This is It's A Fact, Page 4



 Whoever heard of a hurricane in London? Hurricanes are not supposed to strike that far north, are they?

 Well, a hurricane, sometimes called “The Great Storm”, hit England in November 1703.

The first inkling of the storm came on Wednesday, the 24th November although no one could have guessed it then. It was a calm, fine day for the season. At about four o’clock that afternoon however, a brisk wind began and grew during the night into what might be described as a storm. It is not now described as such, however, because of what followed.

The hurricane arrived with 120 mph winds on Friday night, the 26th, and hammered London and the rest of Britain into Saturday morning.

People, terrified by the awful wind, and unable to sleep, huddled in cellars and the lower parts of their homes, fearing that the end of the world had come. The Queen herself took shelter in a cellar under St James Palace.

Author and journalist Daniel Defoe wrote:

"Horror and confusion seized upon all; no pen can describe it, no tongue can express it, no thought conceive it, unless some of those who were in the extremity of it."

During a lull around eight o’clock that morning, some of the bolder Londoners emerged from their shelters on to streets, strewn with a variety of debris such as tiles, stones, lead, bricks and timber, to seek assistance and to get some information as to what was happening to others.

The wind raged on, lessening somewhat with the appearance of torrents of rain, which started at around four in the afternoon.

Winds lashed out again during Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and until about noon Wednesday, after which its force began decreasing. By four o’clock, one week after it started, it was calm again.

In the course of a trail of destruction 300 miles wide across England and Wales, from Cornwall to the Wash, 8000 people were killed and unnumbered thousands were injured. Britain looked like a vast battlefield.

In London alone, twenty-one persons died just from falling chimneys. In those days chimneys were built in stacks of numerous bricks. One such fell upon the Bishop of Wells and his wife, killing them, while they were in bed.

On the River Thames numerous lives and sailing vessels were lost. On the coast, 1500 navy personnel and their ships were among those lost.

The houses and other buildings looked like skeletons. Many London churches lost their spires and towers. The heavy lead on the roof of the great Westminster Abbey was "rolled up like parchment and blown clear of the building".

Not only houses, but also trees and barns were leveled. Orchards of fruit trees were destroyed.

In the three weeks of dry weather that followed, people were able to patch their houses with whatever was available – boards, tarpaulins, old sails and even straw and reeds. Even some important buildings were patched in this way.

Prices of building materials such as tiles went through the roof. Bricklayers and glaziers began demanding exorbitant wages. Because of these higher expenses, many could not afford to do normal repairs for a long time.

The hurricane of 1703 also caused much damage in Holland and France and moved to Scandinavia.

A severe storm scared Britain again on the night on 15-16 October 1987 but since 1703, no hurricane has visited that country…. So far.



Sojourner Truth called on President Abraham Lincoln at the White House at about 8 o'clock on the morning of October 29th, 1864.  There were about twelve or so other people waiting in the reception room. As the president spoke with them, she was able to overhear their conversations.

According to Truth, who related her meeting with the president later, he showed as much kindness and consideration to the “colored persons” as to the whites. 

Sojourner Truth sat and waited her turn.

 Already, this black woman was well known in America. Very tall, with a commanding presence and dignified manner, she was a powerful speaker. She moved audiences to tears as she told her touching stories. 

Born to slave parents in Ulster Co, New York, around 1797, she herself had served as a slave. She bore at least five children. Two daughters were sold away from her. She served five masters until the July 4, 1827, when slavery was finally abolished in New York State.

Then Isabella, as she had been named at birth, became legally free.  She fled her owners' household, successfully sued to get her son back from slavery in Alabama, and around 1829 she settled in New York City with him and a daughter. 

In 1843 she set out as a traveling preacher with her new name:  Sojourner Truth. With little material possessions she began walking through Long Island and Connecticut, encouraging people she met to establish a relationship with God. 

In her journeys around the country, she met thinkers like William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, David Ruggles, Samuel Hill, George Benson and Olive Gilbert. She also lectured on abolition and women's rights and advocated a 'Negro State’ and the emigration of blacks to the West. 

She never learned to read or write but dictated her memoirs to Olive Gilbert. Their publication in 1850 as The Narrative of Sojourner Truth: A Northern Slave added considerably to her fame.

As Sojourner Truth recalled the White House meeting, President Lincoln was seated at his desk when she was introduced to him.  He stood, offered his hand, bowed, and said, 'I am pleased to see you.' 

She replied, "Mr. President, when you first took your seat I feared you would be torn to pieces, for I likened you unto Daniel, who was thrown into the lion's den; and if the lions did not tear you into pieces, I knew that it would be God that had saved you; and I said if he spared me I would see you before the four years expired, and he has done so, and now I am here to see you for myself." 

The president then congratulated her on her having been spared. 

Truth then said, "I appreciate you, for you are the best president who has ever taken the seat." 

 According to her, he replied : 'I expect you have reference to my having emancipated the slaves in my proclamation. But,' (mentioning the names of several of his predecessors, among them emphatically that of Washington), 'they were all just as good, and would have done just as I have done if the time had come. If the people over there (pointing across the Potomac) had behaved themselves, I could not have done what I have; but they did not, which gave me the opportunity to do these things.' 

She then said, “I thank God that you were the instrument selected by him and the people to do it.” She told him that she had never heard of him before he was talked of for president.” He smilingly replied, “I had heard of you many times before that.” 

He then showed her the Bible presented to him by the “colored people” of Baltimore.   After looking it over, she said to him, “This is beautiful indeed; the colored people have given this to the head of the government, and that government once sanctioned laws that would not permit its people to learn enough to enable them to read this book. And for what? Let them answer who can.” 

After the meeting Truth said: "I must say, and I am proud to say, that I never was treated by any one with more kindness and cordiality than were shown to me by that great and good man, Abraham Lincoln, by the grace of God president of the United States for four years more. He took my little book, and with the same hand that signed the death warrant of slavery, he wrote as follows:

"'For Aunty Sojourner Truth,

"'Oct. 29, 1864.A. Lincoln.' 

"As I was taking my leave, he arose and took my hand, and said he would be pleased to have me call again. I felt that I was in the presence of a friend, and I now thank God from the bottom of my heart that I always have advocated his cause, and have done it openly and boldly. I shall feel still more in duty bound to do so in time to come. May God assist me." 

Sojourner Truth's famous speech "Ain't I A Woman?"


An ancient helper in the service of modern medicine

There was a time when to practice medicine was to use leeches. In fact, the word “leech” came from  the Old English word “læce,” meaning doctor, and during the Middle Ages, the same word “leech” was used for both the physician and the parasite. 

