The Saba Islander

by Will Johnson

Archive for the month “April, 2013”

Saba Organoponic Farm: Not a winner but never a looser

Geachte heer Will Johnson ,
U heeft ons gevraagd om u op de hoogte te houden van het verloop van de Zoektocht naar de Oranje Fonds Kroonappels. Zoals bekend waren er na twee stemrondes nog 60 finalisten over. Deze regionale winnaars kwamen vandaag bij elkaar tijdens de landelijke verkiezingsdag. In een spannende strijd, met een deskundige jury, kwam er uiteindelijk één winnaar per categorie uit de bus. Zij hebben een Appeltje van Oranje gewonnen én € 50.000!
En de drie trotse winnaars zijn:In de categorie Jeugd: Best Buddies Nederland
In de categorie Buurt: Stichting Stadstuin Emma’s Hof
In de categorie Helpende Hand: Stichting Manteling

Hartelijk dank voor uw betrokkenheid bij de zoektocht naar de Oranje Fonds Kroonappels! Het Oranje Fonds steunt jaarlijks duizenden sociale initiatieven in het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden. Dat doen we met geld, met kennis en met contacten. Graag willen we nog veel meer sociale initiatieven steunen. Daarom hebben wij uw hulp nodig! U bent al Vriend van het Oranje Fonds vanaf € 2,- per maand. Ga naar en u ontvangt als welkomstcadeau een speciale verjaardagskalender. Hierin staan unieke foto’s van ons beschermpaar – de Prins van Oranje en Prinses Máxima – in actie bij het Oranje Fonds. Alvast hartelijk dank voor uw Vriendschap!

Met vriendelijke groeten,

Ronald van der Giessen
directeur Oranje Fonds

Hosting Jackie Kennedy

My diary of March 22nd 1978 has only one entry, but one entry of that kind is enough. It reads as follows:

Jackie Kennedy    “Mrs. Jackie Kennedy-Onassis, accompanied by her son John Kennedy, her daughter Caroline Kennedy and nephew Mr. A. Radziwill visited Saba. The Kennedy children stayed overnight at Captains Quarters Hotel. Mrs. Kennedy went back in the afternoon. I drove her around. She came to my home in The Level and had iced-tea and a chat with Lynne.

Mrs. Kennedy is a nice lady and we had a very nice day with her, and the people of Saba were very happy to see her.”

As there was a lot more to the story than just that let me share the experiences of that day with my readers.

I received a call late in the evening of March 21st, 1978 from Mr. Robert Volgers of Windward Islands Airways asking if I could host an important guest the next day. I was Commissioner but had also been Acting Administrator for nearly a year. As there was no Administrator I was pretty busy. It was a difficult year for me, but a rewarding one. I got a lot done for the island and was able to submit many projects for financing which are now monuments on the island. I had also just completed my new home some months before and my family was expanding.

The guest was Jackie O, better known to us on Saba as Mrs. John F. Kennedy, former wife of the late President, one of the few United States Presidents who enjoyed great respect in most countries.

She was accompanied by her children John Kennedy Jr., Carolyn Kennedy and her nephew A. Radziwill, a son of her sister. Mr. Volgers came along too of course.

I invited Police Chief Osmar Ralph Simmons to accompany me for the day.

Old timers say that “Tell-a-Sabie” is faster than using the telephone. I guess Mr. Volgers had made a few other calls besides the one he made to me, as there were loads of cars on the way to the airport, when I was on my way to pick her up.

When she arrived I could see by the look on her face that she was not expecting a crowd of people to be on hand to welcome her. I therefore tried to spirit her away as quickly as possible. Since I had just moved into my new home at The Level, I had arranged for her to have tea there and to plan the rest of the day

I remember her admiring the cabinets in the kitchen. They were locally made. My wife Lynne only remembers that and that Mrs. Kennedy was commenting on how blue the Caribbean Sea is and compared it to the Greek islands in the Mediterranean sea.

As the children had gone diving with the police keeping an eye on things for me, we decided to go first to Captain’s Quarters Hotel and have lunch there.

At the hotel it was pure chaos. The ferry “Martini Bianco” was in port with 150 Venezuelan tourists on board. They all descended on the hotel upon hearing that Mrs. Kennedy was there. They just stood around our table gaping at her and taking pictures like a Japanese film crew. They were shouting out to her how to pose, and wanting to have a photo taken with her.

I tried to give her some privacy but it was impossible. Restaurants were scarce at that time and since we had arranged to have lunch there we had to stick around and suffer through it. Had I known I could have asked her to lunch at my place. But my children were small, Teddy as only three and Chris was only six weeks. In the morning I had arranged with a friend of mine Henriquez Heyliger and someone else to be at the house and to lend a helping hand with serving Mrs. Kennedy, so that it would have been difficult to serve her lunch under the circumstances.


Captains Quarter Hotel, built around the home of one of Saba’s many captains, Capt. Henry Hassell and the house was later owned by Mr. Carl Hassell.

When lunch finally was served a local man in his cups rushed our table and in his enthusiasm to show the crowd that he could kiss Mrs. Kennedy, nearly overturned the table. Now you done know. At that point I suggested to her that I would take her for a drive.

On our way to The Bottom, I decided to take her to a house on St.John’s belonging to Lindsay and Claire de Mambey. From their swimming pool there is a spectacular view of The Bottom.

The late Eugenius Johnson was tailgating me. I had to make a sharp turn on the road leading up to Crispeen. My indicator lights were not working. Eugenius, God rest and bless him, is lovingly remembered for his many skills and contributions. Driving was not one of them. Eugenius’ philosophy about bumpers and fenders was that they were only attached to the car to protect the engine. Besides that, his preferred method of driving was right down the center of the road. So in his way of thinking it was only natural to use bumpers and fenders as much as possible in the walls of Saba to protect the engine. The consequence of this was that I crashed the Administrators car in the wall. It shook up Mrs. Kennedy but I reversed the car out of the wall and continued on up the hill. In the meantime Eugenius continued on to The Bottom unaware of what had happened.

