The “Redlegs” of Barbados

The “Redlegs” of Barbados

Until April 23, you have the opportunity to view  the fascinating documentary of Barbados’ so-called Redlegs (click here), “Barbado’ed: Scotland’s Sugar Slaves,” by Chris Dolan. Or go  the Irish TV station, click on “documentaries” on the top of the screen, then “anamnocht” on the left side, then click on the arrow at the bottom of the screen until you see the 3-part video.

Also, Sheena Jolley who has done research on the Redlegs and photographed some of them in St. John in 2000 and 2008 has photos of them on her website  She is seen on the documentary.

I thank “BajanBeauty” for making me aware of this and providing these links. You only have until April 23, 2010: please view the documentary as soon as you can.  (Below is my original post, which provides a bit of background):

I thought the lush, open ground in St John’s parish known as Little Scotland was so called because of its moist, green beauty.  Last night I discovered the sad truth behind the nickname.

"Little Scotland," Barbados

"Little Scotland" in Barbados

The first slaves to work Barbados’ sugar cane plantations were Scottish, not African.  Mostly POWs from the 17th-century civil war in England, they were shipped to Barbados by Cromwell as “indentured servants,” although the terms of their servitude weren’t honored.

The Scots were ill-adapted to the Caribbean climate and treated as poorly as the Africans who came after.  Even after emancipation in 1854, they fared poorly, welcomed neither by White society nor Black.  Today, many of their ancestors, most of whom live in St John’s district, don’t know about their forebears. The poor don’t leave records; their identity is lost to history.

Until now.  Scottish author and broadcaster Chris Dolan is creating awareness through his documentary called “Barbado’ed: Scotland’s Sugar Slaves.”  He interviews direct descendants who live here on the island and discusses why, 350 years after their families first arrived, they still have no role on the island and remain isolated, eking out a subsistence living.

Romping along the posh platinum coastline of our beautiful country, you’d never guess.

23 Responses to “The “Redlegs” of Barbados”

  1. Bajan Beauty says:


    For some reason when I looked at the photos on Sheena Jolley’s website yesterday, many of the 2008 photos did not come up. I just looked again today and saw many I didn’t see yesterday, including one of the world famous Bajan singer Rihanna’s great-aunt. She apparently is a redleg. I don’t know if you saw it.

  2. zzzzzz says:

    Very interesting. Where can I find that documentary now?

  3. It is difficult to find, I’m afraid. It pops up then is taken down. Just keep searching for Redlegs history in Barbados … ! Good luck.

  4. Tony lenihan says:

    See Sean O Callaghan’s book “To Hell or BArbados” for more background

  5. Thank you, Tony. I really appreciate this; I will order the book.

    Take good care,

  6. robwat81 says:

    you can find this film on a great copy

  7. Vic Browne says:

    Where can I watch the redlegs of Barbados?

  8. Vic, good afternoon. According to robwat81, you can here … I haven’t tried this link yet; I hope it leads to the film. It’s first-rate. xx Jane

    you can find this film on a great copy

  9. robwat81 says:

    please let me know anyone who gets this film from i know ur finding it if u have a problem getting this let me know and ill help you.

  10. robwat81 says:

    sorry folks it’s

  11. Tanglewood says:

    Hi folks,

    Been trying to download Redlegs of Barbados from BT Junkie website. It is looking for me to sign up but I am a bit sceptical. Is everyone who has downloaded the documentary, happy with it?


  12. Tanglewood says:

    Hi guys,

    I like yourselves was looking to see this documentary. I emailed TG4 and they have now uploaded the documentary onto their website for anyone who would like to view it. This will be available on the website until end of September.

    It is now available on under one hour documentaries. Scroll over to the right and the three episodes are there.


  13. DaftAida says:

    Just completed a first reading of White Cargo and To Hell or Barbados and learned of the red legs for the first time.

    I’m now on the trail of the documentary and the site you mention is in Irish!

  14. In Irish? Don’t they speak English in Ireland? It’s great you’re reading the books about this fascinating history.


  15. Dean says:

    VIDEO FOUND: “Barbado’ed: Scotland’s Sugar Slaves,”

  16. Fantastic, Dean!!! Thanks so much.

    Good detective work!


  17. Jo baker says:

    Very interesting video ref scottish indentured labour.

  18. Judy says:

    I saw the video and then wrote to the producer Lydia Conway to purchase a copy using Pay Pal.

  19. Excellent, Judy. Good luck! xxJane

  20. Eleanor Hall says:

    I found the film at:'ed%3A+Scotland's+Sugar+Slaves

    by searching for the title with Google. I couldn’t get it at — as someone else said, apparently it moves around.

    Well worth seeing deals with the history and then present day Barbados.

    My ancestor, Ninian Beall, was a Scottish war prisoner, taken prisoner after a battle in 1651 or 1653. He was sent to Barbados, then made his way to Maryland. If you’re descended from a Scottish War Prisoner, email .

  21. Rum is the second-most consumed alcoholic beverage in the world; it’s an industry built upon the backs of African slaves and Scottish indentured servants. Eleanor, when your comment came in, I tuned into the film and couldn’t stop watching it .. it adds a great deal to the fascinating and sad history of the early Scots in Barbados. Thank you so much.

    Oh – also thank you for the link to the Scottish war prisoner Google group. Many Barbadians of Scottish descent may find their ancestors here.

    Jane Shattuck Hoyos

  22. irad says:

    There were no white slaves in Barbados, your claims are false. There were white indentured servants, who worked in tobacco and cotton fields. The period of their servitude lasted between 3-7 years and did not pass on to their offspring. This is a big distinction between African enslavement which passed on from generation to generation. Emancipation also came in 1834 not 1854, you article is littered with falsehood. The most basic history of Barbados book would have showed you this, but not doubt your white supremacy agenda must always be propagated.

  23. Jane says:

    Irad, good morn. I understand that the terms of indentured servitude were not honored and so, essentially, the Scots were treated essentially as slaves. I stand corrected if I’m wrong about this.


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