The Saba Islander

by Will Johnson

Archive for the month “June, 2016”

The Jews in the Dutch West Indies


By; Will Johnson


Various emblems of the Dutch West India Company.

This article alone cannot do justice to the great role played by the Jews in the Dutch West Indies. Much has been written about them by prominent historians. For this article I can only give a brief outline as to why they settled in these islands.

The Iberian Peninsula was captured by the Muslims from Arabia and North Africa shortly after the death of the prophet Mohammed in 1707 and they retained control of what is now Spain and Portugal until 1492 when the last Muslim Prince was forced to abandon his lovely Granada and move over to Morocco. They had been very tolerant to the Jews and the Christians as well during their more than seven hundred years of control of the peninsula. Not so with the Christians. In the same year they sponsored Columbus’ expedition to worlds unknown in the West and came into possession of what later was known as North and South America.

Besides expelling the Moors as they were called, the Christian Kings also expelled the Jews. At the time The Lowlands were under control of the Hapsburg Kings of Austria who later married into the Spanish Royal family. Many of the Jews headed to The Netherlands which included Flanders and Wallonia as well. They were the ones who helped The Netherlands after independence from Spain in 1648 and even before to become a highly successful commercial nation.

Sinagogue Mikve Israel- Emanuel Curacao

Oldest Synagogue in the Americas Mikve Israel (Hope of Israel) in Willemstad Curacao and on the property also a Museum.

When Johannes van Walbeeck and Pierre Le Grand captured Curacao in 1634 they carried a Portuguese Jewish interpreter Samuel Coheno with them who was employed by the West India Company. He was described as a loyal and ingenious man. He remained on Curacao until 1642. Some years later a departure of Jews began to the island. In 1651 the Company granted Joao de Illan (also known as Jeudah de Illan) from Amsterdam permission to carry fifty Jews to Curacao as colonists. The Jewish community in Amsterdam was able to get a passport for some of them. De Illan formed with them a Jewish Community on the island and called it Mikve Israel (Hope of Israel).

A charter granted to David Nassy (also named Joseph Nunes de Foncesca or Cristovao de Tarvora) the following year for settling fifty Jews did not go ahead because of the war between England and Holland. Between 1654 and 1656 however a number of Jews from Brazil came to Curacao via Amsterdam.


S.E.L. Maduro one of the Jewish business pioneers on Curacao.

In 1659 the Company gave Isaac d’Acosta of Amsterdam favorable conditions and privileges to bring Jewish colonists to Curacao. He was able to bring several families consisting of around 70 people. Among the Sefardim who came to Curacao between 1654 and 1675 among others the following families belonged; Alvares Correa, Henriquez, Jesurun, Levy Maduro, Marchena, Henriquez Moron, Namias de Crasto and Pardo, from whom there are still descendants living on Curacao. Because the first Jewish colonists had come out with the orders to go into agriculture, they lived originally outside of the city walls in the Jewish Quarter, where the old Jewish cemetery Beth Haim is located and where they also built a synagogue. Also in town there lived several Jews and they too had a synagogue which in 1674 had to be expanded.


Lovely Penha Building one of the oldest Jewish merchant establishments in Willemstad dating to 1708.

Despite the problems of climate and the land the Jewish colonists dedicated themselves to taking care of their numerous gardens and plantations. The often occurring dry periods were also a reason for them ever since the time of De Illan to become involved in commerce.

They imported finished products from Holland and exported colonial goods which they purchased in the nearby countries.  From very early the Jews also owned their own sailing craft; between 1670 and 1900 they owned in total more than 1200. The firm Jesurun alone during the nineteenth century had more than 100 ships in the trade. Many of them sailed to New York and some of them even to Holland. During this period at least 200 Jewish captains stood behind the wheel. Jewish Curacao merchants bought many slaves from the depot of the West India Company which were principally sold to neighboring countries. Philippe Henriquez (Jacob Senior) was a well-known slave trader from the 17th century and empowered by the Admiralty to buy slaves directly from Africa.


Slave ships in the harbour of St. Eustatius.

In the 18th century there was a serious depression, which in 1769 forced the parnassim to introduce a finta (church tax). Twelve of the wealthiest Jews were so strongly opposed to this idea that this plan did not go through until the English occupation. The war of independence of the North American colonies (1775-1781) for that matter had brought with it a revival for the Jewish merchants who sent weapons and food to various Caribbean islands to provision the American rebels. The relationship between the Curacao authorities and the ‘Jewsih Nation’ remained good during this century; often Jews were given official tasks to the neighboring countries. In turn they contributed to the maintenance of the forts, to the leper colony and the insane asylum, the hospital for soldiers and mental patients.

