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PUBLISHED BY THE INSTITUTE Or- JAMAICA
The Jamaican Heritage in Dance......... Cheryl Ryman
Hosay (Extract)........... & A. Mansingh
The Intuitive Eve Editor Interviews
David Boxer ..... .. . .
The Bird Tree ........ .. ......... .. Nova Gordon
The Portland Bight Oil Spill . ........ Barry Wade
Peat as Fuel .. . ... ..... Edward Robinson
Productivity, of Jamaican Scientists ......Gerald Lalor
The Natural History of the Coconut . .H H Harries
The Panama Railway ...... ........... Olive Senior
Corollary:The Chinese who came
from Panama. ....... Olive Senior
Jamaica & The Cuban Ten
Nears War 1868 1878..... .. ...Charles C. Jacobs
Publications Received .... ..
Robert Charles Dallas Author of
Anonymous Book on Jamaica....Michael Ashcroft
Search for the H.M.S. Hinchinbrooke.. Anthony Goffe
The Iron Bridge at Spanish Town...... David Buisseret
Front Cover 'S.eet Orjnges' b\ Mll cj Reynolds Ikapol
iCourtes. or Hie Aanonal Galler} I
Back Cover I. Lagoon behind Rocky Point showing fresh oil on
surface and among Mangroves. 2. Heasy coating on red
mangrove roots in the intertidal zone.
FOR SUBSCRIPTION INFORMATION PLEASE SEE PAGE 107
Mother "in de spirit". Revival Zion: Watt Town
c7'erifage in Wance
Developing a traditional typology
Miss Cheryl Ryman was educated at York University, Toronto, Canada
where she obtained the B.A. (Hons.) She is a Research Fellow Sociology
(Dance) at the African Caribbean Institute of Jamaica since 1974 and
part-time tutor (practical and academic) at Jamaica School of Dance
and Drama. She also did research in Ghana in 1972-73 while attached
to the Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana. She is author
of Jonkonnu and is principal dancer and member of the National
Dance Theatre Company of Jap'aica since 1967. Between 1970-1974
while in Canada she was Dance Director of the Cultural School. She
also taught and choreographed while at York University.
Dance has done tiuch more than to preserve the
movement expressions of our people; it is both
catalyst and agent particularly of the African
aspect of our heritage, which constitutes the major
part of our birthright. As catalyst it generates and
continues to give meaning to activities like the
preparation of fufu (food of African origin) and as
agent, it remains the single most important vehicle
through which to recall the past and reveal the
essence of Jamaican culture. Here we find the
strongest and sometimes the only living evidence of
how our forefathers dressed, spoke, cooked, sang,
played and moved; how they ordered their spiritual
and physical environment and lives.
Today many of us stand at the crossroads,
uncertain of our future and ignorant of our past. Yet
the imperative to preserve, to reveal, and to let our
traditional dances live, is slowed down by the
constant pull between romantic and pragmatic
extremes of attitude. However there may be common
ground between the two in recognizing: (a) the
urgency to record our past before it slips away with
the passing of each generation "An old man dies
.... "a book is lost" and (b) the need to treat the
"folk" and folk material with real respect rather than
callously or with superficial obeisance so frequently
At all levels of society we need to reassess our
attitudes to the agents of our heritage. The tendency
to consider and treat many of our traditional forms
(primarily of African origin) carelessly and with a
By Cheryl Ryman
display of "foreign" ignorance, is all too prevalent,
even in some government agencies, especially those
responsible for the visual medium. The effect of these
attitudes has been to produce fleeting thrills and
nearly permanent damage to the viewers perception
of their African heritage. Individuals or groups in
positions of influence, such as teachers and theatrical
producers, may be as culpable as their governmental
Certainly, as a sovereign independent nation since
1962, we cannot shift or dodge this, our own,
responsibility to preserve and accurately project our
heritage. This responsibility has to be rooted in the
consciousness of the importance or correcting a
psychologically crippling situation: A population
that is some 90% African in origin, carries a deeply
conditioned negative African-Caribbean self-image,
while aspiring to an ultimately unattainable
Euro-centric ideal. This schizoid situation not only
persists but forms a significant part of our explosive
reality. Anything therefore which contributes to the
continuation of this schizophrenia is self-damaging;
and in the year 1980 no Jamaican should still
perpetuate, even through ignorance, those
exaggerated sensationalist attitudes directed
towards our African heritage. This is one legacy of
the colonial experience which must be shed.
Respected folklorists have made the valid point
that the folk are quite capable of protecting
themselves, however the culture forms which they
carry are quite another matter. Protection and
preservation should be paramount in dissemination
either through audio-visual, theatrical or written
media. The visual representation of this material
necessarily becomes an area of priority, and warrants
serious consideration. It is here that opportunities
for exploitation and abuse readily present
themselves to those who apply misinformed and
I refer, most specifically, to any number of
traditional dances that are rooted in or reflect a
fertility orientation. If we understand that
procreation was/is considered vital to the African's
survival in life and death, in Africa and the diaspora,
then we can perhaps understand their apparent
preoccupation with "sexual" movements. Further, it
is not unusual, as in Jonkonnu, for the traditional
treatment within the context of the dance to be such
as to allow for what the folk themselves define as
"sexual play". It is simply a representation in
Misguided projection of our heritage, either for
entertainment or, what is worse for what is
purported to be serious documentation, is not only
unnecessary, but belittles our cultural identity. It is
unnecessary. In Independent Jamaica at any rate,
when there are respected individual researchers/in-
formants, in the Institute of Jamaica and elsewhere,
who can provide the necessary guidance and
verification of authenticity. Perhaps coherent policy
guide-lines emanating from the appropriate
authorities, would assist institutions and individuals
in formulating their strategies to avoid future
misrepresentation. Serious attention and response to
this obligation would allow cultural agencies and
their representatives to maintain a measure of
integrity, nationally and internationally. It would
also guarantee a more consistently balanced and
accurate presentation to the public. The optimum
result, of course, would be the emergency of a
psychologically healthier citizenry poised for real
growth and development.
Conversely, unless positive steps are taken to
effectively deal with the problems cited, then we run
a very real risk the risk that through
self-perpetuated ignorance, we will stand rootless
and ornamental, waving a banner of Jamaican
culture ORIGINS UNKNOWN.
The traditional dances arrange themselves into
much tighter groupings than the lengthy list of some
39 dances would seem to indicate. Ethnic
predominance and distribution of various African
and European peoples, together with socio-historical
events, have created a situation in which: (a) "Core"
types feed into and are fed by a number of variants;
(b) "Core" areas i.e. Maroon communities, as a
microcosm of the larger society and acting as a
culture of synthesis and preservation, exerted an
influence on the nature and extent of the African and
conversely, European retentions.
In the first category, core types have been
represented by the names of certain dance types
(MAROON, MYAL, KUMINA, REVIVAL,
RASTAFARI, JONKONNU, HOSAY) without
necessarily indicating a direct source of origin or
inter-relationship, except where indicated.
-Goumnbay Saleone Calimbe
Pa-Pa Combolc -
- KongqofJ Nago Bongo ] E D
-Tambu EtuZ- Convince al t
- laku umbe Flenkey J A.-A i
--Warr ic-k Zionr~
--Kttha _Jt Puk-kumina L-4 tr.~~ ~c
Buru FIlli T
a Emar-cipa~ti:''.: T,- ~ a~I,.= .r-nr
the vEr'.u.l C ri,-ar, 1. to, th.
appear% Ci :.r !,U. :. -
ily to ~rrEir .oriv-t.r. .i~-Et,,: rffi c'
relip a-,-_ tr~a. ... Klj.Tliiln: c.-.r
excep-zion. -.-. aaoeric oebit ore. .ia rjl.:r
suggeszt-mat tni- iL-i.5.i ,rr
revitasl,,F oa. r I-f 1k:~ .f Di uant,, w-ol-I
to Rat -tfar.
Quadrille B UK-1
I Brukin Party
Malpole Queen Part)-
HFLGi TLI.c CI.5 LC' L, r.I' -tr.BaMS
RELIGIOUS CORE bArCES:
My51/k-urr1ira_ At'riCen ajncretic reh3iOi.a
Marojn Reatefaeri: African iaolaetiorim
and preseruaton- during slavery and in
the modern urban COantEt.
HAevrial: Euro-African syncr:tism5
SECULAR CCRE OArjCE'7:
Hose,: Tri eo.erail East nisr, caontri-
tution to the Jamnaiccan lance hr'ritag.
.ionkanrvI Tr, spc~.1ar flasqu.~rede trad-
Ition. I() Dances cperforred u~sail, in
the c.inta.r or Ftuncral/r Etnh rite;
(BJ Set Dances. LC) J1riants aEried
directly prcr. tr, core Cr4) rprreational
iT T I I ZII I
r 1. T- r n r ~~.
~ -: i i 5r iI : -
--.D '13 :
TRADITIONAL DANCE CHART
The core types (and variants) and their relationships to each other on
the dance chart, have been arranged to reflect the following considera-
MAROON: The Maroons are a mixture of Arawak, Spanish and
various African ethnic groups, on whom the Akan exerted a later and
great influence. With the coming of the English in 1655, many slaves of
the Spaniards who had previously colonized the island, retreated to the
mountains to form a stronghold against their continued enslavement.
Their numbers were augmented by runaway slaves, and by successful
raids on plantations. The Maroons are admired for their tenacity and
courage in fighting for their independence and for gaining official
recognition of this independence from the British as early as 1738-39.
The Maroons are noted for their "Myal" or "Medicine" men, who
employ music and dance on special occasions. Other important
dance/music occasions include the Accompong Maroon's annual
celebration of 6 January, which marks their Independence. This day
also commemorates the birthday of Cudjoe, the celebrated leader of the
18th century western Maroons.
The isolationist nature of Maroon society allowed greater
opportunities for African synthesis and syncretisms. By contrast, the
"plantation" culture, under the direct control and dominance of the
Europeans/British, was necessarily,far more engaged in Afro-European
synthesis/syncretisms. As a result, many African forms were
Europeanized. Some forms were consciously disguised in order to
maintain what was important to the slave. Others happily converged
where a common ground was found between the two cultures. Here, the
European influence tended to dominate.
Those African forms which could not be accommodated in the
acculturation process, simply went underground. There, the chances of
survival, especially without distortion, were limited.
In this context, the significance of the relationship between Maroon
and plantation societies cannot be overstated. Firstly, the plantation
provided a very real line of physical and cultural survival for the
Maroons, particularly for.those in the west who, before the peace treaty,.
found it increasingly difficult to produce in sufficient quantities to meet
their needs. The Maroons depended on the plantation not only for
supplies of food and ammunition but also for information and for new
recruits who were also culture carriers.
It should be noted that Africans within the Maroon society enjoyed a
more positive personal identity and experienced greater social/cultural
security than their plantation counterparts. The latter were engaged in
a game of physical and psychological survival. As such, they were
forced to submerge or negate their personal/cultural identity for
"plantation" security. Maroon culture, particularly during the period
of slavery, necessarily became a positive symbol of African
identification and conquest over the seemingly invincible force of
European domination. This role was climaxed in the early freedom
gained by the Maroons between 1738-9 and 1795 (second Maroon war)
Finally, Maroon society, by preserving the religious core
(Myal/Kumina) of African culture, was able to act as a catalyst and give
form to the resurgence of African identity and consciousness during
and especially after slavery. As such, Maroon culture has served as
either or both source and inspiration for the widespread healing and
'balm yard' practices throughout Jamaica.
Given the pivotal role that Maroon culture played in the preservation
and moulding of the Jamaican heritage, dances have therefore been
arranged on the dance chart to reflect this influence on the religious
and secular core types. Here it also becomes important to bear in mind
the location of Maroon communities (past and present) when looking at
the parishes of strongest dance activity in the island.
Maroon Communities: indicating surrounding parishes (See Dance
(1) Portland Moore Town (and surrounding settlements)
Charles Town (St. Thomas, Kingston and St. Andrew)
(2) St. Mary Scott's Hall (St. Ann, Kingston and St. Andrew)
(3) St. Elizabeth Accompong (Trelawny, Westmoreland and St. James)
(4) St. James-Trelawny Maroon Town (Hanover and Westmoreland)
(5) Clarendon-St. Catherine Early Maroon settlements in the Juan de
Bolas mountain region.
MYAL has been viewed as the religious core of Afro Jamaican
culture. It is seen as emanating from the Maroon experience where it
developed its local characteristics. Myalism is still to be found among
or in proximity to certain Maroon communities in its purest form as
Goumbay. Notably, "medicine" men alias Myal men-Healers are
greatly respected in these areas.
KUMINA: Since the dispersion of Maroon culture into the larger
society, Myalism has been absorbed into Kumina and other similar or
closely related Afro-religious groups. As such, Kumina has now come
to be viewed as the religious core of Afro-Jamaican culture. In this
context, dance, music, spirit possession, healing and the use of herbs
are the dominant elements.
REVIVAL the 1860-61 religious phenomenon which gave rise to
two main branches Zion of a more Euro-Christian orientation and
Puk-kumina which retained or revitalized strong African elements
following the 1860 Euro-Christian explosion among the Black
population. The significance of this post-emancipation form is its
departure from a direct African or European source. As such, it
represents the first real Jamaican synthesis of two cultures Africa
and Europe notably on a religious base. Here, Revival (Zion and
Puk-kumina) may be viewed as an Afro-European syncretism in which
the African form persists, less visibly than in Kumina for example, but
which has served to reinterpret and transform many of the more visible
RASTAFARIhas been viewed as a continuing African, neo-African
or Jamaican Creole form, into which the urban experience has been
integrated. It evolved notably out of a religious African consciousness,
taking its form from the Revival syncretic experience. It is therefore at
once traditional blending Revival, Buru, Kumina and Maroon
forms, and contemporary feeding into and taking sustenance from
popular urban (and now rural) dance-music forms, like Reggae. Most
important) Rastafari has assumed the isolationist role of Maroon
culture in the modern-urban context with the capacity to preserve,
reinterpret and create a truly indigenous Creole culture.
JONKONNU represents the more secular masquerade tradition,)
whose original religious purpose has been lost, submerged or relegated
to mere symbolism. The religious aspect was greatly eroded, especially
during slavery, by European domination and influence. Being more
visually acceptable to European tastes and having exhibited real
Afro-European parallels, this dance form received great support.
Inevitably, many characters and elements were readily disguised,
adapted and added to by the performers in response to this patronage
and tolerance. A number of dances that have either developed out of or
were originally incorporated into the Jonkonnu tradition, have been
appropriately indicated on the dance chart.
N.B.: Some dances did not'separate or fall comfortably under the
broad Myal-Kumina and Jonkonnu headings. However, it would have
been unnecessarily cumbersome to create separate headings for these
dances. As such they have been appropriately placed under the existing
headings where they reflect similarities in either (a) the secular or
religious aspects or (b) the specific elements of the dance and or music.
Group A under Jonkonnu, in addition to its secular correlation to (a)
and (b), reflects a religious context (in which it is performed), being
related to funeraVdeath observances.
