Tuesday 25 October 2011


He was the fifth generation of his family to hold the rank of colonel in the regiment that bore his name. His people, like many Irish and Scottish aristocrats, had allied themselves to the French throne, serving the kings as statesmen and soldiers, fighting for the Catholic cause in the wars that ebbed and flowed across Europe from the reformation to the French Revolution.
Service to the crown had now brought him to this island in the contested west. The cannon, silent, regarded the sunset, a golden ball sinking quickly into a warm tropical sea, not without splendour.
He turned towards the house, the smell of wood smoke and the sound of the laughter of his officers playing at whist in the huge verandah. He smiled and waved, walking past the barefooted man in dark blue livery, trimmed in gold, whose freshly oiled feet and legs reflected in the highly polished floor.
He took the staircase quickly, the yellow glow of the drawing room receding. He heard the tinkle of the crystal chandelier, the wind was rising. he turned the large brass knob in the tall white door and stepped into the darkened room. It contained just a bed, large with turned posts of a rosy brown - coloured island wood of the same colour and texture of her skin. The thickness of her lips always surprised him with their fullness, the fineness of her eyes often amazed him with their brilliance. She took him in at a glance, she possessed the wisdom that women sometimes have when they love to distraction.
In the morning light, the night was like a dream. Roume awaited him in the mahogany-furnished office. The vast desk was arranged to display a map of the island. Together, they planned the building of the windward road, a spectacular work that neither of them would finish. It would involve hundreds of slaves over the next five years and would link Port Louis, as Scarborough was now called, to Tyrrels Bay and beyond, and facilitate the development of the rich river valleys whose names reminded him of the English countryside. He had not met his predecessor, the Vicomte d'Arrot, who had succeeded de Blanchefort, who had taken the surrender from the British governor Ferguson after a heroic land battle. Ferguson gave surrender only after they had started to burn the plantations. Lt. Governor George Ferguson had been congratulated on the gallant defense of the island by its conquerors.
Dillon had come to appreciate Philippe Roume, a creole from the island of Grenada. Roume had been named 'ordinateur', adjudicating over the island's Anglo-French system. He brought a sense of order to the chaos of the conflicting land laws. As a creole, he had a feeling for the land and the slaves that worked it. He had also introduced him to the island's beauty, and had spoken passionately of these islands in a futuristic sense.
Dillon realised that Roume was hardly a European anymore, as the salt of the Caribbean now ran in his veins. Through energy and vision, the young creole had created the opportunities of the establishment of a French population on the Spanish island of Trinidad. Now he served the French king's interest on this island, Tobago.
In the Great Bay, called by the English Rockly Bay, a brigantine, freshly arrived, was discharging a cargo of colonists. Under the French administration, which was to last 12 years, some 540 Europeans and 300 free coloured people with some 14,170 slaves would come. Exports in 1789 would be 2.5 million pounds of sugar and 1.5 million pounds of cotton. It was in this period during his stewardship that to be known as to be 'rich as a Tobago planter' was an indication of considerable wealth.
After luncheon, Dillon took siesta. His hammock was slung so low that it almost touched the gallery floor. His linen shirt was opened to the waist. She sat at his feet, waiting to be read to from a book of stories by La Fontaine. She loved the French language and would look at his mouth as he pronounced the sometimes strange and indefinable words. She had only patois. She would have two sons for him, and from one generation to the next, they would pass the heirlooms left behind by the governor, even when the memory of their significance and eventually themselves had been lost. His name would live on in testimony of their love: Dillon of Tobago.
A footnote: Arthur Count Dillon, returned to France to serve his king in his hour of peril, losing all in the revolution that would devastate his land.
Philippe Rose Roume de St. Laurent continued to serve France's interest in the Caribbean in Haiti as one of the commissioners of Toussaint L'Ouverture. He married his Tobago lover Miriam Rochard in Haiti.
In 1790, Scarborough was destroyed due to the mutiny of revolutionary French troops who set the town ablaze. Shortly afterwards, a hurricane caused severe damage throughout the island. On the 15 April, 1793, the British under Admiral Sir John Laforey and General Cornelius Cuyler captured the island.

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