An Evening with George
George Washington in Barbados
This evening I stepped back in time, circa 1751. I was invited to Captain Croftan’s house, where I enjoyed a lively conversation with a 19 year old young man by the name of, George Washington. He had been on the island for many weeks, sailing into Carlisle Bay on the brigantine, “Success” on the second of November. He was not thrilled by the long six week voyage starting at the Potomac River and described the ocean as, “fickle and merciless”.
Sadly, his older brother Lawrence could not join us as he was ill in bed, suffering from tuberculosis. Actually, that was the reason for the visit. Apart from Barbados being known as a conducive climate for such ailments, the Washington brothers had family here in Gedney Clarke, who was the uncle of Anne Fairfax, the eldest daughter of Colonel William Fairfax. Anne was Lawrence’s wife. “Naturally” said George, “We would have lodged with the Clarke family, but Mrs. Clarke had a bout of smallpox. Honour and respect for the family directed me to act against my better judgement in accepting an invitation from Gedney to visit with his family. Damdably, within two weeks, I contracted the dreaded pox and suffered a fevered hell for four weeks. I am so grateful for the expert care of Dr. Lanahan who attended at my side several times a day”
He paused to take a sip of an island beverage that had gained popularity among the Barbadian Planters, known as, “rum punch”. “I am becoming very fond of this beverage. I shall be taking two bottles of this fine Barbados rum back to Ferry Farm”.
The mood was casual and I found myself at ease with this engaging adventurer. Gentle violin notes harmonized around us, the duet were playing one of my favourites; Bach’s “Vivace”, in D Minor. As George was telling me about the time that he chopped down his father’s beloved cherry tree and we began to laugh, two boisterous young men, about George’s age, greeted George by name. Washington introduced his uniformed friends as; Major James Blades and Colonel Peter Stevens. Both had been patronizing the Bridgetown bowsing kens and were chirping merry. The Colonel was particularly disheveled; however, I thought it best not to make comment. James neatly stuffed his clay gage with a fid of fogus. Set his charcloth on top of his flint, struck it with his steel striker and raised a cloud. He gentled a small cough with a red-fustain and continued with the joke about the harlot and the Admiral
The jokes continued. We were in excellent spirits. George repeated one which was particularly funny. The Coxswain on the “Success” gave it to him. It went something like this: A pirate walks into a touting-ken and the tender says, “Oye mate, haven’t seen you in a while. What happened? You look terrible!” “What do you mean?” the pirate replies, “I’m fine.” The tender says, “But what about that wooden leg? You didn’t have that before.” “Well,” says the pirate, “We were in a battle at sea and a cannon ball hit my leg but the surgeon fixed me up, and I’m fine, really.” “Yeah,” says the tender, “But what about that hook? Last time I saw you, you had both hands.” “Well,” says the pirate, “We were in another battle and we boarded the enemy ship. I was in a sword fight and my hand was cut off, but the surgeon fixed me up with this hook, and I feel great, really.” “Oh,” says the tender, “What about that eye patch? Last time you were in here you had both eyes.” “Well,” says the pirate, “One day when we were at sea, some birds were flying over the ship. I looked up, and one of them shat in my eye.” “So?” replied the tender, “what happened? You couldn’t have lost an eye just from some bird shite!” “Well,” says the pirate, “I really wasn’t used to the hook yet.”
The humour subsided and conversation turned to things military such as, the numerous fortifications along the south and west coastlines. These being some of the most impressive fortifications in British America and one of the most heavily fortified colonies in the British Empire. Examining the island’s defenses, Washington concluded that Barbados was actually “one entire fortification.” He noted that the nearby Fort Charles displayed 36 cannon (These were likely John Armstrong design. Approx. ball weight: 12 Lb; Bore: 4” and length: 8’) and two fascine batterys.
George stated that Bridgetown was the largest city that he had seen and that by comparison Williamsburg was just a village. He said, “So everywhere furnished with inhabitants, that it resembles a scattered village in the midst of a garden. The beautiful prospects which, on every side present to our view, the fields of Cain, Corn, Fruit Trees, in a delightful Green. It is all perfectly ravishing”. He went on to tell us about his lunch at the “Beefsteak and Tripe Club” and meeting the Governor of Tortola at James. Carter’s house.
The living room now hushed, all but for our conversation, was the silent sign to bid farewell. We drained our flickers (glasses) with a toast to His Noble Majesty, King George II. Only then did George say that he would be sailing on the “Yorktown” for Virginia in the morrow. He invited me to stay with his family the next time that I was in Virginia.
Next time I travel back in time. I’ll look him up. Farewell George.
This story came about from invitation from James Blades and Peter Stevens, coordinators of the event “A Dinner with George”. I also attended the dinner last year with my husband and dear friends from Canada, Blaine and Jennie Worger; two well-traveled individuals who have been there, done that and they thoroughly enjoyed themselves at this event. It is truly an evening to enjoy and something just a little bit different. Imagine yourself, dining with George Washington from an authentic period menu.
Meet George, have dinner with him in Barbados and see if he has any more good jokes to offer. I will arrange the booking for you. Email: Concierge@barbadosvillaconnections.com . Call: 246-432-5498. See you soon!
Author: Tina ParravicinoEmail: Tina@barbadosvillaconnections.com