Pink hibiscus at the Albert Lowe Museum – Green Turtle Cay.
Pink hibiscus at the Albert Lowe Museum – Green Turtle Cay.
Featuring thirteen colourful Green Turtle Cay photographs, this 12-month, spiral-bound wall calendar is printed on premium, glossy card stock.
It measures 8.5” x 11” (11” x 17” when open), and includes public holidays for the Bahamas, U.S. and Canada. Cost: $24, which includes shipping.
A full-colour, hard-cover, 185-page coffee table book featuring 200+ historic photographs and two dozen original oil paintings by Bahamian artist Alton Lowe.
Visitors often describe New Plymouth on Green Turtle Cay as a charming fishing village, its narrow streets, clapboard homes and colourful flowers reminiscent of a New England town. But beneath this sweet façade is a past of piracy, poverty and privilege.
Hints of New Plymouth’s history are all around. A rusted anchor at Settlement Point. Two cannon standing guard on the public dock. Broken tombstones on the beach. An old jail with stairs that lead nowhere.
For more than a thousand years, settlers have come here, drawn by the safety of the land and the bounty of the sea. And as the waves contour the shore, so have these migrants shaped this tiny cay.
By fate and occasionally by force, most were carried away. A resilient few remained. This is their story.
Questions? Contact me.
Thank you, and Merry Christmas to all!
Historic graves in the Green Turtle Cay cemetery – Abaco, Bahamas.
A few weeks ago, I received this photo from one of my best friends in Vancouver.
Her seven-year-old daughter, Zoe, chose my book Those Who Stayed, to bring to school for show and tell. How cool is that?!
Zoe told her grade two classmates that the book was written by her mom’s friend. She explained that Those Who Stayed is about Green Turtle Cay and its history, and she showed a number of photographs from the book.
According to Zoe, the kids really liked the cover image, a painting by Bahamian artist Alton Lowe.
Zoe, I’m sooo touched that you took my book to share with your class. Tom and I can’t wait to have you come and visit Green Turtle Cay for yourself!
Food. Music. Religion. Art. Politics. And of course, Junkanoo. Though the world knows us for breathtaking beaches, spectacular boating and fishing and some of the best diving on the planet, these are the things about which Bahamians are most passionate, the things that shape our collective identity. And, under the theme, “Celebrating Our Culture,” they’ll be saluted at this year’s Island Roots Heritage Festival, being held May 2-4 in Green Turtle Cay.
Though the event program is still being finalized, the festival committee says this year’s Island Roots will feature a diverse selection of Bahamian musicians, artists, artisans and authors, popular local dishes and culinary delights, traditional island games, informative displays and presentations and a family tree research center.
Island Roots allows visitors to experience authentic Bahamian culture and gives Bahamians the opportunity to learn about and celebrate their individual and collective histories.
Of course, staging this much-loved, three-day festival is not inexpensive. To help with the myriad of event costs (equipment rentals, printing, transportation and accommodation for dozens of presenters and performers, just for starters), the festival committee has planned a number of fundraising events. If you’d like to support the Island Roots Heritage Festival, here’s how:
Attend the Fundraising Grill Out on Saturday, March 8: A grill-out will be held this Saturday evening at the basketball court in the center of New Plymouth. If you’re on the cay, please drop by for dinner and dessert. Grilling begins at 5 pm.
Donate a Raffle Prize: The festival committee is seeking prize donations for their annual raffle. If you’re able to donate merchandise, gift certificates or services, they would much appreciate it. If you’d like to contribute a raffle prize, let me know, and I’ll forward contact information for the festival committee.
Donate Cash: To make a cash donation, large or small, drop me a note and I’ll put you in touch with the committee.
If you’re planning to attend this year’s Island Roots festival and haven’t yet reserved your flights, accommodations, golf cart or rental boat, better get on it. I hear they’re booking up fast. Hope to see you there!
Related Posts: Green Turtle Cay 101: Getting Here, Green Turtle Cay 101: Staying Here, Island Roots Heritage Festival: Celebrating All Things Abaco, Island Roots Heritage Festival: Bridging Past and Future, An Unscheduled Performance at Island Roots
As a result of your comments and emails, we can now put names to some of the faces in the photos I posted on September 19 and September 24. A huge thank you to Philip Sawyer, Jack Albury, Jack Lowe, Beth Lowe Sawyer, Priscilla Weatherford, Paula Weech Unhjem, Geanette Hall Albury, Emily Lowe Bethel, Robert Malone, Gloria Chiodo, Tuppy Weatherford, Gail Lowe and my mom, Carolyn Albury Diedrick, for the information they shared.