 Somewhere along the way, the medical profession began to shun leeches, and they came to be regarded as primitive, “slimy” worms that were not of much use. But leeches are back. They can do for surgery things all the shiny equipment and modern electronics available today cannot.

A leech is a parasitic worm, one to two inches long,  that feeds on blood. It has a cylindrical or slightly flattened body, with a dark top and a mustard-colored underside, with suckers at either end for attaching to prey. Its mouth has three small jaws equipped with sharp teeth with which it pierces its victim's skin before filling itself with three to four times its own body weight in blood.

Leeches are freshwater creatures and latch on to everything from frogs to alligators. They also attach themselves to humans whenever they can, as Guyanese who encounter them in the many creeks in that country can testify.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, believing that that an excess of blood, in the entire body or in one part of the body, caused disease, doctors routinely sliced open selected blood vessels and let the patient bleed off the excess; but they would also use leeches as a less painful and more controllable alternative. 

Leeches became big business. At one point, most of the leeches used in America came from Germany. The Germans were shipped 30 million leeches to America every year. In the 19th Century, every ship carrying laborers from colonial India to the West Indies was required to have leeches on board for medicinal purposes.

These creatures were given much work to do. For dropsy, the doctor might put to work six or so leeches at the base of the spine. For tonsillitis, he might lower one into your throat at the end of a piece of thread, tying the other end of the thread to a tooth to prevent the leech from wandering off elsewhere. For hemorrhoids, leeches would be set to work on your bottom. Leeches were also put to work to deal with "brain congestion", appendicitis and swollen testicles. 

When, in the 20th Century, the medical profession largely stopped using leeches, the worms were mostly relegated to exhibitions of the way things used to be, such as in museums. However, a few doctors still used them. Hitler and Stalin were among those who were treated with leeches.

These days, leeches have returned to the medical mainstream. One of the reasons for this  was that conventional methods failed to deal with the blood congestion that is a huge problem in delicate microsurgery. Blood tends to pool in damaged tissue when the veins that normally provide drainage have been severed. Unless the buildup is cleared quickly, the blood may begin to clot and can plug the arteries that nourish the tissue.

When leeches bite a victim, their saliva prevents clotting and dilates blood vessels, causing blood flow to increase. The substances they drool into the wound ensure that the blood keeps trickling for hours. As a result, oxygenated blood continues to enter the wound area until veins grow again and regain circulation.

Surgeons who reattach minute veins, such as in the ears, fingers and toes, or do scalp reattachments, limb transplants, skin flap surgery, and breast reconstruction are increasingly finding leeches invaluable.

In today’s hospital where leeches are used, they are kept in refrigerators in a state of starvation, and arrive for work on the wards in a small plastic container. Nurses wear gloves and handle the hungry animals with tongs as they maneuver them into position to do their work. As soon the leeches they smell blood, they pounce.

Doctors usually order several sessions of leech therapy over several days or weeks. These sessions could involve a dozen or more leeches in total.

After finishing its meal – about one tablespoon of blood - a leech probably won't eat again for months or even years. So after one big dinner, the leech is killed in alcohol and thrown out with other medical waste.


The armadillo is a truly fascinating animal. It has a weird appearance and many aspects of its life are highly  unusual. 

Its name, from the Spanish for "little armored one" was given to it because of the way it looks. The most well known species, called the "nine-banded armadillo" (Dasypus novemcinctus) has, in reality, 7-11 bands of bone plates covering its sides, top, tail and the top of its head. It also has leathery brownish-black to gray skin.  These features make it look as tough and formidable as a little war tank. However, it is only the size of a housecat and weighs between 8 and 17 pounds. 

This armadillo has long ears, a long pig-like snout, and a long tail with between 12 and 15 rings. Cousin to the anteater, the armadillo has a very long, sticky tongue to slurp up ants as quickly as possible. It is also equipped with stout legs and strong claws to tear open ant nests. 

Armadillos are found over much of South America, Grenada, Trinidad, and Tobago and south central and southeastern USA. They thrive in rainforests, tropical forests and grasslands. 

When crossing shallow water, armadillos just walk across the bottom. If the water is deep they gulp air into the digestive tract to make themselves buoyant and paddle across like dogs. They can hold their breath for many minutes at a time. 

When foraging, they primarily use their sense of smell. The nine-banded armadillo mainly eats ants, small reptiles, amphibians, birds, and carrion. It will also eat fruits and berries. It makes grunting sounds as it forages for food and squeaking or squealing noises when it feels threatened.

"Dillos" have also been known to outrun dogs and people, but they do not always succeed in getting away from predators.  Apart from humans, these include raccoons, black bears, bobcats, foxes, and dogs. 

In the United States most nine-banded armadillos are killed by cars. They regularly emerge from their burrows at night to feed on road kill and are themselves often killed. 

Armadillos jump straight up in the air when startled. This can surprise a predator and give the armadillo time to get away. However, this behavior is fatal to them when cars are involved. They just end up jumping right into the front or underside of the car and are killed. 

Unlike three-banded armadillos, common in South America, nine-banded armadillos do not curl into a ball when threatened. They often wedge themselves into the tunnels and burrows they are always digging. Protected by their backs, they are extremely hard to dislodge. 

Nine-banded armadillos almost always give birth to four identical young. It is -the only mammal known to do so. All four young develop from the same egg and even share the same placenta. 

Female armadillos can delay implantation of the fertilized egg during times of stress, thus being capable of giving birth as many as two years after mating. 

The armadillo is not a dangerous animal. In some areas, however, it is are treated as a pest because its search for insect food causes it to dig up flowerbeds, wreck lawns, and even burrow under houses. 

Wild armadillos have been known to be infected with the bacterium that causes leprosy (Hansen's disease). The only known cases of transmission from armadillos to humans resulted from eating undercooked armadillo meat. 

Armadillos are unlikely to be suitable as pets for most people. They are nocturnal and would sleep all day and become active at night when the household is asleep. They would then begin foraging, bumping into and knocking over things and generally disturbing the night as they grunt their way through. In addition, armadillos also have a musky smell that most people find unpleasant. 

In many areas of Central and South America, armadillo meat is regularly eaten. The meat is said to taste like "fine-grained, high-quality pork." During the Depression years, armadillos were often eaten in the U.S. by poor people and became known as "Hoover hogs," after then-President Herbert Hoover.