HOSAYreflects the post-1845 contribution of the East Indian culture
to Jamaica. It has been pointed out by Dr. Ajai Mansingh (who has
I ATlRE1 i11
* GERE Mento
Kongo Ring Game
* BELE Mento
Buru s NAGO
* HOSAY Ring Game
Bruckin Party Masumba
Calimbe 4 MENTO
* GOUMBAY Puk-Kumina
Jonkonnu Ring Game
* Strongest Dance Types in Parish
* Regions with strong dance tradition
* Research areas visited
* Research areas visited Parish Capitals
I Maroon Communities(Present)
* QUEEN PARTY
* RING GAME
* AMBUSH Mento
* BRUCKIN PARTY Myal
Dinkie Minie Puk-Kumina
Goumbay Ring Game
*JONKONNU SHAY SHAY
4 o roe, "Maypole
ST. ANN'S Maypol
N Windsor Pq,' Spring
Sturge Ton Drax Hal .e PORT MARIA
.u wn Davis Town Retreat
SS erry Islington
Higgin Town 7 on .
A N N Harmony Hall R
lexand'a Dean Pen *Highgate y< *U 8-
Moneague Rih Chovey
FernessGibrltar m* May River* Charles I
Troja Rose Hill Mt. pleasant o
"- Harswood \ sLastleton *s ayH
Ewarton. Riversdale. M dstne. e'aa Nonutch
Kellits* dust Casa River Bourbon Sherwood
out Ileno Lawrence Tavern O
Git \ 4`?OSrbonoore TTOwn Or.,
as "Boas, SON T' L A N D Ps
0-Mountains p AN Mavis Manchione
'a Pos Sligoville Way- AL N D choneae
7 ie R Kensington Papine Industry S
*Chapleton Ginger Ridge TrOench o Villag es7
SPANISH TOWN a0j i A ney r.
Dnbigh Old Har ~ c v
Ion o* #u Golden
MAY PEN Spring Valley Village r iP /v Z // Hfai o enfel
e 0.. otq e.O port a Rod-P
'l% Hru 6 4jlohn. poi
ST. CATHERINE ST. THOMAS
ckin Party Maypole
kie Minie Rastafari
NKEY Ring Game
imbay Shay Shay
done research into Indian retentions in Jamaica) that Hosay, as a dance
form, is not representative of the extent of the Indian dance heritage in
Those dances that involve a greater variety of movement (in content and
form),, and that are still performed, include:
(a) Traditional forms like Phiriki (or Nut), Paturia, Jonglia, Kath-
ghora and Professional/Trade Folk dances.
(b) Modernlpopular forms based on either "creative classics" choreo-
graphed for and observed in a spate of Indian films or an evolving
popular idiom. The latter loosely integrates Indian and Reggae
steps to the accompaniment of Indian music.
However, Hosay was selected as the "core" label for the overall East
Indian contribution, since it is the term that most non-Indian Jamai-
cans would readily associate with East Indian dance and folk forms.
The Indian presence was viewed by the Afro-Jamaican society as a
potentially powerful addition to the existing religious and secular
forms. It has been incorporated into both Revival and Jonkonnu.
The dance chart indicates a movement of absorption in one direction
only, i.e. Hosay to Revival and Jonkonnu. The author has not been able
to ascertain how much assimilation took place in the opposite direction,
i.e. over the above the recent incorporation of reggae into the popular
The traditional Dance Map of Jamaica was prompted by the need to
identify and locate all the known traditional dances in Jamaica, active
within the past fifty years. The map is intended to serve as an
introduction to and a comprehensive representation of traditional
dance retentions, which are predominantly of African origin or
adaptation. Most importantly, the map testifies to the survival and the
broad-based wealth of the Jamaican heritage in Dance.
Findings were based on written and field sources together with an
island-wide survey (random).
The dances have been arranged under the appropriate parish
headings where they are to be found. Towns and districts within each
parish have been located without attempting to relate dances to
specified areas. However, dances have been appropriately identified
where they are readily associated with or have survived primarily in a
given parish. The legend of the map their ,re indicates:
(a) strongest areas) of dance activity for each dance type
(b) Research areas visited
(c) Maroon communities past and present
Notes accompany the map in order to provide the reader with some
background to the wide variety of traditional dance types. Their
relationships to core types and to each other have been emphasized to
reinforce my earlier proposition. Similarly, areas of ethnic
predominance have been identified to underscore the richness and
variety of the Jamaican Heritage in Dance.
NOTES ON THE DANCES
AMBUSH is a Maroon mime-dance to be found among the Moore
Town Maroons. An important feature of this dance is a guard of
honour which is formed by Maroons completely covered in their typical
"bush" camouflage which commemorates their battles against the
English. The dance is usually done to pay homage to a distinguished
visitor or returning Maroon.
BELE The name seems to be of French derivation. The dance was
mentioned in Westmoreland, where it has been performed at Wakes,
being referred to as a "Bele play".
BONGO is possibly only a generic term for any African-based
dance-music type, or behaviour pattern, for that matter. The term has
been used to describe dances among the Maroon and Kumina people,
also as an interchangeable term for Convince. (See also Convince).
BRAG is a processional dance done on the way to a Queen Party. Each
Queen would be accompanied by attendants who would hit sticks over
her head. "Buru" people sing songs which refer to Brag. (See also
Bram: is an old time dance step done spontaneously to Mento-type
music, village or country bands. A party may be referred to as a
"Bram" when noisy.
BRUCKIN PARTY is a stately, dipping-gliding dance typified by the
"thrust and recovery" action of the hip and leg. It was formerly done to
commemorate the Emancipation of the slaves on 1 August, 1838. The
form and content of the dance, with Red and Blue Sets competing, is
reminiscent of 19th century plantation Jonkonnu and the Set Girls'
parades. Today it is to be found in Manchioneal where it is performed
by both the old and young people of the Kensington-Manchioneal area
in Portland, for Festival competitions or as requested. It is also
evidenced in Queen Party usually seen at Tea Meetings.
BURU is a fertility Masquerade dance form to be found in Lionel
Town and Hayes (Clarendon) and Spring Village (St. Catherine). Buru
also became popular in Kingston as musicians played at "Coney
Island" affairs and on the occasion of welcoming released prisoners
back into the community. The music is earthy and provocative,
employing a set of drums fundeh and repeater which were later
adopted and adapted by the Rastafarian brethren in the 1940s. The
dance shows strong fertility elements as evidenced in: (a) the deliberate
rotating action of the hip while bending through the knees
accompanied by breaks of intermittent small jumps; (b) the pregnant
woman effigy "Mada Lundy" which is accompanied by young girls -
"her children". Other effigies, notably of the horizontal type (Cowhead,
Alligator and Reindeer) related to the European Hobby Horse, the
Indo-Jamaican Kathgora and the Trinidad Burroquites, accompany
the group from Lionel Town. (See also Rastafari)
CALIMBE is an old African dance for men, in which great acrobatic
skills are demonstrated. It was often danced at Wakes and is still
performed on the North Coast, where it is known as the Bamboo dance.
The dancer jumps in and out of two sticks (held horizontally and
parallel on the ground) which are snapped together and released
rhythmically accompanied by songs.
The dance is reputed to signify "death and restoration" for the
dancer, whose task it is to avoid having his feet caught between the
'snapping' sticks. The dancer also balances on the sticks, as they are
raised from the ground. At that level, the sticks may be moved apart -
sidewards, backwards or forwards.
COMBOLO is a traditional song and dance form known also as
Calimbre, with erotic overtones stressing the power of life over death.
Hence the term "Mi and Yu no Kombolo (Combolo)" to dismiss
CONVINCE otherwise known as Bongo. Formerly a magico-religious
group concerned primarily with ancestral spirits. Today it is found only
in the context of Kumina ceremonies, although originating with the
Maroons. Baptism (a Revival overlay) is often followed by possession,
which is accompanied by spectacular feats. Possession may also be
induced by singing, clapping, and sometimes by the use of "percussive"
sticks. (See also Flenkey)
c uh (as in Uncle)
DINKIE MINIE is best known on the eastern end of the island. It is
performed on the second to the eighth night of the traditional Nine
Night observances. These sessions are primarily lively and celebratory
in nature and are geared to cheering the bereaved. Dancing in couples
and singing to a lively "mento' type of music occur for the first few
nights. By the sixth to seventh night, Ring Games, Anansi stories,
riddles etc. dominate the proceedings. The ninth night is climaxed by
rituals designed to send off the "mature" spirit properly. It is related to
the Gere practices best known on the western end of the island. (See
ETU is evidenced by a group who claim and exhibit Yoruba ancestry.
They are also referred to as the Nago people and bear a strong cultural
resemblance to the Nago people of Abeakuta (Waterworks District) in
Westmoreland. Although this group exhibits strong AfricanlYoruba
retentions in language, food, and dancemusic style, much of the
religious intent has been lost (in the dance context).
A "play" may be held on the occasion of a dinner feast, wedding or
forty night memorial (i.e. the 40th night after a person's death)
Each family exhibits a different-dance style accompanied by two very
interesting drums an "Achaka" (kerosene tin) and an "Irre"
(two-headed oval shaped drum). The 6-8 compound duple rhythm
considered peculiar to this dance-music type has also been identified
among the Maroons.
"Shawling", a ritual throwing of shawls or scarves around the neck
of another dancer as a sign of appreciation, forms an integral part of
each performance. (See also Nago).
FLENKEY Another magico-religious group, is sometimes referred to
as a "revivalist cult" or qualified as "Convince Flenkey", because of its
strong Revival overlay. Like Convince, it may be evidenced only in
Kumina sessions today.
Possession, related to this form, has been identified by contorted,
twisted postures, the climbing of trees or poles or by the body assuming
a rigid immobile (and usually contorted) position for long periods.
Flenkey is also marked by demonstrations of excessive smoking and
GOUMBA Y is generally considered the purest dance retention of the
once popular "Myal" dance. The term itself refers to the drum used in
this dance, which is also to be found among the Maroons. The dance is
characterized by fast and seemingly "violent" motions, which include
extensive coverage of space, throwing of the body on the ground and
acrobatic feats. The dance is-was usually done for healing (physical or
psychological) purposes, with possession being essential to this
objective, together with some elements of ancestor worship. (See also
GERE is particularly known on the western end of the island. On the
first two nights after the death of a person or until the deceased is
buried, members of the community will come to "jump gere".
It is characterized by Ring-Games, which are reputed to be so
vigorous as to reduce a well grown lawn to a dirt patch at the end of one
night. Typical ring-game songs accompanied by the appropriate dances
include "Appleton Train", "Gal 'n' Boy" and "Planti grass a Hetti
Sankey and Moody hymns continue the after-burial nine night
observances. (See also Ring Games)
HOSA Y (HOSEIN) is an East-Indian religious mourning celebration
in which the martyred ancestors (Hasan and Hosein), grand-children of
the prophet Mohammed, return to earth, and of whom any favour may
be asked. Although of Muslim origin, other Indians and non-Indian
Jamaicans often join in the celebrations. The dance which accompanies
this celebration of nine nights-ten days, is largely processional, being
led by drummers and dancers. It also features a kind of stick "play" in
couples, for which short bamboo sticks are used 2 The main feature of
the Hosay is the elaborate bamboo and coloured paper tomb (tazia)
borne on the last day of the festival, when it is submerged in a river or
sea at sunset.
JONKONNU is one of the oldest surviving dances to be found in
Jamaica. It is a masquerade dance form which draws on both unique
and common features from Africa and Europe in particular, and to a
lesser extent from other cultures that have contributed to this society.
It features-featured a variety of characters (approximately 70) who in
turn display both pantomimic movements and a wide variety of dance
steps, often the remnants of little known or extinct forms, largely of
African origin. It is usually accompanied by drums (bass and rattling)
and fife (bamboo). The dance and music are influenced by and display
parish-regional characteristics (e.g. Maroon, "grace 'n' favour",
African, East Indian etc.)
KITTIHALLI is a Trelawny stick dance similar to, if not the same as
Warrick. No real progress has been made, thus far, in determining the
etymology or the specific source of this dance. However, this does not
detract from the projection of an African source at this time. The
consistency of the content and context of the two dances (Warrick and
Kittihalli) within Kumina speaks for itself notwithstanding
European/Indian parallels and their creolizing influences. (See also
KONGO is a secular song-music-dance form related to Kumina. The
music is usually faster and the dance more exaggerated and energetic
than Kumina. The typical step, which carries the name "Kongo" is that
in which one moves by stepping off on one foot (flat) with the knee
slightly bent while pushing off on the ball of the other foot i.e.
push-step etc. Variations of this step may be seen in the Ghanaian
(West African) dance "Kpanlogo" and in the Jamaican "Etu"
KUMINA otherwise known as Kalunga or Kadunga exhibits strong
African retentions both in form and content. Although Kongo has been
revealed as the ethnic source of the language and possibly the
music-dance forms, Kumina may be viewed as the core of African
religious philosophy and practice in Jamaica.
The dance and music are vital and compelling. The dance features
flat-footed inching of the feet (or the Kongo step), a steady, but often
subtle, forward thrusting of the hip, with the ribcage and arms moving
against the hip, followed by wild spins and sudden breaks signalled by
the lead drum.
The drums, Kbandu (basic rhythm) and Playing Cast (lead drum)
together with Shakas and Catta sticks (played on the back of the drum)
provide the necessary impetus and 'control' for the dancers.
MAKUMBE The author has not been able to find any written or oral
descriptions of this dance nor has knowingly observed it. However, two
things seem to confirm its existence in Jamaica as a possible variant of
the Kumina core grouping (a) the feedback from the dance map survey
attests to its presence in Portland and St. Thomas in particular. These
parishes are noted for strong Kumina-Kongo dance types; (b) Ms.
Beverley Hall, Research Fellow, Linguistics, ACIJ, has recorded a
number of similarities between Macumba of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and
Kumina in Jamaica. These similarities, which include possession by
ancestral spirits together with the ritual language, beliefs and practices
being of a common Bantu Ki-Kongo source, increase the evidence to
support its existence in Jamaica.
MASUMBA A dance reported among the Accompong Maroons (1969)
which displays all the characteristics of the "north coast" version -
It is a dance of agility and strength, done by men, who pressing
through the hip, with knees bent, and trunk tipped back, inch under a
pole held parallel to the ground. Notably, the pole starts at navel
height, since the Maroons believe that the strength of the body is in the
MA YPOLE A medieval dance of European (British) origin which was
originally celebrated on May first as a Spring fertility festival. It fell
into disrepute in the 17th century but was revived later with the coming
of Charles Stuart to the throne.
Maroon typical African continuity close relationship of dancer and musician
Scott's Hall St. Mary
Right: Etu throwing of scarf over dancer's shoulder
Bruckin Party: Red King and Queen, dancing. Note
typical Bruckin posture of forward leg and hip thrust.
Montego Bay St. James (Photo: Tony Russell)
Maroon "Business" Dance: "Catch Myal". Note Maroon instrumentsScott's Hall
Maroon "Business" Dance: "Catch Myal". Note Maroon instruments.Scott's Hall
P 11 Clockwise: Buru dancers caught in the typical "bent knee and rotating hip"
position. Note the effigy in background Lionel Town Clarendon.
