Buying An Island

It was just as well that the Lemane plan had been abandoned, as Richard Bradley’s efforts to buy the island for the crown had descended into farce. Stopping to purchase some goods to take upriver as ‘dashes’ – that is, gifts or bribes – he had been blackmailed by a local trader into buying far more merchandise than he had intended. Then he had been made to pay a large number of ‘barrs’, or small iron bars worth five shillings each, to local figures. Bradley paid barrs not only to such dignitaries as the ‘King of Barra’ and the ‘master of Gillifree’ but to two ‘Key Keepers’, the ‘Tobabmanser of Jancacunda’ and to the latter’s retinue of fifty servants. The Tobabmanser was unable to conduct any negotiations without his ‘singing Man’ (who also required payment in barrs of course), and when the ‘King of Lemain’ arrived he also brought a large retinue of servants, including the requisite key keeper, singing man and principal marabout. The whole negotiations cost much more than Bradley had anticipated, and during the palaver, wilting in the West African rainforest, he sickened and died. Later, his brother Henry would proudly announce to Sydney that the island had been purchased, only to discover that he had laboured in vain as the government had abandoned the plan.

from Emma Christopher, A Merciless Place : The Lost Story Of Britain’s Convict Disaster In Africa (2011)

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