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THE MOORE THINGS CHANGE: Rewinding to 1911

Carl Moore

THE MOORE THINGS CHANGE: Rewinding to 1911

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TO SIT IN A DRAUGHT in scant attire so that a strong east wind may play upon the sitter like a douche is one of the chief objects of life in Barbados. So wrote Sir Frederick Treves, serjeant-surgeon to HM the King, after a visit to Barbados.
That’s one of the glowing testimonies from a visitor to Barbados 100 years ago in a little book titled The Tourist’s Guide To Barbados.
About five years before she died at 90, my aunt gave me that book with strict orders not to let it out of my sight. When she emigrated to New York sometime in 1923 as a teenager, she took it with her. It was published by the Barbados Improvement Association, the earliest precursor to the Barbados Tourism Authority.
The book is a comprehensive account of the several attractions in Barbados, even at that time, and contains a rare map of the island; excellent old photos of places of interest (including the train line running through Bathsheba); advertisements from hotels like The Ice House, Bath, Victoria, Langham, Standard, Atlantis, Balmoral and Ebenezer; business establishments like Bowen & Sons, D. M. Simpson & Co., Johnson & Redman, The Ideal Store and the Barbados Light Railway Ltd, as well as lists of prices of things like postage rates, motor vehicle registration, dog licences and property taxes.
Punishable offence
Sir Rupert Boyce, of the Liverpool Tropical School of Medicine, observed: “It is now even a punishable offence to harbour the larvae of mosquitoes on any premises. Visitors may therefore rest in their beds well assured that they will be better protected than if they were staying in the hotels of Venice or on the Riviera.”
An American electrical engineer, Arthur Bave, wrote back from New York to the tourism authorities in Barbados: “In the fall of 1911 I found myself badly run down after years of unlimited and excessive work.
I had contracted chronic bronchitis. My physician recommended that I leave this northern climate without recommending where I should go. I consulted with friends, one of whom recommended Barbados.
“Two months of such bathing as I know of nowhere else, the genial climate and the freedom from the horrors of a northern winter resulted in a complete change in my physical condition.
“I was unfortunately unable to spend the whole winter on your island as I had desired, but was so benefited during the time I spent and the beneficial results of my visit to your beautiful island that I cheerfully bear testimony to the magical effect produced by your climate on my physical condition.”
The London Times wrote: “To those seeking a change from the shores of England when the days begin to shorten and winter looms ahead, and when cloudy or foggy skies become the rule and sunshine is rare, there is no spot better suited than the breezy little island of Barbados. It is the most easterly of the West Indian islands and most accessible from England.”
In the book, the thrift of Barbadians of 100 years ago is praised: “That the people are provident and thrifty is shown by the existence of a Government Savings Bank, the deposits in which amount to 425 000 pounds Sterling and there are 20 000 depositors.”
About our water supply, this observation is recorded: “Nature, so far from being niggardly in her beneficence, in addition to providing the island with so equable a climate, has bestowed on it also the next element conducive to good health in the shape of a copious supply of pure water.”
The Barbados Light Railway’s advertisement says: “Your stay in Barbados is incomplete without a visit to the picturesque north-east coast reached by rail from Bridgetown. Fourteen miles through rich canefields, passing by several up-to-date sugar factories and near the beautifully situated Codrington College and ten miles of magnificent coast and hill scenery.”
That was Barbados 100 years ago.