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THE LIBRARY

OF

THE UNIVERSITY
OF CALIFORNIA

LOS ANGELES









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WEST INDIAN
TALES OF OLD



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\ I 'Mil; A I, JOHN BENItOW
From au I'liirravliiu after the pnintinjf by Sir Godfrey Kiieller



WE ST INDIAN
TALES OF OLD

BY
ALGERNON E. ASPINALL

AUTHOR OP

"THE POCKET GUIDE TO THE WEST INDIES" AND "THE BRITISH
WEST INDIES: THEIR HISTORY, RESOURCES AND PROGRESS"



ILLUSTRATED



LONDON

DUCKWORTH AND CO.



first published, 1912
New Edition, 1915



Printed by BALLANTYNE, HANSON A Co. LTD.

At, the Ballantyne Prett
LONDON AND EDINBURGH



College
Library

/=

/



I T



o.



PREFACE

THE Caribbean Sea, which has been aptly described
as the cockpit of the Empire, will shortly undergo a
striking change. From being a mere cul-de-sac it will,
now that the Panama Canal is completed, become one of
the world's principal ocean highways and trade routes.
One result of this will certainly be that an increasing
number of visitors will patronise the British West
Indian islands, and it occurred to me that it might be
an opportune moment to re-tell, for their benefit, some
of the tales connected with the West Indies, whose
history is surrounded by a wealth of romance. Such
is the origin of the present volume, in the compilation
of which I have received much valuable assistance from
Mr. N. Darnell Davis, C.M.G., the Hon. Arthur W.
Holmes a Court, Mr. Cecil Headlam, Mr. Edgar Tripp,
Mr. F. Sterns-Fadelle, Mr. Oscar Plummer, Mr. G. H.
King, and other kind friends to whom I desire to
express my indebtedness.

A. E. A.



1221875



CONTENTS



CHAPTER

PREFACE



I. BENBOW THE BRAVE
II. THE FATE OF GOVERNOR PARKE

III. THE SIEGE OF BRIMSTONE HILL

IV. THE BATTLE OF THE SAINTS
V. CHAGUARAMAS BAY, TRINIDAD

VI. THE DIAMOND ROCK 124

VII. " LA GRANGE " 163

VIII. ENGLISH HARBOUR, ANTIGUA 171

IX. OLD CARTAGENA 203

X. A BARBADOS MYSTERY 224

XI. THE LEGEND OF ROSE HALL 234

APPENDIX

I. THE WILL OF GOVERNOR DANIEL PARKE 247

II. ARTICLES OF CAPITULATION OF THE ISLA"ND OF

ST. CHRISTOPHER'S 250

III. CAPTAIN J, W. MAURICE'S ACCOUNT OF THE

Loss OF THE DIAMOND ROCK 255

vii



WEST INDIAN TALES OF OLD

CHAPTER I
BENBOW THE BRAVE

Come all you sailors bold
Lend an ear, lend an ear ;
Come all you sailors bold lend an ear .
^Tis of our Admiral's fame.
Brave Benbow calTd by name ;
How he fought on the main
You shall hear, you shall hear.

FROM AN OLD CHAUNTIE.

WHEN Admiral John Benbow was in Jamaica, King-
ston, the present capital of the island, had only recently
come into existence. Spanish Town the old St. lago
de la Vega of the days of the first colonisers from
Spain was the chief town, and for many years Port
Royal, formerly called Caguaya, at the extremity of
the spit of sand which shelters what is now Kingston
Harbour, had been the principal trade centre. Being
conveniently situated it was much frequented by the
members of that roving band of freebooters known as the
buccaneers, who made it the storehouse and mart of their
ill-gotten wealth, and the scene of the wildest excesses
when they returned from their marauding expeditions.
But in 1692 a terrible calamity befell this proud

A I



WEST INDIAN TALES

city. On June 7 in that year it was overwhelmed by
an earthquake, which threw down houses, churches and
nearly every building in the place. The event was
graphically described by the Rector, whose account of
it was published in a pamphlet, of which a copy is to
be seen in the British Museum. This worthy tells how
on the fateful day he had been at church reading
prayers as he was careful to add he did every day
" to keep up some show of religion among a most
ungodly and debauched people. 1 ' After partaking of
a glass of wormwood wine a beverage which still
forms the basis of that seductive Barbadian cock-
tail called " green bitters " with the President of the
Council "as a whet before dinner " at a place frequented
by the merchants, he was sitting with him while he
smoked his pipe when the catastrophe occurred.

