Crowds in Fox Hill gathered inside and outside around the Mt. Carey Church to listen to Christie Wednesday night – More persons attended the lecture than FNMs attending the Opposition Rally!
The day we thought would never come when Bahamians would rather attend a lecture over an FNM RALLY! Crowds packed outside peeping through the church to hear Christie
NASSAU, The Bahamas — During his lecture on the history of Fox Hill, on Wednesday, August 7, 2013, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Member of Parliament for Fox Hill the Hon. Fred Mitchell spoke of the role the community in the history of The Bahamas and the part it continues to play in nation building.
“Today Fox Hill is in 2013 at the end of a continuum: built on a history of struggle and toil; it is at the forefront of the struggle of the maintenance of the African identity in The Bahamas,” Minister Mitchell said at the event at the Mt. Carey Baptist Church in Fox Hill. “Why is it I wonder that this community forged as it was by an accident of history has ended up being the intellectual centre of the African movement in our country? This is a matter that deserves more study and support.”
Among the senior Government officials present at the event were Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Hon. Perry G. Christie; Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Works and Urban Development the Hon. Philip Davis; Minister of Tourism the Hon. Obie Wilchcombe; Bahamas High Commissioner to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) His Excellency Picewell Forbes Chairman of the Gaming Board and Member of Parliament Dr. Andre Rollins.
Minister Mitchell said Fox Hill has changed with the coming of the new subdivisions and the people from “over town”, as the outsiders are called by “Fox Hillians”.
“The newcomers must know the history,” Minister Mitchell said. “The story that I have told tonight is about the people that we call the Bahamians. The more problematic entrants are the Haitian migrants who have settled in low cost rental units throughout the area.
“Their children make up almost a third of the Sandilands Primary School and if they are going to continue to be part of the unfolding story of Fox Hill, will they be told the story so the story also becomes their story? That is an issue that only Fox Hillians and their government can settle over time.”
He added that, in a sense, inward migration is not new because migration from other Bahamian islands into Fox Hill has been continuous over the past two centuries, from Eleuthera and from Exuma in particular.
“This new group of course is French speakers and this presents new issues and a new ethos with which to deal,” Minister Mitchell said.
Minister Mitchell said that the late Rex Nettleford used to describe the region’s societies as being “the rhythm of Africa with the melody of Europe”. While some say that Professor Nettleford’s expression is simplistic, Minister Mitchell continued, what it pithily describes is the interactions between a dominant culture of Europe and the subsumed and supposed inferior culture of Africa.
“What we know from that expression is that the music is not complete without both parts. People try as they might to suppress the African presence but try as they might it keeps on coming and Fox Hill has led the way in this presence,” Minister Mitchell said. “It infuses our music, our art, and our very lives. We are African and Fox Hill each year at this Emancipation Day are reminded of it.”
He added that every year at this time, the eyes of The Bahamas are on Fox Hill.
“This year in our 40th year as a country, we look particularly at the role which Fox Hill played in who we are today. It reminds us of the African ethos to our origins,” he said. “We came here by accident, against our wills but we have forged a magnificent future while we have occupied these rocks.”
Minister Mitchell pointed out that Governor General His Excellency Sir Arthur Foulkes said in a recent interview that The Bahamas is 40 years as an independent country, but it was a country before 1973.
“Tonight, we have lived through some of the events which make that statement of the Governor General more self-evident,” he noted. “We were here before 1973 and with God’s help we shall endure long after these 40 years.
“The question is: what will our children do? The future is surely theirs. Whether we like it or not, we pass it off to them.”
Minister Mitchell said that he is confident that Bahamian youth are “smarter than us, better educated than us, and that whatever vision they have for this country they will protect all of the things about which we have spoken here tonight”.
“We are speaking about the dignity of man; that no man or woman shall ever again be a slave; that the resources of this country belong to all Bahamians of whatever hue and description,” Minister Mitchell said.
FRED MITCHELL MP
FOR FOX HILL
7TH AUGUST 2013
MT. CAREY BAPTIST CHURCH
Good evening Prime Minister and let me add my words of welcome to all of you this evening on this special occasion. I wish to thank the Pastor of the Mt. Carey Baptist Church the Rev. Warren Anderson, the oldest Baptist congregation in what we call today the Village of Fox Hill. He is the fourteenth in a line of pastors for this church dating back to 1842.
Let me state the obvious. I am not a Fox Hillian by birth. I would like to believe that in this my 11th year as the Member of Parliament and my 16th year as a candidate for this area that I can qualify as a Fox Hillian by adoption. Be that as it may, it is an area which is special to me not just because of my professional connection but also because as a committed Africanist, it looms large in my imagination as one of the last repositories of the African culture established in our country where the slaves were brought from Africa those many centuries ago. We who govern the nation today as the beneficiaries of the work done by those slaves and former slaves, transplanted against their will from the West and Central Africa to these islands. We must never forget them: now gone on, many names we will never find in the history books. This then tonight is dedicated to them and indeed all men and women of goodwill who fought and continue to fight for the dignity of the African in this land and for all people.
This lecture was commissioned by the Rt. Honourable Prime Minister, both he and I hail from the Valley, which is some distance away from here but ever since I became a candidate in this area, he has come to Fox Hill every year to join in the Fox Hill Day celebrations. Fox Hill Day is celebrated on the second Tuesday in August. Before the year that he first came in 1998, he had never been to one before and was fascinated by the traditions.
