exact details of the whole affair are a bit vague but it is clear that Yearmans had an affair with Colonel Benjamin Berringers’ wife Margaret, and the rest, as they say, is history.

St. Nicholas Abbey - BarbadosIt’s about an hour horse ride from Bathsheba to the Abbey, in St Peter where the Berringers lived. Yearman rode there quite often from the Round House.. He went by day to organise workers with his friend and business partner Colin Berringer. Berringer and Yeamans were realestate speculators and planters. They were clearing the densly wooded area of cherry tree hill, with the idea of selling land to the new arrivals who were coming to Barbados. The land was fertile and ideal for agriculture besides being close to Bathsheba and the spectacular view of Xherry Tree Hill. At dinners, the Berringers and John talked of dreams, life, ambition, the military, adventure and power.

The Berringers loved his visits, but to Mrs. Berringer, John Yeamans was a saviour. She was lost in long, lonely days in a rambling mansion, tucked away in a wilderness of mahogany trees, far away from like minds and interest. Her husband did not understand her loneliness. He was content with his life, the business, the military reserves, the plantation and the stately home. Home was a magnificent Jacobean mansion that Banjamin had built and decorated with taste and antiques. It was build in the classic style of a Jacobbean mansion complete with four chimneys. Outside, the lawn stretched 100 feet to the great garden wall. Oleander, hibiscus, Ixora and tropical flowers grew, almost wild, in the formal beds. Royal palms lined the long drive. They were an established family living in luxury.

The plantation was manned by black slaves and a few white men who had come to Barbados as indentured labourers. Sugar, which was introduced to Barbados in the 1630’s, was very labor intensive and in the early days indentured labourers were recruited from England. They agreed to work for 7 years without pay in exchange for their passage and keep. But this was not enough, young English men were kidnapped and they along with convicted criminals were shipped to Barbados. Some like Henry Morgan escaped the tyranny of this system and lived as buccaneers, raiding Spanish galleons as they carted cargo between Europe and the new world. Later white labour was replaced Black African slaves from Sierra Leone, Guinea, Ghana, the Ivory Coast, Nigeria and Cameroon.

Margaret Berringer felt lost and alone. She was uncomfortable with the workers and the slaves. One white worker, now a foreman, had been a convicted criminal. He was crude and frightening. Often she stayed indoors just to avoid his stare and uncouth manner. “I am a prisoner in paradise”, she thought.

Margaret was an ambitious and determined woman who struggled with the prejudices of the day. Her father was reverend John Forester, and her upbringing was strict and conservative. She felt she had always been a prisoner of some sort, hiding her emotions, pretending to be demure and lady like, to please her parents and live up to the expectations smothering her. She married Berringer because it was somehow expected. Women had no say, they were property, but to be fair Berringer was wealthy and powerful and the idea of living in his castle-like home was intriguing. The intrigue did not last. Cherry Tree was a deserted forest where she remained hidden from everyone. Bridgetown was 2 ½ hour away by carriage, Speighstown was closer but people were moving to the south. They had few friends and no one just popped in as they did in Bridgetown.

Yeamans visits brought relief, laughter and excitement. She laughed at his jokes and loved his keen sense of the world. He understood so much, he understood her. They talked sometimes with little need of words, sensing thoughts, emotions and intentions. It seemed that they had known each other forever, even when they first met. Secretly they walked in the woods. Sometimes they rode their horses to Bathsheba and strolled along the deserted beach at Cattlewash. They found pretexts to meet whenever they could.

Benjamin was an old fashioned man. Honour and respect were the foundations of his morality. He did not want to believe his wife was unfaithful but there were rumors. He overheard workers talking, he saw secret in faces and was aware of the abrupt silence when he happened on plantation gossip. This was unusual, he connected it with Yearman and his wife. One day as he walked through the grounds he saw Nyala , a leader amongst the slaves, alone crushing cane in the windmill grinder. “What you know of the miss’s and Mr. Yeamans he asked point blank. “Some boys done see them together, he don’t got no respect that Mr. Yeamans”. Nyala never minced words.

Yeamans had become careless with his affections and Colonel Berringer, a military man of honour, had only one recourse.

