Though the turquoise blue waters of the Bahamas are undeniably beautiful, its seas remain the final resting place for thousands and thousands of souls, both known, and unknown to history. John Ridley, a wealthy Englishman, man running from the law in his native Liverpool, along with his daughter Bessie Ridley, are just two of those souls.
RIDLEY’S HEAD, ELEUTHERA
Located on the northwestern edge of the island of Eleuthera, 1.8 miles east-northeast of Spanish Wells, by all accounts, Ridley’s Head, located at the very tip of the island of Eleuthera is a veritable paradise. But the origins of how this secluded area of the Eleuthera got its name is filled with sorrow and loss.
Unlike many others whose journey through Bahamian waters ended in anonymous tragedy, John Ridley and his daughter Bessie, have become immortalised in Bahamian geographical history.
Ridley’s Head and Ridley’s Hat set their place in the pages of popular Eleuthera Island history, forever.
1866 – JOHN RIDLEY AND HIS DAUGHTER BESSIE RIDLEY ARE SHIPWRECKED BY A STORM WHICH HITS THE BAHAMA ISLANDS
The ship John Drew, sailing out of Nova Scotia, was halfway between Harbour Island and Spanish Wells when she was overtaken by the great hurricane of 1866. Ferocious winds, destructive rains and feet high sea swells, lasted for two long days. Few ships and smaller sea crafts, in and around the Bahama Islands, survived. Those caught out to sea were bashed against jagged shoals and hidden shallow reefs. Boats tied to moorings were knocked against the very piers that were meant to steady them.
For the brig John Drew, when the hapless crew sighted land, the northwestern edge of Eleuthera about 1.8 miles east- northeast of Spanish Wells, they abandoned ship. Several men piled into a rowboat as the John Drew began to sink into stormy ocean. They were never heard from again.
Three people, the captain and two passengers, were left on the battered ship which was being engulfed by one ferocious wave after the other. Of the passengers, a man by the name of John Ridley and his daughter Bessie Ridley were all that still breathed above the salty waters when the storm finally calmed. Each donned life preservers and made way for the one dinghy that was left.
Ridley and his daughter settled the area of Eleuthera in which they were shipwrecked in 1866.
John Ridley and his daughter survived one storm, only to be taken by another just two years later.
(The Times Leader, Tuesday, November 1893)
1977 – Health Resort at Ridley Head, Eleuthera
Over the next century, Ridley’s Head was adapted to Ridley Head, dropping the possessive.