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St. Vincent & the Grenadines

Who are "The Barrouallie Whalers?"

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blackfish or pilot whale

Who Are the Barrouallie Whalers?

The "Barrouallie Whalers" of St. Vincent and the Grenadines consist of several men who have worked in longshore whaling from time to time. Their home, Barrouallie (rhymes with "warily"), a fishing and farming community on the leeward (west) side of the island of St. Vincent, West Indies, has a history and reputation as a blackfish (pilot whale) hunting center during the 20th Century. Within living memory, Barrouallie men pursued various types of whales from Yankee-style open 25-foot wooden whaleboats powered by sail and oar in a manner similar to that of 19th Century American whalemen. The Barrouallie Whalers also are the last practitioners of a unique Eastern Caribbean musical tradition that accompanied their whaling activities. They call their a capella whaling songs "shanties."

Remarkably, many of the Barrouallie shanties are direct descendants of classic deepwater sea chanteys (sailor songs, also spelled "shanties") such as "Blow the Man Down," "Goodbye Fare-you-well," and "Rio Grande." On the basis of a visit to Barrouallie in 1966, American folklorist Dr. Roger Abrahams published a book, Deep the Water, Shallow the Shore, on Caribbean shanties. This book, which featured interviews, songs, stories, and photographs of Barrouallie whalers, became a reference of great interest to chantey and maritime enthusiasts throughout the world.

The Barrouallie Whalers include Edgar Mulraine, Alfred Mason, George "Tall 12" Frederick, Veron "Maysay" Harry, Milton "Proova" Anderson (now of Barbados), and George "Bopsy" Marson. Several of these fellows, who were among those Abrahams recorded in 1966, appeared in the cover photographs of Deep the Water, Shallow the Shore. They form the core of a small group of Vincentians who, since reconvening in 2001, are reviving memories, stories, and songs of their whaling days.

The Barrouallie Whalers Project

Conceived in 2001 by American Dan Lanier and Vincentian Vincent Reid, the "Barrouallie Whalers Project" aims to document and preserve important aspects of Barrouallie's whaling heritage, encourage the enjoyment of this unique culture, and publicize these activities for Vincentians and other interested persons throughout the world. On a cooperative, volunteer basis, Lanier, Reid, and the Barrouallie Whalers are actively engaged in the promotion of this project.

During the Spring of 2002, a remarkable cultural exchange took place when four of the Barrouallie Whalers traveled to the USA to speak and sing of whaling at America's premiere maritime museum, Mystic Seaport Museum in Connecticut. The last remaining wooden American whaleship, the 1841 bark Charles W. Morgan, resides at Mystic Seaport as a testament to the great Yankee whaling industry that once employed North Americans and Caribbeans alike. This event came about through the special efforts of Craig Edwards, director of Mystic Seaport's Sea Music Festival, and Lanier. Former festival director Geoff Kaufman worked with Roger Abrahams and Mystic Seaport to issue a new edition of Deep the Water Shallow the Shore for the occasion. In October 2003, the Barrouallie Whalers journeyed to Friesland, in the Netherlands, to take part in a maritime festival at Workum. Dutch organizer, journalist, and shanty singer Stephan Kraan brought about this special opportunity to feature a series of performances by the whalers overseas.

In addition to those mentioned above, many other organizations and individuals have contributed importantly to the Barrouallie Whalers Project, including: Dr. Adrian Fraser; Carleton "CP" Hall; Anthony Theobalds; Rev. Alan and Beverly Berry; O'Reilly Lewis; Syd Anderson; Glaston "Stuartie" James; Shelford Dennie; Artwell Cain; WPKN-FM Radio; Stuart Campbell; Glenn Gordinier; Susan Funk; Pablo Cabenda; Carol Entin; Louisa Watrous; Michael Dyer; Randi Olsen; Randall Reeves; CK Web Productions; Stuart Frank; Lee Heald; Rick Spencer; Chris Dobbs; Sarah Fisher; Meg Frost; Peter Glankoff; David Littlefield; Shantyfestival (Workum, NL); Bonnie Milner; Cornelie and Reid; Matt McConeghy; Jonathan Parsons; Roel Verhoeff; Chris Freeman; Nathalie Ward; Capt. Bill Pinkney; Barbara Smith; Peter Kasin; Ankie van der Meer; Thedo Fruithof; Doug Echols; Rik Holwerda; Rensje Plantinga; Ed Verburg; Mary K Edwards; Bob Walser; Jim Mortimer; Don Sineti; Nanne Kalma.

For more information about the Barrouallie Whalers, you may contact us here:

 

Vincent Reid Dan Lanier

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