NEWSLETTER October 2012
Dear Members and Friends,
Within hours of sending the last newsletter I received this e mail and picture of Buen Retiro House from Anne Morely Carmel.
I enjoyed your newsletter this morning; the letters you shared were wonderful history. The picture of Buen Retiro that Vikki sent you was in my grandmother's collection of photographs of the property. She and her brothers/sister lived there as children with parents Reverend Richardson Saunders and Margaret Ellen Perpall Saunders.
I have a description of the property that was included in a release by way of mortgage signed by Reverend Saunders 31 December 1869.. "All that tract of land situate in the Parish of Saint Matthew in the Eastern District of the Island of New Providence formerly known by the name of 'Rumers' but now designated and known by the name of 'Buen Retiro'. Also all that lot of land situate in the said Parish of Saint Matthew containing forty acres Bounded on the North by the before mentioned tract of land on the east by land granted to the Honorable William Vesey Munnings on the south by a lot of land hereinafter mentioned and described and on the West by land granted to Robert Millar. Also all that lot of land situate in the Parish of Saint Matthew containing nineteen acres bounded on the North by the last mentioned lot of land on the East by land vacant at the time of the original survey on the South by the New Road leading East from Grants Town and on the West by land also vacant at the time of the original survey. Also all that other piece parcel or lot of land situate in the said Parish of Saint Matthew bounded northwardly by the New Road and on all other sides by the Estate called 'Rumers' which lots of land form part of the Estate now designated and known as 'Buen Retiro.'
If you ever see a map of the property, please think of me!
BRO Volume B-8, pages 49-55.
Ann Morley Carmel
I was wondering if the “Rumers” mentioned is connected to Robert Rumer, who was instrumental in persuading Col Andrew Deveaux to organize the raid on Nassau to remove the Spanish presence in 1783.
April 19th, 1802 Robert Rumer elected to serve as Vestrymen of St Matthews
The BHS Journal is now at the printers:
The revised schedule of events:
Thursday 25th October at 6pm – Marion Bethel on Women’s Suffrage (rescheduled)
Sunday 18th November concert by Nassau Chamber Ensemble (tentative)
Thursday 29th November - Christmas Social and booksale.
Thursday 31st January at 6pm – William Whobrey ‘The background to the Cloisters Paradise Island’
Thusrday 21st February: Neil Sealey will talk on old Bahamian books
Thursday 14th March 6pm - Claire Simpson on Neville’s Island (Chamberlain’s sisal in Andros)
Thursday 25th April 6pm – Annual General Meeting
Thursday 31st May 6pm – Anne Lawlor will present “Creolizing Tempos in Bahamian History”
Thursday 28th June – Sir Orville Turnquest “40 years of Independence”
Robert Jagger sent this amazing nostalgic glimpse into the past...wartime
My friend, Dale Vargas, who taught at Harrow School for many years and is currently a Director of the school, sent me a fascinating 13 minute film clip that features the British Prep School Belmont that was moved to Nassau during the war. Dale attended Belmont Prep. School in Sussex and wrote a History of the school of which I have a copy. Dick Coulson and Norman Solomon were at the school in Nassau during the War as well as Jimmy Goldsmith- the famous entepreneur. Dick contributed a description of his time at Belmont to the book. The Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Sir Harry and Lady Oakes all appear in the film as well as amazing glimpses of Nassau in the early 40s. If you click on the link below, you should be able to see it.
This photo was kindly made available to me by one of the old Belmont students, David Howard, who published a book called The Unforgiving Minute. In it he includes a chapter about his memorable and character-forming experience in Nassau. Sadly, David Howard died later that year.
Students and teachers of the Belmont School around 1942. A handful of
the students are Bahamians: Norman Solomon is 4th from the right in the
back row, Gale Kelly is the first boy on the right in the front row, David
Brice Donald is 3rd from the right, and Nicki Williamson is at
As an example of how much behaviour in Nassau has deteriorited, the Belmont schoolchildren were forbidden to eat ice-cream in the streets, or walk more than two abreast on the sidewalks. How times have changed!
Eric Wiberg has provided additional information on the Belmont School
ANNE PATRICIA ATTWOOD (Nee Walton ) 1934 to 1946
There were two Headmasters at Belmont, Mr Cuthbert Jeffries, unmarried, and Mr Max de Wharton Burr, who was married. Brian sometimes stayed on at School during the holidays and I joined him on two occasions, having great fun rabbiting, exploring the woods and the surrounding countryside, and taking part in snowball fights with a group of lively boys.
