Tobago’s folk tales

Parlatuvier Bay 
Parlatuvier Bay Source:

Remember Gang Gang Sarah?

She was said to be an African witch who climbed a large, silk cotton tree in Tobago, believing she would have been able to fly back to the continent but plunged to her death.

According to legend, Sarah lost her powers of flight when she violated one of the tenets of witchcraft by eating food with salt.

Today, Gang Gang Sarah’s memory lives on in the elders of Culloden, a small village on Tobago’s northern side.

And the imposing silk cotton tree, with its large roots protruding along a portion of the narrow roadway, remains an intrinsic part of the community’s folklore, journalists learnt during a tour of Tobago on May 5.

The day-long tour was organised by Leve-Global and the Tobago Tourism Agency, as part of its two-day lifestyle extravaganza titled Love Is In the Air, which sought to project the island as the ideal romance destination.

The large, mysterious silk cotton tree at Culloden,Tobago.

The tour took journalists to some of the island’s more scenic destinations and also allowed them to experience aspects of its rich heritage.

Certified tour guide Harris Mc Donald, a repository of information on Tobago’s history, gave little-known tidbits as the group journeyed by bus from the Mt Irvine Bay Resort to various destinations in the northern section of the island.

Gang Gang Sarah’s story piqued the journalists’ interest.

Mc Donald said the silk cotton tree from which Gang Gang Sarah fell was both feared and romanticised.

He said there have been many attempts over the years to do away with the tree, all of which have fallen flat.

In one of the more recent incidents, Mc Donald recalled that a Ministry of Works employee had tampered with the tree and ended up in hospital with a stroke.

On the other hand, legend has it that once a couple makes love under the tree, “Their love is guaranteed forever.”

The group joked about Gang Gang Sarah’s reputed powers throughout the two-day event.

Before arriving in Culloden, though, some journalists caught their first glimpse of President’s House, a small, stately structure at Mt William.

The site was named after Governor Sir William Young, the first occupant of the Governor’s House that was erected at the location. The existing structure, made from brick and stone, was completed in 1828.

The guards on duty that day, wore lily white uniforms, evidence the president was on the island.

Indeed, President Paula Mae Weekes made her first official visit to Tobago that weekend where she attended the funeral service for Chief Justice Ivor Archie’s mother, Moulda Beache-Archie.

She also paid a courtesy call on Chief Secretary of the Tobago House of Assembly Kelvin Charles and hosted a cocktail reception at the Magdalena Grand Resort.

A group of men enjoy the ambience along the beachfront in Castara. PHOTOS BY COREY CONNELLY

Passing through Moriah, site of the indigenous Moriah wedding, and Mason Hall, childhood home of Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and one of Tobago’s innermost villages, the group experienced the island’s magnificent rain forest.

They also got a glimpse of Englishman’s Bay, said to be the sixth most picturesque beach in the Caribbean, before stopping for lunch at Paradise Point, a recreational spot overlooking Parlatuvier.

There, journalists got a panoramic view of the serene Parlatuvier Bay, sprinkled with about a dozen pirogues on either side of its 200-ft jetty.

Then, it was on to Castara, a fishing village in which late prime minister and president Arthur NR Robinson spent a portion of his childhood.

Mc Donald said the village has also become a haven for foreigners with real estate interests on the island.

“It’s making a name for itself as a place with the largest guest-room capacity,” he said, adding many Castara residents had also transformed their homes into guesthouses in an attempt to capitalise on the village’s appeal.

Mc Donald said the village, which has an 80 per cent booking rate throughout the year, also enjoys pulsating night life where residents and visitors alike can partake of a range of activities during the week.

Tour guide Harris Mc Donald uses an implement to prepare the fire in the clay oven

However, the district’s most distinguishing characteristic is perhaps, its clay oven, used to bake bread and pastries.

During the visit, a group of women proudly prepared their ingredients while a fire, ignited with the use of bamboo, blazed inside of the oven.

It’s a time-honoured tradition where several of the women in the community would get together on designated days–Wednesdays and Saturdays–to bake bread for those who desire the home-cooked loaves. A loaf of bread normally costs $20.

Apart from bread, the women’s menu also includes raisin buns, coconut drops, pone and sponge cake, all of which are prepared in the clay oven.

“It had gone out but oven baking is coming back,” said Mc Donald.

Constructed in the early 1990s, the clay oven was the brainchild of technical adviser in the Division of Education, Youth Affairs and Sport Dr Verleen Bobb-Lewis.

The day ended with a sunset boat cruise from Pigeon Point to No Man’s Land, courtesy the Waterholics team, led by Alex Nedd.

On the island, a large bonfire was lit for the benefit of lovebirds and fun seekers, adding to Leve’s theme of love and romance.

No Man’s Land is said to be a popular ‘cool down’ destination for soca star Machel Montano. Jamaican track icon Usain Bolt also partied with friends at the site during a visited for Carnival some years ago.


"Tobago’s folk tales"

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