The Gleaners

On my ramblings around Barbados in May 2004, some of the local people, who called me ‘the white man who walks’, thought I wasn’t quite right in the head, especially as I had a tendency to set off around mid-day.

On one occasion this proved to be quite happy for the photographer in me. Today I scanned another half dozen colour slides from that day, and was able to watch the sugar cane being harvested.

Sugar cane on lorry 5.04 1

It was the approach of this loaded lorry that alerted me to what was going on.

Sugar cane field 5.04

Here was the cane to be cut before collecting;

Sugar cane in containers 5.04

and, further on, containers loaded beside stripped fields.

Sugar cane harvest loading 5.04 1Sugar cane harvest loading 5.04 2

Tractors were employed to load the vehicles;

Couple harvesting sugar cane 5.04

after which, were this elderly couple engaged in gleaning? I must say I felt for them labouring under the overhead sun.


They put me in mind of Jean-Francois Millet’s painting ‘The Gleaners’, which caused such a stir at the Paris Salon in 1857.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s superb smoked haddock and piquant cauliflower cheese (recipe) meal followed by sticky toffee pudding and cream. We both drank Seashore Isla Negra Chardonnay 2014.

55 responses to “The Gleaners”

  1. I agree your photos are like art and paintings. Derrick, thanks for sharing your trip to Barbados. I like the trees that drape over the gield. Thank you also for reminding me of the “Gleaners” French realism at its best. 🙂

  2. I love the gleaners in your photo as much as the painting. In Australia the sugar cane waste is sold as mulch. Australia has thin top soil in most parts, therefore mulch is big business here. Rainforests and wetland’s have almost all been claimed by settlers and turned to dust under the hooves of cattle and sheep. Mass plantings of unsuitable crops and mining have further eroded and degraded the land.

  3. Great pictures, Derrick. I know about sugar cane from being here in Florida so long, but it’s nice to see Barbados, my great-grandfather was born there. (I wonder how you try to get records for way back then?)

  4. Ahhh….sugar cane harvesting…so reminiscent of my time in Mauritius . do they burn off the stubble. They sure do on Mauritius despite it being illegal to do so. We lived virtually on the edge of cane fields and many a time feared for our house when the cane fires loomed close…

  5. Beautiful story, Derrick 🙂 And the last two photos are amazing. Which are the painting and which are the photo? I know, last one is the painting but there are so many similarities 🙂

  6. Why did Jean-Francois Millet’s painting cause a stir?
    I enjoyed chewing sugar cane as a child, although I didn’t know how they were grown or harvested. This brought back some fond memories.

  7. I love these photos … I spent a little time in the interior of the Dominican Republic years and years ago, where sugar cane is harvested this way. These photos brought back many important memories for me…

    And The Gleaners … An enormous embroidered version of it hung over my parents’ bed all throughout my childhood, and it hangs there still. As a little girl I always thought it pictured the biblical story of Ruth, and I suppose, in a way, it does.

    Thank your for the nostalgia today. <3

  8. Interesting to see how sugar cane is harvested in other countries, a far cry from the modern methods we employ in Queensland here in Australia.
    Your pictures were worth the walk.

  9. Thank you for sharing these wonderful photos, Derrick! I love Jean-Francois Millet’s paintings. I have a print of ‘The Gleaners’, got from the Louvre gift shop. 🙂

  10. Oh how interesting to see sugar cane harvested. I have never even seen it grow! I read somewhere that harvesting it is backbreaking work, and I believe it. I too felt for the two gleaners out there in the hot, hot sun….

  11. Going for walks is usually an opportunity to see wonderful things, particularly when you aren’t at home. This day was a good one for you, and I would have loved to be there to witness it as you were. From a boat on the Nile I spotted women carrying sacks of sugar cane on their heads, and thought it was remarkable that what seems like an ungainly product for carrying could be carried successfully in that way. Even the lorry seems burdened by a lopsided load, ha ha.

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