In terms of the public policy one of the observations that he made was the fact that if we were not careful to nurture these traditions they would die out. It was important to teach the young people and keep them engaged in the traditions of the Village culture.
I had been speaking to him over the years of his coming here about us trying to settle a narrative which would be the definitive history of Fox Hill. This would be something that every student in the primary school, the Sandilands Primary School could learn in a short pithy statement which summed up the history of their village. I reached out to my political opponent at the time Senator Jacinta Higgs about us together trying to settle this narrative. She is unable to be here tonight but she has embraced the project and has been working on a book to tell the story of Fox Hill. I look forward to its content.
The Prime Minister as a result of our conversations challenged me last year from his address on the podiums in the churches in Fox Hill to give a lecture on the history of Fox Hill this year for the people of The Bahamas. This would be particularly important since this year is the 40th anniversary of the independence of our country. So this challenge is being met today by this lecture.
I break no new ground here. The sources are many including notes from the social history of Fox Hill. I am simply in this exercise summarizing what the sources have said in the hope that this becomes a narrative for the younger generation to adopt.
I believe that a people who know who they are and where they have come from are a stronger and more resilient people. I want the little children in the Sandilands Primary School to know that they have a goodly heritage. In the words of the Bible, they are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession. As trite as this may seem, we must reinforce this message at every point to our little ones. In the words of the Rev. Jesse Jackson: they are somebody.
So my thanks at the start to the Prime Minister and the government generally for supporting this night and all our efforts here in Fox Hill.
I also want to tell the story of my association with Fox Hill.
My father Frederick Audley Mitchell Sr. was a Bain Town man, born in 1919 and a contemporary of the late Cleveland Eneas also of Bain Town and christened in St. Agnes Church. My mother was born in Augusta Street and though she later moved to the land appointed to her mother, formerly a Hanna in the White Grounds, she was christened in St. Agnes Church in February 1923, three months after her birth on Christmas eve 1922. The point of this is that the Africanism in me therefore comes naturally. Both my parents were born in Bain Town which was one of the centres of African culture and more particularly as described by Dr. Cleveland Eneas Yoruba culture in The Bahamas. Both bore the legends Africans to describe their race on their birth certificates as did mine when I came along in 1953.
So it would be no surprise then and in retrospect that my childhood memories are replete with the excitement of my mother packing all of us together my brother and I to come to Fox Hill on Fox Hill Day for the programmes at the churches, the food, the guineps and the freedom which we had as children to simply run around and do anything we wanted. On day that adults were very permissive with us as children.
When therefore on that fateful day in 1996, the late George Mackey, the former MP for this area, walked into my office to ask me if I would mind if he recommended my name to the late Sir Lynden O. Pindling to be a candidate for this area, it was in many respects befitting the expression from Shakespeare: “Oh my prophetic soul!”
His parting words were that if I got the nomination and if I were successful as the representative, my job was to protect and enhance the people of Fox Hill: their history and their traditions. I embraced that mission and that is why in the month of August so much of the energy and resources of the state are put into ensuring that the Festival is successful.
The history books say that the Fox Hill Festival began as a celebration of emancipation day in 1857. By 1870 or so, the celebrations on 1st August had morphed into Fox Hill Day with completely separate celebrations from Emancipation Day itself.
In a minute I will go to the primary sources and quote extensively from them but first I would wish to record the history of how Fox Hill came to be Fox Hill.
Here is what the Archives records:
The village was named after one Samuel Fox who owned a piece of property in the Eastern District of New Providence. His estate, a total of some twenty three and half acres was said to be on the present site of St. Augustine’s Monastery and was granted in 1801.
Records show that the village of Fox Hill existed before 1850. They also show that Robert Sandilands in 1849 laid out and sold allotments the general area commonly known and designated by the name of Fox Hill. In addition to Sandilands Village, the Fox Hill area includes the inhabitants of the Creek Village which was located on the North eastern Coast of New Providence; it was closely linked to Fox Hill. During the 1930s the inhabitants of this village sold their land and moved to Sandilands Village.
Other Villages found in Fox Hill are Congo and Nango Towns, Joshua and Burnside Towns. It is believed that Congo and Nango Towns were named after resident Africans who belonged to either the Congo or Nango Tribe. Joshua Town is situate south of Nango Town and Burnside Town, no longer exists.”
Gladys Manuel, nee Brown wrote the following:
Fox Hill was a settlement in existence before Sandilands Village. Mr. Robert Sandilands, the English landowner after whom the Village was named only arrived in the Colony of the Bahama Islands to serve as a Justice of the General Court in 1820s and did not begin his development of Sandilands Village until 1890. On the other hand, Mr. Samuel Fox was a freed slave. He came to the colony during the pre-emancipation period. Fox Hill was officially granted 23 and a half acres of land in 1801 and the community in the vicinity of his estate became known as “Fox Hill”.
It appears that the first residents of the Fox Hill settlement were like Samuel Fox, also freed African slaves, whereas those who were to populate Sandilands Village along with Robert Sandilands and under his auspices were “country born” or persons in the colony of African descent.
On the 1950 map, Sandilands Village is marked east of James Jarrat’s land.
Creek Village began in 1750, when missionaries from the Church of England calling the village New Guinea travelled there from Christ Church in Nassau Town, to hold religious services in the houses of native residents. Robert Sandilands who had donated the burial grounds (Now Freedom Park) in the village to that church one year prior to the move from Creek to Sandilands Village; the move to Sandilands Village gained new momentum due to the past severe hurricanes which had devastated the north coast of New Providence. Agricultural Development was guided and encouraged by Robert Sandilands.
