By Reynold Benjamin
Levera! Oh, Levera!
What sin have you committed?
Why has the Evil hand touched you?
How many of us have never been to Levera? We have climbed the Statue of Liberty, seen the Washington Memorial, viewed the Eiffel Tower, strolled in Hyde Park and taken pictures in Piccadilly Circus. I have never been to the falls at Mt. Carmel. I will take to my grave the memory of my hike to Tufton Hall Falls with the joy of bathing under the three streams of the falls; one hot, one cold and the other a mixture of the hot and cold streams falling from a height of at least thirty feet. Only once have I seen Concord Falls. Have you bathed in the hot sulphur spring at Clabonney, in the mountain over Byelands in St. Andrew?
Do we take time to appreciate and enjoy the beauty of our country? We take this beautiful land of ours for granted. We cannot appreciate our country and get the urge to defend it if we don’t learn about it. This land of ours is being taken away from us. It is being sold from under our feet and we are not aware. Are we alert to the fact that when we sell our land we are selling our country? Plenty Grenadians are without a house spot to put a shack. Yet, the little that we have is being taken away and given to foreigners.
Do you remember Calivigny Island? I mean before the Evil hand touched her. Don’t be surprised to find Grenadians who ask; where is Calivigny Island? That beauty reposes just offshore Woburn to the south of the mainland, next to her sister Hogg Island. For Grenadians who have never visited Calivigny Island, forget it, you are too late. The Evil hand has got her, too. To learn of her beauty, her many charms and pleasures you are left to ask the fathers who, on Sundays and during school vacation, took their families there by boat to picnic. And the younger generation, who would have retained pleasant memories of her, I urge you to retain and cherish those memories, as I do my memories of Levera. Ask the people of Woburn and surrounding areas of the joys of liming on the island. Now, Calivigny is off bounds to our people. Armed guards patrol the beach, with dogs. Yet, by law, the beaches in Grenada belong to the people. Over her sister Hogg Island, hovers the Evil hand.
I have been to Calivigny Island and, I tell you, her finger touched my soul.
But Levera! Levera is my soul. In her environs, I was molded.
Recently, Levera has been raped and mutilated by so called investors. They have destroyed the lands of our people without compensation. Now they are gone, leaving behind them a bill for US $5.9 million (EC $15.93 million) for the Grenadian taxpayer to pay to the International Bank of Miami. I weep for Levera and for her many children who have suffered with her. Especially Henry Crawford “Little” Williams, deceased, who died defending her honour and his property. I will tell the tale of the rape and mutilation of Levera; of the investors who came here with no money to invest and were given the people’s land with which to mess around. I will tell the story of “Little” late of Levera, St. Patrick. He was born at Sauteurs. He attended St. Patrick’s Anglican School. As a teenager, he migrated to England and lived and worked hard, very hard, in London for over twenty years. He was thrifty. He saved his money and, while still in London, bought 34 acres of land at Levera. Twenty years ago, he returned home and started developing his land. His land was wrongfully taken away from him by the Keith Mitchell Administration, without payment, and given to foreigners who came here, without any money, saying they will build hotel and golf course at Levera. He fought for his land. He fought for payment. At 62 years, he collapsed with a stroke in the head and died within hours of falling down. He is buried in Marli cemetery. At the age of 62 years, before they took his land, he was healthy and very hardworking. He worked his land. He raised animals.
Let us not mistake the popular Bathway beach for Levera beach. Levera is beyond Bathway. In the “old days” it was a far more popular bathing spot than Bathway. There was a perfectly pitched driving road from La Fortune Junction by “Chez Nora”, that beautiful old building of Mrs. Nora Holas, right on to the beach. The road to Bathway was not pitched and hardly motor able between River Sallee and Bathway. But one could have driven from La Fortune to River Sallee over the Bridge which spanned the lake where it empties into the sea on the Levera Beach. Immediately offshore, you will find Sugar Loaf Island. To the right of Sugar Loaf is Green Island and further to the right is Sandy Island. Sandy Island has become the most popular of the three islands. Like Calivigny, before the event, the people go there to picnic and party. The bathing is fabulous. If you have not been to Sandy Island, hurry, go now. The Evil eye is watching her.