The Administrators car was not in the best of condition anyway. It was an old white Toyota Corolla and had seen its best days. When we arrived at the house I assured Mrs. Kennedy that there was no need to worry. The bumper and right fender though were damaged.


Home on the way to Mt. Scenery where Jackie and I chatted while waiting for the children to come down from the mountain top.

I tried to let her remain there for awhile, so that she could enjoy the great view and the privacy as well.

In the meanwhile we were running out of time. We had to get back and check on the young folks. They had returned from diving and had decided to go up the mountain. I took her up the mountain road as far as she could go and for her to have some privacy. We sat there talking while waiting for the children to come down the mountain. I think she enjoyed that part of the day. I had instructed Major Simmons to ask people to stay at Banana Gut and not to come up the steps so that she could have some time to herself.

Time dragged on and I could see that she was concerned. I assured her that the children would be fine and that they were accompanied by the dive masters and a policeman.

She however was concerned about getting back to St.Maarten as she was staying at La Semana Hotel and had an important dinner date there. She asked me if I would take care of them and send them over the next morning. I told her she could trust me with that one.

Everywhere we went crowds of people were there to see her off. I apologized to her and told her that since the island only had 1200 people that they had all seen her. I also told her that people loved her husband. By that time, having been in an accident together we had become familiar to each other. I detected a hint of mischievousness in her eyes when she smiled and said to me;” You mean Mr. Onassis? I wanted to say, “Of course.” But as a good host I acted embarrassed and said, “No Madam, I meant President Kennedy.” At the airport there were crowds of people there to see her off. She got the same reaction from our people as Her Majesty the Queen gets when visiting the island.

After saying goodbye, and as she was about to enter the plane, she came back to me and put some money in my pocket and said; “I hope that will be enough to take care of the hotel.”

Later when I checked my pocket after the plane had taken off I felt like the customs officer in Paris. He had once paid a ten dollar fine for Mr. Aristotle Onassis who did not carry cash money with him and needed to pay for something or the other. The customs officer told the press that he wanted to tell his grandchildren that he had paid a bill for Mr. Onassis.

Well now that I have grandchildren of my own, I can safely tell them that the sixty dollars in my pocket could not go far. Lucky that I had complete charge of the government back then. My salary was only NAfls. 600.—(six hundred guilders) per month, and then as still now, the Windward Islands Bank had my house mortgaged, I could not afford to take on any extra bills for the rich and famous.

Mr. David Harden was the operator of Captains Quarters at the time. He claimed, by the way, to be 63rd cousin to Queen Elizabeth II, twice removed. Despite those impressive credentials, he too was in a financial bind. So I and I decided that the Government of Saba, perennially cash strapped, would host the Kennedy children, for the difference. I asked the police to keep an eye on the hotel that night and got them off safely the next morning.

I remember having had a very interesting conversation with Mrs. Kennedy’s nephew. He was quite mature in his thinking and asked intelligent questions about the island and its history.

People claimed that John Kennedy Jr. had returned to Saba some years later to dive. I have no proof of that and Glen Holm of the Tourist Bureau also is not certain if as people claim that he did return.

When John Kennedy Jr. was lost in the plane accident to be honest I was very upset. I had been responsible for him and his sister and had discharged my duties without expecting anything in return. I had great hopes for him when he started his career. Regrettably he was all too young when he died.

I only have a photo of that day in which you can only see my elbow. There were so many taken that day but I was too busy taking care of the lady.

Considering everything surrounding the Kennedy family, I thought my readers would be interested to hear about my day with Jackie Kennedy. And boy I am relieved that I have been able to unload the story of the accident on my readers. All these years I have been embarrassed , to have  been the cause of that accident. Now that it is out in the open I feel relieved.

I balanced out the accident in my mind though, with the good discussions I had with the lady on the step road leading up the mountain.

When I was a boy on St.Maarten there was a lady on Backstreet who used to sell peanuts. She advertised them as useful to “crack and converse”, and that became her nickname. We did not have any peanuts but Jackie and I “cracked and conversed” to our hearts contents. So much so that she could tease me on the way to the airport about the accident and that perhaps I had meant to tell her that Saba people might have admired Onassis. At that time I had not yet read “Het Teken van Jonah” by Boeli van Leeuwen who did not have any flattering comments about her marriage to Onassis. I would have never drawn that to her attention though.

And so life on a small island does have its benefits at times when a simple island boy like myself can “crack and converse” with the rich and famous and have fond memories of it as well.

Will Johnson

Miss Cornelia Jones – First woman Member of the Island Council

By: Will Johnson


The home of Miss Cornelia Jones was well situated overlooking The Bottom

Miss Cornelia Rosina Jones was born on September 10th, 1907, at St. John’s, Saba. She was born from a mixed marriage, something not unusual in the history of the village of St. John’s. Her father was a black man, Fernandus Jones born on June 2nd, 1877 and he died on December 22nd, 1943. His parents were George Jones and Sarah Stevens. Her mother was a white woman named Mary Jane Hassell (who died on November 13th, 1954) of whom I did not find any more records, but I remember her personally as a boy.

Miss Jones had three siblings: Alfred Jones born July 18th, 1897, Eleanor born September 10th, 1901 (she lived to well over 100 years of age and died in the USA.) and Leonard born February 6th, 1910 and died May 5th, 1959. As a baby he contracted polio and was handicapped. In those days of uncompromising language usage he was simply known as a hunchback. As a boy this disease as well as leprosy was discussed so often that I was worried that I might catch either one of these dreaded diseases.

Miss Jones grew up in a much different Saba than we know today. I guess her personality was shaped by her mixed parentage. Something like Barack Obama she was comfortable and loving with both her white side of her family and heritage as well as with her roots coming from Africa.

Miss Jones at the Windwardside Guesthouse in the nineteen sixties.

Miss Jones at the Windwardside Guesthouse in the nineteen sixties.

