At LickaLamp we hand craft lamps using a combination of industrial piping, local teak and other woods, and upcycled bottles. In a nod to history, our signature lines are made using some of the Caribbean's finest rum bottles - we also make custom lamps using bottles of sentimental value or significance to our customers.
The first LickaLamp
At the start of the 17th century the Anglo-Spanish War (1585 – 1604) was raging in Europe and in the waters of the Caribbean. At that time the Spanish-ruled island of Trinidad was already a wide-open port open to the ships and seamen of every nation in the region, and was a particular favorite for smugglers who dealt in tobacco and European manufactured goods.
Fernando de Berrio, the Spanish Governor of Trinidad, who lacked both strong harbor fortifications and possessed only a laughably small garrison of Spanish troops, could do little but take lucrative bribes from English, French and Dutch smugglers and look the other way—or risk being overthrown and replaced by his own people with a more pliable administrator.
In addition to smugglers, Trinidad was also frequented by Privateers – ships authorized by a government by Letters of Marque to attack foreign vessels during wartime, and take them as prizes. In these days the lines between Privateers and Pirates were blurred.
One such Privateer was the Frenchman Francois Livalot, captain of the Marianne. The story of the "Licka Lamp" comes to us thanks in part to Livalot's early training as a military naval officer - he was a meticulous log keeper.
As part of a deal with Trinidad's Spanish governor which would see the Marianne prowl the waters of the Eastern Caribbean hunting for English merchant ships, Livalot was presented with a gift of six cases of Trinidad's finest rum in ornate hand-crafted bottles.
The navies of the day ran on rhum – each crew member received a daily ration of the rhum which was stored in barrels or casks. In order to distinguish the premium rum from the rhum served to the crew, the Governor ordered that the crates should be labelled 'Liquor”. One of the semi-literate workers in the governor's stores painted “Licka” on the crates and it became the subject of a joke between Livalot and de Berrio.
The Marianne put out to sea on the hunt for English bounty. After sacking a merchant ship off the coast of Tobago, Livalot and his officers held an epic feast and drinking session. A young cadet, Alain Charles-Forte took one of the empty “Licka” bottles to make a gift for his young bride Gail – a wench of oriental extraction he had met in Tortuga. Alain's hobby was whittling and he made a finely filigreed wooden frame for the bottle, which he then filled with whale oil to make a lamp.
Alain was subsequently accused of stealing the bottle from the captain's stocks – a serious offence – and sentenced to thirty lashes. Livalot, however, was so impressed with the quality of Alain's workmanship that in an extraordinary show of clemency he spared him the lashes and allowed him to keep the gift he had made for his bride – on the condition that he make some more lamps for the captain's cabin and officers' mess.
The custom eventually spread throughout the Privateer and Pirate fleets – with the ornate bottles of the finest liquor being made into “Licka Lamps”, which could be found in the captain's cabin and were exchanged as gifts.
It is this tradition which has inspired us today.