The River Antoine Estate
The River Antoine Estate is located in the parish of St. Patrick's near the villages of La Poterie and Tivoli, close to Lake Antoine and the Northeast coast of Grenada. The Estate includes rum distillery facilities, the actual Lake Antoine, and covers an expanse of approximately 350-400 acres. At one time there was a Great House overlooking the lake.
The Estate functions as a producer of organic white rum made with the sugar from its cane fields and purchases from local farmers. The cane-grinding mill is driven by water. The Estate produces Rivers Royal Grenadian White Rum based on 18th Century technology.
Cocoa harvesting is also a mode of agriculture on the Estate. Coconuts, bananas and nutmegs also grow on the estate for markets, as well as citrus fruits and vegetables.
In the 1980s, there were 54-55 workers on the Estate, 45 of them involved in farming. The workers were employed at that time with hand cutting, tying, cutlassing, gathering and handling. Boiler and woodmen worked in the rum factory.
It was transition time at the Estate when the US Agency for International Development [US-AID] involved itself with investor Ceylon Barclay [for his story see Bibliography], and officially on 26 April 1988 with RDF Enterprises Ltd, the company of Ray Williams, Dyles Franklin, and Franklin Thomas or, as another report states, the owners are Ray Edgar, Shirley Richards, and Franklyn Thomas. Visit the Estate, find out and fire one you will never forget.
History of the River Antoine Estate
The name "Antoine" came about when a Frenchman bought 500 acres in St. Patrick's in 1656. The French had landed in Grenada in 1650.
Between 1640-1680, African slaves were introduced as labor in the British Caribbean for sugar production. More specifically, slaves were working in Grenada starting 1675.
In 1724, sixty-eight years later, Antoine sold the plantation to Englishman Captain Grant.
Three sugar estates of 1701 with their 525 slaves swelled to eighty-three estates and 12,000 Africans by 1753.
By 1785, the rum factory had been completed; marked on a stone within the distillery.
In 1795 Julien Fedon led a rebellion which controlled all of the island except St. George's, a rebellion which affected the River Antoine Estate slave community.
At 1830, the price of sugar started to decrease and during the 1880s the property was on a downward trend also.
In the early 1880s, Thomas Henry De Gale II bought the estate from a colonel in the British Army for 700-800 pounds. Thomas De Gale, II, [freed from slave status in his father's will in 1831] purchased the lands with another Grenadian named John Glean.
Emancipation from slavery in Grenada to apprenticeship occurred 12 June 1833. Almost all work on the plantation had been done by slaves before that time, but after by apprenticeship.
On 1 August 1838, apprenticeship was abolished, thus Grenada has the holiday Emancipation Day. Many workers continued on the Estate, some purchasing lands on the periphery and/or became, after 1897, peasant proprietors producing agricultural products from small plots of land.
1857 was the year the first East Indian migrants of indentured workers came to Grenada. By 1862 over 2,000 indentured servants had been introduced to Grenada from Malta, Madeira and India. Many of these indentures worked the land at River Antoine.
Thomas De Gale II married Henrietta Otway and they had 12 children. Two sons, one being Frank De Gale, and their sister, Jessie, ran the Estate. She was mentally disturbed (according to David De Gale), but functioned as planter-owner, concert pianist and accounts-keeper.
By 1946, the De Gale Family owned eleven estates with two thousand eighty acres.
A large workers general strike led by Eric Gairy on 19 February 1951 and a mass demonstration through the streets of St. George's on 21 February of the same year, was a profound mark on Grenadian labor history. This was followed by the first universal adult franchise election on 10 October 1951.
The River Antoine workers in 1959 stopped production for one week in a labor dispute.
There is another History of the River Antoine Estate II included in the 26-page document issued by the "People's Collective Farm" in April-May 1980.
At the time prior to the River Antoine Issue of 13 February 1980, Percival Campbell was the Manager at the Estate. Prior managers had been a Mr. Talbert and before him was Roy Donald.
TAKE-OVER OF THE ESTATE
The original plan for take-over of the Estate, according to a police report, was supposedly hatched on 23 December 1979. Police discovered that a meeting had been held in an undisclosed Janet house on 30 January 1980 to plan for an actual takeover of River Antoine Estate and by Friday 8 February 1980, the authorities knew the names of the leaders.
The weekly NJM party newspaper, 'The New Jewel', foreshadowed in its 9 February 1980 issue the troubles to come its article titled "End This Exploitation!" The exploiter was Imperialism wrote the author from the NJM Farmers Committee. The article contained this warning: "Those who are trying to create division among the ranks are assisting the Imperialists in keeping us backward . . ."
On 13 February 1980, workers took over the River Antoine Estate and named it the "People's Co-operative Farm". The keys were handed over to the workers by Percival Campbell who immediately notified the authorities.