She is best known as a hostess. Running the government guesthouse in The Bottom, and later on in the Windwardside. Because of this she was well known with visiting officials from the other islands as well as from The Netherlands. She was often featured in magazines and in newspaper articles. Not because she was famous but because she was there. There were many journalists and writers coming to the island and would always mention something about the guesthouse and Miss Jones. Everyone on Saba called her “Cutchie.”

When the Little Bay Hotel was being planned, the same Dutch group also planned a hotel on Saba at the Guesthouse in The Bottom. It was a lovely plan with new construction of ten hotel rooms and a swimming pool. The Island Council turned down the request to build. Only the late Matthew Levenstone and Arthur Anslyn were in favour, whereas David Doncher, Eugenius Johnson and John William Johnson voted against.

Many years later I asked Eugenius how was it possible that their party could have turned down this offer. He confessed that Miss Jones was a member of their party and that the investors had refused to guarantee her continued employment at the new hotel when it would be completed. That was in 1955. So looking back in time you can see how important a role Miss Jones played in the political life of Saba back then.

You will also be able to see that politics was the same then as it is now in the world.

Miss Jones’ brief stint into the political life of the island made more history than the cancelation of a much needed hotel project. I remember when Mrs. Elaine Gumbs-Vlaun was elected to the Island Council of St.Maarten in 1983. Her party members were playing the woman part up big in the island council meeting. Obviously they were unaware of Miss Jones, until Mr. Claude Wathey got up and reminded them that Miss Cornelia Jones of Saba had been the first woman member of the Island Council of the Windward Islands and indeed she was.

Miss Jones entered active politics in 1951 as a member of the Nationaal Volks Partij. On August 17th, 1953 she entered the Island Council to complete the term of Mr. Kenneth Peterson who had resigned.

In 1951 Miss Jones together with two other females Mrs. Ursula Dunkin-Hughes and Mrs. Millicent L.Wilson, born Simmons, (grandmother of present Island Councilmember the Hon. Rolando Wilson). Miss Jones got  votes, Ursula got 4 and Miss Millie got 4.

The 0 came about probably because she had agreed to vote for another candidate on her party.

In 1955 she contested the elections on the Democratic Party but she did not get reelected. She did get 3 votes though, a big advance compared to the 0 in 1951. The other women threw in the towel and in 1955 Miss Jones was the only female candidate.

From left to right. Mr. Rupert Sorton, Mr. Arthur Anslyn, Mr. Carl Anslyn, Mr. Ciro Kroon, Miss Cornelia Johnson, Administrator Walter G.Buncamper, and Mr. Matthew Levenstone early 1955

From left to right. Mr. Rupert Sorton, Mr. Arthur Anslyn, Mr. Carl Anslyn, Mr. Ciro Kroon, Miss Cornelia Johnson, Administrator Walter G.Buncamper, and Mr. Matthew Levenstone early 1955

The Island Council meeting to which Miss Jones was admitted to the council took place on August 17th, 1953. Mr. L. Reginald Carty the Administrator at the time presided over the meeting. First to be dealt with was a letter from Mr. Kenneth Peterson dated July 25th, 1953 requesting his dismissal from the council. Then a committee to verify the credentials was appointed consisting of Mr. David Doncker, Mr. Dalick Johnson and Mr. Ulric Hassell, Commissioner, but not a member of the Island Council. Mr. Peterson was not present at the meeting.

Cornelia & Coleta

Mrs. Coleta Hughes and Miss Cornelia Jones at the Windwardside Guesthouse (now Scouts Place).

The only one to speak at the meeting was Mr. David Doncker who threw out but a few sarcasms. He said:” I have always been kept down in the Council. No matter what I ever asked for has been turned down, but all I have to say is that there has been a shift in the wind. Where it was blowing from it is not blowing from anymore.”

The meeting ended at 2.45 pm and Miss Jones went into history.

First meeting of Island Council attended by Miss Jones March 9th, 1954

First meeting of Island Council attended by Miss Jones March 9th, 1954

I always experienced her as a jolly person who liked a good joke. She could see humor in any situation. Her family home was uniquely located on an outcropping of St. John’s overlooking The Bottom. On the way up from Fort Bay or The Bottom one would run up the side path to their home to beg a glass of water. It is a great pity that the house was torn down after her death and the property is still unoccupied. It would make a great location for a new home.

Home of the family of Miss Cornelia Jones at St.John’s.

Home of the family of Miss Cornelia Jones at St.John’s.

Although she had no children of her own she loved the “little people” as can be seen here.

Although she had no children of her own she loved the “little people” as can be seen here.

Miss Jones was a Roman Catholic. She never married or had any children, but several of the photos which I have of her she is always seen holding a child as lovingly as any grandmother could.

As is customary on Saba, when Miss Jones passed away she was buried in the family burial ground next to the home. I am certain that if anyone built a new home there that Miss Jones’ spirit would not bother them. After all she loved company. That was what she lived for. She never went anywhere to school to learn how to treat people and how to live with people of all races and creeds. That was a gift she was born with and in looking around she must have decided that all men are equal before the eyes of God and should be treated courteously and respectfully.

Cornelia and the little people 2

Another photo of Miss Jones with one of her “little people” whom she loved and cared for.

Before concluding this article on my way to a meeting in The Bottom I went up through the bushes past the ruins of Miss Jones’ former home.

I found her grave next to that of her mother and her brother Leonard.

Her father Freddie was lost at sea while fishing at night on the “Saba Bank” in 1943. The boat he was in was called the “Why Not”. A storm came up during the night and together with him were lost: Frederick Zagers, grandfather of the well known businessman Ronnie Johnson, also Peter Woods (father of Edna Woods), Simon Dunlock (brother of Dinda),  and Cleve Hassell, son of “Miss Marah” Hassell.

I found a conch shell close by and I placed it on the grave while giving Miss Jones a talking to that her memory would not be forgotten. She died on December 23rd, 1979 at the age of 72. I later dug up the information in the “Saba Herald” and found out also that she had been given a decoration by Her Majesty the Queen for her many years of service to the island of her birth. I only hope that someone who cares for history will end up owing the property and will see to it that Miss Jones and her family will rest in peace. Amen.

