Friday, May 11, 2018

Two Excerpts About Bajan (Barbados) "Redlegs" And Common Last Names Among Bajan "Redlegs"

Edited by Azizi Powell

This pancocojams post provides some information from a Wikipedia article about Bajans of Irish or Scots/Irish descent. This population is commonly referred to as "Redlegs"*.

This post also presents an excerpt of the 2015 article "The Irish Of Barbados" by Sheena Jolley

This post also includes lists of common last names for this population that were gleaned from that online article and from that article's discussion thread.

Click for a closely related 2016 pancocojams post entitled "Lists Of Most Common Bajan (Barbados) Last Names."

The content of this post is presented for socio-cultural and omnastic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post.
* I apologize for using a referent for this population that I've read is derogatory. I considered using the term "Bajans Of Irish or Scot/Irish descent", but I think that referent may include more people than the more commonly used "Redlegs" referent.

What referent for this population would you suggest I use in place of that offensive term?

Example #1:
"Redleg is a term used to refer to poor whites that live on Barbados, St. Vincent, Grenada and a few other Caribbean islands. Their forebears came from Ireland, Scotland and the West of England.[1]

According to folk etymology, the name is derived from the effects of the tropical sun on their fair-skinned legs (AKA sunburn). However, the term "Redlegs" and its variants were also in use for Irish soldiers of the same sort as those later transported to Barbados by the English. The variant "Red-shankes" is recorded as early as the 16th century by Edmund Spenser in his dialogue on the current condition of Ireland.

In addition to "Redlegs", the term underwent extensive progression in Barbados and the following terms were also used: "Redshanks", "Poor whites", "Poor Backra", "Backra Johnny", "Ecky-Becky", "Poor Backward Johnnie", "Poor whites from below the hill", "Edey white mice" or "Beck-e Neck" (Baked-neck). Historically everything besides "poor whites" was used as derogatory insults.

Many of the Redlegs' ancestors were forcibly transported by Oliver Cromwell consequent to his Conquest of Ireland.[3] Others had originally arrived on Barbados in the early to mid-17th century as indentured servants.[citation needed] Small groups of Germans and Portuguese were also imported as plantation labourers.[citation needed]

By the 18th century, indentured servants became less common. African slaves were trained in all necessary trades, so there was no demand for paid white labour. The Redlegs,[which?] in turn, were unwilling to work alongside the freed slave population on the plantations.[citation needed] Therefore, most tried to emigrate to other British colonies whenever the opportunity arose, which reduced the white population to a small minority; and most of the white population that chose to stay eked out, at best, a subsistence living. The Redleg descendants of indentured servants today are extremely poor, almost all living in shacks in the countryside. Many Redlegs reside in St. John's Parish.[which?]

Because of the deplorable conditions under which the Redlegs lived, a campaign was initiated in the mid-19th century to move portions of the population to other islands which would be more economically hospitable. The relocation process succeeded, and a distinct community of Redleg descendants live in the Dorsetshire Hill district on St. Vincent as well as on the islands of Grenada around Mt. Moritz and Bequia.

For the small Redleg community still living on Barbados, most live a poorer standard of life than the blacks, relying on farming or running small shops and brothels that serve the wealthier blacks.[4]"
Pancocojams Editor's Note:
The referent "Redlegs" is similar to the term "rednecks" which was and still is colloquially used in the United States. Indeed, it has been stated that at least some of the Americans referred to as "rednecks" come from the Bajan and other Caribbean Redleg population. (For instance, read the comment given as #10 in Excerpt #2 below).

However, neither "Redleg" nor "redneck" has the same meaning as "redbone". "Redbone" is a generally neutral (not necessarily positive or negative) African American Vernacular English term that refers to Black Americans who have a reddish tinge to their skin color. That said, some Black Americans (such as Rihanna) who are partly descended from people of Caribbean Redlegs might have a reddish tinge to their skin and therefore may be called "redbones".

Example #2:
Pancocojams Editor's Note: The following article refers to "Irish slaves" (i.e. White slaves). There's considerable (often contentious) debate as to whether the Irish (or Scots/Irish or any other White Europeans) were considered slaves in the Caribbean.

