positive action movement: when ken bates took over his homeland in 1968, noel lloyd led the fight to take it back.Back
‘That morning, when we hit the road, a lady came up by the name of Louella Harrigan and she said, “Regardless, we got to take back our country from Kenneth Bates, and whatever we’re going to do we’re going to march this morning, and we are going to take our country back! This lease must be revoked, and Kenneth Bates must go!”’ – George Malone in ‘A Patriotic Man’.
The business past of current Leeds United chairman Ken Bates has been pored over many times in books and newspapers: the ready-mix concrete business that established his wealth; the controversial collapse of the Irish Trust Bank; his colourful entries into football at Oldham, Chelsea, Partick Thistle and Leeds. But one part of the Bates story has remained opaque. Forty years ago and on the far side of the world, Ken Bates was set fair to make his fortune by developing a tourist and tax haven on the Caribbean islands of Tortola and Anegada, until the venture collapsed and the British government bought him out. The London Times described it as an “embarrassing state of affairs”, and that understatement has characterised the general treatment of the ‘affair’ ever since.
Now, though, thanks to a documentary film made by Andrea and Amanda Wilson and Jahphix TV of Tortola, and research by The Square Ball, a clearer picture has emerged: of the scale of what Bates had proposed for the islands, of the incredible fortune he stood to make, and of the man who inspired his fellow Tortolans to save their islands from Bates: Noel Lloyd.
POSITIVE ACTION MOVEMENT:
Part One: Ken Bates, from Oldham to Rhodesia
As he likes to remind readers of the Leeds United matchday programme, Kenneth William Bates was born in the early thirties – the era of the great depression – and had a hard and impoverished upbringing. After the early death of his mother and an injury to his father, Bates was separated from his immediate family and raised in London by his grandparents. Humble beginnings would not hold Ken back, and by the mid-sixties he was enjoying the fruits of his first business successes. Bates’ ruthless business acumen had taken him to Lancashire, where ready-mix concrete and his Howarth Construction company brought him a fortune, and took him into the boardroom of third division Oldham Athletic, where he became chairman in 1965. Bates’ aim was to galvanise the stricken club, and while he waited for Jimmy McIlroy to improve things on the pitch, Bates overhauled the facilities off it: £45,000 bought new seats, fresh paint, clean toilets and executive boxes to Boundary Park, and ticket prices were raised accordingly. Also to raise income, Bates disbanded the old Supporters Club and launched The Latics Tangerine Club in its place. The matchday programme became ‘The Boundary Bulletin’, where Ken boasted in his regular column that he would soon spend £180,000 on a super new stand which would incorporate an ‘exclusive 300 Club’, a French restaurant, a bowling alley and a discotheque. The ambitious club even launched a club radio station, ‘Radio Latics’, in 1967.
Bates was not confining his business interests to Oldham. In 1964 he established a new company, Batehill, which would provide finance to small businesses. Batehill was backed by Philip Hill, Higginson, Erlangers Ltd. – which would go on to become Hill, Samuel & Co. Ltd., one of the largest merchant banks in sixties London – and became part of Minerals Separation, a company selling “anything from carpets to Dalek suits.” Alongside Bates and his associate Henry Blackburn, Philip Hill provided Batehill’s chairman, Stanley Newson, and Torquil Norman, manager of a firm called London Bridge Finance, that had pioneered a new method of financing the manufacture of goods for export. Bates’ horizons were expanding far beyond Lancashire. His columns in The Boundary Bulletin began to reflect the international business that Bates was now conducting, as he filed editorials from “30,000 feet above the Caribbean”; “With a glass of Cordon Rouge, ’63 Vintage” from the Mount Nelson Hotel, Capetown; and en route to Rhodesia.
“I hope to renew my acquaintance with Mr Kerr of the Rhodesian Football Association,” Bates wrote in his column in February 1967, and this connection between Bates’ twin worlds of business and football was to prove controversial. That summer Oldham Athletic defied international sanctions and embarked on a tour of Rhodesia and Malawi, playing eleven matches in twenty-one days. Britain, the USA and the United Nations had refused to recognise the state of Rhodesia and implemented economic sanctions after its Prime Minister, Ian Smith, made the Unilateral Declaration of Independence in 1965, preserving minority rule for 220,000 white Rhodesians over four million black Rhodesians. The United Nations Security Council Resolution 216 voted by ten to none in November 1965 to “Condemn the unilateral declaration of independence made by a racist minority in Southern Rhodesia’ and to “call upon all States not to recognize this illegal racist minority regime in Southern Rhodesia and to refrain from rendering any assistance to this illegal regime.” Resolution 217, which followed a week later, condemned “the usurpation of power by a racist settler minority in Southern Rhodesia and regards the declaration of independence by it as having no legal validity,” called upon “the Government of the United Kingdom to quell this rebellion of the racist minority,” and for “all States not to recognize this illegal authority and not to entertain any diplomatic or other relations with it … to refrain from any action which would assist and encourage the illegal regime.”