The French interim government on Curacao (1796-1800) and the English occupation were also for the Jews not a favorable time. Just like other islanders the Jews lent large sums of money to the Government of Curacao, which was cut off from The Netherlands. In this same period some of them also took part in the activities of Simon Bolivar whether in his real struggle (Benjamin Henriques as Captain and Juan (Isaac) de Sola as colonel) or otherwise as host of ‘El Libertador’ after his defeat (De Meza), or of his sisters (Mordechay Ricardo). And Luis Brion a national hero of Venezuela alongside Simon Bolivar himself.

Although in the course of time and especially in the economically disadvantaged Curacao in the nineteenth century many Jews moved to elsewhere (St. Thomas, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Jamaica, Central America, Venezuela, Colombia, and the United States) those who remained were successful in maintaining their considerable social and economic position. Also because of their good schooling – especially German Universities where they went to- twenty years after the Jewish emancipation (1825) Jews occupied several high positions in the colonial government administration. Also in the following centuries the Portuguese Jews were leaders in the banking system and many of them have always been active in the public, intellectual and social life of the island. From a historical perspective there has been a decline which can be proven by figures. Around the year 1700 there were around 1500 members of the Jewish community and in 1983 there were only 275 Sephardic Jews on Curacao. Although small in numbers the ancient Jewish population still plays a prominent role in the economic, social and cultural life of their native Curacao.


An old painting of St. Eustatius

St. Eustatius

It is known that Jews from Curacao visited St. Eustatius from the second half of the seventeenth century – among them a certain David Seraiva in 1660. In the beginning of the 18th century Jewish travelers continued to visit the island. In 1772 there were 21 Jewish resident with 16 slaves. In 1730 the West India Company gave the same rights to Jews as the other island residents, including freedom of religion. In that same year the Jews established their own synagogue which they named Honen Dalim (charitable to the needy) and created a cemetery; the oldest inscription dates from 1742. Seven years later they built a synagogue of which the ruins are still there. Differences of opinion between the Ashkenazim and the Sefardim in 1760 required the intervention of Commander Jan de Windt. During these years Samuel Hoheb was the most outstanding leader of the community. The Jews gave freely contributions Palestinian and other Jewish communities. The great hurricane of August 31st, 1772 obliged them to rebuild their synagogue up from the ground. Of the readers of the community the names of Rabbi Yehezkel (1775) and Jacob Robles (died 1790) remain known.

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Ruins of Honen Dalim (1738) synagogue on St. Eustatius. (Charitable to the needy).

The government and people of St. Eustatius gave support to the American rebels. Especially the Jews supplied the American colonists with food and munitions. When Admiral George Rodney and General John Vaughan took over St. Eustatius on February 3rd, 1781, they took money and valuables from the Jews and deported 30 Jewish men to St. Kitts, leaving their ruined families behind.


Remains of the old Jewish Cemetery on St. Eustatius

Many of the deported Jews however returned to St. Eustatius and in 1790 the Jewish community consisted of 190 persons. David Abendanone function then as Chairman and Isaac David Pereira as Treasurer. In that year they paid out more than one thousand pesos in salaries for the Reader for the sexton, to social funds for the poor etc. From 1795 on the Jewish population declined; many immigrated to St. Thomas, Danish West Indies. Between 1850 and 1924 there were never more than three Jews on the island at the same time.

St. Maarten

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The Synagogue is supposedly to have been in the back of the Buncamper home at the head of the Front Street in Philipsburg.

In 1735 a Jacob Gomes lived there with his four slaves; besides him the widow Silva with her son and daughter. Already in 1783 there was an organized Jewish community, considering that their Parnassim in that year requested legalization from the West India Company. A synagogue was built on the ‘East end of the Back Street on the South Side.’ M.D. Teenstra around 1828 the ruins of the building. The Jewish population declined since the end of the 18th century. In 1983 there were less than 20 adult Jews on the island, and most if not all of these were from the United States and Curacao. I personally never heard of any local St. Maarten Jew living there.


