The Saba Islander

by Will Johnson

Archive for the month “October, 2016”


st-eustatius-gazetteBEFORE THEY GO

BY: Will Johnson

There are dire predictions that newspapers are about to disappear. This is based on the advent of the Internet and to the phenomenal rise of Social Media. And so it is important to document the role of newspapers on our Dutch Windward Islands.

In the past in order to call oneself a journalist it was necessary to attend a school of journalism. Many journalists went on to become famous authors.

Nowadays any semi-literate can bring down institutions and governments by making all sorts of accusations, many times without any basis of truth to them, on social media. This has put enormous pressure on the mainstream media and the printed press. Some large newspapers are now under serious threat of extinction.

On our islands many newspapers have been founded by and bound to one individual.

I recently posted a copy of The St. Eustatius Gazette from August 17th, 1792 on Facebook. Many of my friends had never heard about this newspaper and some were amazed that it was an English language newspaper.

In his book “A Lee Chip” my son Ted has the following to say about the fact that most people outside of these islands have no idea that the Dutch Windward islands have ALWAYS been English speaking.

There is much more and I will only quote a small part from the book:

English Language Usage on Saba

“As we have seen in the previous section, Saban English has been the only language used by the inhabitants of Saba since the late 17th century. English language instruction through the educational system in Saba will be discussed in the following section.

“Besides the origins of Saba’s first European settlers, other factors contributed to the use of standard and non-standard English, often in its dialectal form, as the language of communication in all levels of society, including government and the judiciary. The Netherlands took a very “hands=off” administrative approach during the 18th and 19th centuries. Very little Dutch was used in Saba during the Dutch administrative period. This boiled down to Saba being virtually self-governing in certain respects, often by local born administrators or ‘Commanders’. Saba was also surrounded by other islands using their own varieties of creole English. There was little need to communicate with any other island in the vicinity of other than English.


Antigua 14th, June 1736: ‘having no Dutch here, being that all St. Eustatius speaks English.”

Services at the three major churches that were established on Saba by the late 1800’s (the Anglican, Catholic and Wesleyan Holiness Church) were all conducted in English. Local government ordinances and decrees were more often than not published in English or translated into English throughout the colonial period in Saba. Court verdicts were also issued into the English language well into the 20th century.

“Only in the 1950’s did the official language on Saba become Dutch. This had little effect on most correspondence and ordinances issued by the local government. Other official documents, like deeds to transfer title and the few wills that were made during the colonial period, were also all in English.

“In 1968 Saba’s first newspaper, the ‘Saba Herald’, was published by Mr. Will Johnson, a native Saban, who started the newspaper while living on St.; Martin. The Saba Herald was published monthly for twenty-five years and often inadvertently included many phrases and words from the local dialect of Saba, as illustrated in the dictionary section of this book. From 1986 until 1990 another monthly newspaper entitled Saba Unspoiled Queen was published by another local Saban, Mr. Roddy Heyliger. Both newspapers were published in

“English was also confirmed as an official language of the now defunct Netherlands Antilles in 2007, which includes Saba. Since 2010 Saba has been a public entity of the Netherlands. Legislation introduced in Saba on January 1, 2011 confirmed that the English is an officially recognized language in the so-called BES islands of Saba and St. Eustatius.’

In a letter from 1736 which is attached to this article the last line reads: “but all Eustatia speaks English.”

Also in a report of the situation on Saba and St. Eustatius for the year 1847 it is stated in the part about education on St. Eustatius:” The youth here enjoy normal English education from local teachers. Because of the lack of a Dutch school the knowledge of the Dutch language is completely unknown by the inhabitants.”

And so it should not be surprising that The St. Eustatius Gazette was an English language newspaper though it carried sometimes advertisements in Dutch.

This newspaper is the oldest known weekly paper published in the Dutch West Indian colonies. We do not know if it existed for a long time. In any event we are certain that it existed from 1789 to 1793, so several years after February 3rd 1782 when the English Admiral Sir George Bridges Rodney captured the island because the North Americans via St. Eustatius had acquired the weapons they needed in their struggle for political freedom from England.

A year after Rodney’s attack on St. Eustatius the island was captured by the French and returned to the Netherlands.

A pity that so few of these papers survived. Much could be learned today about life on St. Eustatius back then.

In 1905 there were three copies of this paper which belonged to Father Jan Paulus Delgeur O.P. Those were the issues on June 23 1790, December 28th, 1792 and January 25th 1793. Father Delgeur wrote about this in the Amigoe di Curacao newspaper of July 22, 1905. He describes them as three musty smelling, thumb marked, weather beaten, yes something appetite spoiling sheets of paper.’

What happened to them after this is a mystery. The present Officer of Justice (1944) Willem F. M. Lampe who was Lt. Governor of the Windward Islands from 1927 to 1930, in his day found one copy. Whether it was one of these or another one is no longer known and to great damage of the history of the colony Curacao was sent to an exhibition in Holland in 1928 and returned to Curacao but disappeared after that. Years later this copy was found in the University library on Curacao. What happened to those of Father Delgeur is unknown and years later some copies were found in someone’s loft in London. I cannot put my hands on it now but I know that Dr. Johan Hartog wrote an updated article on this find.

The St. Eustatius Gazette was a weekly paper and was published by Edward Luther Low, at his office, next to Mr. Henry H. Haffey’s and nearly opposite Messrs. Hardmah and Clarkson’s where all manner of printing is done with ease and dispatch. In the last issue in possession of Father Delgeur a change was made in the name in the sense that ‘and Company’ was added to the name.

In one of the papers it was announced that an estate of a certain Longbotham was being sold:

‘Three separate tenements with kitchens, negro houses, necessaries and cisterns etc. There will likewise be sold at the same time:

The S laves.

Quaco – an excellent family slave and fisherman: Jack commonly [sic] known by the name of Jack Hamm, a silver-smith by Trade, and a capital workman, Stephen a tailor by trade; Judith – a young woman, with her two mulatto children. Likewise a few articles of jewelry, etc.etc.

Run Away

A Negro woman Dinah, belonging to Mr. Charles Chadwick of St. Martins, about 5 feet high, rather square over the shoulders, a remarkable hairy face and breast. A reward of eight Joes will be paid down on her delivery to Captain Chadwick at St. Martins.’

The following announcement takes the cake:

Run Away

Last night my wife, Bridget Coole. She has a tight neat body, and has lost one leg. She was seen riding behind the Priest of the parish through Termoy; and we never was [sic] married. I will pay no debt that she does contract, she lisps with one tooth, and is always talking about fairies, and is of no use but to the owner. Signed with an X by Rhelim Coole. * Well she must have been of some use to the Priest.

The weekly paper also gave international news. After 28 days of sailing a schooner had arrive on St. Eustatius from London with news from the continent.

From London: ‘that the Duke of Brunswick has been burnt in effigy on Kensington common by a number of friends of the French revolution etc.

From Paris: ‘All was quiet there when the last accounts left that city; the people expressed the greatest dependence on the National convention, a severe decree had been passed confiscating all the property of the aristocrats’ etc. (in that same year King Louis XVl was decapitated).

An announcement of the following book states:

‘Manners and Customs in the West-Indies by Samuel A. Mathews.

A certain I.B. Morton’s appears to have written a pessimistic and impolite article about the West Indies. Matthews goes after him with his book, calling Morton’s a lying hero who’ indiscriminately attacks the inhabitants of all ranks and denominations. He could have pardoned anything but his [Morton’s] scurrilous invective’s leveled at the fair sex.”

As with papers after that The St. Eustatius Gazette had problems with collection of payments for subscriptions as is evidenced from this announcement.

‘The Editor will be thankful to those gentlemen who have not yet favoured him with the payment of their half year subscription to do so as soon as possible. He assured them their neglect will lay him under many inconveniences.”