The duel was a spontaneous affair, arranged with the best British manners. “You know what this means, John. You cant be with another mans wife and not expect him to do something about it”. “But I love her”, Yeamans had said. “These things happen, its not personal Benjamin”. . “All the same, no one makes a fool of me in my house and gets away with it, what will it be, pistols or sabers?”. “Why not just a good punch up, old boy, there is no need for anything fatal, Benjamin”. “Pistols then, and may the best man win”.

Yeamans did not want to kill Colonel Benjamin but he did not want to die. In a duel you can shoot to kill, to maim or miss. He was sure that Benjamin would aim to kill and that left no choice. From a distance the body is like a dartboard, aim for the middle and you have a chance of hitting somewhere. Miss and you will certainly be hit in the return volley. The two men stood back to back and on command walked the 20 paces away from each other. They turned together and fired.

Yeamans married Mrs.Berringer and moved into the Abbey, shortly after they buried Benjamin. But life was not easy. Friends and family turned against them. The 1660’s were hard times for Barbados.. There had been a locust plague in 1663 that destroyed crops across the island. A fire had burned Bridgetown to the ground and provisions were scarce. A major hurricane in 1667 blew down sheds and uprooted trees on the plantation and the drought of 1668 just about ruined them. The final blow came when the Barbados court ruled that the Abbey be returned to Berringer’s children.

In 1669 the couple packed their bags and moved to Carolina. John Yeamans became a leading figure in the founding colony. He was appointed Governor after just three years. He died a few years later and Margaret, once again lost and alone, fell into the arms of a new man and remarried.

The two Great homes of these men still stand as icons of a different age.

The Abbey now called Nicolos Abbey, was named after Berringer’s grand-daughter who married George Nicholas. It is now a private home and a designated historic property that is open for public viewing on occasion. Yeamans legacy in Barbados ended with John. There were no more deaths from duels in Barbados. Round House, built of solid coral with walls that are several feet think, has survived its rugged environment. Today the Round House is a fine guesthouse and restaurant.

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EDIT NOTES.

This story is based on fact, but the account in Campbell’s History of Barbados indicates that Berringer was poisoned and not shot. Whichever the case, it is thought that Yeamans killed Berringer or had him killed so that he could inherit his estate and his wife. The estate was eventually sold to the Cumberbatch brothers for payment of back taxes.

 

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Source: Ian R. Clayton, Originally on Barbados.org

WorldSagas 6i -Banana Bust

Ace, Drugs and Bananas

The police arrested Ace on Thursday night in a surprise raid on prime suspects. There had been a plague of break-ins for over a month and residents were angry. Big mouth, big belly John was angry and determined to take matters into his own hands if the police would not act. “Why are we paying these taxes? So you can sleep at night while thieves raid our homes”. He told them.

Big John Confrontation

Big John had stirred it up earlier by tackling Ace, vigilante style, handgun pushed down his trousers, purposefully visible over his cowboy belt and large stomach. “Come here boy” he said. “Tell me why the hell this house is the only one that has not been broken into, You got some ideas on that?. No!. I don’t suppose you do, only I think you know too well. I think YOU don’t trouble this house caus’ Janet lives here and YOU are sweet on her. No coincidence if you ask me”.

Ace is not an easy man to tackle, gun or not. He has had his share of fights and knows how to use the knife he always carries. “Best you shoot to kill” Ace said, “or you going wind up with a knife in your throat.” Janet kept the two men sane, just by being present, but the fever was started then. The neighbourhood was riled and the police were pressed to act.

The midnight raid was a success of sorts. They got their man, Ace could not account for some hands of bananas in his home.

I will miss ACE and his frequent visits to sell me coconuts, bananas and breadfruit. I will miss his fast talk, his good humor and his craziness. Like the time I saw him coming down Horse Hill with a wheelbarrow full of fruit and nuts. His tall, slender fit body, clearly straining to hold the barrow from slipping away, to hurtle down the hill like a torpedo. “Where you get the barrow?” I asked him. “Borrowed it. Gonna give it back just now, don’t you fret man. It don’t help much anyway”.

Can’t Get No Respect!

Next day he told me. “Can’t run with the barrow, when the gang is chasing you. Got into some trouble taking it back too. Like I stole it or something. Wanted to cut me up or something. Been doing a bit of running, man. This place is going to the dogs. It’s crazy man, crazy. Got these people who think I doing break and entry. Got all them young local guys, just lazy man, hanging bout for no-good, it’s bad man. They is calling me names for climbing coconut trees and selling door to door like some sort of preacher. Got no respect man. I just want to stay out of trouble.”