The conch, the familiar mollusk with its beautiful pink shell and tasty meat, is one of the attractive features of the Caribbean region. It is common on beaches, in souvenir shops and in restaurant menus.

The people of the Caribbean islands who prepare and eat conches, go at them with hammer, hatchet or machete to put a hole in them, then use a knife to cut a tough muscle and make it simple to pull the meat out through the large opening in the shell.

The conch is then cleaned and consumed. People eat conch meat either raw, as in salads, or cooked, as in fritters, chowders, gumbos, and burgers.

Some conch shells are particularly good to look. You know instinctively that the shells should not be destroyed by putting holes in them. They seem destined to be preserved as treasured ornaments.

Such conches may be put whole in water and brought to a boil, or alternatively frozen in order to keep the shell intact while the meat is carefully teased out of the shell. The intact shells are then used as decoration, or as decorative planters, or in cameo making, or as with other mollusk shells, ground up into an ingredient in porcelain.

One of the interesting uses to which conch shells are put is serving as the equivalent of  horns or bugles. An opening is made in the small tip of the conch shell to form a mouthpiece. Most shells will only naturally play one note, but the  hands and fingers could be skilfully used to coax various pitches from them.

The conch shell has been used in many societies to communicate messages. In the Caribbean, it was used to call people together, announce events, advertise that some commodity is for sale, or even to call people to worship.

The early Caribs used the conch shell to call their people together. In Jamaica, the African word Abeng was used as the name for the conch shell, more particularly one which can be used as a horn by blowing into one end. In Jamaica’s history, the abeng was used by slaveholders to summon slaves to the sugar fields and also by the Maroon army as a method of communication.

When, for instance, Jamaica’s Port Antonio was busy with banana boats in the early twentieth century, it was the conch shell that was used to announce the arrival  of a boat, signaling that workers should  rush to the fields with their machetes and  cut bunches of the fruit that were mature and ready for transport.

In Tobago today, the conch shell still signals men to haul in the fishing nets. The conch shell is also used by Hindus in their religious services in many parts of the world. They blow it at specific points during worship.

Other sound makers take the place of the conch shell today – the music on the ice cream cart in the city, the bugler in the armed forces.  It is believed that the bugle was constructed to imitate the old noise makers such as the cow’s or sheep’s horn. Or the conch shell. 

Conch shell in Dominica, in Belize 

WHY DO PEOPLE SAY  “As Dead as a Dodo”?

The dodo died, or rather became extinct, and no one noticed until it was featured in the popular children’s book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. As the book became increasingly popular, people began using the expression: "As dead as a Dodo."

The dodo was known to exist in only one place in the entire world – Mauritius, a volcanic island in the Indian Ocean. First sighted there around 1598, the dodo was extinct less than eighty years later.

When the Portuguese arrived in Mauritius in the early 1500s, the island was not inhabited by man. Dodos, tame and unafraid, lived there in abundance. They had no predators and grew large in safety, weighing up to about 50 lbs each.  It was so easy to catch the bird that the Portuguese called it duodo, meaning “simpleton” or “fool.” 

The dodo was the size of a turkey cock. Its plumage was dark gray, with the breasts and tufted tail yellowish white. The large, heavy, hooked bill was blackish. Its short thick legs were yellow. It lived in the forest and the female laid a single white egg in a mass of grass. The dodo was a flightless bird with paltry wings and a stubby tail.

Portuguese sailors first visited Mauritius in 1505, but the island remained uninhabited until 1638 when it was colonized by the Dutch, who became the first permanent settlers.  The Dutch abandoned the island decades later, then the French were in control until Mauritius became a British possession in 1810.

It is possible that some of the birds may have been eaten by the Dutch sailors. However, the primary causes of their extinction seem to be the cutting off the Dodo's food supply through the destruction of the forest and the destruction of the eggs and nests of the dodo by the animals such as cats, rats, and pigs that the sailors brought with them

 It is not clear to what extent these birds were eaten by people, even though it has been claimed that  Dodos were eaten as food during the long voyages between the Cape of Good Hope and Asia. The Portuguese were said to have  found the birds hard to eat and very messy. Dutch settlers called them a name meaning "disgusting bird" because they did not find the meat pleasant.

It is reported that the sailors who landed on Mauritius found the dodo’s behavior clumsy and amusing. A few birds were taken on tour around Europe. They were displayed in cages and were said to demonstrate how the dodo could "eat" stones, as they seemed to do just that at times.

No complete specimens are preserved, although a number of museum collections contain Dodo skeletons. When in October 2005, a mass grave of well-preserved dodo remains was found in Mauritius by a Dutch-Mauritian research team, there was great excitement in the scientific world.

Scientists hope to learn more about the dodo as time goes by. They will probably have something more to say about another expression one hears from time to time: “Dumb as a dodo.”


A Ghanaian’s Bold Venture Into Serving Africa

 Patrick Awuah, the founder and President of Ashesi University in Ghana said, "Ashesi University started as a dream, when my son was born in 1995. As the parent of an African child, I realized that the best way to leave this planet a better place ... is to do all I can to help change the African condition.” So often, he realized, Africa is separated from her bright young people because many who leave to study overseas never return. 

He also said “If that continent can turn around, it will make a big difference in how the world perceives my children because they are African."

Patrick moved beyond the dream, and today Ashesi University, offering undergraduate degrees in business and computer science, is a fact. Ashesi means “beginning” in the Akan language.

Patrick grew up poor in Ghana. After completing secondary school, he traveled to the United States in 1985 on a full scholarship to Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania.

 At Swarthmore, he studied engineering and was also introduced to the liberal arts, which challenged him to think, analyze and solve problems.

Four years and a double major later, Patrick began work at Microsoft, where he remained for eight years. His hard work enabled him to purchase a house for his parents in Ghana and contribute to his sister's education.

He married an American. Their first child, a son, Nanayaw, was born while they lived in Seattle. Later they had a daughter, Elfia.

While working at Microsoft, Patrick struggled with his challenging decision to start a university. He wondered how his wife, Rebecca, would feel about moving to Ghana? He considered accumulating wealth before pursuing his dream. But he stayed with his vision.

Well before he left Microsoft, he said a bold thing to Paul Maritz, his boss, "I hate to tell you this, but I don’t intend to spend my entire career at Microsoft."

Ghana has long put an emphasis on education. It has a literacy rate of 74%, and is one of the more stable countries in Africa. Its first president, Kwame Nkrumah, impressed by what he saw in the United States, was keen to develop Ghana technologically, and had confidently declared, "We shall achieve in a decade what it took others a century".