Information on Education

Flyer_StayInformedEducationConferenceInform yourself. Do not rely on rumors based on other rumors on Facebook. If you want to know what is going on tune in and listen for yourself to reliable information being given by those who are involved.  Many falsehoods and rumors and especially negative publicity is being given AGAINST Saba and its government by people who did not vote for this government in the first place, and by people who think that they will benefit by wearing this government of young professionals down. The Saba islander is here to inform and to defend when necessary, though these young educated professionals can defend themselves much better than we could ever hope to do. CIAO.

The Daily Herald comments on The Saba Islander

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Former politician Will Johnson has launched his own weblog named “The Saba Islander.” After retiring from politics after the 2007 election, the elderly statesman (71) became the advisor of his Windward Islands People’s Movement (WIPM) party and of his son Christopher, who took over the baton.

Stressing that he is no computer expert and “just experimenting,” Johnson said the idea to launch his own website sprouted from him “spending a lot of time” on social network Facebook. He said he decided to open website: “So I decided I might as well have my own instrument… out of despair to voice my opinion on issues of importance to the indigenous people of Saba,” Johnson said, who wants to make his site into a counterbalance to other media.

“As a Saban and former editor of the Saba Herald for 25 years, I and others are prepared to defend our local people against any and all unfair criticism against our indigenous people. I am already getting encouraging signals from many of our positive-minded people who want to hear both sides of the story and not just unfair and underhanded attacks on the Saba government and its qualified people,” Johnson said.

The problems with water supply and plans for a new home for the aged are some of the subjects addressed on the site, which further consists of several of Johnson’s trademark accounts on Saba’s history. The amateur historian said him launching his own website would not bring an end to his series of historic accounts in The Daily Herald’s supplement WeekEnder every Saturday. “My fans in the Eastern Caribbean would hang me if I stopped that column. You cannot imagine the response I get from all the islands around and that keeps me going,” Johnson said.

Source: “The Daily Herald” 2013-04-05

Wilson “Papa” Godett

By: Will Johnson

SFA001014968Wilson “Papa” Godett was born on Curacao on August 11th 1932 and died there on April 19th, 1995. His father was William “Willie Doc” Alexander Roosberg and his mother was Elaine Godett, both from the island of Sint Eustatius. Papa had a brother Carlton Roosberg whose mother was Hyacinth Schmidt very fair as the old timers would say and her father was one of the white Browns. She was a first cousin of Walter Slicer from Saba. My brother Freddie went to school with Carlton who later held a high position in the customs on Curacao. He would always ask me about Freddie when I would be passing through and he was on duty. I am mentioning all of this to show readers how interconnected the islands were.

As a young man Papa was not only a boxer of note but he worked as a labourer in the extensive harbour operations on Curacao. He later became chairman of the General Harbour Union there. He was also co-founder of the political party “Frente Obrero y Liberacion 30 di mei.’ He had played a leading role in the rebellion on Curacao on May 30th 1969. He was shot and hospitalized during the riots, then jailed and in jail he was elected as Senator. His party gained three seats in that election. From jail he and the two other Senators elect, also in jail, Amador Nita and Stanley Brown were taken to the Governor’s palace to take their oath of office as Senators. In some countries if you run a traffic light you are taken off the voters list. Two traffic lights and you can forget about ever voting again. Here by us obviously things are different.

His party joined the coalition and Amador Nita was Minister of Social Affairs and Labour on behalf of his party. Amador went up to Holland and his followers claimed that he was either poisoned by the Dutch Government either at a formal dinner in Holland or on the KLM plane back down on instructions from the Dutch Government. Either way, he was a dead man on arrival back on Curacao and, yes, another riot was about to take place. As a compromise a Cuban doctor was brought in compliments of the communist party to do the autopsy with results unsatisfactory to his followers. The doctor claimed that he had died of natural causes.

Those were turbulent times. I myself decided to oppose Senator Claude Wathey for the seat of the Windward Islands in 1969 after the riots which caused the fall of the Federal Government. The elections were held on September 5th, 1969. I did not know anyone from Frente except Stanley Brown and I did not want to join the traditional Curacao parties. So I asked my friend Edsel A.V. “Papie” Jesurun if I could use the name of his newly established party the U.R.A. which my friend then Commissioner Vincent Lopes immediately baptized as the United Russian Alliance. I have most of the pamphlets from that election. The Democrat Party, as a strategy, immediately labled me as being a communist, and associated with Papa Godett and his Frente Party. In that election Papa’s father “Willie Doc” who himself had his own rebellion on Statia in 1949, campaigned for me on my podium on Statia so there you go.

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I can remember Carl Anslyn, then on the Democrat Party list, putting out one pamphlet after the other against me warning the people of Saba to “prepare for the worst. This young man is out to burn down the houses you worked so hard for. Get your fire buckets ready as he is coming to the island soon.” As my bad luck would have it at the time Stanley Brown came to Saba stayed at Scout’s Place and he and his following were screaming out in the night to “Burn, baby burn” and were telling people they had come to support my candidacy against Claude.

I did not get to know Papa until after the 1971 elections when my party WIPM had 8 of the 15 seats on the Windward Islands Council. I was kept out of the Council and out of the Government. There was a battery of lawyer friends of the Democrat Party digging up old laws to keep me out of government. And they found one. The Lt. Governor at the time had been married to my sister. Even though she was dead and he was married to someone else they claimed that we still had consanguinity and could not serve at the same time, and since he was there first he could remain and I was shut out. I had to manage my party from outside of government. The only one who pleaded my cause was Papa Godett. His favorite word was “abuso” or abuse, and he insisted that a bill had to be introduced to parliament to change whatever law had been drummed up to keep me out of government. Eventually the law did come to parliament but the majority decided that it could only come into force after another election. Papa put up one helluva defense on my behalf. I did not even know him at the time. Someone else on Curacao had brought my case to his attention. But that was the way Papa was. Where he saw or heard of anything that seemed close to ‘abuso’ Papa would be immediately on the case. He also liked to help the poor and many people took advantage of this. I remember that we had to close off the open telephone in Parliament because scores of women from the Dominican Republic were coming downstairs to his office to make telephone calls back to their country once they found out that Papa had no objections.

frente i gobernador

In the Juancho Evertsz cabinet Papa was Minister of Social Affairs, Labour, Culture and Recreation. By that time I had won my second Island council election as required by law to enable me to take office. That one was not easy as the Democrat Party were telling my voters that I was fooling them, that he law had not been changed and their vote would be lost. In 1973 I had again run for Senator as the number 2 candidate on the WIPM list and I did well on all three islands. I have never participated in an election where I got a 0 in any voting district. I pulled votes in each and every polling station on all three islands but our party lost the election of 1973.