Get High to Cope

Ace’s craziness is helped by some natural product. “Mushrooms and herbs” he says. “get me high man, time stands still, can hear a heart beat from the top of a coconut tree, awesome, man”. He was on mushrooms the night he came across some surfers partying on the beach. It was a beautiful full moon night for their picnic of champagne and salmon sandwiches, under the silhouettes of palm trees. They saw Ace at 2:00 pm, surfboard under his arm, going for a surf. “You can’t swim here Ace”, they told him. “It’s dangerous Ace, the rip tide is too strong in the full moon and the waves will kick you down under the reef ridge. Here, have a sandwich”.

Maybe it was Ace who broke into my house twice, who knows? Drugs, even mushrooms and herbs, can alter reality so that stealing is no longer a crime, just something you have to do. Harder drugs are in the island too. Cocaine addicts are not human when the panic need strikes. They will do just about anything for a fix. Drug pushers know it, but to them an addict is cash in the bank. Addicts are to be cultivated. Dealers give away drugs to the young and the older who are bored, seeking thrills or trying to be hip, just to get them hooked. The real criminals are the drug pushers, not banana thieves and those who steal to eat.

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Disclaimer.

The names and characters in these stories are fictitious.
While some aspects may be based on individuals,
most is speculation, imagination and adaption.
Resemblance to any one character is accidental.

 

________________

Source: Ian R. Clayton, Originally on Barbados.org

WorldSagas 6 – Modern Life in a Fishing Village Bathsheba

Bathsheba - tent bay boats

This is Bathsheba, a small community nestled about a thin road that stretches for a few miles on the edge of a rugged coast. It lies at the foot of a hill and three roads, like fingers, point up the steep incline to the main connector routes the East Coast road and Horse Hill road. Horse Hill climbs over the center of the island to the West Coast. It is so steep that the older buses pipe blue smoke and can not go faster than a few miles an hour on the climb. I know this because I tried to pass one in my mother’s 16 year old Susuki, the one with the sewing machine for an engine. My top speed was 12 mph, only slightly faster than the slowly moving bus.

bathsheba rock The village has its characters, the local surfers and their buddies like Horse, Snake, Smoky, Ace, Hoggy and Oz. World famous surfer Mark Holder (The Boss) is my neighbour, living in a yellow chattel house with his family.

I came home tonight before sunset and had to edge the car around a bull eating the hedge at the end of the drive. Villagers bring their cows, black bellied sheep and goats to graze wherever they see green. The soil is dry and barren, grass is scarce. I walked down the lane a little later and carefully passed the bull. It was still there, big, calm, happy, eating and looking very much like a bull. I met Snake, we exchanged acknowledgements: “Hi, hi man, howdy”. “How is it?”. “Good, man, and you?”. “Great”. “See you”. A car passed and blew its horn at some lights on the corner. A busy night.

roundhouse room4 balcony seaviewI was on my way to Round House, an inn and restaurant catering to tourist and upper class Bajans. The boys, Snake, Smoky and the Boss come here on reggae nights when their girls “from away” are in town.

The walk to Round House is about 1/2 mile from where I am staying. It ambles along the tiny road which used to be a railway track. It’s twilight, I pass Smoky’s shack where a young couple, tourists, sit watching the sea. They sit at a lone table in a room with no front wall. Smoky has knocked out the front walls to allow a better view of the sea. Some people say he knocked down the walls because he likes knocking down walls, but it looks like a creative and not destructive act.

barabcuda tent bay

Smoky plans to make the shack into a bar and restaurant, but the health authorities denied his license three times. He is still trying to get it approved; in the meantime you can join him and his herd of mongrel dogs for refreshments, TV and a chat, almost anytime.

Past Smoky’s is the Bajan Surf Bungalow, run by Melanie, a world class surfer, who cooks flying fish lunches for her guests and runs the place in between a busy surfing schedule. Surfing is tough she says, “I get hit by boards, cut by coral and flung to the bottom by powerful waves that will knock the stuffing out of the fittest of us. Then I have to deal with all the guys trying to take possession of my waves and sometimes me. Some are just not cool”. She is off to Brazil to represent Barbados in a couple of weeks. She is a pretty girl, in excellent shape from surfing and walking fast up and down the hills. Anna from England is staying with her, recovering from a broken heart. Bathsheba is a great place to recover, I think, from everything.

