BHS logo Welcome to the Bahamas Historical Society


Dear Members and Friends,

Next Meeting: Thursday, 9th June at 6:00pm
Museum of the Bahamas Historical Society

Dr Peter Maynard will talk about his book and be available to sign copies of the book (price $30).

Dr Peter Maynard remembers how his Commonwealth Scholarship helped him embark on his legal career. "I wanted to be an active participant in the independence and growth of a country rich with promise. The Award allowed me to fulfil a dream of becoming an attorney in The Bahamas, with a broad international practice."

"I first came into Meta's orbit at the age of 11, when my mother, frustrated by my lack of progress with another piano teacher, insisted she take me on as a student. As I soon learned, a lesson with Meta Davis Cumberbatch was not just about playing the piano, because her classes always expanded to embrace the entire range of artistic endeavour. To her students, Meta was a force of nature in perpetual motion. She never did anything by halves. An imposing figure, she did not simply walk. She planted each foot firmly on the ground a trait that was to characterise her many achievements. And when she taught, her entire body became engaged in the process, as she described the composers whose works we were learning to play, showed us how to interpret the music, or beat a drum to teach us tempo. Through it all there was that joyous laugh that seemed to come from the very bottom of her soul."

A Treasure found in the Museum of the Bahamas Historical Society

Jim, here is a restoration of the wonderful BHS picture dated 1890 by R F Gagen. It is titled "Near The Queen's Stair, Nassau". By copy of this to Dawn Davies I am hoping she can research the correct name and sex of the artist. We agreed that it is Elizabeth Avenue, with Shirley Street crossing it part-way along, and Bay Street right at the end, the harbour coming right in to the street. It's disappointing that the BHS building isn't showing. - Regards, Ron Lightbourn

But is the BHS building showing? What is the high white building with the high white roof vee?

"Near The Queen's Stair, Nassau"

Online, I found scraps of information on the sites concerning The Canadian Society of Painters in Water Colour; one of their founders in 1924-24, was the noted painter R. F. Gagen (1847-1926), who took on the primary honorary leadership. (More may be found in the Nassau Guardian of 1890, if anyone wants to research it in the Dept of Archives.) My over-riding curiousity wanted to know what was the property occupying the present location of the Museum of the Bahamas Historical Society. And, whether the IODE Headquarters was newly built or an adaptation of a previous building. I thought I could take a modern photo to investigate. Kindly, Anne offered to drive me there and that was a godsend as there was quite a lot of walking to do. The first question was a before and after investigation to determine where the painter Robert Ford Gagen sat with his easel.

The first thought was to take a photo from that point picturing the rocky foreground – but that view was hampered by the large tree overhanging the road.

So I walked a little further down but still could not see the Museum.

So I walked a little further down but still could not see the Museum.

So I walked a little further down but still could not see the Museum.

At last I can see the museum and Anthony Wallace’s business. I thought the museum was not as tall as the building in the Gagen painting.

The question rises is the proposed hall below newly built in 1952 or adapted from an older building? Actually, Union Street as Elizabeth Avenue was renamed in the 1953 Coronation has an extremely interesting history. It was the edge of town during Loyalist times. Also, it is where the so called “Father” of the House of Assembley, C B Johnson had a home and pineapple canning factory.

The most important thing is that the Bahamas Historical Society was given a home in 1976 by the IODE and we have taken care as best a voluntary association can to maintain the museum and preserve, record and display Bahamian history.

I gleaned further information about Robert Ford Gagen: Apart from “Near the Queen’s Stairs” that I showed in last week’s newsletter he also painted “Bugler, 1st West Indian Regiment, Nassau Bahamas”. It would be nice to locate a copy of this and to see if he painted anything else while in the Bahamas in 1890.

