Wednesday 25th January 2012 (Letter 4th March 1879)

This is the first letter that my great grandfather George Charles Champion sent back to his mother in London, having recently set out on what was to become a four-year odyssey in search of insects in Central America:

From RMS “Nile”, 4th March, 1879

My dear Mother,
We arrived yesterday morning at Bridgetown, the capital of Barbados, at 8 a.m. I landed at 10 a.m. and at once posted a letter, but the European mail had left the previous day, so you will not have received a letter from me.
I wandered about yesterday like one in a dream, was not quite prepared for the first sight of a tropical country. The people (99 out of 100) are negroes, the strange buildings, the gardens where you see enormous cabbage and other palms and Cacti growing right above the housetops, bananas etc; you can fancy yourself in the Palm House at Kew, only everything growing in the open air, and outside the town the fields of Agave, Cactus, Opuntia, Yucca and other queer spiny plants, the flowers in the gardens being magnificent.
In the afternoon, I and two other passengers lunched with Mr. Hutchinson*, and then went for a long drive to see the sugar growing, we then went to his country house, and after stopping there for a short time, returned along the sea coast by way of Hastings. I found the glare on the white roads very trying, though I used a straw hat and umbrella, far more than the actual heat; it was 85 deg. in the shade yesterday on board; it is 82 deg. today, could not remain very long with Mr. Hutchinson as we had to be on board before 5 p.m.
I found the coloured boys an awful nuisance; they follow you wherever you go, and if you go into a house, they wait until you come out. I could not shake them off, it seems queer at first to hear them all speaking English very well, most of them wear but a small amount of clothing though you now and again come across one with a chimney pot hat, boots etc; most of the native houses are wood, very few indeed with glass windows, all doors etc. are of course wide open.
Every inch of ground in Barbados is under cultivation, there are no woods, and it is rather flat and not unlike the Isle of Wight and is about the same size.
We are now passing Guadeloupe, Dominica, Montserrat etc. but do not call till we reach St. Thomas’s, where we are due tomorrow morning; these islands are more or less all mountainous and very different from Barbados.
I miss the company of Mr. Hutchinson today, he was the best on board, his liberality on shore was unbounded.
Every visitor to Barbados appears to go to the Ice Establishment where you sit in rocking chairs in the verandahs and partake of cooling drinks, quite different from anything we have in England; here you can watch the throngs of coloured boys passing without being pestered by them.
You can get all sorts of queer fruit here, but I have been very chary about eating too much of these, tempting though they are, have tried one or two shaddocks (like enormous oranges which are larger and different from those we get in England), bananas, figs, (which are absolutely nasty) nearly all of course are grown in the Island.
I am now wearing my thinnest suit without a waistcoat, and then I am quite hot enough. You might file these letters, they might come in useful for me to refer to hereafter.

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