Grand Bahama in 1934
Grand Bahama has been a sort of lost child of the
colony and only in the 1880's did it begin to attract any permanent settlement.
Intermittently it has had lumber operations, for the last few years its
dusky inhabitants have been engaged in fishing, turtling and sponging.
Traveling up Hawksbill Creek among the mangroves is a picturesque adventure,
but getting ashore thereabouts has its difficulties.
In town I met a little man whose pockets were as full of blueprints as
his head was full of plans.
"Palm Beach sixty miles away - cheap liquor here - only twenty minutes
by aeroplane; how about building a Casino and drawing the Palm Beachers
who wish for a real exclusiveness?"/
Well, how about it? I could not say. The place seemed to possess the great
advantage of being near to the home of the plutocrat - with only a stream
between, so to speak. I heard from time to time tales of Baron this, or
Count that, of the Duke of Hither-and-Yon and the Honorable Whoosit, yet
it seemed evident that no money was available. So Palm Beach still exists
without its would-be competitor.
What my promoter friend is doing now I do not know. He had some other
sort of title to a handsome island - if nothing else. The place has loveliness,
charm, and all of the characteristic features of the Bahamian sub-tropical
No matter how gloomy the promoter's day may be there is always a bright
spot somewhere. I found one at West end, where were moored a fleet of
grey, low-hulled motor-engined cruisers and some half dozen aeroplanes.
Nearby an old Cambridge graduate dealt in the stuff that made "Pussyfoot"
Johnson a hero. Here was a spot to tie to, good food, ice, fresh meat,
the very best of wines; and for companionship, the world's latest company
of the "lost legion." The mangrove bush furnished excellent
shooting and just offshore one found the best of fishing. A world outside
of the usual world of men, where the conversation was about air trips
that paid - or concerned the best engined planes, the fastest marine engines.
Englishmen and Americans vied with each other in boosting their respective
motors and wings./
There were, of course, big gaps in the conversation: "Big Nick"
or "Red" had been "copped" and "sent down"
for a "stretch." There was a tale of the bootlegger who had
towed a coastguard cutter through a dirty sea and had the ship safely
inside the Miami bar, only to be held up by the man he had saved. This
Samaritan was "sent down" for seven years, so the story ran.
The liquor we drank was liqueur Scotch of a kind connoisseurs in my Montreal
club took as cannily as if it were an old brandy. With these men it was
"In the sky today and in the pen tomorrow, but there's a kick to
it." That was the expression of an ex-R.A.F. who had come in the
day before with his wings riddled with bullets that had followed him from
the Everglades back of Miami. Another three trips and he would quit and
go back to Canada; he had had enough. Many nationalities were represented
in this collection of game birdmen who so recently had been heroes in
The liquor stocks at this port of missing men represented hundreds of
thousands of dollars; to guard them the British law provided one Commissioner
and one native policeman. Outside the harbour was a pitching and heaving
thirty-footer with a gun forward and a big number on her hull plates;
representative of the other side's idea of maintaining law and order.
Tossing about in a small dinghy near her and jollying her exasperated
crew was a "Conchie Joe,"/ fishing for food as well as for the
information which replies to his sallies might contain. Of course, the
cutter was inside territorial waters but she was "under way,"
so there was no breach of international relations. Unless perchance one
counts "Conchie Joe's" farewell to his visitor: "'Bye,
you sons of Beelzebub (or something like it)! Come again."
The answer from the revenue cutter was so fiery that the propeller shaft
almost developed a hot bearing. The descendant of the buccaneers thumbed
a stumpy salute from his nose; so, too, his ancestors may have behaved
in the days of blockade running into Wilmington.
Some day it is said a great tale concerning these goings-on will be written
by an elegant young gentleman of the colony who left school suddenly ten
years ago to enter the "coastwise trade."
Bell, Major H. MacLachlan. Bahamas: Isles of June.
New York: Robert M. McBride & Co., 1934. p. 130 -133