Grenada Heritage: Plantations – Baccaye Estate

Baccaye Plantation Estate

WesterhallBaccaye Plantation Estate now know as Westerhall Estate is in the parish of St David, Grenada.  The map shown here shows its location on the south coast. The survey of 1824 shows the estate was a sugar plantation of 951 acres – considered one of the largest on the island – although today only rum is produced. Many go to sample the wares but you can also retrace the footsteps of one James MacQueen (1778-1870) who worked on the estate when it was owned by the Johnstone family of Dumfries, Scotland [1]. It seems that William Johnstone Pulteney was involved with a disputed compensation claim for over £4800 for 176 slaves on Westerhall in 1837. MacQueen himself was a large scale claimant of compensation for enslaved peoples on St Kitts.SAM_3073

 

 

 

However, more interesting is the earlier period which has been illuminated by David Lambert’s work on MacQueen’s imperial career, especially when he was the resident overseer on Westerhall, 1797-1810 [2]. MacQueen was part of a wider migration from Scotland during the period 1750-1800 in which up to 17,000 young men temporarily relocated to the West Indies in search of fame and fortune. SAM_3012He arrived on Grenada in the immediate aftermath of the failed Fedon’s rebellion of 1795 (provoked when the English island leaders not honoring the French move to emancipating all their colonial slaves) and Lambert cites correspondence outlining the damage done during the revolt: ‘most of the canes at Westerhall that were uncut had been burnt, together with the Dwelling House and Out Houses at the Point, and I have since learnt that the Works on the Estate, as well as on almost every other Estate in the Island, were also burnt’ [3]. The rebuilding of Westerhall thus represented a formative period in the Scottish sojourner’s life.  Originally from Crawford in Lanarkshire in Scotland, MacQueen entered into a decimated plantation economy and a colonial society divided by religion and nationality which, according to Lambert, shaped his conservative, anti-Catholic and anti-French outlook. SAM_3087According to Lambert, MacQueen oversaw the rebuilding of Westerhall in the aftermath of the rebellion for which he was paid £40 sterling per annum. His role in subsequent years as overseer would have included managing the estate’s enslaved peoples and promoting labour through the whip. His work complete by 1810, MacQueen travelled home and later became the editor of the pro-slavery Glasgow Courier and was employed by the Glasgow West India Association to disseminate similar propaganda in the 1820s. Sadly these days, Westerhall holds no record of MacQueen’s employment but there are lots of clues to the estates past.  You could envision MacQueen walking through this boiling house (which would have been covered by a roof) up to the upper reaches of the estate where the ‘big house’ was situated and then down to the sugar fields nearby the sea. The date at the top left of this adjoining building (probably sugar works) outline it was built in 1800 just after the rebellion. SAM_3111You may almost hear MacQueen barking orders in a thick Lanarkshire accent to masons over from Scotland and to the enslaved persons employed in the works. The stills here are said to be a remnant when the estate was under French control sometime before 1763. The surviving mill and aqueduct illustrates the transition to heavy industry from slave labour after emancipation in 1834.

 

SAM_3112

 

The mills were made in Glasgow in 1860-1861 and this example underlines how Scotland profiteered in successive stages of the colonial economy. The primitive accumulation of capital was made in the New World which fuelled Scotland’s rise to industrial nation. By the 1860s, Scottish manufactories were exporting engineered goods across the British Empire. MacQueen lived a long life (dying aged 92) and would have seen many changes, how often would his thoughts turned to Westerhall and the thirteen year period that shaped his life? SAM_3058

 

 

MacQueen returned with wealth based on the expropriation of labour from enslaved peoples which must have funded his activities in Glasgow. So you may now return with a new understanding of the Scots in the Caribbean and their legacy today.

 

 

 

Reference

[1] For a thorough account of the Johnstone family, see Emma Rothschild’s magisterial The Inner Life of Empires: An Eighteenth Century History, (U.K.: Princeton University Press, 2011),

[2] See David Lambert, ‘The “Glasgow King of Billingsgate”: James MacQueen and an Atlantic proslavery network’ Slavery and Abolition29 (2008), pp. 389-413 and his more recent account, Mastering the Niger: James MacQueen’s African Geography and the Struggle over Atlantic Slavery, (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 2013).

[3] David Lambert, Mastering the Niger: James MacQueen’s African Geography and the Struggle over Atlantic Slavery, (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 2013), p.247.

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