Royal agricultural and commercial society of Briti.

Timehri: the journal of the Royal agricultural and commercial society of British Guiana online

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appeared as if the ocean would swallow up the island,
and the wind, blowing in a slanting direftion across them,
caused the spray of each wave as it broke to be thrown
up in the air nearly twice its own height, curling,
fretting, and foaming, in vain efforts to oppose the
violence of the wind — a complete confli6l of the ele-
ments. But I was soon called from my brief contempla-
tion of these sublime obj edts to the nearer danger which
threatened us, and to my situation in these trying
circumstances, with 700 individuals looking up to me for
protettion, amongst these the members of . my own
household— my wife and children— and besides, my
residence, the various buildings, my horses, cattle, mules,
sheep, and every living- thing that might suffer from
the violence of the storm, for as yet I had no suspicion
that a hurricane was advancing onwards. The first
thing that began to awaken my fears was on looking
out of my room to observe the overthrow of the car-
penter's and cooper's shops. I hastily threw on my
clothes, and while doing so intelligence was brought me
that the mule and cattle shed had fallen in upon the
animals, upwards of 50 in number, and fears were
entertained that many must be killed. Down the hill



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56 TlMEHRI.

I posted, through torrents of rain accompanied by one of
my drivers, and on reaching the spot I observed to my
surprise! but to my great relief, that the roof had given
way in the centre, and as it fell the mules had fled to
one end, and the cattle to the other, where they were
separately cooped up, unable to move but not having
suffered any injury. The sides of bamboo I ordered
to be removed so as to admit of their coming out into
the pasture, and a pen to be enclosed adjoining an
empty megass house (where the canes after the juice is
expressed are dried for fuel) that they might take shelter
there, as it was composed of substantial brick-pillars,
pitch-pine rafters, and a good roof ; fortunately however,
before my orders could be carried into execution, that
building, amongst the ruins of which they must have
perished, was itself hurled down by the increasing
violence of the gale; As I ascended the hill to look after
the security of my own family and the house, which was
a frail fabric built of wood, but in a more sheltered
situation, another messenger overtook me to inform me
that our magnificent wharf which was 290 feet in length
and had cost £3,000, was in danger from the height
at which the waves were running into the bay, and
recommending that measures should be taken to secure
the new iron crane placed at its extremity. I despatched
two overseers and a company of negroes with direftions
to fasten the hawser to the crane, and to bring it on
shore, and make it fast to a tree, that should the wharf
give way we might ascertain where the crane fell and
afterwards recover it. I stood at the window look-
ing at this new peril, and to observe how my direc*
tions were carried into effe&. I saw with an anxious



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The Hurricane in St. Vincent. 57

eye a wave of unusual size rolling on majestically
towards the wharf and crane on its extreme point — they
were then both perfect and uninjured — onwards it rolled,
mounting higher and higher — it towered far above both
crane and wharf — it fell with tremendous violence upon
them, and when it subsided the next instant, not one
vestige was to be seen. The poor overseer had reached the
spot just before, he led the way and had attained the
middle of the wharf, when a shriek from the negroes who
earnestly besought him to return, as it was giving way,
caused him to turn round and speedily retrace his steps,
and he did so most providentially, for a foot beyond
where he stood the wharf separated, and was in an
instant swept into the ocean. The remainder imme-
diately after, with the two storehouses on the beach,
following it into the troubled abyss of waters.

But there was no time for reflection. I heard that no
lives were lost, and my attention was drawn back to
things nearer home. The cloth had already been laid on
the table in our large dining-room, and every preparation
had been made for our family prayers and breakfast, but
the wind blowing in such gusts as to threaten to burst
the windows and doors open, we thought it safest to
remove all the crockery ware, glass, and other frail
materials into the back rooms. We had scarcely done
so before our attention was called to one of the north
windows which shook violently and appeared as if it
were every instant about to burst in. My wife, myself,
and two eldest sons in vain exerted our utmost efforts to
retain it in its place, but found it overpowering our
comparatively puny strength and deemed it wise to
make a timely retreat, when the whole frame, window

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58 TlMTORI.



