By: Precious Mills
BASSETERRE, St.Kitts (THURSDAY 2ND AUGUST 2018)– A special exhibition dubbed ‘The Cleghorn Journals: Apprentices Standing Up For Their Rights’ was on yesterday (Wednesday) launched by the St. Christopher National Trust in collaboration with the National Archives at the National Museum located on the Bay Road in Basseterre.
Director of the National Archives Victoria O’Flaherty highlighted the importance of Special Magistrate Ralph Cleghorn saying: “The main reason why we are interested in Cleghorn is because he was born here which is very unusual: most of these magistrates came from England and he was of mixed parentage so he had quite a bit of sympathy with one with the coloured class who were severely disadvantaged at the time and also with the slaves because he had ancestry that belonged to the enslaved population.”
She continued: “Although most of the magistrates were not of the planter class, given the limitation of the region, they tended-once they got here –to befriend planters and merchants so that became the kind of skewed their perspective and that is where Cleghorn is important because although he had moments where he might have been a little more lenient, he was not skewed in that way.”
She gave an example of an apprentice named Peggy on the Cunningham Estate.
“On the Cunningham Estate was brought before him because her manger said she was spending too much time in the sick house. Her excuse was that her baby was sick so she was looking after it. When Cleghorn saw her infront of him, he realised right away that the child was sick; he took time to notice that the child was sick. He looked at her and told her ‘look after your child’, it’s there in the journal. He also warned her ‘don’t spend too much time in the sick house unless it is necessary’. So he never punished her, he didn’t go against her wishes; he respected the fact that she was looking after her child and he did not take on the fact that her manager suggested that her mother could look after the child for her.”
The National Archives Director shared: “In other words, the bond between mother and child was important to him. So these are the things that add to the humanity of this man and that’s why he is so important to us.”
The National Museum is open Mondays to Fridays 8AM to 4PM and on Saturdays from 9AM to 12PM with admission of EC$5 while children under 12 enter for free.