In the last years I have done three DNA tests. The first one by the C.I.A. at New York airport. I was pulled aside and taken to a room for interrogation even though I was a Commissioner and Act. Lt. Governor of Saba. I was given the choice of having something looking like flit sprayed in my mouth or for them to take a swab from my mouth. As my flight was about to leave I chose the path of least resistance and let them take a swab from my mouth. At the time I did not even know what a DNA test was.

The second one was my own choice. I thought I was dealing with the National Geographic but it turned out to be a Canadian site. Anyway they concluded that among my other ancestry all from Europe one exception was 7% Berber.

Finally I decided to get one done from the National Geographic. Their conclusion was something like 44% Northern European (U.K. Denmark, Finland, Russia, German), 38% Mediterranean (Iberian Peninsula), 15% Southwest Asia (Persia) and the rest Neanderthal and Denisovan.


Despite its small size people from many nations in the past and now again came to settle here.

I wondered where the 38% Iberian Peninsula had come from. On the Saba population list of 1715 there is a Moise Correa listed with 4 daughters. One of them Rebecca married Peter Simmons the Saba Governor. In my research on my ancestors I am 80% certain that I am descended from this couple. Not only me of course but a number of the Simmons’ also, many of whom left Saba and moved to the United States, Bermuda and elsewhere. Those with Simmons ancestry from Saba are known for their enterprising spirit in whatever field they take on, something which is part of the Jewish heritage.  Recently a young man was talking to me. We are related. In our family the women were blonds mostly with Mediterranean skin.  We were told that we descended from an Annie Morton. The young man told me that his grandmother had told him that one of our ancestors was from Portugal. I do not know for sure, but Moses Correa had four daughters and perhaps another daughter married into one of the families and she would have been the mysterious Annie Morton. And we continue to try and solve the mystery of our ancestry. Eddie Senior a Jew from an old Curacao family was married to Marie Hughes of Saba and he spent his last years on Saba. When he passed away in his nineties the recently deceased Julio Meit came over from St. Maarten. We churched Eddie in the Roman Catholic Church in Windward Side and he is buried in the church cemetery there. Jews look out for each other it would seem. I remember once a young Jewish soldier came to the Tourist Bureau and asked if there were any Jews living on Saba. I sent him to Eddie’s house and for the next few days I saw Eddy driving the young blond man around. Eddy in his late eighties then was a road runner and I wonder what the young man thought about Eddy driving so fast on Saba’s roads.

There were also Jews on Aruba and Bonaire to a lesser extent, but Jewish names abound in the islands still. Though they are not Jews on the island of St. Eustatius you still find names like Henriquez, Suarez, Lindo, Maduro, Erasmus, Zimmerman, and Simmons and so on. These names came down from after the days of slavery were over. The Jews certainly made their contribution to the Dutch West Indies and are still doing so!





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Village of Palmetto Point, pictured here, together with Middle Island which according to my research were established by refugees from St. Kitts around 1629.

Your Honour,

Saba, March 16th, 1857

  • This letter is from the Roman Catholic priest on Saba Father J.C. Gast on Saba to the Governor on St. Eustatius W.H.J. van Idsinga former Governor of Surinam and who also served as Governor of St. Maarten.

The Governor had asked Father J.C. Gast to write a report on conditions on Saba as he found them. Father Gast did not remain too long on Saba. Already on May 31st, 1858 he left Saba and returned to Holland. His report was so interesting that in 1885 The Netherlands Geographical Society printed his article even though he had died at the age of 56 on October 1st, 1878 in Helden Limburg.

I have translated this interesting report from the Dutch so that our native English speaking people can enjoy reading how things were on Saba in 1857.

‘Due to some engagements connected with my function, as well as research in connection with the requested information, I have been prevented to present this information to Your Honor before now. I trust that my slow reaction to your request will be excused.

With respect to the amount of acres of land, which are to be found on this mountain, it is impossible to give a correct report on this, and very difficult to determine from close up, in the first place this is very oddly divided, and, and while on the other side more than half of  these acres are covered with stones, that in the lower grounds, which is destined for corn, one has to work with scrapers between the rocks to get the seed in the ground (which becomes often the prey of rats).

1890-1910 Man on Horse - Tropenmuseum

A Roman Catholic Priest on horseback.

I believe, that an estimate of three hundred to three hundred and fifty cultivatable acres more or less will be the extent of the cultivated land here.

