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HEATHER-LYNN’S HABITAT: Taking in City tales

HEATHER-LYNN EVANSON, [email protected]

HEATHER-LYNN’S HABITAT: Taking in City tales

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THE TRIBULATIONS of Sarah Ann Gill who battled the plantocracy for the right to practise her religion.

The man who took three draughts of a strong liquid before he realised it was probably that which was knocking him out for hours on a stretch.

The 16-year-old mulatto boy who watched from the window of his opulent house as a raging white mob tore a church apart brick by brick.

These were just some of the true stories spun for three hours by historian and author Morris Greenidge to a tour group of visitors and locals recently.

Starting in Independence Square, the group wended its way through the alleys and some of the lesser known streets of the historic capital of Bridgetown as Greenidge traced the history of buildings there and gone, and sites transformed beyond recognition.

Heather-Lynn’s Habitat caught up with the group in James Street where Greenidge was telling his followers about Sarah Ann Gill, the lone female in the pantheon of National Heroes. He revealed how Methodists were persecuted for their anti-slavery teachings to the point where an angry white mob tore the Methodist chapel apart brick by brick over the course of two weekends. But, said Greenidge, Gill stuck to her faith.

When the powers of the day banned religious services, she gave worshippers permission to enter her home – which was on the site of what is now the office of the James Street Methodist Church – “six at a time”. “Do not talk to one another; do not sing hymns; do not pray aloud; do not read The Bible. Just come and sit down and meditate for half-hour and leave,” he said of her admonition.

“And there were lines outside her house and the militia was sending people to hear them sing. And they could not hear a peep and this gets them. They are walking up the walls; they threaten to burn her out. So she writes to the governor to ask for protection. The governor sends a captain who says, ‘Ms Gill, I come to see what gine happen. I come to see’. He will not intervene,” Greenidge told his enthralled group as they gazed at Gill’s grave.

The historian is also convinced it was the sight of the white mob tearing apart the chapel that steered a teenaged Samuel Jackman Prescod, another National Hero, into the path of fighting for the rights of Blacks. “Across the street is Mary Lydia Smith’s house – the most opulent house looking across the street to the Strawberry House.

In it was a 16-year-old boy, Samuel Jackman Prescod. I am convinced he was radicalised in that moment. “His father was very wealthy – he owned five plantations – and his father sent him abroad to study and he came back in four months pleading it was too cold.”

At age 25 (in 1831), Prescod had secured the vote for the non-Whites and subsequently, in 1843, he then walked into the House of Assembly, then meeting at Codd’s House, as the first non-white person. The tour also took in a triangular spot at the junction of Swan Street and Magazine Lane, where Captain Rumball discovered a strange smelling liquid in one of his hogs’ heads.

He tasted a tot of it and it knocked him out for at least six hours. “When he recovered, he drank some more, only to suffer the same fate. He drank some more a third time and it was then that he realised he had discovered strong drink. He became the most popular tavern keeper in Bridgetown.

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