Mr. Sandilands described Fox Hill as “a firm body of industrious and contented people upon whose labour one can always depend…for wages of one shilling per day.”
The Department of the Archives wrote this in 1987:
During the 1820s and 1830s a number of liberated African settlements outside the city of Nassau were established. This action had become necessary because the white inhabitants resented the presence of these freed blacks in the colony. Each African or Black settlement in New Providence celebrated their own individual festival on first August with church services and parades. However, as a far back as the 1870s Fox Hill Day celebrations were held on the second Tuesday in August. It was a time of revelry which the people of Fox Hill, Grants Town and Bain Town enjoyed.
Here is what the Nassau Guardian wrote on 13th August 1890:
Fox Hill Day holiday was observed yesterday by crowd of persons who assembled at that village from several districts. They had a very bright day for their pleasure, and for a wonder escaped the rain which as a rule gives some people a drenching before they reach home on such occasions. Carriages were plying along the streets throughout the day and afternoon conveying passengers to and from Sandilands.
The annual gatherings of the Sunday Schools in connection with the Baptist Churches viz: St. Mark’s, St. Paul’s and Zion, took place from which great pleasure was derived by those who were present.
The only casualty we know d was the death of a horse owned by Mr. George Armbrister which had made several trips up and down with a carriage.
Dr. Gail Saunders writing in Historic Bahamas said the following:
Some think that Fox Hill and Sandilands Village are one and the same. However, Just Robert Sandilands, a judge in the General (Supreme) Court arrived in New Providence in the 1920s and also resided in the eastern area of Fox Hill. He laid out a small village in the area in the 1830s and 1840s. Dividing up the land, he sold lots as six shillings each and provided mortgages. ($14 in today’s money). The purchasers of the land could pay in kind, as cash in those days was a scarce commodity. He also set apart certain other parts of the village public areas such as roads, a burial ground (now Freedom Park), a market place and a school lot. According to the Nassau Guardian article 12th May 1849, Governor John Gregory complimented Judge Sandilands by formally changing the name of Fox Hill to Sandilands Village. Fox Hill predates Sandilands Village and the area is still referred to as Fox Hill…
Judge Sandilands at his own expense opened up a private thoroughfare from his own land to the Eastern Road, in the mid-1800s which led through the Creek Settlement and connected to Village Road. By 1888, six hundred inhabitants resided in the area…
Dr. Gail Saunders writes in her book Slavery in the Bahamas:
The arrival of Liberated Africans had a profound effect on the growth of the population of The Bahamas between 1808 and 1840. The most noticeable increase in the population during that period was amongst the free black population and this increase was due mainly to the landing and settlement of liberated Africans in The Bahamas.
Liberated Africans were originally slaves on their way to be sold to some plantation owner in the Caribbean or America. With the British Abolition of the Slave Trade in March 1807, slaves were taken as a prize of war or seized as forfeitures to become the property of the government…
On being landed in The Bahamas they were placed in the hands of the Customs Officer, whose duty it was to bind them to suitable masters or mistresses, in order for them to learn a trade or handicraft, for periods not exceeding 14 years…
New Providence got the majority of the Liberated Africans… However many of the freed blacks lived in several densely populated areas rather than being evenly spread over the island. This was probably due to the fear whites had of having too many blacks in or near the town of Nassau.
In the 1830s, there were at least eight free black villages or settlements outside the town of Nassau. They were Grants Town and Bain Town just south of the city, Carmichael and Adelaide in the southwest, Delaney Town just west of Nassau, Gambier in the west and Creek Village (New Guinea) and Fox Hill in the east.
Dr. Cleveland Eneas writing in his book Bain Town said the following:
Most of these celebrations culminated in the biggest event of the year that took place between these two peoples [the Bain Town and Fox Hill peoples], and that was Fox Hill Day. This usually started off with a celebration of Emancipation Day, which was observed on August first, if it didn’t fall on a Sunday. In my memory, the observance of Emancipation Day only took place in Fox Hill, and it was celebrated chiefly by the Yoruba people. There were Thanksgiving services in the churches, and then there was a gathering on the parade, for the making of speeches, and general merry making. This was only a warm-up rehearsal for Fox Hill Day, which took place a few days later.
Bain Town and Fox Hill started preparing for Fox Hill day “ way down in June” and Bain Town people started moving to Fox Hill (especially those who had relatives there and somewhere to stay) about a week before the event. The straw work had to be made and prepared for sale to the visitors; new dresses had to be sewn, and costumes of many kinds had to be prepared. Most of the preparations centred around programmes that had to be held and “pieces” that had to be learned etcetera. These programmes represented something of a competition, and were taken in earnest. Each church and Sunday school of the village staged a programme, which took place on the morning of Fox Hill Day. There was much oratory, many recitations, dialogues and music. Occasionally, there was some drama thrown in and they were all great productions as far as Fox Hill went. Children who were descended from Fox Hill and lived in Bain Town, were prepared, and took part in these events.