Against this background, Oldham’s tour in summer 1967 drew notice in national newspapers and in Parliament, where George Thomas of the Commonwealth Office declared: “We deplore organised tours of this kind while the state of illegality exists in Rhodesia, and we made our views clear… before the team left.” The Oldham team met no high standard of opposition in Africa, winning ten of the eleven games, scoring forty-five goals and conceding eighteen; and the club recorded just £1,000 profit on the tour, declaring that it would have been pleased to have just broken even. The political importance of the trip was underlined, however, by the photograph of the Oldham squad that appeared in July’s Bulletin – courtesy of the ‘Rhodesia Ministry of Information’ – in which Ken Bates and Prime Minister Ian Smith are seen standing side by side in front of the players, Smith holding in his hand a rolled up copy of the June issue of the Boundary Bulletin.
Bates lasted one more season at Oldham. By summer 1968, Bates’ his football and business interests in England were receding. Howarth Construction had expanded too fast and were struggling, while Oldham’s fans were unhappy with their chairman after he called them “the lambs of Sheepfoot Lane.” Bates had difficulties too with Batehill, as Minsep sold their stake amid reports of personality clashes between Philip Hill and Bates. Batehill was taken over by Ionian Bank, who intended to “develop the potentially lucrative toy side of Batehill’s business.” Bates and Torquil Norman, who remained in control of the company, saw a different future for Batehill, that had the potential to bring them far greater rewards than toy factories.
POSITIVE ACTION MOVEMENT:
Part Two: Tortola, Anegada, and the Batehill Agreements
In March 1966, Ken Bates had made his first trip to the British Virgin Islands, pursuing a Batehill investment that had lost money. On the island of Tortola he met Norman Fowler, whose land reclamation scheme at Wickham’s Cay, in the capital Roadtown, caught Bates’ imagination. After consulting with professional engineers, Bates returned to Tortola, bought out Fowler, and began negotiations with the local government. Bates’ project expanded to include the nearby island of Anegada, and in January 1967 agreements were made that granted leases to two newly formed subsidiaries of Batehill – Tortola Development and Trust Co. Ltd., which became Wickham’s Cay Ltd, and the Development Corporation of Anegada.
The British Virgin Islands of the mid-sixties was still unspoilt, and only beginning to realise their development potential. Nearby, the United States Virgin Islands had enjoyed an economic boom thanks to tourism, with top class hotels, tourist resorts, and airports built for Boeing’s new 747 jet airliners. Tortola and Anegada, by comparison, were backwaters, and many British Virgin Islanders preferred to leave for opportunities in the US Virgin Islands or on the American mainland, while developers began to focus on the BVIs. Norman Fowler had seen in Roadtown, Tortola the potential to imitate Laurence Rockefeller’s development on the US Island of Virgin Gouda, by expanding Wickham’s Cay by reclaiming land from the sea and building a resort. Laurence Rockefeller himself had been attracted to Anegada, a flat and almost totally undeveloped island of a comparable size – 9,500 acres – to Manhattan. Rockefeller had invested $10million on Virgin Gourda, and in 1966 he submitted a similar scheme to the BVI government for Anegada. The plan involved 1,400 acres of the island, which he was asked and agreed to lower to 700 acres, but a final agreement was never reached. Batehill had appeared on the scene.
An article in the University of the West Indies’ Caribbean Quarterly of 1971 suggested a pro-British bias of BVI Administrator Martin Staveley had caused the switch from Rockefeller to Bates. Staveley was in an unusual position as local reforms meant the existing form of government, and Staveley’s job, were shortly to be abolished; and the agreements with Bates’ companies seemed to be reached with peculiar speed. Records showed that the Batehill agreements were discussed by the Executive Council in November and December 1966, but copies of the final agreements were not circulated to the Finance Committee of the Legislative Council until 17th January, in advance of meetings with Bates and his associates on 19th and 20th January. Recollections of the meetings varied, and no official minutes were recorded, but the agreements were signed on 20th January 1967. An article in the Virgin Islands Daily of 25th January declared: ’1,500 Acres of Land to be Developed In Anegada’.
1,500 acres was double what Rockefeller had proposed for development, and was, in fact, only a fraction of what had been granted to Batehill. Of Anegada’s 9,696 acres, 8,196 acres were leased to the Development Corporation, for 199 years.
Only 1,000 acres of usable land was left for the Anegadans; consisting of a rocky area at the end of what would become the airport runway, it was useless for agriculture, and restrictions in the Batehill agreements meant no competing leisure activities could take place there. Without the means to buy into Batehill’s development, the Anegadan people were effectively confined to a reservation on their own island.
