Graves Of Barbados – Respect and Love For Our Families, Our Friends and Our History… Or NOT!

UPDATED: October 11, 2012

Six skulls, bones, body parts found in open graveyard pit

With Monday’s discovery of an open pit containing burned skulls, bones and other body parts at the Christ Church Parish Church, our thoughts immediately turned to a previous article by our own Robert.

Sad. So sad. And what does it say about us?

Somebody should lose their job over this, but you know that’s never going to happen.

Here is the current story from the Nation, and then BFP’s original story…

Shocker in Christ Church graveyard

Mourners attending a burial in the Christ Church Parish Church’s cemetery on Monday evening were mortified when they stumbled upon a hole containing burnt skeletal remains.

An upset woman told the MIDWEEK NATION that they were disgusted by the sight in the graveyard.

“I counted at least six skulls and I could see teeth, hair and bones and what appeared to be the material from a coffin,” she said.

(Read the full article at The Nation: Shocker in Christ Church graveyard)

Original BFP story…

For an absent friend, much loved.

UPDATED: July 15, 2010

A few days ago I visited the resting place of an old and dear friend, now passed on. I always mean to visit more often and tend the grave but life gets in the way and then I realise it’s been over a year. As we talk I clean away the garbage or sometimes plant a flower: a little something to let them know they are still remembered and loved. The difference in our ages did not exist in our friendship, but we always knew it would probably be me visiting the graveyard on Sunday afternoon.

I wrote this article after my last visit to my friend in March of 2009. I’ll leave it at the top again for a few days in the hope that it will inspire some of our readers to tend the graves of our friends and family.

Here is my sad tale from March 30, 2009…

“This is an entire project we are working on to get Barbadians to respect their ancestors and their graves a bit more. Family graves are important, especially if [the families’] contribution is respected; and we are even documenting and computerising the 175 000 graves and burials currently at Westbury Cemetery,”

… Richard Goddard, Barbados National Trust member talks about Barbados oldest grave in the Nation story: Plantation Vault Exposed

How We Bajans Respect or Don’t Respect The Graves Of Our Dead Says Much About Us

by BFP’s Robert

barbados-grave-3aIt was many years ago (although it seems so recent) that I was cutting my teeth as third man on clapped-out 727’s throughout Southeast Asia. I have written here of some of my adventures in the Philippines, Jo’burg, Calcutta and Japan. You’ll find links to a few of my aviation stories at the bottom of this article.

A friend and I were once invited to make a formal visit to a Japanese graveyard at Izumiotsu near Osaka. And whenI say “formal”, I mean FORMAL. A half an hour of “cleansing” before entering the graveyard for the two-hour remembrance ceremony. I remember how clean and orderly everything was at the tombs: plants trimmed and the path raked every hour by a caretaker. The sound of a heavy bell to summon and honour the spirits. Not a single piece of garbage or even a windblown leaf to disturb the perfection of that place where the current generations honoured their ancestors and passed friends.

So clearly I remember thinking that these “Japaners” know who they were, know where they come from, and because of that know who they are today. There is much I respect about what I have seen in Japan (and to be truthful, much I don’t respect, but that is another article on another day).

Back in Barbados my memories of that Japanese graveyard were rekindled by some photos I took in a local graveyard a little while ago.

My friends, it acceptable to be poor. At the grave sites of the poor one can see so much love that is often missing from the funerals of the monied. Handmade crosses of electrical conduit and water pipe. Plywood markers, hand painted names because there is no money for anything else. That is fine.

What is not acceptable is what we see far too often in Barbados when the friends and relatives who tend the plots pass on themselves…

No one looks after the resting places of the dead.

I am guilty of this too. I have never spent time or money tending the graves of strangers. Richard Goddard and his friends have and for that and so many other selfless tasks they do, they deserve our thanks and respect.

But what you see in these photos is our national shame because it is repeated all over this island. We need to change our ways…

Don't Put Your Hand Down The Hole! One of dozens of holes in this church yard goes you-know-where.

Don’t Put Your Hand Down The Hole! One of dozens of holes in this church yard goes you-know-where.


Burning Garbage In A Graveyard Pit!

Burning Garbage In A Graveyard Pit!

No Money, But Love Makes An Electrical Conduit Cross

No Money, But Love Makes An Electrical Conduit Cross

Ione Evelyn Spencer - A Kind Woman Who Was Much Loved

Evelyn Spencer – A Kind Woman Who Was Much Loved

A Few Stories From Robert…

June 26, 2008 – Why Prime Minister Thompson Is Like A Boeing 747 Pilot

June 6, 2008 – A City Dies: Robert Remembers Johannesburg, South Africa

February 18, 2008 – Calcutta Slums? No… Bridgetown, Barbados

October 14, 2007 – The Perfect Stall Turn (Or For The Yanks, The Perfect Hammerhead)

May 19, 2007 – Japan Struggles With Societal Changes… Like Barbados


Filed under Barbados, Ethics, History

29 responses to “Graves Of Barbados – Respect and Love For Our Families, Our Friends and Our History… Or NOT!

