Every picture tells a story. Adorning the walls of the Atlantis Hotel, St. Joseph, Barbados hangs an old black and white photograph titled the “Martins Bay Fisherman”. This Siza photograph of the nine fishermen of Bath is a picture with many stories.
On an early December morning, near the turn of the 20th century, a photographer loaded his camera and a box of plates on to a hired carriage or perhaps the train in Bridgetown, Barbados. Arriving at Bath, along the east coast of the island, he would take a series of photographs that still capture our imagination today.
What brought this Bridgetown photographer, grandson of a Portuguese jailor, to Bath that day to meet a group of local fishermen and produce, amongst others, an iconic Barbadian photograph – a picture that has for over 110 years raised questions in the minds of its observers?
Who were these fishermen? When, why and where was the photograph taken, and who and what brought them together on the beach that day? This is their story.
Nineteenth Century Barbadian Photography
Extract from Photography in the City of Bridgetown: The nineteenth century by Harclyde Walcott that appeared in the BMHS Journal XLIX November 2003.
In the Saturday 20th November 1841 issue of the “Barbadian Newspaper” the following advertisement appeared :
JAMES D. BILLINGE, M.D. (of London, late of New York)
Respectfully announces to the Ladies and Gentlemen of Barbados, that he is now prepared to take Photographic Likenesses by the Daguerrotype process.
It would be impossible to accurately describe within the short limits of an advertisement, the truly ingenious and art of M. Daguerre, upon which all the literary journals of Europe and America for the last three years have abounded with notices of its rapid advancement; it may however be remarked that it has now arrived at such perfection as enables the operator to produce a perfect likeness in the extraordinary short period of thirty seconds, and at a very moderate expense.”
The Daguerreotype was the first commercially successful photographic process in the history of photography introduced on 7th January 1839. Named after the inventor, Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre, each daguerreotype is a unique image on a silvered copper plate.
In just under three short years, after the Daguerreotype process of image making was announced to the world, photography had come to Barbados.
Whether Mr. Billinge remained in Barbados or was just passing through is not clear. Regardless, by 5th February 1852, photography was in Barbados to stay when Mr. J. W. H. Campion announced, with an advertisement in the “Barbados Globe” that he was available at #19 James Street to take portraits and views.
Over the next 50 years a number of photographers set up business in Bridgetown while others took photographs as they travelled through the Caribbean introducing the Caribbean to the wider world. S.W. and George C. Poyer, Edwards & Co., W.G. Cooper and the Anton Brothers, were a few who operated photographic businesses during this period. One of those who set up a studio at Beckwith Place, Bridgetown in the later 1880’s was Manuel Auguste Nunes Siza.
The Portuguese Connection
Tomás Teixeira Nunes, the jailer of Relação, Portugal had two children: the photographer Henrique Nunes (1820-1882), and a daughter, Laurentina Augusta Nunes (1839-1878). Henrique operated a photographic studio, beginning in 1863, at Rua das Flores, nº 152, in Porto in Portugal. It was there that it is believed that he worked with Júlio Augusto Siza, his future brother-in-law.
Júlio Siza married Laurentina Nunes, his 26 year old bride in 1865. At the time of the marriage she was living with her father in Relação. Shortly after the wedding Júlio Siza travelled to Lisbon where he worked for his brother-in-law Henrique Nunes, now managing a photographic studio. He subsequently worked at a number of other studios in the capital.
Laurentina, the jailer’s daughter, had eight children with Júlio Siza, some of whom did not survive at birth. The eldest children, Manuel Auguste Nunes Siza (b. Lisbon, 1867 – d. Brazil, 1938) and Henrique Nunes Siza (b. Porto, 1869 – d. Brazil, 19??), would follow in their father’s profession.
Júlio Siza emigrated in 1884 settling in British Guiana (now Guyana), first in Demerara and then in Georgetown where he opened the “Lusitana Photographic Gallery” on Water Street, a gallery listed in the British Directory of Guyana in 1887. It was here that his two sons would follow in their father’s profession becoming successful photographers in their own right.