Ghanaians never lost their zeal for education but not many have been able to attend university and thousands qualified to enter are on a long waiting list. At any rate the system is not designed to prepare students for the demands of 21st century.

At Microsoft, Patrick Awuah saw people from diverse backgrounds working together to solve problems and generate new ideas in a creative atmosphere. He was convinced that this was the approach that Africa needed, but it could not be achieved without a highly trained, motivated and ethical workforce.

Patrick quit Microsoft with his big dream and some cash. He enrolled in the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley. His master’s project was a feasibility study of a private African liberal arts university.

Impressed, a fellow student came on board. Raised in Japan, Nina Marini had expected to work on a project in Asia. She is now vice president of Ashesi University. She and two others, traveled to Ghana with Patrick to conduct market research, surveying more than 3,000 students and parents to identify needs in education and funding.

Relocating his family to Ghana, Patrick set out to build the university of his dreams. He saw it as the beginning – the achesi - of a series of private schools that will educate Africa’s future government and business leaders.

Ashesi opened in March 2002 and the first class graduated in 2005 with a foundation in liberal arts and an emphasis on social responsibility. On its wired campus, students were able to use a modern computer laboratory for research and general online access.

Ashesi’s programs have been developed with help from Haas, Swarthmore, and the University of Washington. Dr. Yaw Nyarko, director of graduate studies in economics at New York University, served as acting dean.

Examiners from Haas and Swarthmore reviewed Ashesi’s coursework and gave it high marks. The National Accreditation Board of Ghana is mighty pleased with it. There has been nothing but praise in and out of Africa for the work of Dr. Patrick Awuah.

Already Asheshi University has outgrown its rented space. But it will soon move, Nana Oteng-Korantye II, chief of the village of Berekuso, has granted 100 acres of beautiful hill country north of Accra to Ashesi. A new campus to be located there will accommodate 1000 students.


Bells have a charm of their own. Over the years, they have been cultivated as musical instruments, tuned to pleasant pitches, and arranged in beautiful series called chimes or carillons. They came to be used also for signaling moments of significance in early communities. 

The people who rang bells however were involved in a career that could easily turn deadly with the change of the weather, and many of them died horrible deaths while doing their duty. Men continued to do bell ringing because it was seen as a necessity – not something that could be discontinued just because there were accidents on the job. 

Church bells, sitting in their high towers, were once very important in the lives of most people and were rung for a variety of useful, even important, purposes. 

At daybreak, they roused communities from their sleep and called them to morning prayers. 

Throughout the day, the bell in the tower counted the hours, half-hours and quarter-hours. For instance, at one o’clock, the bell would strike once; and on the ten o’clock hour the bell would strike ten times. In the old days when most people did not have clocks or watches in their homes, the church bell helped them keep track of the passing time. 

Church bells also pealed for weddings and tolled for funerals, as some of them do now. They also rang out in special ways at Easter, Christmas, Old Year’s Eve and other special occasions. 

There are two ways to ring a bell. One is to swing the bell to hit the clapper, or tongue, of the bell; the other is to strike the bell with the clapper or other object from the outside. In the Far East, some huge stationary bells are rung by striking them with a log. One of these bells, located in Myanmar (formerly Burma), weighs about ninety tons. 

The Russians once cast an enormous bell that weighed twice as much, but it cracked. A bell of this size requires several men pulling a rope attached to the clapper. 

The English developed a method or ringing bells called change-ringing. It was based on swinging the bells in complete circles in a definite order. The bells sound the changes, or sound variations, on a descending scale. What one heard was a rhythmic pattern, not a melody. 

The pattern remains. In each of England’s over five thousand bell towers there is a set of bells for change-ringing. The number of bells in a set varies between three and twelve, and each bell, with its own rope and wheel, has its own ringer. 

In mainland Europe, a special bell, known as a clock bell, was developed in the monasteries to mark periods of devotion during the monastic day. 

Bell ringing could be very charming, even inspiring; but there was a sad aspect to it over the years. In medieval times, when people thought the sound waves from the bells would suppress lightning, church bells were rung during thunderstorms. 

This belief resulted in the death of numerous bell ringers. Church steeples were often struck by lightning during thunderstorms. A powerful strike would produce blinding and deafening flashes of great intensity, as high charges of electricity tore their way down through conductive material in the building. Often, this included the wet ropes bell ringers were holding, thus summarily electrocuting the bell ringers.

With the invention and use of the lightning rod, bell ringers rarely die this way today. The metallic lightning rod is attached to the highest point of a building to provide protection by safely conducting the lightning to the ground.


Remembering That Extra Day of Christmas

 In the United States, one of the missing elements of Christmastime is Boxing Day. This is the feeling of most people from the English-speaking Caribbean. It has always been to us an integral part of Christmas, a good and necessary extension of Christmas Day. Because we have do without it now, the full impact of the Christmas holidays is diminished.

Boxing Day is a public holiday not only in the Caribbean, but in Britain where it all began, in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and many Commonwealth countries.

Nobody knows for sure the origin of Boxing Day, but there are many claims. One, perhaps the most plausible, is that whereas everyone in old England gave Christmas gifts to their relatives and friends on Christmas Day, employers gave their servants boxed Christmas gifts the day after Christmas. These were generally called their Christmas boxes. Another claim is that this was the day that priests broke open the collection boxes and distributed the money to the poor.

Boxing Day has long been a public holiday in the UK, and traditionally a day of sport. Like other public holidays which may occur on a non-working day, the "day off" will occur on the first day after the public holiday that would otherwise be a working day.

In Canada, stores sell their excess Christmas inventory on Boxing Day at significantly reduced prices. Retailers often go beyond that to Boxing Week.

In Ireland, the 26th is known as St Stephen’s Day or Wren’s Day. It is a holiday during the Christmas season, but with different origins.

 In Australia, a  Boxing Day Test Match begins usually on the 26th of December and is played at the Melbourne Cricket Ground before the largest, noisiest crowd of their cricket year. For some it is “the greatest and most anticipated Test Match on the world cricket calendar.”

In Sydney, Australia, the annual  Sydney-Hobart Yacht Race, one of the biggest and most prestigious ocean racing events in the world, begins on Boxing Day as the yachts depart Sydney Harbour observed by many thousands of spectators around the harbor in spectator boats.

In the Caribbean, Boxing Day is essentially an extension of the Christmas holiday - a time for unfinished Christmas “business”. The religious aspect of Christmas takes a back seat for most people. Feasting and fun continue. Those who spent Christmas only with family venture out to visit friends.

