09 January, 2009


Nominations for the gold medal in cultural vandalism for 2009. The New Year has just begun. We already have the first nomination for the gold medal for cultural vandalism for 2009. It is a new award, invented today. The nominee is the Hon Hubert Hughes, proprietor of the old Cotton Gin Factory in The Valley.

The gin itself was erected in 1910. It last worked in about the year 1950. Then the world market price for cotton collapsed and the industry closed down in Anguilla. That means that the machinery was nearly one hundred years old. Up to the end of last year, the disused equipment was standing there as if waiting for the factory workers to return from lunch. There was a bale of compressed cotton still in the bailer, and a sprinkling of lint stuck on the belts. Everything was as it was when Carter Rey locked the door for the last time. Years later, someone was to remove and steal the bronze plaque presented to the Factory by the textile industry of Lancashire, congratulating the Anguillian cotton gin for having produced the best cotton lint that they had ever seen in England.

Last week, the cotton gin was demolished and ordered to be taken to the Corito garbage dump.

Corito Dump: Anguilla's graveyard for used machinery

I have not checked with Mr Hughes for confirmation that he gave the order, but he owns the property, and only the owner could have given permission for such a drastic alteration in the structure.

Empty space where the cotton gin used to be

Close-up of empty space

Remnants of equipment in the ceiling above

Some Anguillians are outraged. I have no idea why. After all, it was done so that the otherwise wasted space could be used as a Chinese Restaurant. It is going to look so much neater now. So much more modern, as befits an up-market destination such as Anguilla is.

Why would anyone think that Hubert should have considered the Cotton Gin to be an important part of Anguilla’s built heritage? What an idiotic concept, anyway. Built heritage! Just a fancy name for broken down old buildings and rusting machinery. Much more merciful to put them out of their misery, and tear them down. Only effete foreigners could find such a thing of interest. Little do these foreigners know that the old cotton ginnery symbolized nothing more than the state of near slavery that our Anguillian forebears were forced to live in right up to the modern time. We must get rid of these last remnants of exploitation in order to expunge our shame at the poverty of our grandparents.

Besides, it is not as if Anguilla is not already blessed with an abundance of monuments to the industrial endeavours of our Anguillian ancestors. There are magnificent old mansions scattered around the island that anyone who is determined to visit old structures can take their pick of. We don’t have to go to Jamaica or Barbados to find Great Houses. We have them right here.

Antique Anguillian house

So what if the Cotton Gin was one of the last pieces of Anguilla’s built heritage that was in relatively good working condition. There are other mementos of Anguilla’s rich economic history, for those sentimental fools who want to waste their time looking at that sort of thing. They can still go to Sandy Hill and admire the Sugar Works ruins of Governor Richardson.

Gov Richardson’s minimalist animal round foundations

What about the benefits to the living Anguillians? Is it not better for us to look after the financial needs of those who are living today, and those yet to come, rather than wasting time worrying about worn out machinery. As the US industrialist Henry Ford said, “History is bunk”.

It isn’t as if Anguilla already has too many Chinese restaurants. Anguilla desperately needs this Chinese restaurant. In the circumstances, the loss of Anguilla’s most famous surviving part of our built heritage is a small price to pay. I understand Anna wanted the equipment removed. It was occupying valuable space in her proposed new restaurant. Anyway, it was just old junk, wasn’t it? Hubert was glad to oblige. Anything for Anna.

Those idiot heritage persons should be grateful the truckers telephoned Colville Petty at his Heritage Museum, “Do you want this stuff, or should we take it to Corito?” He agreed to rescue what they offered him.

Cotton gin equipment dumped outside Petty’s museum

The rest of the rubbish is, presumably, now buried at the public dump. Good riddance to bad rubbish, I say.

If the Public Health Department insisted on its removal for health concerns, congratulations to them for their foresightedness.

If the Planning Department permitted it, in authorizing the change of use, kudos to them for their long sightedness.

If the Environment Department encouraged it when their views were sought, bravo to them for their concern and dedication!

This decision was an inspired one. In the race for the gold medal, it will be hard to beat for the rest of 2009.


  1. Years ago, when Trolley Construction was renting the property, Hughes bragged that he was going to either donate the machinery to a museum, or create a museum at the site because it was so important historically. But, that was before he became "Honourable."

  2. What surprises me most is Mr Hughes shortsightedness. He had a valuable asset that he just threw away. He could have offered it to the public for US10,000 plus the cost of removal and people would have contributed to keep it safe. We could have put it up at the national trust or at Pettys museum. What a shame.

  3. "I have all the answers."
    --Hubert Hughes, 19 October 2002

  4. Caribbean Net News
    Caribbean culture tops list of travellers’ interests
    July 31, 2004

    NEW YORK, USA: The Caribbean’s intriguing culture is among major areas
    of interest that influence travellers’ choice of a destination, one of the leading US magazines focusing on culture, science, natural history, travel and the arts has indicated.

    According to Smithsonian Magazine, a survey of its readers revealed that more and more travellers are selecting their
    Caribbean vacation destination based on the region’s historic landmarks, sites, exciting events and gracious people.