After-midday, the revelry took place on the parade ground, and this was revelry. In the centre of the parade ground, there was the pole to be plaited, to the gombay rhythms of the day. All around the periphery of the park were ring plays going on. The songs that were sung during the ring plays were the real folk songs of my people, some of which have been put to music by modern players, and sung commercially by our modern balladeers. We sang songs as “ Do An’ Nannee”, “ My Mother told me t’ree years ago I mustn’t marry no lazy man”, and numerous other rhythmic tunes that kept the ring play lively. There were stalls set up all around the parade like a bazaar, with all manner of goodies to be had for a small price. There were stalls selling acra, moi-moi, and agidi; there were almond cakes, coconut cakes, bennie cakes, conch salad and conch fritters. There were all many of fruits: mangoes, guineps, tamarinds, sapodillas, coconuts, etcetera. Food galore to whet the appetite of any Yoruba gourmet. Nearby, and in plentiful supply, were liquors of all kinds, but mostly, rum and gin, and since there were few teetotalers in the crowd, these stalls did a moving business.
Much merriment prevailed in the whole area, and there were no sad souls around. The workers of Nassau were making merry in Fox Hill, and the two may as well have declared a holiday. Virtually it was.
Let us skip now to one hundred years plus three later, when the Associated Press wrote this in 1937:
The thump of goatskin drums and the wail of bottle and comb music roused the usually drowsy Fox Hill parade this morning for today was Emancipation Day and all the Bahamas celebrated
The parade, a sunny green shaded by two enormous silk cotton trees at either end was the scene of day long festivities by which predominant negro populace commemorated with singing and dancing their freedom from slavery in 1834.
All business in the capital was suspended and most of the white folks too journeyed out to Fox Hill, a picturesque native settlement 10 miles from town. On all the “out islands” that form this British colony similar celebrations were held.
Fox Hill Day is an old institution here but when the centennial of freedom occurred in 1934 the festivities were unparralled. The light hearted negroes cast about for some occasion to renew the merry making on a large scale when it was recalled that although the British emancipation act was passed in 1834, the slaves were placed on three year probation and did not receive their freedom until 1837. So another “centennial” was celebrated today.
The programme on the parade included the crowning of the “king and queen” for the year. No beauty contest was this, but a recognition of the most respected elders.
The Fox Hill settlement virtually governs itself. It is composed of. Negroes only a generation removed from Africa.
The people subsist by primitive industries. The women raise farm produce and walk the ten miles to Nassau carrying their vegetables on their heads to the public market. Others weave hats and baskets from coconut palm straw to sell to tourists the men fish for sponges.
But work was forgotten today. There was music on the Fox Hill Parade.
I would like now to turn to the institutions that created, nurtured, supported and a shaped Fox Hill into what it is today. I would say that principal amongst these are the churches and the schools. The schools are the Sandilands Primary School, St. Anselm’s Day School, St. Anne’s Anglican School and St. Augustine’s College. These schools have been joined by L. W. Young Junior High which was once a senior and junior high and the Doris Johnson Senior High. In addition, many of the churches in the area have day schools like Macedonia, St. Marks and at one time Mt. Carey. All of these schools and churches helped and help to shape what Fox Hill is today.
I want to begin with St. Anselm’s which in the scheme of things is a relative new comer to the area. But I begin with them because there is a record of conditions in Fox Hill recorded by the nuns who came to teach up here in Fox Hill which I think you will find instructive.
The church St. Anselm’s was established by Fr. Bonaventure Hansen, a Benedictine monk on 29th August 1933. Sisters of Charity from Mt St. Vincent in New York in the United States Sister Marita Anne Fox and Sister Veronica Mary McAghan were assigned to establish the St. Anselm’s All Age School as part of the Catholic System. There is an extract from one of their letters which was published in Upon These Rocks by Colman Barry, a history of the Catholic Church in The Bahamas and quoted in a booklet about the history of St. Anselm’s:
We arrived August 28th 1933. The following day we went to Fox Hill, where we were heartily welcomed by Father Bonaventure Hansen, the catechist, James Roberts, and a group of future pupils and prospective Catholics. Father Bonaventure announced at Sunday Mass that school would open on Monday and that the boys and girls of all ages were welcome.
We sisters arrived on Monday equipped with paper, pencils and lunch. An iron wheel was struck with a hammer upon our arrival. Our registration consisted of us trying to get names first only; e.g. Mizpah, Gladtsone, Livingston. When we asked for the last name, there was no response. We found out later that they use the term title for surname. We tried to find out where they lived, we were told “Down so-by the big cotton tree, or Up so-by the sapodilla tree.”
The children aged from four to sixteen, we first grouped according to age, later according to ability; the older ones I took into the rented hall. For several days Sister Marita Anna taught the younger ones under the big cotton tree. After about two weeks, Fr. Bonaventure hired a room in an empty house called the Annex. Father arranged to have movable pieces of wood added to the backs of the benches, in the old hall, which we used as desks. One of the first things we got started was a sewing class after school, so that the children could be properly clothes. Our friends in New York supplied us with blue denim for the boys’ pants and plaid material for dresses for the girls. This class drew a large gathering of women.”
I should say parenthetically that the first baby to be Christened from the village as a Catholic was the late Benjamin Demeritte, whose son the now Fr. Reggie Demeritte is a Catholic priest and serves the church now in Exuma.
Many of the leaders of the Fox Hill community also came from the church and foremost amongst them I would suggest are Monsignor Preston Moss as did three of the leaders of the Fox Hill Festival Committee in its modern incarnation the late Eric Wilmott, William Rahming and Charles Johnson all now deceased.
