Historical novel sheds light on “Barbado’ed” Irish - by Brian Fitzpatrick

An American-born chronicler of Irish history, William P Sexton, has penned a new historical novel centered on the fate of the Irish men, women and children transported to Barbados in the 1600’s by Oliver Cromwell. In the aftermath of the conquest of Ireland, Cromwell deported a great many Irish who refused to give up their land or to fight in foreign wars; others were simply lifted from the streets and shipped to the Caribbean to work as slaves or indentured laborers on tobacco plantations. The majority ended up in Barbados, Montserrat or Jamaica, and these forced transfers became so prevalent that the term "Barbado’ed” was coined to mean someone deported to Barbados.
Slaves transported by white settlers first arrived on Barbados in the 1620's and continued to be sent there for decades in order to feed the booming trade in forced labor. By 1667, there were over 40,000 slaves on the island. However, most descendants of the “Barbado’ed” Irish were eventually able to move away from the island (many to other parts of the Caribbean), as African slavery became the norm. The number of Irish sent to Barbados is not known for certain. Estimates vary widely, from a high of 60,000 to a low of 12,000. The enslavement of Africans in Barbados continued until 1834, when the slaves were emancipated (conditional to completing a four-year period of apprenticeship). By then the Irish of Barbados had disappeared into history; the census of the 1880's did not identify any Barbadians as Irish.
What did remain in the region was a small population of poor whites, often called 'Red Legs'. According to folk etymology, the name is derived from the effects of the tropical sun on their fair-skinned legs. They are thought to be the descendants of the “Barbado’ed” victims of Cromwell’s wars, be they Irish, Scottish or English (many Enlglishmen were also “Barbado’ed” following the Monmouth Rebellion). These descendants are to this day dotted around Barbados, St. Vincent, Grenada and a few other Caribbean islands. In Belize, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago they are known as "Bakras", meaning "back row".
Sexton’s novel tells the tale of Sean Tierney, a veteran of the early siege of Limerick taken from his home in the middle of the night and sent to Barbados in chains. The swashbuckling, pirate-slaying narrative tells of his 35-year long effort to return to Limerick against all odds, taking in a gamut of historically-themed encounters with the likes of Michel de Grammont, and spanning exotic locations such as Panama, Mexico, Venezuela and Hispaniola. It sheds light on an absolutely fascinating and still divisive subject matter in an entertaining manner, spinning one man’s personalized thread around a period and practice still shrouded in some mystery.
William P Sexton was born in New York City to Irish-born parents, and lived in Ireland during the seventies. He is married with two sons and two grandsons, living in New Jersey. He has previously written three Irish historical novels: Liam O’Connor, I Have Not Forgotten Thee, and Nina’s Irish Odyssey. For details on how to obtain a copy of “Escape from Barbados” see

------- Reviewed in The Irish Emigrant, July 5, 2010 


England’s Oliver Cromwell transported over 50,000 Irish men, women, and children against their will to Barbados between 1652 and 1659. There is no account of a single one of them escaping.
Sean Tierney was one of the transportees sent to Barbados. He was taken in the middle of the night from his wife and children and it took him over 35 years to come home to Ireland.
Sexton’s book tells Tierney’s at times piercing story, charting a roller coaster life during which he fell in love with an African princess who had been reduced to a life of slavery. Tierney’s also joined on his adventures by his biracial son and grandson, and the three meet with many historical figures on the way.
The focus of Escape from Barbados is on historical detail and the unbelievable injustice meted out to the Irish of the period. Sexton keeps his eye firmly on his character through every vicissitude. It’s a triumph against overwhelming odds to inspire any reader.

------ Reviewed in the Irish Voice - Looks at Books by Cahir O’Doherty -  July 7,  2010


William P. Sexton’s Escape From Barbados chronicles the dramatic journey of Sean Tierney, a Limerick swordsman who is captured from his home by Cromwell’s army one night in 1652. Delving into a somewhat neglected area of Irish history, Sexton’s narrative follows Sean as he is taken aboard a slave ship and transported to a plantation in Barbados, just as thousands of Irish were forcibly taken and enslaved during those years. Determined to go home, Sean sets out on a thirty-five-year quest to return to Ireland, encountering many new places and people, which are strange to him. Though he winds up in some dire situations, his “fighting Irish spirit,” as Sexton calls it, always sees him through. His adventure is a fast-paced, easy read.

– Reviewed in Irish America Magazine by Sheila Langan - October/November Issue 2010