Les Coteaux Folklore

You should see a tall, arched stairway made of brick at the top of the hill. That's the ruins of Les Coteaux Estate House (was this the Alma Plantation House), where the owner of this estate lived. Stairs like these, arched, and made of brick, mark the location of all the eighteenth century estate houses on Tobago. Usually, they aren't quite so grand, nearly all are located on hilltops. This gave access to a breeze, that both provided natural air conditioning and also kept the insect population down.

Climb the stairs (they're solid), and face towards where the house was. Look down. You should see a shallow linear depression that was cut into the native rock. This marks the front wall of the estate house. Between it and the stairs you're standing on was a broad front porch that was used as an outdoor living area by the planter's family.

Follow the depression with your eyes. To the right you'll see a brick and stone pier that supported the elevated estate house. The one on the left is gone, but you can still trace the outline of the house. Notice that the house was essentially T-shaped (you are standing in the center of the cross). This was a typical shape, duplicated all over the island. If you turn around and face the village of Les Coteaux, you'll see to your immediate left a semi-circular stone wall. This marks the top of the drive leading to the estate house, and was where carriages, etc. could be turned around. The area was probably paved at one point (there's a drain in one corner), but the paving stones have long since been removed, probably for buildings in the modern village. Further to your left is a segment of a masonry wall that may have been part of the kitchen. These were usually separated from estate houses to cut down on both the risk of fire and the heat given off by cooking.


The legend of Gang Gang Sara, the African witch of Golden Lane, has its origins in the latter half of the 18th century. On a stormy night she was blown from her home in Africa across the sea to Tobago and landed quite safely at the village of Les Coteaux. From there she journeyed to Golden Lane in search of her family who had long ago been transported there she lived to a great age and is remembered for her wisdom and kindness. She became the loving wife of Tom, whom legend says she had known as a child in her native Africa. After her Tom had died, wishing to return to her native land, she climbed a great silk cotton tree and tried to fly, not knowing that she had lost the art of flight as a result of having eaten salt. To this day the names of Tom and Sara can be seen inscribed upon the head stones of their graves where they have lain side by side for close upon two hundred years.

Amongst the swirling currents and white capped blue-green waters, just where the Caribbean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean, close by St. Giles and near to Misty Marble Island, past Anse Gouleme and Anse Brisant, towards the Bird of Paradise Island and down the coast past Speyside to Fat Hog Bay, it is remembered from long ago that this was where the mermaids came to play.

Tobago mermaids are male and live in the deep, deep sea. They mate with the fairymaids of the rivers and the secret mountain pools, riding upon the crest of waves, they are handsome men like kings of old or warriors of long ago, beplumed and richly garbed. They may grant a wish, transform mediocrity into genius and conger wealth and power. Sometimes the water people seek relationships with mortals. Some men are particularly attractive to the fairy maids, especially men with smooth skin. Fairymaids are said to be beautiful. With long lush hair and one tiny foot in the shape of a deer’s hoof, a fairymaid may use her power to 'turn' a man’s head. She may steal his shadow and leave him quite demented. In which case, accompanied by friends and family and with the help of a 'workman', he must go to the river and address the water pleading for the restoration of his lost shadow. This done, he must leave the water’s edge and not look back.

Fairymaids may be found caves behind waterfalls or beneath certain bridges where the river runs deep and swift. In days gone by, they were seen near certain water wheels. To discontinue a relationship with a fairy queen, offerings of two pairs of shoes must be made. The first must be burnt on the beach, the fairymaid will then rise out of the water and ask if she is to be paid for past services. The answer must be 'nothing but this pair of shoes'. The second must then be thrown into the waves. http://www.nalis.gov.tt

Tthe Alma Plantation House was one of the Great Houses of Les Coteaux. Folk Songs of Tobago J D Elder p69