Video: Edward Herbert

In this video Nevisian Edward Herbert walks with Rob Philpott and Southampton University students Becky Kettle and Ben Heaney along an old plantation road. The road runs through the former village of Rawlins, where Edward's grandfather was born. Edward points out food plants, old house sites and the village road, through a landscape which would have been familiar to enslaved Africans in the past.


Edward Herbert: This place up here, we call it Rawlins. I tell you a story about Rawlins here. When they actually bring the slaves and the breadfruit in, the first place they find breadfruit was here. From the 1600s until 1940 the only place breadfruit was is in the Rawlins. No other place. There was no other place but here. This is how we used to live. Up here used to be our breadbasket. Everything used to come from up here, and I mean everything. That's the cocoa tree. I love the cocoa, and what we used to do, we used to dry the cocoa, parch them, pound them, make our own chocolate. That's what we used to do. For our children, we used to use those arrowroots and we used to also pound them for our children. If you have young babies and so on, that's what we used to feed them. They are papaya - these are papaya here.

But my grandfather was born up this way - he's from up this way; this is where he come from. We used to have people living here, people living this side so this used to be like the highway - the highway with a little narrow road - Nevis Highway Seven! Rawlins highway. So along here used to be a mill, a mill road, cistern mill they call it, the road of cistern mill, all the sugar cane used to come up this way at one time.

Rob Philpott: So they brought it up on carts and donkey carts?

EH: That's correct. They used to have donkeys with pads for the sugar cane on the donkeys, with a pad and they bring them up by pads, or you could bring them up by cart.

Becky Kettle: How much could they carry on their back?

EH: Quite a lot, 6 to 8 - more than that - about 10 loads of what you could carry.

RP: Were all these coconut palms here, Edward, then, a long time ago?

EH: Yes, all these coconut palms - there are more rows of them, because as you see, we have a disease here which is killing them out.

RP: Yes, is that what is making them go all yellow?

EH: All go yellow - in the next five years we don't have none . We have to go on a new type of coconut. It's a pity but as I say that is how it goes. That is why I say for slavery, and if you are not careful you could have it again cos things go round and round and round.

So what you are doing is walking through the village. This is exactly the old village here without the houses. But both sides, people were living both sides.

BK: Were they very sociable, did they interact with each other?

EH: Oh yes, you'd have to. That's the only way to live.

BK: Were they a very closely-knit community?

EH: Yes, yes, when you are cutting your sugar cane, I come help you, and I cutting you come and help me. And as you see, there's a lot of mango trees around, and you could get mangos if you want. Even now people do the same thing if you want.

RP: Well there are all this fruit and all these trees and plants that give you such a lot of sustenance there must have been actually quite a healthy diet in many ways.

EH: It is very very healthy. Up here we have palm, we have palm up on the mountain we call them palm hearts, and you could eat the palm heart up there. And we also have here - I'll show you when we go along - we have yam along here that you could, even today, you could dig yam up here for 40 pounds . There's yam still along here, right all through the bushes. This is a yam tree here - see this here? That is a one that is coming back up there . That one - see here - it's going down here. These yams just going down there and you get big yam. So they're all around.

RP: What sort of meat did you have as a child?

EH: Oh, we had lots of meat. Lots of cow, lots of goat, lots of sheeps, everybody would have had that.

RP: I notice that a lot of pigs are kept nowadays.

EH: Lots of pig.

BH: Was that the same back in your youth or is that a recent development, keeping pigs?

EH: No no, from the youth. Everyone would have had a pig around the house. Everybody. Even they that had more - but they have it around the house.

Ben Heaney: Are pigs quite easy animals to keep?

EH: Right. When you have food that you have left you just feed it to the pig.

Here's really where definitely you used to think quite a lot - how the British system, how they used to treat their slaves. What kind of road we used to have because - have a look at this here - I don't know how people walked through here. And I used to walk up here this is a road here. The side of the road here. This is the side of the road I am talking about. See the side of the road.

RP: it's a yard wide and no more.

EH: Right. And what get me. They used to have donkey that they travel on and the donkey used to have to come through here. This stone here - it's not a yard wide, well, look where the wall is.

RP: It's a foot wide there.

EH: And this is what you - I really think - where the slaves go, that stone should have been chopped off. The slaves could have done that under the master and get that a proper road there. But that's the type of road I used to use when actually I was a boy.