A step back in history

by Donna Sealy

Historian Trevor Marshall leading the walkers along Prince William Henry Street.
Historian Trevor Marshall leading the walkers along Prince William Henry Street.

It was a step back in history and yesterday evening I was among the 600 people taking the journey along with guides Morris Greenidge and Trevor Marshall through the streets of historic Bridgetown.

Dressed comfortably on the humid evening, I was ready to listen to the story From Reclamation to Discovery during the First Citizens Crop-Over Heritage Walk.

I was part of the second group of walkers who listened eagerly to historian Marshall as he brought the places, people, and things alive throughout the 90-minute walk from Pelican to Willoughby Fort.

I love history.

I used to spend hours imagining how people from a bygone era lived, how elaborate the parties they held were, who were on the guest list, the food they ate, the clothes they wore, and the furniture they used.

Characters such as Rachel Pringle and Prince William Henry, the Nutseller, King Dyal, Clennell Wickham, Shilling, Caroline Lee after whom the yellow sweet potato is name, Sarah-Ann Gill, James Young Edghill, Samuel Jackman Prescod, became living breathing things as they leapt out of the pages of the history books and came to life for the walkers some of whom took photos and recorded video of the speeches or songs with Ipods, Ipads and other tablets, phones and cameras.

The rich white lady and her slave attendant taking a stroll.
The rich white lady and her slave attendant taking a stroll.

Patrons were also liberal with their applause after the actors’ performances and eagerly followed “Pied Piper” Marshall from location to location to hear the next story.

We heard that the Nicholls Building on James Street is the oldest in the City, saw that Pringle was not an elephant as depicted in a drawing but was indeed a pretty, brown skinned woman whose hotel was located in Canary Lane or Saint George Street.

We also heard how the streets got their names, that St. Mary’s Church was the City’s first Cathedral, that Bridgetown was ravaged by fires, about the Old Town Hall, about Milk Market being just that, about businessman John Swan and we even saw the rich white woman walking with her attendant in the area where pottery used to be sold in Trafalgar Square before seeing the merchants beat their slaves as they sold them.

I was among the 500 people who walked through Bridgetown By Night last year and it was interesting to see the look on the faces of those walkers who were seeing everything for the first time.

A captured slave in the cage.

The fact that nothing much had changed would be my only problem with the event.

Not many changes were made to the script and as we moved further along I was secretly hoping that more historical significant buildings, events or people could have been noted. I wanted to be surprised because unfortunately for me, I remembered everything about the event last June and what each character would do or say.

Yes they were additions but not enough to make me walk again next year. I’m not a historian and I have no authority to make suggestions but seeing and hearing the same things was not enough for me.

I was not the only one but I would recommend it again as I did last year as a must do event on the Crop-Over calender.

At the end, some of the patrons told me that they enjoyed themselves and the most poignant aspect was the re-enactment of the slave sale in Eddington’s Green and the rioters in Jubilee Gardens or the Lower Green.

Others said there was a need for more lights along some parts of the route as some of them had to walk with their heads down so as not to trip.

That apart, the Bajan refreshments at the end were a great touch to end a walk through a City that is steeped in history and significance and very pretty at night. donnasealy@barbadostoday.bb

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