Tour Of The Caribbean – The First West Indian Tourist

THE first British tourist to the West Indies was undoubtedly Robert Duddeley, Earl of Warwick and Leicester, Duke of Northumberland, Knight of the Garter and, in a general way, ” Leiftenante of all her Majestie’s fortes and forces beyonde the seas.”

He went like other tourists primarily to enjoy himself and to see new lands. Incidentally he did a little pirating on the way, but only as an amateur. He indulged in piracy in a proper tourist spirit, and not with any idea of making money by the pursuit He no doubt felt that on this particular trip it was the right thing to do, just as the winter visitor to Norway feels compelled to take to ski-running. In the same mood the tripper in Egypt wears a tarboosh and allows himself to be shaken into a jelly on the back of a Bank Holiday camel.

It may be said at once that Robert Duddeley, as a pirate, had little sport. The only Spanish vessel he fell in with on the voyage out hoisted English colours, and escaping into shallow water jeered at the tourist ship and taunted the crew with mockery and depraved language. ” The which,” writes Captain Wyatt, who commanded the pikemen, ” our generall toke mightelie offensive.”

The pirate duke had every reason to be annoyed with these coarse, low men, for his grace was proud and very dignified and ceremonious. For example, when his ship approached a strange vessel to do battle Wyatt says that they always ” caused the collers of our countrey and of our generall to be advansed in the topps,poope and shrowdes of our Shipp.” More than that the ” trumpetts ” took up their place ” on the top of the master’s cabbin.” Anyone looking down from the poop would have seen ” every gunner standinge by his peece.” On the poop would be the noble duke himself, in his best armour, with the ribbon of the Garter across his chest, a baton in his mailed hand and plumes in his helmet. After all this parade it is no wonder that his grace considered it mightily offensive of the Spaniard to get out of harm’s way and then grin over his bulwarks at him and indulge in contemptuous laughter and obscenely expressed chaff.

Robert Duddeley, like the present-day tourist, started from Southampton at the commencement of the holiday season—viz. in November. This was in the year 1594. On November 6, according to Captain Wyatt, “hee caused his shippinge to disanker from the Rode afore Hampton.” The ” shippinge ” consisted of the Bear, the Bear’s Whelp and two small pinnaces named the Frisking and the Earwig.

On the return journey, by the bye, they did not make their port with the precision of a mail steamer, for they ” fell by reason of most extreme mistie weather in with a fisher towne called St. Jiues in Cornwall.”

The Bear reached Trinidad on January 31, 1595, and dropped anchor in Cedros Bay, some distance south of the Pitch Lake. The experiences of the tourists during the first four days of their sojourn in the island are worthy of record.

On February 1, a Saturday, they sent a boat ashore to confer with the natives. The conference was satisfactory, for ” the daie followinge, being Sondaie, in the morninge came the salvages with two canowes aborde us.” They amiably bartered food for beads and fish hooks and no doubt for hawk’s bells. Now it so happened that one “salvage” could speak Spanish. It was unfortunate, for it led to trouble. The mischief began when the accomplished native told the duke of a gold mine along the coast. Although it was Sunday the general must needs send Captain Jobson and others ashore to see this property. After trudging eight weary miles in the sun Jobson came upon the ore and brought some of it back in his pocket. The mineral was bronze-yellow in colour, and the duke, after he had eagerly handled it, pronounced it to be fine gold. Their fortunes were made.

It may here be stated that the nugget the happy tourist gloated over and locked away in his velvet-lined cabinet was a specimen of marcasite, a form of iron pyrites about as valueless as road metal.

After a sleepless night, devoted to the contemplation of the high calling of a millionaire, Robert the tourist resolved to take possession of this gold mine which Providence and the “salvage” had placed in his hand. He did this, as he did all things, with the utmost ceremony. On Monday morning he landed in full armour with all his soldiers. As he placed his ducal foot upon the beach the men drawn up along the shore fired ” a vallew of small shot,” to which the Bear in the offing respectfully answered ” with ten peeces of the great ordenance.” The troops were then paraded and inspected, as is still the custom when royal personages land upon strange soil.

