Thursday, 6 September 2012

Bridgetown, Barbados

English settlement of Bridgetown began on 5 July 1628 under Charles Wolverstone, who brought with him 64 settlers to these lands formally claimed by James Hay, the Earl of Carlisle. From 1800 until 1885 Bridgetown served as the main seat of Government for the former British colonies of the Windward Islands. During this period the resident Governor of Barbados also served as the Colonial head of the Windward Islands. After the Government of Barbados officially exited from the Windward Island union in 1885, the seat was moved from Bridgetown to St. George's on the neighbouring island of Grenada. Read more on Wikipedia

Lowry refers to Bridgetown in his novel Ultramarine; Dana tells Poppelreuter while on their drunken drift around Dairen; " 'In Barbados, in Bridgetown, I remained a week, playing the taropatch in a brothel. While accepting the offer of the fifteen-year-old daughter of the house. I sold her to the Negro doorkeeper for a bottle of gin.' " (Pg. 93).

Later Lowry again refers to Bridgetown;  " ' Talking about cows, all round the West Indies I been, Barbados, Bridgetown, that's hot stuff...All the grape trees coming down to the water's edge, you want to stay at the Colonial in the Milk Market there - nigger orchestra. The Marine's no good - that is, if you got money. I had. That was during the war. I tried the Marine, and the Balmoral. And then I went to the Colonial.....' " (Pg. 174).

Lowry visited Bridgetown on his 1929 trip to the Caribbean, en route to the USA to visit Conrad Aiken, on board the SS Dorelian. Gordon Bowker states that Lowry later claimed to have played in a hot band in a brothel in Barbados (Pursued By Furies Pg. 83). We can only speculate whether the claims made by Dana in Ultramarine reflect Lowry's own visit to Bridgetown.

Marisa Joanna Fuentes in Buried Landscapes: Enslaved Black Women, Sex, Confinement and Death in Colonial Bridgetown etc (1997) states "Bridgetown is still a small city — underneath it all, the history of slavery is deftly white washed by "development", yet street names such as "Molls Alley", "Maiden Lane", "Milk Market" and "Liverpool Lane" whisper to a haunted past." (Pg. 109). This "haunted past" is perhaps what Lowry was tapping into on his visit in 1929.

Milk Market, Bridgetown

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