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by Curtney “Ghost” Chinnery
One of the fondest memories I have about growing up on Jost Van Dyke is of an event we called “bonfire” which celebrated a rather obscure holiday we observed in the British Virgin Islands called Guy Fawkes Day.
Bonfire was a special time for us. People, young and old, would gather around a huge fire to eat, drink, dance, sing songs and tell stories. On Jost Van Dyke most of us were related in one way or the other, and the bonfire was like a family picnic, full of love, laughter, and joy.
A major aspect of the bonfire was the dancing. One dance that stands out in my mind was the glass dance. Broken glass was spread out on a towel or blanket and the dancer would dance barefooted upon the sharp pieces of broken glass. Sometimes he would choose a woman from the crowd and carry her the way a bride is carried across the threshold. Then with the added weight of the woman he would continue the dance, stepping harder than ever in an impressive stomping style on the bed of broken glass…. read more
Press Release: Jaywalk With the Jumbies
Local Actors Sought for New Cruz Bay Comedy Troupe
CRUZ BAY, St. John, USVI – Actors with a flair for comedy or improv are being sought to audition either April 4 or April 6 in Cruz Bay for cast positions in a new professional local acting troupe.
Prior performance and/or improv experience is preferred (but not absolutely required for individuals with the right temperament and zany potential).
Actors cast will prepare for participation in a new professional acting troupe being developed locally. “Actors selected will develop improv techniques so they can rotate into various future performances,” said Anne Ostrenko, co-producer for Jaywalk with Jumbies, LLC.
Two-person actor/performer tandems will be sought. The principal role is an emcee with a commanding voice, a captain’s authority and an irreverent personality. A second role calls for a fun-loving, physical comic performer. This position requires a fast wit and agility. Cast members chosen will be paid for performances.
Actors ages 21 and over are welcome to the casting call. Auditions will be held at St. John School of the Arts in Cruz Bay from 9 a.m.-noon, Thursday, April 4 and 3:30-6:30 p.m. Saturday, April 6.
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Name: Ken Haldin
St. John News
Sail or Drive to Party with a Purpose
By Lynda Lohr — March 18, 2013
Set sail or take your car on Saturday to the 17th almost-annual Guy Benjamin School Benefit Flotilla Party with a Purpose. It will be held from noon to 4 p.m. at Vie’s Campground on St. John’s East End.
If you want to sail, boats leave Coral Bay at 9:30 a.m. Tickets run $40 and include entrance to the party. Event spokeswoman Mary Burks said anyone interested in sailing should just show up at the dinghy dock for a committee member to find them a spot on a boat…. read more
Work Commences on Pine Peace Basketball Court
By Source Staff — March 18, 2013
The rehabilitation work on the Pine Peace Basketball Court on St. John began this morning, according to a press release issued Monday by the V.I. Department of Public Works.
“The department has contracted the services of Stone Masonry Inc. in the amount of $368,620. The scope of the project includes addressing the drainage by elevating the entire property and installing a subsurface drainage system. The project will also incorporate the reconstruction and resurfacing of the basketball court, installation of new backboards and bleachers, and the construction of a new restroom facility,” said Public Works Commissioner Darryl Smalls. … Read more
St. John Weather
Partly cloudy with rain showers
High of 81 degrees F
Breezy: Winds from the ENE at 15 to 20 mph
Chance of rain 50%
Water Temperature (Charlotte Amalie harbor St. Thomas): 82.9 degrees
Sunset: 6:29 PM AST
St. John Live Music Schedule
Barefoot Cowboy Lounge
7:00 – 9:00
5:30 – 8:30
6:00 – 9:00
Karaoke & Open Mic
6:00 – 9:30
6:00 – 9:00
6:30 – 9:30
Rascio on Steel Pan
6:00 – 9:30
I once wrote, “I hate wild tamarind. They’re ugly, untidy and unruly. They spread rampantly and take over the place. They’re prejudiced and intolerant. They grow close together and won’t let any other plants live in their neighborhood. They’re resilient and tenacious. Their sturdy taproot goes straight down into the earth and holds on tight. They can withstand drought, flood and even come back after a fire. There are no insects, predators or diseases that can do them any significant harm. They’re hard to get rid of. If you cut them down, they’ll grow right back. If you try and pull out the small one, you’d better have a lot of time and a lot of patience. If you try and dig out the big ones, you’d better have a good hoe-pick and a strong back.” Read whole article