In 1976 I was Commissioner and went with a Federal Government delegation headed by Minister Godett to CARIFESTA in Jamaica. We were staying at the Pegasus hotel in Kingston. Commissioner Vincent Lopes was also on the delegation and my constant companion during the two weeks and more that we stayed there. I had planned to make a side trip to Cuba. I got an appointment with the ambassador. In the lobby of the hotel I greeted Papa and Moenchin Soliana from Bonaire. After I told them where I was going they asked to join me. We all took a taxi and to the consternation of Papa’s body guards from Jamaica took off without informing them where we were going. At that time there was a small war going on in Jamaica. For the two weeks I was there more than 20 people had lost their lives with the two political parties fighting one another. The Cuban ambassador treated us very well. They even offered Papa to send a Cuban band to Curacao to help him with his campaign which Papa accepted and which caused an uproar from the other parties on Curacao and cost Papa the next election because of that. Venezuela even got into the act by stating that they would not tolerate a communist bulwark in their territorial waters and hinted at an invasion. The ambassador told me to fill out the form for a visa. He was amazed that I knew my four grandparents date of births and deaths which was required in the form. This had to be cabled to England, then to Cuba and then back via England to Jamaica. The visa was approved but on advice of Papie Jesurun I used an excuse that I was having lunch with then Prime Minister Michael Manley and would delay the trip. The Cuban ambassador was at the same lunch and accepted my excuse graciously and later on I did visit Cuba. That same ambassador later became a member of the Cuban assembly and I met him on several meetings of the Latin American parliament. He would always come over give me a big hug with “My friend Johnson how are you” causing the other Aruban and Antillean delegates to wonder as to where I had acquired all these Cuban contacts from.

During that trip I got to know Papa real well. I remember one day I walked into a bookstore in Kingston and Commissioner Lopes got a good laugh out of this one. I had not well entered the bookstore when a man came out from the back office and asked me:”Are you Papa Godett?” I asked him if he thought that I looked like Papa. The man had seen me in Godett’s delegation and perhaps thought that I was the Minister. Anyway turns out he had a shipment of schoolbooks to send to Curacao and wondered if the Minister would take them along, which when I informed Papa he willingly did.

When I became a Member of Parliament Papa and I grew close. We were in the same coalition with Prime Minister Don Martina and later on with Prime Minister Maria Liberia Peters. Papa and I did quite some traveling together to Holland, Belgium, Germany and also to Argentina, Uruguay and Costa Rica some of which I recall.

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In Argentina we were hosted by the government at a very large ranch “Estancia Susannah” for a typical large Argentinean bar-b-que. The gauchos were giving a demonstration of their talents on horseback. Man and animal became one, the gauchos were that good. There was also an opportunity for visitors to ride. I decided to go for a ride. Papa was standing next to me. He asked me:”Will you ever ride a horse before?” And before I could answer “not really” the horse took off full speed, I dropped the reins and held on to the saddle horn for dear life. However two gauchos came to the rescue and were able to bring me back to where Papa was standing and we had a good laugh over the incident. Another time on a trip to Uruguay, Papa and Moenichin Soliana (yes the same one) went to a fancy restaurant for lunch. My wife Lynne was with us on that trip. When she went to the ladies room, the lady cleaner pointed to me and asked her if that was her husband. Lynne answered yes and the cleaner advised her to tell me not to eat there as I looked like a communist and the owner hated communists and would probably try to poison me. Well the meal was already halfway done so I decided that the woman probably hated the owner and was trying to ruin his business. However for the next few days whatever little pain I had it put me to wonder and I admit a bit fearful as well.

In later years when we traveled people from our delegation would notice that Papa was getting more and more confused with small tasks. It eventually got so bad that he had to stay home. Some people thought it could have been caused from the days when he was a boxer. Others thought from the time he had been shot and the various traumatic experiences he had gone through.

Papa did not forget me however. One day I was walking in the Punda and I heard someone shouting out my name. It turned out to be Papa being driven around by his daughter the later Prime Minister (August 11th 2003 to June 3rd 2004) Mirna Louisa Godett. He jumped out of the car ran in my direction and gave me a big embrace at the same time enquiring after my health. I was shocked when shortly after that I received a call telling me that Papa had passed away. Papa’s son Anthony also served as Senator, Commissioner and Island council member for Curacao. Papa’s party the Frente brought about many improvements for the working class including the minimum wage, the right to organize in unions, improvement in the old age pension. For these and many more Papa will be remembered as one of the key players in Antillean politics. May he rest in peace and be remembered gratefully by all whose lives he improved.

The House that Captain Ernest built.

Capt. Ernest Hugh Toland Vanterpools HouseImage (1716)46967_10151407446203686_1466221463_nCapt.Thomas Charles VanterpoolDon's House 1919House as it looked in 1915DSC_0096House before demolition.

