Bahamian Legend ‘Bonefish Folley’ Dies
‘…Bonefish Folley, he’s the one and only…’ is the first thing that comes to mind when asked about the world-renowned bone-fishing expert Israel “Bonefish Folley” Rolle.
The Andros native passed away peacefully in his sleep, yesterday morning at his home in West End, Grand Bahama.
Due to his 60 plus years of being a fishing guide and his numerous genuine acts of hospitality towards guests he is considered one of The Bahamas’ most beloved tourism ambassadors.
Before moving to Freeport, “Folley” spent his formative years in Bimini where it is said, he acquired his “outstanding bone-fishing skills.”
As a fishing guide in Bimini back in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, he met some very rich, famous and powerful people such as celebrity author Ernest Hemingway, civil rights activist and leader Martin Luther King, politician Adam Clayton Powell, actresses Lucille Ball and Lana Turner and former United States president Richard Nixon, all of whom regularly used his services.
Therefore it came as no surprise when he was named one of the original coordinators of the Bimini fishing tournaments, a tournament that has continued to flourish under his patronage.
As his love for fishing grew, so did his love for people. Tourists and residents alike, described him as a ‘charismatic and out-going person,” who was always ready and willing to help others.
Over the years he became known for his expert fishing skills, but because of his natural charm he was able to develop a good clientele with many of the hotels on the island, including Old Bahama Bay, where the owner Sash Spencer named a restaurant in his honor, ‘Bonefish Folley’s Bar and Grille.’
Many visitors returned year after year requesting “Bonefish” by name and his presence and guidance while on fishing trips.
In addition to fishing, he also dabbled in the arts.
He began playing the drums with a band called the ‘The Bimini Seranades’ and continued to perform at several of the nation’s top entertainment spots.
The people of West End mourn a man whom many of them considered ‘father and grandfather,’ but Folley only had seven biological children, two of which, followed in his footsteps and began working with him as tour guides.
When he wasn’t out to sea, Bonefish kept busy by working with numerous film crews for the Ministry of Tourism and appearing on several television shows, including National Geographic.
He won countless awards such as the British Empire Medal and a Cacique Award, which honors excellence in Tourism.
In a interview with Bonefish back in 2003, he was asked whether Phil Stubbs’ hit Bahamian song about him helped his business, he replied, “Most definitely.
“The song made a difference in my life… but some people think that because of it I must be big and important, but I can’t change. I am still, who I am.”
His humble attitude, infectious smile and dedication towards something he loved and enjoyed doing will be greatly missed by the West End community and The Bahamas at large.
The Freeport NewsBahamians, celebrity, fishing