When War was declared in 1939 it was decided to evacuate the School to a more secure area around Lichfield, Staffordshire initially; then, after further consideration, to Nassau in the Bahamas. Because of most parents’ absence abroad it was decided that sisters be allowed to accompany their brothers under the guidance of Mr Jeffries and his niece Elizabeth. We were all assembled at Lichfield and after a celebratory meal, proceeded to Liverpool to board the Pacific Steam Navigation Company’s R.M.S. Ordura. Normally this vessel sailed between Liverpool and South America.
THE JOURNEY OUT (August 1940)
We sailed down the Mersey on the 11th August 1940. On board were many
other evacuee children with their parents. With great excitement R.M.S.
Ordura joined a convoy of around 50 other vessels, escorted by three or
four Destroyers and headed towards Iceland to avoid the German U Boats.
The convoy was moving steadily westward, when suddenly a small ship on our starboard side was hit by a torpedo, settled lower in the water and eventually disappeared, sinking with its stern in the air. This all occurred in the space of two minutes, and we thought we saw a lifeboat launched. Unfortunately as we were travelling at speed, it quickly dropped out of sight.
Another explosion quickly turned our attention to the port side, where another vessel had been hit and was sinking. This ship also quickly dropped astern. The convoy formed a regular pattern, with destroyers moving between the ships at high speed, as the speed of the convoy is tied to the speed of the slowest Ship.
The attack continued, and a third vessel was hit. This time we did see lifeboats launched; then the scene slipped astern. No Ship was allowed to stop to pick up survivors as this would endanger the remainder of the convoy: cruel but essential. For the rest of the day we continued to wear lifejackets until it was time to turn in. Our ship was now travelling much faster and during the night we were awoken by large explosions, but were reassured when informed that they were in fact depth charges being dropped. Next morning, going down to breakfast, there was a large empty space in the passageway, where before there were two rather sinister looking objects.
On going out on deck after breakfast, we noticed that we were alone in the ocean as clearly the convoy had scattered during the night and we were making all possible speed. This situation remained until we reached the comparative safety of Bermuda. In all six ships had been lost, which made us sad, but relieved that we were safe and well.
The weather improved becoming warmer and the sea calmer and we anchored in Hamilton Harbour on 24th August. We were not allowed ashore, but there was plenty to see: big excitement when the crew caught a shark and hauled it on deck, thrashing and snapping its enormous teeth, before they stabbed it to death—very gory.
BELMONT NASSAU (1940-1944)
On the evening of the 30th August, we arrived and anchored off the lighthouse at the mouth of Nassau harbour. In those days the channel was too shallow for big ships and cargo and passengers were taken ashore to the main jetty by tugs and lighters. We disembarked, and were taken to our new home and School: Clerihew House, Bay Street, Nassau, kindly lent to the School by Sir Harry and Lady Oaks. Sadly Sir Harry was murdered in very strange circumstances about a year later. The case has never really been resolved.
We quickly settled down to our new way of life in beautiful surroundings, working hard at school during the week, but happily spending the weekends swimming and generally enjoying ourselves with beach picnics.. We also met many kind and generous people, English, American and locals, who invited us to their homes, held beach parties and boat trips. Some even sent their children to our school for lessons.
The Duke of Windsor, with his wife, the famous former Mrs Simpson, was already installed as Governor, and visited the School on Open and Sports Days, which he really enjoyed; not so the Duchess, who clearly felt it was all beneath her. They did however hold a Christmas Party for all the children, handing out super presents and serving delicious food and drink.
We became part of the social life of the island, joining the Cathedral Choir, learning First Aid, and, entertaining our hosts with Plays and Concerts. Sadly with boys becoming older, and needing higher education coupled with the enormous expense of keeping the School running, it was decided that we should return to England on 20th January 1944.
THE JOURNEY HOME (January 1044)
Most of the original “Outward Bound” group flew to Miami, then by train to New York, to collect visas and new passports, after which we took the train to New Orleans and embarked on a Portuguese ship to Lisbon. All very interesting and we saw a fair amount of America, which we enjoyed.
The ship, the SS Magallanes, took 3 weeks sailing between New Orleans and Lisbon, going down the Mississippi and into the Caribbean, calling at Trinidad. As it was a neutral vessel we sailed with all lights blazing; also it had special lights rigged up to illuminate the ships name. This was to avoid being a target for U Boats. It was great fun, and we enjoyed the food.
Disembarking at Lisbon we were taken by coach to Estoril where we spent
a day sightseeing.
We were then taken home, which in our case was Ealing, to Aunt Elsie and Uncle John. That night was the last big bombing raid on London, but we were so tired we slept through it all. Now we had to get used to the ‘Doodlebugs’ and the V 2 rockets.
What a delight and a privilege to be President of The Bahamas Historical Bahamas and to have such wonderful members…..we learn as we go!
Jim Lawlor, President