Júlio Siza at Photographia Vicentes house in Madeira. On the next card, Júlio Siza with his sons Manuel and Henrique on 15th September 1887 in his studio in British Guiana. Henrique (on the left with the camera), Júlio (in centre), Manuel (on the right is holding a glass-plate holder) . © Teresa Siza Collection.
The two sons soon set up studios of their own. Henrique Nunes Siza’s studio, in British Guiana, was the “Union Photographic Gallery”. Manuel emigrated to Barbados opening a studio, in Bridgetown, the “Anglo-Luzo Photographic Gallery.”
In 1897 Júlio Siza, their father, left Georgetown for Belém do Pará, Brazil, arriving on 3rd May 1897. On route to Brazil, Júlio Siza stopped in Barbados to stay for a week with his son Manuel.
Júlio Siza’s Guyana’s studio was bought by Querino Gomes Jardine. In Belém do Pará he opened a studio at Rua do Conselheiro João Alfredo, No. 7, called the “Photographia Amazónia”, which existed at the site until the 1960s, long after his death.
Over the years Júlio Siza presented works at the London exhibitions of 1884 and 1886 and Chicago in 1893. He was awarded the Bronze Medal at the Colonial and Indian Exhibition (London 1886) and in 1892-93 received the Bronze Medal at the World Colombian Exposition, (Chicago) and in 1894 the Medal of Merit at the Berbice Industrial Exhibition.
So Who Took the Picture, When and Why?
Barbados historian, Richard Goddard, when researching the fisherman photograph concluded that it had probably been taken in December 1908. (see full article below)
In 2017 Maria Fernanda published a research paper while completing her graduate studies in Art History at the Institute of Fine Arts-NYU called “Capturing the 19th Century Caribbean – Photographs by Whom and for Whom?” Her paper is based upon pictures contained within two old photograph albums comprised of the works of various photographers and locations in the British West Indies.
One of the photographs is a picture of nine fishermen signed by Siza – the same one that hangs in the Atlantis Hotel and which Richard Goddard has in his study.
In the Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Collection there are two photograph albums compiled by Mayson Beeton [the son of the the famous Mrs. Beeton]. Beeton, spent some years in the English Caribbean as a correspondent for the Daily Mail, published by the Harmsworth Newspapers.
Beeton’s albums allow us to appreciate the types of images that circulated in this era and the way in which the English Caribbean was represented. Beeton purchased the photographs in commercial studios in the English colonies, as evidenced by several autographed photos.
“The majority are landscapes or portraits of customs, generic photos conceived to sell to tourists and locals which nevertheless allow us to perceive some underlying tensions. The albums contain 72 photos arranged in sections on Bermuda, Antigua, Martinique, Barbados, Venezuela, Guyana, and Trinidad.”
Assuming that photographs in Mayson Beeton’s albums: “Through the West Indies – 1896 – 97” were collected or purchased while he was working as a correspondent in the Caribbean, the date the photograph was taken would need to have been earlier than 1908 as suggested by Richard Goddard.
Beeton’s albums are dated 1896 – 97. Tereza Siza in her book: Entre Viagens – A História suspensa do fotógrafo Júlio Sizan, Tereza Siza states that the image on Siza photograph 111 (a fisherman holding a child in his arms walking on Bath beach, Barbados W.I.) was taken in the 1890’s.
By 1908 Beeton had lived in Newfoundland for at least five years; beginning in 1903 while negotiating approval to build a lumber mill near Grand Falls. A mill he was managing by 1905.
In 1898 Delacourt Kell took over the well established business and studio of Manuel Auguste Nunes Siza “Anglo-Luzo Photographic Gallery” located at Beckwith Place, in Bridgetown, soon advertising himself as “an English Photographer”. Also, in 1887 Julio Siza, had sold his business in Georgetown and relocated to Brazil.
In all likelihood the photograph was taken sometime before Manual sold his Bridgetown studio in 1898, sometime between 1890 and 1897.
Which Siza took the photograph?
Like many of the Barbados photographs signed “SIZA” the photograph of the nine fisherman has no initial, just: “SIZA – Photo: -“. There seems to be some difference between the signatures on photographs used by the Siza family.