The masquerade bands come out in full force. The parties start early. Dinners and dances are everywhere. In the Bahamas, it’s Junkanoo time. Junkanoo begins on Boxing Day and continues till New Year’s Day.

Wouldn’t be great to have Boxing Day in the USA?


Where did they come from?

 Did you ever think about how the carols of Christmas came to be written? Here are a few snippets from history. 

 Hymn writer Charles Wesley began writing “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”, for example, as be was walking across the fields to service on Christmas morning of 1730, hearing the bells ring out all around him. Perhaps he used shorthand as he usually did when writing his 6,500 hymns. They filled 50 volumes. 

 It was John Byron's shorthand that Wesley used; and John, a poet, gave us another well-loved Christmas hymn - writing it on Christmas Eve 1745, as a present for his small daughter, Dorothy. He put it on her plate on the breakfast table a few hours later. He called it "Christmas Day for Dolly". Later it became known as "Christians Awake". The original sheet of paper with this heading has been preserved at the Cheetham Hospital library in Manchester, England. It bears marks of a lot of folding, as if Dolly carried it about in her pocket to show her friends for quite a while afterwards. 

Many carols have been taken from place to place by people traveling from one country to another.  Silent Night was one of those. “The First Noel” was taken to Britain by the followers of William the Conqueror, and was first sung in France by people standing on the rush-strewn floor of the Norman churches and wearing all their thickest garments because there was no glass in the windows to keep out the cold. 

“Come all ye Faithful” also came from France and was first sung in English in St. Andrew’s Church, Glasgow, on Christmas Day well over a hundred years ago. It made a great impression, we are told. One chronicler said that every errand boy whistled it in the streets, the children sang it at their games, people hummed it as they went about their work, and, “it seemed, the very birds in the square joined in the chorus.” 

Bishop Phillips Brooks (1835-1903) wrote the words of “O Little Town of Bethlehem” in Philadelphia in 1868. His carol recalled the view of Bethlehem from the hills of Palestine at night as he saw it on his trip to the Holy Land three years earlier. His church organist, Lewis Redner (1831-1908) wrote the music for the Sunday school children's choir. 

“It Came upon a Midnight Clear” is another contribution from America, written by Edward Hamilton Sears, who began making up poetry when ten years old and working as a farmer's boy in the fields of New England. 

Then there's “In Dulci Jubilo” from Germany, the result of a dream on Christmas Eve over 600 years ago. In it, the writer thought he saw the angels dancing joyfully round the Christ Child's manger. And when he woke, he wrote down the words he thought he heard them singing. 

The people of the West Indies too have contributed to the wealth of Christmas carols that we now have. One of them is “The Virgin Mary Had A Baby Boy”. Unfortunately, we don’t know who wrote it and it is listed as traditional. Already, however, it has become a classic.

1989: Deadly Christmas in Romania

Romanians, like people in much of the rest of the world, celebrate Christmas by decorating, baking goodies, sending Christmas cards, and setting up Christmas trees. Their children sing carols, ski, sled, and expect Santa Claus to bring them presents. 

On Christmas day of 1989, however, the great majority of Romanians had other things on their minds. Their country was in an uproar, ending in tragedy at the highest levels. 

 This is the story of Nicolae Ceauşescu, who from his youth became active in the Romanian Communist movement. While working for the movement, he met  Elena Petrescu, whom he married later. He also met Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej, the future first secretary of the Romanian Communist party, while serving time in prison for revolutionary activities. 

The end of the Second World War found Romania behind the Soviet Union's 'Iron Curtain.'  With Soviet backing, the Romanian Communist Party took control of the government. 

Ceauşescu, who had escaped from prison in 1944, had by then worked his way up the party ladder. He held a variety of party and government positions after the Communist takeover in 1948. By 1955, he was in the top ranks of the party. 

Meantime, Gheorghiu-Dej became the leader of Romania. After Gheorghiu-Dej's death in March 1965, Ceauşescu was chosen first secretary of the central committee of the Communist party, and in December 1967, he became president of the state council, or head of state. 

Ceauşescu was an enigma in international politics. Continuing on the independent course set by Gheorghiu-Dej, Ceausescu continued to challenge the dominance of the Soviet Union, and in numerous ways vexed the Soviets.

This stance won him considerable support from the West. President Richard Nixon of the United States visited Romania in August 1969. In 1978 the Ceausescus' visit to Britain was afforded full state status. They traveled in a carriage with the Queen from Victoria station to Buckingham Palace

Romania was admitted into such international organizations as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, and the International Monetary Fund . In 1975 the US granted Romania most-favoured-nation trading status.

At the same time, Ceausescu forged closer ties with the communist states of China and North Korea.

At home, however, he implemented disastrous economic measures and became increasingly repressive and corrupt. He exploited his people as he created a personality cult in the 1970s and 1980s. 

The state-controlled media was made to lionize him as the 'Genius of the Carpathians', the 'Danube of Thought', the "guarantor of the nation's progress and independence", the "visionary architect of the nation's future". Newspapers had to mention his name 40 times on every page.

Thousands of factory workers rehearsed and performed dance routines designed to glorify Ceausescu.  TV coverage was provided as the president inspected displays of bountiful crops and of meat - all in fact made from wood and polystyrene. He placed his wife and many relatives in positions of power and began work on what would have been the largest palace in the world.

In reality, agricultural production had fallen and food was being rationed. Domestic energy was also in short supply. However, Romanians, starving, cold, and living in the dark, saw Ceausescu and his family continuing in comfort and privilege.

On 17 December, 1989 anti-government demonstrations in Timisoara in the west of Romania resulted in an order by Ceausescu to fire on the crowd. Over the following days, 4,000 died. 

On 21 December about 100,000 people gathered outside the headquarters of the Communist Party in Bucharest in a mass rally organized by the party in support of Ceausescu for broadcast on national television. Chants and applause were taped in advance and played back for the occasion.

Ceausescu’s speech from the balcony of the building was shouted down by chants such as "Down with the murderers", "Down with the dictatorship", "Romanians awake", and "We are ready to die". Ceausescu was visibly shaken and the broadcast was stopped.

Chaos followed as the army sided with the demonstrators. Realizing that the situation was  out of his control, he boarded his personal helicopter from the roof of the party headquarters building and fled the capital with his wife. Several hours later the Ceausescus were captured and returned to Bucharest. On the streets of the capital, battles broke out between Ceausescu loyalists and the military. About 1,000 died.