The Caribbean Quarterly’s article, written by Pearl Varlack and Norwell Harrigan of the Caribbean Research Insitute and entitled ‘Anegada – Feudal Development in the Twentieth Century’ – lambasted the agreements – which, apparently, Ken Bates admitted to writing himself – as “reminiscent of the first grant of the island to the Earl of Carlysle … an attempt to apply in the reign of Elizabeth II a concept more applicable to the reign of Elizabeth I … [an] amazing attempt to establish a ‘state within a state.’ … The unprecedented period of 199 years ignores a simple truth that that the United States of America is not yet two hundred years old and if Washington could return he would immediately drop dead again when he saw the development that had taken place in the nation he helped to found.”
The terms of the lease were startling in their generosity:
- 8,196 acres (85%) of Anegada, and the reclaimed areas of Tortola (around sixty acres), were to be leased to Batehill’s subsidiaries for 199 years;
- Rent was to rise gradually to a maximum of $30,000 a year;
- Added to this, after four years, would be a charge of 5% on any sub-leases made by Batehill;
- Batehill was exempt from paying any taxes on profit, income and capital for the full 199 years of the lease;
- Batehill was exempt from paying import duty on construction materials for ten years, and on materials for the construction of utilities for the full 199 years;
- Batehill was granted control of the electricity and water supplies.
In return Batehill undertook in the agreements to build an airstrip, capable of handing eight-seater planes, within two years; a hotel within five years; a harbour ‘as soon as it is conveniently practicable’; roads and public facilities (work which was to be partially reimbursed by the government); and overall to spend $1.5m in the first five years and $3m in the first ten.
The zero tax terms of the lease meant that Bates and Norman stood to make an unbelievable profit. Reclaiming sixty acres of land at Wickham’s Cay was expected to cost $1.4million, or 70cents per square foot; this compared very favourably with the price of land in the town itself of $4 per square foot; and land prices in the developed parts of the US Virgin Islands had increased to $40 per square foot. Overall the schemes were estimated in 1967 to become worth $50million; at today’s prices, that value would be $300million.
There was more to the development than leisure and tourism. The British Virgin Islands were unique in incurring no exchange charges between British Sterling and US Dollars. Bates established the Bank of Anegada, and adverts in the British press declared Anegada “A Caribbean Tax Haven”. Promoting the scheme in The Guardian, Bates explained: “You can ring your bank and ask them to transfer £20,000 to Anegada and in two hours it will be there. You have to get the Bank of England’s consent to convert it into dollars. This is easy so long as you can prove you are keeping it in Anegada.”
Just as the pink of the British Empire was fading, Ken Bates seemed set to become one of the last to profit from the colonialism he had seen at work in South Africa and Rhodesia. Moving with his wife and five children to the vast island paradise that was his property for the next 199 years, Bates sipped champagne on the veranda and began to write a memoir. He could see no challenge to the riches he would soon enjoy. The terms of the leases meant that no local government or local people could interfere with Bates’ islands for the next six generations; with no taxes or duties to pay, he could import cheap materials and labour, build until he could build no more, and not a single penny of the profits would be lost for 199 years. Kenneth Bates didn’t just have a lease on Anegada; he had the beginnings of an empire.
Within his borders, however, Ken Bates also had Noel Lloyd.
POSITIVE ACTION MOVEMENT:
Part Three: Noel Lloyd, and the Beginnings of a Movement
Like Bates, Noel Lloyd was born into relative poverty in the nineteen-thirties, and like Bates, Noel’s early life was touched by tragedy and separation. Lloyd’s younger brother died of pneumonia when Noel himself was only two; aged four, Noel walked over a mile and a half to fetch a midwife and ensure the save arrival of another brother. The Lloyd family, like many Tortolans, were subsistence farmers who were helped by the close-knit community on the island. Noel’s father was often away working in the US Virgin Islands, and aged eleven, Noel moved to live in the Roadtown police station with an officer who had taken him under his wing. The pair then moved further away from Noel’s family to Anguilla, where Noel learned carpentry. He was eager to improve his circumstances and aged twenty followed the path many British Virgin Islanders took to the US Virgin Islands, where he worked as a hotel houseman while studying mechanical engineering by correspondence with the Bennett College in Sheffield, England.
Lloyd spent his twenties doing all he could to obtain a useful education. He had returned to Roadtown and built up a door to door sales business until he owned his own store, but a desire for knowledge and improvement led to restlessness and trips to the USA and Canada. In 1961 Lloyd joined the Canadian Air Force, then moved to London to join the Royal Air Force in the hope of accessing more sophisticated engineering knowledge. The RAF was a frustrating place for a young black man from the colonies, however, and Noel, who saw himself as officer material, was given only menial work. Lloyd went AWOL and travelled next to the USA, working for two years as an engineer before disillusionment with life in pre- Civil Rights America sent him home to Tortola; but still Lloyd did not settle, taking a trip to Africa in 1964. By the time Noel met his future wife, a volunteer teacher named Nerida, in Tortola in 1966, he had become aged thirty a well-travelled idealist, angry and inspired like so many black people of the nineteen-sixties by the frustration and promise he had experienced in the USA, Britain and Africa. He also had the sharp looks and easy charisma of a born leader. “He was very handsome, a very imposing figure,” remembers Nerida. “The way he walked, the way he carried himself, he was like royalty. He had so many wonderful ideas … you could put down one of his ideas and he would produce three more.”