Dr. Gail Saunders writes that sometime around 1740 or so the Anglican priests started coming to New Guinea to service the people at services at what was a then St. Anne’s Chapel. But what is said is that Mt. Carey is the oldest of the Baptist Churches.
Here is how they record the history of this church in which we sit as set down by the Rev. Randolph Armbrister:
“ History recalls that a village east of New Providence, made upon the freed Negroes and mulattoes, was formed and called The Creek. On January 29th in the year of our Lord 1833, Joseph Burton arrived in The Bahamas as the 1st Missionary from the Baptist Missionary Society of London, England and started a preaching Station at the Creek, and the Mission Station flourished. South of the Creek, a new settlement was formed by Africans known as Yorubas, Nangoes , Congoes. They were brought into New Providence by slave ships. The Village was named Fox Hill.
In 1840, another Missionary came from the Baptist Missionary Society in London to help Burton, his name was Rev. Henry Capron. He visited the village and ministered to their needs , and asked them if they wanted a Baptist Chapel built in the Village. They agreed. The people started meeting in the open air on this land in the bush. A Sabbath School was started and 32 persons were baptized in the name of the Lord. They then started a building with lime, stone, and timber from the pine barrens. Thirty persons worked the first day, and 21 persons the following day. After the remaining four day’s work Rev. Capron paid them their wages. The Chapel was then completed with a thatched roof and they named it Zion. Its doors were opened for Divine Worship on Sunday, 28th April 1843, then 23 people were baptized in the name of the Lord. Rev. Martin was its first pastor. The church progressed and its membership increased immensely.
We saw how the British put down slaves taken from shippers on the high seas in the Fox Hill Area. These ships were violating the British ban on the slave trade. The slaves set down were not from West Africa but it appears came from the Congo and so a new dimension to African life in the colony was introduced. Here is how that fact found its way into the life of the village as recorded in the history of St. Paul’s Baptist Church as recorded in A Brief History Of St Paul’s Baptist Church:
It all began in the quaint community of Fox Hill, when in the 19th century, Pastor J.A. Noblin was the pastor of Mt. Carey Baptist Church, Fox Hill. This church has undergone many structural changes and was the place of worship for many Fox Hillian families. Mt. Carey was called Zion Chapel and so were all the other churches that were connected to Zion, no matter what their names were, one of those churches was Bethel Chapel who worshipped with Mt. Carey ( Zion Chapel). In the year 1869, a dispute arose between Rev. John Davey, who had been a missionary in The Bahamas since 1856, and Bethel Chapel. This dispute resulted in Zion and Bethel taking different paths and causing a division among the congregation at Mt. Carey Baptist Church. Those who left Mt. Carey organized St. Paul’s Baptist Church in 1870 and became a branch of Bethel. The split between the churches is said to have been caused by trouble between the Congoes and Yorubas. The Congoes were said to be the last shipment of captured slaves brought to New Providence on 28th July 1860. They settled in Congo Town, Fox Hill, but were said to be taking too long to learn to speak the English language. The Yorubas stayed in Mt. Carey and many of the Congoes went to St. Paul’s, so tradition says.
It was a social divide between Congoes and Yorubas, so tradition says. Rev. Philip Rahming, a former pastor of Mt. Carey, says he remembers his mother saying to him as a boy don’t go running after those Congoes and their fire dance.
Today of course, while there is some reference to those ethnic and social divisions, the community now has everyone together under the now direction of Trevor Pratt and Warren Davis in a Junkanoo Group formed in 1986 called first the Fox Hill Congoes and then in 2003 recreated as the Original Congoes. The name Congoes seems to have survived in the lore of the Village often with Basketball teams being named after the old tribal settlers.
Interestingly, Nicolette Bethel writes that the arrival of the Congoes to The Bahamas in the 19th century changed Junkanoo fundamentally from the snare drum supplying the rhythm to the Congo drum being beaten by the lone drummer who carries the underlying beat.
There are of course other churches in the Village: St, Mark’s at Romer Street whose Pastor is Rev. Carrington Pinder; Macedonia which grew out of the St. Mark’s Congregation whose Pastor is Rev. Hartman Nixon; the two Methodist Churches both called Coke, headed by Rev Emily Demeritte and Deacon Ellana Bethel; the Church of God of Prophecy at Romer Street, headed by ; the Church of God which began at Abner Street and then moved to Cockburn Street, now headed by Rev. Julia Bain who is a Fox Hillian and the Church of God Faith Mission which is headed by Rev. Shirelle Saunders who is the granddaughter of one of the Matriarchs of old Fox Hill, the late Elma Viola Johnson.
I have mentioned the two congregations headed by female Fox Hillians because I wish to come back to the role of female leadership in Fox Hill later in this presentation.
St. Paul’s in its Brief History Of St. Paul’s lists the following names as part of its congregation and heritage: Burnsides, Sweetings, Dorsetts, Rahmings, Duncombes, Fergusons, Rokers, Wiliamsons.
These are familiar names connected with Fox Hill but I dare say you will all know the names: Demeritte, Davis, Mackey and Ramsay as being inextricably linked to Fox Hill.
