Memoirs of J.Linton Rigg

Linton, in his 70s, relaxing on Carriacou.
Photo courtesy of Art Ross.

 

From a chance meeting a few years ago, Art Ross was handed the memoirs of J.Linton Rigg. These he has painstakingly collated and put together in a book titled ‘Sixty Years of Sport. Sailing From the Age of Gatsby to the Grenadine Islands’. The book is packed with fascinating photographs and a wealth of stories and characters from a bygone age and a journey which terminates in the island of Carriacou.

Art wrote to me last year and asked if I would write an introduction to the book. After an initial, ‘I am not worthy’ moment’ and a touch of nervous trepidation I wrote to say I would be delighted to oblige. Writing it transported me back to Carriacou of 1968 and I found myself reliving those halcyon days surrounded by sunshine, fun and laughter. I still think there is nowhere more beautiful, friendly or tranquil as the island of Carriacou. Here is my introduction:

 

Linton Rigg Biography – Introduction

With the passage of time, as in a long sea voyage, memories are apt to converge into a tapestry of mosaic images. So it is with my recollections of Carriacou in 1967-68. Some features of my time there appear to me with pin-point clarity. Others are blurred around the edges and a few are dark and featureless, swirling into a virtual black hole. I find that taking time, now and again, to write down my memories and fleshing out details can be a cathartic experience.

In September 1967 I arrived in Carriacou, to teach at Bishop’s College. The town of Hillsborough was, largely, made up of Front Street, Back Street and Paterson Street. The town had one guest house and one hotel of note; the Mermaid Tavern.

I soon discovered that the Mermaid Tavern was owned by an enigmatic individual by the name of J. Linton Rigg. I quickly came to hear the tales of Linton’s seafaring adventures. He stood tall in the community and was held in reverence and respect. Having said that, the Mermaid Tavern was a tourist destination, so not a place I frequented too often. Linton remained therefore, a somewhat distant figure; someone I nodded to on the street or greeted as he stood by the front door of the Tavern. However, Carriacou was where Linton spent his latter years and it seems apposite, at this point, to give a flavour of the island and the people with whom he shared his remaining years.

At the end of a teaching day my destinations of choice were the sea, the beach, the sports field for football or cricket, the Principal’s home in Back Street or Lord Joseph’s rum shop. This small, wooden building that was Lord Joseph’s, stood (and still stands, as far as I know) just opposite the main entrance to the old site of Bishop’s College on Front Street, and a few doors along from the Mermaid Tavern.

Lord, that was his birth name, was a devoted anglophile. A picture of a young Queen and Duke decorated the wall of his small back room. A bare table and a few chairs were where we ‘fired our jack’, took a ‘Carib’, played domino and debated matters political. Being the sole Englishman in the group I was chosen as Commonwealth representative and made to ‘take the chair’ in debates. In this way we passed many joyous hours, clattering domino and discussing island independence and Commonwealth affairs.

Any dissent and Lord would show his disapproval by pulling himself up to full height, put a finger to his lips and make a low, guttural cough – twice. The cough would then morph into a rumbling belly laugh as he poured out a jack for everyone to toast the Queen. One must remember these were days before the dreaded ‘box’ had made its appearance on the island. Entertainment was made on the hoof. Discussion, debate and social interaction were at the heart of this vibrant community.

Cricket, football, swimming, diving, dancing, dominoes, fetes, Big Drum and sailing were all part of the social scene. Weddings, funerals, maroon, saracas and wakes all formed part of a daily and seasonal round, shared by villages and communities scattered around Carriacou and Petite Martinique. In addition, of course, we had carnival, boat launching ceremonies and the annual regatta.

Linton is famous for kick starting boat building on the island in the 60s when he had his famous sloop ‘Mermaid of Carriacou’ designed and built. He then offered a substantial reward to anyone who could build another with enough speed and sail power to beat her. The Carriacou regatta was born in 1964 and Mermaid won her class in many regattas thereafter. This is now the stuff of legend. Into the mix we must add boat builder Zepherine McLaren and the community of Windward which lay at the centre of beach boat building in Carriacou.