Lloyd now owned two shops in Roadtown, but dreamed of opening a Technical School on the island and had hopes of a political career. Unable to confine himself to a shop counter, he preferred still to sell door to door, spending time talking with people and exchanging ideas and plans about the future of the island. Everyone in Roadtown, it seemed, knew Noel Lloyd. And when Walter ‘Lindy’ de Castro, the Chief Surveyor, became aware of the full impact the Batehill development would have on their island, it was to Noel Lloyd that he turned.
Lloyd spread word around Roadtown of the changes that would befall Tortola and Anegada if the developments went ahead. The initial response to the plans had been positive, as Tortolans looked forward to the grater wealth and opportunity promised for their island. What Lindy de Castro and Noel Lloyd made clear to them was that Tortolans would have no share in the future prosperity. The plans showed all roads to Wickham’s Cay blocked off as private land; native islanders would be locked out while 40,000 foreign workers and business people streamed in. The beginnings of building work were rousing the islanders and many were beginning to realise just what was happening to their lands. On Anegada, Batehill’s airstrip was built on private land that had been in family ownership and was handed over to the corporation by the leases, using stone taken from a family-owned quarry. Alfred Lloyd, Noel’s brother, remembers watching an uncle powerless to stop the bulldozers as they destroyed his land and agriculture. “He was crying real tears … who was going to pay him? And support his family?” People talked of arming themselves with machetes and guns to protect their land, but Noel Lloyd knew that Batehill, with rights under the agreements to control the utility supplies, held a strong hand: “That would have been like a weapon to subdue us, by having control over our water and electricity.”
As tension increased on Tortola, Lloyd’s first act of protest was a mild one: his letter, headlined ‘Social Injustice’, published in the Tortola Times on 2nd March 1968. Lloyd’s tactic was to raise awareness among his fellow islanders, to talk at the Market every day and discuss ideas and options. But events in Memphis, Tennessee turned Noel Lloyd from a man of ideas to a man of action. On April 4th 1968 Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated, and Noel immediately saw the parallel between the Civil Rights movement and the plight of native islanders on the BVIs. He realised that the time had to come for direct action to safeguard the islands.
POSITIVE ACTION MOVEMENT:
Part Four: “I Took Positive Action, and I Moved. And as I Moved, People Followed.”
“It was Positive Action Movement,” remembered Noel in an interview. “I didn’t get a group of people, and we discuss and form a movement. I took positive action and I moved. And as I moved, people followed.”
On April 6th Lloyd marched alone around Roadtown. He carried a placard calling for ‘Positive Action’, and calling the people to a meeting on April 8th. His first, lonely walk was a success. A large, enthusiastic audience gathered on the recreation ground on the 8th and heard passionate speeches against the Batehill development, and in memory of Martin Luther King, by Noel Lloyd, Lindy de Castro and Wilfred Smith. Dr William Osborne spoke to the crowd about how events begun in the United Kingdom, Rhodesia and South Africa were all now converging on Tortola. Noel Lloyd’s solo march had transformed, in two days, into the Positive Action Movement, with Noel as its leader and the people as its support.
Lloyd’s wife, Nerida, was nervous about Noel’s involvement. “I was pregnant, and because of his mood I was frightened. I was frightened for my child.” Lloyd was determined, however. “That meeting he kept at the bandstand was well passionate,” recalls George Malone. “He was full of courage, and felt that he had confidence in who was following him.”
On April 9th, Noel Lloyd led the Positive Action Movement’s march through Roadtown. It had two aims: to honour Martin Luther King, and to have the people’s grievances about the Batehill development heard by the island administration. “I led the march with the flag that we made up,” said Lloyd. “And we did a Royal Air Force slow march.”
Advancing step by step, the marchers urged people to close their doors in memory of Dr King, and the rally grew in number. George Malone remembers, “When we hit the road, a lady came up by the name of Louella Harrigan, and she said, ‘Regardless, we got to take back our country from Kenneth Bates, and whatever we’re going to do we’re going to march this morning, and we are going to take our country back! This lease must be revoked, and Kenneth Bates must go!’ And that lady, and the passion that she had, I believe encourage a lot more ladies to follow that march.”