My position is that even though the experiences that some or many of that White populations faced were the same as or very similar to the conditions experienced by enslaved Africans; even if there was White slavery and not just White indentured servitude in the Caribbean, that "White slavery" wasn't the same as the chattel slavery that Africans and descendants of Africans experienced.
"A chattel slave is an enslaved person who is owned for ever and whose children and children's children are automatically enslaved. Chattel slaves are individuals treated as complete property, to be bought and sold."
-end of Editor's note-

The Irish Of Barbados: Photos and Article by Sheena Jolley, Contributor; October / November 2015

"The descendants of Irish people sold into slavery in the 1600s live in a close-knit community beset by poverty and ill health.

During the winter of 1636, a ship bearing a consignment of 61 men and women destined to be slaves on the plantations of Barbados slipped quietly out of Kinsale Harbor on Ireland’s rugged southern coast. By the time Captain Joseph West’s ship arrived in the Caribbean in January 1637, eight of the 61 had died. The remainder were sold, including ten to the governor of Barbados, for 450 pounds of sugar apiece. Captain West was instructed to return to London to sell the sugar and then proceed to Kinsale to procure another cargo of Irish slaves. That first small trickle soon became a human flood.

It was a lucrative business. An Irish white slave could be sold in Barbados for between £10 and £35.

In all, more than 50,000 Irish were transported from Ireland to Barbados (more were sent to other islands in the West Indies), many of them prisoners captured by Oliver Cromwell during the wars in Ireland and Scotland and following the Monmouth Rebellion. The slaves became known as Redlegs, almost certainly a reference to the sunburn they picked up in the hot tropical sun.

By the mid-1700s most were free, their places taken by Africans. However, minute books from the island show that no more than a fifth of those who were freed became farmers, owners, or artisans. The remainder formed a wretched, poor and isolated community. In 1689, the governor of Barbados, Colonel James Kendall, described the Redlegs as being “dominated over and used like dogs.” He suggested to the local assembly that the emancipated slaves be given two acres (0.8 hectares) of land, as was their due, but the assembly contemptuously turned down the request.

Today, the few hundred remaining Redlegs in Barbados, also known as the Baccra, a name they were given as they were only allowed to sit in the back row at church, stand out as anomalies in a predominantly black population, struggling for survival in a society that has no niche for them, looked down upon by both blacks and better-off whites.

[photo caption]
Ann Banfield proudly shows me the photograph of her grand daughter’s graduation. She is shown with her husband Herbert and their grand daughter who is currently studying for a Masters in law. Their grand daughter is the first to have gone to university from that community in Martins Bay on the wild east coast of Barbados where the Atlantic pounds the shore. Ann worked in Bridgetown for many years including 13 years for Cave Sheppard, a large department store in town.

Making Contact

There is a strong sense of community among the Redlegs. “If I need to eat, I go next door, and if they need to eat, they come to me,” 86-year-old Eustace Norris, who spent 30 years working in a factory in England before returning to Barbados, told me. And they are an insular community.


The Redlegs have retained a racial pride and a degree of aloofness from their black neighbors, mostly marrying within their own community. They do not know much about Ireland except that some of their ancestors came from there. Though one man I met, Wilson Norris, is passionate about Irish music and has a collection of CDs, these people are poor and their main concentration is on survival, not the past.

Ill health, inadequate housing, little ownership of land to produce their own food, and a lack of job opportunities have locked the community into a poverty trap that has hardly improved in the last century. Poor diet and a lack of dental care have left most of the older generation with either bad teeth or no teeth at all, and young people who don’t realize that this is preventable. Illnesses and premature deaths caused by blood diseases such as haemophilia (probably as a result of inbreeding) and diabetes have had a devastating effect on the community.

Photo caption:
Danny is Mona Bailey’s brother and he lives in the house next to her and her large family. He is related to the singer Rianna whose immediate family originated from the same district.

