Tonight on CBN CH51 another episode of the Brewers Bay Seniors will be aired – the seniors continue their look back at life growing up in the Virgin Islands – the difficulty of childhood, in an impoverished time, but the love and family togetherness made it a very special time in their lives, perhaps rich in the things that really mattered. Please visit with us…
CategoryCulture and History
Today, Monday July 2 is the observance of Territory Day, which falls on July 1 each year – the Federation of the Leeward Islands was dissolved on July 1, 1956, which created the colony of the Virgin Islands headed by a Governor who presided over the Leeward Islands – this year (2012) is 56 years since that occurrence – “In politics and history, a colony is a territory under the immediate political control of a state.” (Wiki) This was briefly addressed in my blog on June 17, 2012 after my interview with Mr. Elton Georges, CMG, OBE.
My husband, Robin, came to the Virgin Islands forty eight (48) years ago and often recalls how things were in those earlier days.
He first flew out from the UK via New York, San Juan and St. Thomas USVI, where he was met by Captain “Fishy” (Roderick Soares) and brought across on the “MV Sunshine” and was taken to Stephen Dickinson’s office (The first accounting firm in the territory) by the same “Fishy,” where he was shown to a desk and put to work – all in one day, and he only found out where he would be living later that night – the house immediately next to the office, which was located in Road Town – he had no excuse not to be on time!
The movie theatre was in the same building as his office and naturally as a young man in a strange new place and unable to sleep while the movie was in progress he quickly found his way into the projection booth with two local young men, Marshall Davies (deceased) and Ickford (Dandy) Scatliffe – the three soon became fast friends. The cinema was owned by an Englishman by the name of Douglas Williams (Deceased) who had bought the building from Norman Fowler (an American). Douglas had been a war correspondent for The Daily Telegraph in the UK and did a lot to promote the Virgin Islands (British) in the UK – he visited here occasionally and converted the ground floor of his building into two apartments so that he could have a place to stay when in the territory – the ground floor of that building, Robin believes, was the location of the “Tortola Times Newspaper,” the first in the territory before Carlos Downing started the “Island Sun.” In those days the phone system was by “party line” and it was necessary to listen to the number of rings to determine who the call was for – “often when you picked up the phone to make a call you would find someone else speaking so you would wait a while before trying again” – the line was shared with Virgin Islands National Bank (which went through various progressions to become Banco Popular today – it was also known as the First Pennsylvania Bank, NA), J. R. O’Neal – G. A. Cobham (the Landrover and Seagull Engine agency), Jackson’s Insurance Agency Ltd. (now Creques Insurance), J. A. Storey & Partners (Land surveyors) and surprisingly, Treasure Isle Hotel, which was the other side of town. Just down the road from his office was the premises of Ruth C. Anthony and her husband Alban Anthony (both deceased), with whom he became very friendly, and across the street was the booking office of the Sunshine, Clarisa’s Beauty Salon and a few small stores – further down the street was J. R. O’Neal Ltd., and Government offices, which included the Post Office.
Back then, the airport, which is on Beef Island, was undeveloped – it consisted of a sandy strip and the weekly flight from Antigua was met by a short wheel based (SWB) Landrover, which was a combination of immigration, customs, fire brigade and baggage handler. Passengers off the flight would walk behind the vehicle to where the bridge connecting to the main island of Tortola is now to get on a pontoon upon which passengers and luggage were placed – the pontoon would then be pulled across the channel using a “wet slippery rope” in the sea and would be met by the police LWB Landrover, which would take you into town – obviously the Queen Elizabeth II bridge, which was opened in 1966, was a great boom to simplifying travel into and out of the territory by air and getting to the few businesses that were on that end of the territory – one of these was Marina Cay, a small hotel, which was run by Allan and Jean Batham (who left the territory many years ago, returning to New Zealand), another was a Slip-way on Beef Island and a miniscule hotel on Bellamy Cay (now called the Last Resort).
Robin’s account will continue next week….stay tuned…..
The first Assembly or House of Representatives in the Virgin Islands, which had been asked for since 1747, became a reality by proclamation on November 30th 1773, and the Assembly met for the first time on January 27, 1774 and had eleven (11) members who represented the planters and freeholders. (Early History of the British Virgin Islands, From Columbus to Emancipation, p.75-76: By Vernon W. Pickering)
Despite that representation, the abolition of slavery in 1834 and the collapse of the planation economy saw the Virgin Islands dwindling in population making it difficult to form the rudiments of a government and as a result they were ruled from Antigua – needless to say, the subsequent process to self government was a lengthy and complex one.
The following information is taken from my interview with Mr. Elton Georges, CMG, OBE.
