Witness: Tucker’s Town residents cheated out of their land by speculators
The deputy chairman of the Tucker’s Town Historical Society said yesterday residents removed for their land for a tourist development almost a century ago were “hoodwinked” to benefit a wealthy minority.
Denny Richardson told the Commission of Inquiry into historic land losses in Tucker’s Town and St David’s that little has been done to right the historic wrongs.
He said: “It has been almost 100 years since we were expelled from Tucker’s Town.
“If this is where we are today, it will be another 100 years if we keep up this pace or if we are just playing a game with the people.
“People took advantage of my humble people who were farmers feeding the nation, yet we were forced to give up what we were doing for someone else’s frivolity. Fun and games.
“It’s worse than a joke because the punishment, the suffering of those that were deprived of our belongings – we were building something of a future.”
Mr Richardson said his family was among those affected by the 1923 compulsory purchase of land at Tucker’s Town.
He said his relative, BD Talbot, owned a store at the junction of South Road and Tucker’s Town Road, and other relatives, Julia Talbot and Lydia Smith, owned farmland in the area.
Mr Richardson said Mr Talbot – often called Uncle Ben – owned around 70 acres of property and had asked for £25,000.
But he was awarded just £8,000.
Mr Richardson added Ms Talbot and Ms Smith also owned about 70 acres of land between them and were given less than £4,000.
He said Ms Talbot and Ms Smith bought land near Knapton Hill, which they attempted to farm for a short time before they subdivided the land for their families.
Mr Talbot bought land near Devil’s Hole and launched a new store near Marsden Church.
Mr Richardson said: “Mr Talbot was rich with ideas. He was rich with determination. He was rich with spirit and desire. He had it made.
“His sisters were on their way. It’s not their fault they bought property that later on people liked.
“The people who negotiated this deal were able to hoodwink us into thinking we were going to a better place. Rubbish.”
Mr Talbot’s niece, Dinah Smith, also lost her land, but only after a legal battle.
She refused to take the money or leave her home until she was evicted.
Mr Richardson said: “She did not have to move from where she was. She was very comfortable cooking her pot of soup for her family. They picked the wrong time to disturb her.”
He added: “The gentleman went to the grave with the scars. It was hot green pea soup.”
Mr Richardson added that her belongings were moved to a house that had been selected for her, but she refused to go inside.
He said: “She sat outside in the weather, rain, blow or shine. She was determined to stand her ground and her law was on her side.”
Mr Richardson added three of his great uncles left their homes in Tucker’s Town to fight in the First World War and one of them lost his leg in the conflict.
He said: “He volunteered to protect the British rights in Europe and this is what he got when he returned.
“My other great uncles suffered the same fate. They couldn’t return.”
Mr Richardson added he and others launched the Tucker’s Town Historical Society to ensure the story of the settlement was remembered.
He said a major focus of their work was Tucker’s Town Methodist cemetery, which the society believed was much larger than its walls suggested.
Mr Richardson added: “What we are interested in doing is having it re-surveyed to establish the exact position of the wall that is not there but can be traced.
“It is our belief that careful research and study of any previous records could expose the design of the graveyard and location of the graves.”
Mr Richardson said members of the society attempted to get documents about the graveyard site from the development company behind the Castle Harbour development.
He added: “We have tried going to London to talk to the previous developers of Castle Harbour and they refused to disclose any information to us.
“They want to know under what authority we were inquiring about that property.”
He said: “They smelled a rat. They were in trouble.”
Mr Richardson added he had seen tombstones at the site destroyed in 2012.
He said: “I was appalled. I was sick to my stomach. That act was enough to make a buzzard sick.”
Mr Richardson later said he did not know how deep the excavation went into the graves.
He added: “When we were notified the graves were demolished it was too late to see how far down they went because they took the stones that formed the graves and threw them in the graves.
“They filled them up, so when we got there it was full of debris from the demolition. It’s too bad that we didn’t get there before that time.”
He said the work was “desecration” and appealed to the people responsible to reveal where any remains that were found were moved to.
Mr Richardson added that the society had struggled in recent years, with no new members coming forward and older members becoming frail or dying.
But he said the goal of spreading the story about what happened in Tucker’s Town remained
The hearing continues today.