They issued these documents:
Draft Resolution for the Taking-Over of the River Antoine Estate by the Workers of this Estate and People of La Poterie
Why the Workers Move?
The Workers Demands
David De Gale, grandson of Thomas Henry De Gale II, sent a letter a year later [13 February 1981] to THE TIMES [of London] on behalf of his family about that day:
. . . it is relevant to record publicly that when, in February 1980, our family estate was peremptorily taken over by a village commune and renamed 'The People's Collective Farm' , government support was immediately forthcoming for the manager's protection and the estate was returned (eventually) to normal working.
It is by judicious, well regulated behaviour that Mr. Bishop---like Mr. Mugabe---hopes to transform his small nation into a homogenous structure of living communities.
There was an unsuccessful initial meeting with members of the De Gale family on February 16 when the keys were returned to the De Gale family.
People's Revolutionary Government [PRG] Prime Minister Bishop moved the matter into a mediation/negotiation mode.
Members of the Management Committee and Advisory Committee of the People's Collective Farm met together 23 February 1980, and issued a report - Meeting 23 February 1980
From the Government's point-of-view, things were firing up. According to a look-back by Searle, a British educator and writer, chronicler loyal to the People's Revolutionary Government [PRG] -
. . . in Spring 1980, 'The Budhlall Gang,' led by brothers, Kenneth and Kennedy Budhlall who had also been associates of De Raveniere, attempted to organize some youths in the Tivoli area of St. Patrick's Parish, many of them rastafarians, against the People's Revolutionary Government (PRG).
They seized a large estate at River Antoine with bloated ultra-left rhetoric and, claiming to be more revolutionary than the Revolution, began to organize the mass cultivation of marijuana.
Word was out that the People's Revolutionary Government [PRG] believed Budhlall wanted the land to grow ganja, plus the PRG believed they were 'stooges' of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency [CIA]. The term for the group was the 'Budhlall Gang' and it was determined by the government that they were "ultra-Leftists" and "lumpen elements". There were even links hinted at with North American crime syndicates. The 'Tivoli Group' were derisively called "Nescafe revolutionaries".
Those monitoring the River Antoine issue acknowledged worker grievances, but the responses, in reports, appear to be a kind of power struggle. Indeed it was the time of Rastas with their alleged penchant for stealing produce from farm fields [praedial larceny], Muslims and big-time ganja growing in the hills around Hermitage in St. Patrick's. During the first week of March 1980 the 'new twist' of the New Management was to propose giving youths of La Poterie [near Hermitage and Tivoli] acres of uncultivated land to work
By 7 March 1980, government authorities were of the opinion the movement was too well-organized to be homegrown. They evaluated that Evan Bhola and Kenneth 'Buck' Budhlall were looking for confrontation, sure there would be problems before or right after the 13 March 1980 First Festival of the Revolution. Kennedy Budhlall was said to "stand neutral" on the matter. At the time Kennedy Budhlall was Commander of the PRA Airport Unit at Pearls Airport. Crackdown time was towards the end of April 1980
The workers responded with PRG Says Workers Aren't Ready Yet for Freedom. When the party newspaper, 'The New Jewel', was issued 23 February 1980, the workers issued a NJM Response to the River Antoine Question Puzzles!. And when 'Fight', a newspaper of the National Youth Organization [NYO] published about the River Antoine revolutionaries in its 10 March 1980 issue, the workers printed FIGHT! Why are you Fighting Yourself in Trouble? STOP! LOOK AROUND! THE Counter-Revolutionaries and Opportunist Elements are in the P.R.G. (Petty-Bourgeois Reformist Government)
and Don't Stop the Workers: They are Becoming Class Conscious
The negotiations started in earnest with a meeting held on 14 March 1980 where a list of proposals were made by Evan Bhola and Kenneth 'Buck' Budhlall - Industrial Dispute 14 March 1980
In the meantime, Assistant Commissioner of Police, Luckey Bernard, wrote a memo/report to Prime Minister Maurice Bishop about the situation in relation to informants on 19 March 1980 - Memo: Luckey Bernard to Maurice Bishop 19 March 1980
A 26-page report was issued in early April 1980 by the an unknown source containing most of the linked documents. The cover looked like this:
A second negotiation meeting was held 5 April 1980 where a list of counter-proposals were presented by Lyden Ramdhanny on behalf of Sir Leo De Gale who was absent. At this second meeting agreement was reached on proposals except for three involving wages and bonuses. Profit-sharing was discussed.
A third meeting was held 19th April with Kenneth 'Buck' Budhlall and Lyden Ramdhanny. A pension rate was accepted. The yearly worker bonus was still not set.
NEGOTIATIONS CONSIDERED UNSUCCESSFUL BY WORKERS
A 'go-slow' was enacted by the workers at their estate jobs on 21st April.
Dennis Charles and Ken Bain were arrested 25th April. Kenneth 'Buck' Budhlall's brother Kennedy 'KB' Budhlall, who was a Lieutenant stationed at Pearls Airport, was arrested that same day. Later on 6 May 1980 'KB' attempted escape from Richmond Hill Prison. These three [Charles, Bain and Kennedy 'KB' Budhlall] were accused of plotting to seize Pearls airport at midnight on 26 April 1980.
Evan Bhola, Kenneth 'Buck' Budhlall and others went underground.
April 30th, Prime Minister Bishop announced in a public meeting that his Attorney-General Kendrick Radix was drawing up the law for a Revolutionary Court to try counter-revolutionaries with three sentences only: execution, life with a 15 year minimum and 25 years imprisonment.
REACTIONS TO GOVERNMENT MEASURES
By April-May, broadsides and leaflets started appearing. One from the Movement for the Liberation of Grenada, said to be issued by Stran Phillip, printed that Bishop had sought Castro's advice on how to handle the Tivoli Co-op's seizure of the River Antoine estate. The document bemoaned the fact that Castro "could stay over there in Cuba and decide such issues". Among other broadsides and leaflets were The People's Cry and The Committee of Grenadian Freedom Fighters Against Tyranny in Grenada
Word is that the PRG Political Bureau was 'feeling after long talks with the Cubans leader that it would be bad policy at such an early stage to countenance land-grabs, thereby scaring landowners, and moreover that the Tivoli group were possibly C.I.A. funded, witness their continuous attempts to set the revolutionary pace.'
There were anti-PRG demonstrations going from Tivoli to Grenville and pro-PRG demonstrations in Grenville on 4 May 1980 and 8 May 1980.
COMMISSION OF ENQUIRY AFFIRMS WORKER COMPLAINTS
From 12 May to 22 May 1980, the PRG set up a Commission of Enquiry into River Antoine Estate with Orgias Campbell as sole commissioner. Enquiry conclusions affirmed worker complaints.
ADDITIONAL ARRESTS OF PEOPLE INVOLVED IN THE RIVER ANTOINE ESTATE ISSUE
Kenneth 'Buck' Budhlall was officially arrested 2 July 1980, along with one more brother, Russell, and cousin Roland.
THREE AND FOUR YEARS PASS
Sandford says that near the end of the regime, the River Antoine Estate was taken over by the PRG under its Land Reform Law of 1981.
Ambursley states this about the Land Utilization Law:
In April 1983 the PRG began to acquire additional estates under the Land Utilization Law, passed in September 1981, which gives the Minister of Agriculture the power to compulsorily lease for ten years the idle portions of any estate over 100 acres.
The Grenada Government Gazette of 31 March 1983 contains an ORDER relating to the River Antoine Estate, dated 25 March 1983, by Minister of Agriculture George Louison:
(a) by an IDLE LAND ORDER made on the 24th day of March 1983 under the provisions of section 5 of the Land Development and Utilization Law 1981 as amended (hereinafter called "The Law") all that land described in the Schedule hereto was declared by the said Order to be idle land.
(b) I consider that for the purpose of increasing production, providing employment and serving the national interest the Crown should obtain a lease of such land without delay.
NOW THEREFORE under the provisions of section 8A of the Law, I make this IMMEDIATE LEASING ORDER and declare that the land affected by this Order is the land described in the Schedule hereto;
All that Agricultural unit known as River Antoine Estate situate in the Parish of Saint Andrews in the Island of Grenada containing approximately 400 acres and abutted and bounded on the North by Point Estate, on the South by Conference, and La Poterie River on the East by the Sea, and on the West by Pointzfield Farm and lands owned by Sandy Joseph and Others.
Dated this 25th day of March, 1983.
Minister of Agriculture
After the downfall of the PRG in 1983, the land was returned to the De Gale family. One of the grandchildren of Thomas De Gale II is David De Gale.
According to David De Gale, who became owner of the River Antoine Estate 4 January 1984:
In April 1983, the PRG did get hold of River Antoine in a legal sense, by compulsory lease, perhaps to meet bills of neighboring but non-viable government confiscated estates. Six months later [during the Interim Government] the place was on beam ends, and I was able to request the return of our holdings against an offer not to seek compensation for all the PRG's nasty bit of work, like the total destruction of Grandfather's great house above the lake.
Most of the 'Budhlall Gang' remained incarcerated until the time U.S. troops landing in late October 1983 and documentation was made of torture.
The totality of the issue of the River Antoine Estate also includes the search for the holy herb and its restriction, gaining control of arms and ammunition, and alleged attempts at counter-revolution, including the Stanley Cyrus story. Much of these other events were happening around the same time as the River Antoine Estate Issue with summarized links at The Correct Way Forward.
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