and all, burst in, overthrowing the sofa which had been
placed against it and falling with violence on the dining-
table in the centre of the room. The folding cedar
doors on that side of the room then began to shake
violently and, bursting the locks and bars, flew open with
the greatest violence. We immediately brought two
immense boxes I had made to pack my books and linen
in, and we succeeded in again closing the doors and
placing one box upon the other against them, which
resisted the efforts of the wind as long as it continued in
the dire£lion of the north-east. Still I entertained no
idea of its being a hurricane, and r as the bursting in of
the window admitted both rain and wind, we continued
with great presence of mind to remove the books from
the ledges round the room and bow window in front,
and every article of furniture, with few exceptions, into
the back room which was separated from that in front
by other folding doors. In the midst of our occupation
there was a brief lull ih the storm for a few moments,
during which on looking out I observed a kind of whirl-
wind in the air and various light materials carried up to
a great height with a rapid spiral motion, and then in an
instant after the wind wheeled found to the opposite
point of the compass — south-west. This brief lull, this
sudden change — Were too sure indications of a hurricane
to admit ol a doubt, and I became sensible of the dread-
ful reality ; but without communicating my opinion or
my fears to the rest of my family. The former wind
from the north-east was a slight gale — a mere sportive
breeze — compared to that which now succeeded. It blew,
it raged, it raved, it roared ; gust after gust, so awful
and so tefrrififc; like the explosion of cannon or the bursting



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The Hurricane in St. Vincent. 59

of huge waves against the rocks! The folding cedar
doors on this side defied every effort to keep them closed
— locks, bolts, bars ; the table, side-board add sofa that
were ranged against them all were swept aside, and they
flew open in mockery of our puny efforts and various
contrivances, the wind having free course and raging with
the fury of a bursting cataraft through the opening it
had made. Many of my valuable books (you know what
pains I took in their colle&ion, and how carefully they
have been always preserved), and several articles pf
furniture were still unremoved when the room began to
shake violently and I perceived that all this part of the
building must inevitably fall. I stood at the door between
the inner and the front sitting rooms, and watching every
opportunity rushed forwards, seized an armful of books,
retreated to the doors and placed them in the hands of
my wife and family to convey backwards and then
returned. One mulatto domestic only followed me, and
as I sometimes stood half way in doubt whether tQ
proceed, I turned round and saw him trembling from
head to foot with fear, and as pale as death. Again and
again I darted forwards — closing the doors on my
retreat as the gusts rose — and thus I fortunately sue-
ceeded in carrying off every book, and most of the
furniture. We then aimed for the large dining table,
sofa, and remaining chairs ; but it was too late. The
room began to rock like a cradle, the panes and frames
of the windows to crack, and we hastily drew back to
the chamber doors, which opened from the inner room,
and there stood for an instant at the entrance : — it
shook more violently*- the rafters, beams, pillars, posts,
all gave way and with one tremendous crash, amidst the

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60 TlMEHRI.



shrieks of the children and the roaring of the elements,
the whole of the outer and part of the inner room where
we were, fell, and in falling one part was driven round
against the chamber on the left wing, which it threw on
one side forming a fearful opening in one angle where
it rent asunder ; and the other part> consisting of the
bow window of the dining rooms and about 5 feet of the
building — beams, floor, and all were fairly lifted into the
air, and hurled over the hill, leaving in the cellars
beneath nothing but the bare walls. We then no longer
deemed ourselves secure even in the back rooms ; and
began to retreat hastily through one of the chamber
windows, and over heaps of ruins, to a small pantry
which had been recently erefted, but was without win-
dows or doors. Here we remained, the rain beating
upon us, till we were completely drenched, deterred
from seeking security in a cave about 50 yards distant,
by the intelligence that the cliff had shot down and
closed the entrance. When however I ascertained from
my own personal inspe&ion, that it had been only par-
tially closed, by the falling of an immense tree, with a
mass of earth and stones attached to the roots, I seized
my wife's hand, and followed by all the family (a wretched
band of miserable outcasts !) we, after much difficulty in
clambering over broken beams, through thatch, sticks,
shingles and stones, at length reached it in security,
dripping wet, cold, faint and dispirited. We had not
tasted anything since the preceding evening, and it was
now impossible to think of procuring anything — for the
hurricane was at its height — and with mingled feelings
of horror and pity, I observed building after building of
the most massive materials hurled down ; coppered roofs,