Though it is not altogether relevant to the story of
Benbow, what happened shall be described in the
Rector's own words. " I found the ground rolling and
moving under my feet," he states ; " upon which I said
to him [the President] ' Lord, Sir, what is that ? ' He
replied, being a very grave man, ' It is an earthquake ;
be not afraid, it will soon be over.' But it increased^
and we heard the church and tower fall, upon which
we ran to save ourselves ; I quickly lost him and made
towards Morgan's fort, because being a wide, open
place, I thought to be there securest from the falling
houses ; but as I made towards it, I saw the earth open
and swallow up a multitude of people, and the sea
mounting in upon them over the fortifications. I then
laid aside all thought of escaping, and resolved to make



toward my own lodging, and there to meet death in
as good posture as I could. From the place where I
was, I was forc'd to cross and run through two or three
very narrow streets, the houses and walls fell on each
side of me, some bricks came rowling over my shoes ?
but none hurt me ; when I came to my lodging I
found there all things in the same order I left them,
not a picture, of which there were several fair ones in
my chamber, being out of its place. I went to my
balcony to view the street in which our house stood, and
saw never a house down there, nor the ground so much
as cracked ; the people seeing me there cry'd out
to me to come and pray with them ; when I came
into the street every one laid hold on my cloaths and
embraced me, that with their fear and kindness I was
almost stifled ; I persuaded them at least to kneel
down and make a large ring, which they did. I prayed
with them near an hour, when I was almost spent with
the heat of the sun, and the exercise ; they then brought
me a chair, the earth working all the while with new
motions, and tremblings, like the rowlings of the sea ;
insomuch that sometimes when I was at prayer I could
hardly keep myself upon my knees. By that time, I
had been half an hour longer with them in setting
before them their sins and heinous provocations and
in seriously exhorting them to repentance, there came
some merchants to me of the place, who desired me to
go aboard some ship in the harbour, and refresh myself,
telling me that they had gotten a boat to carry me off;
so coming to the sea, which had entirely swallowed up the
wharf with all those goodly brick houses upon it, most

3



WEST INDIAN TALES

of them as fine as those in Cheapside, and two intire
streets beyond that ; I, upon the tops of some houses
which lay levelled with the surface of the water, got
first into a canoe, and then into a long boat, which put
me aboard a ship called the Storm-Merchant, where I
found the President safe, who was overjoyed to see
me ; there I continued that night, but could not sleep
for the returns of the earthquake almost every hour,
which made all the guns in the ship to jarr and rattle.
The next day I went from ship to ship to visit those
that were bruised, and a dying, and to pray with them,
and likewise to do the last office at the sinking of several
corps that came floating from the point, which indeed
hath been my sorrowful employment ever since I came
aboard this ship with design to come for England, we
having nothing but shakings of the earth, and thunder
and lightening and foul weather ever since ; and the
people being so desperately wicked it makes me afraid
to stay in the place ; for that very day this terrible
earthquake was, as soon as night came on, a company
of lewd rogues whom they call privateers, fell to break-
ing open warehouses and houses deserted, to rob and
rifle their neighbours whilst the earth trembled under
them, and some of the houses fell on them in the act :
And those audacious whores that remain still upon the
place are as impudent and drunken as ever. I have
been twice on shoar to pray with the bruised and
dying people, and to christen children, where I met
too many drunk and swearing; I did not spare them,
nor the magistrates neither, who have suffered wicked-
ness to grow to so great a height ; I have I bless God
4



BENBOW THE BRAVE

to the best of my skill and power discharged my duty
in this place, which you will hear from most persons
that come from hence ; I have preached so seasonably
to them, and so plain in the last sermon I preached to
them in the church : I set before them what would be
the issue of their impenitence, and wickedness, that
they have since confessed that it was more like a
prophesie than a sermon ; I had, I confess, an impulse
on me to do it : And many times I have preached in
this pulpit, things that I never premeditated at home,
and could not methought do otherwise. The day when
all this befel us was very clear, afforded not the suspicion
of the least evil; but in the space of three minutes,
about half an hour after eleven in the morning,
Port Royal, the fairest town of all the English
plantations, the best emporium and mart of this part
of the world, exceeding in its riches, plentiful of all
good things, was shaken and shattered to pieces, and
sunk into, and covered for the greatest part, by the sea
and will in a short time be wholly eaten up by it ; for
few of those houses that yet stand are left whole, and
every day we hear them fall, and the sea daily
encroaches upon it; we guess, that by the falling of
the houses and the opening of the earth and the
inundation of the waters, there are lost fifteen hundred
persons and many of good note."

