Uncommon Attraction: Green Turtle Cay’s Haunting Loyalist Sculpture Garden
There exists a proud and rather uncommon history about the founding fathers of the tiny island of Green Turtle Cay in the Abaco District of The Bahamas; one that runs counter to the conventional history of the American Revolution most of us grew up learning in schools across the U.S.
Here, as elsewhere in other similarly small and remote corners of The Bahamas and the Turks & Caicos, groups of American Colonists largely forgotten in my old American History textbooks fled the promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, firmly rejecting the Stars and Stripes in favor of the Union Jack.
Fittingly, these folks are known as Loyalists, since they wished to remain loyal to King and country back in England. What little I was ever taught of them in American History class certainly avoided much of what can learned about them here at the Loyalist Sculpture Garden in New Plymouth. During an early-summer visit to Green Turtle with my wife last year, we got a read and, in some ways, feel their side of the story.
It’s not a happy tale, at least not as it relates to their treatment at the hands of the victorious Americans following the Revolution. As noted on one of the plaques:
Tyrannized for their differences of opinion, active Loyalists tolerated unstinted verbal abuse, lost civil rights and property, and endured physical torture and wretched imprisonment. Some Torries were even executed as ‘traitors.’
Hmm… definitely not the picture of “Good Guy” American rebels versus “Evil Empire” Brits ingrained in my school-boy mind.
At the Sculpture Garden, the other side of the story is on full display in a collection of 24 hauntingly realistic bronze busts immortalizing key figures among the earliest Loyalist settlers on Green Turtle Cay and other surrounding parts of the Abacos.
The two female statues in the lead photo above are meant to symbolize a hopeful new beginning in The Bahamas for these persecuted former Americans – a young black girl with a conch shell, a symbol so strongly identified with The Bahamas, flanked by a young white girl holding aloft the Union Jack, billowing proudly in the breeze.
As big history buffs, the wife and I were pretty taken by the Loyalist Sculpture Garden. Attaining some slight understanding of the hostilities and ostracism they faced in what we’ve always been largely led to believe was a unanimously joyous and united post-Revolutionary War America was moving in a way that was a little eerie.
The plaques told the story in words, but gazing into the faces of each statue seemed to reveal a whole lot more… a mix of pride born of the great new communities they established in The Bahamas, and pain over wrongs mostly forgotten.