Gagen, Robert Ford (1847-1926), painter, was born in London, England, on May 10, 1847, the eldest son of John J. Gagen, an architect. He came to Canada with his parents in 1865, and settled in Seaforth, Huron county, Ontario. Later he moved to Toronto, and entered the employ of Notman and Fraser, photographers. He studied painting under John A. Fraser; and in 1872 he became a charter member of the Ontario Society of Artists. In 1880 he was elected an associate of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, and in 1915 a member. He was particularly successful as a painter of seascapes, though he did many excellent landscapes, including some paintings of the Rocky mountains . In 1889 he was elected secretary of the Ontario Society of Artists, and he held this position until his death, at Toronto, on March 2, 1926 . In 1873 he married Jane, daughter of John Palmer, of Scarborough, Ontario ; and by her he had two daughters.

Robert Ford Gagen - Born in London, England he came to Canada with his parents in 1862 and they settled near Seaforth, Ontario. His father was an architect and the boy had been interested in painting before coming to Canada. After the family had settled in Seaforth, Gagen received instruction from William Cresswell, R.A., who had come out from England to farm in the same area. Cresswell also gave him materials, which were difficult to obtain in the new settlement. On Cresswell's advice Gagen sent some of his paintings to provincial exhibitions where they were awarded prizes. Later Gagen went to Toronto with letters of introduction mainly from Cresswell and enrolled in the painting class of G.Gilbert. He got a job in the art department of Notman and Fraser where he worked under the direction of John A. Fraser. He spent nine years with the firm painting miniatures and watercolour portraits on a photogenic base. During this time he also developed his landscape painting under the helping hand of Fraser and became an artist of note. A.H. Robson in 1934 wrote "he drew the subject matter for his pictures from a wide-flung field, painting from the Rockies to the Atlantic. For many years he was widely known as a painter of the mountains, but without question his best work is in his painting of the sea. During his later years (he) journeyed every summer to the Bay of Fundy to gather sketches and materials for his winter's work in the studio. His painting of fishing boats, the rolling surf and the play of sunlight and shadow on the rocky coasts form his greatest gift to Canadian art." Gagen was a founding member of the Ontario Society of Artist in 1872 and later became the society's permanent secretary. At the society's meetings and exhibitions he was jocular, humorous, active and much esteemed. When the Royal Canadian Academy was founded in 1880 Gagen became an Associate Charter Member and in 1915 was elected full member. He was president of the Arts and Letters Club, Toronto (1919-20) and Commissioner of Fine Arts for the Canadian National Exhibition (1912-26). He was awarded honourable mention at the Pan-American Exhibition, Buffalo, 1901. Several of his paintings hang in the National Gallery of Canada. Travelled to Rocky Mountains 1890 and on other occasions; Nassau, Bahamas, 1890; Scotland 1906; Saguenay Valley and Tadoussac 1910; frequently to Atlantic Coast, Bay of Fundy, Maine, and Massachusetts.

On Thursday 7th April at 6pm. Dion Hanna spoke on “Land and Freedom: One Bahamas and a Tale of Two Cities”. The talk was very interesting and drew a large audience.

Here are the YouTube links to Dion Hanna's speech (Thanks to Robert Dorsett once again)

The Annual General Meeting was held on Thursday 14th April at 6pm. Reports were read by by the Recording Secretary, Treasurer, Editor and President and the following officers were re-elected

President: Jim Lawlor (Retired Educator)
1st Vice President: Stephen Aranha (Assistant Professor at College of Bahamas)
2nd Vice President: Dr Vernell Allen MBE, (Retired Chief Medical Officer Ministry of Health)
Treasurer: David Cates (Senior Civil Servant)
Recording Secretary: Vernita Johnson LVO, (Retired Secretary to Governor General)
Corresponding Secretary: Joan Clarke (Retired Senior Civil Servant)
Trusteees: Dr Gail Saunders, OBE, (Retired Director of Archives)
Dr John Knowles (Retired Educator)
Clarice Grainger OBE (Office Administrator Templeton global advisors ltd
Elizabeth Betty Cole (Sports Coach)
June Maura OBE, MVO, (Retired Senior Civil Servant)
Management Committee: Virginia Balance (Librarian at College of Bahamas)
Anne Lawlor (Assistant Professor College of Bahamas)
Beryl Strachan (Retired Educator)
Dawn Davies (Retired Company Executive)
Jamaal Miller (Liason Officer USA Embassy)
Andrea Major (Public Relations National Association of Antiquities and Museums)
Anthony Roberts (Retired Director of Public Health)
Chantal Curtis (Forensic Scientist Royal Bahamas Police Force)

On Monday 1st May The Harbour Island Chapter of The Bahamas Historical Society was inaugurated and the following officers elected: Martin L Grant, Chairman, Godfrey Kelly, Secretary, Reswell N Mather, Public Relations and Martin J Ellis, Research Officer.