The march to the mine commenced. It was a solemn procession. The duke in person led the way. With him was, no doubt, that ” salvage ” who had the gift of tongues, and who was probably secured by a rope round his neck. Unfortunately, the route was by the margin of the sea, through very soft sand. It was a march to be remembered ; a tramp along a furnace-hot beach which gave way under each step, with the noonday sun of the tropics overhead and not a scrap of shade as wide as a man’s hand to temper the glare. One can see the staggering figure of the leader, clad in glistening mail too warm to touch, with a helmet on his head, and in his heart a pride so great that he dared not lift the casque from his shoulders. He must have dripped like a leaky iron tank as he stumbled along, and if prickly heat seized upon him while he dragged one heavy foot after the other out of the sand he cannot but have felt that the way of millionaires is hard. The journey was little better than a penance, although they trudged along cheered by ” the noyse of trumpetts and drome.”

At length, writes Wyatt, ” having marched VIII longe miles through the deepe sandes and in a most extreame hott daie, our Generall, unaccustomed, God he knows, to walke on foote, leading the march, wee at length came unto the place wheare this ore was, and havinge placed our courte of garde in a convenient place and sett forth our centronells, all the rest were appointed to the gatheringe of ore.”

That gathering of ore must have been a sight worth seeing. They may in after years have thought of it as wool-gathering, but, for the moment, the wool was the Golden Fleece. Purple-faced men, who had been talking of flagons of beer all the way, forgot their thirst, forgot even to mop their streaming faces, forgot to shake the sand out of their shoes, and falling down upon their knees proceeded to stuff their pockets with this paltry stone. To the envy of the ” centronells,” who stood motionless in sight, they would hide lumps of the yellow rock in their doublets, drop pieces down their necks, slip fragments up their sleeves, until they must have rattled like a boy’s bag of marbles.

Every piece was an item in a fortune. This lump would buy for one pimply soldier the village alehouse and the cider orchard. This handsome lad, who had jammed a particularly fine piece of rock into his breeches, felt assured that it would enable him to marry Dolly when he landed at Hampton, where he and she could live happily ever after. One fragment of stone was to make an old mother comfortable, another was to pay for a boy’s apprenticeship, a third would buy a comrade out of prison, while every nugget meant some comfort and ease for the rest of each man’s journeying. What a day of dreams ! What a building of castles in the air ! A crowd of crawling, scrambling men all grubbing up happiness with their hands, all finding in the dirt their heart’s desire, all radiant that the world was well with them at last.

Poor perspiring, finger-sore simpletons, they would have been better engaged if they had been picking up lumps of coal. Still, the joy kept with them until they reached their homes. Then came a drama, grim and oft-repeated, the tragedy of the goldsmith’s shop, the nugget dragged proudly out of the much-handled pouch, the smiling sweetheart on her lover’s arm, with visions of a happiness beyond imagining, the guffaw of the goldsmith who would give a groat for a cartload, the weeping girl at the closed gate of Paradise, and the cursing soldier hurling a yellow stone into the stream.

In the meanwhile things were not quite comfortable at the gold mine. The tide had come up and covered the track, so there was nothing to do but wait for the ebb. ” Our generall,” says Wyatt, “peceavinge a most filthie miste to fall, caused an armefull of boughes to be cutt and laide on the grownde, wheraeon he himself lay downe ; over whome Ancient’ Barrow helde his collers, and Wyatt made his stande rownde about him.” Lord Duddeley must have been grateful for this rest, as well as for the opportunity of removing his armour so as to rid himself of those insects which still trouble visitors to Trinidad. It must have been a picture to impress the ” salvage” : the peer recumbent in the silent forest with his stockinged feet projecting from under his cloak, with the family banner held over his head by a yawning ensign, while the guard stood around, their figures bulging at every point with blocks of iron pyrites.