I have written much about the men who started the first newspapers on St. Martin but for this article will give some brief details.St.Masrtin Day by Day

  1. St. Martin, Day by Day appeared every Saturday in the English language. Editor/publisher was Josiah Charles Waymouth (Wesleyan-Methodist). Especially dedicated to inter-island politics and the economy. Appeared from January 22nd, 1911 until May 1st, 1920.

Waymouth was a warrior against the misuse of the power of civil servants back in the day. An example of his criticism over the bad connections between the islands in the very first edition of his paper: Our inter-colonial dreadnought has not yet arrived from Curacao. “The schooner from Saba was named the ‘Dreadnought.”.


The Dutch Windward Islands Times. In English. Because this newspaper was printed on St. Kitts, B.W.I. it did not appear on a regular basis; sometimes every fourteen days etc. General content. Editor the Wesleyan-Methodist Minister C. McDarrell. Existed for about one year. (see Amigoe di Curacao 17 June 1922).


New Life, ‘published at such dates and as often as circumstances under God permit.’ The paper was edited by Josiah Charles Waymouth (Wesleyan-Methodist) and announced itself as “put forth for successful common service with others, in the field of objective Christianity, our great aim will be to relay the Master’s Voice’. The paper gave some foreign news, local news, criticism and such everything in very devout wording. In the first issue the editor reflects on how in ‘Day by Day’ for ten years he fought for betterment in the administration of the Windward Islands and how now that this has arrived, ‘remains for us to work for the reformation of humanity.’ The paper was issued ‘at 81 Front Street.’ First issue 1 May 1924. Only a few issues appeared. At the time Mr. Waymouth was already in his seventies and it was always difficult to get paper and so on.

1933.Old St.Martin newspapers

Bovenwindsche Stemmen, (Windward Voices) every fortnight; except for the title everything was in English. Editor Wilhelm Netherwood (Methodist). In the beginning contributions in the area of religion, politics, the economy, late almost exclusively to agriculture and local news. ‘News bulletins’, from this paper, appeared in De Bovenwindsche Stemmen in the Amigoe di Curacao newspaper. First appearance 31 August 1933 and in the Amigoe di Curacao on September 16th, 1933.

Because the paper was stenciled and in the war it was difficult to get materials the paper came to a halt in the second half of 1942, after which C. McDarrell started writing for the Amigoe di Curacao under the Column ‘De Bovenwindsche Eilanden (see Amigoe di Curacao 21 June 1943 and following).

1934.Image (140)

De Slag Om Slag (Blow for Blow), appeared every Saturday in the English language. Critical on the politics of the day, economy and government. Editor Anthony R. Waters-Gravenhorst Brouwer. He was jailed for criticizing the Governor and the paper did not appear while he was in jail. The first paper appeared on December 22, 1934 and ended in November 1939 when the Editor was about to be jailed again because he allegedly insulted a friendly head of state (Adolph Hitler), and he took his own life.saba-herald

The new era of newspapers started on July 1st 1959 with the patriot Joseph H. Lake Sr. returning from Aruba and starting the weekly paper The Windward Islands Opinion. I have written extensively on his life and on the lives of those who went before him. Any new article on newspapers will have to start off with the life and times of Joseph H. Lake Sr.

Credits: Ryan Espersen materials

Dr. J. Hartog’s research on newspapers.




Christine Elizabeth Flanders

Christine Flanders:

By; Will Johnson



In the booklet issued as a eulogy for the occasion of her funeral, I was pleased to see that I was mentioned as one of her dearest friends. That was indeed the case.

I first met Christine and her husband William (“Tin Tin”), when I started my campaign for Senator on the U.R.A. ticket in 1969.

I was trying to sneak in to Statia. The Democrats on St. Maarten had spread the rumor that I would be stoned on arrival at the airport, thrown back on the plane and sent back to St.Maarten .Therefore I was taking no chances.

At the Juliana airport Winair informed me that my brother Freddie wanted to talk to me. I thought that he wanted to warn me not to go. To my great surprise he informed me that Statia wanted to know exactly when I would arrive as they had a steel band waiting for me and a parade would be organized to take me in to town.

On arrival my friend Commissioner Vincent Lopes of the Democrat Party was among the crowd to sort of welcome me as well. He presented me with a pamphlet which was headlined Welcome to the United Russian Alliance. I have a file with all of those pamphlets from 1969 still lying around.

After the welcome we headed to the home of William and Christine Flanders in a big parade. This the Democrats had not expected. When I met Christine I could see immediately who was in charge. I was not much of a public speaker at the time and was not expecting to have a political rally. Well Christine informed me that she had eighteen speakers lined up and  asked if I had anyone besides myself. Among the speakers was “Willy Doc”, the father of Papa Godet.  Willy Doc had once organized a rebellion on Statia against Act. Governor Ernest Voges. This rebellion had to be put down by sending armed troops to Statia to arrest “Willie Doc” and take him to Curacao. So in case you were wondering where Papa Godet got his rebellious spirit from, now you know.

Statia people don’t need anything on paper to speak from. We had a great evening with fire and brimstone speeches and from there the friendship started. I was living on Sint Maarten at the time and was completely on my own. I had some help from people like Stanley Brown, Jopie Abraham and especially Freddie Lejuez, but the all powerful Democrat Party was not about to let a young upstart spoil the day for them so I had a rough time, but in the end thanks to people like Christine I did very well.

My brother Eric wrote me during the campaign and said the rally on Saba had gone well and I did not know what he was talking about. Turns out Christine and a group from Statia had organized a charter and came to Saba and held a public rally on my behalf to get some of the Saba people to vote for me. They kept the meeting on the porch of “Brother’s Place” a building which eventually came to me. It was destined to be so I guess.

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I stayed in the old government guesthouse in 1961 for some two months and later on many times. This was my view on the Kerkstraat. Louise van Putten was my boss and I was lifelong friends with her brother Senator Kenneth van Putten and with her still. Some of my ancestors were from that island and are buried there. Love Statia.

In the years following I used to go to Statia often. Christine and William had a small snack bar and I would spend lots of time with them. The only thing I could not figure out was all the small children in the house and yard. I wondered how Christine at her age had all those little people. I was enlightened at the funeral when to the laughter of the congregation one of those little people, now a woman, explained that she was a big woman before she realized that Christine was not her mother.The lady who was always quietly in the background and whom we all thought was the maid was the mother of all the children. When she was on her last and I went to see her at the hospital, she was lying out like an African queen. Still talking politics to me, surrounded by her children, while the real mother sat discreetly outside the door on the wall looking on. Of course William was the father but Christine had raised them as if they were her own. She herself had no children, but it didn’t matter to her as Williams children were hers.

One of the times that I was on Statia and had climbed the Quill with my boys, we decided to drop in at the Community Center and buy some soft drinks. William was running it at the time. We had a good chat. I was staying in the country at Ishmael Berkel’s new house and enjoying the two weeks there with no electricity and recalling my youth. At the same time Julia Crane was there working on Statia Silhouettes and I was able to give her some background advice.


In former times people like Henry Hassell Johnson, Lillian Johnson, Gwendoline van Putten and others played a prominent role on Statia. In 1969 as a newcomer on the Statia political scene my personal vote was something like 46% of the total vote cast and I do not think anyone has passed that record yet. Thanks to Mrs. Christine Flanders , Laura Rouse, and others who campaigned on Statia and Saba for my person.