The most important product here consists of the sweet potato which immediately after maturity is subject to spoilage, and much inferior of those on St. Eustatius. However as far as the cassava and corn is concerned, an ordinary harvest supplies sufficient food for the inhabitants, who generally are not accustomed to anything else. The American potatoes and the cabbage are generally exported. A small amount of corned fish which often arrives here from St. Thomas half or completely spoiled in general provides for breakfast evening and midday meals. Few are accustomed to bread and still fewer who are accustomed to meat; their goats, pigs, chickens and eggs are transported to St. Thomas. For these articles and often by the same captain, flour, items of clothing, salt fish and such matters are brought back. Other imports, at least in general, I am not aware of; other than with a bad harvest this necessitates them to order their flour from elsewhere. In former times their trade was with the inhabitants of St. Bartholomew, nowadays, principally with those of St. Thomas. From St. Eustatius the much looked for rum is ordered.

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The Church of England took over from the Presbyterian Church around 1770 and was the largest congregation for a long time. The Roman Catholic Church built its first Church in the Windward Side in 1860.

Although some private persons have terrain in abundance suitable for agriculture and even desire to hire this out, is however in general, that which can be planted, worked out, or used for pasturage for their cattle. The mountain tops are amply provided with fire-wood; timber to the contrary is not found there, or very little and only suitable for the building of boats. The same is imported from elsewhere whether for the ships or for the houses. The limestones must be brought from below to above and burned there. It is in the hamlet of Hell’s Gate that people there busy themselves with the burning of limestone.

In general the women are engaged in making straw hats, which bring in a considerable amount of money. This, as far as I know, is the only general branch of industry which is practiced here. Making of baskets and knitting is not done on a large scale.

Concerning the peace on the island this is generally lacking. It often happens during the day that I must put aside my books in connection with the noise, caused by fights, quarrels or otherwise; besides at night every item must be carefully hidden away to save them from being stolen. Those who have potatoes or other necessities of life in their fields, must guard these armed with loaded weapons.

In general it cannot be said that prosperity is declining. It was so that during my stay there several new houses and ships were built. However the opportunities to get rich do not exist here. The most homes are built from the income of wages, which they receive from working on vessels.

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The schooner The Three Sisters in Curacao harbour. The Sabans built many schooner on the island and purchased others from the East Coast of the United States.

The craving for luxury in furniture, but especially in clothing, is great. It is therefore only for this that their money seems to be disposable. With an ordinary harvest one cannot complain about poverty. Most people are properly clothed and look healthy and cheerful. Nevertheless one only heard complaints and when these have valid reasons the loving care and support of private persons is the only recourse for help. With the failure of the crops I do believe that poverty reaches its peak. I only experienced this halfway.

The dominant illness under the people is leprosy and the elephantiasis which they label as the Rose, and from which few families are spared of the latter. In special cases they call on the help of one of their friends who have knowledge of herbs and some medicines which they order from St. Thomas which is more known to them than others. There is also a man who can clean veins, and this is the only medical practice which can be found here.

Among each other and in the street and at home they live as one and the same household; besides they are nearly all related to one another and a large number of marriages are between first cousins.


The only form of transportation to the Fort Bay up until the 1940’s was by head or by donkey.

Although the whites are very much appreciative of their color, one sees however white and black, master and slave cultivating the soil side by side, entering into negotiations  and so forth.

Without a doubt in general people are fond of rum. Public drunkenness however to which many secretly surrender is not so general that it is easily visible. But once drunk, because of this a fight is the normal consequence. A fight is usually the result of an insult received. This takes place on the public road. From both sides the closest relatives come running, in order to be either witness or to choose parties; something which brings running out fifty to sixty persons, without which, as far as I know, there are any regulations to avoid this uproar. The heads of the families, if they do not want to be involved in the fight, must stand aside as it is only in the circle of the household, that they can exercise some influence                .

Fighting and drunkenness are the most obvious misdeeds.

Added to this is, that even if the government of this island wished to avoid this, the lack of respect for the established order is such that in the present situation of the island this would be very difficult.

The amount of mixed race people is very small in comparison with the so-called whites. It is extremely seldom that a white man will take a black woman as a concubine. The civil marriage is almost universal among the white population.

General popular amusements are not known here. One only sees now and then a gathering of blood relatives and friends where the violin is played and people dance.

When there is a case to be handled in which everyone is concerned, such as keeping the watch, quarantine etc. a meeting takes place in one of the private homes. Normally the meetings end up in quarrels and disagreement.


Photo from around 1950 with Administrator Max Huith inspecting the road being beuilt for motor vehicle traffic. My father (Daniel Thomas Johnson) in the white shirt was one of the foremen who worked on the building of the road.

