A stroll around the Carenage area of St George’s, Grenada allows one to get an understanding of the hustle and bustle of a working port in the early nineteenth century. We know that Leitch & Smith – one of the premier Glasgow merchant firms on the island in this period – purchased one acre of land here around 1810, no doubt to facilitate the transfer of cargo and produce from their warehouses to the waiting ships destined for Glasgow . Representatives of the firm on the island transported the sugar and the cotton from estates across the island and the broad Scots accent would have been a familar sound. Carenage was also the main departure point for many Scots adventurers who made the short journey up to Carriacou, an island of the north coast off Grenada. As I knew about the strong Scottish connection, I decided to recreate this journey – and I wasn’t disappointed. The map here shows my rough route. Carriacou (population approx. 7,000) is an enchanting little island of 13 square miles and mainly untouched by the commercialism of the larger resorts. I travelled from the capital, Hillsborough, looking for Scottish owned cotton plantations Craigston and Meldrum which were owned by the Urquhart family of northeast Scotland. They followed the pattern of naming their estates after places at home . Much of Craigston has been broken up today for housing although Meldrum seems to be intact and the map here illustrates the location of both. The Legacies of British Slaveownership project reveals that William Urquart claimed over £8,000 compensation for enslaved peoples on the emancipation of slavery in 1834.
I also made the trip up to Windward in the north of the island, where I was told there is a small, white community – much like the ‘redlegs’ of Barbados – who are said to be descended from Scots and who retained traditional shipbuilding skills from the eighteenth century. It was marvellous to see a half built ship near the beach. Speaking to many locals there is an understanding that Scots were involved in Carriacou and I received a great welcome. But it was quite surreal sitting in the Sportsman Bar on the beach discussing the impact of Sir Alex Ferguson on English football! Wonderful amazing place with warm, friendly people and I’ll be back.
1. Stephen Mullen, ‘A Glasgow-West India Merchant House and the Imperial Dividend, 1779-1867’, Journal of Scottish Historical Studies, (2013), pp.196-233.
2. See H. Gordon Slade ‘Craigston and Meldrum estates, Carriacou 1769-1841’ Proceedings of Society of Antiquarians of Scotland 114 (1984), pp. 481-537.