Noel Lloyd Monument in Road Town
I am deliberately writing this article in reverse order as I'd like readers to understand the end of Noel's story, before they delve into the events that eventually made him a hero to the people of the British Virgin Islands.
Mr. Lloyd was quite a character, and someone whom I am very proud to have known. He was a fun loving kind of guy who, on the surface, likely appeared quite benign to casual acquaintances. Noel (pronounced no-ell) was also a passionate man with a strong will and tremendous strength of character. He was the sort who was predisposed to assert himself and speak up when an injustice was being perpetrated. In short, he was an activist.
Sadly, like so many other activists who have gone before, many considered Noel a trouble maker. Some ridiculed him, some called him crazy and others treated him like something to be scraped off the bottom of one's shoe.
It wasn't until shortly before his death that he finally received the recognition he so richly deserved. He was informed that the Palm Grove Park in Road Town, would be re-named in his honour. He passed away on August 3, 2008 after a struggle with cancer. He was 71.
Whilst the engraving on the bronze plaque beneath the statue gives you some insight into Mr. Lloyd's story, it doesn't tell the whole story. The plaque reads:
The Palm Grove Park was re-named
The Noel Lloyd Positive Action Movement Park
by Premier Honourable Ralph T. O'Neal. OBE on 1st March, 2009
The Noel Lloyd Positive Action Movement Park commemorates the valiant struggle of our people in support of their right to land ownership in their homeland. In 1967, then Administrator Martin S. Stavely signed two 199 year leases with a British Company, Bates-Hill. One lease gave the company control over 60 acres of reclaimed land around the small mangrove-fringed Wickham's Cay while the other turned over almost three quarters of the island of Anegada to the company.
Opposition to the Bates-Hill agreement, as it became known, began to build almost at once when it was rumoured that the company did not plan to allow locals access to the site except in a service capacity. Businessman Noel Lloyd organized meetings with the other BVIslanders depicted on this monument to discuss the issue. They formed themselves into the Positive Action Movement which received strong support from the courageous men and women whose names are engraved on this monument.
The Positive Action Movement organized several public meetings which were held at the Band Stand on the Old Recreation Ground, upper Road Town. Demonstrations and marches on Government House and the Chief Minister's Office led to confrontations with the police and the arrest and re-arrest of Mr. Lloyd and several others.
The Positive Action Movement's massive support continued to grow, however, and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) was finally persuaded to appoint a commission of inquiry into the matter. Eventually, following the submission of the commission's report and subsequent talks in London between representatives of the local government and the FCO, the British Government agreed to buy back the leases in 1970. Britain's alarm at the situation resulted in the arrival of a naval warship to monitor events on the island.
Today, Wickham's Cay is Crown Land, most of which has been leased to local business people. The area is now the thriving commercial and financial center of the Territory.
Noel Lloyd Positive Action Movement Park
In the case of Anegada, the people of Anegada are being granted freehold titles to the land, though that process seems to be taking a very, very, very long time.
We must remember that when the protest began, and with the singular goal of righting a tremendous wrong, Noel Lloyd stood alone. He made his placards, marched and demonstrated alone. Nobody wanted to be seen with or associated with Mr. Lloyd. But soon others heard his cries, found their voices, worked up their courage and joined him in protest.
The names and likenesses of 6 other BVI stalwarts who threw their support behind Mr. Lloyd and became the executives of the Positive Action Movement, surround the plaque. They are, Patsy Lake, Roosevelt Smith, Vernon Farrington, Cromwell Nibbs, Wilfred Smith and Walter "Lindy" de Castro. The names of many other supporters were also engraved on smaller plaques surrounding the statue. Their contributions are also noted for posterity.
Mr. Lloyd was not just some man who decided to protest what he felt was an injustice. He put life and limb on the line, his home, his business and even his family were all at risk. He was thrown in jail, he was beaten on at least one occasion and often ridiculed. For many of his remaining years, he was treated like a social pariah. Even years later, I myself witnessed the disrespect with which he was treated.
I met Mr. Lloyd at a Christmas party thrown by the then Chief Minister at Maria's By The Sea Hotel. I am not one for large parties, large crowds or formal settings. In fact, I quite dislike them. However, I had been invited by the daughter of the Chief Minister and felt it would be rude to decline the invitation, so I accepted.
While standing in line for the buffet dinner, I noticed a gray-haired, bearded gentleman (just ahead of me) with a cast on his leg, a cane in one hand and dinner plate in the other. I had seen him around town for years but never knew who he was.
I asked if I could help, as serving himself with no free hands would prove difficult. Raising his hand (with the cane) in a grand flourish and a full and proper bow, he said, I gladly accept your kind assistance. He then grinned as widely as one possibly can, leaned over and whispered ... "I crashed this party". He then raised his eyebrows, opened his eyes wide, grinned and did a little shimmy. He was as pleased as punch with himself and I couldn't help but laugh.
I already liked him, but it was the getup he was wearing that had me completely enamoured. He was wearing a pair of very nice black slacks, one pant leg had been slit up the seam to allow for the cast and one of those black t-shirts with a tuxedo printed on the front. Brilliant ... he was my kind of guy!