Photo caption:
Erlene Downie and Betty Fenty, who is the great aunt of singer Rihanna."...
Here are some comments from this article's discussion thread (numbers are assigned for referencing purposes only)

1. MICHAEL DELANEY says: October 5, 2015 at 5:34 pm
"Oliver Cromwell rounded up the children of Irish landowners when he removed the Irish to Connaught and settled his followers and soldiers on the vacated lands around the middle of the 17th C. He wanted to remove the gentry class who would have future claims on the land. I did research on the “Mong Mong Bajans” of Grenada who were “red legs” from Barbados. They have lived in an area called Mount Mortiz since the middle of the 1800s. They did not intermarry until the 1950’s. Many went to Australia when that country opened the doors in the 80’s (I believe). Only unmixed whites were accepted. I have not found very many Irish names among that group. Some say that they were involved in the Monmouth Rebellion. That would account for the English and Scottish names. I will get out my notes and add more information later. The book Story of an Irish Slave Girl gives some insights into the circumstances of these slaves and indentures from the British Isles."

2. MARY BEHARRY says: October 7, 2015 at 7:26 am
"Proud of my IRISH HISTORY but world should know thst Irish Slaves were in Barbados before the arrivals from Africa.They were deliberately bred with African Slaves to achieve fairer new Slaves for house duties etc."

3. GRAINNE KEARNS says: October 7, 2015 at 6:54 pm
"The book, to Hell or Barbados by Sean O Callaghan, researched at the Barbados Museum, gives a thorough insight in to the Redlegs. The book The Stolen Village, of Baltimore, West Cork, tells the true story of a whole village taken by the Barbary Pirates in the 1600 hundreds. Many people were taken as slaves from Ireland and Britain."

4. LEE FARNUM-BADLEY says: October 7, 2015 at 9:21 pm
I would refer those persons who are interested in this subject to read
“To Hell or Barbados: The ethnic cleansing of Ireland” by Sean O’Callaghan. England achieved its dominance in the Caribbean and North America by a process of deliberate “planting” of people. The word “plantation” described this social engineering strategy, and only later to actual agricultural activity.
The Irish Catholic (usually supporters of the monarchy and so against Cromwell’s Republic) Irish were used as enslaved prisoners of the Monmouth Rebellion. Later in history whites were “invited” to the Caribbean by a system of apprenticeship known as indenture. No one teaches this dark aspect of history in schools."

5. ANNE says: February 27, 2016 at 11:08 am
"I’ve read that book, have it in my every growing library on this subject. My Dad is from the Greaves, Medford, Searles, Chandlers of St. Andrew, Barbados, also called the Scotland District. We’ve always been told that our ancestors were from Scotland, not Ireland but who knows. I’ve found it interesting that the Mt. Moritz group has many of those same names."

6. MIKE DELANEYsays: March 1, 2016 at 10:33 am
"Anne: From my research with the Folks at Mt. Moritz in Grenada I would say the most if not all have Scottish background. Bowden, Greaves, Medford, Harris, Carr. I think Searles. I can get a better list for you if you like."

7. PAUL says: March 23, 2016 at 2:12 am
"The Scots Irish come from Ulster (northern Ireland) so such names do not necessarily mean they came from Scotland to the Caribbean . In any event, the Scots themselves came from Ireland."
8. LEE FARNUM-BADLEY says: April 1, 2016 at 1:20 pm
"Anne, there are numerous Searles and Chandlers in Barbados. Today the majority will not resemble a person of Irish ethnicity. A much larger West African slave community will have been absorbed or simply adopted the names of the planter who “owned” them. Irish and Scotsmen that were transplanted also eventually became part of the slave owning planter class. A Searles was one of the first governors of the island – hardly therefore shipped out in chains as a victim of Cromwell’s extermination !!"

9. LEE FARNUM-BADLEY says: November 14, 2017 at 7:47 am
"Mr Gormley needs to refresh his take on Scottish history. Scottish families migrated to Ireland in large numbers both as a result of the government-sanctioned Plantation of Ulster, a planned process of colonization which took place under the auspices of James VI of Scotland and I of England on land confiscated from members of the Gaelic nobility of Ireland who fled Ulster and as part of a larger migration or unplanned wave of settlement.