Landscapers and gardeners on St. John often fight prolonged battles against this exotic pest. Small plants can be pulled out or destroyed using relatively innocuous herbicides, but once the tree becomes large it presents more of a problem, emitting thousands of seeds every time they bloom. Cutting them down with a machete just makes the resultant plant stronger by increasing the root dimensions and spreading out the tree into multiple trunks. Some people suggest spreading diesel oil on the newly cut stump. This is an effective way to kill the plant one time, but has extremely negative environmental consequences. To remove them root and all seems like the best solution, but the prevailing opinion is that “it ain’t easy!” But Curtney Chinnery, aka “the Ghost From Jost” has a method as demonstrated in the following video:
St. John Live Music Schedule for tonight, Friday, February 17
Aqua Bistro – Mark Wallace & Rich Greengold – 5:30 – 8:30- 776-5336
Beach Bar – Locals on the 8s – 9:00 – 777-4220 Castaways – Mikey P – 9:00 -777-3316 Driftwood Dave’s – John W Lee – 7:00 – 10:00 – 777-4015
Island Blues – Slammin – 8:00 – 11:00 – 776-6800 Miss Lucy’s – David Reed – 6:00 – 9:00 – 693-5354 Morgan’s Mango – Lauren – 6:00 – 9:30 – 693-8141 Ocean Grill – T-Bird – 6:30 – 9:00 – 693-3304 Shipwreck Landing – Woody Lissauer – 6:00 – 9:30
Some years ago I came across a piece of Lignum vitae wood. part of which formed a “Y” just the right size for a kid’s slingshot. I saved the wood, but never got around to making it a slingshot, I confess, I’m not that handy, but I’m not so bad at delegating. Anyway the king of Virgin Islands slingshot art happened to be in town and I seized the opportunity. I also dug out this article he had written about just that, making a slingshot, or as they are called here, a catapult:
The Catapult, by Curtney “The Ghost” Chinnery
Normally we children would not go into the woods without our choice of weapon – a catapult. The making of the catapult is simple. Taking a piece of stick that has the shape of a “Y”, we make a groove at the two ends. Then we take a thin strip of tire tube from either a bike or a car and tie both ends of the tube onto the ends, creating what we would call a catapult. Each kid has a catapult.
The tongue of a shoe would be used as a pouch.
All children back then awake at 5:00 in the morning. Most children would have a long distance to go. Some, like myself, would journey into the hill above Great Harbour. My daily routine was climb or walk up the hill, a trail as long as I can remember. Even today it being used. Taking my journey about three mornings each week just before sunrise. Before I leave the yard, I would go to my box outside the house, where I keeps my marbles, catapult, and other personal antics. Taking only the catapult, after drinking a cup of our local bush tea, into the hills to fetch the cows. This was not an easy task for an eight year old. In any case, on the way into the hill to input a little playtime, we would shoot lizards. By doing so, we would get better with our aim. The main purpose of our catapult was to hunt birds, mainly the Mountain Dove. The Mountain Dove normally sings in dry weather. The elders used to tell us that the song the Mountain Dove sings is, “Father God, please send rain.” We still have that saying here on Jost Van Dyke. As my morning journey carries me to the cow pasture, taking and filling my pockets with tiny rocks to be handy for reloading my catapult. Shooting lizards and constantly listening for either the song of the Mountain Dove or the sweet whistling sound of their wings as they sweep through the trees. The reason that the Mountain Dove was our favorite prey on the hills is because of the sweet taste when fried.
Dr. William Thornton, the designer of the US Capitol Building, was born in Great Harbour Jost Van Dyke in 1759. In later years he lived on Little Jost Van Dyke.
The remains of the Thornton residence lie on a ridge on the Western side of the island overlooking Tortola to the south and Lost Van Dyke to the west.
The following photos illustrate the hike I took with Curtney “Ghost” Chinnery to Dr. Thornton’s home.
Ghost and I put in at the old dock that lies on Little Jost Van Dyke across Long Bay from Foxy’s Taboo. It’s a tough approach and you’ll need a shallow draft boat and some creativity to tie up here.
