An Amazing Weekend in Nassau

Finally, a few minutes to write about last weekend! As some of you know, last Saturday was my book signing at Logos Bookstore in Nassau. Huge thanks to Logos’ owner Ricardo Munroe and his staff for being so welcoming.

From one author to another… me with Bahamian meteorologist and author, Wayne Neely. (Photo courtesy of Wayne Neely.)

Logos has long been my favourite Bahamian bookstore. For years, every trip to Nassau has included at least one visit to Logos to check out what’s new in their Bahamian history section (and, I’ll admit, to imagine what it would be like to have my own books displayed there.) Thanks to Ricardo for helping me make that dream a reality.

And thank you to everyone who came out for the signing, which was a terrific success.

It was wonderful to see so many old friends – including a few I hadn’t seen in decades – and to meet some new ones. I also discovered a few new relatives!

Two of my favourite Bahamian authors – Rosemary Hanna and Wayne Neely – also stopped by to say hello.

In addition to being a meteorologist, Wayne is the author of a series of books about the most devastating hurricanes to hit the Bahamas.

His books, which draw on first-hand accounts as well as his professional expertise, include The Great Bahamas Hurricane of 1866The Greatest and Deadliest Hurricanes of the Caribbean and the Americas, and  The Great Bahamian Hurricanes of 1899 and 1932. They make for fascinating reading, and the latter was instrumental to me in conducting research for my own book. Continue reading

THOSE WHO STAYED Arrives in Nassau June 10th: Pre-Order Your Copy Today

I’m excited to announce that we’re introducing Those Who Stayed in Nassau on Saturday, June 10 with a book signing at Logos Bookstore.

Having been a Logos customer for years, I’m beyond thrilled that my own book will now be part of their great Bahamian history section. Plus, I’m looking forward to meeting some of you Green Turtle Cay and Abaco descendants at the event and discussing our shared ancestry!

A tip for Little House by the Ferry readers — Logos is now accepting pre-orders for the book. Given the volume of inquiries we’ve had, and since I’m bringing a limited number of books with me, I’d recommend that you drop by the store as soon as you can and get your order in. 

If you have any questions, feel free to get in touch with Logos at (242) 394-7040 or info@logosbahamas.com. And of course, you can always contact me directly.

I’d be grateful if you’d forward this blog post to anyone you think might be interested in Those Who Stayed, or in attending the June 10 event at Logos.

Hope to see you there!

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In Abaco, Every Child Counts

If you’ve ever encountered a young man on a three-wheeled bicycle in Green Turtle Cay, you’ve likely met my friend, Eric Sawyer. He’s funny, kind and creative. And he has Down Syndrome.

Eric 7For families in the U.S., Canada and Europe who have children with special needs, life can be challenging. Fortunately though, the majority of these families have access to the information, resources, therapies and medical care necessary to help address their children’s challenges.

But imagine having a deaf child, or one with autism or Down Syndrome or cerebral palsy, and no access to information, resources or support. It’s a situation in which many Bahamian families find themselves.

Even if they could afford specialized care and resources — and many can’t — these resources simply aren’t available outside the main cities of Nassau and Freeport. And not every family is in a position to uproot and move. Continue reading

Can You Help Identify Members of the Gallant Thirty?

After publishing the image below as part of my Remembrance Day post, readers wrote to me identifying two of the men pictured. I also heard from several others who know their loved ones were part of the Gallant Thirty, and would like to be able to identify them in the photo.

So, how many of these men can we name?

bahamas, nassau, gallant thirty, world war 1

According to the blog Forgotten Faces and Long Ago Places, #10 is Hershel Stanley Hall. The author says Mr. Hall was just seventeen when this photo was taken, right before the Gallant Thirty set sail.

Also, Bruce Maura sent a note to let me know that #31 is his grandfather, Bruce M. Maura.

That leaves the following men to be identified: Captain William F. Albury, Fletcher Albury, Dr R. W. Albury, George Aranha, Matthew Armbrister, Robert J. Atwill, Charles Bain, James Bain, Harold Bascombe, Charles Bethel, G. P. Bethel, Horatio C. O. Brown, Austin Dean, John Demeritte, Sidney C. Farrington, Frederick Flowers, A. Henry Fountain, George H. Johnson, Artie Kemp, James H. Knowles, Frederick C. C. Lightbourn, Origen H. Mason, Henry A. Roach, A. Vincent Roberts, James S. Taylor, William Thompson, John Williams and Reginald Wood.