Thanks also to Eileen Hodgkins and Shirley Roberts, who provided names for all but one of the girls in the photo below. Apparently this was a sewing class in Green Turtle Cay in the late 1930s. (I wonder if it was taught by Miss Jones, who also taught the knitting class…?) If you’d like an unnumbered version of this image, drop me a note.
Back Row: 1 – Sybil Saunders Hodgkins (mother of ferry captain Curtis Hodgkins), 2 – Delores Saunders Lowe (sister of 1), 3 – unknown, 4 – Libby Saunders Lowe (wife of Sidney Lowe), 5 – Merlee Lowe Key (wife of Gerald Key), 6 – Audrey Saunders Semon (sister of 1 and 2), 7 – Merriel Roberts Cash (wife of Leo Cash), 8 – Annis Lowe, 9 – Mamie Preston, 10 – Lillian Russell, 11 – Hilda Saunders Hodgkins, (wife of Ritchie Hodgkins,)
Front Row: 12 – Betty Lowe (wife of Emory Lowe), 13 – Agnes Lowe Roberts, (wife of Doyle Roberts), 14 Olga Roberts, 15 Thalia Saunders Lowe (sister of 11, wife of Chester Lowe.)
This is the second post in a series. You’ll find part one here: Faces in Need of Names
A giant thank you to everyone who sent comments and emails about the collection of photos I posted earlier this week. I’ve received some promising leads and hope to be able to identify many of the faces pictured. Once identities are confirmed, I’ll post an update.
In the meantime, here’s a second batch of photos of unknown people. All I know about these images is that they were likely taken in the Bahamas (Abaco or Nassau) between the 1930s and the 1950s. For ease of reference, all images are numbered (see captions.)
For me, the best part of genealogical research is finding old photographs. It’s fine to read about ancestors — where they were born, when they were married, when they died — but seeing their eyes, their expressions, even their attire, makes them real in a way words never could.
Over time, I’ve amassed a collection of old Bahamian photographs, primarily from my late grandmother, Lurey (Curry) Albury in Nassau and my late uncle, Cuthbert Albury, of Marsh Harbour, Abaco. Though my grandmother was able to identify many faces, I’ve still got dozens of images of people I don’t recognize.
For the next while, I’m going to post small groupings of these photos in hopes that someone can help put names to faces. If the folks in the pictures are ancestors of mine, it would be great to know. If they’re not, I’d love to be able to track down their descendants so I can forward the photos to them.
Do you recognize any of these people or places?
If so, please comment at the bottom of this post or, if you prefer, email me privately. If not, I’d appreciate if you’d forward a link to this page to anyone who might be able to help. (To view full-size images and/or complete captions, just double-click on any photo.)
Finally, I’m always on the hunt for old Abaco photos, particularly of Green Turtle Cay. If you have any you’d like to share, let me know. I’d love to see them.
NOTE: I’m not sure, but I believe most of these photos were taken between the late 1930s and the early 1950s.
This post in the first in a series. Part two: (More) Faces in Need of Names
When the wind died down and the rain subsided, the residents of Green Turtle Cay were relieved that the worst was behind them.
But as they emerged from their battered, flooded shelters, they discovered what misery lay ahead.
Six of their own – George Lewis (85), Thomas Roberts (62), Alice Lowe (58), Insley Sawyer (5) and brothers, DeWees and Bert Lowe, (15 and 2, respectively) – had been fatally wounded. Countless others were injured.
Water from Settlement Creek had surged across the lowest part of town and out into the sea of Abaco, destroying the cemetery and unearthing corpses. (Even today, fragments of grave stones remain on the beach that borders the graveyard.)
This is the second post in a three-part series. Here’s part one: September 3, 1932: The Calm Before the Storm.
There had been talk on Green Turtle Cay about a hurricane, but the only forecasting tools at the time were barometers. And though they were falling, indicating the approach of inclement weather, there was no way to predict where or when the storm would hit, or how serious it might be.
Thick, black storm clouds gathered in the eastern sky on Sunday evening. On Monday, September 5, New Plymouth residents woke to pelting rain and howling winds that intensified throughout the morning.
By afternoon, according to Bahamian meteorologist Wayne Neely in The Great Bahamian Hurricanes of 1899 and 1932, the first known and documented Category 5 hurricane ever to hit the Bahamas was battering Green Turtle Cay.
Sustained winds reached 160 mph, with gusts as high as 200 mph, and a storm surge of 20 feet.