Due to lack of good cisterns there is with a not too long of a drought immediately a shortage of good drinking water. Those whose cisterns are in good condition, sell theirs and sometimes for enormous prices. Those who do not have any means for this must bring same from the sea-shore, which only takes place with great effort. Added to this that in the three wells which are on the seashore everybody washes their clothes, something which is even more unsanitary, as one is aware of, which is why most families suffer from elephantiasis .

As for education there are no public schools here. Some individuals keep themselves occupied teaching their own children or those of their relatives. Although very few people can write, knowledge of reading under the whites of Windward Side and The Bottom is generally universal.

Mister Toland, Episcopal Minister, garners his meager existence from voluntary and agreed contributions garnered from the proceeds of the collections.

Monseigneur Nieuwindt takes care of the maintenance of the Roman Catholic faith. The Protestant church in which on Sundays ten or twelve and sometimes five or six people attend, has been built up with contributions collected  from neighboring islands, and with voluntary contributions, is repaired now and then.

Concerning the police, much is left to be desired. Everyone is concerned about their own and many times cannot prevent that his potatoes, goats etc. are stolen. Only with a murder or complaints made the police functions, and while there is neither militia nor any other armed body, guns are only owned by private individuals. When there is common danger in order to avert this a meeting is held, in which discussions are held over the means, and in order to cover costs there is a voluntary inscription.

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Policeman Jeremiah Leerdam on patrol in the Windward Side around 1950.

Certain market places or days do not exist here. The normal price of sweet potatoes is f.0.15 for six pounds, and that of fish is not regulated. The normal price of transportation to St. Thomas if f. 2.50 per person and f.0.25 a barrel.

Concerning the roads these are cleaned once or twice a year. A general summons is the sign for this. To improve these however no effort is made.

Vagabondage is less known but begging is general. I do not know if there are laws concerning this, because as long as I find myself here I have not heard any mention hereof. Everything is based on a so-called ancestral rule.

The Court does not convene unless there are disputes to be dealt with; as I understand things take place in the same manner as in the meetings.

Several Sabaens have moved away to St. Bartholomew and St. Thomas. Some to reside there, others to hire themselves out, or to provide for their existence by some means or the other. Foreign families do not emigrate here, and foreigners who visit the island general desire, after being here for one or two days, to head home again.

1890-1910 Schoolphoto - Tropenmuseum - Pater Laurentius Mulder

Roman Catholic School. Father Mulder with horse and the photo is from around 1900.

I am not aware that anything is being done to prevent the spread of leprosy. To the contrary everything is done to promote same. They live and reside, eat and drink, among each other as if they were not afraid of any contamination.

That families exist which one can classify as wealthy, according to me, this is without a doubt. The normal daily wages of a good laborer is f.0.50 to f. 0.60; but there are few landowners who work with paid labor to practice agriculture. In general the land is rented for half or a third of the crop.

As for the lot of the slaves this is not as intolerable as on the other islands. Corporeal punishment is rare, and the relationship between master and slave here can be compared with Piet and Jan, once day laborers and landowners in Holland. That the slave is not very pleased with his lot, is the fact – that every night there is the opportunity for them to flee. I myself found by my last return here from St. Eustatius, three slaves in a boat, who around seven o’clock in the evening came up with me. Concerning the education, religious as well as morally, this did not exist for them before now. Only those who practiced the Roman Catholic religious belief, enjoyed education at the same time as the whites.

Because since the last visit of Your Honor one hundred and fifty slaves have embraced the Roman Catholic religion, this week I have begun three times per week to personally give lessons for the adult slaves which consist of sixty persons, while also a similar number of slave children find themselves daily in school, which I trust through help of Monseigneur Nieuwindt , will develop to the desired level.. The slave population of Windward Side is now nearly exclusively Roman Catholic; under those circumstances the slave in future will receive education from which he has been thus far excluded. And should the Dutch government offer me a hand I trust then that to present them with a cultured black population rather than uncivilized ones, and to reap the same fruits which has been the result achieved among the blacks by the labor of the Roman Catholic clergy on Curacao and elsewhere. Concerning their lot after the emancipation, this was thus far questionable. They would be denied land, take away their land etc. Now however that most of the slave owners have offered me their slaves, and because they come faithfully to church, it is my hope, that the whites, to the satisfaction of the slaves, will maintain them in their midst.