On Christmas Day, 1989, the Ceausescus were tried by a special military tribunal and convicted on charges of mass murder and other crimes. The sentence was death. They were executed without delay and footage of their dead bullet-ridden bodies was broadcast on national television. The loyalists were crushed.

Stunned but relieved, Romanians poured out on the streets to celebrate - not Christmas, but good riddance of a tyrant.


Food or Friend? 

“Have iguana, will eat” is the response of many people of the Caribbean who set eyes on an iguana. Largely because of this, the iguana is considered endangered in the Caribbean and Central and South America, its native habitat. 

The flesh and the eggs of the plant-eating iguana, called “guana” in Guyana, are

widely regarded as very special food. As a result iguanas have been hunted, trapped and eaten or sold in markets all over the Caribbean. The result? Iguanas are in danger of becoming extinct. 

    In Jamaica, fear of extinction caused the formation of the Jamaican Iguana Research and Conservation Group. Apart from human activity, there are threats from the mongoose, and also from feral pigs and dogs. The greatest threat however, is the development of new areas for human settlements. 

The story is much the same in the other territories of the Caribbean. In Guyana attempts are being made to re-introduce the common Iguana into the 200 sq. mile Pakuri Arawak Territory, where over hunting caused the iguana to become extinct. The plan includes buying adult iguanas from the food markets in the capital, Georgetown, and releasing them into the remote forested areas of the upper Mahaica River - an area “free of human interference.” 

Some people keep iguanas as pets. Iguanas are said to be hard to care for ... but easy to love. They are said to tame very easily, given the patience and skill required.

 An iguana measures 3 to 6 ft long, two-thirds of this length being the tail. It lives 15 to 20 years in captivity. Each one is different, with different tastes and temperaments. An iguana could be friendly, or it could be grouchy. 

One means an iguana uses to communicate is the “bob.” Iguana experts say that the "greeting bob", which starts with an upswing movement of the head, followed by smaller movements, is the friendliest of the  bobs and that an iguana may recognize it if you do it, and respond. There are other kinds of bob, such as the “territorial bob,” the “annoyance and dismissal bob” and the “shudder bob.” Pet owners often have fun using bobs to say "hello" back and forth. 

But iguanas can also be aggressive. Head bobbing helps here. If your iguana is feeling “territorial” (body puffed up), it is useful to bob hello to relax him. If iguanas are allowed to bask high up above the owner’s head, they tend to consider themselves dominant. 

The tail of the iguana, with its sharp edge along the top, is used as a whip when the iguana does not want someone to handle it. An iguana may drop off its tail when it feels threatened or when it gets caught in a small space or even between a person’s fingers. However, young iguanas often regenerate a lost tail.

Not surprisingly, there are those who do not like the idea of using iguanas as food and are doing everything possible to popularize keeping them as pets. In the United States, there are also organizations willing to assist anyone putting up an iguana for adoption.

Fish With Four Eyes….

And more 

One of the interesting things about the water near the Atlantic in Guyana are fishes with large bulbous. Everybody calls them “four-eye”. They attract attention as they swim in large numbers near the surface of the water because they are so obviously oddities of the fish world.  But do they really have four eyes? 

The short answer is yes. Four-eyed fish do really have four eyes. Those protruding eyes at the top of their heads stick part in and part out of water allowing them to see four images, two above and two under water.  

The eyes are divided into aerial (above water) and aquatic (under water) parts. Lenses are egg-shaped, rather than round. When the fish looks at objects under the water, light passes through the full length of the lens, making the four-eyed fish just as nearsighted as other fish. When it looks above water into the air, light rays pass through the shorter width of the lens, allowing the fish to see farther away and to spot predators lurking above the water.

Four-eyed fishes live in South and Central America in the brackish waters of the estuaries of rivers, and in shallow, muddy streams and on the Atlantic Coast.  Its scientific name is Anableps anableps. In Trinidad, as in Guyana, it is called Four-eye, but also Stargazer. 

It has a long, cylindrical body, and a flat head from which the eyes protrude. The back, which is flat, has been described as “olive to gray” and the flanks “gray-yellow to white with a violet to white iridescence under some lights.” Four eyes might reach 12 inches in length.

The fishes move in schools, feeding on insects and other small creatures living on the mud, and also on other small fishes. They can remain on mud bottom exposed to air during low tide. They can also be seen vigorously jumping about on the mud flats.

The four eyes are not the only unusual things about this fish. Four-eyed fish bear their young live. There are no fish eggs to get from them. In fact, they were the first species of livebearing fish discovered.

Male four-eyed fish also have a gonopodium, which is an anal fin modified to serve as a sex organ used in the transferal of sperm to female. The gonopodium of males is twisted either to the right or left. The genital opening of the female is also right or left. Because of this, right-sided males can only mate with left-sided females, and vice versa.  

As we can see, there’s a lot more to four-eyed fishes than four eyes.

The Necklace of Death

Two stories about the coral snake 

“Snake Man” Johan was the center of attraction, as he always was, when he performed in Trinidad. The uproarious crowd surrounded him as he made preparations to do his own thing.

Johan threw a much-used coco-bag onto the ground. On this, he rested an enameled plate in which a coral snake lay coiled, and then called on the bamboo band that always accompanied him to start their bongo music.

Then Johan started his bongo dancing, said L. Urban Cross who chronicled the event, and in between Johan would pause and take a swig of “bush rum” from the bottle in his hip pocket. 

Suddenly he stopped dancing and raised his hands in a signal to the band. There was now a change in the tune, and the band commenced to rattle their bamboo in tattoo. 

The crowd of onlookers became silent as Johan bent over and gently removed a deadly coral snake from the plate and, with it in the palms of his hands held closely together, he moved around the circle of his frightened onlookers, swaying in rhythm to the pulsating tattoo.

Now he stopped in the center and slowly lifted his open hands towards his face and gently slipped the coral into his wide-open mouth.

There was dead silence within the crowd, but the bongo players still continued their tattoo with increasing tempo. Johan now came nearer towards them, still dancing with open mouth. But even among those who had already seen this performance, there was still fear.

Suddenly, Johan stood still as the tail of the snake emerged and hung over his chin. Then he screamed, and everyone knew that he had been bitten. Johan held the snake by its tail, jerked it out and threw it on the ground. Then hell broke loose There were screams and shouts and running in all directions. 

Johan died within an hour.

He admitted, before passing to the Great Beyond, that he had mistakenly squeezed the snake in the process of opening and closing his mouth and in pain the snake bit him on the edge of his tongue.