1943 Secondary Education was introduced in the Virgin Islands; 1956 the Federation of the Leeward Islands was broken up and became individual colonies – head of State was changed from Commissioner to Administrator who still reported to a Governor based in Antigua; 1959-60 the Administrator reported directly to London and the Virgin Islands became a Colony with direct link to Her Majesty; 1967 Ministerial Government came into being with Administrative Secretaries who were later changed to Permanent Secretaries – the Speaker was introduced and presided over the Council rather than the Administrator and the Speaker was elected from outside the Council (2000 Constitutional change provided that the Speaker could be elected from the elected members of the house but they continued to elect from outside); 1971 – Administrator was changed to a Governor partly driven by our close proximity to the USVI and PR; 1976 the definition of a belonger was put in the Constitution and the voting process changed – to qualify to vote you now had to be a belonger. It also increased the number of seats in Council from 7 to 9; 1994 before the 1995 election Britain increased the number of seats by amendment to include 4 at large – the entire country was equal to one constituency for these at large members – this was opposed by the then government, however this is how the council is constituted today.
From 1967 until 2007 the head of Government was designated Chief Minister at which time amendments to the Constitution changed the designation to Premier. Five Virgin Islanders held the position of Chief Minister and to date two have held the position of Premier.
Chief Ministers: 1967 – 1971 Hon. H.Lavity Stoutt; 1971 – 1979 Hon. Willard Wheatley; 1979 – 1983 Hon. H. Lavity Stoutt; 1983 – 1986 Cyril B. Romney; 1986 -1995 H. Lavity Stoutt; 1995- 2003 Hon. Ralph T. O’Neal and 2003 – 2007 Dr. The Hon. D. Orlando Smith.
Premiers: 2007 -2011 Hon. Ralph T. O’Neal and 2011 to date Dr. The Hon. D. Orlando Smith.
This week features the Seniors at the Sir. Rupert Briercliffe Hall on May 16, 2012 taking part in a General Knowledge Challenge. It was an evening of fun and entertainment as we watched the senior compete for the top spot as they recall historical details about life in the Virgin Islands. Please stay tuned to CBN CH51 on Sunday and Wednesday at 8PM, and if you miss those two you can catch it again on Saturday at 8AM and Sunday at 4PM. You can also watch this on live stream at www.cbnbvi.com
In Life Notes, J. R. O’Neal wrote “it was in the 1930 that I became involved with the Civic League, the brain child of Hope Stevens of New York, East End and Nevis.” The league was formed because a group of men, concerned Virgin Islanders who felt the need for “political representation…we had none at that time,” JR (as he was affectionately known) wrote. He went on to say that there was “an Executive Council which was comprised of two local people nominated by the Governor of the Leeward Islands….these were James Edward Wilkinson (J.E.W) Georges and William Campbell Roy.” And this was how the League “came to meet with the Royal West India or Moyne Commission, known after its head Lord Moyne, which was created in response to the riots in almost every colony in the Caribbean between 1930 and 1935.” (J.R.O’Neal) The Moyne Commission report gave an in-depth analysis of the riots and strikes that occurred in the Caribbean in the 1930s. What is rather interesting is that the report made several recommendations, such as legislation to protect trade union and peaceful picketing, creation of labour department and wage boards and the provision of workers compensation and unemployment insurance to name a few. And it supported greater representation by locals in the government. This report was not made public until 1945 although some of the recommendations were implemented prior to that. (Institute of Commonwealth Studies)
This week I visit with Mrs. Phillis George as she recalls her early childhood memories on the island of Anegada in the Virgin Islands. Anegada is the northernmost island in the chain that makes up the Virgin Islands. (Photo from Wiki) You can see and hear Phillis on CBNBVI Ch51 or on live stream at www.cbnbvi.com – Sunday and Wednesday night at 8PM and Saturday morning at 8AM.
In “1922 – a two room hospital was opened in Road Town, Tortola, and was named the Cottage Hospital but after its severe damage in 1924 by a ferocious hurricane, which was followed by a tidal wave, the hospital was remodeled and renamed ‘Peebles Hospital’ in honour of it founder….Major H. W. Peebles who was appointed Commissioner of the Virgin Islands in 1919. ” (Vernon Pickering)
Don’t miss the interview with Mrs. Leona Crabbe tonight, May 20, 2012 on CBN Ch51 at 8p. It was a delight to spend time with Mrs. Crabbe reminiscing about her early days growing up in the Virgin Islands. You can also see this on live stream on www.cbnbvi.com. If you miss tonight’s episode be sure to catch it on Wednesday night at 8p.m or on Saturday morning at 8a.m
RMS Rhone – a British Mail ship made her last voyage to the Virgin Islands on October 1, 1867. On the 29th October 1867 the Rhone was wrecked off Salt Island (one of the Virgin Islands) as she was getting ready for her return trip to the UK – “of the 145 persons on board only 21 seamen and an Italian passenger survived the ordeal.” That storm was so powerful that it sank “all but two of the 60 vessels anchored around St. Thomas” in the USVI. (Specialised Stamp Catalogue of The British Virgin Islands 1787-2001- Edited By: Giorgio Migliavacca)