Long Island woes!
Our first famous visitor, Christopher Columbus, landed on the shores of our Bahamaland over 527 years ago. It has been said in jest but, to be real, if Columbus came back today he would certainly still recognize these islands that he set foot on as not much has changed! It appears as though the politicians that have been governing these islands are hopelessly lost on how these islands have been developed or rather not developed.
I have been visiting Long Island as a young teenager and going back over 55 years, spending time with my grandfather George McCardy, who lived in an area called Apple Pond in Deadman’s Cay.
Later on, I would come back to Long Island as a young banker with Royal Bank once a week, flying over from George Town, Exuma to set up a two-man bank servicing Diamond Crystal salt company in Hard Bargain, Long Island, and later on making our way into Deadman’s Cay to service that area. Persons would travel from as far as Stella Marris to do their banking.
Over the years I came back more often, sometimes to attend the regatta or just to spend time with my good friend Snooks and his wife Nicky Carrol and their two sons Dexter and William over in Buckley’s, whose lovely home overlooks the Chimney Rock – one of the most beautiful spots in the world.
In 55 years since I first came here, I would feel like Columbus thinking nothing much has changed and it appears that the island has stagnated and the economy of the island, sad to say, has gone south.
Long Island is a beautiful island with over 70 miles of good roads, with settlements scattered along the way. These were not always good roads, as for years they were so bad and filled with potholes or craters that the locals would say banana trees could have been planted in some of them.
In addition to the sometimes unpassable roads, Long Island was one of the last islands to be outfitted with electricity. Those who could afford it had generators and those who were not able to did without. Utilizing kerosene lamps was a mode of creating light.
Long Islanders are a sturdy bunch – resilient might be a better word to describe them; kind and accommodating who would welcome you into their homes and share whatever little they have with you, and share stories and they can tell you all about your ancestors.
They have a wicked sense of humor and can appreciate a good joke and are able to laugh at themselves in good jest.
They would say bulla either you laugh or you will cry!
Long Island, like most of the southern islands, has not fared as well as its northern cousins, and their pleas to the government in getting the island developed have been ignored.
As mentioned, the island was only given electricity after the Hubert Ingraham-led Free National Movement party came into power in 1992. Prior to that, the island was in darkness, although in the north of the island some did have electricity earlier but it stopped short at Thompson Bay.
Now the south of the island has been electrified and modernized with cable TV and Internet.
Running water is now on the radar and is now being pipped through most of the island, so for the most part Long Island has moved up into the 21st century.
Despite these services, it might have come a tad bit late for the young folks who have fled the island to seek out jobs, as very little jobs or employment are available to them.
Long Island, like some of the other islands, has lost a whole generation forced to seek employment either in New Providence or Freeport.
There are more Long Islanders living outside Long Island than those actually living on the island. Only a handful of young people hold out, along with senior citizens who eked out a living growing enough produce and fishing enough to feed themselves or barter with their neighbors.
Farming is limited, as most of the farmers think that the packing house is a waste of time – for example a farmer could pick 300 to 400 limes and might get $10.00 for it at the packing house and wait for weeks to get paid.
Long Island has produced some of the best and most successful citizens The Bahamas has to offer; more on them and the decline of Long Island in the next column.
• William Wong is a two-term president of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation and two-term president of the Bahamas Real Estate Association. He is a partner at Darville-Wong Realty. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.