    In the survey of approximately 1,500 members of the Smithsonian Magazine Readers' Panel, the majority found that, just after a Caribbean destination’s history and museums have the most when choosing which Caribbean location to visit...

  5. As with government issues, apathy does not serve a country well , if no one cares to save remnants of the past. Good Luck to Mr. Petty and his Museum.

  6. I do so agree that there was no reason why the Cotton Gin had to be destroyed. Could not APANY have helped? (read mission of APANY)or the Chanber of Comerce: APANY

  7. "My years of education and enlightenment will not go in vain." --Hubert Hughes, 21/9/02

  8. Sad Sad Sad, Now cell phones and diving are common the future generations will miss the preserving of earlier generations.
    In NY they would have just left the machinery intact and used the space as business.
    How about a preservation law?

  9. What a crime! I used to conduct tours of Wallblake House and tied in the history of Wallblake with the Rey family and the cotton gin. People would go to the ice cream shop after the tours to view this piece of Anguilla's history. Mr. Hughes really missed the opportunity to line his large pockets on this one! Everyone should stop by the other half of the Cotton Gin building to see what Scott Hauser has done in not only preserving this piece of history, but creating a beautiful suite of offices. Hope Hubert enjoys his moo goo gai pan - it will take years to get the smell of rancid peanut oil out of the building after they hopefully go bust! And thank you Coleville for saving this now lost piece of history for us.

  10. Mr. Mitchell,

    Do you think it could be possible for the WISE students and staff to put the parts together again?
    Can the parts dumped at Corito and the parts still in the ceiling be retrieved?

    Is there any way WISE can help to preserve this antique piece of history?

  11. I have two impressions of this, both of them on the order of "who gives a hoot?".

    1. The land in question is, in fact, *private* property. The owner can do with it what he wants. Anguilla is -- or was once, anyway -- a free country. Though these days it feels like certain, ahem, elites, are busy transforming themselves into H.L. Mencken's "Busybodies and Bluenoses". Emphasis, in this particular case, on "Busybodies."

    2. Caterwauling about the need to preserve what is being made out to be some Pravda-capitalist-in-spats artifact of vicious exploitation really is a bit much. It reminds me of people who lovingly restore US Confederate-era plantation houses -- right down to the "historic reinactors" chained up in the Authentic! Chattel Housing out back.

    Frankly, if the place is *that* bad, they should plow it under and sow salt so nothing would grow there anymore -- and, yes, the same should be done various other places of monumental evil, at the risk of evoking Saint Godwin -- not keep it "restored" to scare the children, or for future totalitarians and "exploiters" to take their lessons from.

    Obviously, this place is almost certainly *not* one of inherent universal horror, and, so, see 1.), above. The possible smell of rancid peanut oil, expired chicken and chips, or whatever, are, again, nobody's business but the owner of the property in question.

    3. If, on the other hand, the equipment is merely a bunch of cool toys for overgrown boys to play with, fine. Sell it. But it's not *our* right to tell someone what to do with their property even if they *were* physically casting pearls before swine, and so, see 1.), above, again.

    By the same token, it's somebody else's right to save it from the dump and trundle it down to the pond for people to gawk at, hopefully for someone's eventual --horrors!-- profit. Rock on.

    Ultimately, if "the people" ceremonialize enough stuff, and make enough places "sacred", sooner or later there's no room for anybody to stand anymore, much less earn a living. You might as well start sticking "Kapu" signs on everything, just like they do in Hawaii, and *those* places have only been occupied significantly less than a millennium or so.

    People have been producing "built culture" on *this* island a lot longer, probably since since sometime after an asteroid hit the North American continental glacier field and wiped out the Clovis culture, and its megafauna, more than ten thousand years ago. Under those rules, *nobody* should live here, because the whole *island* is an artifact.

    So, finally, yes, Judge, as Ford so aptly put it, history *is* bunk. People who learn *too* much from history repeat themselves until they trip over their own future.

    [The *real* irony about Ford is, of course, that he believed the oldest "historical" canard in the book, the infamous Jewish "blood libel" -- among other such racist fabulisms now making the rounds of the levant these days, speaking again of Mr. Godwin and his "law" of internet discourse, and of history repeating itself...]

  12. Colville Petty has spent an enormous amount of money acquiring, preserving and displaying the artifacts of our past. His museum has no hope of ever breaking even. To accuse him of profiteering is truly ignorant.

  13. > To accuse [Colville Petty] of profiteering
    > is truly ignorant.

    What a canard. You might as well have asked me when I stopped beating my wife with a red herring.

    One should be *lauded* for, not accused of, "profiteering", which is a made-up word used by Marxists and feudalists (but I repeat myself...) to demonize the concept of opportunity cost, as in "the cost of anything is the foregone alternative", or, "you cover my costs, and I'll do anything".

    Of *course* people in so-called non-profits "profiteer". If they didn't benefit from their activity -- and materially so, I might add -- they wouldn't *do* it in the first place.

    BTW, I *love* Mr. Petty's museum. I especially appreciate his writing, which seems to have stopped, at least on the pages of The Anguillian. But make no mistake, here: *everybody's* enterprise runs at a "profit" -- or they run out of money, and they quit doing it.

