The Bahamas has long been accustomed to the hit and run disparaging comments of foreigners. Harsh words from those of the developed world, come like a meteor from the sky, leaving a deep crater in the confidence of the country. Caribbean islanders have long learned to develop a tough skin against the harsh words delivered upon them, but when you are labelled a “disgrace,” to the Empire, it’s hard not to take it personal.
1926 was a difficult and awful year for the Bahamas. In fact, it may go on record as one of the worst years for the country, in the early 20th century. Multiple hurricanes, Public Treasury robbery, the threat of a smallpox epidemic, rum running boats damaged, loss of life from successive storms and the British pledging to send warships to the Bahamas to suppress rum running activities, all took its toll on the islands.
However, all of the death, loss and destruction for the country, was overshadowed by comments made by a prominent British doctor.
Dr. Andrew Balfour, Director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine made damaging comments, labelling the Bahamas ‘a disgrace’ medically to the British Empire.
March 1926 – Daring Dynamite Robbery of the Public Treasury
The daring robbery of gold and silver from the Public Treasury put the Bahamas government in serious peril. There was no money left to pay for public works.
Bahamas Robbery May Result in Curtailment of Public Works
“March 19. – The colonial government of the Bahamas faces financial embarrassment as a sequel to the daring robbery of the treasury vault here Wednesday, it becomes known today.
Grave concerns was expressed in official circles when Colonial Secretary Burns informed the Legislature that approximately $47,000 gold and silver specie had been stolen.”
(The Times Saturday, 20th March 1926)
April 1926 – Navy Ships To Patrol Bahamas
“Great Britain will use her naval forces to aid the United States in suppressing rum running. The official announcement was made today, on the day when Massachusetts Americans are celebrating Patriots’ day, the anniversary of the first victory of American revolutionists.
The British navy will be employed in suppressing rum running between British colonies and the United States and particularly between the Bahamas and the United States.”
(The Tampa Tribune, Monday 19 April 1926)
May 1926 – Smallpox Scare From Florida
“Smallpox quarantine and embargo between Florida and the Bahamas was raised Friday, according to private dispatches to Saunders & Mader, ship brokers and L. A. Oates, British vice consul.
The remaining qualification keeping this from being a complete removal is that all persons must carry vaccination certificates, showing they have been vaccinated at least seven days preceding the date of sailing from Florida.”
(The Miami News, Saturday 01 May 1926)
July 1926 – Monday 26th
The worst storm in the history of the islands strikes.
“Nassau, New Providence, Bahamas. Ravaged by wind and wave with more than 150 persons missing, the Bahama Islands remained virtually isolated from communication with the outside world today while anxious residents took further count of the toll of destruction from the worst hurricane in the history of the islands.
The majority of those missing were believed to have drowned with the sponge fishing fleet which has not been seen since it set sail three days before the West Indian hurricane struck the islands Monday night.”
(The Green Bay Gazette Friday 30 July 1926)
September 1926 – Another Hurricane Hits the Bahamas
(The News Herald Saturday 18 September 1926)
(The Free Press, Friday September 24, 1926)
October 1926 – Another Storm hits the Islands
(The Journal Saturday, 23 October, 1926)
November 1926 – Three Successive Storms Leaves Shipping Fleet Destroyed
(The Los Angeles Times Wednesday, 10 November 1926)
October 1926 – Foreign Doctor Declares the Bahamas a “Disgrace”
After one of the worst years for the Bahamas, and its local economy, Dr. Andrew Balfour, Director of the London Hygiene School declared the Bahamas “a disgrace” because in his estimation, the country wasn’t doing enough to stop the spread of tropical diseases.
Dr. Balfour made this comments an address at the opening of the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health in Baltimore.
It is unclear exactly when Dr. Balfour came to the Bahamas.
(The Baltimore Sun, Friday 22 October 1926)