Let us imagine we are hitching a lift on one of the richly painted, open sided buses from Hillsborough market to Windward. We climb the open steps and join the Kayaks on board to participate in a fun packed ride, consisting of merry chatter, clucking chickens, vegetable boxes and loud greetings to passing pedestrians.

The ‘Commer’ engine rattles and whines as we descend from Dover down the twisting road into Windward village. Neat, red and grey roofed gingerbread houses line the street into the village. They stand perched on concrete pillars. Steps lead up to a narrow balcony and a welcoming front door. Lace curtains flap in the open windows. Pipes and guttering, arranged at crazy angles, lead down into concrete water cisterns, so necessary during the long, dry season.

The bus draws up opposite the jetty. Men crash dominoes on to the table outside the rum shop, dogs wander the street looking for scraps, conch shells and flotsam lie scattered on the beach. Further up the beach, amongst the swaying palms, standing on chocks, are the keel and ribs of a sloop under construction. Small children run playfully around her stern.

From the shade of the palms raise your eyes and look out to sea. Lift your gaze beyond the wooden jetty and past the merchant sloops riding at anchor in the blue calm of Watering Bay. In the middle distance waves break over the fringing reef that trails down towards Grand Bay. Rising green out of the azure waters, you see the conical hill of Petite Martinique flanked by Petit St. Vincent to the north and Petit Dominique to the south. Turn your gaze north and be astonished at the string of island pearls that are the Tobago Keys.

In 1968 this was a scene that had remained largely unchanged for a hundred years. Enoe, McLaren, McLawrence, Steill, Compton and Roberts. These families had built boats, worked the land and sailed and traded the length of the Caribbean islands for generations. Just south of the village was ‘Tranquility’; the abode of J. Linton Rigg. This was a larger, more impressive house, built in the Colonial style. On his front garden the sails for Mermaid were laid out to be stitched and repaired. This was where Linton relaxed, reminisced and made his plans ‘to liven up de island culture’ with a legendary boat and a regatta that has ‘sailed an unstoppable course’ into the 21st century.

Now, as we roll back the years, we remember the vignettes and telescoped memories of an island life which is slowly changing and being dragged into the modern world. But hey, the Kayaks are still the same friendly, buoyant people they always were. They’re still taking pride in the sloops, fishing boats and speedboats that are being constructed on the beaches of Carriacou and PM. I imagine the ghosts of all those old timers still linger on the beach doin’ ‘fete as bush’. There’s ole Linton and Zepherine makin’ ‘pappy show’, ‘firing one’ and laughing at the ‘simi dimi’ everyone making of them. But don’t take my word for it…

Come you coming, you go see.’

Bill Cameron

Lyme Regis

18.04.2012

Glossary of Dialect & Slang Terms

fete as bush – A grand party with lots to eat and drink

Pappy show – mock and make fun of each other

fire one – Take (knock back) a drink (of jack iron)

simi dimi – Exaggerated fuss

Come you coming, you go see – come and you’ll soon find out for yourself

Jack Iron – Extra strength rum

(With thanks to Christine David from ‘Folklore of Carriacou’ for the dialect and slang translations.)

So how did it come about that Art Ross, an American sea captain from New Hope PA came to write up Linton’s memoirs. Well, he wrote how this came about in an article in  ‘The Compass’. It appears to have been chance and seredipity as he describes:

‘I was having fun, with local music playing as we drank rum and ate barracuda
stew. The home was inviting, and I strolled into the living area; there I met Eutha.
She offered me a tour and I gladly accepted. We went from room to room, ending up
in Linton’s bedroom, just as he had left it 40 years ago. Logbooks and world-band
radio caught my eye. I was enthralled. As we got back to the living room there was
a guest book that she asked me to sign. I wrote “Captain Art Ross, New Hope PA”,
thanked her for such an extraordinary tour of Linton Rigg’s home, and went back
outside to tell my friends excitedly of my experience.
Moments later I was approached by a lady who, by her looks, was not local. She
asked if I was Captain Art, and when I said that I was, she said she was Betty Anne
Rigg, from Doylestown, Pennsylvania, the next town west of my home. She was the
honored guest of the evening, along with her husband, John Rigg — the son of Bunny,
Linton’s younger brother. I was astonished, and we spent the rest of the evening playing
“one degree of separation” and promising to stay in touch.
We met back in Pennsylvania a few weeks later for a casual dinner. I gave them
pictures that I took of the island event, and they gave me an unpublished rough
autobiography of early parts of John Linton Rigg’s life.
I felt I was steering by stars in motion. In Carriacou I had sailed on Linton Rigg’s
boat, if only for a few hundred yards at the helm, met his family, become instant
friends with Mermaid’s builder’s family, and had even seen the creek where Calliste’s
vision of the mermaid appeared — all in a span of 48 hours. And now, back home,
his words were in my hands.’

For Art’s full article see: JULY 2009 CARIBBEAN COMPASS PAGE 29.

The book is available from Amazon.

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21 Responses to Memoirs of J.Linton Rigg

  1. art ross says:

    ahoy Bill,

    I love this website page, and all your work. Linton’s legacy lives now for all to reflect upon. Recently, after publishing his memoirs, a number of people who read them said to me he was quite a ‘less than nice person’, and other statements regarding his character. Rather than defend him, I thank them for reading, and buying, the book. But, in fairness, he did so much because he loved the island’s peoples, their culture, and mostly their boats and how they have evolved in the building of them. That’s why he started the regattas, both Carriacou and Bahamas Out Island Family Regatta, all for the people. Did he relish and bask in the glory of it all, yes. Did they all reap years, decades of the benefits, of course they did and still do. Thanks for all you’ve done, for so many years and now here, honoring them all and their culture. cheers, Art

    Originally posted on 14.09.2013

  2. Caroline Mann McMillan says:

    I so enjoyed this memoir. I am Linton’s eldest grandchild–the only one of us to have ever known him. I spent three weeks with Grandpa in Carriacou in the summer of 1970 and again the following year.

    Original comment first posted on 22.06.2014

    • John B. Rigg 6613 Canton Ave. Lubbock, Texas 79413, 806-748-6789 says:

      Caroline, I was interested to see your comments on Linton. He was my uncle. My late father, Philip Rigg, was one of his two younger brothers. I have also been to Carriacou – in August 1968, and I was blessed to spend the better part of two summers at Goat Cay, in the Bahamas.
      Sadly, I never got to meet your mother. I have three brothers and two of them knew uncle quite well. I would be happy to send you a more detailed letter about uncle (by mail), if you would like. Best wishes, John Barry Rigg of Lubbock, Texas. (your second cousin)

      • Bill Cameron says:

        Thank you for getting in touch John. I’ve forwarded your message to Caroline. I hope she gets in touch. All the best, Bill

      • Robert Rigg says:

        Hello Cousin!

        My name Is Robert Edward Rigg and I reside in San Juan Capistrano, CA. My Grandfather was Harold Lionel Rigg, a brother of your grandfather. I would love to chat about all your memories of our family.

        Many Blessings
        Robb Rigg

  3. Nick Cox says:

    “Come you coming, you go see” – “You are growing older, you will understand then.” or “With experience you will soon understand.”

  4. Happy “Birthday” to “Mermaid of Carriacou”, launch day was Jan. 21, 1968. Photo of her on that day can be found at this URL: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10152670774652945&set=a.10150102464742945.271516.717257944&type=1&theater

  5. Ann says:

    Hi Bill I was able to open the URL and see the photo of Mermaid’s launch in 1968. Great photo.

  6. Andreas Reuner says:

    We are researching German Captain Ludwig Schlimbach, born 18th of september, 1876.

    In WW1 after 1915 he was interned in neutral harbour of St. Thomas (Daenish West Indies, vessel “PRAESIDENT”). USA confiszate the vessel and Schlimbach with crew went to NY and to an internment camp in Hot Springs, North Carolina. After WW1 he worked as a Captain for a shipping line called “Hamburg-Amerika-Linie”. He carried freight with sailing schooners in between the carribean islands.
    Schlimbach was a friend of Linton Rigg. He visited “Mermaid Tavern” at Carriaciu very often. We like to know more about the relation between Linton Rigg and Captain Schlimbach, if possible. Do you have information about this friedship / relation ?

