Letters to the Editor

Memories of the Esso Steel Band from 1952

  • Fond memory: Finn Pederson received this steel drum from Bermuda's Esso Steel Band back in 1952 when he was twelve, and rediscovered it while cleaning up at home in Norway
  • Talented musicians: The Esso Steel Band, circa 1965. Standing, from left, are Rudolph Commissiong, Carl Borde, Steve Dupres and Calvin Dove. Kneeling are Ivan Nelson and Hubert Smith Jr (Photograph supplied)

Dear Sir,

Look what I found in the cellar cleaning up after the Norwegian winter: a rusty steel pan!

The story goes like this: in 1952, when I was 12 years old, I was with my father, who was captain on a cargo liner. The ship was 9,000 tonnes deadweight and owned by HM Wrangel & Co in Haugesund, Norway, but chartered by Alcoa at the time.

We were on vacation that summer together with my mother and younger brother. The ship had gone far up in the “bush” (Demerara River, Three Friends Mine) in British Guiana to load bauxite. The ship could not take more than half the cargo, otherwise it would stroke the bottom of the river. Therefore we had to fill up the rest in Bermuda. Then we went to Alcoa’s aluminium works in Saguenay River in Quebec, Canada.

With us on board, we had a Bermudian steel band, who had won a competition and had been taken out to represent Esso on a PR tour in Canada — The Esso Steel Band. The trip took several days and the band exercised every afternoon or evening on the aft deck. They were very good musicians, who not only played Caribbean music, but whatever we asked them to play. In fact, we could just sing or whistle a tune and they found the song immediately, classic or jazz. All of them must have had absolute perfect pitch.

I got as a gift a “Steel Pan” from them — look at the picture and you can see the original Esso logo. I am really ashamed of letting it lay and rust, but I will try to clean it as much as possible.

I know that the original band was founded in 1942 and was led by Hugh Borde from 1951 until 1976 and still is going on.

I found an article in your fine paper from May 21, 2016 about the band and 40 years with Rudolph Commissiong.

There is, by the way, a steel band here in my home town Stavanger, it is the only one in Norway.


Stavanger, Norway