One interesting fact of how these names came to Fox Hill is found in the history of now Commissioner Thomas Dorsett of Winter Park, a city of Florida. He was born originally in Exuma and in his history of his family he records the following in The Dorsetts’ Roots 31st December 1982:
Almost two hundred years ago, a little boy 8 years old was forcibly taken from the village of Sierra Leone in West Africa and was taken aboard a slave ship bound for the West Indies and South America. This was just a short time after the abolishing of slavery in the British Empire. This ship was of a Spanish registration and as she passed through The Bahamas, a British colony, the ship was intercepted by a British warship and the human cargo slaves were set free near an Island known as Cotton Cay. These slaves, now free, were taken to Nassau, the Capital of the Bahamas and were landed at the Vando Wharf. This wharf was then used to be called the Slave Exchange, and as the cargo of pitiful human free slaves landed, a crowd of sympathetic men and women became interested in the adoption of these slaves now free. An Englishman by the name of Dorsett, whose plantation was located in Fox Hill, adopted this eight year old boy and gave him the name Thomas Dorsett.
No exposition on the role of the church in the history of this area would be complete without some reference to St. Anne’s Church and in particular St. Anne’s School and the role of Rev. Canon David Pugh.
Here is what was written about Canon Pugh in the Bahamas Handbook by Debby Nash in 1995:
But perhaps the greatest “ living” history of Fox Hill is to be found at St. Anne’s Parish, which dates from 1740. Its longest officiating priest was Fr. David John Pugh, who was an RAF pilot stationed in The Bahamas during World War II. When the war ended he returned to the island to be ordained, and became rector of St. Anne’s in 1954. Before him, there had been some 13 priests over a three year period. He would rector there for 41 years…
In May 1995, St. Anne’s School celebrated its 40th anniversary. The school was started by Fr. Pugh in a little garage at the back of the church rectory. Back then, just six children attended, all of whom grew up to secure top positions in society. With this school, Fr. Pugh enabled the poor children of Fox Hill to have access to a high school education.
The story in the Bahamas Handbook did not go on to record the many children in Fox Hill who he formally adopted and who took on his last name.
You can see from what I said here today that the church in this area was also intimately involved in education. St. Anselm’s, St. Anne’s and today almost every church has a day school for children.
History also records the arrival of the St. Augustine’s Monastery said to be the site of the original grant to Samuel Fox after whom the area is named. Many of the boys in the Village went to St. Augustine’s run by the monks. Up until 1997, the land to the east of the monastery was owned by the monks and it was an area of broad leaf coppice which was a playground for local boys and girls. Today all of that is gone with the sale of the land by the church and the bush which once existed has been replaced by the subdivisions Canon Pugh, Smithsville, Freddie Munnings Manor and Rita Pugh, the development of which began in and around 2002.
Most children however who live in the Fox Hill area and who grew up in Fox Hill at one time or another passed through the Sandilands Primary School which began its existence over a hundred years ago on a lot which shows up as early as 1850 on the lots of land laid out and gifted by Judge Robert Sandilands after whom the school is now named. There is another view that the land was originally set aside for the school in 1787 on land granted to a Loyalist Lewis Johnstone. At the same time as the school ground was gifted for the public purpose of education, there was also the gift of public lot for a burial ground. That burial ground is today Freedom Park which was dedicated on 27th December 1967 by the then representative for the Winton constituency of which Fox Hill was a part the late Carlton Francis.
The school’s history claims as amongst its former pupils: MPs George Mackey and Frank Edgecombe; Revs Carl and Philip Rahming; Magistrate Linda Virgill, Julian Francis former Central Bank Governor; Mary Johnson, former Director of Nursing. Amongst its former teachers Dame Doris Johnson, former MPs Frank Edgecombe and Carlton Francis.
In fact the late George Mackey makes the point in the article in the Bahamas Handbook that education was the key for the people of Fox Hill. He himself was proud of his association with the Sandilands School up to his death. He told the Handbook and he told me that when he became the representative for Fox Hill in 1987, he remembered how people used to think that Fox Hill was behind God’s back. He said they used to call Fox Hill people “ Sapodilla eaters ”. He determined that his role was to enhance the physical appearance and image of Fox Hill and in the words of the article “ rekindle a sense of civic pride amongst its residents.” In that I would say he has succeeded.
Thus the modern incarnation of what you see today in Fox Hill today is very much a George Mackey creation. He set about rehabilitating the village centre and the schools’ premises and the post office and its environs. He also brought the National Insurance Board here and allied services in for telephones and electricity. He thought that Fox Hill could become a second town centre, and so arranged the Fox Hill parade in its present configuration with the help of the Fox Hill Community Development Association.
Fox Hill has therefore been a village and an area for a long time in the social development of The Bahamas. In the constituency boundary changes which came into force prior to the general election of 10th April 1968, Fox Hill became a political constituency for the first time. The first representative in the truest sense of the word then for Fox Hill was the late Lionel Davis.
Today the Fox Hill constituency does not encompass all of the Village of Fox Hill. For example Congo Town falls outside its environs and boundaries. It is my hope Prime Minister that in the next general election that there will be an adjustment so that the constituency of Fox Hill can more accurately reflect the Village of Fox Hill. It is clear that our political ancestors made a decision 45 years ago to honour the history and uniqueness of the Fox Hill people by creating a constituency named in their honour and to give them a representative that would protect their rich cultural heritage. We in this generation must not fail them.
Lionel Davis is remembered for reviving the spirit of the Fox Hill celebrations by appearing on the days of Emancipation in African dress. Maurice Tynes, the now Chair of the Fox Hill Festival recalls that it was he who returned the climbing of the greasy pole to the festival. Mr. Davis was succeeded by Frank Edgecombe in 1977. Mr. Edgecombe was a former Principal of the Sandilands All Age School and a member of his church. He served until 1987 when he was succeeded by the late George Mackey. He was followed by Juanianne Dorsett, the granddaughter of Josiah Rahming, J. P. which is a point of digression.