The studio photographs were often printed then mounted on a pre-printed card with a signature already in place. Outdoor photos would often have a name, number and signature etched onto the front of the photo. Júlio Siza’s outdoor photographs from Demerara / British Guiana were usually signed: J Siza as were those from Para Amazonas, in Brazil.
In her “Capturing the 19th Century Caribbean” paper Maria Fernanda credits Júlio Siza with taking the fishermen photograph “One of the signatures is that of Julio Siza, a travelling Portuguese photographer who toured the Caribbean”.
What actually appears on the photograph is just the word “SIZA” The signature on this and other Barbados photographs is different from that of J. Siza. Also the fact that his studios were in British Guiana and then Brazil plus the overall number of Siza photographs from Barbados locations would indicate a larger body of work, therefore we feel we can eliminate Julio as the photographer.
That leaves the two brothers Manuel Auguste Nunes Siza and Henrique Nunes Siza. We know that Henrique had established the “Union Photographic Gallery” in British Guiana. Harclyde Walcott, in writing about “Photography in the City of Bridgetown: The nineteenth century” references the Manuel Auguste Nunes Siza’s “Anglo-Luzo Photographic Gallery” in Bridgetown. Manuel’s time in Barbados is also referenced a number of times in Tereza Siza’s book about the history of the Siza family.
Thomaz Teixeira Nunes alongside his daughter Laurentina Nunes Siza, the photographs of about 1865, were later glued to the cards of the studio that Manuel Auguste Nunes Siza opened in Barbados in the Caribbean Islands. © Teresa Siza Collection
We feel comfortable concluding that Manuel Auguste Nunes Siza took the Nine Fisherman photograph and the other pictures taken that day, at Bath.
Where was the photograph taken?
Thanks to Richard Goddard the location of the photo shoot has been identified and subsequently verified as the Quamins River outlet to the sea on the northwest end of Bath.
“The photograph was taken on Bath beach, in the parish of St John. I later identified the watercourse in the background as the Quamins River outlet to the sea.”
Siza Photo #115 – Bath Panorama from hilltop and a similar picture taken recently by William Burton
In 2008 Richard Goddard wrote this account of finding answers to the fisherman’s tale. In it he describes how the photograph came to be taken. “I took the photograph to Edward and he explained that his father, who was the manager of Bath Plantation (owned by the Haynes family from about 1825), had brought a photographer to take family photographs, and he had taken this one of the ﬁshermen on the beach.” That photographer we believe was Manuel Auguste Nunes Siza of Anglo-Luzo Photographic Gallery located at Beckwith Place, Bridgetown.
I have often been asked what prompted me to research my Goddard family in Barbados. It started in January 1972 when my cousin, Dr Roger Goddard, showed me a photograph of nine poor Barbadian ﬁshermen. He said that one of his patients, Edward Haynes of Bank Hall House, had given it to him and explained that one was a Goddard, a relative of ours, but he did not know which one. This photo excited my imagination and curiosity. The following day I phoned Edward Haynes and identiﬁed myself. Haynes, who was housebound and in poor health, said he knew my parents, Bruce and Ida Goddard, as he had played tennis with them when they were young men and women, and he invited me over that afternoon.
I took the photograph to Edward and he explained that his father, who was the manager of Bath Plantation (owned by the Haynes family from about 1825), had brought a photographer to take family photographs, and he had taken this one of the ﬁshermen on the beach. The year was 1908, and a later photograph placed it as December, as the cane arrows were showing in the shot from the top of Hackletonʼs Cliff.Richard Goddard’s Full Account.
The photograph was taken on Bath beach, in the parish of St John. I later identiﬁed the watercourse in the background as the Quamins River outlet to the sea.
I next took the photograph to my grandfatherʼs last surviving sister, Helen Albertha King, who lived in Martinʼs Bay, St John. With her two sons, Jim and Skipper, she identiﬁed the ﬁshermen.
Back row standing left to right: George Watson, Aubrey King, then Joe Watson (holding ﬁsh net), Gerald Goddard (smoking clay pipe) and Thomas Henry Goddard, identiﬁed as my grandfatherʼs father, Joseph Josiah Goddardʼs brother. Sitting in the front row is Simeon Goddard, Ben Watson, Althard Watson and Robert Haynes (Judge).
