Reflections: Col. Duke’s Morris 8

The great thing about BajanThings is that the articles often trigger memories of Bajan days gone by. BajanThings reader Mark Layne wrote from Nova Scotia having read the article: “The Duke Affair – A West Indian versus the colonial establishment“, about Colonel Duke who was summarily dismissed by a new Governor in 1948 – the real reasons for that dismissal were never disclosed:

“I was born in Barbados in 1943 where my father [John Graham Layne] was manager of the West India Rum Refinery [now called the West Indies Rum Distillery]. He had given my older brother [Donald St. Eval Layne] a Morris 8 car. My brother left for University in 1948 and my father sold the car to Colonel Duke. The timing seems significant in hindsight and I remember the car could often be seen parked outside the Officer’s Mess at the Drill Hall. I seem to vaguely remember Col. Duke living in one of the adjoining buildings. I thought this piece of trivia might amuse.”

Mark Layne

Whilst Colonel Duke was Commissioner of Police (1939-48) he was comfortably accommodated in his official residence outside Bridgetown and had the use of an official car and driver. When he lost his job he also lost his home and car.

Many of the local population, black and white alike, were shocked by the treatment of a well respected “West Indian” official and he appears to have been widely supported in his new predicament. The offer to sell him the old Morris 8 (a very popular car at the time in England and Australia where it was built) was much appreciate by the Colonel and he kept it running up into the 1960s.

My sister and I and our cousins have memories of being driven very slowly in the car by our great-uncle, usually in first gear all the way to our destination. I think the whole population of Barbados must have known when the Colonel took to the road, no doubt being overtaken by bicycles and horse and carts. I seem to remember being caught in a rainstorm one afternoon and the car had to stop. Water was streaming into the car and I don’t think the (singular) wiper was working; at least I think it had a windscreen (windshield) wiper – it would have been an optional extra in those days.

My aunt Audrey remembers coming to Barbados for the first time in 1957/58 with her West Indian born husband, Michael Bolton, and first baby. “The family treated me like a valuable piece of porcelain”. Audrey was driven the short distance from the Garrison to the Yacht Club in the old Morris 8 whilst a nursemaid pushed the new baby in his pram. “Things were done differently in those days.”

Colonel Duke lived at St. Ann’s Court, The Garrison with his sister Aileen and the car was garaged in the partly underground storeroom at the back of the building. He kept the car there alongside a store of Julie Mangoes so my memory of the car is not of oil and petrol but the smell of mangoes.

No-one in the extended family can now remember when the old car was sold, but the little black Morris 8 remains in quite a few family memories and even in a rather blurred photograph that didn’t make it into a photograph album.

When I sent Mark the photo it clicked further memories:

Col. Duke's Morris 8
Col. Oriel Duke and his sister Aileen Gall (née Duke) in front of the Morris 8.

“The Morris 8 was a sweet little car but so unstable you could turn it over with ease. It came to Barbados missing it’s Morris badge so my father fashioned one and painted it red.” 

Mark Layne

Alas, the car didn’t make it into the Mallalieu vintage car collection.

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