Kumina Queen (with towel) dancing, Duckenfield St. Thomas.
Revival: Mother and Elder "trumping" to lift the bands on 60 order. Kingston
ypole: school children presentation Festival Tradi-
lal Dance finals. Devon House Kingston
otot Ifeka Umunna)
The "plaiting" feature, which marks the popularity of Maypole
especially throughout rural Jamaica, was not introduced (in England)
until the 19th century. Inr fact, in Jamaica even today, more emphasis
has been placed on the performers' skill in ribbon plaiting (greatly
Afro-Jamaicanized by the lively mento music and bouncy dance
quality) than on the actual socializing aspects of the dance.
Plaiting is achieved by dancers who move in opposite directions. The
simplest forms are the single or double "basket" weave made around
the pole by couples moving in and out, in a figure of eight pattern.
More complex patterns like the 'spider's' weave are formed by one
set of dancers moving around their stationary counterparts, holding
An interesting feature of the early Maypole dance was the use of the
flowering spike of the Coratoe plant (a species of wild pine, also
referred to as American aloe) as the pole. This spike-pole used to be
grown specially for use in the Maypole and for more religious forms,
MENTO was-is a popular traditional dance/music form among rural
Jamaicans. This may be performed independently (as among the Lititz
tI ,- dII0
Jonkonnu: various characters (Devil, Whoregal, Cowhead etc
caught in "breakout" form. Kingston. (Photo Gleaner)
Ring Games: children's type. (ACI unpublished manuscript)
(Photo Beulah Brown)
Hosay: Note stick dancers and tazia (at right). Savanna-la-Mar -
Quadrille: a wheel in the "Ballroom" style. Kingston
Kumina: African continuity: anti-clockwise movement around
drummers. Whitehorses St. Thomas
Uncredited photos C. Ryman.
Projections from Super 8 K. Morrison
Mento group) or incorporated as a "set" in Quadrille, Maypole and
Jonkonnu. Most recently, it became swept up in the evolution of
Jamaican popular music forms from Ska to Reggae.
Because of the similarity with and the influence of Calypso (very
popular in Jamaica in the 1950s) Calypso and Mento have often been
confused. The wineyy" (winding) style and "intimate" partner contact
that are featured in this dance have been carried over into the
contemporary "dry grind" or "dub".
MYAL was a powerful Afro-religious movement prevalent during
slavery and the early post-emancipation period. It has been absorbed
into a number of magico-religious groups like Kumina, in which
possession is described as "head tun" or "catch Myal". It is most
completely retained in the St. Elizabeth Goumbay dance. Myal
concerns-ed itself mainly with physical and spiritual healing through
the possession of the "dancer man" and "mother" together with the
use of herbs. Once considered the positive antagonist to its negative
Obeah counterpart, Myal may be reinterpreted as an umbrella for both
practices. (See also Puk-kumina and Zion)
NAGO is tobe found among a Yoruba-based group in the Waterworks
district of Westmoreland. They refer to their ancestral home (in the
hills of Westmoreland) as Abeakuta. The latter is related by the same
name to a hill town in Nigeria. They exhibit similar traits to and
identify with the Etu people of Hanover. Their music and dance are
today performed only for set-ups on the ninth and fortieth night
following a person's death.
PA-PA An African ethnic dance-music style performed within the
context of Maroon "medicine" or "business" dances. It is related to a
West African culture group the Pa-Paws (Ewe speakers), who came
in large numbers to Jamaica in the eighteenth century.
PUK-KUMINA refers to the sixty-one (1861) order of Revivalism
resulting from the Great Revival Movement which began in 1860. It
was so designated following the later resurgence of Africanisms (i.e.
Myalism) in 1861.
Puk-kumina, as distinct from the "60" (1860) order of Zionism, is
noted for its dealing with ground spirits ancestors and fallen angels,
possession, and the rich variety of dance styles exhibited by a number of
Puk-kumina groups dominated the urban Afro-religious
environment in the 1960s, but have since waned in popularity in
Kingston and throughout the island.
QUADRILLE is a group ballroom set dance popular in Europe at the
end of the 18th to 19th centuries, originating in France. It was
borrowed by the English Court and from there transmitted to the new
world, where it became "Square Dancing" in North America and
remained as "Quadrille" in Jamaica.
' It was danced by the gentry during slavery. It filtered down to the
Black population via their participation as musicians and through
direct imitation. However, it became transformed with the addition of
the distinctive "African" bounce quality and lively mento music.
Two main styles may be seen today Ballroom the more
authentically European form and Camp Style the more
Afro-Jamaicanized form in which two straight lines (male and female)
are substituted for the square formation. Five main figures are
distinguished which include English dances and steps like the Waltz,
Polka, Schottisches, Vaspian, Mazurka, Jigs, Chasse, Balance and
Promenade etc. Sometimes a mento figure is added, as in Clarendon,
Manchester and Trelawny. Further regional differences styles have
been noted throughout the island.
QUEEN PARTY refers to a processional dance in which the Brag is
featured. The Queen is accompanied by an entourage of train-bearers,
princes, etc. and drum and fife music. This dance is done to introduce
and honour the Queen Red or Blue within the context of Bruckin
The "party" is also to be found within the context of any fund raising
effort, particularly Tea Meetings. Here bidding for the unveiling of the
Queen, provide both entertainment and valuable funds. Children are
sometimes permitted to put down small amounts to take a quick
"peep" under her veil. After complete unveiling, the auction may be
re-opened to "take down" the Queen who leaves in a flurry of music
and great pomp.
Rastafari is a recent (1930s) urban dance music form which was
spawned by the inspiration of Marcus Mosiah Garvey's re-affirmation
of Black dignity and consciousness. It has been placed among the
traditional, rather than popular dance forms, because it exhibits and
has drawn consciously on, traditional African sources (Buru, Kumina,
Maroon, Revival etc.) for its form. It has evolved as a truly continuing
African, neo-African or Creole form, in which the urban experience has
been integrated. The Nyabingi dance of "death and destruction",
purported to be related to Maroon dances of "fire and power", is
marked by hops, shifting of weight from leg to leg and sometimes rapid
foot work, suitably punctuated by abrupt turns and sudden breaks.
The music, featuring Bass, Fundeh and Repeater drums (Buru Set),
is rooted in a Buru-Kumina experience and engenders great emotional,
spiritual and physical response.
Revival elements are also evident. Many Revival songs with a slight
change of words form the basis of Rasta songs which often precede and.
Ring Games are popular among children and adults although some
distinction may be drawn between the types of games played by adults
and children. Children's ring games tend to exhibit a number of
European types, are more varied and spontaneous, and are played
during the day for enjoyment. On the other hand, adult ring games
tend to be related to specific occasions like nine night observances,
performed at nights as part of the larger African tradition of
story-telling (Anansi and duppy), riddles, ring games, entertainment. It
is also referred to as Gere in the context of some nine night
observances. (See also Gere)
SALEONE is another of the Maroon "ethnic" dance-music styles. It's
to be found in the context of "business" dances or independently as a
song-music style among the Moore Town Maroons.
The word seems to be related to "Sierra Leone" which has been
shortened in local usage. Grief, remorse, sorrow are emotions
associated with this style. Saleone also refers to a specific dance-music
style in Tambu identified by a trembling "shimmy" action and a lift of
the leg which immediately precedes a break on the drum. (See also
SHAY-SHAY is a generic term for any lively or vigorous dance
generally considered to be of African origin. Specifically, it has been
evidenced as: (a) a figure in Quadrille marked by a faster rhythm and a
gliding action through the feet and hips directed from side to side: and
(b) a particular dance-music style in Tambu, referring to the basic
shuffling steps and "running" drum patterns which precede the "roll"
and "break" of the musician and dancer. (See also Tambu).
TAMBU is a lively, somewhat flirtatious dance-music type to be found
among a group of people from Wakefield (and surrounding areas) in
Trelawny, who refer to themselves as "Kongo" people.
There is both a "family" and "ethnic" (African) connection between
the Tambu people of Trelawny and the Kumina people of St. Thomas.
However, the dance belongs more correctly to the secular category,
falling on the religious-secular border line, like Group A under
Jonkonnu on the Dance chart.
The dance takes its name from the drum referred to as Tambu
(possibly from the French word "tambour" meaning drum). Three
main styles are identified within the dance (and music). Shay-Shay,
Saleone and Mabumba. Shay-Shay generally refers to the bulk of the
dance, which features a rotating action of the hips (reminiscent of
Mento), shuffling along with one foot on the ball (reminiscent of the
Kumina-Kongo style), and jumps with a dip through the knees to
mention a few. The Saleone, on the other hand, has been confined,
somewhat loosely, to any intense movement or "roll", including
trembling and a leg lift which immediately precedes the "break"
referred to as Mabumba.
The latter may take the form of the male pressing his hip against his
female partner or a definite dip or drop signalled by the drum. In more
formal presentations, it is done as a set dance with couples facing and
advancing towards each other using the above mentioned sequence of
the Shay-Shay-Saleone-Mabumba styles. (See also Wake).
WAKE: A celebratory dance related to the customary nine-night
observances following a person's death. This term in a non-dance
context has been sometimes confined to a set up on the first and ninth
night after death or any night marked by a lack of festivity. However,
the "Wake" dance seems more related to the "Dinkie Minie" form. In
Westmoreland, for example, the "Wake" dance displays much the
same characteristics as the "Dinkie Minie" dance, except for the
inclusion of an 'advance and retreat stage'5 and the more obvious pelvic
activity (fertility overtones). The latter serves to pit the power of life,
through procreation, against death.
WARRICK: refers to a stick-fighting dance which has waned in
popularity but is still to be found among the Kumina people of
Seaforth, St. Thomas (NDTC's "Kumina" and "Plantation Revelry"
include this dance). The name,derived from a British Mummers-Jon-
konnu character "Warwick" who was noted for his brilliant sword play,
has been applied to an African form, whose counterparts are to be
found in the Hosay stick dance.
YANGA: may refer to either a specific dance or dance step(s) or dance
The Dance is characterized by movement in which the body is shaken
with a "shimmy" like action accompanied by a fast dance rhythm.
The steps include:
1. a kind of 'show-me-your-motion' step in which the dancer, with
hands on hips, pushes the pelvis and knees forwards and back.
2. a twisting of hip, knee (bent) and feet in the same direction
while moving sideways.
3. the "Kongo" step i.e. step and push off on the ball of the other
foot, then close.
Style: refers to any dance walk that employs a swaying or shaking
motion of the body, which may be considered provocative or "stylish".
ZION: is related to the Great Revival Movement of 1860 and to certain
mission sites, like Blakes -Pen in Manchester (healing centre) whose
members clearly trace their origins through successive generations to
the 1860 Revival. Hence Zionist operate on the "60" order, dealing only
with the Holy Spirit and "Messengers" (angels, archangels, apostles
The "infilling of the Holy Spirit" alias possession is induced by
"groaning" sounds and "cymballing" (rhythmic sounds made with the
voice) and stomping feet. Messages are interpreted by the mother or
captain and are etched on the floor and walls of the mission house and
seal. A message is delivered by numbers (from the throat) and alphabet
(from the feet). In this order, movement is limited to rhythmic
variations of stamping feet, considered the "alphabet" of the message,
and a series of side-stepping steps executed in a circular formation.
Two-fold bands, that is, bands practising Zionism regularly yet
participating in the less frequently held Puk-kumina sessions, are not
There are a number of other long forgotten dance-music forms and
styles like Hipsaw and Shim-Sham. They remain with us largely as
descriptive-generic terms or simply as reminders of the vibrant and
varied Jamaican heritage in dance.
4. A "Set-up" involves bible reading, singing of hymns and choruses
and is accompanied by the customary refreshments of fish, bread
5. Related to the Tambu set dance: advance shimmy break
stages followed by a "break out" or free form grouping.
Maypole early 20th century.
Thanks to all those in the area of dance, music and related
disciplines, particularly Mrs. Sheila Barnett, Ms. Marjorie
Whylie and Professor Rex Nettleford, who read this manuscript
and accompanying map. They offered many useful suggestions to
clarify this presentation.
S* say Extract from
The Indian Festival of Hosay in Jamaica"
By Laxmi and Ajai Mansingh
Hosay has introduced two martial dances in Jamaica
and one Caribbean Carnival style dance to the East
Indians in Jamaica:
The carnival-style group dancing was introduced
around 1970 and is very popular among the young
people. Men and women put their arms around the
waists of the person beside them and dance by
stepping forward, backward and sideways, while fast
martial music is played on the drums. The procession
stops regularly for the dancers to form a ring and
dance in this way vigorously for a few minutes. The
martial dances include the sword dance, in which
fast footwork and flashing of arms with
steel sword and shield in the hands, was abandoned
around 1970 because of the deterioration in the
general law and order situation. The stick dance,
which differs from the sword dance in that the same
bamboo piece (gutka) is used for attack and defence
while the dancers change possession and postures,
still attracts lots of attention and involvement of the
spectators. Indeed, many old people often succumb
to the music and jump in skillfully giving vent to
their emotional exhuberance.
Clarendon continues to lead other parishes in having
the best organized and most elaborate Hosay in
The Hosay Festival in Jamaica Martha Beckwith (1924)
Jamaica. Hosay processions from various
participating towns in Clarendon usually meet in the
afternoon of the 10th and final day of celebration at a
small ground in Alley, by the Rio Minho, which is
usually packed with stalls, vendors and spectators.
At about 10 o'clock in the morning tazias are
assembled. Amidst the beating of the drums, a group
of flagbearers lead the procession and clear the way
for the drummers, followed by the stick fighters,
carnival-style group dancers, the tazia itself, and
other marchers. En route to the predetermined
meeting place, the procession stops at the homes or
business premises of the major patrons and the
music is played vigorously, while the processionists
dance and stick-fight. Some young boys immediately
build fires for warming the drums, and, after a while,
the music stops and everyone retires for a few
minutes for rest, beer or rum. On reaching the
ground, the tazias are parked beside the river and the
space in front is used for dancing and mock stick
fights. By rotation, each team of drummers provides
the music. At dusk the tazias are taken down, one by
one, through the difficult ravine, and dumped into
the river, rather unceremoniously.
The basic artistic and most of the secular cultural
aspects of Hosay have survived for over a century in
Jamaica. Modernization or Jamaicanization of the
festival has enriched and enlivened it and has
ensured its continuity for at least another
Art Historian, on
Brother Everald Brown
Ceremonial Staff -
The Golden Hand c. 1974
(details, front and back
of the top of staff)
Mallica Reynolds [Kapo]
John Dunkley Girl Feeding Fishes c.1940
(Collection: Norman Rae)
A heritage recalled
David Boxer, painter, film-maker and art historian, currently
Director/Curator of the National Gallery of Jamaica Ltd. He was
born in Jamaica in 1946, educated at Calabar High School and
Jamaica College. Higher education: Cornell University (A.B.)