The dress of the three on the right standing is that of wearing crocus bags with head and arms cut out. All are bare-footed. On the ground of the front row, is an old army pith helmet, with a pint and a half-bottle of rum. I suspect that they were bribed to pose with that bottle of rum, which would have been eagerly consumed!
Fifteen years later when I was the Chairman of the Salvation Army Advisory Board, I attended their Christmas parcel give away. Of the 250 people in the hall, I saw one white man, and I asked who he was. The Major said his name was Goddard. Afterwards I met him, and asked him to come to my workplace the following day, as I wanted to show him something. When I showed him the photograph and asked him if he knew anybody, immediately he pointed to Thomas Henry Goddard, and said that was my father, and so I was able to conﬁrm the previous identiﬁcation.
Many years later my brother-in-law, Denis Atkinson, former West Indies cricket captain, asked my grandfather Joseph Nathaniel to tell him about the good old days when he was growing up. My grandfather who was then 86 years old, began to cry and said: “no, those were not good days. There was poverty, hunger and disease, and no opportunity. I wouldnʼt wish them on my worst enemy.”
The most important step in any long or short journey is that ﬁrst step, and this photograph made me take that ﬁrst step. It is 36 years now that I have been researching and Iʼve learned much about the history of Barbados and the people here.
My ﬁrst ancestor to arrive in Barbados was Captain Nicholas Goddard, about 1637, and he came from Staple Fitzpaine in Somerset. Since Barbados was settled in 1627 about 8 million people around the world have Barbados connections, and hopefully now with the use of DNA we may be able to trace the movement of our ancestors.
This colourized version of the photograph matches the names to the faces, as described in Goddard’s account.
Brazil calls… What Happened to the Siza’s
In 1897 Júlio Siza sold his studio in Georgetown, British Guiana and moved to Belém do Pará, Brazil, arriving there on on 3rd May 1897. There he set up a new studio “Photographia Amazónia”. He would return to Portugal in 1910.
Manuel Auguste Nunes Siza’s Bridgetown studio the “Anglo-Luzo Photographic Gallery” was sold to Delacourt Kell in 1898. From Barbados it would appear Manuel went to Cayenne, French Guiana in 1901 where he opened a studio.
In the 1912 Barbados Handbook under the section: “Hotels, Boarding-Houses and Restaurants” is this reference “Bath Hotel (Siza), St. Lawrence-On-Sea, Christ Church. Telephone 620”. No other references to the name Siza, in Barbados, has been found.
According to Tereza Siza, Manuel would later go to Brazil. When his father returned to Portugal in 1910, Manuel lived in Pará. In 1919, he opened a small studio, “A Fotografia Ideal”, at Rua 28 de Setembro, Reducto.
Tereza Siza says Henrique also emigrated to Brazil; after 1910 he was correspondent in Manaus for the Armazém de Fazendas e Miudezas, Armazém de Tabacos e Farinhas Almeida & Dantas, based in Belém do Pará. In Brazil Henrique did not return to photography.
Readers may notice a couple of differences between the various referenced materials:
1. The names of the fishermen
In the Atlantis photograph, the names of the fishermen in the front row are in reverse order to the description in the accompanying text and, as described in Richard Goddard’s account above. We have applied the names, to our colourised photo, as per Richard Goddard’s text.
2. Comparison of Beeton and Atlantis (and other) photographs of the nine fishermen
The Mayson Beeton photograph of the nine fishermen and the one from the Atlantis Hotel differ slightly.
In the Beeton photograph the background is very clear and shows: a fishing boat behind the fourth fishermen who is smoking a clay pipe, the sea and Consett Point. In the Atlantis photograph neither the fishing boat, sea and Consett Point is visible.
There is a simple explanation for this – sunlight. The Siza photo would have been an early albumen or gelatin silver print. The photograhs in the Mayson Beeton album are in near pristine condition and would not have been exposed to direct sunlight so are well preserved and show background detail. The fishing boat, the sea and Consett Point are background items and light grey in colour. During the development process there would not have been much silver left on the fixed print in those background areas. It is likely in the Atlantis Hotel print this detail in the background rapidly faded in the sunlight of Barbados and the photograph has aged to a sepia colour.