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Pounding small or Guinea corn in a handmade wooden mortar was vital for survival back then.

Concerning the history of the island, very little or nothing is known about that. This alone appears to me to be the most likely, that most of them are descended from three or four families from St. Kitts and elsewhere who abandoned there in order to avoid leprosy and elephantiasis, and in this supposition I am strengthened, in the first place while nearly all of them carry the last surname, and on the other hand while the mentioned illnesses is so generally spread among them, they say to have inherited these from their ancestors.

All sorts of money is in circulation here, even the Dutch cent is cut in half. Only on summons from the local Government they contribute a little to promote local interests.

Concerning taxation, that is a thorn in their eyes. They desire, at least a lot of them, a change in government, as long as there are no taxes. Any sudden introduction of a tax would not be   implemented without causing a commotion.

1890-1910 School later church Bottom - Tropenmuseum

Although I am not absolutely certain of this I am of the opinion that this photo was taken in 1913 in commemoration of fifty years of emancipation.

In my opinion for the present the importation and sale of rum would be the only thing on which a tax could be levied. A good fine for all state violations will do much good.

Burdened with many extraordinary activities, it is presently impossible to make a small map of this mountain; hoping in the coming week to be able to do so, I remain with all respect.

Your humble servant

J.C. Gast, priest.

Notes: In 1857 Saba had a total of 1771 people. In 1862 the populations was 1867 of which 1159 were whites and 708 were enslaved people of African descent.

The Government of Saba in 1857 was composed of the following persons.

Edward Beaks, Lt. Governor and former active pirate.

Advisory Committee:

J.B. Hassell and J.E. Hassell, members.

Court of Justice.

Edward Beaks, Lt. Governor President.

Members James Horton and Josiah Peterson.

Assessors; Moses Leverock, William Simmons and A. Simmons.

Moses Leverock - Lieutenant Governor of Saba

Moses Leverock was Lt. Governor of Saba on July 1st, 1863 when the slaves whose forebears were from Africa were liberated. The term enslaved Africans in my book is not correct as most if not all of the slaves liberated had been on Saba and in the Caribbean for generations before being emancipated.

Court Recorder; Hercules Hassell, Jr.

Priests of the Roman Catholica Church J.C. Gast and J.Ph. G. Kock.

This letter written in 1857 for the most part if written today would contain most of the observations made Father J.C. Gast about meetings, and abhorrence to pay taxes of any kind, with the exception of the mixing of the races. Many who were white once are black now and many who were black once have blond hair and blue eyes, so you cannot question color alone anymore.


Alan Richardson, a great friend remembered.


Alan Richardson as a young man.



By: Will Johnson

The relationship between him and I can be summed up in this brief letter from him to me dated July 24th, 1975.

“Hello Will:

What happened to you last week? Everybody almost was here for Claude’s mother’s funeral except you. God dam it man don’t you think that you should have come over for at least one day in order to pay respect to Mrs. Wathey?


All in capital letters of course as if it was a telegram.

I first met Allan in the nineteen sixties. After the 1971 elections in which I was barred from holding office, I started a column in the “New Age” which was highly critical of the Democratic Party and its leader Claude Wathey. So much so that in the fifth year of its publication the St. Maarten Star edited by Allan acknowledged that the paper had to thank me as it had only come about to counter the vicious attacks on the party by me and so they had to do something. Fact of the matter is that the column was very popular at home and abroad.

Allan must have gotten the name “Sqauwkbox” from our mutual friend the late Mr. Frank Mingo Sr. Whenever Mr. Mingo joined our company from the distance when he saw Allan, a look of glee would come over his face. Allan and Frank had worked together in the ESSO oil refinery on Aruba. Allan had a writing gene from his father, and on Aruba he had a column in the ESSO news I believe entitled “As I see it”, and so he earned the nickname from Frank and others of “Sqauwkbox”

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It was a state secret between Alan and I as to which of Governor Brouwers  two sons was his father. This is ‘Broertje’ the Editor of De Slag om Slag and an unlikely rebel as a Governor’s son and six feet and seven inches tall.


