“Heather-Lynn’s Habitat: Grave links to the past”


IN THE DAPPLED shade under the spreading branches of trees old and young, Rachel Pringle Polgreen rests.

Her weathered slab is within walking distance of where her much-famed and well-patronised hotel was once located.

Near to her, another unpretentious granite covering marks the final resting place of Joseph Rachell.

Who, you may ask?

Rachell, a Free Coloured referred to as ‘Mister’ even in death, was one of the prominent and wealthy landowners, businessmen and even philanthropists of the 1700s.

Both he and Pringle-Polgreen are buried in the oldest piece of consecrated ground in the City – Rachel since 1766; Pringle-Polgreen since 1792.

Today, their earthly remains rest in St Mary’s Churchyard – in what was once known as the Old Church Yard after the number of parishioners of the St Michael Church outgrew the original wooden church and moved further up Bridgetown.

But you might never find them.

There can be very little debate that the most imposing monument in St Mary’s Churchyard is that which marks the grave of Ernest Deighton Mottley.

The cross dominates the landscape of tombstones and monuments in what could be called the newer section of the cemetery.

A legend in his own right, E.D. Mottley’s honours and achievements are displayed on four marble plaques which adorn the sides of his monument.

Just as well known, but a little less showy, is the dedication to the earthly remains of national hero, The Right Excellent Samuel Jackman Prescod.

Tucked neatly in a sheltered corner and protected by the church, ironically, Prescod shares his grave with a sapling of what looks like a tamarind tree which towers above the monument.

Another sad indictment is what has become of the memorial to the great, great, great grandmother of literary giant Frank Collymore.

Amaryllis was born a slave but emancipated by the man who became her husband, Robert Collymore.

She went on to become a prominent businesswoman, owing properties in High Street, James Street, Canary Street (which later became St George Street and Back Church Street – now Suttle Street – and so called because, yes, it was at the back of the church).

But today, her heavy slab continues to rest where it fell many years ago. In fact, Heather-Lynn’s Habitat had to brush aside layers of debris after moving a thriving flowering Christmas Candle bush with its guest black bumble bee before the carved name became apparent.

But prominent politicians old and young, and ancestral greats aside, St Mary’s churchyard is home to the who’s who of Black and Free Coloured families in Barbados at a time when slavery was still entrenched.

The 200-year-old Barclay’s tomb, which was destroyed by a similarly old mahogany tree, is one.

The Ostrahans are another as well as the Belgraves – an influential family whose sphere of influence was widespread and who became even moreso when they married into other influential families like the line that gave us Frank Collymore.

One remembers Sarah, the “beloved and affectionate wife” of Henry Thomas Birmingham who died after “much pain of suffering at Jackson Estate in 1863”.

Another remembers “she who was ever kind and dear to us, Mrs H Massiah, who expired at her Cumberland Street home on 30th August, 1872 at the age of 96” – in those days a ripe old age among people who rarely lived past 50.

St Mary’s grounds also silently tell of the death of a line. The Cowdeys, a name no longer in Barbados, are buried there – Jesse in 1827; Lionel in 1882; Samuel in 1920; William in 1928 and Emma in 1930.