I went on to St.Kitts and Nevis and then to St.Maarten on that vacation. To my surprise when I walked down the Front street, I heard someone call out to me from the St.Rose Hospital. To my surprise it was William. He was dressed in his pajamas and I asked him what was the problem. He informed me that he had some pain in his chest and that the doctors were checking him out. He looked the same as always to me. Just about two weeks later I got a call from Christine informing me that if I wanted to see my friend William that I must come to Statia immediately as he was on his last. I could not digest that information. When I arrived at the home and Christine told me to go see him in the bedroom, I could not believe my eyes. He was just a shadow of his old self. He was a chain smoker and had contracted lung cancer. In another week he had passed away and my brother Guy went up to attend the funeral as I was on a mission off island at the time.


St. Eustatius, the Golden Rock which was the first place to recognize the rebel flag of the United States.

I represented the Windward Islands on the Committee to honour citizens with a postal stamp. Christine was one of those who I was able to have the Postal services give that honour to.

On July 1st, 1998, I sent the following letter to Mrs. Marelva Maduro, Postmistress on St. Eustatius.

“Dear Mrs. Maduro,

I would appreciate very much if you would make the necessary apologies on my behalf for not being present today. Due to the fact that I am Act. Lt. Governor for the coming three weeks and I have to meet some commitments made here I cannot travel these days.

However I would like to congratulate the family of the late Mrs. Christine Flanders on today’s occasion. Her family includes all of  St.Eustatius.

The people of St.Eustatius can feel rightfully proud of this noble daughter of the soil who is being honoured by the Postal services of the Netherlands Antilles.

There is much that I would have liked to have said about my friend Christine had I been on St.Eustatius today. I would like to simply state that I am thankful that I was in a position to bring forward her name for this honour which she so truly deserved.

My congratulations go out to the people of St.Eustatius and may the memory of my dear friend Christine remain with us through the monuments of her work and through this postal stamp honouring her.

Sincerely Yours, The Act. Lt. Governor of the Island Territory of Saba.

W.S.”Will”Johnson. “

Some of her well known  family members are Ms. Alida Frances of the Tourist Bureau and Mr. Eldridge van Putten, of St.Maarten respectively a niece and a nephew.

She was born Christina Elizabeth Roosberg. Born on the island of St.Eustatius on May 25th, 1908 and died September 8th, 1996 on St.Eustatius. This year she would have been 100 years old.

She was the second of five children born to Louisa and Alexander Roosberg. She grew up on St.Eustatius, took her elementary education there, worked hard and developed an undying love and devotion for her native island. At a very tender age it was evident she would become a natural leader, a philosopher and a social worker.

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I have been suggesting for a long time that the Government should buy up all the lands and houses between the Fort and the Kerkstraat and build a complimentary Administration building there. That would give Statia the most unique historic capital in the islands.

She was a member of the Windward Islands Club, so when it was time to raise funds to build the Windward Islands Club building, it was Chris who got her band of children together to raise the much needed monies in support of the cause.

She was also a member of the B.I.A. ( Benevolent Improvement Association). Many of her productions, including Genevieve, The Basket of Flowers, Pontius Pilate and the Prodical Son were staged at the B.I.A. hall or Cecilia Theatre on Aruba.

In 1964, Chris and her family returned to her beloved Statia, and as ever she pursued her ambition to see Statia and its people move forward, socially, culturally, politically and economically. Her activities ranged far and wide. Her many endeavours included the establishment of the St.Eustatius Welfare Improvement Association. Under the umbrella of this organization many worthy projects came into existence. The Artisan Foundation was created as a means to create employment for many young men who remained unemployed in the early 1970’s. The young men were taught trades in woodwork and in the tanning of leather.

Chris was at the head of the negotiating table with the Pandt family for the purchase of land for the Cottage ballpark in the early seventies. This was carried out under the auspices of the St.Eustatius Welfare Improvement Association.

The Community Center is another initiative executed under the management of the SSWWO (St.Eustatius Social Welfare Work Association), with Chris as its first President of the Board. The land on which the Center is constructed was purchased from Mr. Knijbe and donated to the Statia Community by Chris and her late husband. This was not too much for her. On June 2nd, 1996, she was honoured by the board of the SSWWO when the community center was renamed the Christina and William Flanders Community Center.

Carnival on Statia was co-founded by Chris in 1964. The experience she gained through her involvement in Aruba’s carnival and was implanted on Statia as a means to promote Statia’s culture. In 1978 she was contracted to head the Federal Government Office of Cultural Affairs. Together with the late Dr. Snow she founded the November 16th pageant: The reenactment of the first salute.

Her zeal for perfection led to her engagement in some very innovative forms of pastry and cake making. She was very famous for turning out wedding cakes. Her cakes were some of the most tasty and beautiful known on Statia. When her sight started to fail her in the early 80’s she was forced to abandon this exercise. Only on special occasions she would still try her hand at her famous Christmas cakes. She was also an accomplished seamstress.

She was a god fearing woman and played an equal important role within the Methodist Church where she was baptized as an infant. She was a class leader for many years. She also attended various sessions of the Synod. When her sight started to fail her she would still attend her church on a regular basis. However in 1992 when she was forced to walk with the help of a walker, her attendance at services was limited. Her heart was always with those who worshipped, for she insisted that she receive a program of the service each Sunday. The last time Chris was at church was to participate in and celebrate the 150th anniversary service of the church held on July 7th, 1996.

Chris was a charter member of the Masonic Lodge, a member of the Order of the Eastern Star. She and her husband also served as the ticket agents for the National Lottery until the early 1980’s.

She was honoured with a Gold Medal by Her Majesty Queen Juliana of the Netherlands in the 70’s for her sterling and invaluable contribution to the further development of Statia and its people.

She was most passionate about the establishment of the Auxiliary Home for the Handicapped . Her ultimate goal was to see a full fledged Home for the Handicapped and the Elderly established on Statia. She would often relate of the struggle to obtain the necessary funding for the expansion of the Auxiliary Home. She had hoped to see the home opened and running, and even being one of its first residents. However, just one day prior to her becoming ill, she turned over her application to someone who she felt was more in need of a space at the home.

Chris was known far and near as a strong voice for Statia. Even in the last days her spirit remained strong and confident. She was privileged to speak with all her children, family, relatives and friends until the very end. Her final wish was for the people of Statia to live in love and harmony. “Please do all that you can to make Statia a nice place to live once again,” she said.

Chris will forever remain synonymous with a strong voice and love for her beloved island and people of Sint Eustatius.


Christine Flanders

Will Johnson.


Frederique Froston


Left to right Frederique Froston, Granville Cannegieter and Jim Richardson.

In Memory of Frederick Froston .

(October 8, 1914 –September 7th, 1988)

By; Will Johnson

Of course you must have known Frederick (pronounced Federeek) Froston. Unless you are not from St. Martin, that is. An unlikely hero, yet he epitomized all that was good in the old St. Martin. To many he was just a taxi-driver. He was the driver of M-16. At a time when hardly anyone on St. Martin made a living from driving a taxi, Frederick took care of all those who came from the neighbouring islands. Those were the only “tourists” back then.

Over the years he became an institution. Nearly everyone from Saba and St. Eustatius knew Frederick. And each one in their own way has stories to tell about Frederick. When someone from Saba arrived at St. Martin’s airport, the other taxi drivers identified them as “Frederick’s people.”

He lived in town. Great Bay as he called it. He was originally from the French side and over there they still refer to Philipsburg as “Great Bay” which is the correct name for the harbor. The house he lived in had formerly belonged to Carol Labega, close to the “Oranje” School and on the Front Street facing the beach. Among the many things he did he also sold lottery tickets, and he won the grand prize once, or part of it.

I cannot remember correctly. Immediately word went out that he had lost the ticket. He told me years later: “You think I’se a fool eh! All a dem would ah want part oh it!” The property he bought with his winning included a two-storied house and it cost all of three thousand guilders. Beach property back then in Philipsburg was less than property on Backstreet. No sun tanning then, only a worry about tidal waves and hurricanes, and Backstreet was farthest removed from such calls of nature. Frederick was a practical joker and many are the jokes he pulled on people. Among friends his escapades are legendary. In his old age he was honoured by the Lions Club of Saba. The Saba Island Government also proposed his name to be honoured with a medal by Her Majesty the Queen, and he received this medal on St. Martin.

