Barrouallie: Tales of different eras
January 18, 2013

Tales of the sea cont’d

Over the years we have enjoyed our sea baths. As a matter of fact, quite a number of residents here in Barrouallie believe that the sea, with the help of God, was responsible for “healing” many of their ailments and we are grateful that we have had its “services” over the years. I am forever reminded though of how harsh it can be. One of my fans in the diaspora recalls that she witnessed some near misses (incidents in which other youngsters almost drowned) while she was a youngster growing up at Ratho Mill. Thank you for sharing with me!!{{more}}

So too, I had relatives who became victims of the sea. Additionally, I remember the young lives that were snuffed out over the years. I was reminded of a youngster who had gone fishing back in the nineties and who encountered some difficulties. He drowned at a very tender age.

As you read the tale which involved Nathan Kirby though, I am quite sure you were tempted to ask what if? For example, what if he had taken the short cut which led out of Bottle and Glass and up to the road at Kearton’s Hill? Then he would not have encountered College and gone fishing that day. Others I know have concluded that what happened was destined to happen. Whatever school of thought you subscribe to, I know that even after so many years, you felt a pang of sympathy for the relatives of those who disappeared.

Indeed, the following day after the men disappeared, the seafront of Barrouallie was transformed considerably as the residents “planted” flowers at the beach area that is in line with MacMay rock, all the way to the beach front at Bottle and Glass. This same crowd had waited throughout the night for positive words, as boat after boat went off in search of the missing men. When the final search party returned late at night and signalled negatively to the crowd, the howls went up. Everyone was in mourning. College, I was told, was very “freehanded”, and when he caught a whale, he shared generously. The crowd which gathered at the shoreline was testimony of that. I was told that those who disappeared with Natty were of the younger generation in his era, young men in the prime of their lives.

No one knows what happened in the two boating incidents, because none of the men survived to tell the tale and those who are alive made various assumptions. We shall never know. However, there were incidents in which some of our menfolk lived to tell the story. For instance, in another tale, one of our blackfish boats encountered difficulty and capsized. The men in that particular incident were able to cling to the overturned boat. Those men had to “battle” with the sea and one of their own in an effort to save him.

Their battle was mental as well as physical. Those who survived claimed that they encouraged the young man, who was called “Dalton” (no family ties here) to cling to the raft. They tried holding him too and encouraged him to hold on, because they were confident that other boats were out looking for them. At one point they saw a light and pointed in the direction, all the while telling him that help was on the way, but he had given up that fight; he told them that he couldn’t hold on any longer. He let go of the raft and disappeared from view. Imagine bringing that news to a mother, telling her that her only son had disappeared. I can’t begin to fathom how that felt. His mom, I was told, fell ill for several months.

Some of the men who disappeared had spouses/mates with very young children. These mothers toiled, some in the blackfish industry, to make ends meet and they did so successfully. My colleague Mr Huelin Pierre, current principal of the Barrouallie Government School, lost his father (St Clair Anderson, known to some as Cinty) in the incident which involved College and, in addition to Nathan, I was told that “Ba” and” Char” were aboard that vessel as well.

Given the conditions under which these fishermen toiled and, in the absence of navigational instruments, we are grateful that many of them survived to “relive” their experiences, orally of course. On that note, I am challenging the Barrouallie Fish Fest committee members to take up my suggestion of getting a replica of the blackfish and mounting it somewhere in this town, in memory of those who died….with that we shall “get out of the sea” and look at another aspect next week, God’s will.

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