Bridal bouquet (aka Plumeria Pudica) flowers, Green Turtle Cay, Abaco, Bahamas.
Bridal bouquet (aka Plumeria Pudica) flowers, Green Turtle Cay, Abaco, Bahamas.
Orange hibiscus, Green Turtle Cay, Bahamas.
Family fun at Gillam Bay, Green Turtle Cay.
Built during the mid- to late-1800s on the property east of where the town administration buildings stand today, Green Turtle Cay’s Methodist Church could seat 1,200 people. The structure was one of many destroyed during the hurricane of 1932.
UPDATE: Thank you, eagle-eyed readers! Though it looks similar, I believe the building in this image is actually the New Plymouth Inn, post 1932 hurricane and prior to its conversion from private home to a hotel.
Though there exist a number of first-hand accounts of the destruction wrought by the 1932 hurricane, there truly is nothing like a photograph to convey the full magnitude of the devastation. Earlier this year, I was fortunate to receive a group of never-before-published photos, taken on Green Turtle Cay in the days following the storm.
The images are from the collection of Jack Mertland Malone from Hope Town and later, Nassau. I’ve included his original notes in quotation marks beneath each image.
Many thanks to Mr. Malone’s granddaughter, Marysa Malone, and Wayne Neely, Bahamian meteorologist and author of The Great Bahamian Hurricanes of 1899 and 1932, for sharing these rare photographs.
Marysa’s grandfather, Jack Mertland Malone, is pictured in a few of these images, but I’d love to be able to identify the other people shown. If you know who they are, or recognize any of the houses or locations, please let me know.
Though all these images are amazing, I think the two below are perhaps the most touching. The first, because it reflects the helplessness I imagine all New Plymouth residents must have felt. These girls know that their father lies beneath the rubble of their home, but there’s little they can do to help him.
Unlike many of the other images, there’s a hint of hope in the photo below. These children, though no doubt traumatized, survived the storm. Their home appears to be relatively intact. They’re clean and neatly dressed, and perhaps on the way to regaining some degree of normality.
If you’re at all interested in Abaco or Bahamian history, you should check out my cousin Evan Lowe’s blog, Out Island Boy. Evan is the grandson of Bessie Curry Lowe, sister to my great-grandfather, Herman Curry. We connected online several years back and since then, we’ve shared the fun (and, occasionally, the frustration…) of tracing our common island roots.
In his latest blog post, School Days, Evan writes about Green Turtle Cay’s tiny Amy Roberts Primary School (originally known as the All Age School.) He draws on accounts from his late father’s journals, as well as interviews with Bahamians who either attended the school or who knew its earliest teachers and schoolmasters.
My own grandmother, Lurey Curry Albury (1919-2010), attended the All Age School from the mid-1920s to the mid-1930s. That’s her, second from left in the back row of the above photo. Her teacher, Amy Roberts, for whom the school would later be renamed, is at the far right of the picture.
“Before 1932,” my grandmother told me, “we had a big school. There was an upstairs and it had porches. We did regular school work and singing and prayers. And Amy Roberts would teach crochet work and sewing to the older girls.”
Bahamian artist and historian (and my cousin) Alton Lowe, says the original All Age School was in fact very large, able to accommodate up to 400 students. Plays were often staged at the school, he says, for the enjoyment of the entire settlement.
But on September 5, 1932 — what was to be the first day of school after summer vacation — a category 5 hurricane took direct aim at Green Turtle Cay. During the storm, which battered the cay for three long days, people with houses on low-lying land took refuge on the school steps when their homes flooded.
“They said they could feel those steps shaking,” my grandmother told me. “Later on, people whose houses had been destroyed tried to get up to the schoolhouse for shelter,” she said. “But the school was gone.”
Sadly, when the hurricane moved on, all that remained of the big, beautiful All Age School was its Abaco pine floor.
With lumber and building materials difficult to come by, and with the local population dwindling as families moved away in search of work, the people of New Plymouth built a smaller, more modest school — the building we see today.
To learn more about the early years of the Amy Roberts Primary School, see Evan’s terrific blog post.
Our little house by the ferry has come a long way since the move, and my favourite part of the journey thus far is our new covered porch.
Truth be told, Tom and I wrestled with the decision to add a porch. Throughout the restoration process, we’ve tried not to alter Pa Herman’s original structure any more than necessary. And a porch is a substantial change.
Eventually though, we concluded that Pa Herman and Ma May would approve. After all, their original, pre-1932 house had quite a similar porch. And, had they not been constrained by limited time and resources after the 1932 hurricane, we feel certain they’d have added one to Fish Hooks as well.
Originally, our plans called for a six-foot porch. But once the house was moved and we realized how spacious our new front yard was, we splurged and added two more feet.
Given the sentimental value of Pa Herman’s old cellar, we’re preserving the deepest part of it beneath the new porch. Ultimately, we’ll enclose it in privacy lattice and perhaps use it for storage.
