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Old 18th June 2020, 10:36
Paulie2906 Paulie2906 is offline
Join Date: Jun 2020
Posts: 2

I thought I'd post again about the Begona because my earlier account had errors that I couldn't correct. Also I talked to my father and elder sister to get their accounts.

The ship carried black West Indian passengers and white Venezuelans. Right from the start the white passengers received preferential treatment. They were given better rooms than the black passengers who ended up being placed near the engine in rooms that lacked portholes. They dined first and separately and the rumour was they were given better food. When the black people tried complaining the crew pretended not to understand English. The ship broke down twice once it hit the Atlantic. The crew managed to get it going when it first happened but could do nothing the second time.

With the engines gone the toilets backed up. Rooms nearby flooded and the passengers had to sleep in the bar and on the decks. The refrigeration system failed and a lot of food had to be dumped overboard. The food attracted dolphins which followed the ship. My sister swore she saw sharks.

The ship was carrying cargo which caused it to list to the side. Passengers were asked to stay on the opposite side in order to compensate, which of course didn't work.

I saw a comment claiming this only lasted a day or so. That's incorrect we were out there for more than five days. Meals were scanty and there was a shortage of fresh water. The toilets were still out order and some took to using the deck as a latrine. No surprise that many became ill. Some believed they would die and began holding prayer meetings at night up on deck.

When a tug boat finally answered the ship's mayday there was conflict over where the ship should be towed to. The Venezuelans outnumbered the West Indians and they insisted the ship be towed to Venezuela. That would have left the West Indians stranded in a country where none of them spoke the language.

In the event, the boat was towed to Barbados. At first the crew refused to allow anyone off. My father and others demanded their passports and papers, which were being held by the crew. When my father got his papers, he disembarked, borrowed a bike from a passing local and cycled into town. He returned with food and a BBC Radio crew who interviewed passengers.

The ship had been reported as missing and once the news that it has arrived in Barbados reached Jamaica, the then government immediately dispatched two planes. Jamaicans were the first to be flown out and home.

My father and others applied for compensation but got nowhere. I'm surprised there isn't more about this anywhere it's been great to talk about what was a very significant event in my life.
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