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Article 1—An introduction

Article 1—An introduction

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I long for the yesteryear days of Barrouallie: pure and unspoilt. A place where good discipline and manners reigned supreme, where the entire community felt obligated to raise each newborn, where story telling by our grandparents was a must. Such tales I remember comprising of “Hacatus”, the infamous “Rounce” and “Jack-O-Lantern.”{{more}}

I yearn for my childhood days when the central park was barricaded on certain public holidays and the entire community came out for a day of clean fun. The Barrouallie I remember was a place where the loud singing of a shanty signalled the return of our menfolk from their long journey at sea. Barrouallie was a place where each one helped one–an extended family.

For many, I would be labelled old-fashioned; someone who was born before the technological era, an era in which modern day gadgets have practically taken over the lives of our youngsters. I am often reminded that this is their time. Those in my era and before can attest to the fact that our town was as peaceful as they come. It was a place where crime and criminal activities were almost non-existent.

Barrouallie, long ago, was a place where children knew their boundaries and stayed within those confines, respecting elders, obeying parents and those in authority; and where Ms Effie Findlay’s Sunday school was a must. Today, the term “Sunday school” holds a different connotation for many of our children and adults.

The physical layout of the town has changed significantly, but it is just as beautiful. Houses now occupy prime estate lands where arrowroot and cotton once thrived. Wattle and daub houses and French cottages have been replaced by massive dwelling houses. Many old buildings, each with its own history, have been replaced with modern day structures.

Barrouallie, nestled on the western side of mainland St Vincent, has a rich culture and history, which I fear will be a loss for this modern day generation. It is with this in mind, that I sought to capture the tales of this town as told by my elders.

As a child, the name Barrouallie intrigued me and I often wondered where it originated. I soon realized that the town’s name changed according to the “dominant” group of people who occupied it at the time. So it was Barawally, Barrouallie, Princes Town. My thirst for information led me on a historical drive and to the year 1653. Historical information revealed that French missionaries came to our shores during that period and settled in Barrouallie. As European rivalry and thirst for colonization grew and with the British occupation in 1773, the town was renamed Princes Town. It was then renamed Barrouallie again under French rule. Indeed, the pronunciation and form have transformed over the years. Some say Barrallie, Barowlee, and to the modern day, shortened version: Baga.

Notwithstanding, this once quaint town is guarded by the lofty mountain peaks of Pierre and Jacques Hughes Hill and another which the locals call Zion. The western shores are washed by the Caribbean Sea. Many built up areas have now merged into one community. These include Keartons Village and Keartons Hill, High Road, Green Hill, Glebe, Three Acres and Reversion, Bamboo Square, Morgans Bay, Bottle and Glass, to name a few. Many of these names have become “corrupted” over the years. For example, Bottle and Glass is commonly called “Bottom glass” and Glebe is often referred to as “Glede”.

The built up community is flanked by the surrounding, almost dormant estates of Peter’s Hope/Mt Wynne and Wallilabou. These we shall revisit at a later date. Before we proceed into what life was like in terms of school, social life, the blackfish industry et cetera, let us travel back in time to my beginning and life as it was in my elders’ era.

The year 1902 holds much significance for me. Some of the older generation will recall the eruption of that year and the exodus of some Caribs from the northern village of Fancy to “safe havens”, such as Barrouallie. The eruption of that year brought with it three sisters who settled at Wallilabou. Their names were Victoria (Vicky), Martha and Lesilyn Baptiste (my maternal great grandmother). I often marvelled at the tales, as told by my grandmother, of her mother’s ability to brave the heat and dreaded Rabacca River crossing to travel such distances ON FOOT. Such was their time when transportation for a privileged few was on horseback or a donkey.

A recent trip to Fancy, in an effort to locate my relatives, proved futile. The time, many claimed, was beyond them. Granted it was 110 years since my maternal grandmother came to these parts; I could understand. I was then sent to Owia and particularly Sandy Bay, where they said most of the Baptistes were. The first person I spoke to at Sandy Bay was a Baptiste. He, too, could not offer much, but consoled me by saying all Baptistes are related. I have since maintained that friendship.

However, let’s get back to Barrouallie. As the years rolled by, Barrouallie made a name for itself. We have a rich cultural history which needs to be shared. Many of our Vincentian learned gentlemen and women at home and in the diaspora are products of this town. Many of us were schooled in that old wooden building called “old school,” a name which the modern institution ironically retained.

It is there at old school we shall begin a journey into what transpired at school in the era before my time.

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