Excerpts from the papers of Malcolm Kennedy, of Girvan.
Describing his personal visit to the aforementioned lands in 1805.
It was my intention to see the Scottish Antilles, the islands that have provided so much of Scotlandís wealth over the past century. To give the reader an account of these interesting countries.
I left the fine harbour at Ayr, in October of 1803, bound for Tobago, and its chief town of Roxburgh. It was to be my first landfall amongst the Scottish Antilles. Fitting as it was on Tobago that the Company of Scotland established its first colony in the Caribbean, its second colony after the fort at Sekondi on the Gold Coast.
Before the arrival of the Scots the Island of Tobago had endured a much troubled history. The island having suffered several failed colonisation attempts. Tobago first attracted the attention of Dutch traders from Brazil. Impressed by the fertility of its soil and the nearness of the continent they had few problems in establishing the colony of New Walcheren there in 1632. The colony of two hundred was attacked by the Spanish before they had time to finish their fort. All who fell into the hands of the Spanish were massacred, the uncompleted fortress was destroyed and the cannon removed to Trinidad.
Twenty years later some merchants of Flushing re-established New Walcheren, where in addition to their plantations, they provided every kind of European merchandise. Which the French and English colonists on neighbouring islands provisioned themselves with. The French and English colonies not being as devoted to commerce, even the Spaniards of Trinidad and Guiana furnished themselves from Tobago.
The Duke of Courland, godson of James I of England and VI of Scotland established a colony there, on Courland Bay. The colony was seized in 1659 when the Duke himself was dispossessed of his lands and imprisoned by the king of Sweden. An act which prompted England to declare war on the States General.
The New Walcheren suffered at the hands of the Barbadian privateers, who harried it during the war between England and the States General. But there was no mention of the island or Fort James in the peace that was concluded in 1675.
The Dutch now sacked Cayenne, as part of their war against the French which had begun in 1672. The French retaliated with an attack on the island. However finding the island better garrisoned than they had expected opted to bombard it. One of the bombs fell in the main magazine of the colony, causing the death of most of the garrison. And the colony established under the most fortunate of auspices in 1654, was razed on December 24 1677.
After the peace that was established in 1678, the Duke of Courland renewed his pretensions to the island. Employing an agent named Pointz, to offer grants of land to those who might be inclined to settle there.
For the next twenty years Pointz pursued the interests of the Dukes of Courland. However Englandís continuing wars on the continent meant that the nascent colony had too many enemies, and the colonial ventures on the island ended in failure.
As is well known 1698 was a bold year in Scottish history for it was then that the Company of Scotland set its colours in the red earth of Africa. Fort Sekondi was established as an outlet for Scottish goods and a source for slaves. From the outset the Company found that the main market for its slaves was in the Guianas and Trinidad. The more profitable slave markets being closed to the Company. The company was bound by the restrictions emplaced on it by the Navigation Act of 1663 and could trade with no English colony. It was resolved that the company ought to put negroes to work for its own profit. To produce the commodities that Europe demanded. And too this end the site for a Caribbean colony should be sought.
Initially thoughts returned to the plans to establish a colony on the Panama coast. However in 1699 the barquentine Isle of May anchored off the Island of Tobago. The island was uninhabited, though the signs of the French sailors and soldiers were widespread. There were also abandoned plantations of cocoa, and indigo.
By curious timing 1699 also saw Pointz approach the Company of Scotland to assist in establishing and provisioning a colony on the island. Once again the Company abandoned the idea of establishing a Darien colony. In April 1700, six ships of the Company set sail from Greenock. They carried 1200 Scots colonists together with provisions for a year and trade goods to establish the colony.
The small armada made its way to Madeira, where the Unicorn parted company from the other ships to sail for Fort Sekondi. The rest of the fleet crossed the Atlantic making good speed with the trade winds to the West Indies. The island of Martinique was sighted four weeks after leaving Madeira. A few more days sailing brought the ships to Tobago, where they anchored in what was later to become Roxburgh Bay.
Sickness had fortunately not badly affected the colonists on their voyage. However in the June heat, the fevers that had begun on the ship began to worsen. A situation made worse by the continual rain in that month. Food spoiled in the barrels kept on board ship as the continual heat and damp split them. Work progressed slowly on the palm thatched wooden huts and the small wood and earth fort that stood on a hill to the southwest of the colony giving it a commanding view of the bay.