Ulster Scots emigrated onward from Ireland in significant numbers to all corners of the then-worldwide British Empire—what are now Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, as well as the West Indies,and even South America. Scotch-Irish (or Scots-Irish) is a traditional term for Ulster Scots who emigrated to North America."

10. LOUIS KING says: December 10, 2016 at 11:50 am
"I taught it as a part of West Indian History for years at 3 different secondary schools in Barbados. I’d be very disappointed to learn that an island wide change in recommended texts resulted in this aspect of our history being neglected. As my friend @Lee Farnum-Badley suggested, by far the greatest proportion of this exiled community has integrated into the wider Afro-ethnic Bajan community. Another higher IQ proportion moved easily into the ranks of the White planter-merchant class which have held on to their wealth and privilege over the years. This explains why the remnants of this community are so impoverished, since they have lost the more adventurous, intelligent, and resourceful members over the years. I could identify individuals with these names (redmen we used to call them,) living all over the island, not just in St Joseph: Allamby, Goddard, Fenty, Bailey, even Kings, are all VERY COMMON names throughout the island. 13 years of teaching, put me in intimate contact with literally THOUSANDS of names to which I can still place faces and ethnic features.

The integration of this isolated group gathered pace during the 50s when it was widely publicized that inbreeding had resulted in a very high death rate from various genetic disorders. Before the hospital began routinely amputating spurious digits and correcting cleft palates, I myself had noted that these congenital deformities were much more prevalent among people of fairer skin.

It is not widely known that many of the Appalachian “Mountain men” of the Carolinas arrived in the US from Barbados, to the extent that many of them have similar names to their Barbadian counterparts. Even the name ‘Red-neck” bares an ironic similarity to the term “Red-leg” which was once more current in Barbados."

11. LEE FARNUM-BADLEY says: December 15, 2016 at 12:07 pm
"Hey Louis. Having read about the conditions and treatment that transplanted Irish Catholics and Scottish rebels were subjected to in the early years of settlement, I have come to doubt that any of them left any trace of their origin – including their names. They were after all less valuable nominally and productivity-wise that African slaves and were sent here as punishment to die. An escapee would not even have survived long in a community that was hostile from all sides. The few “extant vintage Bajan redmen” are more likely to be the descendants not of Celtic origin but of Anglo-Saxon indentured servants and lesser adventurer-farmers that might have owned a few acres land but were eventually dispossessed by creditors and the more powerful estate-owner class. If they couldn’t transition into any artisan profession, they would have become very poor very quickly. Many went of to live in marginal lands like St.John and in less used neighbouring islands like St.Vincent. Farnum is one such, I’m pretty sure. People did what they could, and if it matters at all to have had their names survive – not like the names of of any my African blood relatives whose ancestry was ruthlessly obliterated by the Englishman’s economic designs on the colony. We shall all have the same name and aim someday."

12. DOUGAL BASCOMBE says: September 17, 2017 at 9:06 pm
"Lee, your comment here is pure speculation. It is not worthy of your previous comments.
This is the latest comment to date that has been added to that discussion.

Photos and Article by Sheena Jolley, Contributor; October / November 2015

Additions and corrections are welcome.

Photos and Article by Sheena Jolley, Contributor; October / November 2015

Additions and corrections are welcome.

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Visitor comments are welcome.


  1. R&B, Pop (and more) singer Rihanna is probably the most famous descendant of this Bajan Irish or Scots Irish population who is known in the United States.

    Here's an excerpt from an article about Rihanna:
    ttps:// Rihanna is Irish? Really? By Robert Carry
    ..."While most didn’t live long, remnants of the “Red Leg” community survive on the island and today number around 400. Many of the Irish descendants inter-married with the Barbadians of African slave decent and the product of one such union is Ronald Fenty, father of Robyn Rihanna Fenty.

    Ronald, who worked as a warehouse supervisor, was married to Monica Fenty, a Guyana native of Afro-Guyanese lineage. Rihanna was the first of their three children, born in February 1988, with two brothers following afterwards. One of them is called Rorrey.