In 1969 when I was running against Claude for the Senator’s seat, Allan avoided me like the plaque. Staunch supporter that he was of Claude Wathey and in a sort of business together, Allan figured better leave that friendship and see what the election result would bring. Anyway at some point later on we must have gotten back together. He was always good company and eccentric to the core. Paid all my bar bills for me just to have me around for conversation on local and international matters. Once a month I acted as his lawyer for an old lady which he rented a house from in Sucker Garden. In order to increase her rent she would lambaste him with religious quotations about his business activities and had she known she would have never rented him her house. It was my job to be his “lawyer” and put her in her proper place. For that once a month letter and my company as a drinking partner he paid all my bar bills and believe me at today’s exchange they would amount to a nice salary for someone. He changed bars from time to time depending on the company. For some years we would meet at the old Juliana Airport, also at the Sea View Hotel, Hunter House and so on. You could rest assured that sooner or later joining the table would be people like Clem Labega, Claude Wathey himself, Sam Hazel and so on. Everyone would be beating up on Allan and pulling tricks on him. One day at the airport bar which was downstairs in the old building he was showing off his new briefcase. Sam tried to open it to no avail. Allan informed all present that it had a combination lock and no one would ever open that briefcase. I picked it up and put in the combination 101. Well that briefcase opened with such a pop that the whole airport could hear it. Allan was furious. And it had other problems for him. He forgot to lock the briefcase back, and the next day he called to tell me the trouble I had put him in. With no combination lock on, according to him the wife had opened the new briefcase and found some compromising letters in it. To make matters worse I told him that I had bet with a number seller on the number 101 with the $20.—which he had given me and I had won a thousand dollars. He said:” So I guess you have money now I won’t be seeing you for some time.” But the next afternoon there we were sitting together again, telling jokes and enjoying each other’s company. I remember once walking into the Sea View Hotel to meet him and Clem Labega there. As soon as I walked up he said: “Well Henry Kissinger is in China.” Which China I asked him?

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Alan in his later years as Editor of The Star and  The Clarion.

 He shouted out at me: “Man (leaving off the expletives here), there is only one China and that is China.” There was a man sitting at a table close by taking down notes of our conversation. The next week in Time Magazine which Allan always read the headline was:”There is only ONE China and that is China.”

From a young boy Allan loved to read. He was an only child of his mother, from Anguilla. He told me that his mother was a maid and that she received ten guilders per month, and that he kept rabbits to help substitute the family income. He also delivered newspapers for the then popular newspaper “De Slag om Slag” (Blow for Blow). The editor was the well known “Broertje” Brouwer(Anthony Reynier Waters Gravenhorst Brouwer) son of Governor A.J.C. Brouwer. The printery was located in Brouwers home on the beach side of Front street just a bit down the road and across the street from the Oranje Café. Now Allan’s mother had not confirmed anything to him, but rumor had it that “Broetje’s” brother (Othon Egidius Henri Anthony Waters Gravenhorst Brouwer) was his father. The two brothers both born on Saba had married two sisters daughters of August Alexander van Romondt. One day as he was getting the papers together to deliver Brouwer came in from a heavy drinking bout at the Orange Café, looked at him intently and told him “Boy, I am your father, you know.” Brouwers wife, who was twelve years older than him and had always suspected the truth, overheard the remark from the next room and war was on. Many years after I met Allan I had been with him all day on St. Maarten and then came to Saba. That same night A.J.C. “Jan” Brouwer (son of Broertje) and also a special friend called me from Aruba. The moment he started talking I could hear Allan’s voice, the same intonation and everything. So I told him that I had been with Allan Richardson the whole day, and did he Jan Brouwer know him. “Know him? Man my father used to catch hell from my mother accusing him that she knew that he was Allan’s father and not his brother. So in fact we are brothers.” He asked me for Allan’s number and the next day, Allan called to tell me that Jan had called from Aruba to discuss “family matters.”Image (1436)

In any event Allan’s grandfather was Governor A.J.C. Brouwer(born in Parimaribo, Surinam of Dutch parents on 29.11.1858, who had served on all three Windward Islands for a total of no less than 30 years. In his book “In the shadow of the Governors), Mr. W.F.M. Lampe who as a young man worked under Brouwer said that Governor Brouwer was the smartest man he had ever known. His son “Broertje” whom we have written of before was a tall man some six feet and seven inches tall. You mostly associate rebelliousness with little men like Napoleon and “Papa Doc”.

Allan St. Clair Richardson was born on March 31st, 1921. I did not find a record of his birth so he may have been born on the French side or on Anguilla.   His mother was from Anguilla, lived on the Back Street and there is where he grew up. He loved to read from early on and from this reading he developed a love for writing.