Johns Hopkins University (M.A., Ph.D.). Taught at various
universities in the United .States. Held eleven one-man
exhibitions in Jamaica and the U.S.A. Most recently at the
Museum of Modern Art of Latin America, in Washington D.C.
SMB: In the titling of this exhibition, we seem to
have progressed from 'Primitive' through
'Self-Taught' and 'Naive', to the present term
'Intuitive'; is this another euphemism to avoid the
previous connotations .... are you satisfied with the
implications of the present title?
DB: The whole question of what to call this type of
art has caused a dilemma in art criticism for years.
Take the example of the Dortmund Museum in
Germany, where three International exhibitions of
Intuitive Art were held between 1953 and 1963. In
the first they used the term Maler des einfaltigen
Herzens very loosely that means simple-hearted.
In the second exhibition they used the term
Primitive, and in the third Sonntagsmaler, or
Sunday painters. At present, internationally, the
term "primitive" is out of vogue except when one
speaks of Haitian art or other Intuitive art produced
by black people. But the term "primitive" as Rex
Nettleford puts it: "Offers at best an irritating
ambiguity especially for people in the developing
world". Besides this "Primitive" is confusing, since
in serious art criticism the word already has wide
usage in the sense of "early". So we speak of the
Italian Primitives, meaning the artists of the
Dugento and Trecento.1 Then there is the usage as in
New York's Museum of Primitive Art where the
term specifically refers to the traditional tribal arts
of Africa, Australasia and Pre-Colombian America.
As for the other terms .... well, Sunday Painters was
fashionable earlier in the century and was used to
describe the famous Henri Rousseau and his fellow
Intuitives, Vivin, Bauchant, Bombois et al. but the
term implies that painting was a secondary activity
for these artists, a hobby, a weekend pastime done
for amusement. That was untrue for those very
painters, and is certainly untrue in the Jamaican
context. Kapo, McLaren, Everald Brown are
professional painters in every sense of the word. As
for the term Naive .... while we can speak of the
naivety of certain aspects of McLaren's works, or the
"naive charm" of the early Tabois to label a whole
school in this way is inaccurate Dunkley, Kapo,
Everald Brown, I dare say are among the most
sophisticated artists Jamaica has yet produced.
What of the term "Self-Taught" which was in vogue
over a previous decade? You recall the Annual
Self-Taught Artists Exhibitions which were until
recently held at the Institute of Jamaica.
Yes, but this term also suggests amateurism, and
you need only think back to the Institute's Annuals
and you will remember that along with the true
Intuitives there were hosts of true Sunday Painters,
all striving towards the academic/realist vision.
Those exhibitions were very important however, as
they were really the proving ground so to speak of
many of our finest Intuitives. One thinks of
McLaren, the Browns and Roy Reid who were all
discovered by the Institute's Annual. But the term
self-taught is really not suitable, for while all true
Intuitives are essentially self-taught, by no means
are all self-taught artists intuitives. Ras Daniel
Heartman, Carl Abrahams, Milton George are all
self-taught artists but they are by no means
'Primitives', or as I prefer to call them 'Intuitives'.
And you yourself are self-taught do you arrive at
technique and approach by experimentation and
studying on your own, rather than by conventionally
Yes, all these artists that I have mentioned,
Heartman, Abrahams, George, myself; we have
trained ourselves in an essentially academic fashion,
some of us by steeping ourselves in the whole history
of art and the history of ideas about art. We belong
to the mainstream. Take Milton George for example,
he is self-taught, but he is completely aware of the
history and traditions of early twentieth century
expressionism; he is aware of the Fauves, of the
German Expressionists and artists like Soutine. And
through his prolonged study of Parboosingh, he has
inherited other expressionist traditions as well. And
these traditions have provided the foundation for his
own unique type of expressionism; but he does not
belong in this exhibition any more than Francis
Bacon, who is also self-taught, might have belonged
in the recent Hamiltons International exhibition of
Intuitives in London.
David I am sorry to belabour the semantics of the
question, but it does seem important to define.
"Intuitive" to me seems to imply spontaneous rather
than studied visionary rather than perceived ...
Very definitely Shirley, but further the term was
introduced in an attempt to remove the negative
connotations that surround the established but
irritating and even offensive terms that have
hitherto been in vogue. The term 'Intuitive' was
chosen because it pinpoints positive characteristics
of this type of art. But while the National Gallery
can take credit for the invention of the generic term
Intuitives (with a capital I), and certainly for the
phrase Intuitive Eye, it was really a logical choice,
for the word intuitive (with a common I) has long
been a favourite in the international criticism of
so-called Naive or Primitive art. In Jamaica in fact
we find its first usage as far back as 1960 in an article
by Ignacy Eker where John Dunkley is referred to as
a "real intuitive".
In your preface to the catalogue of the exhibition
you characterized Jamaican Intuitive art in this
way .... let me read from the catalogue:
A stream emerges, a school if you will, that rivals, and for
me outshines, the other great Caribbean outpouring of
"Primitive" art the Haitian School. It is a school of
authentic creators whose works have nothing to do with
the pseudo-primitive, or more specifically, the pseudo-
African that approaches Kitsch, the so-called "airport art"
which we find, not only in Jamaica, but in every island
across the Caribbean.
We meet in this School with art that some term "Primi-
tive" yes, and other "Naive", art that includes ele-
ments of what is sometimes called "Folk Art" or "Popular
Art". It is a difficult art to characterize, but there are
certain elements that bind these works and their creators
These artists paint, or sculpt, intuitively. They are not
guided by fashions. Their vision is pure and sincere,
untarnished by art theories and philosophies, principles
and movements. They are for the most part, self-taught.
Their visions [and many are true visionaries] as released
through paint or wood, are unmediated expressions of their
individual relationships with the world around them -
and the worlds within. Some of them Kapo, Everald
Brown, William Joseph in particular reveal as well a
capacity for reaching into the depths of the sub-conscious
to rekindle century old traditions, and to pluck out images
as elemental and vital as those of their African fathers.
Could you go further, do you for instance see a
relationship between our Intuitives and the
International Surrealists of the nineteen thirties?
They too were a group of artists who relied a great
deal upon "intuition".
Very definitely there is a relationship. A great many
of our Intuitives turn inwards and are in close
contact with the subconscious, and this delving into
the recesses of the mind was the essence of the
surrealist approach. Many of- the surrealists studied
the works of Intuitive artists and sought by various
means to approximate the spontaneity of the
Intuitives. Dunkley, I think, would have delighted
the surrealists if they had known his work, and
Everald Brown; many of his paintings are produced
while in a trance, through a process akin to surrealist
And before the Surrealists a lot of other artists had
been looking at "Primitive" art for inspiration?
Yes. I am sure that when a definitive history of late
nineteenth century and twentieth century art comes
to be written, it will be seen as a giant revolt against
the stifling confines of the Greco-Roman
Renaissance viewpoint. So much has happened in the
art of this century and much of it because artists
chose to investigate traditions outside of the
mainstream. And African Art and other so-called
"Primitive" art has played an important role in
shaping the aesthetics of our century.
African Art became an area for serious study by
artists as early as the turn of the century, for study
in terms of its form, and not in terms of its
anthropology. You see African carvings had been
collected by Europeans for centuries, but collected as
curiosities, anthropological mementos for museums,
especially in places like Germany but all of a
sudden they were discovered by artists at the turn of
the century, who were really tired of the academic
modes inherited from the Renaissance.
This had worked itself out and certainly the
camera finished it ...
Right! The camera sealed the fate of Renaissance art,
and so artists began to look at other conventions,
and African art was probably the most important art
they looked at. So a lot of these artists, notably
Picasso, Braque, Matisse, Franz Marc and other
German expressionists, they went into the
anthropological museums and studied the objects in
an aesthetic sense, and the conventions of African
carving, the cubism of African carving, became part
and parcel of the language of twentieth century art.
Yes. A great deal of so-called modern architecture is
definitely cubist, and by extension, African-influenc-
ed. The Bauhaus of course was a major influence in
spreading this cubist architecture, they drew heavily
on the architectonics, the shifting of planes, the
subtle cubic structure of African art.
And it was primarily West African Art? Makonde
for example seems more recently to have entered
Strangely enough, once they started looking at
African art in its aesthetic sense, it all became just
African art, there was no attempt to be
anthropological about it any more there was no
distinction between for example highland people,
and cliff-dwellers, hut-dwellers and so on ... but
mainly it was West African art.
You know Shirley, African art, the aesthetics of
African art, has re-entered Jamaican art through two
distinct channels, and I feel it is necessary to
differentiate between say Osmond Watson or Edna
Manley on the one hand, who have African traits in
their work; and Kapo and William Joseph, the
Intuitives on the other hand.
Edna Manley directly influenced by Joseph Epstein,
a great admirer of African art. Distilled again
through a third or further process in other academic
artists, but as you say 'unmediated' in the true
In one stream the African heritage is coming back to
us through Europe. Take Watson, he saw it in an
intellectual way; he went off to Europe, he went to
the British Museum, he studied the same African
pieces that English artists at the turn of the century
would have been looking at, and pieces similar to the
ones that Picasso and Braque, and all the cubists
saw ... and he studied Picasso and he studied
Wilfredo Lam,4 and when he comes back to Jamaica
you have this expression of very definite African
traits, but seen through the European experience,
one could almost label them cubist really, because
those traits had become part and parcel of the
language of cubism. Look at his very famous piece,
'Masquerade' in the National Gallery, that is
stylistically very close to Picasso's "Three
Before we come to the Intuitives I would like to
raise the broader question of the African continuum
- to me this seems to relate to the whole
mind-blowing concept inherent in Eddie Brath-
waite's "Kumina" The Spirit of African Survival
in Jamaica the retention of pure language forms in a
state of trance, complex rhythmic forms, without a
written musical pattern ... one might discuss this in
the context of the collective unconscious5 ... the
whole continuum, but others prefer the concept of
'interrupted memories'. I don't want to get into too
much detail on this aspect which is a vast and
separate subject of its own; but when JAMAICA
JOURNAL #42 with "Kumina" and "Pentecostal-
ism" was released, it was at a time when the World
Council of Churches was meeting in Jamaica, and I
was privileged to discuss this with some
distinguished Indian theologians; briefly, their
consensus was that western civilization has not
begun to understand psychic occurrences, long
known to other civilizations. Undoubtedly the study
of African retentions must take into account
reputable records of psychic phenomena but this
field is so vulnerable to charlatanry and fraud, that
research would have to proceed with the greatest
The collective unconscious exists. Jung has
demonstrated this it is there .... and it appears, for
me, in the most exciting form in Kapo's early work
and in William Joseph. The 'interrupted memories'
as you prefer to call it.
The thing is Shirley, that when you are talking
about language and music and dance, you are talking
about a continuity which although it may have gone
underground, had a recognizable continuous
unbroken line so we can talk about tradition;
traditional music, traditional dance, but in the visual
arts there is little or no identifiable continuity, it has
just resurfaced; and this is why it is so difficult for
people to grasp the concept because we cannot
establish a relation between this exhibition for
example, and carvers who were carving in the
nineteenth century and retaining certain elements of
African art. You know the first African carving that
we can record as coming to Jamaica, was brought
here by Edna Manley in 1922. It was a piece of
African carving given to her by Jacob Epstein, one
of the great sculptors of the century, and the one who
very much admired African art. One can speculate
that the slaves might have brought carvings with
them, and an artist may have come with them, and
may have produced work, but these probably would
have been hidden ... and in time became lost to us.
The slave masters did not approve of the carving of
ancestral figures. There are a couple of very crude
figures in the Institute's History Gallery which are
believed to have been carvings of ancestral figures;
but what did happen to the woodcarvers in slavery
times, by tradition, is that for example many of the
French Colonial houses in Montreal are said to have
been adorned with carvings which slaves were
brought specially from the West Indies to execute -
this is purely hearsay and I have seen no research on
the subject, but we do know historically here in
William Joseph Esther c. 1975 Collection: Stanley Barnes
Venus c. 1976 Collection: Paisley Gallery
Lisa c. 1975 Collection: Stanley Barnes
Sister Marie c. 1978 Collection Stanley Barnes
Brother Everald Brown Niabingi Hour, 1969.
Kapo Three Sisters Collection: Stony Hill Hotel c. 1965.
Jamaica that the slave carvers skill were put to use
in the creation of furniture. There was a tendency to
adaptation, so much so that we almost have a
'Jamaicanised Hepplewhite' and what are virtually
Jamaican versions of other European furniture
Their skills were used for the architectural
detailing of the Great House, the balustrades the
fretwork ... but not to decorate their own quarters,
and not to create the objects that they had
traditionally used in their religion, so the objects
disappeared. One assumes that those forms which
could be driven underground, the dances and the
music, survived; but the objects disappeared, and
fortunately, in the twentieth century these forms
have reappeared in these two streams that I have
described. ... It just begins with the Millers in the
1930s. It is just a spontaneous cropping up.
I suspect with the Millers, it might have been
more conscious than with a Kapo or William Joseph.
The Millers are both dead, but I suspect that they
were more 'educated' than Kapo, and more
'educated' than William Joseph, who has probably
never looked at a book in his life. ... The Millers were
avid readers who went down to the Institute of
Jamaica and took out volumes, they got
photographs of Africans, and they studied the bone
structure of the African physiognomy, I have a tool
box of David Miller Junior at the gallery, and pasted
on the cover are about ten different facial types, from
Africa and Jamaica and so on, obviously he was not
interested in these as individuals, but as types ... and
I suspect that it may have gone further, that they
must have been looking at the books that would have
been in the Institute of Jamaica in those days
showing examples of African carvings. And the
reason I believe this is that there are earlier carvings,
particularly by David Miller Senior, that go totally
outside the African tradition, that are virtually
copies of European pictures ... the first carving of
David Miller Junior, is a Cupid, which looks as if it
could have come straight out of Rococo France he
was obviously looking at a picture and copying it,
and I suspect therefore that some of their ideas for
later carvings must have come from books that they
But there must have been a point of departure ... and
a point of inspiration when they wanted to change
and to deal with African types ...
Yes, and this is why I have always maintained that
David Miller Junior is the finer carver, because he
begins an exploration in the early forties, of the
Black physiognomy, I think he must have done over
a hundred heads in his lifetime, all of them different,
variations of the Black head, the negroid head. In
some he tried to introduce psychological states -
like in 'Girl Surprised', and the companion piece that
we always show with this, title it "The Male Head
1943", it is a sorrowful man his head is drawn in ...
'Girl Surprised' is an ecstatic piece but the man's
head is drawn downward, the lips are laboured, the
position of the neck ... and it is all done through the
architecture of the piece.
Now let us talk about the artists that you call the
real Intuitives let us compare Watson and Edna
Manley with William Joseph.
Shirley, I consider the Millers Intuitives, it is just
that in their case I suspect that illustrations acted as
catalysts to bring them on stream with an African
tradition. But William Joseph is another matter. At
the opening of the exhibition there were a few people
going around collecting signatures and someone
asked him to sign the page on himself in the
catalogue, and he turned to me and quietly said, you
know, Mr. Boxer, I can't really write my name ... and
I said 'its OK Woody, just put. your 'J' (for he
normally signs his pieces 'J') and he said 'but I can't
sign the J either', 'I usually get someone to write the
J, and I carve it" ... So I told him to mark his X, and
he very carefully drew his X.
