Ins and Outs of Barbados 2014 - The People Edition

Page 255

Photo: Andrew Hulsmeier



Tombstone of Amaryllis Collymore, who is buried in the Old Church Yard, St. Mary’s Church, Bridgetown.

Amaryllis Collymore During the last fifty years of slavery, the free coloured and black community of Barbados grew in numbers and complexity. Many of the women of this group rose to some prominence because of their economic success. Through perseverance and skilful manoeuvering, they carved out niches for themselves. Probably the best known of this group is Rachel Pringle Polgreen whose life history as an abused slave, freed through a romantic liaison and who subsequently became a wealthy hotel owner, has been documented in Rowlandson’s famous cartoon. Amaryllis Collymore was a mulatto slave who caught the eye of a plantation owner, Robert Collymore. Born in 1745, she was the property of a free coloured hotelier, Rebecca Phillips. Amaryllis and Robert developed a longstanding relationship that produced five children. In 1780, Robert Collymore purchased the entire family from Rebecca Phillips and through the agency of a third party, effected the manumission of everyone by 1784. More children were to come of the union, eleven in all. To give Amaryllis financial security and independence, Robert acquired a small plantation of 42 acres, known as Lightfoots

with its sugar works and a labour complement of 44 slaves. Through a formal indenture, she and her ‘heirs and assigns’ were given full rights and ownership of the property. Today, Lightfoots has shrunk in size to seven acres and is now occupied by the Barbados Community College. The house occupied by Amaryllis and her family, now known as Morningside, has been greatly altered and houses the Arts Department. A consummate business woman, Amaryllis ran her plantation so successfully that she was able to expand her business interests into Bridgetown. She bought no less than seven properties in various parts of town which she rented as well as acquiring and operating a shop. This ex slave had done very well for herself, even though she encountered the dual difficulties of being a woman in a man’s world and a person of colour in a society in which whiteness conferred privilege and the non whites faced constant legal and social discrimination. Her descendants also did very well for themselves and that grand old man of Barbadian letters, Frank Collymore, now deceased, was a direct descendant of Amaryllis Collymore.

Ins & Outs of Barbados •


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