The distinguished tourist had not been long asleep when the centronells ” raised an alarm, and in a moment all was confusion. The valiant general sprang to his feet, and ” with xx shott ” rushed into the treacherous woods to seek the cause of this disquietude and panic. It proved to be due to a firefly. Wyatt thus explains the position, it being only necessary to add that the fire-arm in those days was discharged by a glowing match or fuse : ” For theare is a certain flie which in the night time appeareth like unto a fire, and I have seene at the least two or three score togeather in the woods, the which make resemblance as if they weare soe manie light matches, the which I perswade myselfe gave occasion of some soden feare unto the centronells which gave the alarum.”

Probably there was no more sleep for anyone after this, for when the tide went down the party marched back to the ship in the cool of the dawn.

Nothing now remained but to take formal possession of the mine. This was accomplished on the very Tuesday on which the gold seekers returned to the ship. Robert Duddeley did not undertake this duty in person. He had had enough exercise for the moment. Another walk, in the sun, of sixteen miles in full armour through soft sand was almost more than any gold mine was worth. So he stayed on the vessel, and no doubt had his breakfast in bed. He did not, however, spare either his officers or his men, as Captain Wyatt’s account of the solemn function will show. ” This morninge, beinge Twsedaie, our Generall caused our Queenes armes to be drawne on a peece of lead and this inscription written underneath, the which was sett upon a tree neare adjoyinge unto the place wheare this myne of gold ore was discovered.” The inscription sets forth in Latin and at great length that ” Robertus Duddeleius, Anglus, filius illustrissimi comitis Leicestrencis,” etc., had descended upon the island and had taken it in the name of that most serene princess Queen Elizabeth.

The General entrusted the carrying out of the ceremony to old Captain Wyatt. Furthermore, he handed to the captain his own sword, as a sign that that officer had authority to act in his general’s behalf, ” joyninge with him in commission Mr. Wright and Mr. Vincent.” These three gentlemen, full of bustle and importance, landed once more on the blazing beach, and taking with them a formidable body of troops, started again on the purgatorial journey of sixteen miles.

” Marchinge forth in good order,” writes the cheerful Wyatt, “wee came unto the place wheare this our service was to be accomplished, the which wee finished after this sorte first wee caused the trumpetts to sownde solemlie three severall times, our companie troopinge rownde ; in the midst marched Wyatt, bearinge the Queenes armes wrapped in a white silke scarfe edged with a deepe silver lace, accompanied with Mr. Wright and Mr. Vincent, each of us with our armes, havinge the generail’s collers displaid, both with the trumpetts and the drome before us, after the chiefest of the troopes, then the whole troope, thus marchinge up unto the top of the mounte unto a tree the which grew away from all the rest, wheare wee made a stande. And after a generall silence Wyatt red it unto the troope, first as it was written in Latin, then in English ; after kissinge it hee fixed it on the tree and havinge a carpender placed alofte with hammer and nailes readie to make it faste, fastned it unto the tree. After wee pronounced thease wordes that ` The Honorable Robert Duddeley sonn and heyre unto the Right Honorable Robert Earle of Leicester, etc., etc., doth sweare, God favoringe his intent, to make good against anie knight in the whole world.” No knight having responded to this challenge the proceedings concluded by more sounding of the trumpets and the drum and a general yelling of ” God save our Queene Elizabeth.”

There is no doubt that it was an imposing function, made especially brilliant by the sunlight of the tropics. The men, I suppose, were in some such costume as is preserved in the present uniform of the Yeomen of the Guard. Captain Wyatt and his colleagues, Mr. Wright and Mr. Vincent, would be in shining armour, while it is sure that ” the collers,” as they waved in the breeze, made a bravery against the azure sky. There would be many flies buzzing in the air, the land crabs would come to the mouths of their holes and stand there in amazement, while the pelicans in the bay, unnerved by the sound of the trumpets and drum, would cease from their fishing. It may be surmised that the ” salvages ” who peeped out of the woods were much interested in the purple-faced ” carpender ” who, hanging over a bough head downwards with his mouth full of nails, was doing such strange things with the ” peece of lead.” I expect that some agile “salvage ” took down that piece of lead as soon as Duddeley’s ships were out of sight and sold it to the first pirate who was looking about for something to melt into bullets.