The Bahamas Handbook records the following about Josiah Rahming:
“Tales abound of some of the more colourful characters of the village’s past. One of the most well-known is Josiah Rahming, who claimed to be the grandson of an African prince. The highly respected Justice of the Peace was a successful farmer of vegetables and citrus on the property known as Sugar Hill. He also dabbled extensively in real estate. Baptist from birth, he became a superintendent of the Sunday School, and then caused quite a scandal when he converted to Roman Catholicism in the 1930s.
I don’t know if scandal is the right word and I was quoting there. She probably meant caused quite a stir. What we know is that Mr. Rahming gave many of his children over to the Roman Church because three of his daughters became Roman Catholic nuns and the St. Martin’s Convent in Nassau. One daughter Alice continued to be a Baptist and continues to attend services here at Mt. Carey. Another daughter the late Margaret Demetrius donated a senior citizens home to the community which now bears her name just to the north of this church.
And of course we know that Josiah the JP has found its way into the musical lore of the country when Ronnie Butler sang Goin’ Down Burma Road and he began it with the ditty: “Don’t mind Livingstone. Josiah the JP!” In which one supposes the people were saying as Livingstone was the son of Josiah: “ Don’t mind or pay attention to Livingstone because Josiah is the Justice of the Peace.”
Juanianne Dorsett, Josiah’s granddaughter, was succeeded as MP for Fox Hill by me and I serve to this day.
I return to where I began. I serve knowing that there is this rich history and heritage that I have to protect.
A history which pays tribute to Pa Bay, to whom reference is made in the Bahamas Handbook. His proper name was Zacharias Adderley and people thought that he knew obeah says the handbook. It quotes from the book by Fox Hillian Gladys Manuel in her book Historical Notes On The Fox Hill Community:
“Pa Bay… admitted to a belief in certain mystical forces… and people came from far and wide to watch his attempts at incarnations, and to buy his many varied concoctions… but it is interesting to note that his patrons came from outside the village… The villagers either did not need him or they knew his limitations too well.”
I pledged to return to the role of women in the history of Fox Hill. So much of history is always told from the male perspective but you can be sure that it could not have been done without the women. Here is how the Rev. Philip Rahming in the Notes From My Researcher Marchea Mackey recalls the women of Fox Hill:
Before the ladies of Fox Hill moved to the selling their products in the downtown square, the ladies of Fox Hill began by selling their crafts at the Ft. Montague Hotel. Women like Melissa Davis (Wife of the Former Pastor of Mt Carey Baptist) Eunice Demeritte, The Jarret Sisters (He Cannot remember their first names) Mernet Davis, Beryl Wright. \
As they began to move farther to Rawson Square due to the fact that it was harder for tourists to travel down to the Ft Montague Hotel. The women of Fox Hill began taking their craft to the Square. Also women like Elizabeth Sinclair (the owner of the property on which the National Insurance Building is located) The Mortimers (The owners of the property where the Urban Renewal office is located . Also Thomas Mortimer was assisted by Ms. Sinclair) The Mortimers also owned a shop by the red light at Blanco Bleach across from the Boy’s Industrial School. Nora Davis (Husband is Leonard Davis, whose grandson is an attorney and now owns Fox Hill’s Jungle Club. Ena Davis the Daughter is still working in the Straw Industry today. Rebecca Rahming (mother of Dr. Rahming was also a straw vendor and as a young person he can recall sewing raffia.
When it came to the organization of the voice of the people in the straw industry Ms. Bertha Brown (Mother-in-law of Sir Orville Turnquest she established the group which became that voice and the women of Fox Hill played an important party in this group. These women of Fox Hill were strong dedicated women but they lack those organization Skills and that is where Ms. Brown came in. she offered that voice and built an organization.
The ladies who made it to the square were represented the ladies who could not make it that far. So the women who stayed would send their work with the one who went to the square, and when those ladies return they would give the ladies their cut from their sales. While the ladies went to the market the ladies and the community at large work to ensure that there was craft to go the market the following day. It was all about the hard work so that they can make money during this difficult period.
Today we still have women from Fox Hill who are in the straw market. I think of Irene Rolle for example. But women are now in leadership positions in the Village and indeed one of them has already served as a Member of Parliament. Rev. Julia Bain now heads the Church of God at Bernard Road and Rev. Shirelle Saunders heads the Church of God Faith Mission, something that would not have been possible one hundred or even fifty years ago. But with the embracing of education and the opening up of horizons, it is a natural for women to continue to take the lead in our communities. In business I think of Mrs. Essie Ferguson who has customers lining up for her special brand of fried chicken.
Today Fox Hill is in 2013 at the end of a continuum: built on a history of struggle and toil; it is at the forefront of the struggle of the maintenance of the African identity in The Bahamas. Why is it I wonder that this community forged as it was by an accident of history has ended up being the intellectual centre of the African movement in our country? This is a matter which deserves more study and support.
Fox Hill has changed with the coming of the new subdivisions and the people from “over town” as the outsiders are called by Fox Hillians. The newcomers must know the history. The story that I have told tonight is about the people that we call the Bahamians. The more problematic entrants are the Haitian migrants who have settled in low cost rental units throughout the area. Their children make up almost a third of the Sandilands Primary School and if they are going to continue to be part of the unfolding story of Fox Hill, will they be told the story so the story also becomes their story. That is an issue which only Fox Hillians and their government can settle over time.
