Of Aircraft Graveyards, and rotting Bajan plantation homes

Last year I was privileged to see the photography collection of a man who worked for a time at the aircraft disposal facility at Kingman, Arizona. The photos were works of art, but so much more too. On his days off, the photographer took his camera into the cockpits of the doomed airliners and documented every switch, every scratch and what remained after ten thousand flights.

A Douglas DC6 photo showed a flight plan dropped between the seats by one “C. Moss” in 1959 that remained there until the photographer found it thirty years later. The same aircraft had a plexiglas dome installed so the navigator could take star shots in the high arctic where compasses cannot be trusted. As I looked at that photo I thought about the man who could hold a sextant steady enough in turbulence at twenty thousand feet to do any good. I admire that pilot because he was a better navigator than I’ll ever be.

Most of my friends at home don’t understand how a person can get sentimental over a junkyard for airliners that are past their useful life, but my flying friends understand immediately. The airplanes are a connection with the people, now passed on, who made the aluminum, steel and oil come alive.

I feel the presence of those gone before me as I touch a fifty-year old mixture control worn smooth by a thousand hands.

I get the same feeling when I touch the wall of the restored Morgan Lewis windmill, but with more sadness then anything when I touch some of the other crumbling bits of history around the island. When I walk the ground at Newton, I can feel the souls of the thousands who toiled and died there – but so much of what they built was deliberately left to rot.

In our haste to assert ourselves as a people and to break the chains of our colonial slave masters, we somehow decided that the structures of the plantation class were oppressive – so we let them rot.

Deliberately, I believe.

We thought that destroying the structures of the planters would somehow free us, and that is what we did.

Are we better for that?

I say that letting the plantation homes rot didn’t free us from our past. It set us adrift without the tangible bits of history that connect us to where we came from and who we are.


Special thanks to Keith Clarke of Barbados in Focus for the shot of the old mill base. A hundred years from now Keith’s photographs of contemporary Barbados will be treasured as future generations look at the past to develop a sense of who they are.


Filed under Barbados, History, Slavery

13 responses to “Of Aircraft Graveyards, and rotting Bajan plantation homes

  1. passin thru

    well done Robert.

  2. Frederica

    Thanks for that, Robert. It’s especially sad to see them so dishonored when they were built by slave hands. No good can come of destroying one’s ancestors’ creations for the selfish reason of disowning the memory that they were slaves. As usual their beautiful workmanship will be cherished and missed – after the last traces are gone.

  3. Rumboy

    Well written Sir, your words come together like music, well written.

  4. Hants

    These structures were built by slaves for the sole purpose of enhancing the lives of the Masters.

    The majority of the slaves could not step on the property after it was built or they would have been beaten to death.

    Slavery and genocide are the two worst acts of inhumanity perpetrated on this earth.

    Yes we can forgive and “move on” but we don’t need a plantation house or windmill to remind us that our black ancestors were brutalized till death building the homes of their oppressors.

    Those of you who wish can buy Plantation houses and windmills and preserve them.

  5. Red Lake Lassie

    Hants is entitled to his opinion, but his opinion is greatly responsible for the destruction of our historical sites.

    Looking for Year Zero Hants? Destroying the public evidence of history is a good way to start. Would Hants like to destroy all historical items that were connected with slavery?

    You’ll soon have nuts denying slavery like they deny the holocaust. We preserved the concentration camps and we must preserve the public evidence of slavery. Hants, your opinion makes you the friend of those who want to minimize what happened to our people.

  6. Hants

    @Red Lake Lassie

    I am a friend of our prople by treating them as I treat myself.

    You Red Lake Lassie can start a movement for the preservation of “historic slave sites” so our people will remember whence they came.

  7. ninemikemike

    I take it that Hants is one of those who wish to preserve the chip on his shoulder rather than any of our ancient and beautiful buildings, whatever the source of their construction.

    It’s a good thing the modern Greeks and Romans aren’t so foolish.

  8. ac

    Personnally I don’t believe you meant what you said in your comment . I hate to think that you are either DUMB or Super-ignorant.

    History is what it is and should not be destroyed.Let’s preserved it fo future generations to see.

  9. Hants

    “History is what it is and should not be destroyed.”

    Absolutely.Reparations should pay for the restoration and preservation of the houses and hut built by slaves.

    Barbados is easy. The persons who profited and benefitted the most from slavery still own some of the plantation houses and windmills.

    Let us hope they use their illgotten inheritances to preserve these buildings for their “historical” value.

  10. Hants

    Instead of cussin Hants you should all make a donation to.


    Nuh lotta long talk, donate some cash for the preservation of history.

  11. Hants

    BFP my last comment disappeared probably because I posted a link to the Barbados Museum/Historical society.

    I suggested that instead of attacking me, bloggers should donate money to the Barbados Historical Society for the preservation of our History.

    Doan mine me. I does talk foolishness sometimes.

    Just do what you all say is right and preserve your history.

    Nuh lotta long talk. cough up some cash.

  12. ac

    No problem with your suggestion. Just give bolggers some more info. on who to get in touch with to give the donations.

  13. BFP

    Hi Hants,

    I find your comment in spam an ok it.