At the time of his death I could not make it to his funeral as I was stuck on Curacao and I published the eulogy I had wanted to make as an article in the “Saba Herald” and in “The Chronicle” on St. Martin. So many people have asked me to put my St. Martin father “Under the Sea Grape Tree”, that I feel obliged to once again bring him to the attention of a much wider audience now in the Eastern Caribbean.


Frederick was the master of all trades around the hospital and for the Nuns. Ten guilders a month was his pay. He did everything and even convinced some gullible Saba people that he was the doctor from Guadeloupe and the type of operation he was going to do on them.

This is the eulogy which I wrote at the time of his death: “He was the “alpha” and the “omega” for the Saba people. The first and the last. The first person on St. Martin, to meet you, the last person to send you off.

In former times when Saba children had to travel to St. Martin by boat, we were told by our parents; “Never mind, Frederick will be the first person you will see there on the wharf.” All Saba knew Fredericks car number “M-16.” And, without fail, when you landed on the wharf, seasick and exhausted from the trip, Frederick would be there, in his own way, half worrying, half joking, with “Eh, eh, lil feller, – man, you white in dee face.” “Better get you to Miss Browlia’s quick.”

Miss Browlia Maillard, a former schoolteacher living on Backstreet, took in boarders from Saba and Statia into her home. Although only a stones throw away from the wharf Frederick huddled you into his taxi and carried you across town to Miss Browlia’s. For many who left Saba for the first time before 1950 this was an experience in itself, as Saba before 1947 had no motor vehicles of any kind


Saba proposed Frederique for a medal. We had a special ceremony over here for him. Minister Leo Chance, Governor Wycliffe Smith, Former Administrator Eugenius Johnson, the Lions Club and I all sang his praises and gave him a full envelope to thank him for his services to the people of Saba.


By the time you reached Miss Browlia’s, Frederick knew all your business and was already a familiar person in your life. By next day when he passed around and asked if you wanted to go out into the “country” with him, you felt as if you had known him all your life.

Going out into the “country”, or to Marigot, with Frederick is yet another story. I remember when St. Martin had 83 motor vehicles on the island. Although traffic was minimal in those days, and I remember many times going to Marigot with Frederick and never meeting one car coming to Philipsburg, yet it would take the better part of an hour to get there. Frederick’s taxi was like the Maribor train which runs through South Australia with supplies to outlying railroad towns and sheep stations. The train makes stops all along the long route. There is a dentist on board who pulls teeth at different stops. There is a grocery on board a post office and so on. In the back of Frederick’s “taxi” there would be hog food to be delivered first to a house next to Miss Ela Brown in the Little Bay area of Cul-de-Sac. While there to my great surprise he would be scolding the children running around the yard, even picking up one and giving the child a good beating. On my enquiry as to how he could lick the people’s children, he laughed and said “But they’s mine, you know. I have nine by this lady”. By the time Frederick finished rattling of how many children he had, and by whom, you reckoned that he had fathered half the country. In later years, in teasing him, I would exaggerate the number to others present and state that the true number was 63. He would get a good laugh out of that, “Lord no, Will, you know that all I have is 20.” On St. Martin in the good old days that was considered a small family for a man about town. I once asked another good friend of mine to bring a list of his children to my office so that he could get a reduction in his taxes; he looked perplexed and exclaimed “Man what a job you have given me.” When he returned a week later with a list of 48 people I thought he had not heard me correctly and instead had taken a census of the village of Middle Region where he lived. But after much enquiry and explanation it was established that indeed all 48 of those people listed were his children. So Frederick’s offspring were small by comparison.

038 - Saba-1956-58 - Blue Peter - Ready to sail

Everything was the Blue Peter back then or the sloop the Gloria and Frederique  would be there to get you to the boat or to pick you up anytime of night or day.

Next stop was at Miss Ela Brown’s to drop off empty bottles and to pick up milk for delivery. In addition to this in the trunk of his taxi he had a big bathtub of fish which he sold for the Simpson bay friends of his. A strap of fish sold for 12 good cents. You would probably pay twenty dollars for a similar strap of fish today. If you bought a strap for 15 cents you got a lobster for free. People would tell Frederick, “Man go fire yoh backside. What oi goin to do with a lobster? Give me the strap for 12 cents man.”Lobsters back then were so plentiful that people used them for feeding their hogs.

And so stop after stop would be made. Pick up a letter here to mail; drop off a parcel there, and the occasional passenger would be incidental to his mission. If you did see a car on the road Frederick would put his hand over his eyes and be on the lookout as if a pirate ship was coming to capture M-16. Once we stopped to talk at 10Am to Mr. Ferdinand Beauperthuy who was going to “Great Bay” to mail a letter to his son in New York. Each wanted to know from the other where they were going at that ungodly hour of the day. In Marigot there would be a series of messages to be done for folks in Great Bay and orders received for messages to be done in Great Bay on return. By the time you arrived back at Miss Browlia’s it seemed as if you had been on an extraordinary excursion.image-1765

If you stayed a week on St. Martin Frederick would be stopping every day to enquire about you and to tease, “Boy you find a gal friend yet?”, and, “Miss Browlia, keep an eye on tha lil feller, I see him watching dee girls dem in Marigot, you know.” I was twelve at the time.

Finally my day arrived to go to Curacao on the big KLM DC-3. Frederick would pass by at the crack of dawn to remind you (as if you did not know already) that at such and such an hour the plane would be coming and that he would be there long beforehand to pick you up. How long beforehand he never said so at the crack of dawn you would be dressed and ready to go and anxiously on the lookout for Fredericks return.

When finally the time came to go aboard the plane, in the excitement you had forgotten that in a special paper wrapped up in your pocket, you had the money your parents had given you with which to pay Frederick. He would never ask for payment, so when you did remember and asked him what you owed him, he would either give you a ridiculous high figure to scare the wits out of you or tell you the true figure; “Meh,boy, I does charge dee big people dem five guilders but a lil feller like you a dollar (two guilders and fifty cents in those days) will do.” That was for a week or more of transportation and adventure with M-16. As you shook his hand to tell him good-bye he would say “Here meh boy, take this twenty cents (fifty cents now), you may need it in Curacao.” And with admonishments to you to do your best in school and other such stern lectures he would stand around until the KLM taxied off with 32 passengers, two stewardesses for its nearly four hour flight to Curacao.image-1722

A year later, as soon as you stepped off the plane Frederick would be there fussing over you, “Eh, eh, look like dee girls dem in Curacao treat you good, you get tall. I hope you do your lessons though and not only run after dee girls dem.” And he would be rightfully proud when you told him that you had gone over to another class.

If you had to leave in the early morning hours for Saba, whether it was at 2 am or 5am Frederick would be there an hour beforehand waking you up with “come me lee feller, time to get you down to the Blue Peter. Captain Hodge say he leaving early this mornin.”

When schooldays were over and I started working at the Post office in the old Courthouse, Frederick fussed over me and the others from Saba as if we all belonged to him.

I remember when the Lions honoured him on Saba some years before he died. The honorable Lt. Governor Wycliffe Smith recalled how as a boy he used to be afraid of Frederick. We were all afraid of Frederick. As a grown man I drank too much and on occasion acted in a stupid way. Frederick would run me all over town until he caught up with me.”Man you mek me shamed. Wuh man how you could do that?” By the time Frederick was finished scolding me I was truly repentant.


In his taxi M 16 Frederique would also transport straps of fish to sell in Marigot and elsewhere.

