‘Man why you so fool’ is a popular Bahamianese saying, in response to acts of stupendous stupidity. In 1918, a well meaning act, became one of stupendous stupidity, when it resulted in a veritable comedy of errors.

In January 1918, Nat Jones, a negro, hired as a lighthouse keeper on Watlings Island (later renamed San Salvador in 1925) was celebrating the christening of his first born. So overcome with emotion at the joyous event that Mr. Jones wanted to tell the whole world, or at least every ship which happened to be cruising in Bahamian waters, at that time.

Nat Jones, raised a flag at the lighthouse with the initials “N. J.” on it. Everyone on Watlings Island probably knew that this meant Nat Jones Jr. or Nancy Jones, had been born, and paid it little mind, other than to be happy for Mr. Jones.

However, others sailing by, and expecting proper lighthouse protocol to always be observed, would conclude something else altogether. Professional sailors knew that the letters “N J” represented an international distress signal.

In fact, N. J. was more than a distress signal, it meant urgent help needed: “I am attacked; I want help.”

As luck or bad luck, some might say would have it, a German cargo steamer was cruising by Watlings Island. The steamer observed the flag with the urgent help needed signal flying on the lighthouse. Without actually going to Watlings to find out what awful circumstances had befallen the island, the captain of the German steamer made fast speed to Nassau, to report, in his words, a pirate attack.

Nassau rang the distress alarm. They sent, sent, not one, not two, but three companies of marines with two guns to liberate Watlings Island from suspected pirates.

When the marines arrived with guns blazing, only to be greeted by a lighthouse keeper enjoying the birth of his firstborn, those back in Nassau were not laughing. The Bahamas Assembly did not see the humour in the comedy of errors began by Mr. Jones.

In the end, Nat Jones, the lighthouse keeper on comfortable Watlings Island, was transferred to work on the barren rock of Lobos Cay.

(The Londonderry Sentinel, Saturday Morning, January 18, 1918)
Please follow and like us: