The singing stevedores

“Sweet Evelina, dear Evelina,

My love for thee shall never, never die.

Dear Evelina, sweet Evelina,

My love for thee shall never, never die.

 

Three years have gone by and I’ve not got a dollar,

Evelina still lives in the green valley holler,

Altho’ I am fated to marry her never,

I’ll love her I’m shure for ever and ever.”

This sad American Civil War love ballad was being belted out by a hardworking Guianese band of singing, sweating stevedores, back in December 1877, as they cheerfully loaded the “Sheila” sailing ship with potent  Demerara rum and pungent brown sugar. British Captain William Henry Angel recalled a few of the lines in the local parlance, confessing in his memoir of the “perfect” big clipper some four decades later, that the men’s songs were “many which I forget now.”

The composition “Sweet Evelina” was created around 1863 during the midst of the costly and bloody conflict, fought from 1861 to 1865 in the bitterly divided United States, the largest slaveholding nation, triggered over the disputed power of the sovereign national government to prohibit slavery. Despite the country’s famous Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal with certain unalienable rights, including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, seven slave-backing territories in the Deep South seceded and formed the Confederate States of America…..