In my last two posts, I shared my vacation’s amateur photos in an attempt to capture the beauty that adorns Green Turtle Cay. Molded by the hands of the Creator, this Bahamian cay is blessed with abundant natural beauty. In addition, her architectural artistry is historically significant and charming. However, the beauty that radiates the brightest to me shines from the families that for generations have built this community.
On each visit, I am compelled to walk the cemetery. The blend of old and new headstones remind me of generational families that wove the social fabric of this remote island. Engraved headstones bring flashback conversations with my Dad, John Lowe. He recalled boyhood memories of these family members and friends, who invested freely in his life. The ocean backdrop calls attention to the courage and fortitude of those first settlers who sought freedom on these shores.
As I framed the camera to capture the contrast of this ancestral cemetery with the ocean, a symbol of life, against this ancestral cemetery, I realized that these particular graves in my camera lens had a unique significance. Three side by side graves of three generations…my dad’s father – Howard Lowe (1898-1927); his grandfather – John Aquila Lowe (1858-1925); and his great grandfather – John Lowe (1823-1898).
I placed hand-picked flowers on my grandfather’s grave. Then I stooped to remove weeds inside the grave’s perimeter. The weeds, like death itself, remind me of Adam’s sin curse that we face.
Generational families like mine lived on this Abaco Cay for hundreds of years. With advancements in transportation, the families have now dispersed around the globe. The social fabric slowly unravels. Remnant loyalist descendants continue the legacy and earn a livelihood on Green Turtle Cay.
This November, the Albert Lowe Museum will celebrate its 40th year. Green Turtle Cay native and renowned artist Alton Lowe is the mastermind behind this wonderful collection of artifacts, photos, paintings and writings. The museum was named in honor of his father William Albert Lowe (1901-1985), a renown woodcarver of ship models. My dad and Albert Lowe are third cousins.
My two Bahamas descendent daughters pose inside a museum room beside Alton Lowe’s classic paintings of two girls from the loyalist era, one looks towards the land and the other towards the sea.
We were blessed to spend some time with Alton at his home. His masterpieces depict Bahamian beauty. Alton kindly coerced me to tickle the ivories on his piano.
As we wandered around the New Plymouth settlement, we found Alton’s older brother, also skilled with his hands. Following in his father’s footsteps, Vertrum Lowe, hand crafted model ships for over 30 years. Vert’s finished models are exact replicas of real ships down to the smallest of details. Tucked away in the heart of New Plymouth, his tiny workshop utilizes every inch of space, including the ceiling, to store the craftsman’s tools and materials.
Just down from the museum on Parliament Street, we visited Green Turtle Cay’s Memorial Sculpture Garden. Here an impressive collection of bronze busts by the late James Mastin surround his life-sized masterpiece entitled The Landing, depicting the arrival of the Loyalists.
My eldest son and I proudly stood amidst a row of Mastin sculptures of Lowe patriarchs. Each has a commemorative and descriptive plaque honoring their contribution to the Cay’s history. A tremendous reminder that our legacy is rich and our calling is purposeful.
No trip would be complete without a visit with Dad’s first cousin, Pearl. Her father Osgood and my Dad’s father Howard were brothers. Charming and devoted to her faith in God, she is one of few islanders alive on the Cay that bridge past with present. Like my Dad, her piecing blue eyes gleamed as she reminisced about days gone by.
I did not inherit my Dad’s extroversion and charisma. On this trip, my genealogical passion pushed me out of my comfort zone to the doorstep of a stranger. How do I introduce myself? I thought as my heart raced. “Hi, I am John Lowe’s son.” Again, those six words opened the door (literal and figurative). I’m reminded of Dad’s love for people.
With open arms, homeowner Viola Lowe Sawyer invited my wife and me inside her charming and simple island cottage. We discussed common roots and reminisced about my Dad’s last visit to the Cay in the early 1990’s where a visit to Viola’s parents, Roger & Nell Lowe, was a must for Dad. Dad had many boyhood stories including hunting trips with Uncle Roger. We left Viola’s home blessed. A stranger now turned into a loving cousin.
The list of people, past and present, who forged the culture of this small settlement is long. Today Lowe and Curry cousins earn their livelihood on streets and waterways where mutual ancestors once called home. Their charming businesses include Lowe’s Green Turtle Cay Ferry, Lowe’s Food Store & Gift Shoppe, Lowe’s Construction, Kool Carts, Sid’s Grocery Store, and Curry’s Food Store. Check them out on your visit to Green Turtle Cay!