Recently I had to carry something to the good folks of the Living Water Community. Sister Elizabeth gave me a tour of the new facilities. The house which was the former Roman Catholic Presbytery was in such a bad state that it had to be torn down, but built back in the same old style. I myself volunteered to help out when the building was being torn down and contributed to the financing of the reconstruction as did a mumber of other good spirited members of the Saban community. So I was very pleased to see what a lovely building it had turned out to be and on the inside it is very spacious.
When the church was thinking about restoring the building for the use of the Living Water Community I wrote a small history of the building which I would like to share with my readers.
Captain Ernest Hugh Toland Vanterpool was born on January 2nd, 1852 and died on Wednesday March 19th, 1919 at the age of 67.
The name Toland came from his maternal grandfather John Toland who was an Anglican Priest on Saba in the first half of the 19th century.
Capt. Ernest was one of Saba’s most well known and wealthy sea captains. Part of his wealth is reported to have been gained from smuggling ex-convicts from Cayenne who had been banned there after serving time on Devils Island. They were not allowed to return back to France. They worked in the gold fields and if they survived the yellow fever and other tropical diseases their one wish was to escape and hopefully get back to France one day. Captain Ernest and his brother Captain “Tommy” (Charles Thomas Vanterpool) were reportedly paid in gold and the latter brother was almost caught once by a French Man-O-War.
I tell people that the house is where gold lost its value. Commissioner John Woods used to tell me that his father Ben had told him that once Captain Ernest gave him a sealed firebucket to carry to his wife. Ben claimed that the bucket was so heavy that he could hardly manage to carry it to The Bottom. On arrival at the house, Captain Ernest’ wife asked if her husband intended to eat gold as they had gold in the cellar in the ceiling, so much gold that they did not know what to do with it. Their descendants claim that it must have been a tall tale as they certainly knew nothing about him having any gold much less the amount claimed by his fellow islanders.
On September 5th 1876 Capt. Frederick Augustus Simmons, on behalf of young Captain Ernest bought the property belonging to John William Simmons.It was a large property for those days, running all the way up to the upper road and which now includes the cemetery, the church and also the property where Capt.Randolph Duncan’s house is.
It was on this large property that Captain Ernest planned his home for his young bride Elizabeth Simmons Winfield Leverock, a daughter of Governor Mozes Leverock. Her surname was that of her father, the Winfield that of her mother and the Simmons that of her grandmother (wife of Governor Edward Beaks). The former first families of The Bottom had this custom in order to determine the relationships between the various families.
In the property registers (C4#524) two well known carpenters, Capt. Samuel Augustus Simmons and Joseph Horton “Red Head Joe” Simmons signed a declaration that in the year 1880 they had built a wooden dwelling house for Captain Ernest Vanterpool who had furnished materials and funds for same. Back then a house like that would have cost around $150.– for labour and with only handtools would have been built in six weeks or less.
In the tropics termites can do a job on wooden houses built of untreated wood. Around 1915 Captain Donald Vanterpool rebuilt the house for himself. Captain Ernest was living in another house and Donald was getting married to Ivy Clayton Simmons. After the death of Captain Donald his widow then moved to the United States.
On February 16th, 1927 the children of the by then deceased Captain Ernest and his wife Elizabeth, none of whom were living on Saba by that time, decided to sell the house and property. It is interesting to note how dispersed the family was at the time of the sale. This was reflective of the exodus of most Saban families to many parts of the world.
The house and property were sold for $1.800.– Dutch dollars equivalent to Nf. 4.500.– A fls.2.50 coin was back then referred to as a Dutch dollar by local islanders in the English speaking Dutch Windward Islands.
Captain Thomas Charles Vanterpool, brother of the deceased, sold to the Reverend Father Matthias Johannes Petrus de Groen, who was then serving as Roman Catholic Priest on Saba. He purchased the property for the Roman Catholic Vicary on Curacao.
The sellers were: Mrs. Estelle Simmons born Vanterpool, spouse of Captain Engle Leverock Simmons Harbour Master at St.Thomas assisting his
wife and Blanche Vanterpool also residing at St. Thomas. Rebecca Vanterpool born Simmons widow of the late Capt. Hubert Vanterpool. Capt. Hubert was lost at sea with a crew from Saba in a hurricane in 1916 after which she and her small daughter moved to Barbados. Joanna Leverock Simmons born Vanterpool, spouse of Edward Austin Simmons, both residing on Barbados. Ivy Clayton Vanterpool born Simmons widow of the late Capt. William Donald Vanterpool, residing and Capt. Charles Pitman Vanterpool residing in the United States.
Since 1927 the home served as the Roman Catholic Presbytery where many priests and also bishops have resided over the years.
A few years ago (2009) the house was torn down by volunteers and with contributions from Saba, St.Maarten, Curacao and elsewhere the new building is a tribute to people’s belief in God and that which seemed an impossible task has now become the home and the headquarters of the Living Water Community and everyone can be proud of the new building.

Back on the Air

Je MaintendraiJust found out how to get back to my site, so you will be hearing more from me.

Captain Eric Hassell

By: Will Johnson

Mr. Barney Gibbs (son of Chris Gibbs of the famous band “The Merrymen” here presenting me with a copy of the book on the life of Captain Eric Hassell son of Captain Frank Hassell of St. John’s Saba.

Sometime back Allan Busby called me to enquire about a Dr. Hassell from Barbados who had been giving a lecture on St. Maarten.

Now you know that when a Saban hears or sees the name Hassell they immediately think Saba. After I explained his background, Allan regretted that he had not called me during the lecture as he surely would have recognized his Saba background.

Some years ago I was sitting on my verandah doing some writing when two lovely young ladies were dropped off by a taxi and came in my direction. When I heard the Barbados accent (to which the Saban accent is an outside sister), I said to them:” You must be related to my friend Captain Eric Hassell.” They turned out to be his great granddaughters and had been told to come to me as I would surely know if they had relatives left on Saba. We spent a couple of hours together talking about their Saba ancestors and I was able to send them on to Peggy Barnes for additional information as she is related to them.

The Hassells on Barbados are proud of their Saban heritage. Even typical Barbados well know family names like the Goddards, the Bournes, the Harts, the Evelyn’s and so on all have Saban mothers or grandmother’s.