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The Hurricane in St. Vincent. 6i

beams, rafters, huge boughs, and even trees themselves
hurled through the air with the rapidity of birds in their
flight. I saw also many of the poor negroes struggling
along the roads, catching hold of the canes, grass or
brushwood to support them — sometimes stooping to the
violence of the wind, at others compelled to fall pros-
trate on the ground. All our beautiful fields which had
promised an abundant harvest, and the luxuriance of
which I had pointed out to a friend only the day before,
were levelled to the earth. Here I stood at the entrance,
and beckoned to the poor negroes to seek our asylum as
the place of greatest security, and as they severally
reached us I caused them to pace backwards and for-
wards in the cave to excite some little degree of warmth,
and to avoid the dangerous effe&s of remaining so long
in their wet garments. As the storm decreased in vio-
lence, I left the cave with one attendant, and clambering
over the ruins of the house, and entering through the
chasm in my own chamber, I sought amongst the
heaps of rubbish something of refreshment for my
poor prisoners in the cave. I succeeded in discovering
on a ledge, which, fortunately leaned outwards, two
bottles of cordial, (Danish cherry-brandy which had been
sent as a present a day or two before), then finding a small
mug I retraced my steps and was able to give each indi-
vidual a cordial draught. This done I instantly descended
the hill, the storm abating in violence every moment,
and I found our large curing and store house which is 90
feet in length, the extensive cellars beneath it, and the
boiling house which is also 90 feet long, perfeftly safe
and uninjured. I immediately decided upon adopting
what appeared to me the most judicious measures under



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fo TlMEHRI.



all the circumstances of our most unfortunate case. I
ordered the doors of the cellars to be thrown open, the
dry planks with which they were filled to be placed as
seats ; the large puncheons of blankets, 50 or 60 pairs
which we had brought with us from England, to be opened
and distributed amongst the aged and those having young
children — and large tubs of rum and water to be prepared
and served round amongst them, with a view of reviving
their spirits as well as keeping out the cold. In the
meantime I ordered all the strong native young men to
disperse themselves among the negro houses and fields,
and to bring in all the old people, children, and helpless
or maimed persons, of which we feared there would be
too many! I met at the doors several old persons so
completely exhausted that I was obliged to support
them ; and children I snatched from their mother's arms
when they were sinking beneath the load, and hurried
with them out of the rain which still poured in torrents.
Every moment I expe&ed to hear of some dreadful acci-
dent, some tale of horror, or to see some miserable
objeft dreadfully mangled that had been dragged from
beneath the ruins of some house, or had been overtaken
by some falling rock, beam or tree, or hurried down some
precipice or chasm, by the force of the wind. My mind
was fully prepared for it, for I did not think it possible
that from amidst such universal ruin, every individual
of 700 people could have escaped unharmed. And yet
Heaven be praised, that Almighty Being who stilleth the
raging of the sea, and the stormy wind when it ariseth,
and in judgment still thinketh upon mercy, sq in pity
tempered the storm to the shorn lamb that not one life
w^s lost, not one individual suffered nor sustained the



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The Hurricane to St. Vincent. 63

slightest injury, nay more, all the cattle, horses, mules,
sheep, though in several instances thfe buildings fell upon
them, escaped. Even the little dove, which had been
presented to the children a few days before, and whose
eage was hanging in the gallery when the house fell, and
whkh we concluded had perished ift the nrfns, thrust its
little head from amidst the thatch where it had remained
eovered up unhurt for some hours, though its cage was
dashed to pieces. Many providential escapes were re-
lated to ftie by the people. . One man proceeding up the
mountains, was overtaken by the storm, and as he stood
by the canal (a narrow cut which leads water to turn
the sugar-mill) meditating a return, he observed to
his horror and dismay, a tree, torn up by the roots,
darting towards him through the air. At that instant he
instin6iively threw myself into the bed of the canal, and
the tree fell across him, just leaving room for him to
creep out. A poor crippled woman unable to walk, was
seated in her little cottage, when a huge bread fruit t*e£
torn up by the violence of the wind was thrown upon
the cottage, but at the same instant the same gust lifted
her completely from the ground, carried her out into the
adjoining field, where she fell unhurt, and a humane
young man who was passing caught her up in his arms
and 4x>nteyed her to the works in safety. Many
pdr&fte had their children repeatedly torn from their
arms as they were descending, and <*arried xlown the
hills, where falling or rolling amotagst the long grass,
canes, and small bushes, they were saved. Others again
who had resided in the Bahamas, where they had experi-
enced several hurricanes but none so violent nor des-
tructive, tied their younger children upon their backs,