In a later letter the Rector tells how " whole streets
were swallowed up by the opening earth, and the
houses and inhabitants went down together, some
of them were driven up again by the sea, which arose
in those breaches and wonderfully escaped ; some were

5



WEST INDIAN TALES

swallowed up to the neck, and then the earth shut
upon them, and squeezed them to death ; and in that
manner several are left buried with their heads above
ground, only some heads the dogs have eaten, others
are covered with dust and earth by the people which
yet remain in the place to avoid the stench."

To what extent the Rector's account is a true
portrayal of the catastrophe must remain a matter of
conjecture ; but it is worthy of note that the inscription
on the tomb of one Lewis Galdy, at Green Bay, across
Kingston Harbour, records how that individual " was
swallowed up by the earthquake, and by the providence
of God was, by another shock, thrown into the sea, and
miraculously saved by swimming until a boat took him
up," and how " he lived many years after in great
reputation, beloved by all who knew him, and much
lamented at his death."

That Port Royal never recovered from the effects of
the earthquake of 1692 is not to be wondered at. The
greater part of the town was swallowed up, and, unlike
Lewis Galdy, it has never since been disgorged. A buoy,
inscribed " Church Buoy," floats over the spot where
it is believed the old church stood, and some people
declare that on a calm day the ruins of the edifice can
be seen below the pellucid waters of the harbour. The
dockyard is now practically deserted, and beyond the
officers 1 quarters, with their trim lawn at each corner
of which is a gaudily painted figure-head of one of our
old wooden walls, and the historic and exceedingly
picturesque Fort Charles where Nelson commanded in
1779, the town has few attractions.
6



BENBOW THE BRAVE

Within a very short time after the destruction of
Port Royal, the Council decided to build a new town on
what they then believed would be a safer site, and
instructions were issued for a survey to be made of two
hundred acres of land in the parish of St. Andrew's on
the northernmost shore of the magnificent sheet of water
enclosed by the spit of land already referred to, which is
called the Palisadoes. A few days later they ordered
that d1000 should be paid to the owner, who was
William Beeston, Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica from
1693 to 1700, and Governor from that year until 1702.

For several years Kingston was little more than a
collection of temporary huts which sheltered the com-
paratively few survivors from Port Royal. Sir Hans
Sloane, the distinguished naturalist and founder of the
British Museum, who went to Jamaica in 1687, in the
suite of Christopher Monck, second Duke of Albemarle,
the autocratic Governor of the island for a brief year,
quotes a letter dated July 3rd, 1693, in which reference
is made to the new town, from which it would appear
that it was an extremely unhealthy spot. " Others,"
the letter runs, " went to the place called Kingston (or
by others Killcown) where from the first clearing of the
ground, and from bad accommodations, then hutts
built with boughs, and not sufficient to keep out rain,
which in great and an unusual manner followed the
earthquake, lying wet, and wanting medicines, and all
conveniences, etc., they died miserably in heaps. Indeed
there was a general sickness (supposed to proceed from
the hurtful vapours belch'd from the many openings
of the Earth) all over the island so general that few

7



WEST INDIAN TALES

escaped being sick; and 'tis thought it swept away
in all parts of the island 3000 souls ; the greatest part
from Kingston only, yet an unhealthy place."

Little attempt seems to have been made to lay out
the town on any organised plan until the year 1695,
when the assistance of Colonel Christian Lilly, the
famous military engineer, was invoked. Colonel Lilly
first went out to the West Indies in 1692 the year of
the Port Royal earthquake with a train of brass
ordnance and mortars. He took part in Sir F. Wheeler's
expedition to Barbados, Martinique, the Leeward
Islands, New England and Newfoundland in command of
an artillery train and after seeing active service in San
Domingo he was stationed in Jamaica in 1695. The
Council were fortunate in being able to avail themselves
of the services of so eminent an engineer.

Under Lilly's guidance the mean huts of Kingston
soon gave way to more substantial structures, and the
town was rapidly constructed on the present rectangular
plan, with the parish church, or, at any rate, a space for
the church, in the centre. When the church was actually
completed, is not known ; but it is certain that it must
have been standing in Benbow's time, for the earliest
tomb bears the date 1699, while some of the Communion
plate is dated 1701.

By an irony of fate Kingston, which owed its exist-
ence to an earthquake, was, as all the world knows, to a
great extent destroyed by a similar visitation, which was
accompanied by a devastating fire, in 1907.

