courtesy of Everybody's Magazine - by Ivor B. Ford
While the Steel Pan may have its roots in Trinidad, it is Antigua and Barbuda that has produced the oldest continuously operating steelband in the world Hell's Gate Steel Orchestra.
Begun as Housecoat Band in 1945, the instruments then used were automotive clutch housings, hollowed piped, biscuit cans, pieces of solid iron and the like. They were obtained from Townsend's Blacksmith shop on Mariners Lane (now the only existing blacksmith's shop on the island). Materials of this nature were also acquired from the Main Solid Waste Dump which was called Dung Heap by the people of the Point Area.
Hell's Gate Steel OrchestraThe Steel Pan came to Antigua by Antiguans who traveled to and from Trinidad in the early years. In 1946, the transformation of the Oil Drum to the Steelpan was done locally. Experiments were carried out at Townsend's Blacksmith Shop and the burning of the pans was done at the Dung Heap, where fire was always available.
The name Hell's Gate was given to the band by the people of the Point Area, and chosen mainly because of the local noise and variety of rhythmic beats produced by the then instruments used. The official naming of the band was adopted in 1947.
The first captain of the band was Eugene Weston and the first manager was Ivan Edwards. Mr. Eustace (Manning) Henry, a pioneer member, former captain, builder and tuner, along with his son, Veron Henry, the vice-captain, are presently the builders and tuners of Hell's Gate Steel Orchestra.
During the late 1940s, the steelband movement was strongly opposed by most of the aristocrats on the island of Antigua; they even went as far as to send petitions to then Gov. Lord Baldwin to outlaw steelbands in the colony. Were it not for Gov. Baldwin, who himself was a steelband enthusiast and a friend of the Grass Root People, together with the Antigua Trades and Labour Union, then headed by the Hon. Vere Cornwall Bird Sr., the steelband may have long been extinct in Antigua. click for full story
Totally correct. It also demonstrates the sharing of caribbean peoples. I think the influence initially came from people who working in Trinidad during the war and returned afterwards and took the ideas to other islands.
Your history of Hells Gate unfortunately misses an import ingredient of the steel band and that is One of its captain. before Eustace Manning, and extremely close friend of Manning, . Cycil 'Spolier' Phillips. Apart from being the captain at that time he also built the bulk of the instruments Manning built his own leading Pan then. Spoiler was also in charge of the finance of the band at that period Mr. Manning will be able to confirm Spoilers significance to the Hells Gate. Spoiler presently resides in St. Croix , was in Antigua 2 years ago where ABS interviewd both men at the Hells Gate pan yard.