“It was like a Harvest Monday celebration,” said Noel Lloyd. The crowd, with banners and flags, reached the gates at the foot of Government Hill, where the Chief of Police tried to convince Lloyd and his followers to turn back. Two members of the crowd, with a Positive Action Movement banner, broke through the barbed wire fence and ran up the hill. “When I saw them inside with that banner, tears came to my eyes,” remembered Noel. “And with the force of the crowd behind me, instead of pulling the gate towards us, we pushed the gate and the Chief of Police up the hill, and we went up to Government House.” People down in the town climbed on rooftops to get a view of the chaotic scenes on the hill. “I went inside with our rebel flag, and Patsy Pickering said, ‘Noel, come back, the commissioner’s family is upstairs.’” Pursued by the Chief of Police, the crowds moved to the Administration Building and called on the Administrator, J.S. Thomson, to come down to talk to the people.
Thomson met Lloyd and his followers on the steps of the building, and after hearing Lloyd speak against the Batehill leases, agreed to meet for further discussions in town later that week. Satisfied, the crowds headed peacefully back towards the town, but when Noel Lloyd was placed under arrest for breaking the gates on Government Hill scuffles broke out between the crowd and the police. Lloyd was taken away from the police by his supporters, and spent the next few days in discussion with the executive board of the Positive Action Movement: Lindy de Castro, Wilfred Smith, Patsy Pickering, Roosevelt Smith, Vernon Farrington, and Cromwell Nibbs. Another meeting at the Administration Building took place amid more chaotic scenes; while Lloyd and members of PAM met with the Governor on an upper floor, their followers prevented the public on the ground floor from breaking out into violence. PAM got an agreement from the Governor to take their concerns about Batehill to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, but Noel Lloyd was not convinced that their grievances were being taken seriously.
“At the time we only had one newspaper, and it came out and said very little about what took place,” said Lloyd. Even after the marches, the town meetings, the fights with the police, and the talks with officials, Lloyd didn’t feel that the people were really being listened to.
“So I decided, in order to dramatise our struggle, to take over the police headquarters in the name of the Queen.”
In the early hours of Saturday April 13th, with four others, Lloyd entered the police station and found the constables all asleep. “How he was able to arrest them is still a mystery with us,” remembers Patsy Pickering. “But Noel arrested them, put them in the barracks, had them under lock and key, and then he blew the siren to make people aware that something was not right.”
Later the same day Lloyd and his comrades were themselves arrested, along with Musa Muhammed, who had not been part of the raid on the station. “They told me I was being charged with treason. I had never heard that word before; at the time I was twenty years old. Court in Tortola used to be on Wednesdays, so they had us locked up until the Wednesday.” With Noel Lloyd, Cromwell Nibbs, Vernon Farrington, Sylvester Farrington and Musa Muhammed all in jail, wild rumours and threats began to spread in Roadtown. The public market was partially burned down and a fire lit at a local school.
In court that Wednesday, Noel Lloyd played his trump card. Despite his AWOL status, Lloyd was still a member of the British Royal Air Force. He had taken the same oath to the Crown as the sleeping policeman and had been within his rights to arrest them. Verne Maduro was in the courtroom: “He told them on the day of the court, these other [accused] men didn’t know nothing, they were home sleeping. Being he a member of the Royal Air Force put all the blame on he. So he started giving out his rank and serial number and he asked them to turn him over to the army that was there.”
Bail was denied to Lloyd and his followers, but Noel was not to be denied his freedom. After the session Noel vaulted the prison yard wall and ran to his house. He evaded the police by hiding in a cistern in his back yard, using a length of hose to breathe through; when the police failed to find him, Noel fled to the protection of friends in the countryside above Roadtown.
What happened to Noel Lloyd at the hands of the police remains unclear, but the local newspaper carried reports from the police of Noel becoming so violent that “he was placed in close confinement where his ravings continued.” Rumours about Lloyd’s mental health began to spread around the island, rumours that Noel’s brother Alfred Lloyd believes started with the police and their bosses. “The idea was to have him appear insane so that the whole thing could be scratched. Somehow dealt with and put behind as the actions of a crazy man.”
Musa Muhammed claims Lloyd was given pills by the police on the morning of the trial, while Patsy Pickering suspected he was beaten. Alfred Lloyd says Noel could account for being injected by the police at least twice. Noel himself described a long-lasting taste of copper in his mouth and frequent vomiting. “How they had him after capturing him, it was easy for them to get to him,” says Alfred. “The turn in his being, the way he was psychically – you could tell something was wrong.”