Eric Hassell
Capt. Eric Hassel

Capt. Eric Hassell was born on Barbados in 1914. He was the son of Capt. Frank Hassell of St. John’s Saba, and Franks father Elisha Beaks Hassell, was also a Captain and took Frank at the age of 8 years by schooner to Barbados where many Saban families were migrating to at that time. Many of the white families of especially the village of St. John’s and also The Bottom migrated to Barbados. Those from Windwarside as well but also to Bermuda and especially the Hell’s Gate people and those from “Palmetto Point, (“Mary’s Point”) went to Bermuda including my father for awhile. Some of these families had had connections to Barbados from the mid sixteen hundreds when Barbados had too many people and they started going to the other Caribbean islands and South Carolina. Just one example: Mrs. Eva Simmons-Johnson was born on Barbados, her father William was born on Saba, and his father William had been born on Barbados going all the way back to the seventeen hundreds and beyond.

Capt. Frank Hassell married “a lady of colour” something unusual for that time in the white Saban/Barbados community.

I knew Eric from the days of my newspaper the “Saba Herald” and doing research for my first book “Tales from My Grandmother’s Pipe”. When one captain would tell me of another one I would try and make contact to get their story and hopefully some old photo’s of the many Saban owned schooners in the past. The Saban captains on Barbados helped their fellow islanders. On Bequia, Orton King told me how the captains would employ people from Bequia of Saban descent on their schooners. They also went out of their way to give Saba good service. They knew that Saba was isolated and needed transportation so they came here even though there was no money in it, and they did whatever they could to help those they had left behind isolated on this our beloved little rock.

As a boy I remember Capt. Frank (Eric’s father) visiting Saba to spend a few days with relatives here. I had “put off” a cow for my uncle Capt. Charles Reuben Simmons who was then retired from the sea. To “put off” a cow meant that it was about to be butchered and you had to go from house to house to get people’s signatures to buy a share of meat. If you had sixty people interested the whole cow would be chopped up, divided in sixty heaps and that was your share and it was fls. 2.50 at the time. If there were only thirty people the same procedure was applied and you lucked out with a double portion for the same price. Now this system as described by Father  Jean Baptiste Labat who visited the island in 1701 and who wrote the oldest extensive description of the island, still exists, and a share is now 8lbs and by last count it was $50.—a share. We do not look at the price though, just happy to encourage local people to keep their animals. Anyway I was out rambling somewhere and when I got home my mother told me that Uncle Reuben had passed by to take me on a schooner with him for a few days. The Barbados captains and those from Saba living in the USA when visiting their families would get a local retired captain to take their schooners to sea and “lay to” for a few days. Like a bullet I took

off for the Fort Bay, but when I got to John Zagers’ ridge I saw the schooner already half way to Statia. Boy did I cry over that lost opportunity. The “lay to” lasted a few days and my uncle who had been at sea since he was 12 years old enjoyed sailing so much that he went down as far as Montserrat and back just cruising along with me on shore saying “Boy oh Boy”.

Schooner Ruth here on Saba March 25th, 2021 giiving lessons to students of the Saba Comprehensive School. Captain Gerrit Scheper is a grandson of Captain Eric Hassell, and due to he being busy with the classes and carrying the students among the islands and me having to travel to St. Maarten we were unable to get together. This program hopefully will continue and other islands should also look after using this schooner to give young people an appreciation of the old schooner life.

The Barbados advocate of Monday October 21, 1992 carried an article on the life of Capt. Eric entitled “Captain Hassell – veteran seafarer; A fulfilling career in the maritime sector”. Just before this article was written Capt. Eric had been to Saba with his son Frank. His sister Erla visited Saba several times even when she lived in England and was in her nineties. On that trip Eric told me that when he was a boy if you sent a telegram to Barbados addressed to Captain Hassell that it could not be delivered. In the area where he lived alone there were more than twenty Saba Hassells who were either active or retired captains from Saba. The article by Norman Faria reads as follows:

“Going in for an interview with veteran Barbadian seafarer and businessman, Capt. Eric Hassell, I was hoping to unearth some sensational information. Tidbits which would later appear under such headlines as “I was a rum smuggler in the Grenadines islands during the prohibition period” or “The West Indies schooner captain who outsmarted a German submarine commander.”

Our little island of Saba has produced many sea Captains. Many of them moved to Barbados and elsewhere and their descendents did well in the places to which they emigrated.

It didn’t turn out that way. Perhaps just as well because as Captain Hassell reminisced, a story unfolded of a fulfilling career in an often under-reported, yet economically important part of the island’s maritime sector. Still  working full-time at the family-run shipping agents business in Bridgetown, the 77-year-old r

elated how, after leaving St. Leonard’s Boys’ School in 1926, he signed on the 65-foot-long trading schooner “Edward VII”. It was then under the command of his father, Frank, another outstanding example of the Caribbean merchant-mariner in the days when meant more than a word in a seaman’s manual.

Despite his father being the boss man, young Hassell literally learned the ropes from the bottom rung – as a deck boy doing menial chores such as swabbing the decks and splicing ropes. During his stint on the Barbadian built “Edward VII” – and indeed during most of his time at sea- the younger Hassell was on the Bridgetown-to-Georgetown run.

This involved taking limestone, sweet potatoes, imported manufactured items such as tools and other goods from the Careenage harbor here to the capital of what was then British Guyana. It usually took three or four days on average to make the voyage, although on one trip back to Barbados Captain Hassell and his crew spent 12 days at sea with the schooner’s sails hanging limp due to the lack of wind. In those days, the sailing working vessels had no auxiliary engines.

Schooner Edward VII belonging to Capt. Frank Hassell of Saba Barbados
Schooner Edward VII belonging to Capt. Frank Hassell of Saba Barbados

Later, after serving his apprenticeship, Hassell took over the captaincy of the “Edward VII”. His father had gone on to acquire and skipper another schooner. This was the fine Grand Banks two-master “Frances Smith”, a sister boat to the famous “Bluenose”. The younger Hassell captained other boats including “Comrade”, “Manuata” and the “Lucille Smith”, before taking over the wholly motorized and ill fated “Zipper” in 1959. Ill fated? Hassell related what happened one day in March 1963 in the only mishap with a vessel during his 27 years at sea. Heading towards Bridgetown from “BG” (as Guyana was known in the English speaking Caribbean before independence), the” Zipper” went to the bottom after taking water. Fortunately, Hassell was able to send off a “May Day” signal and he and his crew were rescued by a passing ship. “It all happened in five minutes. Nobody panicked and the evacuation went well,” Hassell who never learned to swim a stroke, said modestly. (Many of our seafarers and fishermen here on Saba never learned to swim either).