Once we accomplished that we hiked along the coast and picked up a trail of sorts leading to the remains of an old structure once destined to be a bar and restaurant on the western beach south of Dim Don Point. As we approached the old structure, we needed to keep alert for the numerous suckers that seemed to be just about everywhere.
From the old unfinished and crumpling, bar we bushwhacked up the hill to the ridge where we came upon the remains of the old Thornton residence.
Visit to the Home of Dr. William Thornton, Little Jost Van Dyke BVI
I have an uncanny way of being able to find the Ghost. Case in point the “Scotland Yard Incident.”
It all started one day in 2002 when I came home to find a rather unsettling message on my answering machine. It was from a Detective Sergeant Michael Murfin from Scotland Yard asking me to please give him a call. He left a phone number from the BVI.
I immediately ask myself what I possibly might have done to incur the interest of this venerable law enforcement agency.
I rack my brain. What could they want? What did I do? Should I call? I can’t think of anything and so I decide to call.
“Hello, Detective Sergeant Michael Murfin Scotland Yard, who’s calling?”
“Gerald Singer from St. John”
“Oh good, Mr. Singer. I’m glad you called. We’re coming to St. John in a few days and we’d like to talk to you.”
“What’s this about?” I ask.
“We’ll talk about it when we get there,” he answers, “we’ll call,” and he hangs up.
Mystery still not solved.
Three days later the phone rings.
“Detective Sergeant Michael Murfin, we’re at Cap’s Place in Cruz Bay. Can you come down and talk to us?”
So I go down to Cap’s along with my then girlfriend and there sitting at one of the tables are two casually dressed agents along with their wives.
I identify myself, join them and take a seat looking out at the street.
“So what’s the story?” I ask.
Well, the story goes like this:
The two agents are on Tortola investigating a murder, in which the local BVI police department are getting nowhere. The Scotland yard boys, however are pretty sharp and they have a good lead, a witness or a suspect who was in jail and there was this guy sharing a cell with him that they felt had some information. They didn’t want to approach the guy directly or ask too many questions locally, because they were afraid that the guy would be suspicious and hide or run. In their investigation they find that this fellow with the information has a friend on St. John that could act as an intermediary and that friend is me, and the individual they’re looking for is Curtney Chinnery, the Ghost.
“Would you talk to him,” they ask.
Before I can even answer the question I look out onto the street and who is walking by but none other than the Ghost himself.
“Excuse me a moment,” I say to the agents and walk out onto the street.
I walk over to Ghost and explain the situation and ask him if he wants to talk to the agents. He says, OK and we walk over to Cap’s.
The agents deputize the Ghost on the spot and the information that they gather from him proves to be helpful in the ultimate solving of the case.
Detective Sergeant Michael Murfin and Detective Kenny Allen from Scotland yard, their wives (left), Habiba, the ex girlfriend (between the two agents) and the Ghost (front)
Island Sun August 2, 2002
“Man charged in Bally Murder Case”
On 30 July, Darren Hodge, age 25, a serving prisoner at Balsam Ghut was charged with the murder of Jason Bally. A police sources stated that this case has been unsolved since October 1999. Ag. Commissioner Barry Webb reviewed the case last year and recommended a renewed investigation.
His Excellency Governor Frank Savage agreed to two officers from New Scotland Yard being attached to the investigation team which has been led by Inspector Alexis Charles. The Scotland Yard officers are Detective Sergeant Michael Murfin and Detective Kenny Allen. Experienced RVIPF officers and Attorney General’s office have worked closely with the officers from London for the past six weeks to bring this investigation forward.
Bally, 25, was shot in the street outside the Domino Gas Station in Sea Cows Bay on 15 October 1999. A native of Trinidad, the victim had been employed at Foxy’s Bar on Jost Van Dyke.According to police, investigations revealed that Bally and a male companion were walking along the Sea Cows Bay Public Road in the vicinity of Domino Gas Station when a black male approached them from the gas station area. A loud blast was heard and Bally fell to the ground while his companion escaped unharmed and alerted residents of the area. On examining the gas station police found that an attempted burglary had taken place and recovered items used in that attempt.
While police have gathered enough evidence to bring a murder charge against Darren Hodge, the investigation is still ongoing. There were a number of suspects involved in the attempted break-in of the gas station and efforts continue to collect evidence to prosecute them for burglary and to determine what part, if any, they played in the murder.