    • Bill Cameron says:

      Hi Andreas,
      Thank you for your post. I myself have no knowledge of the person you are looking for. I will pass your comments to Art Ross who has written the memoirs of Linton Rigg in his book ‘Sixty Years of Sport’. There may also be people who use this site who may have known of him. During which years was he visiting Carriacou?
      All the best,
      Bill

  7. John Linton Rigg II says:

    I am pleased to stumble upon this webpage. I am Linton’s namesake, John Linton Rigg II and the son of the late John Rigg, who had the chance encounter with Art Ross in Carriacou. Thank you for posting these memories so I may learn more about my lineage.

    • Bill Cameron says:

      Good to hear from you John. I hadn’t realised Art met with your father. I will write and let him know I have heard from you. He will be very pleased. Have you read Linton’s biography, ‘Sixty Years of Sport’ compiled and written by Art? I have the book on my shelf here in front of me. I assume Linton your grandfather? Is that correct?

    • Robb Rigg says:

      Hello John…

      My grandfather, Harold Lionel Rigg, was your father’s first cousin. My name is Robert Edward Rigg. I would love to connect and chat about our lineage.

      Blessings,
      Robb Rigg

  8. caroline Mann McMillan says:

    I would be very interested to know who your mother was, John. I did not know he had remarried after his divorce from my grandmother, Caroline Mullally (Kitty).

  9. Paul Burnett says:

    Dear Bill,

    Happened to see this article, looking for information about Tranquility, Linton Rigg’s old home on Carriacou.

    Like you, we first arrived on Carriacou in September 1967. We were travelling down the islands from St Vincent to Grenada, spent 2 nights on Bequia, 1 on Union, and 2 on Carriacou at the Mermaid Tavern. We remember Linton Rigg regaling all dinner guests – about 10 of us around a single table – with stories. He seemed a larger than life character.

    Years later, we owned a ketch and stored her during summer months from 2001 for 5 years. We now own a small house on the hill overlooking Hillsborough Bay and the airport. We had prints and canvases made from our slide photos and these hang on the walls and are a constant source of interest to older Kayaks. We know of your association with Leo Joseph; well, he came to the house and spotted a photograph of Starlight V. He told us the story, so extraordinary 50 years later. And he gave us the website details of your photos of Leo’s band! So we are delighted to be in touch with you after all these years.
    What brought us to the Caribbean was a 3 year contract to work for a small firm of accountants in Barbados, then associated with Touche Ross international and now part of PWC. We spent a year in Barbados and 2 years in Guyana where I opened and ran their new office. All together, 3 wonderful, memorable years, and we were only 23 when it started.
    We have much further reading to do after finding this website. And hopefully, we’ll find Tranquility too. With best wishes, and let’s hope we can meet up sometime.

    • Bill Cameron says:

      Hi Paul,
      I was delighted to receive your comment this morning and to read of your connections to Carriacou. How coincidental that we both arrived in Carriacou at the same time. While you were in the Mermaid tavern I was staying a few yards along Front Street in Mrs Mott’s Guest House. Louise (Mott) and I are still good friends. I sent her a portrait I painted of her recently. She has taken it to the museum; so she tells me. I have some prints of my paintings in the museum.

      I’m pleased you have met Leo. Please give him my best wishes when next you see him. By the way, what was Leo’s Starlight story?

      If you are looking for information about Tranquility and Linton Rigg you need go no further than Art Ross’s biographical account ‘Sixty Years of Sport. Sailing From the Age of Gatsby to the Grenadine Islands’. Another interesting autobiography you may like to read is ‘Up Before Dawn’ by Edward Kent. Both books are available on Amazon.

      If you don’t mind I will add you to the Carriacou 1968 mailing list.

      It is about to snow here and I need to get out for a walk so I will email you later today if that’s ok with you.

      In the meantime,
      All the best,
      Bill

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