That appalling disaster is of such comparatively
recent occurrence that it will suffice to remind the reader
8




KINGSTON PARISH CHURCH IN 1844
From an old engraving




THE PARISH CHURCH AT KINGSTON JAMAICA



BENBOW THE BRAVE

how, on a brilliantly fine day in January, when the
tourist season was at its height, the town was full
of visitors and sightseers. A conference of delegates
gathered from every part of the West Indies, and
augmented by an influential party of guests from
England, brought out by that generous shipowner, the
late Sir Alfred Jones, was sitting in the old Mico
College buildings, in Hanover Street, when Kingston was
shaken to its foundations by an earthquake. When
the clouds of dust had cleared away, it was found that
a raging fire was completing the work of destruction.

On this occasion no suggestion was made of altering
the site of the city, and the work of rebuilding Kingston
has since proceeded apace. It is indeed already possible
to appreciate what a handsome capital Jamaica will have
when the work is completed, as it will be in a few years 1
time. The streets are wide, and far cleaner than of old,
while gardens already green with turf and bright with
flowering trees and palms delight the eye and refresh the
senses.

The old wooden and brick buildings have been replaced
by structures of reinforced concrete, and it is a revelation
to visitors to find what picturesque houses can be con-
structed from such common-place materials. Some of
the new buildings have domes and others flat roofs,
which give the city quite an Oriental appearance, and it
is very generally conceded that architecturally, as well
as from an hygienic point of view, the new Kingston is
an infinitely more attractive city than its somewhat
ramshackle predecessor.

Like nearly every other building in the city which

9



WEST INDIAN TALES

was not actually destroyed, the old Parish Church
suffered severely from the earthquake. It was indeed
so badly damaged that it had practically to be recon-
structed. The picturesque old tower which used to
stand at the west end was no longer safe and had to be
demolished, and an extension of the nave now covers its
site. Apart, however, from this alteration the church
has been restored on its original lines, the only
modifications introduced being those rendered necessary
through the substitution of reinforced concrete for
bricks and mortar and the desirability of protecting
the building from the effects of any future seismic
disturbance.

It is a matter for regret that the handsome
Baldacchino which graced the chancel from the
beginning of the nineteenth century has been sacrificed
to modern " taste," and still more it is to be deplored
that many of the mural tablets and tombstones should
have been irretrievably ruined. The most treasured
of all of the latter has, however, fortunately escaped
almost unblemished.

This is a simple slab of bluish grey slate within the
chancel rails. Every English visitor should gaze upon
it with reverence, for it is the tombstone of the
redoubtable John Benbow. It bears the following
inscription :

HERE LYETH INTERRED THE
BODY OF JOHN BENBOW
ESQ. ADMIRAL OF THE WHITE
A TRUE PATTERN OF ENGLISH
10



BENBOW THE BRAVE

COURAGE WHO LOST HIS LIFE
IN DEFENCE OF HIS QUEENE
& COUNTRY NOVEMBER Y e 4ra
1702 IN THE 52 d YEAR OF
HIS AGE BY A WOUND IN HIS LEGG
RECEIUED IN AN ENGAGEMENT
WITH MONS F Du CASSE BEING

MUCH LAMENTED.

According to some authorities, Benbow, who was
born in 1653, was the son of a tanner of Shrewsbury ;
others, however, declare that his father was a butcher,
and that it was from the parental shop that he ran
away to sea. His uncle was Captain John Benbow
who, after serving with the Parliamentary forces,
espoused the Royalist cause on the death of the King ?
and being captured at the battle of Worcester, was
tried by court-martial and shot.

Young Benbow's early years were passed partly in
the navy, which he joined in 1678, and partly in the
merchant service. In the latter his career was most
adventurous, and the story is told how, on one
occasion, when he was owner of a vessel employed in
the Levant trade, he rounded up some Moorish pirates
to the number of thirteen and cut off their heads.
These he then salted and took to the astonished magis-
trates at Cadiz, from whom he demanded and was
successful in obtaining a reward.

After the revolution Benbow re-entered the navy,
and he had already occupied the positions of master-
attendant at Chatham Dockyard and at Deptford,

11



WEST INDIAN TALES

master-of-the-fleet at Beachy Head, Barfleur and the
Hague and commandant of a flotilla of bomb-vessels
against the French when in 1697-8 he was appointed
commander-in-chief of the King's ships in the West
Indies, with instructions to suppress piracy in the
Caribbean Sea.