For three days, the storm stalled over the cay, hurling boats and large chunks of debris around like toys. Houses flooded and were smashed. Some fell off their footings. Most collapsed all together.
Forced to abandon their disintegrating homes and peppered with sand, stones and stinging rain, families clung to each other to avoid blowing away as they crawled in search of shelter.
In the few structures that remained intact, the townspeople huddled together, singing hymns to comfort the children and to ward off panic as the settlement was demolished around them. There was no food, no light and but for the few who managed to reach the home of settlement doctor, Walter Kendrick, no aid for the wounded.
Below are two first-hand accounts of the ’32 hurricane – one from my grandmother, Lurey (Curry) Albury and the other from her first-cousin, John Lowe.
This post is the second in a two-part series. Here’s part one: Island Roots: Celebrating All Things Abaco
Beyond the sheer fun of the event, the Island Roots Heritage Festival serves as a bridge between past and future for those with Abaconian ancestry.
For me, the festival does more than remind me of my grandmother’s stories. It brings them to life.
One way Ma May earned money for the family was by making and selling straw hats. My grandmother and her sisters collected the palm tops, dried and prepared them, and braided the raw strands. Ma May then stitched that “plait” into hats.
Though I’m lucky to have one of the straw hats she made, I never got to see her make them, so I love watching the craftspeople at the festival.
And while it’s now an entertaining festival contest, conch-cleaning was a daily chore for my grandmother. Hard to believe these days, when conchs are so precious, but back in the 1920s, Pa Herman kept them to feed his hogs. Each morning, my grandmother and her sisters would have to break a dozen or more conchs before school.
For a few days each May, tranquil New Plymouth pulses with activity as the Island Roots Heritage Festival takes over the settlement. Originally created to encourage islanders to renew ties with kin in Key West and beyond, today’s festival offers an authentic and entertaining island experience for locals and tourists alike.
For visitors, Island Roots is a crash course in local culture. Bahamian artisans display native wood carvings, straw and shell work, fine jewelry and vivid paintings of tropical scenes. Traditional lime-in-spoon races, scavenger hunts, Maypole plaiting, conch-cleaning and conch horn-blowing contests and tug-of-war competitions delight kids of all ages.
As children, my grandmother and her sisters contributed to their household by collecting shells at Gillam Bay on Green Turtle Cay.
“When it was low tide,” my grandmother said, “we used to go out over the sandbanks to get Panamas. They were a pretty kind of shell, with a creature inside. You’d have to boil them to get the creature out, and then you’d sell them for so much a quart.”
Each time I visit Green Turtle Cay’s Albert Lowe Museum, I uncover something I previously missed (like this photo), or I discover some recently added treasure. During my most recent visit, I found an entire new exhibition to explore.
To commemorate the 40th anniversary of Bahamian independence, the museum has assembled an extensive collection of photographs documenting key cultural events on Green Turtle Cay during the past four decades.
Per my Attic Archaeology post, I discovered many wonderful bits of family history during my exploration of the attic at Fish Hooks. I also found a couple of mystery items.
If I had to guess, I’d say the first one is some sort of grater and the second looks like some sort of industrial-strength mousetrap.
Anyone know for sure?
UPDATE: So it turns out the item immediately above is a 4-hole mousetrap, likely from the 1800s. Another fun find, though hopefully one we won’t have a use for.
Recently, I spent a morning exploring the attic at Fish Hooks. Though my expedition revealed little of material worth, it uncovered many items that, in terms of family history, are priceless.
I found at least four bed frames (reminders that this cozy cottage once housed a family of five), and a dining table and several other small tables that I’m told were hand-made by Pa Herman and my grandfather, Lionel Albury.
While I don’t know the origin of the wooden dining chairs I discovered, I do recall them from my childhood visits, and old photos show they’ve been in the family for nearly 70 years.
There’s a suitcase stuffed with sheets, towels and curtains, and though most are yellowed and crumbling, I’m hoping a few pieces may be salvageable.
Beneath a mismatched assortment of plates, cups and glasses, I came across a lovely (and seemingly complete) set of vintage Grindley English china.
I found a weathered old cutting board and rusty scales, likely used by Pa Herman to clean and weigh the fish he sold. And the collection of tools I discovered – saws, a hammer, a pick axe, a wood plane – were no doubt used to build this house.
Among my favourite finds were a battered, dog-eared children’s “West Indian Reader,” twenty-five years’ worth of electric bill receipts dating back to the 1950s, and what I imagine was Ma May’s version of a junk drawer – a soup tureen filled with the miscellany of life: a single marble, half a dozen rusty keys, light bulbs, loose buttons, bobby pins, a red plastic toy rabbit and (no surprise) tiny weights and fish hooks.