There are two types of coral snakes in Trinidad, Mr. Cross explained. The small coral is beautiful to look at and does resemble a coral necklace. It attains a length of 12 inches. The colorful rings go right around the body, unlike the false non-poisonous coral, which has a plain colored underside. 

The markings of the deadly snake, a relative of the cobras, run in this order: red, white, black – with red being the dominant color. The white rings that surround the black are rather narrow.

Because of its small jaws, the coral snake usually bites its victims between the toes or fingers, as it is unable to bite on the flat surface of the skin. Coral snakes also have a tendency to hold on to a victim when biting. The venom of coral snakes attacks the nervous system, causes paralysis, and very often death.

The larger, non-poisonous coral acquires a length of 52 inches and the red, black and white bands, placed in that order, are more even in width.

L. Urban Cross told another story. An elderly lady, on her way from church early one Sunday morning, observed a colorful object lying on the pitch walk around the Grand Savannah. “Oh,” she said, “a beautiful coral necklace, it must have been dropped by someone.” She bent down and picked up the necklace, placed it in her handbag and proceeded home.

A few hours after, when her children were having their breakfast, she related to them what had occurred and, unclipping her bag, inserted her hand and rummaged around in search of her find. Then with a scream, the last she ever gave, she quickly withdrew her hand. Attached to her finger by its teeth was a deadly coral snake.

For her, it was a necklace of death.


When we think of Scotland, ideas and images such as clan,  kilt,  heath, medieval castle, and Edinburgh festival and come to the fore. At this time of year, another idea should come to mind – the song Auld Lang Syne, which will be sung in many places all over the world.

 The people of tiny Scotland have made their mark all over the world. Way back in the old days, the Bank of England was founded by the Scot William Paterson and the Bank of France was founded by the Scot, John Law. The telephone was invented by Alexander Graham Bell, television by John Logie Baird and  penicillin by Sir Alexander Fleming, all Scotsmen.

Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson and Arthur Conan Doyle are just three of the great writers from Scotland.

 The ancestry of George Washington, the first president of the United States, has been traced back to the Scottish King Malcolm II. And after that three quarters of the presidents of the United States have had roots traceable to Scotland. 

The amazing depth and spread of their contributions to History, Science, Democracy, Literature, and the Arts cannot be mentioned here.  "No people so few in number have scored so deep a mark in the world's history as the Scots have done." J.A. Froude, 19th Century,English Historian.  

Scottish imprints in the Caribbean

 The influence of the Scots have been evident in the Caribbean as well. While Britain was a colonial power in the West Indies many Scots went there and left their mark in many ways.

Most of the Scots in the West Indies arrived unwillingly. In 1654, Oliver Cromwell transported five hundred Scots prisoners-of-war. Felons or political undesirables were sent to the West Indian islands in chains directly from Scotland. In addition, English planters were often granted legal requests for  Scottish indentured servants. Because of this, a steady stream of indentured servants sailed from Scottish and English ports to the West Indies.  

By the latter part of the seventeenth century, there were Scots merchants, planters, seafarers, and transportees were to be found throughout the English and Dutch colonies of the Caribbean.

Many of the colonists used the islands as a stopping-off point before continuing on to the mainland of America, where they then settled. Alexander Hamilton and Theodore Roosevelt descended from Scots who initially settled in the Caribbean. 

As the demand for sugar grew so did the demand for labor, and it became the custom to "transport" political dissidents, felons, and other undesirables as an alternative to hanging. Some of their descendants can still be seen in Barbados, where they are called "Redlegs".

Wherever treaty relations with Great Britain made it possible for English and Scottish merchants to monopolize commerce—there they established homes and places of business, and retaining their devotion to their mother-country, their king, and their traditions, creating centers of Scottish life that became in reality little Scotlands.

Some Scottish names survive. Cave Hill, and Graeme Hall in  Barbados. Culloden, Craigie and Aberdeen in Jamaica.

Personal names abound : Anderson, Smith,  Brown, MacDonald, Wilson, Neils, Reid, Paterson in Guyana, Maxwell, Fletcher, Hunter, Walker, Mackenzie, Robertson, Murray, Carmichael, Cameron, Campbell, Grant, Frazer, Stewart. 

Auld Lang Syne

 And as every year ends, the Caribbean joins much of the English-Speaking world in singing an old Scottish song, Auld Lang Syne.

In  all English-speaking Caribbean countries, the old year is rung out and the new year rung in at churches holding services, called watchnight services, starting an hour or two or less before midnight.  Radio and television stations vie for attention as they count down the minutes to the new year. The same countdown is done at numerous dinners, parties, dances, and balls. Everywhere the corks pop and people sing “Auld Lang Syne.” 

AULD LANG SYNE is a  New Year Song written  by the Scottish Bard, Robert Burns. Auld lang syne is a phrase that literally means "old long since" or "old long ago". You probably know it.  

Hogmanay is the Scots word for the celebration of the New Year in the Scottish manner. Its official date is the 31st of December. However, for the Scot it is a celebration which may last until the morning of  the 2nd of January in some cases. An important Hogmanay custom however is the singing of Auld Lang Syne immediately after midnight on the last day of the year.

The underlying belief is to clear out the vestiges of the old year, have a clean break and welcome in a young, New Year on a happy note. Yet Auld Lang Syne seems to suggest that friendships should not be abandoned with the old year.

Duncan A Bruce in his book “The Mark of the Scots” says:  “The story of the achievement of the Scots is truly remarkable and can serve as a model for other small, poor, and remote countries, for everywhere they have gone their industry has produced benefits to society, in general.”

This truth may well be remembered as we listen or sing Auld Lang Syne at the beginning of the new year.

A Hurricane Story: The Deadly Long Island Express

 This is not about a railway train or a railway system, but about a deadly hurricane that visited Long Island, New York.

On the morning of  September 21, 1938, there was a brisk breeze, overcast skies, and the temperature was in the 70s on Long Island’s Westhampton Beach. There was no hint of what was to come. 

The early afternoon changed to heavy rains and rough seas. Then swiftly and without warning the wind had turned to gale force. By 3.00 pm the wind was gusting at 150 m.p.h. A hurricane had come ashore on Long Island.

In 1938 there was neither weather radar nor weather satellite, and although the U.S. Weather Bureau, as it was then known, knew of a powerful storm that had reached category 5 strength on September 19, the Bureau predicted that the storm would curve out into the Atlantic before reaching New York.

The hurricane, formed in the eastern Atlantic, at first seemed headed straight for Florida, but unexpectedly changed course to Long Island. Caught up in a jet stream, it raced to Long Island at the incredible speed of over 60 m.p.h.

