According to historical lore, McCabe’s Curse on Nassau, was penned in the year 1814.
Captain or Lieutenant McCabe, a British Army Officer, apparently found Bahamians locals and the government system, at the time, to be riven with corruption and thievery. His passing shot at the Colony, as he tried to leave, was supposedly a curse on the land, which took the form of a poem.
McCabe’s Curse on Nassau, was supposedly unearthed by an American journalist, William Drysdale, who had been living in Nassau for a couple of years, around 1886.
Drysdale said he found the rare piece, in an old book in the Nassau Public Library. He used the poem to create a historical timeline of corruption and thievery, which he contended, had become pervasive, in The Bahamas. Because the poem painted the Colony in negative light, Drysdale offers, that it was not published locally.
William Drysdale himself, lived in New Providence for about two years, eventually becoming disillusioned with local ways, and ways of doing business in the Bahama Islands.
1886 – Likening the inhabitants of New Providence to Ali Baba and The Forty Thieves
Writer William Drysdale used three primary examples to make his point that the Bahama Islands was built on corruption.
He pointed to the Bahamian tradition of wrecking (waiting or helping ships to wreck in shallow shoals and then plundered).
He also cited the wealth Bahamians made running the blockade during the American Civil War.
And lastly, Drysdale used McCabe’s Curse on Nassau of 1814, as evidence that, as far back as the turn of the 19th century, thievery and corruption was the order of day.
It must be noted that Drysdale’s article was printed in the local Nassau newspapers and American newspapers. The version printed in the U.S. papers contained more information, as well as references to the wealth made by Bahamians who were Confederate agents, in Nassau, during the American Civil War. These details, quite naturally, were left out of the Nassau print.
“Everyone in Nassau was thoroughly in sympathy with the rebellion. They hoped that the war would continue for many years, and that it would at least in the triumph of the Confederates. Even to this day they give reasons and excuses for the failure of the Confederacy.… They accumulated some money by supplying shelter and fuel to blockade runners, and a few of them got rich. But this ill-gotten wealth did not do them much good. It was so new for them to have any money at all they had no idea how to keep it. What they did not spend in fast living they invested in Confederate bonds, on which they have not drawn any interest for some time. There is only one substantial relic in Nassau now of these flush times. There is a large modern house adjoining the park that was built by a man named Adderley, who was the agent in Nassau of the Confederate Government. He made a chest full of money and invested it in England and one of his descendants still has it. That the Forty Thieves or their descendants were still in Nassau in 1864 is well known to everybody familiar with the blockade running industry…” ——William Drysdale The New York Times, SUNDAY 23 MAY 1886
Using parody as analogy, Drysdale wrote that Bahamians were long the analogous descendants of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, as clearly shown by the writing of Captain McCabe of 1814
According to research, McCabe came to Nassau with some property, but was quickly robbed of it. McCabe soon ran into serious debt. When he tried to leave, the ship he was on was wrecked near Abaco. McCabe was returned to Nassau in an open boat, caught Yellow Fever, and buried on Hog Island.
McCabe, a British Army Officer, apparently was not a favourite of the Nassau town’s people
McCabe wished a fitting demise on Bahamians, whereby they would end up becoming food for land crabs. However, it was noted in 1924, that the fate McCabe had cursed on Bahamians, he by a twist of fate, succumbed to himself.
McCabe was buried on Hog Island where “land crabs feasted upon his marrow.”
McCabe’s CURSE on NASSAU
Land of cured rocks and stones,
Land where many leave their bones:
Land of rascals, rogues and pedlars,
Busy scandalising meddlers.
Land of poverty and want,
Where pride is plenty, money’s scant,
Take this my very heartiest curse,
For if I could I’d leave you worse.
For all your natives, I know well
Love me as well as they love Hell,
And I to them am just as civil,
And wish them all sent to the Devil.
May whirlwinds, earthquakes, tempest, rain
Fever, ague, want and pain,
Poverty and famine fell
Drive them all to hottest Hell.
And when they’re dead, the worthless dogs,
May they be rooted up by hogs,
Or, lying in their lodgings narrow,
May land crabs feast upon their marrow.
With you at last I think I’m even,
You go to Hell, I go to Heaven,
Shut up in there with bolted gate,
And there I leave you to your fate.
An Answer to McCabe’s Curse on Nassau published in 1924
An answer to McCabe’s Curse was published, along with the original, in the local Bahamas newspapers of 1924. This form of poetry became popular for a while, whereby a type of juxtaposed response to some scathing prose, was added as a type of counter response.