June 29 Book Signing Benefits the Albert Lowe Museum

The Albert Lowe Museum has invited me to appear at a book signing event at the museum on Thursday, June 29. This will be my last signing before I head back to Los Angeles for the summer, and part proceeds from every copy of Those Who Stayed sold that day will benefit the museum.

If you’re on Green Turtle Cay next Thursday, I hope you’ll drop by and say hello!

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

Returning to the Sea for Survival

Alton Lowe, whose oil paintings are featured in Those Who Stayed, won’t be able to join me in Nassau for this Saturday’s book signing at Logos Bookstore. This week, as a tribute to Alton, I’m featuring some of his gorgeous paintings and corresponding excerpts from the book. Hope to see you at Logos on Saturday!

As the 20th century dawned, Green Turtle Cay’s glory days were a distant memory. The U.S., having annexed Hawaii and the Philippines, no longer needed the Bahamian pineapples that once buoyed the local economy.

A once-promising sisal industry had failed to thrive, as locally grown product could not compete with Mexican sisal, which was both less expensive and of superior quality. Blight had wiped out most of the Bahamian sponge supply — once known as some of the best in the world.

“Civic,” an oil painting by Alton Lowe. The Civic was a fishing sloop owned by Alton’s father, Albert Lowe.

But though the sea had failed Bahamian spongers, it provided other vital economic opportunities. Continue reading

The Founding of Key West

Alton Lowe, whose oil paintings are featured in Those Who Stayed, won’t be able to join me in Nassau for this Saturday’s book signing at Logos Bookstore. This week, as a tribute to Alton, I’m featuring some of his gorgeous paintings and corresponding excerpts from the book. Hope to see you at Logos on Saturday!

“John Bartlum” (1814-1871) – oil painting by Alton Lowe

The waters around the Florida Keys were a popular site for many Abaco wreckers. In 1825, however, the U.S. Congress passed the Federal Wrecking Act, which stipulated that salvage from any vessel wrecked in American waters must be brought to a U.S. port.

In the years that followed, a number of Abaconians relocated to Key West, then a mostly uninhabited island at the southern end of the chain of Florida Keys.

By 1860, two-thirds of the island’s 3,000 residents were of Bahamian descent, known locally as “Conchs.”

Many Green Turtle Cay natives would be among Key West’s founding families and community leaders, including John Bartlum  and William Curry. Continue reading

Loyal to the Crown

Alton Lowe, whose oil paintings are featured in Those Who Stayed, won’t be able to join me in Nassau for this Saturday’s book signing at Logos Bookstore. This week, as a tribute to Alton, I’m featuring some of his gorgeous paintings and corresponding excerpts from the book. Hope to see you at Logos on Saturday!

LOYAL TO THE CROWN - The Loyalists who came to the Bahamas in hopes of establishing a new British empire.

“A New Beginning,” oil painting by Alton Lowe, from the private collection of Mr. and Mrs. Reginald Sands.

At the beginning of the 1780s, the American Revolutionary War had been raging for more than five years. Residents of the American colonies who wished to gain independence from England, known as Patriots, battled those Loyalists who maintained allegiance to the British Crown.

While the former sought autonomy, the latter believed their freedom was more effectively protected by British law than the untested Declaration of Independence.  Absent protection from the Crown, they worried the American colonies would promptly be annexed by the Spanish or French.

About 500,000 residents – 20% of the American population at the time – were Loyalists. In 1783, believing the Patriots stood no chance against England’s considerable might, they were stunned when Britain elected to grant independence to the United States. It would not be the last time the Crown would betray their loyalty. Continue reading

Daily Photo – June 3, 2017

Does anyone know the reason for this cut in the rocks on the ocean beach side of Green Turtle Cay?

Beach north of the point at Gillam Bay, Green Turtle Cay, Bahamas. Does anyone know why this gap was created? It seems too cleanly cut to have occurred naturally. If it is man-made, one assumes it was made to allow boat access, but it seems awfully narrow for that purpose…

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A Death in the Family

Vertrum Albert Lowe (April 20th, 1933 – May 21, 2017)

A week ago Monday morning, I was walking Wrigley past Harvey’s Island Grill when I noticed a sign posted near the door: “Closed due to a death in the family.”

I knew what that meant. My cousin Vertrum Lowe, grandfather to the Sawyer sisters who operate Harvey’s, had passed away.

He had been sick for a while. But knowing the end was coming didn’t make it any easier when it arrived.

Born during the aftermath of the worst hurricane ever to hit Green Turtle Cay, Vert was the oldest child of Albert and Annie (Curry) Lowe. Though they grew up in a time of poverty and need, Vert and his young friends made fun out of the little they had. Continue reading

A Direct Flight from Nassau to Green Turtle Cay

Every day this week, as a lead up to my Marsh Harbour book signing on Saturday, May 13th, I’ll be sharing historic Abaco photographs and brief excerpts from my new book, Those Who Stayed.

With the exception of the few years during which Abaco was served by the luxurious Content, travel to and from Nassau meant a long, often unpleasant voyage on the mailboat.

The trip became much easier in the late 1940s, however, when Bahamas Airways began flying amphibious aircraft from Nassau direct to New Plymouth.

Direct Flights from Nassau to Green Turtle Cay

A Bahamas Airways seaplane at Settlement Point. Photo by Lionel Hodgkins, courtesy of Margaret Albury.

Continue reading

Laying Rope

Every day this week, as a lead up to my Marsh Harbour book signing on Saturday, May 13th, I’ll be sharing historic Abaco photographs and brief excerpts from my new book, Those Who Stayed.

In the late 1880s, believing it held the key to the colony’s economic success, Bahamian Governor Ambrose Shea introduced sisal, a plant that yields a stiff fibre used to make rope, twine, mats and other household items.

Lambert Gates (left) and Vertrum Lowe laying rope, circa 1950. Photo courtesy of the Albert Lowe Museum.

Since the U.S. had no domestic sisal supply, the governor pointed out, there was a ready market nearby. Furthermore, since sisal plants live more than a decade and survive in virtually any condition, they require minimum care. Continue reading

The Surprising Effect of WWII on Green Turtle Cay

Every day this week, as a lead up to my Marsh Harbour book signing on Saturday, May 13th, I’ll be sharing historic Abaco photographs and brief excerpts from my new book, Those Who Stayed.

As the Bahamian sponging industry died and the Depression took hold, many Green Turtle Cay men took up shark fishing — harvesting and exporting hides, fins and livers. More rich in Vitamin A than even cod liver oil, shark livers were the most valuable by-product.

The Surprising Effect of WWII on Green Turtle Cay, Bahamas

Green Turtle Cay shark fishermen land the day’s catch along the shore of Settlement Creek. Photo courtesy of the Albert Lowe Museum.

And though Green Turtle Cay’s shark fishermen had no way to know it, events half a world away would soon have a dramatic impact on their new industry. Continue reading