By the morning of the 21st it was 100 to 150 miles east of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, making landfall over Long Island and Connecticut that afternoon as a Category 3 hurricane.

That day, the Atlantic Ocean surged on to Long Island’s beaches with waves between 30 and 50 feet high with ten-foot breakers, dwarfing most of the houses. They swept the houses off the sand strip, some of them all the way to the mainland. Many people were drowned.

 The hurricane had done its work in less than 12 hours, moving from New York and New England and spending itself out in Canada in the early hours of September 22, after fierce gales and heavy rains.

 The rainfall from the hurricane added to the amounts that had occurred with an earlier frontal system. The combined effects produced rainfall of 10 to 17 inches across most of the Connecticut River Valley. This resulted in some of the worst flooding ever recorded in the area. 

On Long Island, the Long Island Express killed 680 people, damaged or destroyed 20,000 buildings, submerged or smashed 26,000 cars, and brought down some 250 million trees.

From Long Island to Cape Cod, the coastline was changed. The hurricane dug out two new inlets  - the Moriches and Shinnecock.

Today’s newer hurricane-tracking technologies make it unlikely that New York and other areas will be caught by surprise again, but technologies do not determine the severity of a hurricane.

 As for the damage a future hurricane might do, numerous resort beaches have been developed after 1938 to cater to the needs of hordes of summer vacationers. In addition,

hundreds of thousands of homes, many of them veritable mansions, have been built along the Eastern Seaboard replacing and adding to those that were destroyed.

 Even with early warning, evacuation, should it become necessary, would be a colossal nightmare.



(Published May 2006)

 Whenever the Independence Day story of Guyana is told, the focus tends to be placed on the Flag Raising Ceremony and the Opening of Parliament on May 26, 1966. However, there were numerous other events and activities involving a wide range of people, including the thousands from abroad who returned to Guyana for this very special occasion.

 Many events were organized by the National History and Arts Council. The Prime Minister had appointed members to an Advisory Independence Celebrations Committee and included among the members were Lynette Dolphin (Chairman of  the Council), Harold Davis (Vice Chairman ) and S.M.V. Nasseer. Basil de Rushe, Secretary of the Council, performed the duties of Secretary to the Committee. 

The celebrations began four days before Independence Day, May 26, 1966,  and continued beyond that date. One of the events was a Caribbean Writers and Artists Conference, which was opened by Prime Minister Forbes Burnham on May 30, 1966 and presided over by A.J. Seymour.

 About twenty distinguished Caribbean writers and artists from many parts of the world, but mainly from the Caribbean and Europe, went to Guyana for this conference. This gathering inspired another like it in 1970, out of which came the idea of Carifesta.

 Another event was the historical pageant – “Ours the Glory” – planned and executed by the Council. Pageant Director was Cicely Robinson. Done as an outdoor performance, it portrayed “The Coming of the First Peoples to Guyana,” and featured 1050 children and 141 back stage assistants.

 A Committee was also deciding on what Guyana’s National Holidays should be. The committee comprised Dr. O.A. H. Johnson, Cicely Robinson, Waveney Seaforth, Pat Dial, Baldeo Singh, S.M.V. Nasseer, H. B. Hinds, J. W. Chin-A-Pen, Martin Carter, and H. Davis.

 The Council was given the responsibility of selecting a suitable form of dress for men. Although the sub-committee considering this matter met, nothing definitive was agreed on at that time. Later, however, the shirt-jac, a long-sleeved shirt in the shape of a jacket, emerged as a popular form of dress.

 Frank Pilgrim, assisted by A.F. Phillipe organized pre-independence programs which included steelbands, calypsos and an orchestra.

 Street dancing and tramping were scheduled in various parts of the city. In addition, a program was developed in which steelbands also performed at various hospitals including The Palms, and the Grove, Golden Grove, Versailles and Mackenzie hospitals.

 Art Exhibitions were held not only in Guyana, but in other countries as well. At the request of Dr. Bertram Collins of the University of the West Indies, 22 paintings, two carvings and two cases of exhibits from the Guyana Museum were shipped to Jamaica for exhibition at Jamaica’s Contemporary Arts Gallery. Paintings and photographs were sent to London and Washington.

 Four hundred children from Berbice and one hundred from Demerara, mostly the East Bank, went touring the capital, Georgetown. They visited places of interest, including Photographic and Handicraft Exhibitions, the Independence Arch and were also able to see and admire the decorations in the city. Unfortunately, difficulties in the Essequibo area prevented children from formally taking part in the program.

 A water pageant was organized by S.M.V. Nasseer. After guests were ushered to their places on the waterfront by six girls dressed in costumes representing the six races of Guyana, they witnessed a fire boat display in which fountains of colored water were produced, a speed boat exhibition, a rowing race and a ski demonstration.

 Numerous other events took place. Private parties just proliferated as people came together to celebrate independence, but also to celebrate life, and friendship, and hope.


On November 1, 1611, a play called The Tempest was performed at Court in London, probably for the first time. The King attended and it was an instant success. It’s author, William Shakespeare, was at that time approaching the end of a long, productive, and highly successful career in the theater.

That play became one of the most famous and enduring of all time. Not only has it been staged ever since, but it has inspired the composers Berlioz, Tchaikovsky, and Jean Sibelius, among others, to write music for it. 

The inspiration for the play came from the Caribbean. In 1609, an English ship, the Sea Venture, under the command of Sir George Somers, set out on a voyage to these parts. Caught in a violent storm, the little vessel was wrecked on the coast of Bermuda. The crew managed to make shore safely. Then from the timbers of their wrecked ship they made two smaller boats and sailed across the water to Virginia in America, where they decided to settle. But the hard primitive coast of  Virginia disappointed these early settlers and they returned to Bermuda. 

Bermuda, then, is the setting for the play. Shakespeare made it a metaphysical work about magic. Virginia colonists kept fairly detailed accounts of their experiences in the New World. These historical documents, known as the ‘Bermuda Pamphlets.’ A close reading of the pamphlets and Shakespeare's text shows that the manuscripts were certainly very much in the poet's thoughts, and probably in his hands, while he wrote his play in 1611 

Bermuda was part of Britain's American empire, referred to in London as "His Majesty's Islands of the Bermudas or Somer's Isles in America" - thus Bermuda is not part of the Caribbean. 

Shortly afterwards Sir George Somers died. His son buried his father’s heart there and then sailed back to England with the body. 

Storms, shipwrecks, and such are the stuff sensational reports were made of .



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