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64 TlMEHRI.



and taking hold of the elder by the hands, and occasion-
ally cowering down to avoid the greatest fury of the
gusts, thus escaped. It was a subjeft of mutual con-
gratulation to meet again unhurt, and to be spared the
misery of witnessing any lacerated or maimed objeft, or
of hearing of the death of some beloved and dear
relative. I endeavoured to impress upon their minds
how much cause we had for thankfulness and gratitude
to Almighty God, for having so spared us, and during
the raging of the hurricane, I made all those who were
with me in the cave fall upon their knees to deprecate
the Divine wrath.

The other estates further north, where the hurricane
raged with greatest fury, suffered more both in property
and lives, than we did. This I attribute to the peculiar
conformation of the mountainous chain through the
centre of the island, which at this part attains its highest
elevation in the peaks of the Souffrifere and the Morne
Garou mountains. Between these two mountains there
is a considerable opening, down which the wind rushed
as through a funnel, or as the bursting of waters through
a breach in the side of a canal. The stately and elegant
mansion at Waterloo, though all the lower part was
built of stone, could not resist its fury. The instant
before it fell, Mrs. S. assisted by her brother (for her
husband was in town) fled with one little child down the
hill ; the other being crushed to death in its nurse's arms
by a falling beam. In her flight she was followed by the
rafters, beams and broken roof, which flew piece-meal in
every dire6lion even to the inconceivable distance of half
a mile ; whilst the child was torn several times from her
brother's arms and carried to a great distance ; and re-



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The Hurricane in St. Vincent. 65

peatedly in their descent were they obliged to cower
beneath the shrubs from the fury of the blast. They lost
14 negroes, several of whom were killed by the falling of
a flight of stone steps, under which they had taken
shelter as a place of the greatest safety, and many
others were seriously injured. Only one negro house
was left standing and Mrs. S. was forced to seek shelter
in the dungeon of the estate. I visited this scene of
desolation soon after, and the miserable sight which the
ruins of the house presented was really melancholy. The
materials were scattered around in every dire£iion far
and near, just as if meal had been thrown into a basin
and quickly turned round by the hand. Here was the
arm of a chair, the leg of a table, an organ pipe, broken
crockery, window frames, in short no two things to-
gether alike ; and yet strange to say, though the house
was one mass of ruins, and the very room in which the
portraits of Mr. and Mrs. Sutherland were hung was
an upper room, and both it and the room beneath fell iq,
yet the pittures were dug out without having sustained
the least injury, the burnished and gilded frames as
bright as ever, and the oil painting not even scratched.
This gave rise to many curious surmises among the
negroes who think they must have been witched away,
One of the fields of canes which I passed on this estate,
and which had been 3 or 4 feet high, was so destroyed
that not a vestige of a cane was to be seen, and it bore
the appearance of a fallow field in England, recently
ploughed and harrowed. On the opposite side of the
road, where the canes had been 5 or 6 feet high, a few
small stumps discovered themselves, so as to precisely
resemble a shaving brush.

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66 TlMEHRI.