After serving Mr. Lloyd and myself, I joined my friends at the party and we enjoyed a lovely dinner, after which, the band began to play. I was standing outside the restaurant area when Mr. Loyd came and asked me for a dance. I gladly accepted. Turns out the man could DANCE ... even with a cast! We had a ball. Four dances later, I told him I needed a rest as it was unbearably hot in the dining/dance area. He bowed, thanked me for the dances and kept right on dancing. He was several years my senior, but he was like the energizer bunny!
As I stepped off the dance floor, I was admonished by a friend (who shall remain nameless) who told me that Mr. Lloyd had not been invited, had crashed the party ... and on top of that, he was crazy! I said, "Well he didn't seem crazy to me, and I had fun!"
A few months later, I was heading to the bank when Noel and I crossed paths. I nodded a greeting and kept walking. He called after me; "That's all I get from Miss Ginger Rogers ... a polite greeting, no chat?"
The man just made me laugh. He had a twinkle in his eyes that didn't quit and a smile as broad as all outdoors. He enjoyed life and was simply an irrepressible character.
He asked if I was in a hurry, I told him, "Not particularly", so we went and had a coke at Pusser's. It wasn't long into our conversation that I discovered exactly who he was.
I had written another website prior to this one that included a lot of the history of the BVI, so naturally, I knew about the whole Bates-Hill debacle and the Positive Action Movement.
Being a history buff, I was enthralled with Noel's story. Over the ensuing years, I was always thrilled to see him about town. He always managed to brighten my day. One time, I was in the bank, he grabbed me and did a few steps of the waltz, while humming loudly. That garnered several astonished looks from the tellers and a few teeth sucking noises from a few patrons. I couldn't have cared less, I LIKED
the man and he made me smile!
What some BVIslanders take for granted or perhaps have completely forgotten is that had the Bates-Hill agreement been upheld and had Mr. Bates' plans for Road Town and Anegada succeeded, the lives of every one of those people sucking their teeth at this very courageous man, would likely have been very, very different today, and certainly not for the better. In addition, who knows if the yacht charter industry ever would have been started?
Noel Lloyd was a hero
and every single BVIslander owes the man (and all those brave souls who stood with him), a huge debt of gratitude.
The story begins in 1956 with a strange American fellow, would be developer and "possible" murderer named Norman Fowler
. Fowler inherited a great deal of money from the estate of his very wealthy late boyfriend, Peter Watson
who had been found dead in his bathtub at the age of 47. Watson was a well-known patron of the arts in England who inherited all his wealth from his father, a margarine magnate.
Shortly after the inquest into Watson's death, for which Fowler was suspected but never charged, he sailed the yacht Watson had bought him to the BVI.
Having had zero business experience, Fowler proceeded to establish one failed business after another. He opened the first newspaper in the BVI, the Tortola Times, which folded after three years of publication in the early 60's. He tried to start a shark fishing business in Anegada and had a small airfield built near Cow Wreck Beach to support what he imagined would become a booming industry. That business went nowhere fast and the airstrip fell into disrepair. He built a theater in Road Town and that too failed.
A well respected BVIslander and politician named Isaac Glanville (Glanny) Fonseca originally owned Wickham's Cay I, back when it was still a discernable Island, separate from Tortola
. Mr. Fonseca sold the Cay to Fowler for $40,000.00 U.S., which back then, was a huge
sum of money. Fowler had visions of building a marina and hotel, to bring more tourism to the BVI.
In order for his plan to work, he needed flat land, something which was sorely lacking in the area. He set about negotiating with the Administrator, Martin Stavely. His intent was to backfill approximately 2½ acres of the waters surrounding Wickham's Cay, joining it with Tortola. He was granted permission and began backfilling in earnest. However, his efforts were hampered by the sea which continued to foil his every move. No sooner would he fill in an area, than the sea would carry it away. Fowler was certainly no engineer and apparently not the brightest crayon in the box either!
Enter an Englishman named Kenneth Bates. Bates met Fowler in 1965 during a visit to the territory. Naturally, Fowler showed him what he was doing and outlined his plans for Wickham's Cay. Recognizing Fowler's error, Bates offered to take the whole mess off his hands and Fowler accepted. They negotiated a deal and Bates bought Wickham's Cay and the operation Fowler had set up for a tidy sum of $700,000.00. Fowler had made out like a bandit and was thrilled with the deal. He promptly packed up his belongings and left the BVI to start yet another failed business in St. Maarten. Ironically and inexplicably, he was found dead in his bathtub sometime between 1968 to 1971, just as his former boyfriend. There are varying reports as to the actual date of his death.
Bates leased an additional 60 acres of land on the opposite side of Inner Harbour, from the government of the day, lead by H. Lavity Stoutt. That area is now known as Wickham's Cay II, and much of it is backfilled as well.
Had it not been for the persistence, strength and fortitude of Noel Lloyd and others who followed his lead, I shudder to think what the BVI would have been like today. Kenneth Bates was an hotelier (among other things) and in later years, he became the controversial owner of Leeds United, a well-known soccer club in England. To say he was not particularly well liked (even in his own country) would be an understatement.
So Mr. Lloyd, although you are gone ... you will always be here in spirit. Thank you for all you did for the people of the BVI and all the abuse you suffered in order to protect their interests. Most of all, thanks for making me laugh! I will never forget that twinkle in your eye. :)
For those so inclined, see the back story of The Bates Hill Agreement