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Gully of death


Gully of death

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IT WAS on the evening of August 22, 1945, that Barbados’ most tragic vehicular accident took place.
Sixty people were travelling on the back of a Ford truck from Diamond Corner, St Peter, to Four Square, St Philip, to help reap sugar cane, when the truck overturned on the Lancaster bridge in St James and went crashing into the gully, killing most of the occupants and injuring many others.
Darrell Morris, now 80 and living in England, is one of two survivors of that catastrophe. He said a year after the accident he went to the site and his last visit to the location was in 2008, but he had no plans of ever going back there.
He said the accident, which also claimed the life of one of his uncles, Clayton Morris, was still as fresh in his mind as if it had occurred yesterday.
“I think I will remember that for the rest of my life to know that so many people died there and then, and I could be lasting so long and still be able to get around and do things,” he said of the ordeal.
“I can’t forget that accident. People on the bridge [were] asking how they [were] going to get paid to help bring us out. People were in the cassava water struggling. I could never forget that!” Morris said as he talked to the Weekend Nation from his Diamond Corner home during a recent visit to the island.
“At that time you could sit on the truck with your feet hanging off and that is how we were. One man dropped off before the truck got to the gully, but the driver didn’t stop to pick him up. This gully was at an [S-bend], so one driver would have to given way to the other. [Our vehicle] hit the bridge . . . throwing off some of the people from the back and the side.
“Now at this time the truck was partially off the bridge and the engine was running all the time. And when the truck dropped from there it dropped on a stone and rested there a little bit and then the third time it dropped it wasn’t too far from me.
“I was down there lying down and couldn’t move. So the last time it dropped, it was upsided down and people were under there screaming, plus at that time the cassava water was in that gully and people drowned in it.
“I remember lying down there, hearing people on the bridge looking down [and] asking how they were going to get paid to bring us out,” Morris recalled.
He said it was his understanding that despite the fact that the accident took place at about 5:30 in the evening, the next day “people were still under the truck moaning”.
“I remember lying down in the cassava factory . . . I was lying down among some dead and some alive. We had a Red Cross nurse there. She gave those who were alive some hot coffee.
“I have to be giving God thanks because I believe I was the only one that went into that gully and never had a cut or a broken bone.
Hip hurt
“I got my hip hurt and I had a blow because later on I went into the hospital and got an X-ray and when I got out of the hospital I came out walking with a stick and my water was still red . . . .
The old people always have some remedy and they told my mother to get some sea water and boil it and throw it on my hip and I could even run after that. So I used the sea water and drank magnesia to help purge,” Morris continued.
Morris noted that he was not badly injured in the accident and shortly after doing odd jobs here in Barbados, he left for the United States in 1951. He moved to England in 1955.
Another survivor of that horrific accident was Morris’ brother-in-law Burton Bishop, who is now living in England also. Although he was a “little boy” at the time, he, too, has a clear recollection of the tragedy.
“I went up there and watched the truck in the gully with the wheels up in the air and people down in there paddling,” he recalled.
“When I got there, one fellow was underneath the truck and one was coming out. By the time they got back many died . . . That was the worst to ever happen in Barbados. It was a horrible sight to see those people lying down in that gully.”
Most of those who died in the accident were buried in a mass grave at the All Saints Church in St Peter, these two survivors recalled, with others being interred in Boscobel in the same parish, and in St Lucy and St James.