The copper roof of the large storehouse on the beach
was, by a sudden gust, literally lifted up whole and car-
ried out to sea, where it sank to rise no more. Mr. S.,
poor man, who was in town, and little aware of the
scene of desolation which awaited him, supposing his
house and buildings too substantially built to suffer from
the gale such as they experienced in Kingstown, returned
home the following evening, a distance of 22 miles,
through roads impeded with fallen trees, and masses of
earth, and stones which had shot from the cliffs. On
reaching our works and noticing the injury they had
sustained, he was incautiously informed by an overseer
that his own house was levelled to the ground, his
works destroyed, not a negro house standing, 14 negroes
killed, his child dead, his wife saved with difficulty and
lodging in the miserable dungeon where she had taken
shelter. He threw up his hands and eyes to Heaven in
despair, spoke not a word in reply, but casting the reins
upon his horse's neck, galloped onwards furiously as one
who knew not, nor cared whither he was going — ruined
and desperate.

At Lot 14 nearly all the buildings were destroyed, and
the mansion house partly blown down. The family
retreated to a small room on the grotind floor, where
with anxious eyes they watched the progress of the gale,
anticipating every moment the separation of the house in
two, for it cracked down the middle, and swerved a little
to the left.

At Turama, the property of General Mackenzie, and
the residence of Mr. McLeod, the sugar-works and
other buildings were destroyed and the family mansion
was completely swept away down the hill. Mr. McLeod'S



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The Hurricane in St. Vincent. 67

family were in the greatest danger and exposed to the
greatest hardships. He perceived from the increasing
violence of the gale that the house must give way and
kept his eye intently fixed on the stone kitchen (which
in this country is always a detached building) as the
safest place of retreat, and watched for a favourable
opportunity to escape. Just as the house was giving
way he rushed to the door, leading Mrs. McLEOD and
bis child by either hand and was descending the flight
of stone steps when to his dismay he saw the roof of
the kitchen coming to meet them ; they had just time
to get under the arch of the steps and to escape instant
death. Here they remained until the wind fairly blew
them out, and then though the rain fell in torrents, tbey
w6re compelled to lie down with their heads against
the side of the steps, to avoid the flying beams and
rafters which darted through the arch they had just left
with the velocity of shot from cannon. As the storm
moderated, Mr. McLEOD took them to the kitchen, now
deprived of its roof, and seated them near the dresser, —
and being a powerful man, he obtained from the house
a mattress, which he placed over them, but from the
incessant torrents of rain they were soon seated in a
pool of water, to avoid which he once more sallied out
and brought another mattress which he placed under
them, and there they remained till the hurricane was
over. When I visited them shortly afterwards to offer
the ladies any articles of apparel from home that they
might require, as theirs were either buried in ruins, or
covered with mud, I found Mr. and Mrs. McLEOD, Mr.
and Mrs. Sutherland, and the children all seated ia
a little room, 10 or 12 feet square, without a roof to the

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68 TlMEHRl.



building, and with nothing but the boards of the room
above to shelter them, through which the rain forced its
way.

; At Langley Park, the residence of Mr. CRICHTON, the
canes suffered severely, and the greater part of the
sugar works, and other buildings were thrown, down,
but no lives were lost. Though it was truly melancholy
to observe the various appearances of desolation around,
yet it was impossible to resist a smile at the droll ap-
pearance which the peaked roofs of the manager's and
overseer's houses presented ; the one was lifted like a
cap from the head and perched knowingly on the right
side, the other leaning in the opposite dire&ion, as if
two dandies had recognized and were saluting each
other across the Park with their hats fashionably stuck
on one side of their heads. Here an old woman, the
conduftress of the little vine gang (children who gather
vines for the pigs), shewed great presence of mind as
Well as judgment. They were employed near the skirts
of the forest in their usual occupation, at some distance
from their homes, when the hurricane came on with its
greatest fury. Perceiving the danger to which they
were exposed by remaining so near the fallen branches,
and that which likewise threatened them of being blown
away if they attempted to return across the open plain,
she very prudently determined to take them a little dis-
tance from the wood into a pasture where there
were many shrubs and bushes growing. Here she
ordered them to form a compaft circle, and each to lie
down on the ground and take hold of one of the bushes*
in which position she compelled them to remain until the
hurricane was over, when they returned home, dripping



Online LibraryRoyal agricultural and commercial society of BritiTimehri: the journal of the Royal agricultural and commercial society of British Guiana → online text (page 5 of 25)