Tag Archives: ghost

St. John Culture: Sugar Cane

Being that sugarcane has been so much a part of the history and culture, I felt that I should at least have some sugarcane plants around the house to show people that sugar in fact comes originally from sugarcane plants and not just from the grocery store. Planting sugarcane is one thing, but harvesting them is another. For this I enlisted the help of the locally famous poet ans culture man, Curtney Chinnery better known as “the Ghost from Jost.”

A Little St. John Sugar History
Sugar production in colonial times was an arduous and labor intensive activity; especially on St. John with its dry climate, rocky soil and steep hillsides. Nonetheless sugar was a profitable commodity and the industry, fueled by slave labor, dominated St. John’s economy until the latter half of the nineteenth century.

The virgin landscape was slashed and burned changing the ecology of the island forever. The cleared hillsides were then terraced using the native stone as retaining walls. Holes were dug and sugar cane slips were planted. Water was painstakingly hauled from cisterns located at the sugar factory to the cane fields either by donkey cart or by hand.

At harvest time slaves worked 18-20 hours a day. The cane was cut, loaded into donkey carts and taken to the horsemill for crushing.

Four slaves were needed to run the horsemill. One drove the animals, two worked the rollers, feeding the stalks back and forth, and a fourth man took away the leftover sugar cane pulp called bagasse.

Some plantations used windmills to crush the sugar cane. On St. John only six plantations; Annaberg, Carolina, Denis Bay, Susannaberg, Caneel Bay and Catherinberg used the windmill, which was far more efficient and faster than the horsemill. The remains of these windmills can still be seen at these estates…. Read more

St. John Virgin Islands Live Music Schedule

Aqua Bistro
Stephan Sloan
5:30 – 8:30

Beach Bar
Funck Show

Mikey P
Dance Party

High Tide
Steel Pan
6:00 – 10:00

Island Blues
Brother Nature

Morgan’s Mango
6:30 – 9:30

Ocean Grill
Rascio on Steel Pan
6:30 – 9:30

Shipwreck Landing
Tropical Sounds
6:30 – 9:30

Skinny Legs
Chris Carsel
Plus Comedian Tim Hofmann!
6:00 – 9:00

James Milne
5:00 – 8:00

Virgin Islands News

Caribbean Kidney Center Opens St. Thomas Facility
By Susan Ellis — January 10, 2014

Although the territory’s hospitals are often criticized for the quality of care or the lack of available services, dialysis patients now have state-of-the art options to meet their needs, according to the physician/owner of the private kidney centers on St. Thomas and St. Croix.

Dr. Walter H. Gardiner, nephrologist and proprietor of the Caribbean Kidney Centers, spoke to members of the St. Croix Rotary on Thursday about treatments and his facilities, especially the newest Caribbean Kidney Center on St. Thomas. He also commented on the state of the territorial hospitals’ dialysis units…. read more

st john sunriseSt. John Weather

Sunny, with a high near 82. East wind around 23 mph.

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Back on St. John

St. John Virgin Islands – Ceiba, Puerto Rico – Vieques, PR

Ceiba Puerto Rico Air Show
Air Force Thunderbirds at Ceiba Air Show

Just got back from a trip to Vieques where I’ve been shooting photos and gathering information for the update of my “Vieques” book, which is currently sold out.

George Miller
George Miller

I flew with my friend, George, who has a twin engine Beechcraft Baron to Ceiba for the air show there. On the way home he dropped me off in Vieques, where I spend the next four days.

I posted albums of the photos I shot at the Ceiba Air Show and on Vieques on Facebook. Click to see)


Back in St. John this morning, I run into Ghost at the Post Office. He tells me that he wants to show me a small graveyard that he discovered hidden in the bush.

It’s right above Grande Bay on a road that’s on a property owned by a friend of mine. She’s there when we drive up. She acts kind of strange, but I take some photos and leave.

Cemetary Cruz Bay

Ghost and Cactus

Then the Ghost karma hits me. On St. John, and I imagine anywhere else, people either love Ghost or hate him. Turns out that my friend is one of the latter. I get a phone call soon after I leave for home about Ghost being there and her not wanting him to be and I try to explain that I’m really an innocent bystander, but it looks bad.

Small town life can be really rewarding at times, but sometimes it can be complicated…

(The Ghost, aka Curtney Chinnery, is a performance poet, fairly well known on the streets of Cruz Bay.)

The photo on the right shows Ghost handling a prickly pear cactus. He immediately gets spines in his hands, which reminds me of another time with Ghost and the prickly pear.

If you’re a Ghost fan, and haven’t seen it already I have a cool video of Ghost catching a Tarantula.

St. John Happenings

Weekly Music Schedule

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Catapult: Virgin Islands Slingshot

catapult a Virgin Islands slingshot

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.

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St. John Excursions: Little Jost Van Dyke

The Home of Dr. William Thornton, Little Jost Van Dyke, British Virgin islands

Little Jost Van Dyke British Virgin Islands, home of William Thornton
Home of Dr. William Thornton

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

old dock

coconut grove

large rocks

abandoned bar

abandoned bar little jost vab dyke
Interior of the bar

ruin of thornton residence, little jvd, bvi
Thornton ruin

view from ruin
view from thornton residence

baby goats
baby goats
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Tales of St. John & the Caribbean: The Queen’s Panties

From Tales of St. John & the Caribbean
“The Queen’s Panties” by Curtney “Ghost” Chinnery

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.

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Tales of St. John & the Caribbean: Book People

The Ghost
"The Ghost"

The First Time I Saw A White Person
By Curtney “Ghost” Chinnery
From Tales of St. John & the Caribbean

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.

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