Allan went to Aruba at an early age. He resided there for a number of years and led a colorful existence and according to Frank Mingo, that Allan had been the same person in old age as he was when he was a young man on Aruba. He also served in the army during World War 11. Allan would regale us with stories about the war. One of the stories which I forgot to mention when I did the eulogy for him in the Methodist Church was the following. Allan had strict orders when guarding the army camp in the night if he heard any strange noise to call out “HALT” and then with no response to let go with all shots available in his rifle. One night, between sleep and wake, while on duty Allan heard a strange noise coming at the camp from the bushes. He shouted out the obligatory “Halt” and thinking it was a whole squadron of German soldiers he let go with everything he had. Well the whole army rushed out of their barracks with guns ready to help Allan in the struggle. On Aruba during the War a German submarine had attacked the oil refinery and as a result killed a good number of sailors on the tankers in harbor and many of these men were from Saba. So it is not as if Aruba had not lost any lives in the conflict. Well the poor donkey which Allan had riddled with bullets was not counted among the war dead on Aruba. But I do believe that the Aruban Government though belatedly should recognize the poor donkey shot by soldier Richardson as the only land victim of the Great War.Image (1433)

Allan did not live this one down with his friend Frank who with his usual teasing looks would say to Alan:’ hear anything more about the donkey lately?” And then Frank would belly up with the laughter at Allan’s expense.

I have so many stories I could tell about Allan. Space will not allow for all. Once I was out on a boat with Edward Buncamper and Commissioner Rene Richardson. I was not drinking at the time. Some twenty years I was on the wagon. When we docked up at the Great Bay Marina, there was Claude, his son Emile, Allan and some others. Rene in his cups was not in a pleasant mood and you could see that an argument was brewing between him and Claude. Allan did not want to get in the middle of that. Of a sudden he jumped up left his hat on the table and his drinks of course and some keys. He told us he was going to make a phone call. About fifteen minutes later the barmaid told me there was a phone call for me. No one in the world knew I was there. So I went to the phone and it was Alan. I said to him, “But I thought you were going to make a phone call?” He said:” Man this is the phone call, bring me my hat and keys to my house when you get a chance.” When I got back to the table, Claude turned to me and said: “That was Alan of course.” I answered:”How did you know it was Alan?” A stupid question on my part of course as if anyone knew Alan it was Claude.

Alan, after the “Star” started his own newspaper “The Clarion”. It seems that the more you write the more you like to write. After the incident with the briefcase Alan fortified his bedroom like Fort Knox, with six or more locks on the door, his own fridge inside, and desk for writing the paper. So when I did visit his house by the time he had opened all the locks at least a half hour had passed. I also got a German shepherd dog from him once. I named her Tanya, after Che Guevara’s German girlfriend as my cat was already named Che.

Alan and I remained good friends throughout. I came across a letter he sent me after I sent him copies of photos of his grandparents. His letter is dated November 23rd, 1983 and I quote from it;

“Willie me lad,

I am always glad to hear from you. I know having read the last several issues of the Clarion, after Bishop’s demise; you must be wondering how I stand with the C.I.A and the local anti-communist, anti-Castro, anti-socialist and ultra pro right wing holier than thou purists. –That’s quite a mouthful there, by the way.

Well the old man is still alive and kicking; but a little more wary than usual, as you would understand. And, I always value your critical opinion –pro-or-con. But the occasion for this letter is to thank you for your always thoughtfulness; in this instance sending me the “dope” on the grandfather. Believe me I appreciated it immensely, and I had a lot of fun showing my daughters the picture, and explaining things to them. Patsy immediately found some resemblance to him and me, around the area of the “nose” which is B.S. as you well know.

Anyway Will, once again, I appreciate hearing from you, any time. I will be putting the old grandfather, complete with picture in the next issue of The Clarion (Thursday, December 8th, 1983). And I’m going to let everyone know where and from whom I received it; among other things that people should appreciate about people like you.”

Please call me whenever you are in town, I’m always happy to talk with you.

Your old friend


P.S. Will, I envy your stationary, and I feel so ashamed of mine, I’m going to do something about it, pronto!”

Allan passed away on April 18th, 2003 and he was buried on April 28th, 2003. I was asked by the family to do the eulogy which I gladly did. I cannot put my hands on it but it was more or less along the lines of this article. Even the Anglican priest the Reverend Irad Hodge who churched him in the Methodist had a few humorous stories to tell about Allan to the amusement of family and friends present. As you can see, we were good friends indeed and may he rest softly.



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