By December when the relief fleet arrived, the standing of the colony had greatly improved. A shipment of slaves the previous month by the Unicorn, together with an improvement in the weather had allowed the colony to begin looking for stone to start a more permanent settlement. This had been duly found in the hills behind the settlement along with quantities of schistose slate. The negroes had been put to work in reclaiming the abandoned plantation nearby the colony, and the whole venture began to take on a more orderly appearance.
The colony now well established was quickly able to build up a substantial trade in goods. Scotland had been restricted in her trade since the restoration of the monarchy. Like the Dutch before them the Scots found that they were providing European merchandise to the surrounding colonies. A positive boon for Scottish industries, which until then had been hampered by the laws restricting trade, across the Scots English border.
This perhaps precipitated the English East India Company to seize a cargo of cocoa and sugar bound for Gdansk in 1702. The Strathleven a merchantman from Greenock, had been flying Scots colours when she was stopped and impounded by a warship of the East India Company. The event occasioned considerable anger in Edinburgh, and prompted the Duke of Courland to intervene on behalf of the Company of Scotland. Persuading Anne to grant legitimacy to the right of the company of Scotland to trade and develop its own colonies in the West Indies. The royal charter was established along with the stipend of two hogshead of cocoa paid to the crown each year.
The early colony was greatly harried by the activities of French Pirates, who used Tobago, for many years, for their operations in the southern Antilles. They never plundered the colony, but they were responsible for the loss of two of the companyís fine ships, the Dolphin and the St Andrew. The attacks on Scottish shipping decreased after the legitimacy of the company of Scotland was recognised by the crown. And both English and Scots privateers began to operate from Roxburgh Bay.
The colony grew steadily, and a considerable influx of colonists was brought in 1716, after the failed Jacobite Rebellion in Scotland. An event which brought many good labourers to the island. Tobago was now well established as an entrepot for bricks, tiles, iron tools, pewter, bronze and cloth from Scotland. Peace in Europe brought many Scots to the Caribbean to seek their fortune, as settlers, as soldiers, and as traders. Many of whom adopted Spanish names and settled in Trinidad and Paria.
The wars between Britain and Spain in 1727 saw forces of the Company using Scottish soldiers in an attempt to capture Cumana. For 27 days Col. James Reid held the town until the Spanish garrison from Caracas was dispatched to dislodge him. Col. Reid escaped in good time to Tobago, burning Cumana when he left. The small town of Cunninghame at the mouth of the Carrick Firth stands where Cumana was once located.
Scottish smuggling kept these neglected corners of New Andalucia vibrant, the Spanish barely sent more than three ships a year to its chief town Cumana. Trinidad may have gone several years without receiving a Spanish merchantman. On Trinidad Scots families outnumbered those of the Spanish considerably. In 1735 when blight afflicted the cocoa harvest it was the Scots planters who had begun to grow coffee and sugar who profited most. The laziness of the Spanish planters on the islands sealed their own fate and their estates were increasingly bought by the Scots. Likewise on Paria, Scots families prospered through their links with Tobago. In Carupano the chief town and port of Paria, Scots was almost as commonly heard as Spanish. In spite of their laws regarding foreign settlers the Spanish scarcely bothered the Scots. Perhaps because of the extra prosperity Scottish settlers brought to the province.
In 1737 Ferdinand the last Duke of Courland died leaving the Company of Scotland in sole possession of Tobago.
In 1739 Spain declared war on Britain, the War of Jenkinís Ear. Once again the forces of the company of Scotland found themselves engaged in New Andalucia. The dominance of Scots settlers on the coast gave the Companyís troops a great advantage. Scottish soldiers seized the Spanish Town of New Barcelona in August 1742. Earlier English attacks on Porto Bello and Cartagena, were keeping Spain in a state of alert. The audacity of an attack in the hot season combined with the trouble the English were giving the Spanish at Cartagena and Porto Bello, prevented an effective Spanish response to the capture. Perhaps fearing an attack on Caracas itself if the garrison left to relieve Barcelona, the Scots were left in control of New Andalucia.
In 1740 it had become obvious that at some point the French would join the war, when 1200 troops were landed in Martinique. The French had never truly recognised the Scottish right to the island, and in October 1744 they attempted to land a force to wrest the island from Scotland. Around 11 oíclock in the morning there appeared off the coast four French warships. Beginning the assault by bombarding the colony proved disastrous for the French, the Fort Creag Ard proved the gunnery skill of the Scots. One French ship was holed below the waterline and the main mast of another was shot to matchwood. Rather than risk the ships and men on further attacks on the fort the French drew back, leaving the Scots victorious.