Many were the joys we shared in doing community work. Frederick was the “Chief Cook and Bottle Washer” at the St. Rose hospital for the royal wages of TEN GUILDERS per month. Together he and I took care of the sick from Saba and together we buried the dead. Fredrick would pretend to those who did not know them that he was the doctor and pull all sorts of pranks on them. I remember once an old lady named “Mercelita Every” who died from burn wounds. Frederick and I buried her by ourselves as the only bearers, with the Reverend father and one altar boy taking care of the services. Once in the church when we were about to bury a sailor named “Preacher” suddenly there was a loud knocking from the coffin. On insistence of his sister the service was stopped and we had to open the coffin. “Preacher” was as dead as a door nail. As we carried him down the front street in the ambulance which also served as a hearse and which Frederick also drove for ten guilders a month, the knocking started again. Coffin opened once more. “Preacher” dead, everyone agreed. As we were about to put the coffin into the ground, whatever djinns were in the coffin only then started to knock like crazy. Frederick looked at Allan Busby and me and informed us: “Knock all you want me boy but the joke is over and in the grave you are now going.”So said so done and perhaps “Preacher” or the djinns still knocking.

As the Holy Koran states: “Bismillahir ramahir raheem al-hamdu lil-lahi rab-bil “alameen ar rahma nir raheem maliki yawed-deen.” (In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the most merciful. Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds, mankind, djinns and all that exists.”) I only hope that the djinns in “Preacher’s” coffin had a satisfactory answer to Allah as to why they tried to confuse Frederick and all of us into believing that “Preacher” was still alive in the coffin.

I think it was Aristotle who said:” I don’t do dead bodies.” I remember once sitting with Alan Busby on the wall of the old “Lands radio” Building on the Backstreet. All of a sudden in the distance we saw M-16 mashing five coming down the road past Miss Browlia’s place. Alan jumped up and started in the direction of the back of the build with an “I’m out of here.” I called out to him; “Why?” He said” Man I cannot handle dead bodies today”. Frederick stopped the car and said to me;”Where he gone? “Who,” I asked? “Alan? I need you boys to help me with an old lady. Her legs are up in the air and we can’t get them down so she can fit in the coffin.” I go then to the back of the building. “How did you know Frederick want us to handle a dead body?” Alan seemed to have the ability to predict these sorts of things. Anyway we decided to go with Frederic to the morgue at the back of the hospital where now all sorts of people congregate for cocktails not knowing how many dead spirits lurking around there. I never knew until then how hard it was to get stiff legs straightened out. No wonder they refer to a dead person as a” stiff”. It was then that I adopted the Aristotle philosophy even though I never realized it at the time. But when I read it, I was convinced that back in good old Athens there was a chariot driver who must have been a Frederick character and who had tried to convince Aristotle to help him to straighten out a stiff. Or was it Plato?


This is the old terminal building from which Frederique operated his M-16 Taxi to transport people from Saba and St. Eustatius.


In his last years Frederick suffered much, but he bore his afflictions gracefully. At the end of July 1988 I said to my wife, “I feel ashamed that I have not seen Frederick for so long.” So I took my two eldest sons, and said to them: “Come along, I want Daddy’s friend to know you.” As we sat there talking, he sitting in the wheelchair, with both legs having been amputated due to the diabetes, he kidded around with the children; “Will, me son, watch out for those lil fellers, they look like they already like dee girls dem.”

As I turned off, after sitting with him for over an hour, we shook hands, a second time. I said “Frederick, keep your chin up.” He said “Me boy, I don’t think I got too much longer here.” And although he looked well in body, I believed him. I called out to him from the car twice before taking off, then blowed the car horn and bid him a final farewell.

When I received the news of his death I told my children. Their reaction pleased me; they were genuinely saddened and reacted in disbelief at the news of his death. I did not have to say anything. They said to me;”Daddy you have lost a good friend.” Yes indeed, I had.

He told me that as a young boy he had grown up on Belvedere Estate when it belonged to Johannes van Romondt and was a working sugar cane plantation. He had gone from that era to a time that St. Martin was under siege by people from all over the world. The world he knew and loved had changed so much that the strength he needed to fight his illness had disappeared and he was ready to leave this new world which he was unaccustomed to.

As I said before, duty called me to Curacao and I could not be on hand to do the eulogy at the funeral. Another friend Mr. Frank Hassell was there to see him off and Senator Kenneth van Putten and others from the neighbouring islands. I now believe that it was meant to be that way. Frederick wanted me to convey to you the reader, on behalf of the people of Saba, what a genuine man, what a true friend he was to the people of Saba and the other islands in this part of the Eastern Caribbean. “Surely Goodness and mercy will follow him and in God’s house for evermore, his dwelling place shall be.” So long Frederick.


This is the one boat town which Frederique operated from and which we both loved and enjoyed to the fullest.

Post script. It was actually Plato who said; “I don’t believe in seeing dead bodies.” On a recent trip to St. Martin I took Alan Busby out for dinner and we reminisced on Frederick. Alan told me how Frederick would hide behind the “dead-house” at the hospital and frighten the mourners by making all kinds of weird noises. Another story which I forgot to tell about Frederick; I used to write stories about people I knew such as Evans Deher, Frederick and so on in the then “Chronicle” newspaper. One night after ten I got a call. The person on the other end was laughing so loud that I thought at first it was a crank caller. And believe me having been in politics my entire life I have received an unfair share of crank phone calls. However I did hear a familiar voice saying; “Johnson hold on let me catch my breath.” Turns out it was an old friend from Anguilla Clarence Connor. He told me; “Johnson boy my wife tells me that you are going to be the end of me. She tells me I should stop reading all that stuff that you write about people like my dear friend Frederick and Evans Deher. I laughed so much when I read your stories that I thought that my belly would burst.” Well that is a compliment for a writer. Clarence went on to tell how much he enjoyed reading about his old friend Frederick and like so many other people in the Eastern Caribbean he encouraged me to keep on writing these sorts of stories. So it goes to prove that people long to read something about the past history of these islands.



St. Eustatius in 1819

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Fort Oranje, formerly Fort Hollandia

Sint Eustatius in 1819

By; Will Johnson

On August 27th, 1819 the Governor-General of St. Eustatius, St. Martin and Saba made a report over the general situation on St. Eustatius which was sent to the Ministry of Colonies. It affords the efforts to look back which differences the St. Eustatius of 130 years ago shows with that of today.

The small Statia is situated nearly one thousand kilometers to the North-East of Curacao. The report describes it as elongated round, with a circumference of five hours, extending from: North to South 9000 feet and from the East to the West 15.000 feet. According to recent information the surface area is about 21 square kilometers.

The description goes on to read: “The South-East and North-West points of this island are formed by two high mountains, which because of their very steep descent to the sea at some places cannot be circumvented. The South-East point consists of only one round mountain, which in former centuries must have had fiery eruptions. Its crown and crater as well as the deep valley within it gives this impression. Also the name of the Quill which the inhabitants have given to it, is derived from this. The North-Westerly point has many tops, of which some are inaccessible ravines.


A nice painting of St. Eustatius in the 18th century.

The high plain which lies between these two mountains on the South Westerly side of it, the Upper Town Village or the Upper Town and the principal fort are situated. It is the only one on the island and slopes gently on the North-East and East sides to the sea where on some locations some boats and canoes can land. On the South-West side of the aforementioned plain, as far as the coast extends, artificially cut out perpendicular to the sea, the height there is in excess of one hundred feet above sea level.

The small strip which because of this has been formed between the aforementioned high plain and the sea and is called The Bay. Being that the widest part is around one hundred steps and a length of around one quarter going is occupied with a double row of houses and warehouses, comprising the Lower village of Lower town. From there one can climb up on three separate wide paths which have been carved out in perpendicular style and partially paved over. The middle or oldest path which leads to the Fort Hollandia or ‘Oranje” , and the new path of about eight hundred steps situated on the South-East side are very steep and tiresome to climb up; less steep and easier to climb up is the North-Westerly path which leads to the battery ‘Amsterdam’.

