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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.

Dear Jim:

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.

Cordially,

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.

And

April 19th, 1802 Robert Rumer elected to serve as Vestrymen of St Matthews Anglican church

Robert Miller listed as a "a Planter of Eleuthera" who died in 1845 and in whose memory Miss Anne Miller had a Memorial Tablet erected in St. Matthew's Church.

1856-1858 and 1868-1891 and 1892 – 1902 Rev. Richardson Saunders was incumbent minister of St Matthews
Hon William Vesey Munnings was President and Commander in Chief of the Bahamas Islands circa 1826 and I think he had a son with the same name.


The BHS Journal is now at the printers:
Journal of the Bahamas Historical Society, Volume 34 (October 2012)
Contents:
The “Saltwater” Underground Railroad to The Bahamas by Dr Keith Tinker
Sponging in The Bahamas by Paul Albury re-presented by Jim Lawlor
A Memorable Marriage by Donald R Hopkins
Decoding fault lines of life and the enigma of being: immigration policies and the formation of national identity in the Caribbean by Arthur D Hanna jr
The long road to freedom: persistent resistance among the enslaved in the bahamas by Dr Gail Saunders
Two references to early Bahamian Money
Obituary: Alice (Maura) Bates
Remembering Jeanette Roberts

The journal can only be sent to paid up members.


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 Nassau

Jim:

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.

Regards
Robert


Dear Rob,
This might be of interest to you and any of the oldies left. It must date from about 1941.
Hope all is well with you and yours.
Best,
Dale

http://www.belmontschool-hassocks.org.uk/video/Nassau


Ron Lightbourn on page 233 of his book Reminiscing II has the following images and description:

Clerihew House on the Bay Street waterfront to the east of Kellys Lumber Yard, was owned at the beginning of World War II (1939) by Sir Harry Oakes. "It was a tall, four-storied, 18th century house with broad verandas, the front door on the first veranda, with a wide lawn leading to the
harbour wall': Sir Harry offered the property rent-free for the duration of the War to students of England's Belmont School in Sussex, provided enough families would allow their children to make the dangerous ocean crossing. The children came, forty or more boys and girls, and stayed for three and a half years. They met with extraordinary kindness from Bahamians and expatriates who took them swimming at their beachfront homes, and invited them to "dream-like tea parties':

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
the other end of the front row. David Howard, the English boy who wrote The Unforgiving Minute, is the second tallest boy in the middle of the third row. The cleric is Canon Holmes and the Headmaster is Mr. Jeffries.

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 story:

Relevant to your contribution from Robert and Dale, I found the following detailed account of the maritime aspect of the Belmont School experience I believe on a link from the Belmont School website. Your readers/members may find it of interest (I did not write it) – It is by Ann Attwood and should speak for itself. If anyone is interested I have the details of the ship/s hit in the convoy on the voyage out, as they relate to survivors of the British ship ATHELQUEEN, who report meeting some of the Belmont expatriates in Nassau. I attach photos of survivors from the British ship DAYTONIAN in Nassau in case any of your members can identify them. one of them is an officer named Henry Mapplebeck from the ship, another his fellow crewman John Holmes – these photos are from Mapplebeck’s daughter Julia Ryan. (I have only included 1 image)

All the best,
Eric
ET Wiberg / www.uboatsbahamas.com


Daytonian crew enjoying Nassau beaches: John Holmes lying front and Henry Mapplebeck lying third

ANNE PATRICIA ATTWOOD (Nee Walton ) 1934 to 1946
The epic voyages to and from Nassau
_______________________________________________________________________________

In 1934, my brother Brian and I were sent to England from our home in Calcutta where my father worked as an Engineer. the climate was deemed unsuitable for young children and it was necessary to ensure that we received a suitable education. Brian was sent to Belmont and I to my Aunt Phyllis and Uncle Bert in Southsea, Hants. Our parents stayed in India.

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.
On the fifth day out, the Alarm bells rang, and we were all mustered on deck in our lifejackets. Above us on the higher decks and at the stern, the crew manned the light anti-aircraft guns, and we all waited with anticipation for what might happen, being too young to appreciate the possible danger.

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.
On the evening of 26th February we boarded a British Short Sunderland Flying Boat to Foynes in the Irish Republic, landing at dawn on the Shannon river. Our final flight on the 28th February was on a RAF freighter plane which landed at Northolt at 9.00 pm where we were met by my mother with the other parents, my father still being in India in the Army.

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!

Kind regards,

Jim Lawlor, President

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