In 1745 a second Jacobite rebellion occurred in Scotland, less successful than the first. Again the defeat of the Jacobites brought much needed labour to Tobago and also to Trinidad and Paria, which were now firmly under Scots control. The treaty of Aix la Chapelle in 1748 confirmed the Scots right to these lands. And they became commonly known as Scottish Guiana.
The Highlanders naturally began to settle in the mountains of Scottish Guiana. A district of astounding fertility, where cattle and all manner of crops can be grown in the pastures and fields. However they were for many years much troubled by the local indians, who nowadays are more peaceful after the good work of the church.
In 1754 a small colony was established on the coast of Darien, from Jamaica. Although a fair number of colonists the new colony also attracted a number of colonists from Paria. The promise of land in so verdant a country proved too much to those who had scraped a living from the dry soils of Scottish Guiana.
The capture of Quebec in 1760 after a difficult siege saw an increase in Spanish attacks on Scottish ships, forcing the Scottish Parliament to declare war on Spain. After two forts were burned by the Spanish on the River Chumac by the Spanish and Portugal was invaded the English too declared war on Spain. Scotland declared war on France. An event which saw a Joint English Scots attack on Cuba and Sainte Dominigue. The English fared very well Admirals Albemarle and Pocock, capturing Havana. Admiral Crawford had less success in his attack on Jacmel. The port was intended to have been the launching point for an assault on Port au Prince. However the steadfast determination of the French defenders proved too much for the Scots, and they were forced to retire without reaching the town. In the treaty of Paris the following year the Spanish agreed to swap Darien for Cuba.
In 1768 William Carmichael established his well known iron works at Barcelona. Constructing a wagon way for the coal that is mined in the Naricual valley to the sea. The proximity of the good iron ore at Cunninghame, has made this an extremely profitable venture. The development of profitable industries like Carmichaelís Iron works or the lead mines at Fintrybrae has attracted many to Scottish Guiana in recent years. Would that the vast amounts of salt that could be gathered in the Carrick Firth could be sold. Sadly salt is of little demand in so dry a climate.
The rebellion of the English American colonies brought many settlers to Scottish Guiana. Those who wished to avoid the war and those loyal to the Crown. Initially the Scots played no part in the war, until the Spanish declaration of war against Britain dragged them into it. The Spanish force landed on the north coast of Trinidad and attempted to march on Dunclachan, the capital of the island. Their route through the mountains could not have been less fortunate, the heavy rains causing a landslip which greatly diminished their forces. Forcing them to surrender to the Scots commander of the island.
The Scots carried out a series of reprisal attacks against Spain including the famous sacking of San Thome by Captain Drysdale. The Islands of Margarita and Coche were also seized, their presence had long been a thorn in the side of the Scots colonies as a base for the Costa Guarda. Their famous pearl fisheries had been greatly overexploited by the Spanish and the trade now only supports one diving operation. The majority of the inhabitants of Margarita live in appalling penury, hunting the wild cattle of the island and farming the fields near Asuncion, the springs of which offer the only permanent water on the island. The Spanish attacked overland and met a Scottish army at the village of Clarine. The Scots held the strategic crossing point on the Unare river.
In North America a French Spanish advance into Georgia, pushed northward to the Altamaha River. Capturing Fort King George, before crossing the river and threatening Savannah. The city was heavily bombarded but the fortifications developed to defend it from such an attack repulsed the invaders. The situation in North America steadily worsened as the French took a more active role there. The second battle of Savannah, saw the fall of that city, and the siege of Augusta.
The resulting peace brokered by France saw the independence of Englandís North American colonies. The Spanish and French divided the captured Georgia colony between them. England also lost the rock of Gibraltar to Spain as part of the peace treaty, and Scotland the land she had gained on the Orinocco river. The Scots did however hold on to the islands of Margarita and Coche.
More recent events in France have seen the overturning of its monarchy, and the seizure of power by a series of civilian governments. In North America the twelve remaining American states have formed themselves into a confederacy. It is uncertain what the next hundred years will bring. But both the collapse of the French kingdom and the new country in North America will surely have some effect on Scottish Guiana.