3. Date of the nine fishermen photograph: 1896 – 97 vs 1908 / 1910
Based upon the the date of the Mayson Beeton albums when he resided in the West Indies we are comfortable dating Siza’s Nine Fishermen Bath photograph to between 1890 to 1897.
The photograph of the Nine Fishermen draws us back to a day on the beach when they gathered to have their image recorded for all time. We feel confident that we have identified:
- the nine fishermen as: George Watson, Aubrey King, Joe Watson, Gerald Goddard, Thomas Goddard, Simeon Goddard, Ben Watson, Althard Watson, Robert Haynes
- the location where the photograph was taken as: the north end of Bath beach where the Quamins river enters the sea
- the photographer as: Manuel Auguste Nunes Siza of “Anglo-Luzo Photographic Gallery” located at Beckwith Place, Bridgetown
- the approximate date the photograph was taken as: between 1890 and 1897. The only way to fix the date of Siza photographs #110 and #111 might be if the photographs of the Haynes family at Bath Plantation that were taken that same day by Manuel Auguste Nunes Siza still exist. It is a bit of a long shot. Sometimes the finished studio photographs were signed and dated in pencil on the studio mounting board.
We wish to thanks María Fernanda Domínguez Londoño, the Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros, Lynda Lewis, Vincent Haynes, Karl Watson, Andrew Warden of the Atlantis Hotel, William Burton and Richard Goddard who provided information and support, inspiring us to write this story.
We would like to offer special thanks to Tereza Siza who is Júlio Siza’s granddaughter and an acclaimed photographer in her own right. In 2018 she published “Entre Viagens – A História suspensa do fotógrafo Júlio Siza”. It is a homage to her great grandfather photogrpaher: Júlio Siza. The book recounts his life, reproducing photographs from his work and travels in Madeira, British Guiana and Brazil. Tereza has helped us wrap up the unknown details surrounding the Siza photograph of the nine fishermen of Bath.
If you have more to add to this story we’d like to hear from you. If you think we got it wrong we’d also like to hear from you.
April 2020 in the year of Covid19
Location of Nine Fishermen Photogrpah Shoot
The Quamins River outlet to the sea is at the northern end of the Bath beach. It was once the site of an old railway bridge which was part of the Barbados railway which operated until 1937.
Here is another SIZA photo of Quamins, taken from up the hill, note the railway bridge and the stream going to the sea. Note the coconut trees, one of which is in the photo. You can also see a partial roof in front the tallest coconut tree. I have been told that is where fellows used to meet to ‘fire’ a drink or meet ‘company’.
My dad rented land where the grove of trees are and he planted Casuarinas there. The house was built at his home and moved there just before or after Hurricane Janet [22nd September 1955]. It was tiny and was added to as years went by. There was no electricity and water in those days.Lynda Lewis 2020
Mayson Beeton’s famous mother
Mayson Beeton was the son of Mrs Isabell Beeton nee Mayson who compiled Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management – a guide to running a Victorian household, with advice on fashion, child care, animal husbandry, poisons, the management of servants, science, religion, and industrialism.
Mrs Beeton was born in London and, after schooling in Islington, north London, and Heidelberg, Germany, she married Samuel Orchart Beeton, a publisher and magazine editor. In 1857, less than a year after their wedding, Isabell Beeton began writing for her husband’s publications about cooking and domestic management, including a monthly column for The Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine. In October of 1861, the supplements were collected & published as a single volume.
Mrs. Beeton died shorty after the birth of Mayson in 1865 aged 28.
Mayson Beeton’s Time in the West Indies
During his time as a West Indies correspondent Beeton wrote strongly against the Foreign Sugar Bounties, which he felt were destroying the sugar cane industry of the West Indies by giving preferential treatment to sugar beet production.
In 1898 he published “The Truth About the Foreign Sugar Bounties – The Case for Abolition”.