  1. Huh?

    Burning garbage in a cemetery is great disrespect. The holes to the graves take a little earth to fill. Happen all the time in every grave but somebody has to care enough to look after the grave. Bad show for barbados.

  2. Jason

    Sad article BFP. Not many commenters because people don’t care about this issue. A shame is right.

  3. PiedPiper

    I wasn’t going to contribute to this item because I felt I didn’t have enough knowledge or information on cemeteries in Barbados. Aren’t cemeteries in Barbados responsible for tending and caring for their grounds?
    Here in North America, cemetery properties have staff, whose responsibility is to ensure that grave sites do not fall into such a deplorable state. They not only have the grave diggers but gardeners who maintain the property.

  4. cq8

    Somebody at BFP knew Evelyn Spencer? Look like that.

  5. Wrigt B .Astard

    When the keeping of cattle was popular in Barbados, it was not uncommon to see a cow or two staked out in a rural graveyard and outputting on graves and headstones. And a few years ago some city residents organised a picnic at Westbury Cemetary.

  6. John

    … the cows at Westbury Cemetery walk around to find grass and in so doing their chains pull down the gravestones.

    Wouldn’t have known it if a grave digger helping me to find a grave hadn’t told me, …. also advised me to put a flat headstone if I wanted it to stay on the grave.

  7. Iriebrown

    It really is disrespectful. But what you haven’t mentioned is right after a funeral people come to steal the flowers ! Or if one goes to put flowers on the grave and keep it looking cared-for…..someone comes and steals them soon after.

    I have also heard about the recommendation of flat grave stones these days, as somehow (doesn’t takes much thought) they get knocked off or broken.

    We have no respect for ourselves…… can there be respect for anyone else or anything else. It’s a problem worldwide.

  8. Douglas Newsam

    We do not care for our gullies, roadways or anything to with our environment so how could anyone expect us to care anything about a cemetery? “Respect” is a foreign word in the vocabulary of most younger Bajans.
    I too have had the privilege to visit (informally) a Japanese cemetery in Tokyo while visiting my daughter. I too was moved by the respect and honour shown to the resting places. Although there was no one to enforce calm and quiet, at least i did not see anyone, there was no noise nor was I inclined to make noise. In fact, though I took several photos to preserve the memory of that beautiful place, I was conscious that by doing so I could have been intruding on some custom and was mindful to be as unobtrusive as possible.
    The Japanese have a long and rich culture (some of which I too dislike) but they know themselves very well and are proud of who they are. As a people we too fascinated by material things and living in the past to have respect for simple things like graves or our environment.

  9. Wright. B. Astard

    But if we do not care for our living, do you expect that we will have any respect for our deceased.There was a time when rum shops along the funeral route would close their doors as a mark of respect until the cortege passed. Today rum shops in close vicinity to the cemetaries order extra stock if a funeral is nearby,and at times appear to have as many mourners than the church.

  10. John

    “This is an entire project we are working on to get Barbadians to respect their ancestors and their graves a bit more. Family graves are important, especially if [the families’] contribution is respected; and we are even documenting and computerising the 175 000 graves and burials currently at Westbury Cemetery,”

    … Richard Goddard, Barbados National Trust member talks about Barbados oldest grave in the Nation story: Plantation Vault Exposed


    Check this site for burials and tombstone inscriptions in Barbados and some of the islands of the Caribbean going back to the year dot.

    Also Slave Manumissions 1831-1834 and Slave Compensations.

  11. Interesting

    BFP this is a great piece…I am not Bajan, married to one– soon to be an ex. When my father-in-law passed away last year I was shocked to see that the family, of less than modest means, spent in excess of $10,000.00 on the funeral proceedings (including massive amounts on flowers and KFC) but did not purchase the burial plot at the parish cemetery.

    As respectfully as possible I asked my husband– basically, in not so many words– how does it work in 5 years time when you want to go to the *final resting place of your loved one* and someone else has been buried there.

    I also thought that someday my son would like to visit his grandfather’s grave. How will I explain that when the time comes?

    I even asked my husband if Bajans have some alternate spiritual tradition in lieu of a final resting place…apparently not.

    Boy did I get an earful from my husband. I even asked him about spending less on the service, declining flowers, etc.. to raise the money for the plot. He really made me feel like a I was bonkers!

    I’m pretty certain not a single one has made it down there to the grave since then.

  12. BFP

    Thanks for your kind words Interesting.

    Our graveyards are a national scandal, but we have so many scandals that this one falls to the bottom of the notice board.

