A brief reflection of one of Dominica’s more prosperous periods

It’s not a well-known fact that at one time the lush nature island of Dominica was the world’s largest producer of limes, the prime ingredient of the famous Rose’s Lime Juice Cordial.

Although in evidence during the 1880’s, the high point of the West Indian green lime trade was between 1903 and the mid 1920’s. This was the most prosperous period that the island had ever experienced, the largest purchaser being L. Rose & Lime Company of Leigh, Edinburgh, Scotland.

Established in 1865 by Lauchlan Rose, whose family was prominent in the Scottish shipbuilding industries; it became famous for its Rose’s Lime Cordial and latterly, its delicious lime marmalade. In those days it was mandatory for ships to carry a supply of lime or lemon juice, to stave off the painful human condition known as scurvy – and Rose’s strategy was to supply enough of this health enhancing cocktail to the world’s transient sailors.

In 1867, Rose patented a process that preserved the citrus juice without the addition of alcohol. While this may have made him unpopular with the sailors, the alcohol free juices quickly became the choice of responsible fleet owners.

To keep up with the ever increasing demand, Rose’s had to buy into Dominica’s lime output in big style. In 1891, the company purchased Bath and Elmshall Estates from William Davies in the south-west of the island and converted an old sugar factory for the processing of limes. By 1906, the company had started to manufacture calcium nitrate and in 1921, a factory was erected at Bath Estate for the production of citric acid crystals, an essential component for the bubbles in fizzy drinks – so it’s not surprising therefore that Rose & Co. became synonymous with limes and lime products across the island.

Two of Dominica’s better known estates, Picard and Soufriere, were added to the company’s business after World War 11, with Aroment (1958) and Canefield plus Wallhouse coming on board in the 1960’s. Lime sales were soaring.

In 1957, Rose’s was bought out by Schweppes Ltd., the largest drinks manufacturer in Britain, and expanded its product line. Schweppes in turn merged with Cadbury, the chocolate magnate, and global marketing for Rose’s became a reality.

The Lime Juice Cordial is, without a doubt, Rose’s flagship in sales and is renowned world-wide for its supreme “mixability”; the bottom line here is that it only takes a little to make a long drink, whether it be sweet or sharp, in mineral water or in a medicinal tonic – such as, according to Sir T. O. Gimlette’s reviving Gimlet cocktail, requiring a splash of gin or vodka and a clean palate – you can’t mistake the class in your glass!

By 1978, changes in world economy, domestic politics and significant investment by the parent group in Ghana and Cameroon, resulted in L. Rose & Co. pulling out of Dominica and an era of advancement within the “Nature Island” was seemingly, but sadly put on hold – for a little while at least.

Written by Laurie Stevens of Ace Caribbean Real Estate (www.acecaribbeanrealestate.com)

Many thanks to Dr. Lennox Honeychurch for access to his historical records of Dominica