For donkey’s years Bajans did ride throughout
The length and breadth of island, the Leeward;
Vintage now! This bus was ugly indeed
With rails like a zoo-cage on every side,
It kept human cargo safely inside,
Canvas drapes rolled up to bring in the view,
Inside it commuters could not find loo.
Its snail-pace haste put passengers to sleep;
Thirty miles kept at bay the “arm of law”.
Into Lower Green, gear and brakes applied;
These “cool cats” got off with their heads held high
Up Broad Street to watch Chamberline fly by
Bubbling with pleasure were those gals and boys,
Laughing from ear to ear in city noise;
Now in the square, guys stood on the boardwalk;
Saw tourists round Nelson still on the slab
Looking down Broad Street at posh merchant stores
Heard not the pleas of hawkers shouting out,
Nuts, sugar cakes, comforts, hey! They did shout
Near the Bridge, they too, came to see it swing
And twirl itself to land on its west wing.
‘Twas an august event for country kids;
On parents’ lead excursions into town,
True pictures whizzed by from the northern drive:
Trees, fields and buildings along coastal sea
The marble dolphin spat for them to see;
As they walked on Chamberlain’s outstretched arms,
They viewed the marvellous deep with its charms.
They saw Fielding’s stevedore bridge quartet
Those guys bellowed the bridge lyrics out loud;
Hands on here, Victoria! Hands on here!
Lock all the bolts now and hold on real tight!
Now heave to the left then spin to the right;
Swing now Chamberlain, and swing to the west
Real wide on Duncan’s side, you must now rest.
Oh Chamberlain! You deserve to rest now
And view all sorts of cargo passing by
In this temporal groove, the Careenage
Of still waters ’neath arched extremities
With trade from Caricom communities;
As pleasure crafts sail with the cool sea breeze
For you give them shelter from angry seas.
To your north stand political towers,
The Cathedral and heroes in the Square,
Your frame preserved the tracks, stains and bruises
Caused by every thing flowing over you;
Some have mishandled you and raped you too;
Yet your NISE arms swung with pride and beauty;
Your rest deserved; you have done your duty.
Oh Bridge of fragile frame you have reached now
One hundred and thirty-three years this fall.
With Indians’ feathered quills they wrote ‘bout
The blood, the sweat and tears of by-gone slaves,
Your blows from hurricanes and killer waves,
Yet, your timbered heart did find common ground
With Wolferstone, and Chamberlain, profound!
With tears in our eyes, they bulldozed you down;
Took some of your parts to Heritage Park
Vintage now in maritime museum
Never more will you swing your arms again
But your glory and honour shall remain
With new technology you lift your frame
From dust you rise, thanks to a City Dame.
Bridgetown the mega town of this small isle,
Rejoices with your megabytes software;
Best wishes to you from us here and there
Welcome your new arms, as you lift them tall;
Never more shall we let you rot and fall,
For with Barrow close by, pleases all Dames;
Boost sales from tourists and the World Cup games.
(Birthplace: Maycock's, St. Lucy, Barbados)
When the word was out that the historic swing bridge of Barbados would be demolished to make way for a modern technology lift bridge, I saw this as an opportunity to write a landmark poem that chronicles its life and the emotions it evoked in me. A little background to the locale of this historic landmark Swing Bridge is in order I suppose. So here it goes.
Two bridges span the Careenage: one that used to swing open and closed when larger ships passed, and another with the Independence Arch standing tall. These bridges echo back to when colonists first settled the land and found a handmade Indian bridge spanning the river. Chamberlain Bridge (the old swing bridge) stretches from Trafalgar Square to the other bank; the Charles Duncan O’Neale Bridge spans the river to the city’s main bus terminal on Fairchild Street. The Careenage is actually an arm of the sea that stretches inland. Bajans named the “river” Constitution River. In past years, merchants used the Careenage’s calm water as a place to dock their ships and to load/unload merchandise. In years gone by, Bridgetown used to bustle with men and women who carried heavy bundles of bananas, boxes of mangoes and avocados, barrels of rum, etc.