  13. My great grandmother, Leotta Brewster, is buried at Westbury Cemetary. I’ve never visited Barbados before but I was planning to. This saddens me to know that there is such a lack of respect for our ancestors that have passed away. 😦

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  16. Nurse

    Has anyone been back to the gravesites shown in the photos? Have they been fixed up?

  17. Turn it on!

    This would be a major news story anywhere in the USA and heads would roll with the city, the graveyard workers, church etc.

    No big deal in Barbados though.

    More beer! Turn up the sound! Wukup!

  18. St George's Dragon

    You missed the really scandalous part of the story. From the ful Nation article:
    “When contacted, a senior official of the SSA explained that graves not paid for by the deceased connections were usually recycled every five years with the skeletal remains being thrown into a hole, burnt and covered with dirt.”
    This is presumably consecrated ground and they are doing what? Barbadians are being dug up and burned five years after death?

  19. Duppy Lizard

    None of this should be new or shocking,,,,,,,,Barbadians in general have a very short mourning period,,,,,,,Pretend that you knew the individual Very good and close,,,, look all forlorn and with deeeeeep sympathy etc .,,, etc.,,,,And afterwards go fire some grog (Hopefully at the reception or if not sponge off of some quick to depart of cash from an individual who feels a neccessity to relive those “Good old days had with the dearly departed)………..Afterwards,,,,,who really gives a damm shit????

  20. Barbadians are world renowned for having absolutely no respect for each other from the self imagined elite society, leaders included, to the ghetto rats. how can anyone think they will respect ancestors who sweat blood so they can live their present dispicable lives. as anyone noticed how they treat each other. lets not mentiom animals. disgraced.

  21. what will they think of next

    Benedict Groeschel Retires, Leaves EWTN’s ‘Sunday Night Program,’ A Catholic Cable Show, After Abuse Remarks

    (RNS) The Rev. Benedict Groeschel, a well-known Catholic author and television personality, has given up his longtime spot on the conservative cable network EWTN following comments in which he appeared to defend clergy who abuse children while blaming some victims.

    Not a single word out of BFP about this. If he had been a Muslim BFP would have been raging about it.

  22. repeat visitor

    I think there may be a kind of anti-colonial thing going on here. i brought a close bajan friend to visit a cemetery in st. andrew where a canadian friend’s relatives are buried and i sensed it was kind of “that’s not my heritage” feeling…(BTW if you want to see a cemetery that needs some cleaning up look at the one opposite the posh st. peter’s bay complex in road view.)

  23. St George's Dragon

    @ repeat visitor
    Regarding your “not my heritage” comment, Bajans, by and large are very religious. The country is proud to say it is Christian.
    Since independence views have sharpened about colonialism and the extent to which importing and imposing ideas was wrong. This manifests itself in a slight drift towards pan-Africanism including Rastafarianism.
    The thing I find strange is no-one seems to have questioned the on-going role of Christianity in Barbados society. It is one of major foreign concepts imposed by the British and yet it continues to play a significant role in Bajan society. It’s odd to contrast that with Britain, which has now passed into a kind of post-religion phase.
    (Am I allowed to write this on a Sunday morning in Barbados?)

  24. grip

    This is stupid not every buys a plot, so after time i gose to someon else, this is the norm and nothing is wrong with it you have to to make room for others

  25. grim

    they are just bones

  26. problem is the bajan society refuses to let go anyting that was imposed on them, look at the idiot test 11plus, not to mention slavery that both blacks and whites had to die to make people realize there is a better way. now there is the unhealtiy obsession with religion. devils from monday to saturday, christians on sunday. then there is the sick scrouge of making everything political, even obtaining a piece of paper. definitely something wrong with psyche.

  27. BFP

    Reblogged this on Barbados Free Press and commented:

    More discarded human bones, coffins at Barbados Cemetery
    Updated June 18, 2014
    Once again it’s time to report on the latest indignities to buried friends and relatives. Every six months we read of another ‘find’ in this churchyard or that: human skulls, coffin parts, bones of the dead still dressed in their burial clothing.
    We’ve destroyed all the historical buildings we can on this rock. Practically nothing remains of our slave history. Practically nothing remains of the military forts and bases that ringed this island right up to the cold war. Now we destroy our generational history and disrespect our friends and family members. Every person for themselves! Full speed ahead with that new iPhone or Samsung big screen handset! Fancy trucks! Party Party Party!
    And cast the bones of the dead on a heap of garbage.
    That’s our modern Bajan culture…

  28. Stuart

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  29. The last time I was in Barbados I was shocked/horrified at the condition of some of the graveyards it’s a shame and a disgrace I am Barbadian its ridiculous trying to destroy our past it should be preserved especially if we are looking towards tourism to survive for gods sake have some respect