Dad loved to reminisce of his boyhood days on Green Turtle Cay. He longed for any opportunity to return. In the early 1990s, my wife and I discovered that Disney’s Premier Cruiselines offered an itinerary that cruised the Abaco islands. Their Big Red Boat made stops to Green Turtle Cay, Man-O-War Cay, and Guana Cay.
Twenty years had elapsed since Dad last visited his birthplace. He and Mom Doreen eagerly packed for this memorable journey accompanied by my wife and me. The four of us departed Port Canaveral on July 2, 1992.
After a routine evacuation drill and slide presentation of the upcoming ports, we feasted on Italian cuisine. That evening we scouted around for the cruise director to explain the unique circumstances of their Green Turtle Cay native passenger. We were given permission to spend the entire day on the island instead of the typical shorter excursion.
For over two centuries, Dad’s ancestors called this New Plymouth settlement home. The guided tour by Dad would be the highlight of any vacation to date.
As we entered the harbor, Dad pointed to a modest cottage nestled in this seaside community. A simple wooden structure stood full of history and memories. This home had miraculously survived the catastrophic 1932 hurricane. According to Dad, the home was built by his father, Howard Lowe.
Inside this home a medical missionary doctor, Walter C. Kendrick, guided Bessie Caroline Curry Lowe as she delivered a son John Wesley Lowe – my Dad in June 1925.
As a common safety precaution in those days, the kitchen was detached and located behind the main living structure. An upstairs room with a dormer window overlooked the harbor. Enough space existed to accommodate Bessie’s widowed father, Thomas Wesley ‘Pa Wes’ Curry.
A portion of the property was donated to allow construction of the first Church of God on the Cay (building pictured on the right in the photo above). The first pastor of the church was Dad’s paternal grandfather, John Aquilla Lowe.
During the early years of my life, my father passed away. Mother was now a widow and had the sole task of looking after a little boy who was left fatherless. Pa Wes (Wesley Curry) lived alone and needed assistance. My mother invited him to stay with us. She was the youngest of his four daughters. Her sisters were Dora, Edith and Emmie. Pa Wes had only one son, Herman Curry.
Our house was built by my dad and had a second floor, suitable for Pa Wes. Since the house was by the water’s edge, it was an ideal place for a farmer to have his sail boat anchored nearby.
Journals of John W. Lowe
When the cruise ship tender docked at Settlement Creek, we raced to our first stop, the Albert Lowe Museum. Here we met curator Ivy Gates Roberts and husband Noel Roberts. First cousins Noel and Dad were also lifelong friends. They shared many island memories formed in Green Turtle Cay and later in Nassau. Ivy proudly provided a detailed tour of the museum’s collection and artifacts. Afterwards, she invited us to their home a few doors down for a tasty Bahamian lunch.
The next destination was the historic cemetery. Dad desired to see the graveside where his father was laid to rest at a young age of 29. The cemetery revealed generations of ancestors that occupied this island settlement. Dad located the tombstone of Bianca Curry. With a spirited resonance in his voice, Dad recalled how “Binkey” (1801-1860) is considered the matriarch of our Curry line in the Bahamas. He noted that her ancestors emigrated from Scotland to South Carolina. They remained Loyalists during the Revolutionary War who left South Carolina after the war for the Bahamas.
From the cemetery we walked up the hill and the thirty steps that led to the schoolhouse. It was the first time for my son and his wife, but for me it was a flashback of the ten years of my life that I attended this school. Mr. Herbert Roberts was the principal at the time.
After leaving the schoolhouse, we determined to locate my friend Laine Curry. He lived within a stone’s throw from the cottage where I was born. We were the best of friends during our boyhood days!
Journals of John W. Lowe
We found Laine inside the family business, Curry’s Food Store. After he and Dad reminisced of their boyhood days, we enjoyed refreshing treats on that hot summer day. In like manner, we had memorable visits with cousins Chester, Thalia and Pearl; cousins Sidney Lowe and daughter Martha; cousin Danny Albury and retired school teacher Amy Roberts.
Our last stop was to the modest cottage of Roger and Nell Lowe. We enjoyed their company and the amazing wild boar hunting stories that Dad and Roger shared. The view out their window that faced west across the Abaco Sea to the Abaco mainland was simply breathtaking.
Dad spent the first 15 years of his life in New Plymouth. Around 1940, Pa Wes needed urgent medical attention in Nassau. Widowed Bessie sold the small cottage for 120 British pounds. With her teenage son and ailing father, Bessie boarded the mail boat bound for Nassau. Though Dad had physically left the place of his birth, Green Turtle Cay never left his heart.