The Hopetown Descendants of Pompey Joseph according to Agnes James (sister of Lewis Joseph)

When we first moved to Hopetown, Guyana, Edwin’s aunt Agnes, his father’s sister, was very welcoming towards me. She was very proud of her nephew, Edwin for coming back to his home country, Guyana and bringing me with him to help develop the neighbourhood and contribute towards the development of the country by educating the children. She knew I was interested in finding out about Edwin’s family tree and as much as I could about the village from local knowledge. She would often visit us and answer my questions helpfully.

Agnes and Edwin 001Edwin with his Aunty Agnes in Guyana in 1991 

When I was at the point of setting up the museum and teaching children in my humanities classes, I asked her to help me understand Edwin’s relationship with her and Aunt Rose, because they had a different surname from Edwin. She looked at the family tree I had pieced together from local church records and added the following information to what I had:

Two of Pompey’s seven grandchildren, “Charles and Edmund, spoke wid a strange Scottish accent learn’ from dey Scottish modder, Hannah Gibbs. Edmund was fair-skinned, almost white, and bowlegged like Charles. As a young man, Charles went into de gold bush to seek he fortune. Den he come back and become farmer in de back-dam at Plantation 22 Bel Air. He marry Jane Arietta (Henrietta) Moe who’ fader had come from Barbados as preacher man into Hopetown village.” Arietta was born in Hopetown in !856 according to the Anglican church register.

“Dat lady was me grandmodder,” Aunty Agnes told me.

“Mr Moe, de Barbados Preacher marry Agnes Fyffe-Archibald, a Hopetown village woman who had reputation as a man eater, an’ I always remember she wid clay pipe in she mout’ which she liked to smoke,” Agnes continued.

” Me modder, Jane Arietta, was also me brodder Lewis’s modder, but we had different fader.”

“How did that happen?” I asked Aunty Agnes.

“Well, after Lewis born, when he bin four years of age, he fader, Charles, bin killed by one of he cow and so me modder had to bring up she six children on she own. ‘Tat’ (Thomas) Isaacs moved in wid she and dey had another son together. He name bin Charles. Dat’s who you and Edwin will remember as ‘Chinee Charlie’, because he fader Tat get Chinee blood. Den Tat die and so ‘Sargie’ James moved in wid me modder, Jane Arietta and den dey had me an’ Rose, Edwin’s Aunt.”

“So that’s why your name is Agnes James and not Agnes Joseph.” I asked.

“Yes”, she said. “I am Lewis’ half sister, but he always look after me. He help me build dis house self build.”

Agnes James, during our time in Hopetown, was a very independent person still living in her little self-build block house and making a living by sewing clothes for villagers until a stroke left one arm paralysed. She still cooked sweets and sold them to all the school children who passed her house in Palm Alley by the school and church, until her death in our last few years in Guyana.

“Jane was me modder name and me like what you an’ Edwin do here, ” she said to me, looking at the museum displays I had set up with the children by 1998. She pressed this cup into my hand,

Cup dated 1774, belonging to Jane Arietta Moe, bequeathed to Edwin by Agnes James

and she said, “Me want you to have dis cup fo’ put in de display because me modder, Jane Arietta Moe give it me and she get it from she gran’moder, an’ now me give it to Edwin.”

I did just that, I put it in our display cabinet of the museum under our house, but since it was given to Edwin as inheritance by Aunty Agnes, we brought it back to England with us when we left Guyana in 2009, so that we might be able to find out more about it and pass it on to his children in due course.


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