On the tenth of June, 1967 a party of Anguillans visited St. Kitts with some kind of quixotic intention to overthrow the government of Robert Bradshaw, kidnap Bradshaw and Southwell, and take them to Anguilla as hostages to use as bargaining chips for AnguillaÕs severance from St. Kitts-Nevis and Anguilla.
When this event took place I was in Barbados, but that same night I had a visit from a friend, the late Stanley Sebastian, who brought me up to date on the event and conversed with both William Liburd and myself at the canteen of the Cave Hill Campus.
Stanley, who had left St Kitts that same day, gave us a full account of what happened and what was planned to happen, and when we asked him for the cause of all this confusion, he became very serious and remarked that the cause of the new problems in St. Kitts was Fitzroy Bryant.
Stanley might have been expressing the older manÕs prejudice against youth but he might also have been right.
Now these Anguillans came on their unbelievable escapade and failed very badly to achieve their immediate and ill-conceived objective. They returned in disarray to Anguilla chastened by their experiment but hopeful at the outcome for their small island.
Over the years Anguillans have had every reason to be proud of themselves. They had rid themselves of St. Kitts rule, they had succeeded in making Britain directly responsible for their development and over the past 40 years they have enjoyed a rise in their standard of living which has surpassed that of St. Kitts, of which they are a ward.
I remember the early Anguilla and the people who used to come to St. Kitts to face the Bobo Jonny jokes both at school and at work.
They came to St Kitts in their boats to buy breadfruit and potatoes. They brought back in exchange loads of dry peas They also came to look for work – all kinds of work – work in canefields, work in schools, in offices – anywhere they could find the means to support their families.
In those days Anguilla was underdeveloped and under the restraining hand of Robert Bradshaw. Bradshaw was the leader of the ruling party and had the authority to decide if or how any part of the territory might be developed. He could decide whether a piece of land might be sold to a foreign investor whether that investor wanted to invest in St. Kitts, in Nevis or in Anguilla.
The people of Anguilla 79 miles away resented the overlordship of St. Kitts and wanted to be released from its wardship, preferring to be a colony of Britain. They wanted to be free to have a significant say in how their island should develop. They were determined to rid themselves of of the shadow of St Kitts in which they lived under Bradshaw. That is why they staged their rebellion
In the heat of any rebellion stupid things happen, and the ill-fated adventure to St Kitts was the stupidest of adventures but the stupidity of the adventure should not tarnish the glory of the achievements of the Anguillans, once they escaped the yoke of Kittitian rule.
They have had this say for the past 40 years, albeit in the context of Colonialism, and during this time Anguilla has developed into something close to paradise. The backwater which existed when it was connected to St. Kitts is now a Mecca to Kittitians, who up to now are still waiting for something to happen to give Kittitians a reason to stay at home.
The Anguilla episode produced two rival Kittitian personalities – William Billy Herbert and Fitzroy Bryant. Both of these highly educated gentlemen had ambitions to rule St. Kitts and both laid their plots and counter plots to achieve their objectives.
Herbert hatched the Peoples Action Movement on Ronald WebsterÕs porch in Anguilla, founded the movement in St. Kitts and militantly moved to make an impact on the politics of St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla.
He might have succeeded if he had not made the most unfortunate mistake of his life and got involved in the adventure of the Anguilla journey of St. Kitts As-ill conceived as this adventure was, however, he might have succeeded if he did not have to deal with Fitzroy Bryant.
When Bryant entered the Bradshaw cabinet he virtually took control. He had determined to pursue his political ambitions by joining the party which was in power and becoming the lieutenant of the most powerful Kittitian of the day.
His Antigian birth did not seem to matter to him because there was the precedent of Paul Southwell, the Dominican by birth.
It was Bryant who masterminded the counterplot which frustrated the coup attempt but the zealots who he enlisted to attack from the defensive over played their hands and having done so cast serious doubts on the case against the Anguillans and their St Kitts supporters
Although some of the Anguillans were arrested and charged with a variety of crimes, none of them was convicted and although Dr. Herbert and many of his associates were detained they were never brought to trial and their full exoneration was to come when some years later some of them were awarded substantial damages for unlawful arrest.
The 10th of June remains a mystery for many people forty years after it took place. There is no question as to whether this was an attempted coup by the Anguillans. What is in question has always been what really happened, why nobody was convicted. Both Stanley and Fitzroy have left the scene, but perhaps Stanley had the clue.