    "Donations" are revenue, pure and simple, and "endowments" are merely accumulated retained earnings. To say otherwise is merely to hum along tunelessly while Laviathan plays the devil's fiddle.

    [...and yes, apparently, it's *three* impressions, not two. Nobody expects the Spanish inquisition.]

  14. "Of *course* people in so-called non-profits "profiteer". If they didn't benefit from their activity -- and materially so, I might add -- they wouldn't *do* it in the first place."

    I ask the writer who made the ignorant statement above to explain to us how Mr. Mitchell is profiting from this blog.

  15. At the moment, given your nation's draconian libel laws, he's in the process of receiving a massive *disincentive* to continue. A massive *financial* disincentive. Is that material enough *negative* profit for you? It may, in fact, cause him to stop doing this, which exactly proves the point I'm making above. Negative revenue is just the same as positive revenue.

    To vamp a little on this tune, Don puts his time, which is *still* worth something ("the cost of anything is the foregone alternative", above), into this blog. He receives, in return, the kudos of many, mine among them, for his actions. Which is worth something. One presumes he gets "paid" in cheers and or jeers at dinner parties, hallos from people he wouldn't know otherwise, rare and/or potent varieties of Scotch Bonnet seeds, the odd complementary but extremely dry vodka martini, &cet.

    To quibble just an ontologic smidge, as an asymptotically metaphysical naturalist, I don't much *believe* in spiritual or psychic profit, though I do accept the odd pleasurable buzzing of neurons as effective remuneration. In fact, they may be the *only* effective remuneration, if Mr. Mill is to be believed; hedons, dolors, and all that stuff. So, technically, feeling good about one's life *is* material profit, as well.

    One presumes that Don gets that from doing this blog as well, or the pain would drive him to cease.

    Or, maybe, like when politicians and, heh, lawyers, try to do integral calculus or understand elementary finance, (or when the rest of us beat our heads against a wall or listen to politicians pretend to understand the above), it merely feels good to Don when he stops. :-)

  16. Percy Thomas called in to the Yanchie Hour on KOOL-FM this morning. He claimed to have driven by The Factory this morning and the cotton gin machinery had been "thrown out into the yard." Pure nonsense.

    The next caller was the Hon Hubert Hughes, who said he was calling to correct the "vast misunderstanding" created by Lawyer Mitchell. Hubert has been trying to get the cotton gin into the "government museum" (he didn't say where this is located) for 25 years. He offered it to "them" (he was unclear about who this was) and "they refused it." He recently had an opportunity to donate it to Colville Petty's museum, which he accepted with pleasure.

    He denies that the machinery was thrown out and then rescued by Colville Petty. He stated that Lawyer Mitchell went to Corito to photograph piles of scrap metal; he believes he did that to give the impression that Colville Petty rescued the machinery from Corito. (Pure rubbish. There is no way one can infer this from what Don Mitchell wrote on his blog.)

    He said he had been offered double the rent "from the same tenant" but he isn't interested in money. (He didn't explain this bizarre statement.) He referred to the trucker as his "step-son." Mr Hughes does not have a “step-son”.

    He stated, correctly, that the property was divided in half by the court, there is ginnery equipment in both parts. He then claimed that the other part is blocked from the public and his part has always been open to the public.

    Uninformed listeners were likely given the impression that his heroic 25 year struggle to save the machinery proves that he is the only one concerned about our heritage, with the possible exception of Colville Petty.

    He didn't explain Lawyer Mitchell's motivation, but I got the impression that he considers Don Mitchell to be just a troublemaker who is below his contempt.

    Speak to Mr Petty yourself. See if Hubert really did contact Mr Petty and offer him the Old Cotton Gin. I think you will find, as I did, that he did not.

  17. If this is true, then Hubert seems to be implying that Petty is a liar? What shameful, arrogant behaviour.

  18. Hubert also commented on the same radio program that "Mr. Haskins" had offered to buy the cotton gin because it contained brass that he could sell in Puerto Rico, but Hubert, ever the defender of our heritage, declined the offer.

  19. I don't want to look like I am just being melodramatic here, but believe me when I tell you that while looking at the photos you published I almost cried. I almost cried for the incredible act of violence on a historic site such as the one we are speaking about. I almost cried also because I worked in that parlour for quite a long time and I can remember the number of times I went around those machinery just to be near them and try to imagine how things had to be "back in the old days" when those machines were running.
    I almost cried also because I know how much work and effort and sweat and tears my parents' put in restoring the machinery to bring them back to life, so to speak. I can also remember very well when Anguillians and visitors alike used to come in the parlour and amazed at the presence of such an important witness to Anguilla's past.
    To me those machines could almost talk, especially after sunset when the spotlights purposely placed before them projected a big shadow against the wall behind them. I would almost say there was something solemn about them.
    Even though I have returned to Italy and have not lived on Anguilla for 7 years now I feel that part of me is still there, not only because my parents still live on the island but also because I have loved it with all my heart. Perhaps that's why I still feel pain at some of the things I hear about it, and this one is surely not the least of them.

  20. Sad..is there a Preservation or Historical Commission on island?


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