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Re: [SC] Berkeley, Barbados connection examined

Things that Matter: The epic story of Barbados and the Carolinas

What’s the connection between the Barbados Telephone Company, Upton in St. Michael, Stede Bonnet – the Gentleman Pirate of Barbados, Henry Fraser and North and South Carolina in the USA? You will know by the end of this column!

In 1986 the Barbados Board of Tourism, then chaired by Sir Jack Dear with Mrs. Pat Nehaul as Director and Mrs. Margaret Hope, Public Relations Manager, invited my historian friend Warren Alleyne and me to make a visit to Charleston, led by Markley Wilson, manager of the Board in New York, and Cheryl Carter, Public Relations Officer. The mission, conceptualised by Markley Wilson, was to explore the close connections between Barbados and the Carolinas, which had somehow been forgotten over the years. Warren was chosen for his passionate interest in our early history and his popular writings, including his book Caribbean Pirates, featuring Stede Bonnet of Barbados. I was chosen for my work in architectural history and the traditionally held links between Barbadian and Charlestonian architecture.

The ten exciting days of discovery in Charleston and the surrounding countryside were a revelation to us all, and resulted in the popular book The Barbados-Carolina Connection, by Warren Alleyne and Henry Fraser, published by Macmillan in 1988, which went through three reprints, but has been out of print for more than a decade. So I can now announce, for the many people asking for it, that a splendid new, Second Edition is now in print, and available in ALL leading Barbadian bookstores and in Charleston.

The pride of a midwife or an obstetrician in the successful delivery of a bonnie, healthy new-born baby is second only to that of the mother. In spite of the dozens of books I’ve written or edited and the hundreds of papers, articles and columns, there’s still little that beats the pure pleasure of holding in your hands at last a beautiful new born book that you’ve laboured mightily over, conceived, researched, written and re-written, proof read and edited, photographed for and debated over, in the role of both parent and obstetrician!

This was the case when Keith Miller of Miller Publishing handed me the first copy of the splendid new edition of The Barbados Carolina Connection. A big part of the thrill was the fact that I had bought a new camera on my last, seventh trip to speak in Charleston, to make sure I had a wide range of quality photos for the new book. And our brilliant graphic artist, Neil Barnard, approved the quality of the photos – what a relief!

The fascination of the Barbados-Carolina epic starts from the very concept – a Barbadian immigrant Sir John Colleton, conceiving the plan in 1663 of settling that huge chunk of the North American continent then known as Carolina (unexplored by Europeans) from little Barbados; an early example of Barbados “punching above its weight”! The Odyssey of the ships, hurricanes and shipwrecks involved in the settlement of 1670 is like an ancient Greek legend. The story of the ruthless, aggressive, probable murderer, womanising, power hungry Sir John Yeamans of St. Nicholas Abbey is worthy of a modern day soap opera or political drama.

The dramatic story of the Gentleman Pirate of Barbados, who scuppered more than 20 ships, was briefly a partner of Blackbeard, and was hung in Charleston, was first chronicled for us by Warren Alleyne in Pirates of the Caribbean; it’s a mysterious and “romantic” saga, still little known, and surprisingly not exploited by either our novelists or our Tourism specialists. It astonished me when I discovered that my home, Upton House, was once Bonnet’s. where Stede Bonnet was born. The name Bonnet’s was changed to Upton by one George Upton later in the 18th century. And it astonished me even more when I discovered that the telephone number I was given by the Barbados Telephone Company on moving into Upton – 1670 – was the date of the Bajan settlement of Charleston, where I’ve now been for research and lecturing some seven times! Life is full of remarkable coincidences, or as the brilliant Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges said, it’s all connected circles!

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18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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