Round House is at the bottom of the North finger road which winds down a very steep hill. The buses don’t pass this way and my Susuki, can only make it with a running start. Round House food is wholesome fried fish fare with friendly service. People come for the ambience, the view and the raw feeling of the place. Patsy the waitress, sometimes bar tender, cook and manager is a great hostess. She has a lovely smile and a gentle, sincere way with her guests. She loves Bathsheba, grew up here and never wants to leave. Got herself involved with a couple of guys who played around. Now she wonders what the hell commitments mean. She and her 6 year old daughter live just up the hill. She wants a rottweiler to keep her company now instead of a man. “I’ll not trust a man again” she tells me. “I could not get close to you, if you were interested, I just would never trust you, a dog I can trust, a man, who can?”. Hard words from such a slight and gentle person. But hurt will turn a warm heart cold and rob it of all feeling. Betrayal is a wretched kind of hurt. Playing around is part of the nature of many of these fun-loving Barbadian men. It’s a game, a sport that becomes an addiction, almost a definition of who they are.

Surfing

The surfers and friends make a living by their wits. They can aspire to be stars like Boss and Melanie, but there is room for only a few at the top. Even International surfing stars make little from the sport. Bathsheba surfing boys take pride in attracting women tourists who will entertain them and pay the expenses. Tourist girls often fall in love with them, they are fit and muscular, handsome and full of fun. But they are fickle, macho men. Some marry. Smoky married a tourist but it did not last. Snake is going to Sweden to live with the Swedish beauty who fell for him. Mostly the boys have many steadies, who are often away, which suits them fine.

There is a church by the sea just down the road from a baker and rum shop. It is right beside Rest Haven, a rustic and overpriced apartment guesthouse. It is a community of traditional chattel houses, about four in all, close to some of the best surfing on the island. The chattel houses are old, and mostly held together by paint. Termites have half eaten them. Each house has a central room that acts as dining room, sitting room and an extra bedroom. Painted plywood tables and hard upright school chairs suggest fast food and heavy drinking rather than gourmet dining. It’s a surfers den. The bedrooms are tiny and sparse; each has a Bible on the bedside table. They are furnished with hair mattresses on makeshift wooden beds.

SeaU Main House Superior
Sea-U Guest house, just up the hill on the South finger, is the most upscale accommodation in the neighbourhood. It really is in Trents, a fishing outpost just to the south of Bathsheba. Beside Sea-U is Atlantis, a rather ugly concrete structure with a wonderfully authentic old-world feeling. The food is good local fare: pudding and souse, peas and rice, plantain, stews and fresh catch of the day. The dining room hangs above the water where fishermen land their catch. The wind blows strong through the open veranda.

On the North border of the village, above Round House, is Edgewater Inn. It has endured a multitude of owners and neglect. Wind and salt have taken a toll. Nothing survives the constant salt-abrasive wind. Rust seeps through cement walls and drips down painted wood. Cement structures decay from the inside out. Their reinforced iron rods rust, expand and crumble. Rust, wood, cement and strips of metal hold structures together by accident, it seems. Yet it is utterly charming and real. You sense a history and a past, rich with experience. The old buildings have a raw charm and fit perfectly into place.

It’s a raw place this Bathsheba, but Bajans and tourists come here to escape and to recuperate: to breath the invigorating air, clean and fresh from its passage over thousands of miles of open sea; to feel the wild, moist wind on their faces, blowing all cares away. Many affluent Bajans own holiday homes here. They come for weekends and for vacations. They rent them out to friends. At Catllewash, half a mile north of Bathsheba village, there is a community of these holiday homes.

Cattlewash Holiday-Home owners are mostly white Bajans. They are not necessarily racially divided, just miles apart in culture, interests and lifestyles. On weekends and holidays they entertain at Catlewash with fish and chicken BBQ’s, gourmet dinners with fine wine, and rum punch parties in the day. Cattlewash homeowners don’t know Snake or Oz and have no interest in these lives.