In a sense inward migration is not new because migration from our other islands into Fox Hill has been continuous over the past two centuries from Eleuthera and from Euxma in particular. This new group of course is French speakers and this presents new issues and a new ethos with which to deal.
The late Rex Nettleford used to describe our societies as being the rhythm of Africa with the melody of Europe. While some say that Professor Nettleford’s expression is simplistic, what it pithily describes is the interactions between a dominant culture of Europe and the subsumed and supposed inferior culture of Africa. What we know from that expression is that the music is not complete without both parts. People try as they might to suppress the African presence but try as they might it keeps on coming and Fox Hill has led the way in this presence. It infuses our music, our art, and our very lives. We are African and Fox Hill each year at this Emancipation Day are reminded of it.
Every year at this time, the eyes of the country are on Fox Hill. This year in our 40th year as a country we look particularly at the role which Fox Hill played in who we are today. It reminds us of the African ethos to our origins. We came here by accident, against our wills but we have forged a magnificent future while we have occupied these rocks.
The Governor General Sir Arthur Foulkes said in a recent interview that we are 40 years as an independent country but we were a country before 1973. Tonight, we have lived through some of the events which make that statement of the Governor General more self-evident. We were here before 1973 and with God’s help we shall endure long after these 40 years.
The question is: what will our children do? The future is surely theirs. Whether we like it or not, we pass it off to them. I am confident that they are smarter than us, better educated than us and that whatever vision they have for this country they will protect all of the things about which we have spoken here tonight. We are speaking about the dignity of man; that no man or woman shall ever again be a slave; that the resources of this country belong to all Bahamians of whatever hue and description.
George Mackey recalled a talk which two of the heroes of his generation gave to him at the Government High School. One was by the late A F Adderley and another by the late Leon Walton Young, who was from Fox Hill, served in the House of Assembly and after whom the L W. Young School is named. He said Mr. Adderley told them that they must do well in school so that they could contribute to the greater good of their nation and of mankind. Mr. Young said while he heard and appreciated what Mr. Adderley was saying, they should actually learn their lessons in school so they could go out and get a job and provide for their families.
Leon Walton Young passed away in Nassau in 1962. He has served 30 years in the House of Assembly from 1912 to 1942.
Dr. Cleveland Eneas writing in his book Bain Town remembers Mr. Young this way:
Whenever Mr. Young came to Bain Town, he came in the Buick, and we were able to spot it parked in front of my grandfather’s house, which still stands immediately west of Wesley’s School Room on Meadow Street… It was a fast race up Meadow Street, by us boys, whenever we saw this sight, and we would stand around it for a long time as he was visiting, looking and touching and gaping and ah-ing. When he was ready to leave, my brother and I always had the privilege of riding the running board while he cruised slowly down the street to our sue; our friends ran along the side all the way. That was always a big event in our day.
Mr. Young was a great Bahamian, who in his time helped to shape the country, to become what it is today. Besides the school in Congo Town Young Street is named for him, and one day there might still be standing somewhere, a monument to his memory. To me, he was Yoruba, who was not ashamed of his ancestry, and helped to stimulate my early interest in the subject.
When Leon Walton Young died the Nassau Guardian described his funeral as the largest one that had ever taken place in Fox Hill. When the late George Mackey died and I was then the representative and we were planning his funeral I wanted to plan and execute a funeral that would rival that of Leon Young for the contribution which George made to the modern development of Fox Hill.
Tomorrow we will honour another prince of Africa by renaming the street on which he lives Frank Edgecombe Street. I hope you will join us at his home tomorrow at six thirty.
The younger generation they get it too I think. I remember Andre Pratt. If you see him, you are immediately reminded of a Masai warrior, tall and wiry and strong. Each year, he is one of the men who climbs the greasy pole. So one day, one summer day I was in my car turning up the hill from the Eastern Road into Fox Hill. He and a group of his contemporaries were out selling guineps as is the custom when the summer time comes. So I stopped, rolled down the window and he came up and handed me a pack of guineps. I reached into my pocket and he shook his head and hand and said: no sir that’s okay. And I said: but you’re giving away the profits. And he said: that’s okay our ancestors left these for us.
Amen brother. Amen. They did indeed.
And I am reminded of the day when I first came to Fox Hill back in 1997 and Don Brice and Johnny Bullard took me rambling through the bush off Step Street to see the Blue Hole. It was like one had reached a place of pure magic.
So tonight my friends, brothers and sisters all, Prime Minister, compare and contrast the view of George Mackey, that people used to say Fox Hill was like being behind God’s back, the false story of getting the news of Emancipation one week later that used to infuriate Eric Wilmott when he heard it; George says Fox Hillians used to be called sapodillas eaters. Compare that to today where Fox Hill is the repository and protector, the centre of the country’s African culture. Who would have thought it? The old people say: Aint God a good God.
So after all of this is there any wonder that the song writer Eric Minns writes the following:
I wanna Fox Hill gal every time I get lonely
I wanna Fox Hill gal every time I sing
I wanna lose my heart to a girl from the Eastern part
When I get married she’s the one who guh wear my ring.
God Bless you and Good night
God bless the Commonwealth of The Bahamas