11th Shirley Convention June 1995

Shirley Plantation, Richmond Virginia

By Betty Shirley

The weather was great, and people came from 15 states to be at the National Shirley gathering on Friday, June 16th. The following day was spent at Shirley Plantation with the Carters who are the current owners. Our thanks to Mr. Finn, (association member), who sponsored the afternoons entertainment. Lunch was served on the grounds by the James River. Everyone will long remember this day, I am sure.

I was so pleased that several members of my family were in attendance. Even my granddaughter, Jessica, (age 6), was part of the afternoons festivities as she sang a couple of songs about America she had sung at her school with the choir.


As I began making plans for the Shirley Convention in Virginia, my daughter, Delaine, came up with an idea. She was already planning to come with us and bring her husband and two children, Michael and Jessica. She suggested to me that since we will be in Virginia, it wouldn't be that costly for us to book a cruise from there of the Caribbean Islands. She has wanted me to do a cruise for sometime now. So, I told her to get some prices together and we'd talk about it with her father. Also.....the dates had to coincide with the dates of the convention. There was no way I could change the dates again since I had just done that because of the Motorcycle group that was booked all over town on the original date I had chosen.

She came up with extremely low rates (no one can believe what a great bargain shopper she is). Her father agreed to go reluctantly as he just doesn't like to travel for long periods of time. A few days, and he's ready to go home.

After lunch and our good-byes at Shirley Plantation, we drove to Washington D.C. The next morning we flew to Porte Rico and boarded a cruise ship. This was a first for me and my husband. The cruise was fairly smooth except for one evening. After I got to sleep, I never noticed the rolling anymore and by morning we were pulling into another port.

Some of my kids who could not come to the convention, met us at the ship for the cruise. Only one daughter was unable to go because she had just started a new job and didn't dare ask for time off. So, you could call this a real family vacation. It's been years since we have done that. We had a great time on the cruise.

We visited several islands and took tours on a few of them. There was one island in particular I was interested in that was included in our cruise. That was Antigua.

Refer to the Spring 1993 issue of the Shirley NEWS, cover story about Thomas Shirley, son of Governor William Shirley. He first came to Antigua in 1781 and left there in 1788. I visited old Shirley Heights and took many pictures as well as video of the area.

The other island I was very interested in was Barbados. My elder daughter, Donna, said she would go with me to visit the Barbados Archives. (See photo). We took a taxi as we only had a couple of hours to do research. I thought sure the taxi driver did not understand what the archives was. He took us away from town and down some country lane made a U-turn around a fence and here we were in an old run down estate of some sort. I inquired if he was sure this was the archives and he said yes. He walked with us to one of the wings to be sure someone was there. We didn't see any cars parked outside. Sure enough, there was about 4 people inside.

The whole place was so primitive. I could hardly believe my eyes. I should have taken a picture inside of the shelves and books. But I didn't think of it. Many of the books were so old, loose leaf, and the many of the old books were wrapped in brown paper and tied with old string or ribbon. You had to fill out a research form and they had library rules. They watched us too!

The building was very open. I had a feeling of no windows and no doors. But I am sure there must have been. It was just like I had stepped back in time. Something very old...like maybe the late 1800's. There was very little in the way of modern things in the room.

We did find Shirley data and did all we could do in the time we had. We had pre-arranged to have the same taxi pick us up. I sure wouldn't know how to get a taxi from there or if the next taxi driver would have known where to come and get us.

It was all great fun and I am so glad we were able to add the cruise to our summers activities as it gave me a chance to visit two places that have an early Shirley connection. I mentioned in St. Louis, MO Shirley Convention in 1993 that I would sure love to go to the Caribbean and do visit places connected to the Shirleys and do some research.

I did purchase book about the history of Barbados as I really didn't know much about it. The only info I had before going to Barbados was that a William Shirley in early 1600's.

What I learned briefly from reading the book was fascinating. Basically, it was similar as the beginning of this country. The island was first made known to the English and incorporated into an English colony about 1624 by a grant of King James to the then Earl of Carlisle, but not actually settled till two years after by the Earl of Pembroke and Sir William Courteen, who brought thither from Guiana, all kinds of fruits, tobacco, cotton, to all which Barbados was naturally a stranger, but came soon to great perfection, agreeing with the soil and climate according to the writer, John Scott. The sugar cane was brought in first by Peter Brower of North Holland from Brazil about 1637 but did not come to perfection until about 1645.

In 1628, Captain Hawley was sent in the ship Carlisle, to visit and supervise the Earl of Carlisle's affairs. His grandfather was the son of a Somerset County England family. He lived at Brentford, Middlesex, on the western skirts of London and this was the family home for many generations.

Henry Hawley dominated the Barbados scene during the island's early history. He was supremely autocratic; enigmatic character and apparently lacking any redeeming virtues. William Carter complained about him after his departure in 1640 of his inhuman treatment when he held him prisoner for 6 months without trial.

Father Andrew White wrote about his visit in 1632/4. He was in one of the ships of the expedition under Leonard Calvert, brother of Lord Baltimore, which called at Barbados in January 1632/34 on its way to settle a colony in what was to be known as Maryland. [Note; Robert Sherley was on that ship with Father Andrew White going to Maryland].