Statia - Gallery overtrading the road is the home of Mr. Arthur Valk.

Kerkstraat with house of Mr. Arthur Valk a renown local historian of St. Eustatius of the 20th century.

This descriptive peace contained in the last alinea, would today [1949)] sound a little bit otherwise. The long road formerly leading through the Lower village is now only partially existing and difficult to recognize. The long row of houses and warehouses has disappeared. However not without a trace, because he who stands on the edge of the plus-minus 40 meters high plain above the Bay path, can see clearly (when it is calm and there is clear weather at any rate) the foundations of the once enormous mansions and warehouses which were once the pride and wealth of St. Eustatius.

Houses which fetched a crazy high rent. Houses of which the lower floor were so full with merchandise , that through a trap door in the top floor bales and crates were pushed up to the ceilings. Sometimes the merchandise had to be heaped up in the streets, with no other cover than a gigantic piece of canvas. The former Lower Town of St. Eustatius in the second half of the eighteenth century experienced sometimes two thousand (2000) to three thousand (3000) merchant ships per year anchored in the roadstead.

The former ‘Fort Hollandia’ or ‘Oranje’ is presently called ‘Fort Oranje’, although it is no longer a fort. The walls since a long time have been demolished, and the canons only have meaning as historical curiosities. . (*Translator, I do not know what the author means by this. Was the Fort much larger and extended further into the town in past times? The walls of the fort are still in place).


The Jewish cemetery on St. Eustatius where formerly when the island was known  as The Golden Rock the economy was driven by Jewish Merchants.

The middle section has a small public garden with a Memorial to Admiral de Ruyter; besides that one side has several small public buildings.

The three paths leading to the Upper Town still exist. In 1930 on the middle one or the Old Bay Path was still in use, because then there were no motor vehicles on the island. These do appear at the present time to be there and then the North-Westerly light sloping path will again be used.

That the foundations of the former Lower Town, about one and a half kilometers, at present lie in the water, has absolutely nothing to do with the digging of the Panama canal, as a Statian with all necessary force wanted me to believe, but is more a result of the sinking of the middle section of St. Eustatius . This consists of a more loose material, volcanic sand and small stones. One heavy rainfall of grinding a gully in the ground of a meter and a half. According to my personal conviction this island in long gone days must have consisted of two small islands with a narrow and shallow sea strait in between them. This small strait throughout the ages was filled in because of the volcanic ash and other materials from the explosions of the crater. On the West side of the island, where the town lies, exactly half way between the Quill and the Little Mountains, along the coast the sinking of the land is more pronounced. It appears to me that in the last 150 years the land has been sinking at a rate of around one decimeter per year and that is very much


Slave ships of the Dutch West India Company which sold enslaved Africans to nearly all of the colonizers of the West Indies. St. Eustatius and Curacao were large slave markets for the West India Company.


Concerning the water supply of the island [in 1819] the report notes;

“There are no springs and the water is obtained by catching the rain in cement cisterns of which each home is provided with one. On some plantations there are also wells of 120 to 140 feet depth, but the water of these wells is mostly brackish and only suitable for the cattle to drink. “

The cisterns of St. Eustatius have for a good part gone the way of the rest of the island which means that most of them are in an extremely bad condition. There are however still many good and useful cisterns. These are mostly very elongated, carved out of the ground [and not cemented on top of the ground as most of them are on Curacao] and provided with a roof in the form of a barrel. They catch the water off the gutters of the roof, but because they are dug in the ground, a stand-alone cistern can also catch water from a piece of land cemented over on an incline towards the cistern where the water flows into the cistern via a hole at the end of the cistern plain.


A view of St. Eustatius around 1819.

The population of St. Eustatius according to a census taken in 1817 consisted of:

507 Whites

336 Free colored’s

1748 Slaves

This makes for a total residents of 2591 people.

For the year 1818 these figures amounted to;

501 Whites

302 Free Colored’s

1865 Slaves

Which gives a total of 2668 souls.

What concerns religion, there are 218 Protestants of which the greater part consists of Calvinists and Episcopalians 5 Lutherans, 6 Methodists, 30 Roman Catholics, one Quaker and 5 Jews.

In earlier years there must have been a lot more Jews on St. Eustatius. They had a Synagogue of which the walls are still standing to this day.


The late Mr. Siegfried Lampe descended from an old Statia family was in a sense the successor of the native historian Arthur Valk. In the last fifty years Mr. Siegfried Lampe was the man who everyone turned to for information on the islands rich history.Photo credit: Walter Hellebrand.

Thirty Catholics on St. Eustatius was by far not the lowest figure. In later years it would fall to under ten, only to increase after the arrival of Missionaries. In 1930 the amount of Catholics was around 250. In 1935 it was still the same.

In 1819 St. Eustatius had two medical doctors of which one was appointed as officer of health at the garrison and served there. We know an island with a population twice the size of that which St. Eustatius had in 1819, and which has a much larger garrison and which has to make do with only one doctor. [* Translator: I don’t know which island the good priest is referring to here. It could not be Sint Eustatius as in 1935 the population had dropped to 1198 inhabitants, in 1948 this was 921 inhabitants and in 1960 the population rose to 1014 inhabitants and there was no garrison on the island in those years].This chapter of the book was written in 1949 and the book was published in 1951.

From the book: “Onze Bovenwindse Eilanden” by Father M.D. Latour O.P. (Curacao 1951). Translated from the Dutch by Will Johnson.


Inspecting Sister Helena’s class 1892

Inspecting Sister Helena’s Class in 1892.

By; Will Johnson

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Photo from 1910, first school and convent St. Maarten

Only two years the Dominican Nuns had been working in the Windward Islands. The late Father Niewenhuis already, during the life of Monseigneur Niewindt made serious efforts to get Nuns to establish a school but the difficulties then were too great. However, Philipsburg for a large part can be thankful to Father Nieuwenhuis, because when he died, he left monies behind to establish a Roman Catholic School on St. Maarten, which Foundation would bear his name. Only in 1890 would Father Onderwater, the successor of Father Nieuwenhuis succeed to get Dominican Nuns for his school.

One should not have great expectations of that first effort to give regular education in those days on such a small island.

The demands then after all were much less than these days. Nowadays such a school we would mockingly refer to as ‘an advanced caretaker school’.

Let me try in a short depiction to give you to some extent a realistic look at the situation back then.


Group photo from 1902 with Sister Helena fourth in the back row. Photo’s taken from the book by the Hon. Mathias Voges on the 100th anniversary of the Dominican Nuns in the Dutch Windward Islands.

‘There strolls Father Laurentius Suermondt, the successor of Father Onderwater, through the Front Street wearing his blue spectacles. The man all his lifelong days had been suffering with bad eyes. It is ten minutes to one that he is on his way to the school, but today he will be going especially to the lowest class, which he visits the least. He proceeds straight to the not very large classroom, where Sister Helena Jacobs sees the opportunity to calm down the unbelievable number of ninety mostly small children and besides to try and teach them something as well.

Although already before entering, a bustle had betrayed his arrival. Even Sister Helena could not keep the children quiet; suddenly there is a deadly silence, when the sturdy figure in a white habit with the blue eye glasses appears in the doorway. It is more difficult all of a sudden to make ninety half wild boys and girls into well drilled civilized children who have had no training at home and who have never been to school. But in the long run it will turn out well.

In the presence of the Nuns the children have already lost a lot of their shyness and introvertedness, but when the strong presence of their spiritual shepherd appears, they suddenly crawl back in their shell where only with much patience and tact they can be brought out again.

