Into the Past
- March 31st, 2012
- in Yachting
A Glimpse into the Past
The following is an abridged version, edited by Traci O’Dea, taken from Chapter 14 of Captain Bryan’s autobiography entitled Be of Good Cheer, originally published in 2008. A copy the autobiography is available for viewing at the Old Government House Museum, where much of the action in this chapter took place.
After being sworn in, we were conveyed to Government House in a taxi…Government House was an imposing white building on the hillside, separated from the sea and a small private jetty by the one road on the island. The house had four bedrooms and a large drawing room and dining room. As it was about 50 feet above sea level, there were spectacular views over Road Bay from our bedroom and the drawing room…
On the 29th December, Road Town received its first visit by a cruise ship. The SS Meteor, 2,850 tonnes with 150 American tourists on board, anchored in Road Harbour. Wendy and I were absent from Government House and, on our return, were surprised to find Pauli handing out drinks to some 40 or 50 tourists, who greeted Wendy and myself by saying, ‘Come on in—the drinks are on the house.’ Thereafter, throughout the winter, we received weekly visits by SS Meteor—a turning point in the tourism industry.
Princess Mary arrived on HM Yacht Britannia at eight in the morning on Thursday 8th March 1960, and landed at the Road Town jetty where Wendy and I welcomed her. I then made the usual presentations of members of the Legislative Council, Senior Government Officials, and representatives of the Church. We drove to East End and Long Look, where she visited a Methodist school. Back in Road Town, she visited the Peebles Hospital…There was an amusing incident at the luncheon, when a large cockroach appeared on the table between Princess Mary and Louis. The Princess swept the cockroach off the table and continued her conversation with Louis without interruption…
Negotiations…were taking place with Laurance Rockefeller, an extremely rich American philanthropist, who had already established a prestigious tourist resort and the largest national park outside the United States on the neighbouring island of St John. He was considering the possibility of a similar development on Virgin Gorda…Laurance Rockefeller did not gain his reputation as a philanthropist without justification, so, although his advisors were eager to obtain the best possible deal, Rockefeller himself was much more sympathetic towards the interests of the BVI. As a result, much of the negotiation took place between Rockefeller and myself informally over lunch at Government House… The lease between the Crown and Rockefeller was signed at a formal ceremony at Government House on 17th February 1961, followed by a champagne reception. Rockefeller undertook to spend at least US$2 million, more than double the annual government budget! In addition, he underwrote the purchase of 97 acres in Tortola and 20 acres in Virgin Gorda to form the BVI’s first national park, for the administration of which a trust was established under the chairmanship of JR O’Neil [sic]…
When I joined the Colonial Service in 1944 there were over 45 British Overseas Territories covering an area of 2.3 million square miles with a population of 65 million. Now [at the time of publication] there are only 10 small island territories with a population of less than 200,000 of which BVI is one. Its population has grown threefold to more than 20,000 and it has found economy prosperity, as I had hoped it would, as an overseas financial centre and home to more than 350,000 registered Off Shore Companies.