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Eleuthera Culture Headlines Haynes Library Fair
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Posted by:May 6th 2003, 11:36:14 am
dillygalThe Nassau Guardian
Tuesday, May 6, 2003

Eleuthera culture headlines Haynes Library Fair

By Gladstone Thurston
Bahamas Information Services

Governor's Harbour, Eleuthera - If Eleutherans had their way, all souvenirs for the millions of tourists who visit these shores each year would be strictly Bahamian made.
And if the depth of talent that was drawn on for the seventh annual Friends of the (Haynes) Library Arts and Craft Fair here last Saturday indicated anything, then Bahamians are ready.
From straw work to shell jewelry to hand crafted furniture to decorations to pastries and jams and jellies made from native fruit to special dishes, Eleuthera's cultural artists were in top form.
The husband and wife team of Charles and Paulette Strachan from Rock Sound demonstrated the diversity of Eleuthera's cultural expression with their quilts, mats, conch shell arrangements, and footwear.
R A "Syms" Symonette of the Rock Sound Wood Crafters was a hit with his hand crafted lamps and special conch shell technique.
Palmetto Point's Bessie Culmer showed off her baskets weaved through by coconut fronds, jewellery boxes from items washed up on the beach, a very ingenious way of using sea urchins to make flowers, and sea glass to make hair bands and chains.



Her stall also featured natural jellies and jams made from local fruit including star fruit, guava, papaya and mango.
Author George Major of Tarpum Bay gave readers a slice of life on the islands with his two books — Romance, Kalik and Conch Salad, and Blood on the Empire.
Topped with native music by hometown favourite Arlington "Chico" Johnson on the steel pan, that was but a taste of the cultural stew Eleutherans cooked up.
"This is an awareness event," said Friends of the Library president Mrs Michelle Johnson. "We want to promote the crafts people in Eleuthera."
The Haynes Library, situated at the junction with Cupid's Cay and overlooking the harbour after which this town is named, has a rich history dating back to Dec. 3, 1896 when the wife of Rev W A Bird, Wesleyan Methodist Church, laid the foundation stone of the public reading room, the Haynes Institute, on Preston's Square. More than 300 people attended the ceremony.
The Haynes became just the fifth library in the Bahamas after Nassau (1837), Harbour Island (1854), Matthew Town, Inagua (1855) and Green Turtle Cay, Abaco (1862).



The last session of the House of Assembly in Nassau in 1896 had voted a grant to the Institute of 250 pounds (sterling).
The following year free labour and 25 pounds (sterling) from the people of Governor's Harbour went towards constructing the building. Another 250 pounds (sterling) from the government completed the project.
At 7:30pm, Nov. 11, Royal Governor Sir Haynes-Smith arrived in Governor's Harbour from Nassau on board the HMS Partridge for the dedication ceremony of the elegant pink and white two story structure.
In his speech Governor Sir Haynes-Smith told of his affection for Governor's Harbour and its people.
In the 1950s, the library was moved upstairs when downstairs became the Commissioner's Office, Bahamas Customs and the Post Office.
In the 1969 the building was converted to a residence for English engineer, a Mr Curuthers, who was employed by the Ministry of Works.
The library was closed and the books were stored in an abandoned building on nearby Cupid's Cay. Many books were destroyed.
It was also a residence for architect, Daniel Davies and his wife Jean, and Dr Clifford Bacchus and his wife Olga. Dr Bacchus also maintained his medical practice there.
The Haynes Library was re-opened in 1991 with Eleutheran Lionel Fernander as librarian. The International Book Project, Lexington, Kentucky donated books. An outside staircase was added to replace the inside one and the upstairs front porch was removed.
But resurrection was not easy. The library again closed and the building, then 95 years old was slated for demolition, a task Hurricane Andrew started by taking off the roof.
Enter Friends of the Library formed in 1994 to restore the dignity of this national heirloom.
From their first meeting that November they faced a daunting task. The building by then was nothing short of derelict.
ěThe building was in pretty bad shape,î recalled Friends president Mrs Johnson. ěIt took us about a year-and-a-half to raise enough funds to be able to repair the roof and get some shelving.
"Over the years we plugged away at different projects. We were not only interested in repairing the building, we wanted to do a restoration.
"We wanted to give the building a feel of what it was like in 1897. And so we slowly replaced all the aluminum windows and sliding glass doors with wooden windows which were originally in the building. We kept the wooden floors.
All the shelves have been built by us. They look like they have always been in.
"We put the staircase back in and I think it looks like it has always been there. And that's the whole idea, to make the building represent its age and the history that it encompasses."
Slowly but surely, the Haynes Library rose from the doldrums of decay and started taking on the elegance that made it a landmark at the junction with Cupidís Cay along with the historic St Patrickís Anglican Church and Public Cemetery.
In March every year at the Friends' Silent Auction and Wine and Cheese Tasting, they raise the majority of the up to $35,000 need each year to operate the library. The government makes an annual donation.
Eleutherans are encouraged to show off their wares at the arts and crafts fair and make a donation to the library.
Each year a different group within the community provides the food and gets the opportunity to raise funds for its treasury.
This year the Parent-Teachers Association of the Governor's Harbour public school did the honours.
"For all of us, it is good that more than one group can work together within the community," said Mrs Johnson.
And, the reception from the community has been "amazing."
"The children use this library so much, it amazes me," said Mrs Johnson. "Sometimes we have 50 kids in here in the evening.
"There is a very big homework study programme. A lot of the students come after school and get assistance with their school work. Itís a good thing."
The second floor of the library is now a computer center providing all children and young adults with free internet access. Adults are charged a small fee.
And who are the Friends of the Library? "They are pretty much everyone in Eleuthera right now," she said. "There are so many people who have helped us."
The Bahamas National Trust honoured the Haynes Library team with an award in recognition of "the significant contribution to the preservation of historic buildings in the Bahamas."
The Haynes Library currently has more than 200 members in the Bahamas and around the world with all books and monies "donated by generous members and friends," said Mrs Johnson.
Since 1992, the Haynes Library has been a blessing to the children of Eleuthera — scholarships, after school programmes, book buddies programme, arts and crafts on weekends, parties and fairs. Members of the Friends of the Library team are Michelle Johnson (president), Elizabeth Rodgers (vice president), Gail Griffin, Donna Allen, Annie Griffin, Brenda Goldsberry, Alice Goerke, Rosalind Seyfert (librarian) and Althea Willie (assistant librarian).

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