The Saba Islander

by Will Johnson

Archive for the month “March, 2017”

Dr. George Illidge van Romondt

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Dr. George Illidge van Romondt (1809-1854). This photo must have been taken before his death as photography was in its early stages back then.

Dr. George Illidge van Romondt

By; Will Johnson

Doctor van Romondt was born on St. Maarten on December 9th, 1809 and died there on July 2nd, 1854.

His parents were Diederick Johannes van Romondt born in Amsterdam on February 16th, 1781 and died on St.Maarten on April 19th, 1849. He arrived on St. Maarten in 1803. In 1804 he married Ann Hassell born on St. Maarten in 1784 and died in 1845. She was a daughter of John Hassell and Susanna Westerbrand.

Diederick Johannes served as Governor from 1820 to 1840, and was the progenitor of the powerful Van Romondt family who dominated St. Martin economically and politically until the death of Diederick Christian of Tintamarre and Mary’s Fancy fame in 1948.

At a young age George went to Holland in order to prepare for his planned academic

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This house before being sold to the Roman Catholic church was the home and perhaps clinic as well of Dr. George Illidge van Romondt.

studies. That was customary in those days as there were no secondary schools in the Dutch West Indies. His parents left him behind at the home of a certain Johannes van der Zandt, with whom he built up an excellent relationship, seeing the fact that in his dissertation George mentions him as his dearly beloved uncle. He dedicates his dissertation, written in Latin to him:

‘Tu! Carissime Avuncule! Senex plurimum venerande! J. van der Zandt, qui jam a juventute, dux, mihi vitae exstitisti cujus curis, ego, puer, a perentibus meis carissimis, committebar!’

(My beloved uncle, respectable J. Van der Zandt, who already from my youth has been a leading mentor in my life and to whose care as a young boy I was entrusted by my beloved parents.

So goes his song of praise for a number of sentences further to the figure of his foster father.

It is probably useful to stand still at this phenomenon. Only in the Second World War a Secondary School was established on Curacao which was also frequented by pupils from the other islands and from Suriname where there was also no institute for secondary education.

That meant that up until 1940 young people from the Dutch West Indies, who had ambitions for secondary education (middle school, high school, university) already at the age of  between fourteen and fifteen years left for a long period for the Netherlands. They landed in boarding schools or were turned over to foster families.

That sometimes strong ties developed between pupil and foster parents is obvious from the emotional dedication to his foster father in his dissertation.

Van Romondt studied medicine at the University of Leiden and is part of the Corps Leiden’s Freedom Fighters, and as such takes part in the military activities of 1830/1831 against the Belgians, and thus also took part in the Ten Days Campaign. Because of this he lost a year and on October 3rd, 1831, after demobilization, he continued his studies. And then followed on August 7th, 1834 his graduation in Leiden with in the meantime his famous thesis; Rationem, qua systema cutaneum, hepaticum et nervosum in regionibus tropicis affici possunt et morbos praecipuos exinde oriundos. (The reason why the skin-, liver,- and nerve system in the tropics can be attacked and the specific illnesses which are a result of this).

Why famous? Because this is probably the first Dutch dissertation which has tropical diseases as its subject. His promotor is Prof. Macquelin.

Dr. van Romondt writes in his foreword: ‘Now that I have kept myself busy for fifteen years already – with the exception, in which I because of the Belgian insurrection was involved with militias of academic’s, was involved in armed conflict – in the seat of the muses , Leiden, was busy with medical sciences, the solemn day has finally dawned in which I must bring my academic studies to an end; faster than I had thought because if they had not decided otherwise, I would have without a doubt planned to the study of surgery, of which I consider the practice no less desirable in the West Indian islands as that of medicine.

His promotion was a success. The diploma is accompanied with written tributes of rector and professors in which he is given much praise.

They write: ‘When he displayed before us and for the subject a kindness and modesty of spirit, we gladly presented him the certificate with praise and virtue, which he deserves.

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Dr. Hendrik van Rijgersma who practiced on St. Maarten from 1863 until his death in 1877.

After his graduation he returned in 1834 to his native St. Martin and until his death, in 1854, he was a general practitioner in Philipsburg. Already working there at the time was his brother-in-law Dr. Philogene Phillippe Maillard (b. St.Croix June 1st, 1806 and died St. Martin Augugust 31st 1886). His first wife was Susanna Elizabether Illidge van Romondt, sister of Dr. George).

