TREASURE HUNT: Pieces of Eight, Liquid Gold and a Sunken Sloop

Goombay Smash is a rum cocktail originating from historic Green Turtle Cay in the Bahamas. It is traditionally served in a sling or collins glass. The Goombay Smash was created by Emily Cooper, aka Miss Emily, at the Blue Bee Bar , New Plymouth. 


The original recipe has never been shared, but it is believed to have contained coconut rum, dirty rum, apricot brandy, and pineapple juice. Variations of the delicious concoction commonly uses rum, coconut and pineapple juice. Apricot liqueur is sometimes used and dark, amber or spiced rums, also known as dirty rums, are preferred. In place of coconut rum, coconut cream can be used. Other variations include Creme de Banana, orange juice and grenadine.

Goombay is a form of Bahamian music and a drum used to create it. The goombay drum is a membran-o-phone with one goat skin head held between the legs and played with the hands or sticks. Hence the name “goombay smash” for the tasty rum beverage that can get you intoxicated rather sneakily!

The goombay name has also evolved to become synonymous with local African-American music related to calypso. In The Bahamas, it’s most famous practitioner in modern times was Alphonso 'Blind Blake' Higgs, who performed at the Nassau International Airport for many years.

For much of his career, Blind Blake (1915 in Matthew Town, Inagua, Bahamas – 1986) was based at the Royal Victoria Hotel in Nassau. Included in his wide repertoire was ”Yas Yas Yas” and "Love, Love Alone", a song about the abdication of Edward VIII. Blind Blake's version of this calypso classic is said to have been enjoyed by the former king himself, who, as the Duke of Windsor, served as Governor of the Bahamas during World War II.  

Although Higgs was never famous in his own right, his music has been covered, perhaps most famously by the  The Beach Boys, with his 1952 recording of the Caribbean folk song "John B Sail" ("Wreck of the John B”).  The Beach Boys called it "Sloop John B".  

Richard Le Gallienne makes reference to this famous song in an article he wrote for Harper's Magazine in 1916. This was an account of a visit to the Bahamas when he spent a week on a schooner sailing from Nassau to the Exuma Cays and Harbour Island - his journalistic cruise leading to production of the romantic novel, The Invisible Chain and Pieces of Eight. by Larry Smith by Larry Smith

Pieces of Eight: Being the Authentic Narrative of a Treasure Discovered in the Bahama Islands in the Year 1903 by Richard Le Gallienne

Pieces of Eight was familiar to many Bahamians in the first half of the 20th century. It was written by Richard Le Gallienne - an English "man of letters" who died in 1947 at the age of 80. A minor romantic writer who lived in London, New York and Paris, Le Gallienne dabbled in journalism and publishing. 

Published in 1918, Pieces of Eight is a work of fiction that purports to be "the authentic narrative of a treasure discovered in the Bahama Islands in 1903." According to one early reviewer, it is "A polite treasure hunt which, compared to R L Stevenson's handling of the same plot lacks the thrills of real buccaneering, but which is romantic and beautifully descriptive of the tropic Bahamas." 

The book became a hot political issue pre-independence, when it was a prescribed school text, for its generally disdainful references to black Bahamians and use of racially insulting language. However, it features some interesting descriptions of contemporary Bahamian life, and is perhaps best known today for one of the earliest references to that great Bahamian folk song, the John B Sails.

The John B is supposed to have been a sponge boat that sank at Governor's Harbour, Eleuthera around 1900. The song has been recorded by many artists over the years and is on Rolling Stones' list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Times. The earliest recording of John B Sails was by Library of Congress researcher Alan Lomax in 1935, when it was sung by David Pryor, a sponge fisherman from Andros.

June 2019