The Father will also try to do that. He starts very tactfully with here and there to tap a dead shy toddler , in a good natured way, on his curly head, with the words; “What a strong boy you are already!” Or; “I can see this is a very strong girl, Sister.”


Sister Euphrosine van den Brink

After  having spent some ten minutes expressing such diplomatic reassurances  the reality appears, that the throbbing children’s hearts began to beat back normally again and the frightened look on their faces started to disappear from their eyes again. The Father observes this with satisfaction and ventures to take it one step further. He bows condescendingly over a young boy with a mischievous face and asks as soft as his full male voice can be made;” How old are you little one?” Oh Lord. He had not expected this from that clever looking little fellow. Silently the dead shy face descended between the hands on the bench. No answer. So then try it again with another one, but all around there was zero on the request. One head after the other descended quietly on the bench. As a last resort the priest looked with a sort of despair to the Sister, who was watching the situation with amusement. She had not expected any different results.

“You thought of course that you were asking something simple and easy; said Sister Helena smiling, but here not one child knows their age, nor do their parents. It appeared indeed that large oafs of girls from twelve to fourteen years bluntly maintained that they were four years old and absolutely did not understand that this was laughable to believe that.


Sister Regina Elegie

Father Suermondt did not allow himself to be knocked off the field easily. He knew he had lost the first round. They would at least know their own name he was sure. Sitting there was a large girl with bold eyes, who dared to look at him. Smiling the priest walked over to her and asked her with his most engaging face:” What is your name, dear child?’ Promptly the answer came: “Miss, Sir.” “Miss?” Miss What?” Miss how?” Perplexed the child looked at him. She had given her name and obviously the father was still not satisfied. Considering that according to her there was not more to add to this, she remained quiet and avoided the searching eyes of the desperate priest. He was however completely unexpectedly helped out by the observation of another child: “No Sir, she name Mary Elizabeth Washington, but they call her Miss.” The floodgates had been opened. It rained now with clarifications; “She mother name Williams, she call Magdalen Williams. Another one shouted out. “No sir she father gone.” And finally a fourth one brings you completely up to date: “She had never no father, Sir!”

Father Suermondt succeeds wonderfully to suppress his laughter and pretends to have interest in the information given. With courage he continues the investigation and gets to hear names like Mamsel, Lady, Baby, Pappa etc. Pleasant homely names, which in any case are more pleasant than the laughable grotesque names as Duchess, Duke, Prince, Princess, November, October etc. which were common back then and found among descendants of slaves.

Profoundly satisfied with the information obtained the Priest now directs his attention now to the Nun with the request to let the children render a song. That went fine. Together they had more courage than one by one and Sister Helena had difficulty to reign them in, otherwise the singing would have ended up in an ear piercing scream.

What a thing, there they are singing a very nice Christmas Carol and father Suermondt is reminded with a smile that last year at Christmas he was awakened with this same carol by a children’s choir which had come an hour before Midnight Mass to sing in front of his Presbytery.

“Can they also pray well, Sister?” the father wants to know afterwards. And then it breaks loose in stately chant, slowly, clearly, and without wavering: “Our Father, Hail Mary, and I believe in God the Father.”

The priest is in his element. A treat must be given for this performance. The large bottle of candy which has been kept hidden until now can no longer be hidden and triumphantly he raised the bottle in the air which was received by all with wild enthusiasm, to the despair of Sister Helena who could not maintain order in the face of so much temptation.

The candy is distributed, but the Sister in the meantime has thought up a trick to divert the attention of the children and to postpone a general candy party until after school. She organizes a game whereby the children must recite and at the same time make movements with arms and legs, so that it would be impossible for them to pay attention to their sour balls or liquorice. The trick only works partially. For many the temptation is too much and they still go on eating their sweets. To extend the pleasure somewhat, some of them take it after some minutes out of their mouths and the reduced to half sourball disappears in the pants pocket. Some of them even sit on it or place it under their feet as a precaution against it being stolen by one of the class mates.

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One of the priests in front of the Presbytery

The priest was very satisfied with his thorough first inspection of the newly born Catholic education in his small isolated parish and let it be known that he wanted to return to his presbytery. Sister Helena clapped her hands, a sharp clap, and all of the children stood at attention. Another clap and the entire class said in concert: “Goodbye Father.”

The Inspection was now over and done with (I assume now in 2016 that the Father after such a stressful school Inspection was headed back to the Presbytery for a well-deserved siesta.)

When the old timers read this on St. Maarten they will smile appreciatively thinking back on those good old days. Their children and grandchildren went to school to the very same Sister Helena and to good old Sister Euphrosene and to the so generally loved Sister Regina. I am most certain that half of the girls of Philipsburg presently are named Regina, as all mothers wanted to name their daughters after Sister Regina.

Yes, yes, the beginning was difficult, very difficult but our good Nuns can now in retrospect be proud of the excellent work which their pioneers brought about on St. Martín.

Curacao, 1951.

Taken from the book “Our Windward Islands” by M.D. Latour O.P. Curacao 1951 and translated from the Dutch language by Will Johnson.

The Colquhoun Family On Saba

The Saba Islander

The Colquhoun Family on Saba

By: Will Johnsoncolquhounlogo

If there is one family on Saba who know and who are proud of their family history it is the Colquhoun (pronounced Cohone or Cahone) family.

I recently visited the Inveraray Castle in Scotland headquarters of the Campbell clan who are distributed worldwide. Mr. Walter Campbell used to tell me that once he had visited the Duke at the Castle as well. It would have been the father of the present Duke. He would have been Ian, 12th Duke of Argyll (1937-2001) whose wife (still alive) was Iona Colquhoun of Luss. Little did Walter know at the time that he would settle on Saba later on and marry Mildred who is one of the Saban descendants of the Colquhoun’s of Scotland.

In the bus on the way to Inveraray Castle the Fairytale Highland Home of the Duke and Duchess of Argyll…

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The Colquhoun Family On Saba

The Colquhoun Family on Saba

By: Will Johnsoncolquhounlogo

If there is one family on Saba who know and who are proud of their family history it is the Colquhoun (pronounced Cohone or Cahone) family.

I recently visited the Inveraray Castle in Scotland headquarters of the Campbell clan who are distributed worldwide. Mr. Walter Campbell used to tell me that once he had visited the Duke at the Castle as well. It would have been the father of the present Duke. He would have been Ian, 12th Duke of Argyll (1937-2001) whose wife (still alive) was Iona Colquhoun of Luss. Little did Walter know at the time that he would settle on Saba later on and marry Mildred who is one of the Saban descendants of the Colquhoun’s of Scotland.

In the bus on the way to Inveraray Castle the Fairytale Highland Home of the Duke and Duchess of Argyll the lady guide mentioned that the present Duke’s mother was a Cohone. That is the way she pronounced it. As soon as the bus came to a stop I spoke to her and I told her of the Cohone’s of Saba. She thought that the Duke would be there at the Castle but we were informed that he was out of town on official duties. I did buy a signed copy of the book on the history of Inveraray Castle and Gardens signed by the Duke himself.duke-of-argyll

Here on Saba we have people like Senator Ray Hassell, Commissioner Bruce Zagers and others who are descended from the Colquhoun’s. The late Norman Hassell of ‘Under-The-Hill’ in Windward Side, who did much research on his Saba family history was proud of his Cohone ancestry. ‘Mas Cohone Hill’ is a living reminder of this history. In slavery times the Master was referred to as Mas and this was also carried over to those who were not slaves.

One of the most precious books which I have in my sizeable library is the one “The Saban Way “by Greg Johnson. In that book he lovingly portrays his Saba parents and they growing up here and then moving to Aruba where his father Chester worked for the LAGO, and where Chester met his wife Dena also from Saba and were married there in 1948.