The investigation team is still keen to hear from anybody with information about the case. In particular, assistance is sought regarding two gas tanks left at Domino Gas Station by the suspects. It has never been established where these came from, but it is suspected that they were stolen from someone on Tortola. Additionally, the weapon used in the murder is believed to have been a handgun that has not yet been recovered.
Police sources further noted that on 16 December 2001, Darren Hodge who was remanded to H.M. Prison for burglary escaped but later turned himself into police on 17 December. Hodge was due to be released on 19 August 2002, however due to the present matter he will have to reappear in the Magistrate’s Court on 23 October.
Anyone with information regarding this case is asked to contact the investigation team on a dedicated telephone number: 468-9136. All calls will be treated in the strictest confidence.
In the mid-sixties, the Queen of England paid a visit to the island of Tortola. This particular story is one that probably should not be told. But what the hell, we were just children.
Let me start with the day before the Queen came to Roadtown, Tortola. There were four of us. We were called “Water Rats.” There were two police officers that were assigned to the waterfront area. One of the officers called out to us saying: “Hey! Come here. Tomorrow the Queen will be here, and we don’t want you Water Rats in the water. Don’t let us have to chase you guys around.”
Those officers were men we respected. Therefore, we promised not to be in the water. We had intentions of making good money that day from visiting tourists by diving for coins. Being that our plans were changed because of our promise, we were left with nothing in mind to do for the day of the Queen’s visit. The eldest of our group, a fellow we called Hookadoe, who is no longer with us in life today, said, “I know what we can do tomorrow. Let’s come early in the morning and go up under the stage.”
My brother Abraham asked Hookadoe, “Why?”
“To see what color panty she’ll be wearing,” Hookadoe replied.
Suddenly, we all thought it was a great idea, for it meant to us that we would be the only ones who would have the pleasure of seeing the Queen’s panty.
Early the following morning, Hookadoe, Abraham, our friend Blackbird and I met up at the Market Square near the waterfront. Slightly before daybreak, we made our way over the hill so that we would not be seen by anyone.
Directly above the Roadtown Post Office was an old pirates’ castle, which today is the Dr. Tattersol Hospital. Sticking out from various points of the castle were heavy iron cannons pointed out towards the Roadtown harbor. There was one particular cannon we kids used to descend downwards into one of the many genip trees to get to the street below on the side of the Post Office. As we got to the street level, which is the same narrow Main Street of today, I was sent out as a scout to see if anyone was in the street.
After seeing no one, I signaled to the others to follow.
In those days, we had a wooden dock that was for ferry and yacht discharge only. The dock directly across from the passenger dock was for cargo boats to unload. For the Queen’s comfort, they constructed a large stage between both docks using many strips of wood for the floor, which made us think we would be able to look up between the many single strips of board.
We all took turns inching our way out toward the customs building at the dock. Upon arrival, we went into the water, clothes and all. The back end of the stage that faced the water was open so that we Water Rats could climb out of the water and go up under the stage.
After we made it under the stage, we undressed and wrang out our clothes. We depended upon our body heat as a drying agent to dry our clothes.
It wasn’t long before people started to gather. Suddenly we heard the sound of an engine. A few moments later, two U-boats came and tied up at the end of both docks, which meant we were totally trapped. To keep from being seen we now had to move toward the front section of the stage and in our little peeping plot, there was no turning back.
That morning we had no breakfast, which was a big mistake. The crowd started to build, and beneath the stage started to get hot from the sun. There was nothing we could do but lay on the ground for a few hours. As time went by, we developed hunger. What made matters worse was the odor of fried chicken, which was causing a big problem for us.
As the hours passed, the heat built up. Our wet clothes never got a chance to dry from our body heat, because our bodies were just pushing out more water from sweat. Therefore what we did was remove our clothes.
I can remember starting to say a prayer, a prayer asking God to send the Queen soon, so that we could get out of there. There were only two ways out. One was to give up our quest. The other was to wait it out until the Queen arrived, made her speech, and moved on up through Main Street to the schoolyard where many people were gathered to see her. The choice of giving up was out of the question, so we stuck it out.
