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Banana Island (Dublin), Sierra Leone

Who we are

Did you know that much of the fruit you buy in the city has been ripened artificially? Not ours! Read about us, and about our community run guest house at:  http://www.bananaislandguesthouse-biya.org/Island.

Dublin is 11 miles long and 1.3 quarters miles wide. We have seven hills and seven beaches. OUr population (2012) is 842.

The Banana Islands are not called the Banana Islands because of our great bananas (though our bananas are great!). When the Portuguese, led by Pedro de Centra in 1462, first saw out little cluster of land, they decided the shape of our cluster of islands (now Dublin, Ricketts and Mesmieu) looked like a bunch of bananas -- and the "Banana Islands" got their name!

Our little community on Dublin is full of backyard gardens, big breadfruit trees and rare and delightful butterflies. Wake up in the morning to the noise of strange and beautiful birds.

We are Creole, Sherbro, Limba and Temne. We support ourselves through fishing, sea cucumber harvesting and through the community guest house. Some of us also own private guest houses, like Dalton’s guest house – which has become an extremely popular place for tourists traveling on a tight budget. Dalton’s is clean, friendly, with a beautiful sea view.

Our water and our soil are extraordinary. Drop a seed in our soil and it will grow! We have a special "kaktors" plant that is very poisonous and can only be found on Banana Island. We also have the mushroom called kobo and many moringa trees (a tree that has a multitude of medicinal uses, amongst them the treatment of malaria).

It’s not unusual for tourists to arrive and think they’ll stay a night or two and end up staying for a week or two.

History

The island used to be owned and controlled by the infamous slave traders, the Caulkers. The Caulkers were an Afro-Anglo family, descended from an Englishmen who used to work at the nearby slave factory on Bunce Island and a chief’s daughter who married sometime in the 1700s. In 1820, the Caulkers left for the mainland and leased the island to the British crown for 250 Spanish dollars per year. WHen slavery was abolished, Francis B. Caulker made an agreement with british Governor McCarthy for the settlement of slaves (late 17th century). Frederick Campbell, a young Scot, laid out Dublin village, where some of the original Sherbro inhabitants remained, as liberated Africans gradually settled on the island. In 1834 Dublin was made the seat of the local government, and by 1847 it was recorded that 500 people were living in the town.  

There are no shortage of stories on Banana Island, not only stories related to the slave trade,  or Creole stories about fresh water and lost leaves (according to Creole lore, there’s a leaf that grows in the forest that, if you brush against it, you will lose your way), but also stories of local heroes. Moses Williams, still living in our community, swam to shore after a trawler he was in (with 24 other people) capsized in stormy weather. He collapsed on shore after calling for help. Because of his courage, 8 men and 2 women were saved (May 1980). 

The history of slavery can be felt keenly on our island. Look for the canons, put in place by the British when slavery was abolished to fortify against illegal slavers who continued with the practice.

Before the abolition of slavery, slaves were inspected on Dublin. We served as a transit centre for slaves bought in different parts of the country. Those slaves who were deemed fit and healthy enough to travel, continued with their voyage while those who were considered unfit and weak, were stacked in a hole on top of one another and left to die -- the dead, terribly, stacked among the living in a deep pit.

During our terrible civil war, people took refuge with us. We fed them and took them into our homes, and lived apart from the atrocity. Many of these people still return to us, grateful for the haven we were during a brutal time in Sierra Leone’s history. In fact, the whole community of Kent came to our island. We hosted more than 2000 people from different parts of the country and served as a food supply for Freetown and other areas in the Western Peninsula.

Many famous people hail from our Island, among them Reverend TTB Campbell, Reverend MDJTDF Shears (former minister of works and tourism), Sackey, Reverend TJV Campbell, Reverend JM Campbell, REverend Timily Campbell and lawyers such as Amie Gooding, Claude Billy Campbell and Doctor Frank Harris.

During the formation of the first government, unruly boys and street children, below the age of imprisonment, were sent here. Many asked for mercy from us and were adopted by us.