The day after his escape, Noel appeared again in Roadtown, where he surprised Lindy de Castro by jumping into the back of his jeep, armed with a stick. Lloyd yelled, “We are free, we are free, follow us!” and attracted the attention of a van full of police, who tried to arrest him. After a struggle during which Lloyd struck a policeman with his stick, Lloyd and de Castro drove to the radio station, where Noel demanded to be put on the air. The station manager refused, and Lloyd decided to hide again in the country; but now Lindy de Castro took steps to protect his friend. “We wanted him in hospital custody,” he said in a radio speech of his own a few days later. “We did not want him in the bush and we did not think he should be in prison.” The police had other plans. As Wilfred Smith of PAM remembers: “My wife and I heard a big revolution, and when we ran out it was Noel and a gang of people following him and he was running, and a lot of police behind him. The police grabbed Noel, had him on the ground scuffling, they handcuff him and put him in their Land Rover.”
Smith continues: “I jumped up on the hood of the Land Rover, and I said to the people, ‘What shall we do? Will we allow Noel to go in jail? Or to the hospital because he’s sick?’ The people exclaim, ‘Hospital!’ By that time people were coming from everywhere, with sticks and to fight. I said no. A peaceful demonstration. Noel realised that he had help, and he kicked the Land Rover open in the back. He kicked, he kicked til he broke it and he got out. And they grab him, and the people take him away from the police. And they put him on their shoulder like a king and they marched down the street with him towards the hospital.”
Lloyd’s family and supporters were now desperate to keep him away from the police. In his radio talk, Lindy de Castro said he had found out later that the Chief of Police had been ready to shoot him while he protected Noel, until the people took the gun from him and handed it over to de Castro. The island was volatile, and with Noel Lloyd’s state of health uncertain, his supporters raised $2,700 of the $3,300 required to pay for Noel to be flown to Jamaica for treatment, and for his own protection.
“The people got together and put a box on the bridge, and people had to put money in it,” recalls Verne Maduro. “They had some big strong guys, and they made anybody that pass on the bridge – especially the whites – throw money in the box. It was like a revolution.”
In the end the British military stationed on Beef Island provided the flight that took Noel to Jamaica. Wilfred Smith and Alfred Lloyd went with Noel. “I couldn’t be more impressed,” remembers Alfred. “When the military brought him, the way they honoured him – they recognised his Air Force status, they saluted him, the whole nine yards. I couldn’t believe it, I’ll never forget it.”
Noel Lloyd’s military escort came just two weeks after his first solo march around Road Town had roused the Tortolan and Anegadan people to face the threat posed by the Batehill development. The Positive Action Movement had momentum, and while Noel recovered in hospital from the toll taken by his fortnight of positive action, his supporters continued the fight for their country. “The beauty of all this is that all he had to do… was already in place, and couldn’t be reversed,” says Alfred Lloyd. “In other words, they had gotten to him too late.”
POSITIVE ACTION MOVEMENT:
Part Five: Commissions, Courtrooms and Counter-claims: Ken Bates Folds
The running-down machinery of colonial government worked slowly at the end of the sixties, and the Positive Action Movement had to be patient. Batehill, meanwhile, continued with its airstrip on Anegada, and the reclamation works at Wickham’s Cay. In October 1968 an advert by Batehill’s agents Smiths Gore offered investment opportunities to readers of The London Times, and Ken Bates himself gave interviews in London promoting the development. An advert by Bovis Construction in The Times in April 1969 declared: ‘We have three developments at present on Tortola … and we hope that our schemes will prove as beneficial to the islanders as to the Company. Our reception by the Virgin Islanders has been most cordial and helpful.’
The real situation on Tortola was somewhat different. Bates and his partnet, Torquil Norman, faced an angry public meeting in the Council Chamber in May 1968. The Island Sun reported: “It was a free for all expression of views which gyrated and escalated with heated exchanges and after more than two and a half hours came to an unsatisfactory end … there was a large overflow of spectators on the spacious porch and in the yard who acted with exuberance. Several persons carried Positive Action posters and a drum beat was occasionally heard.”
Noel Lloyd was still recuperating in Jamaica, so Lindy de Castro questioned Bates and Norman. Bates stated that the price for land on Wickham’s Cay was to be $160,000 per acre, and de Castro challenged him, “How can B.V. Islanders who may want to own a lot on Wickham’s Cay afford to buy at your price? Please tell us what area is specifically designated to Virgin Islanders? Since you expect to pay the Government $30,000 in your 199 years lease on three-fourths of Anegada, you are telling us you’ll be selling one acre of land on Wickham’s Cay for four to five times what you will pay for [all of] Anegada. How do you justify that?”
Bates and Norman said that no specific areas were allotted to B.V. Islanders as this would be segregation, and that “there is a plan to assist B.V. Islanders who wish to participate in the development of Wickham’s Cay and have the means” by breaking down parcels of land into smaller units. They also stressed the benefits that would come to public services, but it was clear that they had failed to convince the crowd.
Anger at the developers grew when Roadtown flooded in November 1968 and May 1968, apparently as a result of the reclamation works. By the time Noel Lloyd returned in August, Positive Action Movement had become the active ‘Watch-Dog of the BVI Government’, putting pressure on the government not just over the Batehill schemes, but demanding a native police force and integrated schools. PAM made regular radio broadcasts and positioned itself as a safeguard for the interests of Virgin Islanders, rather than as a political party.