    Rihanna’s Red Leg roots proved an issue for her during her youth. In an article for Allure magazine, the singer revealed how she was bullied in school and called รข “white” when growing up"...

  2. Here's another blog post* about Bajans who are descended from Irish or Scot/Irish people who were forced to emigrate to Barbados:
    ..."Here's a brief video and some photos from Barbados - and it gives you some sense of what it's like to run into some Ecky-Beckys (nobody's quite sure where this slang term came from) - these are sunburnt Irish faces amongst the more familiar faces of the Caribbean. It's strange seeing faces of what look like West of Ireland or Munster men and then hearing the accents, strong West Indian. The names are Irish, Dixon, McCarthy, O'Brien, the voices are pure West Indian. [video no longer available]”
    I think the sentence “The names are Irish...” doesn’t mean that “Irish” is one of the surnames.

    Here are two comments from that post's discussion thread:
    Josef O'Shea29 September 2015 at 04:46
    "Hiya, there are Fenty's in Ireland - and variations of that - including Fenton.

    Phillip Fenty24 September 2015 at 17:53
    Have been tracing my roots for many years, my Grandfather, a Fenty was born in Barbados and my research has taken me there and to Scotland, an area near Bamff. I just returned and went to an area called Easter Whyntie, one other spelling of Fenty. There are other spellings, Fentie, Fynty, Foyntie, Fintie, what happens is in different areas the name is the same and pronunciation differs. There are Fenty's in Aberdeen, Edinburgh, and other areas of the North. Yours is the first that i have heard of Ireland."
    * In researching this subject, I happened the above mentioned Google blog that uses this same theme (with the different colored books on the sides). It took me a moment to realize that this post wasn't one that I had written which was copied by another blogger (as I've accidentally come across a number of times.)

  3. One of the photograph captions in Sheena Jolley's 2015 article "The Irish Of Barbados" (given as Excerpt #2 in this pancocojams post) mentions a Bajan woman of Irish descent named "Ann Banfield".

    For what it's worth, "Banfield" was the name of maternal grandparents, and therefore was my mother's maiden name.

    I'm certain that my maternal grandmother was from Barbados. Her maiden name was Daisy Nurse. Some members of my family have told me that my grandfather Samuel Nathaniel Banfield was from Tobago, while others said that he was from Barbados.

    I was told that my maternal grandmother's mother's mother was White. I just learned about Bajan "Redlegs" yesterday from reading these and other online articles and I therefore have no knowledge of whether my grandmother's maternal grandmother was part of that Redleg population. I also have no knowledge of whether my grandfather whose last name was Banfield partly descended from that Redleg population.

    Both of my maternal grandparents migrated to Atlantic City, New Jersey very early in the 20th century.

    1. It just occurred to me that maybe my grandfather's family was from Barbados, but they or he went to Tobago and then later returned to Barbados.

      My maternal grandparents had six children who survived early childhood. Three of them (all boys) were born in Barbados and three, including my mother, were born in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

    2. Also, for what it's worth, I remember my mother sharing with me that a member or members of a Black family with the last name "Braithwaite" -which is one of the common Bajan last name that is listed in the companion post to this one*- came to Atlantic City, New Jersey on the same ship that her parents did. My mother said or implied that the Banfield and Braithwaite family are "kinda" related because of that shared ship experience.

      I recall that conversation coming up because I told her that two Black females with the last name "Braithwaite" were teachers in my junior high school. My mother told me that if I had a problem I should go to them because of this ship/kinship relationship between the Braithwaite and the Banfield family. While I don't remember our families being particularly close, I remember thinking about that when I read (somewhere) about the same or a similar shared kinship being felt between enslaved Black people who came to the United States on the same slave ships.

      List of common Bajan last names:


      Also, for what it's worth, I remember a large family in my (Black Baptist) church in Atlantic City whose last name were "Bailey" and one family from that same church whose last name was "Chandler". Those are two of the last names that were mentioned in that article's comment for the Bajan "Redleg" population.

    3. Sorry- I meant to write that my maternal grandparents had seven children including my mother. Three of these children were born in Barbados and migrated with their parents to Atlantic City, New Jersey.