In 1863 the Dutch Government sent out Dr. Hendrik Rijgersma to attend the needs of the liberated slaves. He worked on St. Maarten from 1863 until his death in 1877. He owned the Welgelegen plantation and is remembered as a noted scientist.

Dr. George Illidge van Romondt on his return married Angeline Petersen of St. Barth’s whose parents were Peter Petersen and Ann Maria Laporter. Angeline’s sister Susan was married to Diederick Christian van Romondt (born 1807) and a brother of Dr. George. Their children then were double first cousins.

Dr. George and his wife Angeline had 5 children, the youngest of which was Ann Sophia van Romondt born December 13th, 1849 and who was married to the Dutch engineer Cornelis J. Hudig. In an article ‘My dear Kees’ in the Saba Islander I have written about this couple already.

From his dissertation of 43 pages we quote a few fragments, translated in English from the

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Thesis in Latin of Dr. George on the diseases of the tropics.

Dutch and Latin, to illustrate for that period in time, his intimate knowledge and sharp clinical eye.

Tetanus:

Tetanus is a complete tonic convulsion of which the patient himself is no longer aware. The illness causes a general contraction and stiffness of muscles or part of the muscle system; the name of it is different depending on the part which is affected. And so one speaks of real tetanus when a general contraction and stiffness of the muscles is observed, whereby the body spreads itself out completely, and becomes stiff and cannot move. . Opisthotonus when the body is bent over, Emprosthotonus when it bends forward. Trismuss when the lower jaw because of a heavy contraction is pulled in such a way to the upper jaw and the mouth cannot open again. This spasmodic affliction is generally observed in tropical regions because of the great sensitivity and movement of the nervous system. It can develop at the slightest irritation, through a sting or bite of insects, through wounds, damage by exertion, damage of nerves and ‘aponluirosen’ etc. Often also through the cooling of a heated body or by dampness which damage the skin. In the tropics it often occurs that on the ninth day after birth babies are sensitive to this illness.

About a form of paralysis which the inhabitants call beriberi.

Beriberi is a disease which very often leads to a paralytic form; it starts with pain in the small of the back, subsequently the lower limbs and the vocal chords can no longer move, and finally the entire body becomes stiff and cannot move cf. Bontus Medicina Indiorum. This disease which affects the people is called by the inhabitants Beriberi (which resembles the noise of a sheep. I believe because those who have this disease walk like sheep with bended knees and with legs pulled up). There is also a sort which causes paralysis the movement and the feeling in hands and feet and sometimes the entire body becomes different. This disease occurs in the time in which the winds are cold and blow from the continent especially in the months of December and February.

Especially foreigners such as Europeans are very sensitive to this disease, when they are drunk, or sleep in damp places or under a rainy sky. If this disease is not cured quickly a ‘hycerops’ of the joints, swelling of the entire body, stupor and lameness occurs. Healing is not easy, because of which medical practitioners advise the sick to go and live elsewhere or to take a sea journey.

Colica Pictonum.

Colica Pictonum appears in the residents of the tropics (dry belly ache). The name comes from the region of Pictavia Galliae (Poitu) where the illness was first discovered to have originated through the use of very sour wine, and a lead solution with which the wines have been impregnated. In the West Indies this illness is endemic. The cause is principally to be found in the lead solutions which is used in the distillation of rum.

This illness is accompanied by a terrible pain of one part of the body to the other. Often accompanied by frequent green vomit. That vomit is so bitter that silver objects become black as if they had been in contact with Sulphur. This is followed by a stubborn constipation, dry tongue covered with a brown layer, and finally- if the illness persists for some time- there develops a lameness of the lower limbs which does not disappear again.

Notes: Much of this article is translated from an article in Caraibische Cadens by Wim Statius van Eps and Robert Royer: ‘Twee Antiliaanse medische studenten en de Tiendaagse Veldtocht.

 

 

 

 

WINDS OF WAR

Winds of War

By Will Johnson

In former times the Island Administrators were obliged to keep a Journal of the important events taking place on their islands.

