Doctor Douglas, Do God Bless You

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When I was a boy I used to hear the big people say “Do God Bless You”. This was when they were faced with a desperate situation and were pleading with someone to either to stop something evil or do some righteous.

Kittitians, including me, are faced right now with a most desperate situation. All around us we see our land passing into foreign hands. We feel that something about this development is wrong but we are powerless to stop it from happening.

Many years ago the Bradshaw administration acquired the Frigate Bay lands from the Wigley family.

Bradshaw did not believe in tourism. He was very wary about white strangers reimposing their superior economic presence on Kittitians. He observed what was happening at Mill Reef in Antigua, how a whole portion of Antigua was cordoned off for the safety and comfort of white Americans who maintained vacation homes at Mill Reef. Their contribution to Antigua’s economy, besides the temporary jobs generated from the construction of their cottages, was the wages they paid to the maids who maintained the premises between vacations.

Bradshaw did not like what he saw at Mill Reef. Perhaps because his mother was a maid at the sugar factory’s guest house throughout his boyhood, he very easily spotted the negative features of the plantation system which was being retrenched into the tourism industry. So his government acquired the land at Frigate Bay.

Bradshaw had become infamous for his apparent opposition to tourism as an economic driver, but his reservation was not just about tourism, it was what tourism was about, the control of the factors of production land and capital by white expatriates and their ability to manipulate the labour factor.

This was the reason behind the aliens landholdings law which exerted strict controls over the land which expatriates, who were mostly white, could own in our very limited land space Nevertheless, Robert Bradshaw was realistic. He knew that sooner or later, St. Kitts would have to open up to tourism, he knew the economy needed to be diversified. So he contrived to regulate tourism by locating it on its own site far away from the crowd.

So he acquired Frigate Bay, built the Royal St. Kitts from public funds and leased it to an entrepreneur.

His worst fears were realized after his death when the Royal St. Kitts was burnt down under the Simmonds administration and quickly replaced by a privately owned hotel.

The latest rumor is that the land at Buckley’s Estate is being/has been sold to an expatriate for the development of commercial entertainment.

I don’t know whether this expatriate firm has already acquired the land but if it is true, I beseech Dr. Douglas PLEASE Do God Bless You, give back, the money and recover the Buckley’s land. If it is not true yet, PLEASE Do God Bless You, don’t sell this land to strangers.

The land at Buckley’s is sacred land, which should be enshrined. It was on this land in 1932 that the labour movement of St. Kitts experienced its first triumph after agitating for many years. It was here that ordinary folk met to start the riots which changed the face of St. Kitts and the rest of the Caribbean.

The Buckley’s riot happened in January 1932 just about the time when the sugar crop was supposed to have started. The workers had asked for a small raise of pay; the sugar industry refused, and the sugar workers, led from behind the scenes by Sebastian and Nathan, gathered at Buckley’s and demanded that Mr. Dobridge, the white manager, come out of his house to reason with them.

Mr. Dobridge was not very cooperative and the workers grew defiant, let the animals out of their paddocks and declared the day a holiday. They left Buckley’s and walked around the island from estate to estate opening the paddocks to set the animals free, declaring the day a holiday as they went, and calling on their fellow-workers to fall in.

As they marched around the island in orderly procession, they were very careful not to light any canefeilds or inflict injury on any of the white estate managers.

On the Sunday before the incident, some of them had met on Malone Avenue and had secured lengths of car tyre which they intended to use on their reluctant comrades, but Sebastian and Nathan had urged them to avoid any such action which might reflect on the good name of the fledgling labour movement.

And so the Buckley’s rioters, led by young men from the Village, McKnight and Newtown, natural leaders in their villages and neighborhoods, led a march through the entire island on the island’s dirt roads, stopping only to disrupt work on the estates and invite their fellows to fall in.

The authorities did not react till the next day when, perhaps to pre-empt a recurrence of the Buckley’s incident or simply to tek dey faccy on the black people, they declared a state of emergency in the Buckley’s environment and went on a shooting spree.

Some of their bullets strayed into the village neighborhood. One curious young man heard the sound of gunshots, peeped around a corner and had his face blown off.

Another man was heading home to Buckley’s on his bicycle from the sugar factory. The shooters targeted him, thought he was Matthew Sebastian, shot him off his bicycle killing him on the spot, declaring to his fellow gunmen “We got the son of a bitch”!

The next day the authorities rounded up the leaders who could not escape by sea to the nearby islands. They handed down jail sentences for their part in an incident in which they did not assault or injure anybody and in which they were the target of deadly fire.

Do God Bless You, Doctor Douglas, PLEASE consider the sacrifice of these great men and women of the Buckley’s episode. PLEASE recognize their martyrdom for the cause of the early labour movement. Do God Bless You, Doctor Douglas, enshrine and consecrate the land at Buckley’s.

You were not born yet, but your father must have told you of this great and noble happening in the history of our island. His friend Robert Bradshaw was only 16 years but he remembered it. He must have related it to you.

The riots which started in St. Kitts in 1932 sparked off many similar riots throughout the Caribbean. Grenada had its riots, Trinidad, Barbados. British Guiana in South America had their riots. Jamaica had its workers’ uprising. All of these uprisings happened after the Buckley’s Riot.

The kettle of worker discontent had been boiling since 1834 and after 100 years blew up all over the Caribbean, starting at Buckley’s.

The modern St. Kitts was born at Buckley’s. The modern Caribbean was conceived at Buckley’s, Do God Bless You Doctor Douglas. Preserve Buckley’s.

KEEP BUCKLEYS SACRED to the memory of our founding fathers. The improvement of our education system, secondary education the University of the West Indies to which you went and where I also had the privilege to go, the development of our modern health system, all had their roots in the Buckley’s Riot, not in St. Kitts alone, but throughout the British Caribbean.

It was at the Moyne Commission Hearings that Thomas Manchester prescribed Land Reform as one of the bases of the modern St. Kitts. It was his advocacy of land reform that resulted in the land settlements of Fahies, Harris and Saddlers.

I cannot stop you from selling out our land to the strangers. I can only assure you that by so doing you are setting the stage for a very tragic outcome in the future after you will have left office. I can assure you that the next riot wont start at Buckley’s and it wont be an orderly procession around the island. I may not be around but I can guarantee you that your land policy will result in the biggest conflagration of our island’s history.

If your believe in the other world the world of our ancestors, you’ll understand me when I say that our ancestors whose sweat and blood refreshed our soil, will curse the land if it falls back into the hands of white people. And a special dispensation will be reserved for any leader who contrived to betray the trust of the brave men and women who dared to dream that St. Kitts will fall into the hands of their descendants.

He who sows the wind will reap the whirlwind.

Do, God Bless You, Doctor Douglas, consecrate this land. Build a shine on it. Establish monuments for Matthew Sebastian, Nathan and Manchester. Make Buckley’s into holy ground, so that all who tread that piece of land will feel reverence for the spirits of our ancestors.


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