And this is the man who carves as though he had
studied books on the most sophisticated African art
- certainly one of the figures shown here might have
confused any but an expert that it was a genuine
African fertility votive.
He just began to carve "After Flora6 as he puts it
Shirley about 1963, and he has produced these
carvings that are distinctly African in feeling; we
cannot pinpoint any particular tribe to draw
comparisons in some pieces the severity of his
planes, and the almost brutal structuring reminds
me of Dogon or Guere art, but there are others that
have the serenity of say an Aqua Ba (Fertility doll)
of the Ashanti. The fact is that his work exhibits
traits that are common to several different West
Where does it come from? This is someone who has
not seen Kapo's early work, this is someone who has
never seen an African sculpture and certainly "never
went to Sangster's Book Store", as a reviewer put it
... There is a photograph of Joseph taken at the
opening of the exhibition where he is posing with one
of his walking sticks.
He has a lovely face ... the true Jamaican mountain
type. MacLaren is rural, Joseph comes from the
country, the Browns come from the country, Edna
Manley drew away from the city to work ... the early
\. / *^. 7
Mallica Reynolds [Kapo] Laura, 1970. Private Collection
David Miller Jnr.
Male Head c. 1943
Collection: National Gallery
of Jamaica Photos API
Mallica Reynolds [Kapo] The Dark Madonna, 1970-73
(Collection: Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam) Photo National Gallery
MtWnmwMehw Ew -Iw-"ChU
David Miller Jnr. Girl Surprised
c. 1949. Collection: National
Gallery of Jamaica.
Photo API as
Albert Artwell City of Africa, Collection: national Gallery of
Kapo rural, then was ghetto-urban, rather than
William Joseph came into the gallery and I
introduced Professor Nettleford who asked him
where he lived and he told him he was from
Castleton, but he now lives above Stony Hill; and
then asked Professor Nettleford 'Where do you live'.
Told in reply 'at the University', he asked, 'and
where is that? ....'
What I maintain is that it is people like 'Woody',
totally unsophisticated, living in the country on the
land surrounded by the wood he carves he is called
'Woody' because he loves his wood. It is in people
like these that you are going to find this phenomenon
- this rekindling of ancient modes; not from people
who are continually in touch with the realities of
everyday life, with the motor car and the typewriter
.... the telephones, and so on. I also maintain that
this is why Kapo's earliest carvings look the most
African, they were done before he became urbanised.
We have in the past not paid much attention to
our intuitives, and I am talking about
internationally, wd have included a few examples of
Dunkley and so on in exhibitions sent abroad but
there have been international exhibitions, and I can
think of several since the 1940s in the United States,
France and Belgium, Yugoslavia, that have
concentrated on Intuitives, these were international
exhibitions of intuitive art Jamaica was never
represented in these exhibitions.
But Jamaica has traditionally been trying to prove
that we can equate with the metropolitan in cultural
terms, and therefore we have tended to discount
what is indigenously ours, in favour of derivative art
- not that some of it was not excellent ...
I am not sure whether this was deliberate though.
Not deliberate in the sense of consciously done, it
may be part of the same schizophrenia described by
Cheryl Ryman in the previous article, but it may well
be that we had not yet developed the wider
associations outside of our colonial (and ex-colonial)
influences; but it is significant that in the
appreciation of our own intuitives we are decades
ahead of many other territories, with a parallel
Well fortunately it is changing, recently we have
been represented in Cuba, we had an exhibition of
eight Jamaican primitives in Havana ... They use the
term autodidactos or self-taught .... We showed our
Intuitives in Venezuela, in an international
exhibition of intuitive art, Dunkley, Kapo and
Everald Brown were included. ... In Washington the
reaction was very strong and very positive at the
Museum of Modern Art of Latin America where we
showed four Jamaican primitives or as we prefer
'intuitives', Everald Brown, Clinton Brown, Kapo
and Sydney McLaren ... they got excellent reviews,
and I think people are gradually recognizing that our
better intuitives are as good, and some feel better,
than the famous Haitian intuitives. This brings me
to another point that museums abroad are now
beginning to collect our intuitive art, the Stedelijk
Museum7 in Holland has bought Kapo's Dark
Madonna, that incidentally is the first Jamaican
painting to enter a major European museum. The
Museum of Modern Art of Latin America recently
bought four of our intuitives, a Kapo, an Everald
Brown, a Clinton Brown and a McLaren. The Lowe
Museum in Miami have just had an exhibition, I
think about fifty pieces, of modern Latin American
art, they have included three Jamaicans, McLaren,
and the two Browns. Recently in London, the
Hamiltons International Exhibition of Naive Art (I
hate the term but that is what they call it), Kapo and
Albert Artwell were invited. We received very
favourable comments on that exhibition;
internationally we are beginning to make some
headway, we are beginning to gain recognition, and
the respect of established critics.
"A Prophet is not without honour ....?"
And in Jamaica .... well it may be that with the
increasing interest in abstract art there will come an
even greater appreciation of our Intuitives. For it
really boils down to this .... that not having the tools
of an academic training, the good Intuitive artist
develop a personal and unique system of abstraction
to deal with the real world and with the world of his
interior images. It is the aesthetics of their abstract
systems that moves us. Sidney McLaren for instance
in an essential drive to come to grips with the
complexities of perspective creates instead of a
mathematically "correct" perspectival system, an
almost cubistic construction of shifting perspectives
that excites the eye. Kapo, in trying to convey the
vitality and sexuality of his people, has developed a
system of biomorphic abstraction that is as exciting
for me as Picasso's similar experiments in his
surrealist phase; while Dunkley's method of
subjugating receding forms to an over-riding
curvilinear, almost "art nouveau" surface pattern, is
not dissimilar to Cezanne's intellectual "marriage"
of a Renaissance perspective system with the
modernist interest in the "picture plane". Both these
artistic geniuses produced systems one through
intuition, the other by prolonged study that we
characterise today by the term "push and pull" a
tense interaction between depth and surface, an
exciting contrapuntal spatial system.
Is our interest in the Intuitives then primarily an
interest in form and technique, an interest in their
"abstract systems" as you call it.
I suspect that it is for many people, but I believe
that most admirers of Intuitive art here in Jamaica
are just as fascinated by the iconographies, the
content of these works. No Jamaican artist for me
quite captures the hustle and bustle, the "Parade of
the City" as does McLaren; no Jamaican artist has
dealt more directly with the socio-political climate of
the Kingston of the seventies than has Roy Reid; no
Jamaican artist gives us such an ecstatic vision of
the Jamaican landscape as does Kapo in his images
of paradise; no Jamaican sculptor has more
effectively documented the variations of the
physiognomies of the Black Race than has David
Miller Jnr., no Jamaican artist has produced such a
poetic vision of the "darker side of the imagination"
and the sense of the "marvellous" than has John
Dunkley; no artist so effectively conveys the spirit of
the rich folk culture of Jamaica than does Everald
And now about the exhibition itself. I believe it is
one of the largest exhibitions ever presented by the
Yes. A total of 165 pieces. The main thrust of the
show is really devoted to the "masters"; Dunkley,
the Millers, Kapo, Everald Brown, McLaren, Tabois
are all shown in depth with important works from
each period of their work, so that one can follow their
stylistic development. The other important intuitive
artists, Artwell, Clinton Brown, Sam Brown,
Benjamin Campbell, Feea, Hoilett, William Joseph,
Ras Dizzy, Leon Maxwell, Roy Reid, and Doc
Williamson are represented by key works. We set out
to demonstrate in this exhibition and I believe we
have done so effectively, that there is a definite
stream of Intuitive Art in this country and further
that it is nothing new, not some sort of current
vogue; it has been here from the very beginning of
the Art Movement, from the early thirties, and that
it is an essential part of our artistic heritage.
But the exhibition itself is arranged, not
chronologically, but thematically. Each gallery has
its own distinct character .... as you spoke before of
the artists and their own special fields of vision and
communication, I begin to understand the thinking
behind the organisation.
Well each exhibition space, and there are eight in
all, has a basic theme. We wanted to demonstrate the
'richness of thematic exploration by these artists.
One gallery for instance is turned over to Urban
images, and McLaren and Roy Reid dominate that
space; then there are galleries devoted to Landscape,
Rural Life, the Human face and Portraiture, Sexual
imagery, Celebration, Religion and Mysticism, and a
section dealing with our National Heroes.
And the response to the Exhibition. How much have
we progressed in the ten years since the outcry when
Kapo's Sweet Oranges was awarded the First Prize
in the Institute's National Exhibition. You
remember some of the reactions on that occasion ....
Yes, I remember all too well, and all over one of the
most beautiful pieces of art ever painted in this
country. Certainly Intuitive Art has grown greatly
in popularity, but there is still some resistance to it,
mainly on the part of those so heavily steeped in the
dead academicism of nineteenth century Europe,
that the twentieth century and all its wonders have
sadly passed them by. There is so much uninspired
academic work around, and even more half-baked
and sterile abstract art, that people are responding
to this exhibition. Shirley, I am charged by the
immense vitality that this exhibition exudes, by the
keen interaction between the public and the works ....
and the works they are alive, and the public
senses that they transcend the concepts of "correct
perspective," and "anatomical truth" and "colour
theories" ..... they sense that each of these artists
has created his own sense of order, his own rules, his
own concepts of what art is about, and they
recognize that these artists were not taught, nor had
anything forced on them. They were born with it,
this special gift that I call the Intuitive Eye, and it
spills out directly, unmediated and in a totally
honest fashion unto the canvas or into wood. This is
not "Art for Art's sake" rather I am reminded
Shirley as I look daily at the exhibition, of that now
famous phrase "Art for Life's Sake". It was
originally used in connection with African Art. It is
just as applicable here.
1. Thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.
2. "Inner Vision" The Sunday Gleaner May 29, 1960.
3. School of Architecture, fine arts, and crafts, founded by
Walter Gropius in 1919, situated in Weimar, later at Dessau
The Bauhaus was a major influence in extending cubist
and constructivist principles into the area of applied arts and
4. Cuban painter born 1902, a Surrealist, influenced by Picasso,
who draws heavily on Caribbean and African myth. Currently
lives in Paris.
5. The collective (and not personal) structural elements of the
human psyche in general, and like the morphological elements
of the human body, are inherited. Jung, Essays on a Science of
Mythology (Princeton, 1949), p. 74.
6. Flood following a hurricane by that name, 1963.
7. Leading Museum of Modern Art, in Holland.
A TRIBUTE TO SIDNEY McLAREN
On October 11th, during the run of the "Intuitive Eye" exhibition at
the National Gallery, Devon House, where he was represented by 11
works, and only four days before he was personally to receive the
award of Officer of the Order of Distinction from the Governor
General, Sidney McLaren died at the age of 84 in the Princess
Margaret Hospital, Morant Bay.
He came to national prominence as a painter in the early seventies,
and became well known for his fresh, sparkling and intricate
compositions of the streets of Kingston, his native Morant Bay, and
other Jamaican towns. He also painted several charming portraits, of
which the best were his many self portraits. In 1978 he penned his
own biography. ...
"I, Sidney McLaren, born at Spring Garden, St. Thomas,
on the 18th March, 1895 In the Year of Our Lord, reached
6th Grade in Primary School After leaving school, I went
to learn "Coach Building" Trade. After finishing, motor
cars started to come into the island. The owners of
carriages put them away, and got motor cars in their place.
The trade that I learned did not have any use to me, so I
started to do some farming on my father's little plot of
I got married on the 27th June, 1926.
I met with three years of hurricanes, one after another,
so I was compelled to leave the farm and go in search of
Many times I tried to work and failed to obtain same
except at the P.W.D. as a casual worker on asphalting. This
condition went on for many years until I got fed up. I
decided to make a job for myself.
In the yard in which I was living, one day I took a bit of
cardboard and pencil and started to draw the house, trees,
fencing, etc. After showing it around, people praised it, so
I was more interested and discovered that my mental
faculties started to work by my concentrating on Art.
Then my motives drove me to action, and without a
teacher I found myself doing the "Fine Arts" Drawings and
I won a First Prize at Lyssons Agricultural Show in 1960,
and a second First Prize at the Morant Bay Parish Library
in 1964. A third First Prize at the Institute of Jamaica In
1970, and another First Prize at the Institute in 1973.
In 1975 I was awarded a Silver Musgrave MedaL
In 1977 I won another First Prize at the Institute of
If it pleases the Lord, my desire is to go on drawing and
painting until I can do no more.
For the Lord said He will fulfil the desires of those that love
and fear Him."
Detail taken from painting by Sidney McLaren.
Nova Gordon was born in St. Andrew, Jamaica, on December 13, 1961.
She now attends St. Hugh's High School and obtained G.C.E. '0'
Levels 1978 gaining three distinctions, and will be sitting the G.C.E. 'A'
Levels in June 1980. She held the post at school of Student Council
Representative 1977 to 1978, and has been a Prefect from 1979, and is
an Executive member of the school magazine. Her intended career is
Mass Communication. Literary Awards in the Jamaica Festival are
1977 Gold Medal Junior Division Short Story entitled 'The Poppies',
Gold Medal Junior Division Poetry entitled 'Eggs', 1978 Gold Medal
- Adult Division Short Story entitled 'The Bird Tree', 1979 Gold
Medal Adult Division Short Story entitled 'The Horse Doctor'.
Other awards include second prize Kingston Publishers Short Story
Competition 1976 and five of the twelve awards given in the Longman's
International Year of the Child competition in 1979.
The bird-tree was dying
Its thin brittle skeleton was recoiling, folding
drawn, meagre limbs around a withered trunk, and
writhing out of the patch of parched brown earth its
dried leaves murmuring. .... He lit his cigarette, and
a macabre glow swept across their faces and
vanished. He laughed. She said something and he
laughed again from deep down in his chest. .... Thin
snakes of bright orange slithered down the sides,
twined themselves around the gnarled branches,
then hung still and dead towards the ground. .... The
girl's voice had become quiet and almost pensive.
She held the flimsy cotton frock tight around her
slight figure. She was perching on the lower step of
the old store-house, one foot atop an abandoned
truck battery. Deep tremors ran through her calves
as she tried to stay upright. She slid now and then,
but they laughed. .... It was the children from the
government school who had done it, flung in the
love-bush when they were passing through the gully.
The tree was moving steadily in a weak gust of
wind. I drew my feet up until I was flat on my
stomach along the branch. I reached up for one of the
dried up nests near the top and the tree jerked
violently. .... He had opened the door of the
store-house. She laughed and hopped down from the
step. He held on to her, and his hand, fierce with a
profuse growth of pale brown hair closed in around
her small black hand.
There was something about his being there, about
the whole situation, that seemed treacherous, that
offended me. I buried my face into a mesh of fine
branches. There was the sound of a slight struggle,
but it was overcome by a wave of laughter.
I raised my head.