A pity that some of them were lazy in this regard and did not bother to mention anything in the Journals. Some of them went over to keeping the Journal in Dutch, others in English.

I have found just parts of a few of these journals. For this article I want to show events leading up to the Second World War and the number of warships cruising in this then unimportant part of the world.

Some of the schooners mentioned here may have had English registry or United States registry but they were owned by Sabans and traded throughout the West Indies. To the article I will attach some photo’s to make it more interesting to the reader.

Starting with May 22nd 1936 we will present some of that which is written in the parts of the Journals of which I have copies.

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Florence M. Douglas going down river in Guyana

22 May 1936; ‘Florence M. Douglas’ English three Master schooner left with 10 passengers to Barbados.

30 May 1936; ‘Shipped out 11 (eleven) bulls to Curacao with the S.S. ‘Baralt’.

20 June 1936; English schooner ‘Marion Belle Wolfe’ arrived from St. Maarten with 1

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Marion Belle Wolfe here with a house in tow after a tidal wave in Canada

passenger. Left on June 22nd for St. Thomas with no passengers.

November 12th 1936. Dutch schooner ‘Esther Anita’ from St. Maarten with 4 passengers.

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‘Ester Anita’ here docked up in Manhattan close to the Brooklyn bridge. This was when we had regular schooner trade with New York.

Left November 13th with 2 passengers for Barbados via St. Eustatius.

1937.

January 9th, Kenneth Bolles returns to Saba.

March 23rd 1937: Vice Lt. Governor went for a walk to Mary’s Point and became lost. He and his party were found at 11pm and arrived back in The Bottom at 3am after a search party of locals located them. He records in his diary that approximately around 8.30 pm he saw five Man-of-Wars in a line passing by in a West-South-West direction.  (Kaiser Sorton informed me that the British fleet used to pass the island regularly on their way to Jamaica).

7 May 1937. English schooner ‘Nanette’ left for Bird Island with 4 passengers and returned on the 18th. (They used to go there to fish and to catch turtles, birds etc.) The ‘Nanette’ left

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Aves or Bird Island which at one time was claimed by Holland as Sabans  used to fish there. My grandfather James Horton Simmons and a group of men would row a boat to Statia. From there they would take a course and after twelve hours of rowing they would turn back and try to make it to Statia. In 1865 or so Venezuela won a case against Holland claiming they had inherited Bird Island from Spain and they won!

on the 20th to St. Eustatius without passengers. They had completed their fishing trip.

June 10th, 1937. Arrived from Curacao H.M. Submarine 014 and left in the night for St. Martin.

August 20th, 1937.  Plus/Minus 160 mm or 6.5 inches of rain fell during the night.

November 27th. 1937. Vice Lt. Governor A.H.M. van Weel passed over to the sub Act. Lt. Governor G.P. Jansen’

December 20th, 1937 ELECTIONS.

A.R.W.G. Brouwer received 12 votes and Cl.R. Plantz 3 votes.

This election was for the colonial council. Brouwer was the son of Governor A.J.C. Brouwer and was born on Saba, but Plantz who was born on St. Thomas of a German father and a mother from St. Eustatius won on the other two islands. He was also the preferred candidate of the Roman Catholic Church at the time.

January 7th, 1938. Arriving from Barbados the U.S. registered schooner ‘Marion Belle Wolfe’ with 10 passengers and departed for Anguilla with 1 passenger.

March 5th, 1938 H.M. ship Jan van Brakel arrived with the Governor General on Board.

November 16th, 1938 A.H.M. van Weel first to St. Maarten and then transferred to Curacao. G.P. Jansen took over the office of Vice Lt. Governor.

December 24, 1938 English registered yacht ‘Roavia’ with members of the ‘Lord Moyne Commission’ and some guests on board, among which Mrs. Winston Churchill. They were received by Vice Lt. Governor G.P. Jansen. Because of the short time available they were only able to visit The Bottom.

December 30th, 1938. Arrived from Antigua the Belgian trading ship ‘Mercator’ and later in the day continued on to ‘La Guairá’.

January 18th, 1939 Mr. Xavier H.C.M. Krugers took over as Onder Gezaghebber.

JANUARY 26TH, 1939; Report of two Man-of-Wars, probably torpedo chasers as far as could be observed, with numbers D15 and D 17 and without flag sailing in the direction of St. Eustatius. Probably 2 units of the American fleet, which are now holding manoeuvers in this area.