If you can help put names to any of the unidentified faces, please let me know. Also, any guesses as to what’s in the box held by the men in the center of the front row?

Remembering the Gallant Thirty

Though Bahamians were quite literally a world away from the battle lines of World War I, they were eager to perform their patriotic duty and support the British Empire.

bahamas, gallant thirty, world war one, british west indies regiment

The Gallant Thirty

Continue reading

Let the Games Begin!

A handful of Bahamians who live in Southern California attended the Special Olympics 2015 World Games Opening Ceremonies on Saturday night.

bahamas, special olympics, la2015

Team Bahamas Enters the Stadium

We were so excited and proud to watch Team Bahamas walk the red carpet – hope they heard us cheering them on from way up in the stands! Continue reading

Fish Hooks Restoration: The Living Room (Part 1)

Having discovered all sorts of treasures in the attic at Fish Hooks, we’ve been trying to use as many of them as possible in the house.

One of our larger finds was a set of living room furniture — a settee and two armchairs. Given their mid-century modern appearance, we were fairly certain they weren’t original to the house. (In fact, I’m 99% sure they were brought over to Green Turtle Cay in the 1970s from my aunt’s home in Nassau.) Still, they were part of the family and part of the history of Fish Hooks, and I wanted to save them.

bahamas, abaco, green turtle cay, furliture restoration

My great-grandmother and her sisters, on our settee. L-R: Sarah Gates Lowe, May Gates Curry and Neva Gates Lowe.

Tom, on the other hand? Not a fan. As he pointed out, the Danish-modern design didn’t exactly fit into our planned beach house decor. And after years spent in an uninhabited house, plus at least a half-decade in the attic, the cushions were brittle, stained and essentially unusable. When he discovered that the wooden frames were riddled with termite damage, that was the end of the discussion.

Thus began our search for living room furniture. Having viewed a number of tiny condominiums during our most recent home search, we assumed we’d have a broad range of smaller, apartment-sized furnishings from which to choose. But despite hours of online research and shopping back at home in L.A., we couldn’t find anything that would fit into Fish Hooks’ cozy living room. Nothing, at least, that cost less than a small car.

Before long, that dusty, termite-eaten furniture in the attic didn’t seem quite so hopeless after all.

On our next trip to Green Turtle Cay, we got to work. Tom scraped out the termite damage and filled weakened parts of the wood with liquid epoxy. A few sections were simply too damaged to repair, but he was able to salvage enough pieces to assemble the sofa and one arm chair – which, in reality, is all we had room for.

While he primed and painted the woodwork, I ordered new foam from Knowles Upholstery in Nassau (they were super helpful in helping me choose which foam would be best, and putting my purchase on the mail boat for me.) Our friend Mandy Roberts kindly lent me a sewing machine and I made fresh new cushion covers out of some blue-grey canvas I’d brought from home.

And here are the results of our efforts… bahamas, abaco, green turtle cay, fish hooks, furniture restoration Truthfully, between the primer, paint, foam and fabric (not to mention our time), I’m not sure we saved much money, compared with buying new. Much more importantly, though, we’re happy to have saved another piece of family history, and that we have furniture that actually fits in the house.

Calling All Bahamians (and Honourary Bahamians) in L.A.

cdn.la2015.psdops.comLess than two weeks from now, 40 or so Bahamian athletes, coaches and chaperones will arrive in Los Angeles to participate in the 2015 Special Olympics World Games, taking place from July 25 – August 2.

We’re trying to get together as many Bahamians (and “honourary” Bahamians) as possible to come out and support our athletes.

Austin Green, bahamas, special olympics, world games

Bahamian athlete Austin Green, who will compete in bocce at the L.A. World Games.

The Bahamian team arrives in L.A. on July 21 and will be hosted by the City of Costa Mesa until July 24, when they’ll head to the athletes’ village. (Unfortunately, because of the number of World Games delegations arriving July 21, LAX is not permitting “welcoming committees” at the airport.)

