Barnes Hill Village, unique enough to be celebrated.
If you have never visited my village then you have missed out on a lot of excitement and laughter.
Of course there were very serious times… great landmark moments I might add.
I guess then, it is very safe to say that the people of Barnes Hill really ought to be enjoying a lot more than they do in so far as the development of the community is concerned.
The village. it is claimed, was named in honour of a young English settler, William Barnes, who was born in December 1656 and died in November 1695. He and his family owned much of the estate lands in the area having acquired much from Colonel Fitches.
Barnes has the distinction of being the first known settler to be buried in a place of worship, the St. George’s Anglican Church, in Fitches Creek.
The Barnes Hill community had one of the earlier police stations and there was a solid sugar mill near the extreme western end of the Powell’s road. This mill was destroyed to accommodate aircraft flying almost directly over the area on approach to Runway 10.
The US influence on the area is well document with the establishment of a naval and air force base on its backyard.
The community was also home to two of the three important lime kilns in the country. The projects produced white lime used in construction and in controlling human waste. White lime was also used for painting walls and for many years, to mark the creases for cricket matches and play boundaries in football.
Barnes Hill also produced only the fourth steel band to be established in Antigua and Barbuda when Sun Valley was established in 1949 following Hell’s Gate, Brute Force and Red Army.
It was splinters from this feared “country band” that formed North Stars of New Winthorpes and Rising Sun of Pigotts — the likes of Manning and Vincent Freeland will attest to that fact.
Indeed it was gut-wrenching to me, as a member of this unsung community to visit the National Museum and to see a magazine caption claiming the image is that of the Brute Force band when it was in fact Sun Valley.
If the matter were not so serious I would have been laughing all the way to the curator’s office as the (Sun Valley) band’s banner can be seen in the photograph.
Local historians usually make a muddle of this timeline. I would not want to suggest that the Sun Valley omission was deliberately constructed but I have noticed that in Antigua and Barbuda we pick up on some of the facts and build around same depending on background, family influence and how it is deemed the story ought to end whether in plain black and white or deftly coloured.
Should the truth be told, members of the Barnes Hill community would be proud to know, based on interviews of several older generation pan men, that the two top players at one time were referred to as “Bum”. “Bum” Jardine of Brute Force and Roy “Bum/Bumpers” Solomon of Barnes Hill.
The people would also be elated to learn that the often spoken of “Growler” a key drum addition to the steelband was a design of the Sun Valley team. The late “Arthur “Braggoat” Williams and “Ourside” were foremost exponents of the delivery of the growler sounds but none mastered it like Hedrington (Spaniard) Hazlewood.
So when the Sun Valley team assembled at the sound of the bugle blown by Hazlewood and others the other bands literally trembled because the boys from Barnes Hill were more creative and innovative from their gold and black silk-based attire to their delivery of early steelband music.
So innovative was this band that it is believed it was the first steel band to be invited to and to play in a church when steelband was supposedly rooted in hooliganism. Others say the band that holds that distinction is North Stars of New Winthorpes but Carlton Destin said he remembers Sun Valley at the upstairs deck of the St. Michael’s church as they played a hymn Give Light oh Lord.
The argument appears to stem from the fact that the situation revolved around a concert programme in which both bands featured and one might have simply appeared first on the events list and the other followed. So the jury is still out on that one but information that Hell’s Gate was the first band to play in a church in Antigua and Barbuda seems to be a mere figment of town bands’ imagination.