She was in the doorway, her face pressed against
the wall. She had released her frock and it fell loosely
around her like a robe. I saw the glow of his cigarette
within the murky darkness of the store-houses and
heard his voice, gentle, cajoling. I would have to
tell Simon about the love-bush, get him to move the
I put my face down amongst the branches again,
and felt the coarse leaves against my face. The
store-house door creaked and the voices suddenly
became muffled and inaudible. .... Simon would make
the birds come back, he would move the tree. .... The
voices in the store-house had stopped altogether.
Instead there was the urgent shuffling of feet on the
decaying wood floor.
The sounds inside the store-house stopped.
A few moments, ... and the store-house door
By Nova Gordon
"Is that you, Lena!" 'Sir' sounded dry and bitter.
I pressed my face down into a wad of leaves and
held my breath.
"Yes? .... Oh yes sah!"
"Victor is not in the house?"
"Don't see im sah."
"Well he is not out here."
"Didn' tink suh sah."
"Maybe he is in the house with Mrs. Hansen."
"Forget him. He will turn up."
I stuck my tongue into one of the notches on the
tree, remembered the ants then withdrew it. I
would have to tell Simon about the ants too.
There was a strange pounding in my chest. I lifted
my head and breathed the air in freely. The
store-house door was locked again but this time there
was dead silence inside.
Lena came back a few minutes later.
Her voice was firm, without any doubt.
I let myself down to a lower branch, and swung
down to the ground.
Lena said I would go to hell.
Disobedience, she said, sent many children to
Satan who would pinch them all over until they were
red, and give them frog soup to drink. She had told
me to go to bed, to say my prayers, and I had
"wheeled my tail off down to the coffee-fields and
that ol' tree."
I sat up and the bed clothes crumpled around me.
"I want to go to hell!"
Lena rolled dark brown eyes at me and grunted.
"Da's where all di boys in di gully goin, so di whole
o' unoo can romp down dere!"
"How do you know that?"
Lena had struck the chord she wished. I changed
my mind about hell.
"I know a whole heap o' tings ...."
"Simon knows more than you!"
I had expected Lena to look defeated. She did not.
She smiled and her eyes hid themselves behind her
thick, black skin, then appeared again sparkling as if
she had seen something interesting.
I sank back into my pillow. My eyes felt heavy and
swollen with sleep. Lena tottered around in the soft
haze of the night-lamp. The blue elephant with the
clock hanging from his trunk whirred quietly from
the shelf. The silver cat's eyes sparkled .... I had
broken off the drum which had come with it. Simon
had promised to fix it. The toy soldier in the red suit
was there too, his painted blue eyes staring straight
at me. The girl in the pink ballet dress tying her laces
above December seemed uninterested as usual with
the rest of us. Above November she had been picking
flowers with her back to the room.
I remembered the bird-tree. Lena's humming
suddenly became loud and irritating.
"I'm going to see Simon!" I shouted.
"Ah strip yu tail for yu den!"
There was a frightening earnest in her voice. I
closed my eyes and tried to block out the image of
the muscles tightening under her skin and the
nostrils flaring open.
She put out the light.. I heard her slow heavy
footsteps in the corridor until they were overcome by
Outside the night was asleep. The gully had
withdrawn into a blanket of darkness. Beyond it
would be the tenantry in the halo of the soft glow of
the bottle lamps.
Collie used to live there. He used to be Simon's
man, drove the trucks and watched over the people
in the coffee fields. Collie was a strange looking man,
with a colour sort of like coffee mixed with fresh
cow's milk. He had glass grey eyes too .... I used to
like him though. I remembered asking Love why she
did not send 'Sir' down to the tenantry and share
her room with Collie. 'Sir' had said nothing, Love
had smiled and Simon had laughed.
The thoughts churned up inside me. I wanted to
see Simon. Lena said he was busy, had a lot of work.
I wanted him to leave the work and come out from
behind the mahogany door with the silver handle. I
wanted to see him in his Berbice chair, his newspaper
open across his lap, his hands dangling, and Sir
Montgomery licking at his fingers. I wanted to see
him standing outside against the dim morning, his
walking stick under his arm, watching the labourers
coming into the field. I wanted to see him in the back
of his Buick, Collie at the wheel, going through the
wads of papers. I needed to see him.
He had a soft cottony voice, Simon, at least, most
of the time. When he was talking to 'Sir' it was
different. Then, his voice would become sharp and
hard like broken china.
Simon's was the voice that awoke me in the
morning calling for "that man Collie", and the voice
that called "Princess Lena" away from me at night
to bring him his drink. He was always promising to
marry Lena "one of these days", I asked Lena why
she did not. She had looked startled at first, but then
she smiled strangely and started quarrelling about
one of the girls leaving soap on the kitchen counter.
We used to go for long drives, Simon and I. We
would leave Collie behind and Simon would drive.
We used to go as far down as the beach sometimes,
and watch the small boats come in. Then, there
would be the odour of fresh fish in the air, and the
laughter of the fishermen muffled by the surf.
Simon knew all the fishermen. They always
seemed alerted by his presence.
"Evenin', Sir Lewinne."
Simon would nod.
They never seemed to notice me however, they all
would look straight past me.
Then they would hover around blankly, pulling
and retying knots in small pieces of rope, or they
would become grossly concerned with their shadows
on the sand. But, one would come forward. One
always did. Then, they would mill around at a
respectful distance. But, only one would speak.
"She been sick dis long time now, sah .... got eight
..." The voice would slowly creep in over that of the
"Five girls, three boys .... Ah don't fish, ah 'm jus
here, sah ..."
Most of them did not seem to fish. They only
seemed to be there, sitting on old abandoned fishing
boats, cleaning their toe-nails with pen-knives and
toying with the bits of charcoal strewn across the
"You said you'd see, sah .... got eight .... don't get
nuttin' yet .... she been sick dis long time."
Then, there would be the reply of the sea, and the
laughter of the sea-gulls. The few fishermen strung
along the outside of the group, folding away their
nets, would stand still and expectant, their bare
breasts rising and falling with a slow, tired,
They all seemed tired like how Lena looked at the
end of a day when I had been sick and vomiting, and
Simon had had guests in for dinner. Their eyes were
not swollen however, and they were not yawning.
They just seemed tired.
Simon would allow me to run in the surf along the
beach. Love never did when I went to the bathing
beach in St. Thomas with her. I would have to sit
with her on the sand while she chatted with Aunt
Corilyn, or go to sleep beneath the big umbrella.
Simon would walk along the fishing beach, his
hands at his back, and his grey eyes laughing from
the almond shaped hollows in his face.
Once I had gone out far into the water after a
pretty blue and yellow shell shaped something like a
butterfly's wing. Simon sent a fisherman in to get
I was afraid of the fishermen. The other men, the
ones who did not fish, I did not mind them. They
looked timid and afraid of us. The fishermen were
loud and aggressive. One of them threw a live crab
down in front of me once. I had screamed. The
fisherman laughed, and Simon laughed. It was
alright then since Simon laughed. I did not dislike
that special fisherman much anymore. I was afraid of
the others though. I was sure they would catch me
and tie me up in their nets and throw me out to sea if
Simon was not there.
We would go back to the car as soon as the
fishermen began lighting their lanterns beneath the
thatched roof huts along the beach. The sea would be
quiet and uninteresting then. Simon would carry me
back to the car and I would fall asleep on the warm
The moira hedges around the back porch were in
silver bloom. Little men lived in there, Simon said,
little men with Scottish accents who came out at
night when every one was asleep. If you were not
asleep they would stay outside your window and
make frightening noises .... I had never heard a
Scottish accent before, maybe it sounded something
like how the people in the tenantry spoke.
There was movement out beyond the porch. 'Sir'
appeared out of the darkness, his shirt hanging open,
his hands in his pockets. 'Sir' used to say that I was
'the old man himself'. Collie used to say that 'Sir'
was the devil himself, that he married Love to 'dig
the old man's grave and swallow his coffee.' Collie
always said there were 'better than him livin in di
Lena came back to shut the windows.
"I want to go to Simon."
I had wanted to sound firm. I had wanted to sound
like Simon. But, the voice I heard issuing from the
eddy inside me was weak and almost lifeless.
"Bless your children."
Lena clasped my hands together firmly and
propped me up against the side of the bed.
"Bless your children."
"Bless their homes."
"Bless their homes."
"Bless Mommy and Daddy."
"Bless Mommy and ...."
There were noises in the streets again, people's
"Bless Grand-pa especially."
"Bless Grand-pa esp ...."
The voices were high pitched, like an animal in
"Bless me and make me a good boy."
"Bless me and make me a g...."
Then there were the sirens, and the voices flickered
and went out.
There was one huge stone wall going right around
Banyan house surrounding the coffee field also. It
had always been there, with the little red brick one
that separated the lawns of Banyan House from the
Nearest to the brick wall on the side of the coffee
field, was the storehouse and a little further away
from it was the roasting house. Piles of old crocus
bags were stacked beneath the roasting house and a
slab of lumber was nailed across the door. Collie had
done that before he left, after all the labourers had
The labourers had told Collie to tell Simon that
they were going. I remembered hearing him tell
Simon. I remembered the slow dwindle of people
from the coffee field. When they started going, the
kitchen girls started going too. I had asked Lena
why. She had said the girls were going off to school
and that the labourers could not come out to work
anymore because they were having a fever, like the
time I had had the fever and could not go to school.
I had asked Collie too. He had shrugged. He said
they were tired.
The morning was still, dark, and damp. It had
drizzled in the night but very slightly. I had not
heard it. Pools of water had collected on the eaves of
the coffee houses and on the leaves of the dead coffee
plants. The farthest corner of the stone wall which
had become overgrown with multitudes of small
green leaved flowers was a shiny wet. In places huge
chunks of stone had crumbled away and brought to
view the sharp descent of the slopes down to the
unexplored abyss that snaked its way between
Banyan House and the tenantry.
I took Tambo down with me to the field. Sir
Montgomery followed and then went off by himself
sniffing around the roasting house. I left Tambo on
one of the lower branches of the bird-tree and went
The ants had not yet started coming out of the
trunk and the branches yet. I tugged at some of the
love-bush. Bits and pieces came off in my hand. I
took the pieces down to show Tambo .... I would
show them to Simon too ... I would ask Lena to
show it to him.
The main road at the far end of the gully ran wide
and empty into the distance. A few jeeps dragged
past now and then, with a number of men piled in the
I picked up Tambo and held his back against my
chest. His huge blue bow-tie was coming loose.
Around us dull specks of light peeped through the
web of dead leaves and love bush.
The birds used to come with the morning, and then
the bird-tree would be decked with brown and white
balls of fluff. The birds never just swooped down to
the tree either. They used to do a graceful glide in a
smooth circle above the tree, bobbing respectfully at
times. Then, with their canticles of praise they
settled. It was a ritual, and the tree a shrine.
That was the only reason it had not been chopped
down when they were laying out the coffee field.
There had been too many nests in it.
The first whorls of smoke were starting to go up
from the tenantry. Grey whorls that disintegrated
into wisps of clear smoke, then vanished in the blue
desert of sky. The sun was just beginning to come
out, and the corrugated zinc roofs glinted and
winked wickedly. A pipe jutting out from the ground
beneath the tenantry poured thick brown water into
Clumps of fuzz were peeping through the back of
Tambo's neck. I held him flat down on his stomach
so they would not drop out.
I had never been down to the tenantry before.
Simon had to though. He and Collie used to go down
and collect the rent. Collie was with Simon most of
the time. When the labourers used to gather behind
the brick wall on Friday evenings Collie would come
up to the house to get Simon. They would go down
together, Simon swinging his walking stick,
Montgomery trotting behind him, and one of the
yard boys carrying the bagasse table and stool.
Simon would sit at the table, his walking stick
across his lap, and a pen in his right hand. Collie
shouted the names and doled out the pennies. Simon
never spoke. Collie said that was all he had to do.
Just sit there. "Keeps di people in order."
I used to help sometimes, Tambo and I. Tambo
used to sit on the empty money bags to keep them
from blowing away. I would count out the coins and
give them to Collie. Simon stopped making me help
though after the day one of the men kicked over the
table and all of them had made a wild dash for the
money. Simon had been 'just sitting there' that day
too. He had sent for Uncle Boris.
Uncle Boris had come with two other men. The
man who had kicked over the table was locked up in
the back of Uncle Boris' jeep, and they beat another
man. They had beaten him down in the fields, then
let him go.
After that Simon only took one money bag down
to the field on Fridays. "They goin starve. Sure as
God they can't live off dat." Collie had complained to
After a while Simon had started going down with
two money bags again.
Those were the only times I had come really close
to the people from the tenantry. There had been the
servants of course, but they used to sleep in the
quarters to the rear of Banyan house, and that had
made them a little different.
From behind the bagasse table, I had noticed the
hard, brazen stares of the women, and the pungent,
sweaty odour of the men.
I had asked Lena if they ever bathed, even though
I knew they did. The women at least. They bathed
every evening, carrying their buckets down to the
gully slopes. They stripped and poured the water
over themselves. They went about it just as they did
picking coffee with a sort of unconcern.
Sometimes I would go out onto the balcony and
surprise them. They would stop, unabashed and
stare up at me until I went away. Love had caught
me doing that once and she threatened to tell my
father. I had threatened to tell Simon if she made
'Sir' beat me.
Lena came down to the coffee field to get me. I
showed her the bits of love-bush and asked her to
show them to Simon. She brushed them from my
hand and swept them out of her way with her foot.
I hated Lena. I told her so.
I had wanted to show the love-bush to Simon ... I
had wanted to get him to move the tree nearer up to
I hovered about the kitchen until I got tired of
"You're a dirty nayga!" I yelled.
It was the first time that I had used that term.
There was something about it that sounded
particularly vicious, enough to hurt Lena perhaps. I
had heard Sean, my cousin, Uncle Edwin's son use it
Lena spun around.
"Get up to yu room!"
I kicked at her and the blow ricocheted off her
trunk like legs.
"You mus be losin' yu mind or sumpn."
She picked me up by the arm-pits and swung me
out of the kitchen.
I sat in the front room and watched the termites
eating through the panels. The coffee table chipped
and stained was empty. The glass figurines were not
there any more. The paintings were gone too, like the
china cabinet in the drawing room, like the small
marble statuettes in the library, like the
kitchen-girls, like the ebullient green coffee plants,
like the labourers, like Sajhal who used to open the
front door and inform Simon that there were visitors,
like the barble doves and the bird-tree I once knew,
'Sir' passed through the front room, his cigarette,
unlit, between his fingers. I looked past him through
the window. .... For a moment I thought I would go
and watch the women picking the ripe red coffee
berries and the men roasting the beans. ...."Where
were you last night, sir?" .... I would go with Collie
and watch them spinning the chunks of glowing
charcoal .... "Lena was looking for you all over the
place." .... I would not take Tambo down there
though. He did not seem to like the smell of coffee
roasting. And, besides, his fuzz was leaking out. ....
"Don't expect anyone to come chasing after you
when you get up to your goddam mischief." .... And
if any of the girls glared at me I would tell Simon,
like I did when one of them laughed at Tambo
dressed up in his polka dotted bow-tie. When I had
told her not to, she flicked her long plaits and
laughed even more. I said I would tell Simon. "Just
don't let it happen again!" The girl's narrow, taunt-
ing eyes had widened. "Mas' Victor."
