Sunday 3 September 2023

"Philippine - Children of the Sun" – Source Documents

This blog post accompanies my publication Philippine - Book First: Children of the Sun. Here, the reader will find a host of original documents that formed the basis for the various stories in the books.


The genesis of Philippine was quite serendipitous. I was working on the story of the Philip family when, on 2 February, 2019, by happy coincidence, Peter Redhead got in touch with me from his home in the United States. He was curious about my story about "Jeanette, Free Negro Woman" on this blog. I was working with the secondary sources by Kit Candlin and Lorna McDaniel for my draft about the family, and passed these sources on to him.

Little did I know that I would have met a kindred spirit in Peter Redhead had been born in Grenada, and lived on Petite Martinique with his grandmother for a couple of years, who told him lots of stories about the Philips. Working in the world of academia in the US, and having done extensive research himself, he knew his way around archives that housed a plethora of original documents from the Caribbean islands.

In utter generosity of spirit, Peter Redhead did me—and the readers of Philippine—an amazing service. For over two years, he emailed me hitherto very little known scans of a large number of historical documents that he himself had painstakingly searched, found, decyphered and often translated from French, in numerous repositories in the US. All throughout the COVID lockdown, we corresponded. In what must have been hundreds of emails regarding the Philip family, so many of my questions were answered, mistakes by other researchers corrected, and needless to say, his cornucopia of documents caused me to re-write and re-write and RE-WRITE a lot of the text!

It was, to say the least, the most exciting and rewarding way to work on a book. Peter Redhead, along with my local editors here in Trinidad, read many of the early drafts, and having done so he often sent me additional information that would correct either details or even large aspects of the narrative. It became my ambition to incorporate all the facts that he sent me faithfully into the book, and they now form the structure of the work to which I applied my imagination in the interpretation of the history of those times, filling in characterisations, dialogue, plot etc.

Philippine, as the printed book, carries a QR code to lead to this blog post for readers interested in a selection of the documents from Peter Redhead's treasure trove. What follows are the visuals of the documents, with  explanations as to their significance in the text, and where they formed incontrovertible proof of new insights into the Philip family, hitherto unknown to or misinterpreted by previous researchers.

Enjoy, and to my friend Peter Redhead many many thanks!" (Gérard A. Besson, 28 November 2022) 

[Note: Gérard A. Besson died on 25 July 2023. This blog post was created from a 64-page Indesign document that Jerry left behind on his computer, in which he had combined the various images of the documents that Peter Redhead had sent to him with text snippets. Since these captions were obviously taken from Peter and Jerry's email correspondence, the "I" may refer to either.)