YOU SAID YOU WERE GOING TO STARVE US
In 1951, when the Antigua Trades & Labour Union was in its infancy, Union field officers went into the estates and said no crop would start until the workers were told their rates of pay.
Sugar cane cutters had already been on strike for three months and both the workers and the Antigua Sugar Estates were losing money. Subsequently the employer, Mr. Alexander Moody-Stuart, had stated he would starve the workers into submission. Meetings were arranged between the workers and Moody-Stuart, and one of these was under the old Tamarind Tree and the other was at Betty's Hope estate.
THE BETHESDA TAMARIND TREE
The employer, sitting on his white horse, insisted on speaking first, "I know you are losing a lot of money, you are losing wages and may I admit that I am losing much myself. I think you should stop this thing and you should go back to work". The answer from the workers was unanimous. "You said you were going to starve us into submission. Nobody shall ever use that remark again. We are not going to work for the balance of the year". For the rest of that year no crop was reaped.
The people went into the fields, picked natural resources such as Widdy-Widdy bush (Corchorus siliquosus) and went down to the sea to collect cockles and wilks (Livona pica). Without pay they managed to survive, though it was hard. On Jan 2 1952, after a long strike, the workers got the 25% increase they had asked for. The strength, determination, solidarity and sacrifice of the workers fighting against tyranny and injustice had brought the sugar barons to their knees...and much of it had happened in the meeting place of this old tree. The workers had won their rights by their own enormous efforts. It was one of the greatest accomplishments of Antigua people.
This historical landmark may be found about one and a half miles from Bethesda on the road towards the northeast. It grows on the north side of the road on a slight curve. Underneath the tree a large boulder has been placed to mark the spot for future generations.
This article courtesy of The Museum of Antigua and Barbuda and The Dockyeard Museum.
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