All of our churches were built by recaptives in the early 18th Century. The Anglican church was first, built in 1800. Its bell was hung in 1881 under the kingship of Henry the 8th, of England. Due to an increase in population a fraction of elders broke away and started the African Methodist church 78 years later. 

Current Attractions

If you’re looking for someone to spin you a yarn, ask for Mr Moses Taylor, Anthony Kamara, Lord Moo (an attraction in himself – a historian and fluent in English!) and Bengford Taylor.

Walk to Ricketts. It’s gorgeous. Ask for a guide (right now the trails are not marked and you could take a wrong turn – and it’s a long walk).

We have many, many medicinal plants in the forest. Protecting our forest means protecting the vitality of the Western Area Peninsula Forest. Some of us will be happy to tell you about the medicinal properties of the plants in our forest – but ask politely. We’re also worried that if we tell you too much, we may lose those things on our island we value most.  To this day, we haven’t had a case of cholera on Banana Island, and there are many of us who, since childhood have been finding remedies to our ailments in the forest – for malaria, pain in childbirth, dysentery...

The community-run Banana Island Guest House is always open for business. Stay in one of our cottages and be pampered. Make sure you book in advance during the busy season (November - April).

If you are on a tighter budget, check out Dalton’s Guest House. It’s owned by Grigorios Delichristos and managed by Dalton McCarthy (of Banana Island) and it is a backpacker’s paradise – with a wooden platform overlooking the sea, hammocks, a cooking area, great service, and great prices. They’re even working on developing diving!

You’re welcome to lodge with someone in the village if you’d like. Come talk to our head woman and she can make arrangements for you.

Check out our slave hole (where weak and dead slaves were thrown into a deep mass grave), the colonial canons, the colonial anchor on the beach (from a marooned British ship), majestic cotton trees, churches, the wells dug by the slaves (under the watchful eyes of the Portuguese), the grave of Lieutenant Edward Armstrong, killed by Costal fever at 22) and the musical weaverbirds flashing yellow and dipping into their nests.

If you love the forest, if you love birds, if you love a laid-back island attitude, if you like the feel of an old Creole settlement, come! Our forest and our hearts are unspoiled and waiting for you to visit.

Potential Attractions

Our trail to Ricketts needs to be developed! A trail already exists between the islands (and there is a stone walkway between the two), but developing a loop is a must for tourism!

We have so much potential for wildlife viewing – from rare beautiful insects to rare birds to monkeys. We would love to make our island a great place for people who want to watch animals.

There have been several attempts at creating a museum here. For many reasons these attempt seem to fail. We’d like the next attempt to be a success. Right now we have a family owned museum that the community has no rights to. It is housed in a locked room in the school house (with a spelling mistake over the door). This is not a testament to the pride we have in our past. 

Our pub and restaurant could use some improvement. As with so many of the tourist establishments along the peninsula, we have the heart, but we would like more training. If you came and had the heart to help us, pay for some of our staff to take catering and service classes!

Community Needs

There are only 5 children in our school! The quality of education on our island needs serious improvement. We don’t have materials and most of us send our children to Freetown to get educated.
We want to improve our fishing tools so we can fix our fishing business.
We are hoping to develop a community centre (it’s our head woman’s hope that building a community centre will be her legacy – in 2011 the foundation is getting laid).
We want to have a ferry.
We want skills training for our women so that they can become more adept at machine tailoring and hair dressing.
We want solar light on our island.

We used to process cassava for gari but now we buy gari on the mainland.  We also would like to have a machine for processing palmine – we have so much palmine! It’s just spoiling in the forest right now! We have so much potential for selling our produce on the mainland!

How to Contact us

(As of 2012) Head woman: Georgiana Kailde Campbell (078 146 381, 076 834 960); Chairlady: Marian MacFoy; Secretary: Mrs Frederica Wright; Youth Leader: Enrich Barber.

Guest House, Edumi Banana (076 989 906).

Former Headwoman, school teacher and community advocate, Elizabeth Wray (076 607 041).

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