As we lay upon our clothes, up under the hot darkened stage, we heard clapping through the cracks of the stage steps. I could see the crowd moving to the left side in front of the stage. This cheering, clapping, and movement of the crowd told us our big moment was about to come. We made our move to the center of the stage, so that we could have a clear view of the Queen. We all laid side by side in the area where the Queen was about to walk up on the stage.
I can remember that our hunger had intensified so much so that our stomachs were making noises. This was another problem, because the moving gas in our stomachs was loud enough to be heard from the outside. Then as we lay there trying to quiet our stomachs by squeezing them with our hands, it suddenly got very dark.
It seems that someone had just unrolled a three-foot-wide red carpet for the Queen to walk on, which posed another problem. To combat this new dilemma, my brother and I moved to one side of the carpet and Blackbird and Hookadoe the other. That way we could still view the Queen from the sides of the carpet.
The white convertible carrying the Queen drove up in front and stopped directly at the beginning of the red carpet. The car door was opened by one of our local police officers. We could now clearly see her face. Her beauty glittered as the sunlight hit her overall structure. Her large white dress was whiter than white itself. But our viewing of her was just for a brief moment. Once she came to the first step we beneath lost visual of her face.
Our big moment had finally arrived. We moved back from under the step section in an attempt to follow her movements as she was being escorted to her area upon the stage. We tried to look and peep through the cracks of the strips of wood on the sides of the carpet, except that fate was not on our side. The panty we had tried to see, for us, did not exist. All that we saw from our angle was layers and layers of material. It seems that the Queen had on about 25 dresses, one dress on top of another. We did not even get to see her ankle. The only part of her skin we saw was what all had seen, which was from her elbow to below her shoulders and her face. All other parts of her body were covered.
Disappointed as we were, we had no choice but to remain under that stage with our hunger. Many people made speeches as we prayed for them to finish and to begin the parade that would lead everyone through town and away from us, which, in time, happened.
Tired and hungry at the end of our worthless quest, we left the stage in the same way we entered it.
Due to the fact that we were so hungry and no one seemed to be around, we walked about the waterfront area and picked up bits and pieces of chicken and anything else we found to eat that had been left on the ground. For drinks we drained old soda cans, and thus ended our worthless quest to see if we could view the Queen’s panty.
Now today as a man I wonder. If they had caught us then, what would have become of us? What type of charge would they have placed upon us? In any case we did what we did when we did it. Personally, I for one would like to apologize to the Queen. I was just a crazy little boy.
When it comes to tourists, I as a child saw very few. Reason being is because in those days, which were the 50s and 60s, not many yachtsmen would venture across to Jost Van Dyke. I for one used to call white folk “Book People,” for that’s the only place I used to see them, in books or magazines.
I remember one day in Great Harbour, Jost Van Dyke, a little before where Foxy’s is today. It was the first time I came in physical contact with a white person. It happened one day while a white boy and girl were playing ball. I was asked to join in, this for me was a great privilege, and, happy as can be I played with them. From the paleness of their skin, and due to the fact that I could see the blue veins beneath their skin, the thought was placed in my mind that they were soft and fragile. This in turn created a sense of fear about touching or grabbing them too hard.
When the fellow’s sister hit the beach ball in the air, both him and I chased after it. He tripped and fell, causing me to fall directly on top of him. Fearing I might have hurt him I screamed with a feeling of fear mixed with sorrow. Immediately I rolled off him asking, “Are you okay?” In any case, seeing he wasn’t harmed I asked him with a little shyness, “Can I touch your hand?” He looked me in the eye and got serious. Then he answered without a smile, “Sure, but only if I can touch you next.”
The situation reminds me of a saying: Judging a book by its cover.
With my pointing finger I reached out at his arm. At first softly I poked his skin. He did the same, but to my chest. It seemed to me that he might have had thoughts of me being fragile, the same way I though of him. Something like me thinking he was soft as a jellyfish and his thoughts that I may be soft as chocolate pudding.
It was my first touching a being in the company of someone white. A twist of fate made it to be the same for that boy. It was exactly the same. The kid and I became friends that moment. When the yacht left Great Harbour, I watched with the hope that they would return someday. For almost two months, I would make my way to the bay in order to check if their vessel had returned.
That was my first dealing with the so-called white man.