In autumn 1969, the British Government finally agreed to PAM’s demands and sent a Commission of Enquiry to Tortola to hear the islanders’ grievances and review the Batehill agreements. The Commission was led by Sir Derek Jakeway, former Governor of Fiji, and announced on 9th September; the first meeting was held nine days later, where it was announced that interested parties had three days to submit their evidence for consideration; four copies of any such evidence would be required. With so little time to prepare the Islanders feared a white-wash, but at the hearings they found they had a new ally.
Led by Lavity Stoutt, the local government, formerly supportive of Batehill’s scheme, changed tack and in its submission requested that the agreements be renegotiated to the benefit of Virgin Islanders. The government felt that land and tax incentives as required for a viable scheme were reasonable to kickstart development, but that a kickstart ought not to last for 199 years. They recommended that the length of the lease be halved and the area involved reduced, that rental payable on sub-leases be increased and subject to regular review, and that tax exemptions should end after thirty-five years. Stoutt was loudly applauded by the people packed into the Council Chambers for the hearing.
Noel Lloyd and the Positive Action Movement submitted two pieces of written evidence, and Lloyd and de Castro both appeared before the committee in person. Noel broke down while making his emotional presentation; Lindy de Castro spoke of the need to retain control of the islands for its own people. He demanded that all potential investors be carefully screened as he suspected the tax haven status of Anegada might attract criminal elements, and called on the government “to see that “no white Africans or Rhodesians’ set foot on the island … and that no imports [of goods] from Rhodesia or any part of ‘white Africa’ be allowed to enter Anegada.” PAM’s written evidence called on the commission to reject the Batehill agreements as illegal, as PAM believed “Martin Staveley, the Administrator … felt that the Virgin Islands were too good for the people … he looked down on the people of the Virgin Islands. He used the dictatorial powers given him by the constitution, and pushed through an agreement.”
Ken Bates testified on 26th September, and was pictured in the Virgin Islands Daily News, bearded and in a light short sleeved shirt, while Ira Smith of the ‘Watchful Eye Committee of Anegada’ looked on. In evidence, Bates described the history of his interests in Tortola and Anegada and the process of negotiations that had led to the agreements; but by now Bates had become largely irrelevant to the process that was going on around him. The people’s grievance was with the government that signed their islands away, and now the government had taken their side and recommended the agreements should be renegotiated, it was difficult to see how Batehill could continue to carry out their plans for the islands.
The Commission of Enquiry’s report, when it came in January 1970, actually found broadly in favour of Batehill. Sir Jakeway considered that, despite the apparent haste and the lack of official minutes, the process that led to the agreements of January 1967 had been constitutional and valid. “Mr Bates and his associates took the risks and are entitled to reap the benefits,” wrote Jakeway in his conclusion. But the report went on: “Equally, however, we believe that no government should surrender its control over the land and destiny of its citizens to quite the extent that these agreements do.” It ended: “Our hope is that the findings in this report will assist in producing a solution to the problems which have arisen.” It did no such thing. The BVI government rejected the report and continued to demand that the agreements be renegotiated.
Opinion at the Foreign Office differed from that of Derek Jakeway. The British government was nervous of a repeat of the recent revolution on the nearby island of Anguilla, and feared what might happen should Bates press ahead with his development. A Foreign Office official concluded in a memo that Bates was “totally unfit for these islands, and I don’t think that things will get any better until he either changes his attitudes or he gets out altogether.” Delegations from the BVI travelled to London in June and November 1970 and attempted to buy Batehill out of their leases, but the matter remained unsettled in the spring of 1971.
The situation was even raised in the House of Lords; Lord Brockway said of the Batehill agreements that, “With knowledge of some of these contracts, I do not think I have ever read a contract [the 1967 agreements] which was so unfair as that.” Lord Brockway noted that compensation offers had been rebuffed by Batehill, and warned: “Inevitably, under the conditions which I have described, there is now arising in these islands a militant movement; one can hardly go to a Caribbean island to-day without seeing Black Panther emerging. And unless we are able to deal generously and justly with this problem of the exploitation of these peoples by these external financial corporations, there will be movements arising where compensation will not be considered at all.”
Bates had apparently demanded $10million in compensation, and threatened to ruin the reputation of the British Virgin Islands if his demand wasn’t met. He dismissed the government’s offer of $6million as “a blatant piece of theft.” Torquil Norman, however, was less disposed to argue, and when Barclay’s Bank demanded immediate repayment of a $1.5million loan in March 1971, Bates contact the Foreign Office to settle. The Foreign Office had privately decided upon $6.8million as a reasonable price to buy Bates out, but in his haste Bates accepted just $5.8million – still describing this figure as “grossly unfair.” The British government loaned that sum to the BVI government, which finally bought Batehill out of the Anegada and Wickham’s Cay agreements on 21st April 1971.
