There exists in the upper Anse Aux Pins, on Mahé, a place name Castor, a place with enormous boulders, better known as ‘cap de roches’ in Seychelles and to which access is extremely difficult. This name is linked with the history of maroons in Seychelles, as Castor was the name of a famous black maroon who took refuge in this place more than 150 years ago.
In every place where slavery has existed there have been maroons. Even in Seychelles, except for some rare exception, the slaves were fairly humanly treated. The call for freedom is very irrepressible in human being.
Given the scantiness of our islands, very often, the escapade of the maroons was only a tentative illusory. To sum up, there is no place which is isolated or inaccessible enough where one can take refuge for a long time. Furthermore, it was very difficult to feed oneself as there were no fruits or prey in the forest.
Without any doubt it was easy for the black maroons to sleek onto the plantations at night to steal the cassava, the sweet potatoes, the corn and rice that were cultivated then. On the other hand, the maroons were surely fed by the more pusillanimous compatriots who remained in service.
Nevertheless, the maroon life that they chose, out of thirst for freedom, was one where they always had to be on the alert. The black maroons were hunted like wild animals. Very often they were killed and when caught, they were cruelly punished. Around these nocturnal raids, lie stories or legends that were recounted in the evening gatherings. Today, all these stories are forgotten, which is a real pity, as all these stories and legends which could be classified as heroic are lost forever.
One of the rare stories of maroons that we still have is the one about Castor, and this is thanks to some documents still available at the National Archives.
One of these first documents is a letter dated 29th October 1832, addressed by George Harrison, who was at that time a Civil Agent and acting Commandant to the Principal Secretary of the Government of Mauritius in Seychelles. The letter acknowledges reception of nine slaves that the Seychelles Government had appropriated following a court decision of the Vice Admiralty of Mauritius. Amongst them was Castor.
According to the letter, Castor was a black from the Macondé tribe, aged around 44, with a height of 5. 4 and a half feet and he had a tattoo on his face. It was also reported that he knew how to square and saw wood. Thus it is believed that he was very useful for the cutting down and exploitation of the trees, with rare essences of which Mahé and the other islands had in abundance then. With no doubt, his job helped him not only to know the field inside out but the forest as well.
The same letter informed us that for a very long time, Castor has remained the leader of the maroons on Mahé, and that after living for three to four years in the forest, Castor surrendered to his master. Unfortunately, the letter does not say why Castor surrendered. Was he ill?, was he out of food? Was he tired of the hunted life he had been living? So many questions that are left unanswered.
The rest of the letter, unfortunately, is very deceiving. It reveals to us that our hero-he really deserved this title – who had defied for so long, the sole law of an unjust, society, became the assistant of this law. He was in fact employed to help capture the black maroons, a job for which be became very famous. Mr. Harrison ends his letter by saying he named Castor as the Commander in the police force. The heroes end up very often as watchdog!
The two other documents regarding Castor are with no doubt less important, but very interesting all the same.
In a medical certificate, attached to the letter of Mr. Harrison, Mr. Cordouan, Surgeon of the Government stated that Castor, Mozambicain, around 40 years of age, a property of Mr. Charles Dantin, in the bygone days, looked to him as to be sain in mind and body and with no apparent disability that could hinder him to survive. His stay in liberty has in no way harmed Castor.
The third document in question is a letter addressed to Mr. Harrison by the Colonial Secretary of Mauritius. It tells of the approval of the Governor of Mauritius at the nomination of Castor as Commander in the police force with a guarantee for a monthly salary of five dollars. The letter also reveals the idea of parsimonious-it’s the least we can say-, of the colonial administration. The letter underlines in fact that the nomination of Castor should come into force as of the first of the following month after reception of the letter and that as from the same date Castor should no longer be entitled any food intake…