I especially enjoy the interviews which he had with his father when he was a boy working in the mountain with his father Cohone and being distracted by large pods of whales passing by the island.

Every family should be privileged to have such a detailed history of their family and their roots and the close knit relation they had and the shared memories of growing up on Aruba and later in Texas. A wonderful book and writing about it makes me want to read it one more time.

I know that Greg will not mind me quoting extensively from his book in order to give a better picture of how one of the Colquhoun family ended up on Saba.


Iona Colquhoun on the left mother of the Duke pictured here with his wife and first born.

“Barbados was also a destination for many Scots banished to the West Indies. In David Dobson’s ‘Scottish Emigration to Colonial America 1607-1785), on page 70 he states; “The single most important source that could be used to identify the early Scottish residents of Barbados would probably be the Parish Registers. Taking 1678-79 as a sample year, a number of Scottish surnames were found in the surviving registers. The St. James [parish] registers contain Cuthbert, Seaton, Affleck, Murray, Nell, Linkletter, Colquhoun and Spence.” [Public Records Office, London 13.24.172 -182].


Inveraray Castle taken from the bus as we made our approach.

Barbados became the springboard for colonization of other West Indian Island colonies as well as those on the American mainland, according to Richard S. Dunn’s ‘Sugar and Slaves: The Rise of the Planter Class in the West Indies, 1624 -1713. On page 165, Dunn gives an overview of what was happening on Barbados in those early years; “By the middle years of Charles II’s reign, there were 400 households in the capitol, Bridgetown, 175 big planters, 190 middling, and 1000 small ones, 1300 additional freemen, 2300 indentured servants and 40,000 slaves.”

“According to records I have located thus far, the first generation Cohone Johnson of Saba was born in 1806 and was listed in an old record on baptisms as Colquhoun (pronounced Cahoon) Johnstone, two names that have historical origins in Scotland. The name Colquhoun was probably changed by Dutch Government officials in translation from spoken word to documents, as Cohone, a phonetic derivative. This Cohone or Colquhoun was my great-great-grandfather. (* Note to Greg. I asked the tour guide on the bus to pronounce it for me more than once and she came up with Cohone each time).

Will Johnson of Saba was also very helpful in my research. He is considered to be the greatest source of historical information pertaining to Saba, Sabans and the West Indies. I spoke to him about my quest, and he shared with me his theory of how Cohone Johnson, or “Colquhoun Johnstone,” arrived on Saba.duke-of-argill-4

“St. Eustatius was at one time known as the Golden Rock and a lot of Saba families came from there. After Captain Rodney sacked Statia in 1781 many of the people gradually left. That event in history was Britain’s revenge on Statia. You see they were supplying the rebels in the colonies with guns and ammunition – not to mention being the first foreign land to salute the American flag, a gesture that took place at Fort O on November 16, 1776, when the brig Andrew Doria visited the island. But during the boom years [mid to late 1700s] Saba and Statia functioned like one community. People were going back and forth on a daily basis by schooner, sloop, what have you. A lot of Saba people had their businesses there …many of the present day prominent families including yours. Your grandmother, Orie Hassell, who later married the policeman Eert Sloterdijk, her mother was a Holm and her grandmother was a Wilmans, all of Statia.

In 1792, a man named Colquhoun Johnstone witnessed a baptism on Saba. Then on December 28, 1838, Colquhoun Johnstone’s name appears on a Saba baptism record for his daughter, Rebecca, aged 10 months. I believe Johnstone was the correct spelling. An ancestor from the maternal side, a mother for instance, might have belonged to the Colquhoun clan and, to preserve the name, gave it as a first name, a Christian name. It was a tradition here on Saba, especially among the more prominent families. They would have surnames as first names. During this era, Dutch officials translated surnames to suit their purposes, thus the gradual transition on birth, baptism, and death certificates of Colquhoun to Cohone and Johnstone to Johnson. I haven’t been able to confirm all these connections [because there are no records].


Cohone “Jack” Johnson III in New York city in 1912 at the age of 27. “My great-grandfather, my grandfather and my father, they were all Cohones (a.ka. Colquhouns), born and raised on Saba. Author Greg Johnson.

If you notice the accent on Saba, it has a bit of the Barbados accent because a lot of our ancestors were originally from Barbados. They were always looking for a new place where nobody had established roots. Going back and looking for your ancestors from Saba you have to keep those other islands in mind. You can’t make the jump from here to Scotland and England. The only exception would be Cohone Johnson. As a boy I heard that Cohone Johnson had a Statia connection.’

This interview with me was done sixteen years ago. Greg Johnson’s book was published in 2001. He goes on to say under Author’s Note: ‘Thus far, I have found official Dutch government – issued death certificates that state Richard Johnson (1759-1831) was the Johnson family patriarch and the father of Cohone Johnson I (1806-1882) and grandfather of Cohone Johnson II (1843 -1912) and great grandfather of Cohone ‘Jack’ Johnson (1885-1950), who is my grandfather. After my Uncle Jacob Cohone Johnson of Bermuda, I am the fifth Cohone Johnson, and part of the tradition. I am still searching for old records that would take me further back in time.” So far quoting Greg Johnson. He has more information in his book but I agree with him that the Colquhouns of Saba originate near the shores of Loch Lomond in Scotland.

Since the interview with Greg took place much information of the Colquhoun clan has been published on the Internet. Those who are interested in doing more research on this clan can do more research for themselves on the Internet.


Here standing in front of the Castle on the way in to visit.

I visited Inveraray Castle on Wednesday September 14th 2016. Very interesting. I left a note in the visitor’s book that Richard Colquhoun was paying his respects. I am not descended from the Cohone family. I am related to Greg for example through his grandmother Maggie who was a sister of my grandmother Agnes, but I am no direct descendant. On St. Maarten airport I met Mark Zagers and was telling something about my trip. Mark immediately announced with pride:’ I am a Cohone you know.’ They are tall people and strongly built those Cohone’s of Saba for the most part. Rupert Hassell and his sons were/are big men.

I also learned much about the Campbell clan at the castle. As head of the Clan Campbell, the Duke of Argyll is known as ‘ MacCailein Mor, meaning ‘Son of the Great Colin’. Knighted in 1280, Colin was the first of the Campbell’s and held lands around Loch Awe. Later, the family were supporters of King Robert the Bruce and fought alongside him during his historic victory over Edward II at the Battle of Bannockburn. Today there are thousands of loyal clan members all over the world. Many travel vast distances for reunions and celebrations, whether it’s a World Reunion at Dunedin in New Zealand or a Clan gathering at Inveraray Castle.

I must say that I enjoyed my visit to the Highlands. What I noticed with pleasure is that many of the hills which were denuded of their forests in order to raise sheep have been planted with trees in the past half century or so.14457253_1186656651357745_7476791326506303431_n

As I sat on a bench in the beautiful gardens of the Castle I thought that I might propose to the present Duke that he could spend a couple of months every winter at my home on Saba and I could look after the castle. He could pal around with his family members like Ray Hassell, Mark Zagers and others, while I while away the wintry days reading and writing and pretending that I am back among those warriors fighting along with King Robert the Bruce for the independence of Scotland. I cannot mention his name without thinking of my friend Ralph Berkel of St. Eustatius. When we were in the Island Council of the Windward Islands together he would often quote in meetings of the Island Council the story of King Robert the Bruce. He had lost six battles against the English. In the cave he saw a spider trying to make his web and six times he failed to reach a point he was trying to get to. The seventh time he succeeded. This was a divine message to King Robert who then went out, rallied his men and defeated Edward II at the Battle of Bannockburn. As I write this I hear the sad tone of the bagpipes calling on me to put on the battle dress of the MacEwen clan or the Johnstone’s of the borderlands and follow the call to battle once again.


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