From Left to Right: Godfrey Kelly, Martin Ellis, Martin Grant and Reswell “Prince” Mather

The main concern of the Harbour Island Chapter members was that although Harbour Island has a rich history, being the oldest sustained settlement in the Bahamas, historical buildings, sites and artifacts are being destroyed for commercial gain.

More on the Chapel from Godfrey Lightbourn

Dear Mr. Lawlor,

I welcome the telling of the CLUb Med at PI. as I recall some of facts relating to same.
It was 1976 that Daniel Paterne, Architect, walked into my office (Cavalier Construction) and said that we had been selected to build the Club Med on PI.

The first executive of CM to arrive on site was in charge of landscaping, and he made sure to retain the beautiful landscape.

Grayleath, the home of Mrs..Killham was to be the central building on the seaside. Her sister, Lady Bailey, owned Graycliff on West Hill St, and Harbourside on the harbour. This was taken into the 25 plus acres comprising the CM property, including the Porcupine Club. They also purchased the Clapp property on the north-west boundary. That may have been at a later date.
The Porcupine Club had a totally American Membership except for Mr. Colquhoun who was English. One would not dare to ask the cost of membership, and in fact, at year's end they would determine the annual costs and divy up their respective share. The PC consisted of the remaining building on the harbour to which was added the Animation building. They also had Beach houses on the beach.

Our first estimate was twice what they had expected for the rooms, so we jokingly suggested they reduce the size by half. This they did. At a subsequent renovation they enclosed the balconies to make them larger.

We obviously renovated Grayleath and Harbourside very extensively. I do not recall doing anything to the Chapel.

As you have said, the Cloisters were put together by Mr. Castremann. He had turned up on the door step of Cavalier, having escaped from Leopoldville during the uprising there. He and his partner there had agreed to meet in Nassau. His partner never made it. We took Casteermann in and he lived at our office in Oakes Field initially. He recognized the stone of the cloister and was able to say where it came from. More than a third of the pieces were broken, and he was able to reconstruct them.

More may come to mind in due course, but meantime I hope this contributes a bit to the overall.
An interesting subject. godfrey lightbourn

Ron Lightbourn sent me this picture: Jim, following your mention of Club Med in to-day's BHS newsletter, here is a picture I just took from the upper deck of Bo Hengy. Normally you can't see Lady Bailey's house (now part of Club Med) because of the dolphin pens.

However, I now have information that the chapel was NOT built with French stones from the Cloister which was not built until 1962.

I had a very interesting telephone conversation with Roland Rose.

His father came to the Bahamas with his family to take up the post of Head Gardener with the Killlams. His parents lived in the small gardner’s cottage but the children lived in the chapel and occupied 6 beds – Roland slept in the chapel from 1946 until 1959. He thinks that the chapel was built either just before or during World War 2. At that time the chapel was in a different location attached to the shade house plant nursery. Roland remembers that there were 2 massive copper chandeliers in the chapel, having been purchased from Trinity Methodist Church on Frederick Street. Sometime after 1959 Mrs Killam had the chapel moved brick by brick to its present location alongside the house on the North side.
The swimming pool was not built until about 1952 or 53 and was not the pool used on Thunderball. Sean Connery actually faced those sharks on Mosko’s property Rock Point out west.
Lady Bailey’s house, The Killam’s house and the Porcupinre Club were all on the ex Club Med property.

Thanks to those members, who have paid fees for 2011/12 and a reminder to others that those fees are now due.

Kind regards,

Jim Lawlor,