David Hayes, in his 2009 report, created a comprehensive catalog of industrial heritage artifacts remaining on Carriacou. Mr. Hayes, who hold a Masters of Science in Industrial Archeology from Michigan Technological University, came to Carriacou at the invitation of members of the Carriacou Museum. He at the time was a board member of the International Association for Caribbean Archeology and also the Secretary of the Museums Association of the Caribbean.
The report, titled Comments on the Industrial Heritage of Carriacou, is the result of Mr. Hayes’ short, two day tour of Carriacou. In it he highlights the many evidence that can be found in Carriacou as testimony to its industrial past.
The history of Carriacou is defined by the numerous estates that existed to process products in the various sectors of the island’s industrial past. In 1793, the island recorded the existence of 23 estates on the island. And at early points, the number of estate numbered as high as 46. The largest of these were the Dumfries, Craigston, and Meldrum estates.
Among the industries that existed on Carriacou were cotton, sugar, lime(juice), indigo, and boating. Cotton was the primary product of colonial Carriacou. While there isn’t strong evidence, the windmills on Carriacou were almost certainly associated with the crushing of cane.
Up until the 1920s, Carriacou grew limes commercially and processed the juice. In and around the 1920s many of the lime operations shuttered due to lack of profitability, likely a direct result of the freeing of the islands slaves. But as recently as 1981, the lime factory in Craigston (Craigston Great House), a significant historical landmark, was in operation. Indigo was produced for a period in the early 1700s at the Meldrum Estate. The building of wooden boats can still be witnessed in the village of Windward – a tradition that is unique among Caribbean islands in its survival.
The contribution of slaves in the industrial heritage of Carriacou cannot be overlooked. The remnant estates and ruins of industrial sites that are found on Carriacou today is the legacy of their hard work. While slavery should never be celebrated, it is part of Carriacou’s history. The ruins and remnants of estate houses, factories, water delivery systems, windmills, and ginnery, provide tangible connections to the lives of the ancestors of today’s Carriacouan.
That the artifacts cited in David Hayes’ report are buried and hidden among overgrown vegetation is reason for pause.
This quintessential evidence of past life on Carriacou has been left, for years now, to ruin and theft. In some instances, irreplaceable artifacts have been taken off the island with little chance for recovery. Recent land sales also pose a threat to heritage site on Carriacou, as many have no protective status and often are included in parcels that are meant for redevelopment.
Action is needed now to preserve the remaining evidence of Carriacou’s industrial heritage. One might say that there is an obligation to ancestors in doing so. With every passing day, be it the windmill towers that are taken over by vines and trees or the machinery that rust within the remnants of lime factories; or structures like a waterfront loading area, wells, vats and ovens, that are slowly being dismantled because of pillage and invasive roots, the net effect is “heritage demolition by neglect”.
It is a bit ironic that the substantial potential of heritage assets on Carriacou remain unappreciated. Today, tourism has replaced cotton as Carriacou’s primary industrial product. Yet, there seems to be no credible plan for preserving and leveraging heritage asset for use in this new industrial base. Doing so can have a dual effect: increase local awareness, appreciation, and understanding of the history and importance of protecting heritage sites and artifacts; spread the effect of tourism over a greater area of Carriacou.
David Hayes’ 2009 report is as a good a starting for securing these most important heritage assets and elevating their importance in the Grenadian and world conscience.