I had gone off to tell Simon.
Simon had made Lena whip the girl. Lena took her
into the Maids' quarters and the last I saw of the girl
with the long plaits was her frenzied flight down to
the coffee fields her skirt bunched up around her
Collie had been angry with me. I said I would tell
Simon on him too. He had laughed, said "You bes be
careful I don't tell you about Simon. ... 'Sir' left the
The men came to see 'Sir' again. They sat together
in the study next door to my room. I was astraddle
the window sill a sheet of blotched foolscap across
my lap. I had asked Lena for a pencil. She kept all
my pencils in her apron pocket. She was always
threatening to scrape them up and give them to some
"poor pickney in di tenantry" whenever she found
them lying around.
Below me was the parapet of the covered front
porch and the lawns sloping down to where the stone
wall was whitewashed. The flagstone patio just a
little distance away from the front porch was cracked
in places where the grass came through.
On this side of Banyan house beyond the front
gate and the wild growth of sour orange trees, was
the sea, spumy white and flecked with brown dots
that bobbed up and down on the crests of the waves.
Diminutive figures moved around on the sand.
Perhaps they were waiting for Simon.
One of the men in the study was swearing
something about somebody being 'too lax' with
somebody, and something about 'Scotland Yard,'
and 'the native boys' being useless to 'deal with it.'
Lena came into the room with her feather duster. I
heard the whirr of the toy soldier as it hit the bed,
and the jingling of the silver cat's bell. There were a
number of bottles too. The ones I kept my marbles
in, and the coloured discs for my board games.
There was a cloudy haze through the intricate
lattice work at the top of the wall dividing my room
from the study, and I smelled tobacco. Lena said
smoking was evil. Simon smoked, but that was
different.'Sir' smoked. He would go to hell.
"Mills had to close his quarry. They went down on
him with sticks and things."
"What is being done about it? That's what I want
"I agree with Moore. Scotland Yard man."
"And bloomin well soon too."
'Sir' sounded anxious, like when Simon threatened
to 'Give him the drop' and he complained to Love in
Lena blew hard on the feather duster.
"The army has been alerted though." ....
Lena stopped rattling the bottles. I drew Simon in
his smoking jacket.
"I don't know about the army, fine set o' lads but
I still say Scotland Yard .... martial law if
Lena went back to rattling her bottles. ... There
were six buttons on Simon's jacket, one too many. I
crossed one out.
"The worst part is that it is not organised. It's
just a sort of simmering situation with the boiling
point being reached earlier in some places."
"There was a bit of a squabble on this end, not too
far from here. Don't know what it will mean."
I spent the rest of the afternoon in the garage to
the side of the house. I left Tambo with Lena.
The back seat of Simon's Buick was grey with
dust. This was the only place in the house that Lena
had not tried to restore. I used to play with the
windows, pressing the buttons and watching them
roll up and down. Simon did not like me to play with
them, even though he used to roll them up and down
for me when I had been crying.
The tyres had gone flat and one of the hub-caps
was missing. I pressed one of the buttons in the door.
The windows did not move.
I drew a picture of Banyan House in the dust.
Somehow it came out looking more like the
bird-house Simon had bought. Collie had put it in the
bird-tree that very same day.
One morning the bird-house disappeared. Simon
took Collie with him and they had gone down to the
tenantry. They had returned with the bird-house.
It had disappeared again a few months after that.
We never found it.
There were chocolates in the blue tin on the top
shelf of the kitchen cupboard. Lena always took the
tin down when dinner would be late, then she would
quarrel about eating chocolates and 'spwilin' yu
teet.' She took the tin down that evening.
There were not many chocolates left. I would have
to tell Simon. He would get a new tin. One of those
with the separate layers, raisins on the top, nuts in
the middle, and plain milk chocolate at the bottom.
Lena was pouring hot water on to dishes in the
sink and humming something about crossing a
"Get up off the floor."
She stopped singing and glanced around at me. I
pulled my knees up under my chin my back against
"Yu don't hear me, eh?!"
I squeezed a chocolate and a worm of pink oozed
out into my palm. I licked it up.
I told Lena that I wanted the bird-tree moved.
"Get a man to move it for you."
There was a taint of indifference in her voice.
"You'll have to pay him though."
"Cos it's work!"
"Why?" I persisted, "Simon will make him do it,
he'll make Uncle Boris lock him up if he doesn't do it,
beat him and lock him up .....
Lena froze, the kettle poised in mid-air. Her face
hardened like mud cakes in the sun.
In that brief moment something impenetrable and
cold fell between us ...., and she was not Lena.
She was one of the women from the tenantry. One
of the women with the loud voices, their hands folded
on mammoth hips, the veins protruding in their
thighs, and their frocks tight around grossly
She frightened me.
The kettle was lowered slowly. Lena came back.
She put down the kettle and wiped her hand in her
apron and returned the blue tin to the top of the
I wanted to get up but I did not. The nasty feeling
which had been rising up in me settled like a thick
layer of phlegm in my throat. The chocolate had
become soft and was melting in my grasp.
"Yu bes mek space for yu dinnah."
She reached down for me. It was the hand brown
and sticky wet with chocolates that received her
grasp. She did not seem to notice as she led me from
the kitchen to my room.
"Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall. Humpty Dumpty
had a great fall." .... Humpty wore green suspenders.
Simon said his pants were too big for him.
"Is well past yu bed time now, no foolin." ....
There were the cream cakes on the silver plate, and
the fat woman with the big black eyes and the
blood-red cheeks who was carrying them .... "Patta
cake, Patta cake baker's man." .... She was carrying
them home for supper, Simon said. She had a little
boy at home who loved cream cakes ....
"Yu don't seh yu prayers yet? God not gwine bada
look pan yu tonight."
"Jack be nimble. Jack be quick. .... "He was the
fat woman's son, Simon said, after he had eaten his
cream cakes ....
"You gwine spoil yu eyes reading in dis dim light, si
God. Come you seh yu prayers and go to bed."
"Oh where oh where has my little dog gone ...."
Uncle Edwin came that night, and Love called
Lena away from me to see to Mr. Lewinne.
"You stay in here an gu to sleep."
Lena buttoned down the front of my pajamas and
turned off the light. I sat up in bed and waited. I
would tell Uncle Edwin about the bird-tree again. I
would tell him to tell Simon.
Uncle Edwin lived in St. Peter's, a new settlement,
opposite Mr. Francis the lawyer who got people hung
who leaned on his gate, and next door to Mr. Collins
the dentist who kept a whole carton box of teeth in
Sean had seen the box, he said, and there were
cats' teeth in it too.
I used to be slightly afraid of Sean. He was my
age, but he was tall and muscular with a mop of wild
brown hair which gave him a look of abject
terror. He had that funny colour like Collie, and he
insisted on frightening me. He had told me that his
real mother was a woman from Africa, one of those
that ate raw meat.
Simon used to say that I looked like a little old
man beside Sean. But, maybe it was because I was
always frightened beside Sean.
Sean used to tell me stories about white people and
black people, rich people and poor people. White
people were rich people, he said, black people were
poor people. He said white people kept black people
poor by having babies with them and then sending
them to jail. He said all white people did that. He
told me too that black people ate dogs, and white
people ate worms. He ate neither, he said.
He had brought me a worm to eat once. He sat on
my stomach and forced it in my mouth. I felt the
dirty, wriggling object on my tongue. I spat and it
had come out partly bitten and wet.
The last time I had gone to St. Peter's we had
quarrelled, Sean and I. Uncle Edwin had come in and
slapped Sean. Sean had said it was because I was
weak. I did not like it when Uncle Edwin slapped
Sean, for then Sean would embark on his campaign
The last time, he had told me that he had seen men
gathering in the park. He had heard them planning.
They had thick long ropes, and sticks, and bottles,
and they said that they 'wanted all dem rich people.'
.... They were coming up to Banyan House to get me,
he said, and they would burn down my silly bird-tree,
after they had hung us all on it ....
"It's really gone that bad?"
There was the shimmering glow of cigarette light
through the frosted pane of the bedroom window, to
the far right of the balcony 'Sir's voice was tight, as
if he was afraid to make the words come.
"Worse," Uncle Edwin chuckled.
'Sir' never seemed to irritate Uncle Edwin as he
"The natives are restless," Uncle Edwin
'Sir' did not laugh.
"I have seen this type of thing before."
Uncle Edwin had stopped laughing. I wanted to
tell him to hurry. I wanted to tell him about the
"I have been sort of expecting this." Uncle
Edwin's voice rose, "you see, we are like the
preachers to them. They pour out their troubles to us
every day like a ritual confession. They come in to
dress a minor wound, a scratch, and you end up
being faced with a major gash, internal bleeding. If
you know what I mean."
"If they're hungry there's enough food to go
"They want food, sure, but not just ordinary food.
They want it in tin cans, tin cans with the pretty
wrappers. They want a sip out of the silver goblet.
And, it's not those like me they're concerned with.
We got it through book learning. For some reason
they put that past themselves. It's the people that
got it otherwise that they're concerned with. .... I
saw it coming, ever since I used to live here."
"Well Belmont should give them what they want.
It's him and his breed sitting fat off our taxes they
should be mad at," 'Sir' interjected hotly.
"They don't see Belmont with the pretty tin cans.
But, they know who have them. .... They used to
open them for you."
"Are there any damages yet?"
"Somebody poured gasoline on the Smith estate.
Set the whole place burning. Nearly forty acres. ....
When a man is fed up with his failure, and worse,
with others failing him, his mind gets crazy." Uncle
Edwin sounded serious. Too serious.
"Have you told the old man?"
Maybe Uncle Edwin could move the tree.
"No," Uncle Edwin muttered, "He's in enough
"I can imagine what it would be like if he were
"He would be enough protection up here. Just
perch him out on the porch with his faithful
Montgomery at his side, and his walking stick, and
of course dear Cousin Boris not too far off, and you
would have nothing to fear."
The cigarette light went out. I crept over to the
window and opened it a little. A figure was leaning
over the rails of the balcony, staring out into the
night. 'Sir' was stretched out in the wicker chair, his
head thrown back, and his cigarette dangling loosely
from his fingers.
"I don't know about that child too," 'Sir' said
fondling his chin.
'Sir' was almost hostile.
"Wat yu doin dere?"
Lena pulled the window shut. A taut silence fell'
over the porch, then, Uncle Edwin laughed.
The coffee field was washed in a dull silver. The
broken glass of the store-house windows glinted
gently in the moonlight. There was a rustling
beneath the matting of dead coffee plants, and now
and then a drummer roach surfaced. I had hoped
secretly that Uncle Edwin had looked at the tree,
made it well perhaps. It was still there, its dead
I wondered if Lena had missed me yet. She had left
me to see if Simon needed anything for his work.
Uncle Edwin had gone. I had left Tambo to sleep on
my pillow. Montgomery had followed me down to the
field again, and, as usual, went off sniffing the
The tenantry seemed to come alive at night and
continued into the small hours of the morning. Then,
it would sleep for the rest of the day, breathing
softly, issuing faint noises and puffs of smoke.
I stood with my back to the stone wall, listening.
The sounds were jumbled. Laughter was tainted
with curses. Curses were mingled with laughter. The
whole outcome was a strange language I could not
There was a noticeable stench coming from behind
the wall. Maybe the boys had carried another dead
cat down there and left it to rot. Maybe they had
carried somebody down there too, and tied them up
and left them to die.
There was a dampness in my shorts. I slipped
them off and squatted in a corner by the bird-tree,
Lena always made me squat. She said it looked
Banyan house lay before me, its wings fluttering
and banging against the dull speckled grey of its
broad sides. Now and then it gave a screech in the
breeze and a door slammed shut.
'Sir' bent a little to look at me. I had not seen him
come up. He smiled sheepishly, wiping his yellow
hair from his eyes. He smelled sweaty and there was
a warmth coming from him.
"What are you doing down here man?"
There was a woman with him. A woman wearing
I raised my eyes from his bare chest to the feeble
smile on his face. The smile somehow made him look
weak and vulnerable, made me feel strong.
"Camping out, fellow? Eh?"
I did not answer.
My eyes met his. The smile drained from his face,
then, his eyes hardened and his fingers twitched at
"The two of you are the same blasted thing!" he
blurted, "Goddam you!"
Christmas eve morning unfolded from a dull
brown to an anaemic blue grey where it stayed.
I swung one foot easily onto the bottom grill of the
front gate, and eased the other onto the next bar. I
pulled myself up to eye level with the topmost bar.
Behind me the drive-way of dirty white gravel sloped
upwards. The tyre marks of Uncle Edwin's car were
still fresh, except in places where I had scuffed my
The street outside had been eaten away in places
by past rains. A utility pole broken at the centre was
dangling from its roots by wires. A little distance
away, just where the road dipped and vanished, a
mound of sand had been deposited.
A mongoose darted across the road from out of the
thicket of bush and trees at the side. Then, it stopped
right before the gate sunning itself.
I shouted at it. The animal blinked and remained
"Missa Lewinne livin' here? Missa Simon Lewinne
....?" The gate jerked forward. The mongoose had
disappeared. A face ash grey and excessively dark
beneath the eyes peered in at me through the gate.
"Missa Lewinne Livin' here?"
The gate jerked forward again, and then
I did not answer.
The man blinked and a thick, yellowish stuff oozed
out at the corner of his eyes.
"Missa Simon livin' here?"
He fondled his chest beneath the open khaki shirt.
"Missa Simon livin'here?"
The man stank! It was not one distinct odour, but
a mixture of odours.
"Missa Simon livin' here?"
His bravado increased with each movement of the
"Missa Simon livin' ...."
The man smiled and blinked.
"Tell'imowdy fo me, ear? Tell im we got scores to
settle. Tell im Doreen's down, got sick bad, bad ....
Ask im ow is pennies doin now he don't got our
sweat down dere in his coffee prison. .... Doreen's
down at the Public. Da's what our black gals get for
mixin wid you white gents. It's the plague ah tell yu,
you's all carriers of di plague. ....
The man removed his hand from beneath his shirt,
blew his nostrils, wiped his nose with the back of his
hand, blinked and lurched off down the street
disappearing behind the sand.
I told Love I wanted to go to Uncle Edwin's.
She was slumped over a tea-cup on her bedside
table in her bedroom, her eyes half closed, and her
lips dotted with flecks of 'Cherry Blossom'. Her hair
fell in straggling untended curls around her face, and
her night gown was sliding down from her shoulders
the rib bones protruding from her back like the
stumps of severed wings.
She said she knew Uncle Edwin would be glad to
have me, but I could not leave her alone .... and what
would Lena do without me.
I dug my head into her arm pit.
"I want Simon."
I had to tell him about the man at the gate .... I
had to tell him about the bird-tree .... I had to tell
him about the things Sean had said .... Uncle Edwin
had huge dogs, Alsatians.
