Some More Antiguan History

‘I can remember a time ago there was a very popular song on the seminary. It goes something like this. “Me send me daughter a seminary, now she come back with a big fat belly.” A man by the name of John Quarkoo use to sing for money and one day he was singing this song to some people in town when a Moravian parson by the name of H. B. Hutton was passing by and he hear Quarkoo. That parson get very angry. He told singer Quarkoo that he, the parson, would never allow him or anybody to disgrace the seminary that has been doing so much good for the people of Antigua and the West Indies. He then took Quarkoo to court. At the sitting, the magistrate share the same view as the parson and he sent old Quarkoo to jail for six months.’ (p. 97, To Shoot Hard Labour The Life and Times of Samuel Smith, an Antiguan workingman 1877-1982 by Keithlyn B. Smith and Fernando C. Smith)

You may have read about Quarkoo already here on the blog but in my latest CREATIVE SPACE I share more about him and his all but forgotten predecessor Thomas Joseph.

‘a man whose identity often gets conflated with Quarkoo, a man who like Quarkoo composed songs he sang on the streets of St. John’s, Antigua, songs he also printed and sold as broadsides. One of those songs may even be the original version of the song popularly known as “Sly Mongoose” (and popularly mis-credited). Originally “Man Mongoose”, it has a lyric “Mongoose go in a Forrest Kitchen/Tief out one of ‘e big fat chicken” which references St. John’s “Scottish storekeeper” (per this Dan Lanier presentation) William Forrest, while the song is allegedly about a local scamp known as “Mongoose” (or could just be a reference to the thieving animal of the same name) – both of Thomas Joseph’s time. The song was, per Lanier, the sole reference to Thomas Joseph at Antigua and Barbuda’s National Archives.

Thomas Joseph reference from the National Archives as shown by Dan Lanier during his presentation.

The song’s credit credibly should be his.’ (Excerpted from CREATIVE SPACE: DO YOU KNOW THIS MAN?)

Click the link to read more.

As with all content on, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure, With Grace, and The Jungle Outside). All Rights Reserved.

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