Amal Johnson, bahamas, special olympics

Amal Johnson will compete in the 100m, 200m and the 4x400m relay.

The City of Costa Mesa has a number of fun events planned for our Bahamian delegation, including a barbeque lunch, an Angels of Anaheim baseball game and an afternoon at the Orange County Fair, where they’ll be honoured at a special ceremony.

Deron Forbes, bahamas, special olympics, world games

Deron Forbes will swim in the 25m breast stroke, 50m breast stroke and the 4x25m freestyle relay.

Comprised of athletes from Abaco, Grand Bahama and New Providence, Team Bahamas will compete in aquatics and athletics (at USC’s Uytengsu Aquatic Center and Loker Stadium/Cromwell Field respectively), bocce (at L.A. Convention Center), bowling (at Lucky Strike at L.A. Live), open-water swimming (at Alamitos Beach at Long Beach) and tennis (at UCLA’s Los Angeles Tennis Center).

I don’t yet have the specific dates on which our Bahamian athletes will compete, but I’ll post the schedule here as soon as possible. All World Games sporting events are free to attend.

Krystal Clarke, bahamas, special olympics, world games

Krystal Clarke will represent Team Bahamas in the 100m walk and the softball throw.

In addition to attending the Games themselves, here are some other ways you can support our Bahamian delegation:

  • The City of Costa Mesa is looking for a few volunteers to accompany the Bahamian delegation to the O.C. Fair on Thursday, July 23 — lunch and your fair ticket will be provided. To volunteer, contact Jennifer Christ at the City of Costa Mesa at jennifer.christ@costamesaca.gov.
Serena Newton, bahamas, special olympics, world games

The youngest member of the Bahamas’ World Games Team, Abaco’s 11-year-old Serena Newton will compete in the 25m and 50m breaststroke and the 4x25m freestyle relay.

If you’re in the Los Angeles area, please plan to join us in supporting and cheering on Team Bahamas. I’ll post an update as soon as I’ve got dates and times for the various events. Hope to see you at the Games!

All photographs courtesy of Special Olympics Bahamas.

Too Soon to Say Goodbye

To date, much of this blog has centered around the history of my maternal grandmother, Lurey Curry Albury. Certainly not because of a lack of interest in the ancestry of my grandfather, Lionel Augustus Albury, but simply due to geography and circumstance.

My grandfather, Lionel Augustus Albury (1919-1980)

My grandfather, Lionel Augustus Albury (1919-1980)

Most of Ma’s family lived nearby us in Nassau, while Pa’s siblings and their families were in Abaco, and we saw them far less frequently. Many I never met.

Plus, we lost my grandfather the day after I turned 13, meaning I didn’t have much opportunity to ask him about his family history.

Which is why, shortly after launching this blog, I was thrilled to receive a long email from my Mom’s first cousin, Jack Albury, who lived in Marsh Harbour. The son of Pa’s brother Ancil, Jack shared with me his memories of the common branches of our family tree.

We corresponded by email and phone in the months that followed. Jack told me about his dad (known as “Spotty,” and a bit of an Abaco legend), whom I’m not sure I ever met, and about his grandparents (my great-grandparents) Frederick Leon Albury and Margaret Eunice Key, both of whom passed away before I was born. Jack answered my questions and queries with patience, humour and honesty.

John Campbell (Jack) Albury, 1943-2015

John Campbell (Jack) Albury MBE, 1943-2015

He recalled picking hog plums from a tree in his grandfather’s yard and spending summer vacations travelling on the Stede Bonnet with his dad, who captained that vessel. As a young boy, Jack sculled passengers to and from Bahamas Airways amphibian aircraft when they landed in the sea near Marsh Harbour.

From the beginning of our Fish Hooks journey, Jack was incredibly supportive of Tom and me. He advised us about shipping and customs, provided referrals to local suppliers and offered encouraging words when we most needed them.

One day, after trying in vain to telephone several Marsh Harbour businesses, I posted a note on Facebook asking if the phones were down. Jack emailed me, confirming that there were in fact phone problems, and asking who I was trying to reach.