In my (admittedly biased) opinion, Oral and Jason have built us the most beautiful porch in town. It’s a lovely space to read, write, visit with friends or just enjoy a delightful sea breeze. Practically speaking, it keeps the house cooler and increases our living area. Aesthetically, it changes the entire look of Fish Hooks, making the cottage seem larger and more welcoming.
Even more wonderful than the view of the porch, however, is the view from the porch. We now have a front-row seat from which to watch each morning’s vivid sunrise and the daily comings and goings of New Plymouth.
Being able to chat with passersby has helped us get to know our neighbours and feel more involved with the community. And we’ve even had the pleasure of meeting a few Little House by the Ferry readers who dropped by to say hello.
Though we didn’t know it then, this project would be our last opportunity to work with Oral. Not long after the porch was completed, he and his family received some difficult news.
The cancer he’d bravely battled for the past several years had spread and was not responding to treatment. He lost weight and tired easily. And while you’d never know it from his quiet demeanor, his pain level was increasing.
Sadly, on July 13, Oral passed away. Tom and I will miss him greatly, both personally and as we continue our restoration journey. But he’ll forever be a part of Fish Hooks. And with every delicate breeze or magnificent sunrise we enjoy from our porch, we’ll remember his gentle smile and gracious spirit.
This Sunday, Green Turtle Cay will bid farewell to its oldest and perhaps best-loved resident, Mr. Floyd Lowe.
Known to locals — related or not — as “Papa,” Mr. Floyd was a childhood friend and distant cousin of my grandmother, Lurey Curry Albury. “Me, my wife Zeddith and Lurey were one year’s children,” he told me. “Born in 1919.”
They attended school together, he said. Shot marbles together at recess. And though they couldn’t know it then, together they would endure the 1932 hurricane, the Great Depression and more hardship and sorrow than most of us will ever know.
Sadly, we lost my grandmother Lurey on March 1, 2010. Two months later, Mrs. Zeddith passed away. And on July 29, 2014, after a brief illness, the last of that year’s children left us.
Though Mr. Floyd was perhaps best known as owner of the Green Turtle Ferry service, his business interests over the years were many. He created countless opportunities for his fellow Abaconians and helped individuals and groups in need without want of recognition.
His business acumen and commitment to community garnered Mr. Floyd many honours, including a Silver Jubilee Award for National Development and a Cacique Award from the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism. In 1999, he was made a Member of the British Empire (MBE).
If you asked him, though, his greatest achievement and source of pride was his family. And, having gotten to know some of his family members in recent years, it’s evident that his pride was well-founded. Like him, they are gracious, kind, hard-working and community-minded. Seeing Mr. Floyd with his children, grandchildren and great-grands, it was clear how deeply he loved them and how much he was adored in return.
There was a purity and authenticity about Mr. Floyd. He lived the tenets of his faith in a way few do, and walked the walk every day with dignity, humour and generosity of spirit.
Time spent in his company was a gift. He would review old photos with me, helping to identify the people in them. He told me stories about my great-grandparents, Pa Herman and Ma May, and about my grandmother and their school days together. Once, in a conspiratorial tone, he whispered, “Lurey had a crush on me, you know.”
Occasionally, as he spun tales, I suspected he might be pulling my leg. He would just laugh and shrug. “Who can argue with me?” he’d ask. “I’m the oldest person on the island.”
When I learned Mr. Floyd had written a book about his life, I asked where I could buy one. “Come by the office,” he said. “I’ve got some there.” When I arrived, he not only had a book waiting for me, but one each for my Mom and her three siblings. He thought it might offer them insight into the early life of their own mother, Lurey. And he wouldn’t take a penny for any of them.
Most afternoons, the men of New Plymouth gather at the steps of the John Lowe Center. A few months back, I asked Mr. Floyd just what was discussed at these “four o’clock men’s meetings.” “These days?” he said, “mostly politics.” He grinned. “But women are always a close second.”
He may have been 94 years old, but Mr. Floyd was forever a young man at heart. Earlier this year, I reached out to help him down his office steps. He glanced around, blue eyes sparkling, and said, “I hope your husband doesn’t catch us holding hands!”
To Mr. Floyd’s family, Tom and I send our love and deepest condolences. His was truly a life well-lived and we hope you find comfort in the thought that he is now reunited with his beloved Zeddith and in the company of the heavenly father he so faithfully served.
As for us, we are comforted knowing that your Papa’s grace, compassion and community spirit live on through each of you. There is no greater legacy he could leave Green Turtle Cay.
A home-going service for Mr. Floyd Lowe will be held at 1pm this Sunday, August 10th at the New Plymouth Gospel Chapel in Green Turtle Cay. To enable his family members to attend, ferry service will be suspended during the funeral. The last ferry prior to the service will depart Green Turtle Cay at 11:45 am and return from the mainland at 12pm. Ferry service will resume at 4pm from Green Turtle Cay and 4:30 from the mainland.