Reaching Barbados in February 1698-9, and finding
all quiet there, he at once proceeded to Cartagena on
the Spanish Main. By threats of a blockade, he
persuaded the governor of that city to release two
English vessels, which he was detaining with the object
of using them for the purpose of an expedition against
the Scotch colony at Darien a colony founded by a
company which had been granted extensive powers by
an Act of the Scottish Parliament in 1695 and proved
eventually a dismal failure.

Benbow then went after the pirates, whom he
hunted from pillar to post, spreading consternation
in their ranks. Some took refuge under the Danish flag
at St. Thomas, while others left West Indian waters
altogether, only to return when he sailed again for
England in 1700.

On his arrival in the Channel, Benbow was now
given the command in the Downs, and after holding
that appointment for a while, and serving as Vice-
Admiral of the Blue, under Sir George Rooke, who
afterwards achieved fame by capturing Gibraltar for
Queen Anne, he was once again destined to visit the
West Indies.

War with France was imminent, and there was need
of an able commander in the Caribbean. The choice
12




ADMIRAL HKXBOWS TOMB
In the Parish Chuivh, Kingston, Jamaica



BENBOW THE BRAVE

fell on Benbow; but King William III thinking
it r ungenerous to send him back so soon to such an
unfavourable station, first offered the appointment to
other admirals of distinction who, however, preferred
the dress and pleasures of London to risking their lives
in a tropical climate, and consequently declined.
Thereupon the King is alleged to have said : " Well
then, I find we must spare our beaux and send our
honest Benbow."

Benbow accordingly hoisted his flag on board the
Breda, a vessel of 70 guns, and sailed from Spithead
for the West Indies at the end of August 1701, being
escorted as far as the Scillies by Sir George Rooke, and
then for some days' sail to westward of the Azores by
Sir John Mundens squadron.

He arrived at Barbados on November 3, and finding
the Leeward Islands in a good state of defence he pro-
ceeded immediately to Jamaica and dropped anchor off
Port Royal on December 5.

Towards the end of January 1702 Benbow heard, from
the captains of some vessels which had been sent out as
a reinforcement, of the arrival at Martinique of a French
force of superior strength to his own, under the com-
mand of M. Chateau Renaud, whose object was believed
to be an attack on Barbados and the Leeward Islands.
In March the further news reached him that a Spanish
squadron under the Marquis de Coetlogon had succeeded
in effecting a juncture with the French, that the com-
bined fleet had put to sea and that Monsieur Du Casse,
the new French Governor of Leogane in Hispaniola,
was momentarily expected to arrive from Europe " to

13



WEST INDIAN TALES

settle the Assiento," or contract for the supply of negro
slaves for the plantations and mines, "and destroy
the trade of the English and Dutch on that coast."

In July the tidings reached Barbados that war with
France had been declared, and Benbow at once decided
to act on the offensive. For a while he cruised off the
coast of Hispaniola where he met with a few small
successes. Then he heard that a French squadron of
four sail of the line of 60 to 70 guns apiece, one large
frigate and several smaller vessels under the command
of Monsieur Du Casse was escorting the Governor the
Duke of Albuquerque to Mexico. On receiving this
intelligence he immediately started off in the Breda to
intercept them with a squadron consistingof the Defiance,
Captain Richard Kirk by ; the Windsor ; Captain John
Constable ; the Greenwich, Captain John Wade ; the
Ruby, Captain George Walton ; the Pendennis, Captain
Thomas Hudson ; and the Falmouth, Captain Thomas
Vincent.

The two squadrons came within sight ot one another
on August 19 at a distance of about twelve miles from
Santa Marta on the Spanish Main, now a busy port o
Colombia, from which millions of bananas are shipped
to Europe every year. Benbow at once made the signal
for battle; but the French held on their course, and
only one or two broadsides were exchanged. At night-
fall Du Casse made off, closely pursued by the Breda
and Ruby, while the remaining English vessels held aloof.
The admiral sent to Kirkby and ordered him to make
more sail and get abreast of the enemy's van ; but he
declined to do so, and after firing a few broadsides
14



BENBOW THE BRAVE

luffed up out of the line and out of gun-shot. On the
three following days the pursuit was maintained by the
Breda and the Ruby, the only other vessel which joined
in the chase being the Falmouth. On August 21 the
French, seeing the English vessels isolated, shortened
sail and showed fight. A sharp engagement followed,
during which the Defiance came up without, however,
firing a single shot. Two days later Benbow engaged
the entire French squadron single-handed, and suc-


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Online LibraryAlgernon Edward AspinallWest Indian tales of old → online text (page 1 of 17)