Unveiling a Forgotten Tale


In a momentous effort to revive a significant yet overlooked chapter in history, The Madeira Project, LLC, proudly announces its mission to spotlight the extraordinary story of Dr. Robert Reid Kalley and the Madeiran Exiles of 1846. This ambitious endeavor is brought to life through the captivating feature film, “Divine Insurrection,” which promises to weave a tale of resilience, faith, and the unyielding spirit of a community in the face of adversity.

Going beyond the cinematic experience, The Madeira Project is also at the forefront of digital commemoration. We are creating and maintaining an interactive website dedicated as a portal for the descendants of the Madeiran exiles. This platform will not only serve as a reservoir of information, history, and collaboration but also as a bridge for communication among the descendants. It aims to honor their ancestry while providing engaging experiences for the general public, thereby ensuring that the legacy of the Madeiran exiles and Dr. Kalley’s profound impact resonate through generations.

Through “Divine Insurrection” and our dynamic online platform, The Madeira Project invites audiences worldwide to discover and cherish this pivotal historical saga. Join us in celebrating and preserving the enduring spirit of the Madeiran exiles – a journey of discovery, connection, and reverence for a past that shaped countless lives.

Story Synopsis

In the year 1838 Dr. Robert Kalley, a Scottish minister and physician, arrived at the island of Madeira and discovered that the people were suffering from poverty, illiteracy, and poor health.  In response, Dr. Kalley created both clinics and schools, teaching people to read, using the Bible as the primary text. 

The local church officials were initially grateful to Dr. Kalley for the medical care he was providing, but they soon took a different attitude when the newly Biblically literate Madeirans began questioning the priests and leaving the church.  The priests began calling them “Bible readers” and “Kalley Converts”.  A campaign of harassment of the Bible readers began with declarations, excommunications and in some cases working with the local authorities to charge and imprison followers of Dr. Kalley.

Eventually the church commanded the townspeople themselves to turn on the Bible readers.  The townspeople persecuted them with public humiliation, beatings, and even arson, setting the Bible reader’s houses on fire on several different occasions.  This disturbing situation went on for some time until the faithful in Madeira decided they had had enough and began planning their escape. After a severe riot on August 9, 1846, which forced hundreds of Madeiran faithful into hiding in the hills, two British transport ships in the harbor began firing their cannons intermittently to intimidate the rioters and let them know that the British would protect themselves at all costs, providing Dr. Kalley’s faithful cover to find their way onto the ships.

 On August 23, 1846, the British ship, the “William of Glasgow”, began her voyage to Trinidad with two hundred eleven passengers. This was followed in the weeks and months ahead by other converts seeking refuge.  All in all, approximately 2000 Madeiran Exiles left for Trinidad, Antigua, St Kitts, Demerara and Jamaica.   A thousand of those eventually came to central Illinois, having been invited and hosted by the people there.

The Madeira Connection

Over the past year, The Madeira Project has made numerous connections in Portugal and Madeira specifically, including screenwriter Edgar Medina, who is in script development at this time. 

In June 2023, Steve and Maria (sole partners in The Madeira Project, LLC) visited Madeira, and through the help of our Madeira connection, Jacinto Baptista De Gouveia, visited several key Madeiran government officials, including the President of the Legislative Counsel, José Manuel Rodrigues.

Steve Durham and José Manuel Rodrigues,
President of the Legislative Counsel, Madeira

We found that the Madeiran government is very much interested in telling the story of this very brief period in Madeira’s history and have expressed their support for our filming efforts in Madeira (which is essential for filming in Madeira).

In general, the relationships we’ve established in Madeira through Claudio’s many connections, generated from a lifetime of service in Madeiran banking, will be an important factor in selling the project to the European markets and film funds, notwithstanding the interest from the Portuguese government itself.

Project Team

Steve Durham - Executive Producer

As a 5th generation Madeiran Exile descendant, Steve’s passion for telling the story of their persecution and escape  is a very personal thing,; something that has been years in the making.  After decades engaged in the work of online digital media, Steve is making the transition to film, and is fortunate to have the support of several key industry professionals who have also developed a passion for this story and this film.

Maria Rychlicki - Executive Producer

With a master’s in communication arts from the prestigious Annenberg School for Communication Arts and a lifetime of public service, Maria brings a deep understanding of the human condition and a commensurate commitment to this project, telling the story of bravery in the face of persecution and hardships.  Her years in service have informed the project since the beginning.

Varushka Franceschi - Producer

Varushka brings a wealth of talent, experience, and connections to the project, with formal studies at schools like the international theater school L’Ecole Jacques Lecoq in Paris, and the American University in Paris.  Varushka went on to study and work in London as a model and actress.  She has worked extensively in theater in London and on British TV,  beginning her career in production working in Europe with such artists as Krzysztof Zanussi and Ben Gazzara.

Deb Struzyna - Genealogist

Deb Kleber Struzyna is a retired Microsoft Director with a long-standing passion for genealogy.  In the late 1990s, she began stumbling upon disjointed bits of Madeira Exile stories. Soon afterwards Deb created the MadeiraExiles.com website, using the first-ever version of something called an “internet browser.”  Via that site, hundreds of worldwide connections were made with fellow Exile descendants who began volunteering to assist others’ research by transcribing documents and uploading precious family photos. 

Professor Maria de Abreu - Cultural Studies

Maria Zina Goncalves de Abreu is Associate Professor at the University of Madeira, and Senior Researcher at ULICES-Ceaul (Research Centre of American Studies), University of Lisbon, Portugal. Her main areas of expertise are English and American cultural studies, but she has also dedicated much of her academic and research activities to women’s studies.

Jacinto Baptista De Gouveia - Advisor

Jacinto is a direct descendant of the Madeiran Exiles, whose family still resides in Madeira, after taking refuge in Trinidad and Tobago and Central Illinois, USA.  In 2012 he founded the Robert Reid Kalley Association, keep alive Kalley’s doctrine and the interconnection between the elements of this community and residents mainly in the USA, Brazil, Venezuela and Trinidad and Tobago and Hawaii.  After a lifetime career in business in Portugal and around the world, Jacinto is a value resource, not just in terms of history and religion, but also connections to both the Madeiran Exile community globally, and the Portuguese government and more importantly, the Madeiran government.

Virginia Langum - Advisor

Virginia is professor in English literature at Umeå University in Umeå Sweden, with a PhD from Cambridge University.  She is also a 6th generation Madeiran Exile descendant, with a strong understanding of the story, based on her ongoing research into the era, the culture, and the details surrounding the events of 1838-1846, when Dr. Kalley touched the lives of so many Madeirans.  Not incidentally, her father, David Langum, published a book about Dr. Kalley and the Madeiran persecutions and exile.  She has been an active part of the Madeiran Exile community for many years.


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