I couldn’t help but smile at the dozens of greeting cards sent to Pa Herman and Ma May by their children and, later, their grandchildren. Such simple and universal items, but sweet reminders of those who lived in and loved this house before us.
Many of my attic discoveries are worn, rusted or beyond use. These, we’ll restore and display or donate to the Albert Lowe Museum.
Happily, other items, like the bed frames and Pa Herman’s tables, can definitely be reused. There’s a set of gorgeous mahogany bedposts that I hope we can incorporate into a four-poster bed, and a wooden settee which, with some spiffy new cushions, will fit perfectly in Fish Hooks’ tiny living room. Once repaired, those ancient wood dining chairs will find new life in our kitchen, and the galvanized buckets in which we kids used to bathe before the house had running water might make pretty planters or perhaps ice buckets.
But the slop buckets we used rather than trekking to the outhouse in the middle of the night? Those I can gladly live without.
Having spent much of my childhood in Nassau surrounded by hotels, cruise ships, duty-free shops and sunburned foreigners, I’m not keen on touristy things. I have zero desire to parasail, jet ski, have my hair braided or shop for made-in-China souvenirs. With apologies to the organizers, and those who wouldn’t dream of missing it, I’d rather be stranded naked in a swarm of jellyfish than attend the Stranded Naked beach party.
During our recent trip to Green Turtle Cay, I wanted to do something different for Tom’s birthday. Several friends suggested a day trip with local guide Lincoln Jones, and though I secretly suspected it might end up being a rum-soaked, reggae-blasting booze cruise (nothing wrong with that – just not my thing), I decided to give it a try.
Turns out – and my husband will love this – I couldn’t have been more wrong. The day was lovely and low-key, and, given that boating, fishing and beach cookouts are practically built into the Bahamian DNA, as authentically native as it gets.
The entire day evoked fond memories for me: conch diving with my cousins in Hope Town, hand-line fishing from the seawall opposite Fish Hooks, Sunday beach picnics and public holiday cookouts with my extended family in Nassau.
Lincoln collected us from our cottage around 9:30 am. In addition to Tom and me, there were three other guests. We headed north in the Sea of Abaco before veering right between Munjack and Ambergris Cays and into the Atlantic.
Fifteen or so minutes out, Lincoln shifted the boat into neutral and tossed a line overboard. When he landed a mutton fish in less than a minute, we dropped anchor and baited the remaining lines. Despite competing with a shark and a barracuda, both intent on stealing our fish before we could reel them in, we had a productive morning.
Shortly past noon, with the cooler stocked with yellow tails, snappers, grunts and mutton fish, we puttered into the clear shallows at the north end of Munjack Cay. A welcoming committee of young sharks trailed casually behind.
The braver souls, including my husband, hopped overboard off the stern. The saner members of the group waited for the crunch of the hull on sand before scrambling over the bow and onto dry land.
While we explored “Lincoln Park,” our captain retrieved a giant cast-iron skillet from the bushes and kindled a fire. He mixed a batch of Goombay Smashes (a pineapple-based rum drink invented on Green Turtle Cay), cleaned and floured much of the morning’s catch, sliced and seasoned potatoes and set out a fresh salad.
It was great to get to know Lincoln – turns out that as kids, he and his brother used to go fishing with my two uncles when they’d come to Green Turtle Cay on school holidays.
The other guests – a married couple, both psychologists, and a country music publicist – were interesting and intelligent and much fascinating conversation and laughter ensued.
It felt so much like the family outings of my childhood, I could almost hear my dad and uncles debating politics, and my grandmother warning we’d get cramps for swimming so soon after eating.
Not that we swam after lunch. Once we were done, Lincoln marched a pan of fish carcasses down to the water. A dozen or so small sharks swam lazy circles in the shallows. Lincoln tossed in a fish head and the sharks darted simultaneously toward it. Two stingrays hung back, waiting for the sharks to clear out before gliding in to nibble the leftovers.
Truth be told, getting up close and personal with rays and sharks isn’t typically Bahamian, but perhaps more locals would take conservation seriously if they could experience these amazing creatures up close.
After a few minutes, I was more fascinated by the sharks than scared of them, and by the time we were leaving, I was comfortable enough to wade out into the water to board the boat.
Of the many things I enjoyed about our day with Lincoln, one of the best was sharing it with the foreigners in the group, all of whom seemed to really enjoy the trip. It was terrific to see tourists have the opportunity to experience the real Bahamas, rather than some generic, manufactured facsimile.