It is rumored that a major housing development is planned for Cattlewash. The boys, who don’t expect to benefit from the expansion, do not generally approve of this, except maybe for Ace and others who know a thing or two about cars and mechanics and can make a buck at it. Ace is pretty good for a self-taught man. He knows how to remove your distributor cap and sell it to you when he is called in for the fixit job. But he only works for people he does not like, which is fine by his friends.

cattlewash beach

Bathsheba is where the Cattlewash community buys bread, rum and other necessities. It has several rum shop-stores, a baker, an art studio and fruit and vegetable stalls. On the hilltop there is a surprisingly good mini supermarket that sells a variety of wine, food and provisions. The service is friendly and warm, with great attention to detail. I nearly bought vegetarian bacon, but the owner came over to show me the finest local bacon. If you want a local breadfruit, just ask and she get someone to pick a fresh, ripe one for you.

Stores are not just places to buy things, they are social clubs. People meet and chat even in the supermarket. Every corner store is a rum shop where talk and rum, good company and sharing are dispensed with candy bars, soap and cooking oil.

I first wanted to rent a house from Mrs. Carter the owner of Carters convenience store. I was warned: “She is well into her 80’s and firmly set in her ways. She will rent only to those she likes”. Mrs. Carter was in her herb garden when I arrived. I introduced myself over the wall. She ignored me, she turned her back and dug her pots. Her helper was embarrassed, he smiled apologetically and said something that had no effect. In her own time Mrs. Carter went into the house without ever acknowledging I was there. As if to say “Mister, when you come visiting, be sure you are invited first”.

I knocked on the door and waited. She had some things to do it seemed so I waited more. “Yes?” she said impatiently, peering at me through the half open window some minutes later. “I am looking for a place to stay and Cliff recommended you might help me”. “Who is Cliff?”. A bad start was getting worse. “I don’t know his surname. He sings.” I said. “Never heard of him, don’t know no singer, don’t care for singers and your nightclub types”, said Mrs. Carter. I told her I did not sing, was quiet, an excellent tenant who did not like nightclubs either. “I think if you give me a chance you will like me”, I said. “Where you from?”. I told her Trinidad. . “Trinidad. Then you must like to party. You married?”. No, and I don’t chase girls either. “You chase boys then?”. “No.” “Well I thought you was with a lady, that’s what the man said. You was supposed to be two people together, not one – I don’t like renting to single men or women”. So she does know Cliff and he did talk to her, I thought.

We had a good chat and she smiled a lot before inviting me back to look at the place. It was not what I wanted but Mrs. Carter was a treat to meet.

IN THE OLD DAYS

It was different in the old days when the trains ran along the coast to Bridgetown. The Gibbsons came with picnic baskets, suitcases, the children and the cow. There was no store selling fresh milk and Mrs. Gibbson knew that fresh milk was important for the family, especially the growing boys, so they always tried to bring Nelly the cow. Each year, when Mr. Gibbson took his month’s holiday from the sugar factory, they came by truck, packing cases, Nelly and the boys piled into the back. Sometimes Mrs. Gibbson and the boys came by train for just a week, sometimes they came just for the weekend. There were always friends and families in the nearby homes; the children played in the Gully, caught crayfish in Joe’s river and picked sea moss from the rocks. Mrs. Gibbson boiled the sea moss and made it into a jelly which they ate. It did not taste so great but it was good for you.

It was before Surfboards had been, but young Bathsheba boys still played in the waves, without a thought of being stars. They stared at the families getting off the train and piling into donkey carts for the ride to Cattlewash; white ladies in white lace, elegant and upright under straw hats and parasols. They were in different worlds, much more so then than now. Beach boys in the early 1900 could not be stars, they could not hope to mix with the ladies or their children. But the worlds have changed. White boys today ride the waves with Boss and the gang. The mothers and the boys dance reggae in the same crowd on Fridays at the Round House, while Mrs.
Gibbson turns in her grave.

EDIT NOTES:

This is part of the Barbados Saga. A Historical Drama of Barbados since Time Before Man.
The Bathsheba story introduces a part of the modern Barbados society.

Disclaimer.

The names and characters in these stories are ficticious.
While some aspects may be based on individuals,
most is speculation, imagination and adaption.
Resemblance to any one character is accidental.

________________

Source: Ian R. Clayton, Originally on Barbados.org