HEATHER-LYNN’S HABITAT: Barclay tomb taking shape
THE DESTROYED Barclay family tomb in the graveyard of the historic St Mary’s Church yard is taking shape once again.
And as concrete blocks replace the smashed coral stone, a local historian and author is issuing a public appeal for anyone remotely connected to the family, that went on to become leaders and top jurists in Liberia, to come forward.
“I would love to appeal because names change, so we are hoping that there is somebody who was a Barclay that is somebody else now, even though we are not asking for financial interest, just to come forward so we can say this is a relic – that is the word we use – a relic of the Barclay family because these people are important people and we need to know who they are,” said Morris Greenidge.
“We don’t want to beg [for money]. We want to put this in historical perspective with regard to the Barclay family,” he stressed.
He was speaking as he not only brought Heather-Lynn’s Habitat up to speed on the restoration of the tomb, that was crushed when an ancient mahogany tree uprooted and landed on it earlier this year, but of the restoration work and new finds in the historic graveyard.
He said the distinctive green-painted iron rails, to replace those damaged by the fallen tree, were in hand and would soon be replaced.
And the church was spearheading the move to restore the Barclay family vault.
Delving into his book of handwritten notes, he revealed that Arthur Barclay died in 1938 after serving as president of Liberia up to 1912.
He said historical records described Barclay as being born in Barbados of Negro parents – “not Coloureds”, stressed Greenidge.
Barclay’s sons went on to become top jurists and presidents of the African country.
The historian said his research was showing that there were two stems of the Barclay branch – “one white and one non-white”, one from St James and a section of whom were also buried in St George. He said there was also the possibility they married into the Husbands family and that would explain why some Barclays carried the name Husbands Barclay.
Greenidge further noted migration to Liberia continued as late as 1865 when 200 people left these shores in the boat Cora.
“This place [St Mary’s graveyard] is replete with historical figures and the church has recognised that it has a duty to the heritage of Barbados to protect it and to preserve it. So the church has undertaken, in the absence of being able to find the Barclay family, to repair [the vault] for posterity and for heritage,” Greenidge explained.
As he decried the fact that the headstone belonging to Amaryllis Collymore – the great great grandmother of literary icon Frank Collymore – was lying almost abandoned, he said he suspected a number of graves were disturbed to make way for the one of the many widenings of the area.
“There were a lot of other graves that were disturbed,” he explained, adding that Sir Allan Collymore, who was Chief Justice in the 1950s, was buried near the western gate. And as he suspected Amaryllis was related to Sir Allan, he was of the belief she was buried somewhere near him.
“Samuel Jackman Prescod’s grave was also one, but people knew who he was, so he was reburied, but people didn’t know who Amaryllis Collymore was, so her gravestone was left there, either carelessly or with the intention of it being placed somewhere else.”
In addition, he said, the influential black women who ran almost all of the hotels in what was later referred to as the ‘Hotel District’, were all buried in St Mary’s.
“Rebecca Phillips, Susannah Ostrahan, Hannah Massiah, we found her a few weeks ago,” he said.