I told him, and an hour or so later, I heard back. Jack had physically gone to each of the businesses and asked for their email addresses, so he could send them to me. I was truly touched by his kindness.

Not only did Jack own and operate two local businesses (Frederick’s Agency and Albury’s Trucking) but he helped establish several other companies over the years, including the Boat Harbour Marina. He was an avid supporter of community organizations, such as the Every Child Counts school, and was active for many years in the local political scene.

Seven years ago, in recognition of his business accomplishments and service to the community, Jack was named a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE.)

HonoursRecipients

2008 Queen’s Birthday Honour Recipients. Jack is in the back row, fourth from the right.

A couple of months ago, Jack began experiencing severe neck pain. Thinking he’d pinched a nerve, he went to the States on January 2 to have it checked out. Within a few weeks, however, it became evident that the diagnosis was much more serious.

Jack and Gaye Albury, March 2012

Jack and Gaye Albury, March 2012

This past weekend, less than two months later, my cousin Jack lost his brief and painful battle.

To Jack’s wife, Gaye, their children and grandkids, his siblings and extended family, Tom and I send our love and deepest condolences. We can only imagine how difficult these past weeks have been, and we’ll be thinking of you in the days ahead.

Jack’s love for his family, friends and community was plain to see. It’s our hope that remembering this, and knowing how many lives he touched and made better, will be a source of comfort for you.

I know Jack had many more family tales to tell, and it saddens me that he’ll never have the chance. But I’m so grateful that he reached out to me, and that we got to know each other and enjoy the moments we did share.

Jack’s Home Going Service will be held this Saturday, February 14th at 3:00 pm at Grace Gym, Agape Christian School in Marsh Harbour. In lieu of flowers, his family has asked that donations be made to Every Child Counts or the Abaco Cancer Society.

Rushing into 2015 on Green Turtle Cay

Though New Year’s Eve is pretty exciting around our Pasadena neighbourhood (we live within the float marshaling area for the Tournament of Roses Parade), I’m beyond excited that we’ll be ringing in 2015 on Green Turtle Cay!

bahamas, abaco, green turtle cay, junkanoo, new years

You see, Bahamians welcome the New Year with a parade of their own. Similar to Rio’s Carnival or Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Junkanoo is a traditional Bahamian festival that began in the 17th century.

Back then, slaves were given a three-day Christmas break, when they were free to leave their plantations to be with their families. They celebrated this holiday by donning masks and costumes and playing African-inspired music on crudely fashioned instruments.

Four centuries later, Junkanoo has evolved into a large, festive Bahamian holiday celebration with organized groups of performers parading (“rushing”) in elaborate, crepe paper-covered costumes, accompanied by whistles, cowbells, goatskin drums and brass instruments.

bahamas, abaco, green turtle cay, junkanoo, new years

The origin of the name “Junkanoo” is unclear. Some claim it comes from the French “l’inconnu,” meaning “the unknown,” in reference to the masks worn by Junkanoo performers. Others believe it was named in honour of “John Canoe,” an African chief who reportedly demanded that slaves be given the right to a holiday break. Junkanoo 24 22

Though smaller Junkanoo parades are staged on some Bahamian out islands, the main event takes place in downtown Nassau during the early morning hours of Boxing Day (Dec 26) and New Year’s Day. Thousands of performers and musicians, representing a number of different competing groups, rush along Bay Street until daybreak. Cash prizes are awarded for best music, costumes and overall group presentation.

Truthfully, though Nassau’s Junkanoo is spectacular, I prefer the New Year’s Junkanoo parade on Green Turtle Cay. First, it takes place in the afternoon on New Year’s Day — no need to drag yourself out of bed in the middle of a damp night to fight rowdy crowds.

bahamas, abaco, green turtle cay, junkanoo, new years

Second, in the daylight, you can better (and more closely) appreciate the colour and detail in the gorgeous costumes. Plus, this year, we’ll be able to enjoy Junkanoo from the comfort of our own front porch!

bahamas, abaco, green turtle cay, junkanoo, new years

I must admit, I did feel a pang or two the other night when three Rose Parade floats passed by our home en route to the tents where they’ll be decorated. But it’s been eight years since we’ve experienced Green Turtle Cay’s New Year’s Junkanoo parade, and I can’t wait!