May 18, 2011

Barbado'ed: Europe's forgotten Sugar Slaves

Today, the word "Barbados" conjures images of a Caribbean paradise; sandy white beaches, sunshine and an ice cold rum punch. Centuries ago however, about 170  Scottish Jacobite rebels were “Barbado’ed” after the rising of 1715 — and there are other sources of Scots ancestry in Barbados, too. From then on, Irish and Scottish thieves, prostitutes and any others who broke the law were sentenced  to be 'Barbado'ed' - a brutal punishment which meant a life of hardship as an indentured servant in the West Indies. More often than not this lead to a premature death due to overwork and deplorable living conditions; the searing heat, blazing sun and days spent in the fields were not kind to the European white folk. 

They were transported to Barbados by Oliver Cromwell after the Civil War and many direct descendants still live on the East coast of the island. They were nicknamed "red legs" (because they got their legs sunburned below the hem of their kilts when working in the cane fields) or “Backras” (apparently because no respectable family wanted to sit next to poor white trash in church. They were made to sit in the back pews only.)

Find out more about the Bajan 'red legs'.

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