The Steel Donkey is essentially the Barbadian version of the Jamaican Rolling Calf. This ‘creature’ emerged sometime in the early 20th century, out of the superstition of ‘cursing’; that is, the belief that persons could put curses on others. In appearance, the steel donkey has features of an animal (more specifically, a donkey) with eyes like fire (and apparently he was fire breathing as well according to some reports) and a clanking chain.
The donkey has been associated with stones landing on houses without anyone in sight seen to be throwing them. Others have associated the steel donkey with terrorizing some members of Barbados, particularly those from rural areas and their homes in the middle of the night. One minute it resided in Silver Sands, next it was seen in Bay Street (neither of these are rural areas I might add).
In the words of the famous Barbadian music group The Merrymen, “Half o Barbados swear that dey see the Steel Donkey”. Yet, no one can agree on what he/she/it was…
Here’s an excerpt taken from the book “Talk that Talk: An Anthology of African American Storytelling”, Chapter: Jumbie, Duppy, an’ Spirit by Paul Keens-Douglas:
Some spirit dat look like ah calf,
Wit, big, big eyes an’ clankin’ chain,
An’ does run ‘bout de place at nite like it haunted.
An’ de Bajans not too far behin’ neither,
Yu know how Barbados very Bristish already,
Dey have someting call “Steel Donkey!”
Same kind a ting like de Rolling Calf,
Excep’ dis time is ah donkey, an’ ah “steel donkey” to boot,
I say mus’ be ah industrial Duppy.
Ah fella tell me ah story
How once one take part in ah horse race on de Garrison.
He say de race start wit’ nine horses,
But halfway roun’ de track people seein’ ten,
Was ah Steel Donkey join de race.
Nex’ ting all dem horses bolt fus dey frighten.
De Steel Donkey come is fus,
But jus’ as it cross de line it disappear.
So he say – but I tink he lie. (page 343)
As you can see, there is hardly a consensus about who or what the Steel Donkey was and what was its purpose. Many ‘real life’ sightings, such as the one from the excerpt tend to vary in their description of what the Steel Donkey was. Information has been limited on this particular aspect of Bajan folklore, but, if you have any information to share, feel free to use our comments section below!
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