Recently I visited Rum Cay, Bahamas; a place that was extraordinarily comfortable and happy. Its people and culture transported me to my home Montserrat. It is remarkable that small communities like Rum Cay, Bahamas and Montserrat, West Indies have so much in common. Rum Cay had about nine settlements now only one settlement, Port Nelson, remains settled with a population of eighty people most of the original inhabitants have moved to Nassau. Montserrat’s population was displaced because of an active volcano that made two thirds of the island uninhabitable. A Montserratian population once over twelve thousand now has approximately of four thousand with most of the original inhabitants now living in the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada. Also like Montserrat, Rum Cay is very dark and quiet at night; there is a definite stillness outside the populated settlement, only the faint noise of the ocean and a few birds and insects can be heard.
While I was there I learned that Rum Cay has a pond that is called Mermaid Pond. Their legend has it that if a person gets the comb of the mermaid when she surface to plait her hair one will obtain instant wealth. I was taken a back because Montserrat my island shares a similar legend:
There is a white mermaid who appears at the top of Chances Pond every Easter at midnight. Hundreds of Islanders would climb Chances Mountain which is 3002ft using torches. They said that one must arrive before dawn take the mermaids comb from her and ran to the sea before they could be caught they would be rich for life.
The Montserratian legend varies a bit from the one told in Rum Cay but the premise is the same. Who can tell how far this legend is spread or where it really first originated?
There are so many old stories, legends, folk tales that I have come across in my reading and travels. Could it be that the legends were started to explain the night-time or silence of dusk? Could it also be that there was a similar legend in Africa and slaves took these stories with them where they settled? Or is it that these legends coincidentally evolved simply to entertain children and give hope and provide humor. If we compared Rum Cay and Montserrat to places like Nassau and United Kingdom both centers of migration we will see that many old legends and folk tales are being and have been lost? Will the next two generations know about our old stories that shaped our culture and made us who we are as these legends?
Do you know of similar stories that your ancestors told? I urge you to share your stories with the world, so that we may learn more about each other and so that those narratives are not forgotten forever.