February 26th, 1939. Sunday. ‘A report from Hell’s Gate that a plane had crashed in the sea about 8 miles away and had burnt as they saw plenty smoke. A similar incident took place during the period when I functioned here before and it turned out to be a plane of the British Marine. ‘No further particulars concerning the plane have been heard also nothing on the radio because it was probably a Marine plane.

April 19th; what seemed a Man-of-War signaling from the Spring Bay was not confirmed.

April 20th, 1939. An English Man-of-War sighted off St. Eustatius going in the direction of St. Kitts.

September 23rd, 1939. Around 12 o’clock close to the coast estimated between 2 and 300 meters from the Ladder Bay to the Fort Bay an American light cruiser marked in the 2nd smokestack “E”. With several planes on board and headed in the direction of St. Eustatius.

November 21 1939, a strange cruiser passed here about 5 miles from the coast and 2 planes circled several times over the island, could not determine the nationality.

December 6th, 1939; The vice Lt. Governor Xavier Krugers today passed over temporarily the Administration of this island to Dr. D.R. de La Fuente and left at 3pm with the S.S.

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THe S.S. Baralt at Fort Bay.

Baralt to St. Eustatius.

December 12th, 1939. At some distance from St. Eustatius saw a Man-of-War which did not seem to be moving ahead and probably was lying at anchor. In the Windward Side it is reported that around 7.45 am a large Man-of-War passed very close to Saba and headed in the direction of St. Eustatius.

December 13th 1939. Around 6.30 pm a steamship passed close to the Fort Bay headed west. Supposedly a Man-of-War. With search lights signals were given from which could be decoded was “Good night Saba.”

December 18th, 1939 at around 2pm a tanker and a Man-of-War passed along the Fort Bay in a Westerly direction, the latter was flying a British flag according to reports. From Hell’s Gate it was reported that a French Man-of-War had passed the island.

January 11th, 1940 in the morning a French airplane with the identification NEC5666 across The Bottom. Sometime later it was reported from Windward Side that around 2.5 miles from the coast a Man-of-War unknown nationality had intercepted a tanker whereby hoses had been connected to the warship from the tanker and after some time they both went their way.

January 31st 1940. Mr. Halmberg arrived here. He is the representative of the KLM. His intention was to check on a location for the eventual building of an airport. He checked out

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No room for an airport but the first helicopter did land at St. John’s.

property on St. John’s.

Additional notations;

Average rainfall on Saba 1200 mm per year.

Rainfall recorded for the year 1939 was 955 mm.

May 31st, 1949; there are almost daily flights of two French planes over Saba these past weeks.

June 28th, 1940. Although the collection from The Bottom for Dutch victims of war is not known yet the collection from the entire island is nearly fls. 1.250.—this is very special for such a small impoverished island.

Journal ends July 10th, 1940.

A great pity that these journals were not maintained on a regular basis. That is the very least which the then Vice Lt. Governors could have done. However in going through the minutes of the meetings of the Council of Policy much more can be found covering that period when there was general concern about events in Europe. Especially after the occupation of The Netherlands by the German Army Saba was cast adrift. St. Kitts and Barbados were part of the British Empire and were fighting the Germans. Curacao, and Aruba were first occupied by the British army to defend the oil refineries and then the United States took over. For trading purposes Saba could at least depend on St. Thomas but the Second World War was a period of want. A good thing that our people could farm in the mountain area and elsewhere and could depend on their livestock and fishing on the Saba

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During the war flour was a scarce commodity. Here are some donkeys with Gold Medal Flour for Miss Helena Peterson-Every’s bakery in Windward Side.

Bank and on the rocks and in the cliffs around the island.

Interesting from these tidbits gleaned from the Governor’s Journals is that Mrs. Winston Churchill and the Moyne Commission visited Saba. Also that the KLM representative Mr. Halmberg had inspected St. John’s for the possibility of building an airport there. St. John’s??? A good thing that Mr. Remy de Haenen saw the possibility of Flat Point or else we would still be taking the boat to the surrounding islands.

Now that there is so much instability in the world anything can happen so it is good to know how things were in the years leading up to the second World War.

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