POSITIVE ACTION MOVEMENT:
Part Six: After Batehill: Stories Remembered, Reputations Restored
Ken Bates’ personal profit from his four years in the Caribbean was estimated at $1.5million, about $8.5million in today’s money; a far cry from the $50million – nearly $300million today – the project had been expected to be worth. After the Financial Times was heavily critical of the Anegada project in a four page survey of the British Virgin Islands, Bates wrote a response blaming the failure on a “few political troublemakers who, lacking genuine grievances, fell back on character assassination,” and the “dishonest behaviour” of the local government; while complaining of “requirements for residence permits, work permits, business licences, licences to buy or sell land, discriminatory taxation against non-belongers, Government tax on sterling conversions, flexible interpretation of laws and the overt racialism just under the surface in high places.” The letter, written from Dublin where Bates would soon open the controversial Irish Trust Bank, concluded: “The true story will remain untold until I write my proposed book.” That book has never seen the light of day. Bates’ connections to the British Virgin Islands have never fully been severed; Outro Ltd, the company through which Bates currently owns 72.85% of Leeds United, is registered on the island of Nevis; while Outram Ventures Ltd, who own 7.7% of Leeds United and whose connection to Bates is unknown, are registered in Tortola.
Anegada has remained largely undeveloped in the years since Batehill; a hotel started by Bates remained half-constructed, and an unfinished supermarket was converted for use as an airport terminal. Wickham’s Cay, however, was soon built up, to Noel Lloyd’s approval. “They are nice homes, and the beauty is this: that land, most of it, is owned by local people. A good cross section, not only people from Roadtown, but people from all over Tortola and the Virgin Islands own property in Wickham’s Cay.”
For Noel Lloyd himself, however, the years after Positive Action Movement’s success were hard. With his wife and two daughters, he took a break from Tortola and tried to establish a foundry in Kenya; but Lloyd’s business sense was never as strong as his idealism, and he returned with empty pockets. Lloyd ran for election in Tortola, but his involvement with PAM became a hindrance to his political ambitions, as his opponents dredged up the accusations of mental instability that had been cast against Noel during the Batehill fight. He continued to run shops on Main Street in Tortola, but even here he faced opposition: because he sold so cheaply, his stores were twice burned down. Under this strain his marriage to Nerida ended after ten years.
But Noel Lloyd never wavered. As Nerida puts it in the Patriotic Man film, “you didn’t break Noel Lloyd. You couldn’t break Noel Lloyd.” Noel ran businesses, took a round the world trip, and was too busy generating plans and ideas to complain about the indifference towards his achievements with the Positive Action Movement. “Over the years I have not been able to borrow money from the banks, whereas everybody that has land on Wickham’s Cay was able to borrow money,” he said in an interview. “But I don’t mind, because I feel that foundations have to be built for the coming generation, and some of us have to make sacrifices.”
He didn’t concern himself with recognition for the Positive Action Movement because, according to Nerida, “He felt the struggle was a group effort – it wasn’t his. Maybe he produced a lot of ideas, and the anger and the disposition, the initial one was his. But had it not been for the people, it would not have been possible.”
Honours did eventually come to Noel Lloyd, in 2008. As Noel battled cancer in a Florida nursing home, separated from the Tortola he loved, the members of Positive Action Movement travelled with the BVI Premier, Ralph O’Neal, to visit him and bestow on him the British Virgin Islands’ Badge of Honour. “There wasn’t a thing better than that they could have done for him,” says Alfred Lloyd. “To come and recognise him there. Just to say hello and visit with him.”
Noel died that year, aged 71, but his status as a hero of the British Virgin Islands is now secure forever. In March 2009 a park in Roadtown was renamed ‘The Noel Lloyd Positive Action Movement Park’, with a statue of Noel and a monument to the members of Positive Action Movement, as a permanent reminder of their part in the struggle to save Tortola and Anegada from development by Ken Bates. Up against an international, multi-million dollar corporation, what Noel Lloyd did remains beautiful and instructive in its simplicity: He took positive action, and he moved. Positive Action Movement.
Originally published in The Square Ball in November 2011
Thanks are due to the following people, who made this article possible:
- Andrea and Amanda Wilson, and Jahphix TV, for making the documentary ‘Noel Lloyd: A Patriotic Man’, for allowing us to use their interviews, and for all their help;
- The Lloyd Family, for permission to use the photographs of Noel;
- Jock, for the Boundary Bulletins and invaluable recall;
- Andrew Haigh, for traipsing after back-numbers of The Financial Times;
- Wayne Gamble, for bringing this story to my attention in the first place, and for encouragement throughout.