Overlooking Levera Lake is the Piton. From the top of Piton there is an astonishing view. On a clear day, you can see St. Vincent. But immediately before you in the foreground you see a panorama of islands, Isle de. Ronde, Isle de Cailles, the La Tantes, Guizou (the offshore Piton) to the left of which is Diamond Rock and Three Sisters Rock. And in the background are Union Island, Carriacou, Petit Martinique and Petit Dominique. I cannot fail to mention London Bridge, a rock with a hole through the middle just left of Sugar Loaf Island. We were told that a cannon ball fired from a warship, British or French, struck the rock and went right through.
Piton is also of historical importance as the site of a “Carib Stone” with markings made by the indigenous population of Grenada. The easiest way to get to Piton is through Cedars in Madeys. You can drive to within a comfortable walking distance of Piton. Cedars is where the government doctor for St. Patrick lived in the old days. The doctor’s house, after being abandoned for years, is now a home for abused women. I recall the days when Dr. Bierzynski, of revered memory, and his family occupied that house. After crossing the concrete bridge from the main road going into Cedars, keep to the right until coming to a fork in the road where the left fork is unpaved and the concrete road continues to the right which takes you into Rose Hill. The unpaved track takes you to the base of Piton. It is not a difficult climb, especially now in the dry season. You have to go there to understand of what we are being robbed and the passion which swells in my breast for that place.
Mangrove trees encircle the lake from the base of Piton all the way around to the beach at Levera. In the old days the mangrove was habitat to myriad species of wild birds, both migratory and domestic, including wild ducks which were in abundance. There was an abundance of crabs. As boys when we went crab catching we selected only the biggest and the bluest. The lake is habitat to a surprising variety of fish. In the rainy season the lake would swell and overflow into the sea. Most times, the children from Levera, Rosehill and River Sallee would not wait on nature and would “burst the lake” by opening a channel from the mouth through the sand to the sea. The water would trickle slowly through the sand gradually widening the passageway until it began to cascade rapidly bringing with it all sorts of fish, from the little brown “bombom” to huge “grantaykie”.
The lands between Piton on the east and Madeys Estate (formerly owned by Gordon Gentle, deceased) on the west stretching down to the beach were privately owned by families. Owners included; Levera Estate by the Redheads (Franka Alexis Bernadine) Broomfield Estate by the Mc. Leishes ( Pat, father of Basil, Tony etc.), the Blackburns (Mrs. Joyce Rapier) and the Alexis, who had large tracts, and many other families with smaller acreage. To the North is Chambord Estate which wraps back to Bathway and is owned by the Kents (Edward Kent, Aunty Betty Kent Mascoll, deceased). Levera Estate was mostly coconuts. Broomfield was fed by springs running from Piton and therefore facilitated citrus, mangoes, other fruit trees and vegetable and provision gardens. Some of the land was pasture for rearing animals. Many families from Levera, Madeys, Rosehill and other areas lived off those lands. Sometime during the early 1970’s, the Government of Grenada (under Uncle Gairy) acquired Levera Estate of approximately 200 acres. After the acquisition, the people of the area had full use of the estate. They raised animals and cultivated the usual gardens crops. Look out for this in part two.
Some of the most cherished memories of my youth are of the time spent at Francois, an area overlooking the lake owned by the Robertson family, together with my boyhood friend, Earlin Robertson. When we went to tend the sheep and goats, we took along our books. We sat in the shade of one of the poi’s trees. We studied and we read Shakespeare and Tennyson. We lived there the fantasies of youthful love. Writing the names of our sweethearts on the volcanic rocks, on which we sat, and carving into the bark of trees the emblems of our love.
Don’t be surprised then at my distress and that I weep for Levera. It’s like a police boot mashing me corn.
What has happened to Calivigny Island, the destruction of Levera, the threat to Hogg Island, including Mt. Hartman are matters which Grenadians should treat with the utmost concern and seek to arrest before it is too late, or reverse whenever and wherever we can.
In part two of this article, we will discuss in detail the, so called, Levera Development Project and the faith of “Little” and other land owners.