Document: An indenture agreement for an Irishman by the name of James Nally from 1897. Plaque: A plaque commemorating an act of Parliament creating a place called "The Cage," which was a temporary prison for run-a-way slaves.
by Alison MacRae
Celtic Guide Magazine
Thinking about slaves what comes to most people’s minds first is the African slaves that were brought to America and used mostly in the Southern States for sugar, corn, cotton picking and whatever else that was needed to be done on plantations.
They were first brought to Jamestown, Virginia, by English pirates who seized a lot of them from a captured Portuguese slave ship.
Portugal started the slave trade and was the first to turn slave-trading into a very profitable business.
Slaves were usually baptized in Africa before embarking on their journey. Some brought religious traditions with them.
Once Portugal abolished the slave trade, the Portuguese traders turned to other countries where slavery was not abolished, mainly America.
British America included the British Empire's Colonial territories in America from 1607 to 1783.
Not all slaves were from Africa.
Some were men, women and children from Scotland and Ireland as well.
he Scottish and the Irish slaves were mostly taken to Barbados, as the sugar plantations were starting up then and they needed lots of labour to work them.
Between 1652 - 1659, around 50,000 workers were forcibly transported to the Island.
It is said by 1701 that 21,700 forced workers out of 25,000 were of white ethnic background. Thousands of them were from Ireland.
Children between the ages of 10 and 14 were kidnapped as part of the ethnic cleansing carried out by Oliver Cromwell's forces after they conquered Ireland.
Cromwell favoured the Irish for his trading and left most of the Scottish people alone.
However, ten thousand of these forced workers, were Scottish Covenanters.
After the defeat of Parliamentary troops at the Battle of Bothwell Bridge, in 1679, and the Restoration of the monarchy, 1200-1,500 men were captured and transported to the notorious outdoor prison in Edinburgh Greyfriars Kirk.
Some of these prisoners were then sent overseas as slaves. This was a disastrous journey as many drowned off Orkney.
The beggars of the street were also forcibly taken as part of street cleaning operations.
Rural Scots signed their life away when they entered the shipyards at Leith or Port Glasgow docks, and spent the rest of their years working without wages, or freedom of movement.
There were two types of slavery.
One was an indentured servitude. An indentured servant or indentured labourer is an employee within a system of unfree labour who is bound by a signed or forced contract to work for a particular employee for a fixed time. The contract often lets the employer sell the labourer of indenture to a third party.
The other type was when the slaves had no rights and no pay for life.
Unfortunately, a lot of the Scots fell into the second part when lots of Scottish Jacobite prisoners ended up in Barbados as slaves, which meant they were destined for life as a chattel slave – the prevalent form of servitude.
An English concept, chattel slavery was established by the Barbados Slave Act of 1661, which ratified enslaved people as property, with no right to life.
They were known as Redlegs. That name was given to them as the sun would scorch them and they would be bright red and blistering from the sun
Unlike Africans who brought in a good price, the Scottish were a scrawny lot. They were not considered a good slave and they did not fetch a good price at auction when being sold.
They were also treated horribly and if they were late in getting out in the field to do their work, they were whipped so badly some had scars that stayed with them for life. They had it worse than a dog's life – no time for themselves – it was all work and no play, and sleep.
It took until 1833 before Scotland abolished slavery.
There were no records of slaves before 1812. All information was held by the slave owner under the name of his plantation.
Political prisoners were sold at auction to the Colonists for various terms of years, sometimes for life.
BELOW: The ruins of a sugar plantation in Barbados where many slaves from the British Isles were forced to work.
The Irish records were destroyed when the Public Records Office in Dublin was burned in 1922.
Now, information has to be obtained from State papers in the English Public Records Office in Kew, or from the shipping registers of the period.
Most of the records are in the Barbados Library of files on the Irish, Scottish and African slaves.
Barbadians or Bajans are the people who are identified with the country of Barbados.
By the mid-1700s, most Scottish slaves were replaced by Africans. The freed slaves then formed their own community of Irish and Scottish descendants.
The Scottish community is known as Little Scotland, It is more hilly than the rest of Barbados and lusher in greenery as well.
In 1869 the Governor of Barbados. Colonel James Kendall described the Redlegs as being dominated and used like dogs. He suggested to the local assembly that the emancipated slaves be given two acres of land as it was their due. The assembly turned down the request.
There is still a community that exists from the slave days living very poorly in horrible conditions. Where the inter-marriages and poor health plagues most of them nowadays.
It is now 400 years since the slave trade started.
ABOVE: The area of Barbados known as "Little Scotland."