- In 1990 Howard Johnson and Karl Watson used the nine fishermen photo on the front of their book “The White Minority in the Caribbean”
- Photography in the City of Bridgetown: The nineteenth century. Harclyde Walcott BMHS Journal 49 – November 2003
- Entre Viagens – A História suspensa do fotógrafo Júlio Siza: Tereza Siza
- Mayson Beeton, The Son of the Famous Mrs. Beeton
- Album of old Caribbean photos with Julio Augustus Siza: 71-73, 75, 80-82
- The Nunes Siza Story (Associação Portuguesa de Photographia)
- Richard Goddard “Story of the Photo” as contributed by Vincent Haynes
- Capturing the 19th Century Caribbean – Photographs by Whom and for Whom?, María Fernanda Domínguez Londoño
- Christies Auction – Sale of the Beeton Albums in 1996
- Quamins Rock fish pool Bath
- Ann Watson Yates “Bygone Barbados”; published by Black Bird Studios, Christ Church, Barbados; 1998
- Sustainable Use of the Littoral by Traditional People of Barbados and Bahamas which uses the Nine Fishermen photograph and has an interview with Fred Watson
12 thoughts on “A Fisherman’s Tale”
This article is so interesting! I am the Great-Great Granddaughter of George Watson, one of the “Nine Fishermen.” As a little girl I listened to stories about living in the early days from my grandmother, Ermin Riley (nee Watson).
Shelley, we are glad you enjoyed the article. It was fun and interesting to research.
We’d be interested in learning more about the “early days” stories that your grandmother told you. That is the goal of BajanThings, to capture handed-down stories from the past that you wouldn’t normally find elsewhere.
So interested this whole history, so enjoyed the reading, the fishermen stories is fab. I started off reading about hurrican Janet 1955, in Barbados so intrested. All this should be as a history lesson in schools, in Britain, Portugal, and every country in this piece of history.
Many thanks – errors fixed
It’s a cream coloured dog, long tail clearly visible. Maybe a Yellow Labrador?
Is it a dog or a pig moving in the background?
Andrew, I’m going to let you solve that one..Jim.. I was thinking dog.
It could be a pig. It could be a dog. What do you think?
Black & White version
A very intresting story.
Keep up the good work,
Completely agree with this comment!
Can I add a bit to the Nunes Siza story. In a book published 1909 that is ‘Compiled and Edited by Alister Macmillan’, and titled ‘The West Indies Illustrated. Historical and Descriptive Commercial and Industrial Facts Figures and Resources’, there are a few paragraphs under the heading ‘The Bath Hotel (late St. Lawrence Hotel) St. Lawrence’. I was interested for several reasons, one being that I collect old postcards of Barbados, pre 1920, and I found there are at least eight postcards of this Bath Hotel, all different views. Why so many? Even the Marine Hotel (described in this book as “erected 20 years ago at a cost of £32,000), did not have as many and varied photos/postcards.
I quote from the description of the Bath Hotel in this book, ‘This extremely attractive establishment at the car terminus used to be known as the St. Lawrence (sic) Hotel, and assumed it’s present designation the Bath Hotel last year, when it was taken over by its present capable and enterprising proprietor Mr. Nunez Siza’. This hotel, ‘with its first class sea bathing facilities, its bathing house giving direct access to the sea’, is described as being ‘under the capable supervision of Mr. and Mrs. Siza. Mr. Siza is thoroughly conversant in French, Portuguese and Spanish as well as English’. No other name than Nunes Siza was given.
I guess this is the answer to why so many postcards, it’s owner was a photographer. But it is interesting that the name Siza does not appear on any of these postcards. Also, why “Bath”? Was there any connection to Bath, or the Haynes? Eventually the Bath Hotel became the private residence known as Lorraine Hall, minus a two story section extending from the main house out toward the road and situated beside the St. Lawrence Hotel, owned and run by Peter and Joan Morgan. Both properties now demolished.
Patricia, thank you for this invaluable addition to the story filling some gaps between 1898 – 1909.
Well done. Correction to Barracuda Fish Trip picture. Cuthbert Watson is the gentleman to Right in white shirt and pants. The Watson on the left is Cuthbert’s son or nephew. My father is in the centre Lionel Corbin aka “Corbs”