The veteran seafarer decided that the time had come for him to come ashore. Not that he was scared. “I had pledged that if a boat was to sink under me, that that would be the end of my career at sea.” In 1969, Hassell established Eric and Son Limited with the assistance of his son, Geoffrey. This firm was to serve as agents for the almost 100 inter-island freighters calling at Barbados at the time. Over the years especially with the demise of another outfit, the Schooner Owners Association, the family-owned business prospered. Captain Hassell, is, however the first to point out that the agents’ part of the business is in the doldrums now because of the decline of inter-island shipping on small vessels.

Schooner "Lucille Smith" sister to the famous "Blue Nose" also owned by Capt. Frank Hassell of Saba/Barbados
Schooner “Lucille Smith” sister to the famous “Blue Nose” also owned by Capt. Frank Hassell of Saba/Barbados

Still showing the easy-going manner and wit which made him one of the more popular Barbadian schooner captains among the many crews who sailed with him, he can be drawn out to tell you about the “good old days of sailing”. It must have been tough. There were no radios on board to get the latest weather forecast. “Not even a transistor radio. The only navigational equipment we had was the compass and you needed that to keep a course. When we took on passengers they had to rough it.”

What about hurricanes? “We were lucky. We had to sail during the hurricane season, if not you would lose a lot of business. During hurricane Janet in the mid-1950’s, we were halfway from BG to Barbados on the “Lucille Smith”. We got some rough sea but we pulled through okay. When we reached Carlisle Bay, we saw that several boats had been washed ashore. A schooner had sunk in the Careenage. Captain Hassell immediately went ashore to ascertain if his wife and eight children (girls Shirley, Jeannette, Maggie and Rose Marie and boys Albert, Geoffrey, Trevor and Frank) were okay. They were.

Before leaving the office, I couldn’t resist asking if during the war years he had met up with any German U-boats (submarines)? Replied Captain Hassell: “No, we didn’t even see one. Maybe one of them saw us and decided against attacking. Perhaps he couldn’t catch us because we were going too fast. We will never know.”

The following information is taken from the company’s website. In 1973 Eric Hassell and Son Ltd. introduced the first open-hatch bulk carriers of grain, corn and rice to Barbados. The internationally known known Carrier provides an invaluable service to Barbados. The vessels are fitted with their own conventional slewing cranes and with their own grabs, which is optimal for the discharge operation. In 1981 Eric Hassell and Son Ltd was one of the founding members of the Shipping Association of Barbados, whose role is to unite member agents on matters pertaining to the handling of ships and cargo, and to ensure positive relationships are maintained between the shipping agents, related port agencies and the unions. In 1992 the company entered containerized shipping by providing quality representation to European and U.S. based shipping lines.

Erica Luke, granddaughter of Eric Hassell
Erica Luke, granddaughter of Eric Hassell

In 1994 Captain Hassell passed away leaving the business in the hands of his son, Geoffrey Hassell and later another son, Frank Hassell, and granddaughter Erica Luke. In 2002 the company won the right to represent Seaboard Marine, containerized cargo from all parts of the America’s, with weekly scheduled service from their private terminal in Miami, Florida. The company handle’s over 400 vessel calls per year. These vessels vary from bulk size vessels of more than 150 meters in length with grain, steel, cement and pipes, to the inter island vessels of less than 50 meters.

Captain Eric Hassell, his father Captain Frank and his grandfather did us proud even though they established themselves on Barbados and made that lovely island their new home, they never forgot Saba and we thank them for that.


Part of the village of St. John’s Saba where many of the Captains mgrated from to Barbados, one of which was Captain Frank Hassell, father of Captain Eric Hassell.

April 1st- 1983 — April 1st – 2013

On April 1st 1983 Saba was granted the status of Island Territory. This brought about representation in the Parliament of the Netherlands Antilles, first as a Spokesman and then effective January 1st, 1986 a full fledged Senator and a State Secretary in the Council of Ministers. These positions were hard fought for and brought about a change in our dealings with the Federal Government as well as opened up the possibility to deal directly with the Netherlands for projects.

After the disintegration of the Netherlands Antilles, Saba had no other choice than to remain in the Dutch Kingdom. In another two years a referendum will probably be held to make a definite choice for a new status. I will not burden my party or the Sabans living abroad with my choice. For me it will be a vote for independence. Like the Saba of former times, with Independence you will have to either fish or cut bait, but you will not be going on a cruise to relax. Saba has enough infrastructure now to be independent and for me that is the only way to go. Shake off the unwanted ballast. Who wants to remain and work hard are quite welcome. If the vote for independence does not have enough support then I think the complainers will have to put up and shut up. Anyway I thought to remind people that in the past thirty years that we had a mostly autonomous position in the Netherlands Antilles and in the Kingdom, mostly through neglect by the two aforementioned entities, but as for Saba itself we achieved a lot during those years and established good relationships in the region. We have had to cope with many hurricanes during those thirty years but thank God no loss of life and we were able to pull up our sleeves, go to work and get the island back on her feet after each hurricane. We were able to lay solid foundations for a good economy and employment for all, in all these years. Saba has been greatly blessed and we look with confidence to a more independent future for our people. Amen.17_saba12 Johnson Marlin1157_Rijkswet_vaststelling_zeegrens_tussen_Curacao_en_Bonaire_en_tussen_Sint_Maarten_en_Saba_0241UyOZYuqLL Saba’s National Territory will include all that you see in this map, including the Saba Bank. Powerful neighbours as well. In the North Great Britain and France, to the West the United States and in the South Venezuela. Percy will be called on to blow the conch shell to herald in the independence and a call for one and all to either fish or cut bait or to hit the road.CIAO.

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