'Sir' came into the room. Love's touch grew tense
and hard around me. And, there was a new smell too,
one I had never noticed on Love before. It came to
me as she breathed heavily digging her fingers into
my arm. I tried to blot out the smell. I buried my
face further into her arms. It was one of those scents
that I had picked out on the man at the gate. It was
that smell that used to surround Collie when he used
to stagger home on Sunday evenings, and collapse
on his bunk swearing and spitting. Lena had said
that he would go to hell.
So that would be 'Sir', Love, and I. We would all
be going to hell.
"Yu hol' dat towel good y' hear. Don't want yu
ketchin' col' on me."
The water in the bath tub had become dull and
flat. All the fluffy white suds had waned into a pale
grey scum on top of the water.
I followed Lena, her fingers pinched white, to the
"Put on these."
She put my blue shorts and shirt on the bed.
"I'll bring yu lunch up."
She left the room.
I climbed into the middle of the bed with a crayon
and an old exercise book. I wrote a letter to Sean. I
used a bright purple crayon. I told him I would be
coming to live with him. I would be coming on one of
the buses if I could get Lena to put me on one.
Maybe Simon would bring me, when he had finished
I asked if Love and Lena could come too. Simon
would come naturally, and Sir Montgomery and
Tambo. .... Simon could get a truck to move the
bird-tree. There was enough space in the front of the
house at St. Peter's to plant it. .... Sean would have
to keep the dogs away from Tambo, and
Montgomery. Montgomery was getting old, Lena
said, any spritely pup could finish him off. But, if
Simon came too the Alsatians could not harm
Lena came back carrying a tray with her.
"Thought I told you to put on yu clothes!"
She put the try down on my desk. I asked her to
post my letter. I tore the leaf out of the book and
held it out to her.
She lifted me out of bed and put me down in the
chair before the desk.
"The post-offices not working. "
I asked her to carry it there then.
She did not answer.
I asked her what bus went to St. Peter's. She was
'dressing the bed'.
"The Grey Wolf."
She shook out the pillow.
"I want to take the Grey Wolf to Uncle Edwin's."
She punched the pillow. I asked her to put me on
the bus then.
"Yu don't know what's happening? "
Lena turned on me with unrestrained fury.
"Yu life not worth nuttin' out dere. Hungry man is
walking' di street. They would tear yu flesh apart.
I did not understand.
I got up and moved towards Lena. The lines on her
face tightened, and her mouth fell slightly. Then, it
occurred to me. Lena was afraid. The men who came
to 'Sir' were afraid. .... Everybody was afraid.
The room began moving in slow circles around me.
... Lena's image became dark and indistinct. ... The
room dipped and the images made a mad whirl
around me. ... I tottered. The ground was sinking
.... the silver cat, and the elephant clock soared up
above me..... The ground rose again, in slow circular
movements. .... The room caved in on me, and the
ground slid away.
Uncle Edwin said that my dizzy spells might be
due to over exposure. Lena said it was because I
went bare headed in the broiling sun. After Uncle
Edwin left I donned Simon's old straw hat and went
out to the nursery to collect lady bugs.
Just a few plants were left in the nursery. The
orchids had all died. Uncle Edwin was always
promising to bring some new ones every time he
came to see Simon. There were no lady bugs either.
Perhaps they were at the same place as the birds. I
would ask Simon.
The goat-man came to see Lena. He leaned his
bicycle against the wall and went up the back steps
to the kitchen. He was a thin man whose skin hung
from him like melting clay. One eye, a watery pink
stared around him. The other was always closed.
I wondered what he had done with his goats. He
used to have a whole line of them running ahead of
him on his bicycle. Simon had promised to buy me a
goat, if Tambo did not mind.
I ran up the steps behind the goat-man. I was not
on speaking terms with Lena. I was going to make
Simon scold her. She had laughed when I told her.
But, it had been that slow, restrained laugh that
grown-ups have whenever they do not want to tell
you something, when that something embarrasses or
"Go up to yu room, Mas' Victor," she ordered as I
appeared in the kitchen.
I curled my toes up in my shoes as if to grasp the
floor. The goat-man heaved, and I smelled that
"Ah jus' want to tell yu dat it bruk out bad, Miss
Lena, all longs city centre come right up. No less dan
nine to ten hundred man, woman and pickney.
Lena halted the goat-man's words with a sharp,
frightened exclamation. The man's lips folded. His
only eye darted towards me.
"I'm going to tell Simon!"
Something in the goat-man's voice was alarming.
It had frightened me. Something in the briskness of
his words made me suddenly feel Simon's absence.
Something in the mutual glance of fear and
sympathy that flashed between him and Lena made
me feel alien and alone. .... And, Simon was not here,
at least, not where I could see him. A pang of fear
and subtle hatred struck me. .... The bird-tree was
dying and Simon was not here .... the man at the
gate, leering and taunting me, and Simon was not
Lena touched me and I buried my teeth in her arm
and flayed my feet at her. Neither seemed to hurt
her. What I identified as being her wicked
indifference again, made the nasty feeling gnawing
away at my insides swell to uncontrollable
I pulled away from Lena and stumbled out of the
kitchen. I passed Love's room to see if she was there.
She lay on her side in bed, her knees drawn up to her
chest, her face flushed and dragged. She opened her
eyes and said something as I passed. I hurried off.
The corridor was swimming around me and the
ground was sliding away again. I closed my eyes and
opened them. "You bes guh lie down."
Lena's arms surrounded me. The nasty feeling
seeped out in thin threads down my cheeks.
The silver cat still smiled. The crimson eyes were
flecked with silver where the paint had rubbed off. I
watched the ants streaming in through the crack
below the closed window. Further down, more of the
wall was being eaten away, and the bare bones, a dull
white showed through the diseased skin. The trail of
ants moved down from the window along the crevice
of the wall then disappeared behind the desk. They
appeared again on the adjacent wall.
A small mound of white dust from the ceiling
settled around the desk. I lay on my back and traced
the cracks along the ceiling with my eyes until the
rays of light withdrew and left the room in a
semi-darkness with bright splashes on the window. I
heard the creaking of a bicycle until there was
silence. And, the creaking was like the voices of little
men crying, .... Simon said little men lived in the
moira hedge, little men in green coats. I had never
seen any though. .... Simon said the lady with the red
cheeks ate cream cakes for supper. I had never seen
her eat anything. Not even break fast. .... Simon said
Humpty wore suspenders to keep his pants up, but I
had never seen eggs in pants. Maybe the eggs in the
tenantry wore pants. .... But most of all I wondered
about the little men, the little men in the green coats.
The day closed up. The cracks in the ceiling
vanished, swallowed up by an impenetrable
membrane of black. The elephant clock had stopped
ticking. Around me the darkness was dense and
hostile. The gold coloured lace curtains fluttered in a
slight breeze that seeped in through the chipped out
edge of the window. There was no light. The night
had swallowed the moon, like a sea, a turbulent sea
swallowing a small canoe ... surrounding it and
sucking it in, lapping it up, rolling it over, and over
on a watery tongue .... over, and over, and over ....
.... The sea came up around my ankles, a foaming,
frothy white. Before me it lay still and threatening,
not rushing in madly beneath a wind torn sky, but
inching in slowly under a sky, mauve with streaks of
The pretty butterfly shell floated up to me and
lodged itself in the sand. I picked it up. Then, I
remembered Lena. She would be angry. I had not
said my prayers. I looked down past my bare body to
the boy with the burnt blonde hair who stared back
up at me .... The little black boy was crying now. The
tears were flowing out as if some one lay behind the
deep black irises pouring out barrels of water. He
cried as if it was an acquired skill, something he was
used to doing.
I moved my eyes from the thick lips hanging open
and dripping water to the little yellow rabbit on the
ground between us. The front paw had been broken
off and it was lying face down in the grass. The nasty
feeling surfaced, I kicked it: I kicked him.
"He never mean to do it, Mas' Victor," somebody
was shouting. I went to find Simon. I would tell
Simon .... I opened my mouth, the teeth were all
chipped and brown. It was the chocolates that had
done it, Lena said so. The butterfly shell had been
broken in places too. I sat down and the water came
up around my waist. There were fishes too. They
darted around me and over my legs. One of them had
one eye shut ....
"Please sah, see wat yu can do."
There were peppermint creams and chocolates.
"Don't have nuttin dis longtime now sah."
Collie had stopped the car and was staring blankly
ahead of him.
"Yu got space for just one, Missa Simon? ...."
I bit the peppermint and let it melt slowly beneath
"Wife goin be havin another soon, sah."
Simon's voice was stern.
I let the chocolate melt then I picked at it with
"They have to guh to school, sah."
I would leave the peanut ones until night when
Lena had turned out the lights.
"Please sah ...."
I spread them out on the seat beside me, the
peppermints in front and the chocolates behind.
"Been three months now, sah."
The car rolled forward and the faces macabrely
distorted outside the windows of the car,
disappeared. .... Two men came out of the darkness
on the beach. One was the man at the gate, and he
was naked, a brilliant shiny, naked. I could not see
the other man. The bottle lamps burned in the huts
along the beach. Silhouettes were hunched over
crude, makeshift tables and the clapping of dominoes
was loud in my ears.
The other man, the one I could not see, picked me
up by the feet. I screamed for Simon. The man at the
gate tied my feet with a thick piece of rope. They
carried me out into the water, my feet in the air and
my head swinging.
They stopped where the water was a placid almost
transparent green. Clumps of disturbed sea-weed
floated along the top, along with some pale white
balls of fluff. Some of the balls were speckled with
brown and orange, their eyes wide and staring and
the legs upturned.
The men spun me around and held me horizontally
slightly above the level of the water. They laughed. I
searched anxiously for the boy with the burnt blonde
hair amongst the shimmering pages of the water. He
was not there.
My skin burned. Beneath me the water was
steaming, bubbling. My body felt raw and red as if
the skin had been torn away and the bare flesh
The swinging motion of my body started again.
The water was coming at me, spitting boiling
droplets at my face. I screamed for Simon. I could
see his silhouette on the beach. The men laughed.
The water swirled around me, closed in on me ....
The sirens moaned. Streaks of light writhed across
the opposite wall, vanished then appeared again. My
'Compendium Of Tales' was open, face down on the
floor. I picked it up. .... The voices were louder than
the sirens. Their feet were beating the ground. ....
'Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall ...." .... Tyres
screeched and the sirens shrieked like an eagle
descending on her prey. ..."Little Miss Muffet sat on
a tuffet ..." The pulse continued, and the pulse was
their feet, their feet and the ground. .... "Jack be
nimble, Jack be quick ...." .... There were shots that
wounded the night, and the night screamed ....
"Little Bo-Peep has lost her sheep ...." .... and the
voice of the night was the voice of many .... "Tweedle
dum and Tweedledee resolved to have a battle ...."
.... many voices broken with a fear I could not
understand, a sorrow I pitied, and an anger I feared.
I pulled the door shut behind me, and it came to
me pungent and repulsive. I held my breath.
There was no moon-light in here, the windows were
draped. The cry of the night was loud in here. I
quickened my steps. He was asleep. I heard his soft
breathing, somewhat too slow, too relaxed.
The breathing continued. I had released my breath
to speak, and the odour swamped me again. This
time I felt like retreating, escaping, leaving it
The night wailed, rocked with convulsive sobs.
I sat on the edge of the bed. He had begun
breathing quickly. The one word had strained him.
The pulse continued outside. The bleeding was
"The bird-tree, Simon, it ...."
The glow of the lantern stabbed my eyes.
"What the hell you doin in here!"
Lena grabbed me.
I shrieked, and my voice became one with the
voice of the night. The voice of anger and anguish.
Then, I saw him. Through the light afforded by
the lantern I saw his hands trembling. Whatever it
was had eaten him down to nothing, gnawed away at
every muscle, every fibre, and left him, the sallow
skin hanging from thin brittle bones. His eyes had
vanished into grave-like hollows. He looked shorter,
as if his body was'contracting, pulling into itself. ....
And, there was the stench, like the odour from an
open, diseased wound.
The ground began its slow, steady, circles again.
Christmas day dawned.
The coffee field was swarming with ants. The
bird-tree had fallen. It had fallen during the night,
Lena had heard it. The ants were bleeding out of the
ground where it had stood and were scurrying along
the roots. Lena said there had been winds. Winds
meant rain. Christmas rains were a good sign.
I was wearing my Sunday suit. I hadn't bothered
to change Tambo's bow-tie. Lena came to get me. I
left Tambo despite her protests and his pleading blue
button eyes, by the bird-tree.
She cast a nervous glance at the charred remains
of the coffee houses and the empty tins left strewn
across the field, and then we went up the slope to
Uncle Edwin was waiting on the porch. Uncle
Boris was here too, leaning on his car. Another man
in uniform waited behind the steering wheel.
"So everything seemed to have been okay here last
night," Uncle Boris said his eyes roving the length of
"Except for the coffee houses."
Uncle Edwin looked at Lena. She nodded.
"My men sort of have this thing checked", Uncle
Boris turned around and ran a hand through my
hair, "But St. Peter's would be a better place until
.... until I dunno when."
Uncle Edwin took my hand.
"You can come later, Lena. I don't know what
Love and Steven will be doing, but you come later."
Uncle Edwin's eyes met Lena's and they were soft
"It won't be long now. The inspector will leave a
car here for when it happens. .... There's nothing
more that I can do for him now."
The officer in the car was staring down at the
coffee field. Perhaps he saw Tambo.
Lena hurried into the house and left me clinging to
"My car's outside the gate," he said. We started
down the drive-way. Uncle Boris came with us his
cap in his hand.
"We shot near eighty of them last night, wounded
a little more than that too."
"We have a Christmas dinner waiting on you boy.
"Women and babies too, you know. We shot one, a
six year old carrying a torch. Got him right through
"Sean got a train set. It's for the both of you
"They were bent on burning the whole place out.
Especially those with large estates and factories, you
know what I mean."
"Where is Tambo, man? You can't go without
We had reached the gate. Uncle Edwin stopped
and regarded me curiously.
"We got his bastard too. The one that used to
work for him. Collie, that's his name, eh? We shot
him out by the junction. He was one of them pouring
on gasoline. He died this morning."
Uncle Boris slammed the gate behind us.
"See you tonight, Edwin. Dinner eh?"
Uncle Edwin lifted me into the car.
"Action's at St. Peter's this year instead of at
Banyan House, eh." Uncle Boris laughed.
I saw him, leaning outside the walls. He still wore
the khaki shirt and his eyes were plastered with the
"Doc!" he grinned.
Uncle Edwin slid in to the car beside me.
"When are you coming in to get the eyes checked
"Anytime you want, doc."
"Okay. Merry Christmas."
Uncle Edwin closed the car door.
"Merry Christmas, Doc .... Merry Christmas little
Figure 1: PORTLAND BIGHT
The Portland Bight Oil Spill
By Barry Wade
Dr. Barry Wade Ph.D., M.J.I.E., O.D., was born in Belize and
educated at Wolmer's Boys School, Kingston, and the University
of the West Indies. Post Doctorate Fellow at Marine Biological
Laboratory, Woods Hole, Mass., U.S.A. and at University of
Florida and University South Florida (Ford Foundation).
Conducted Study of Pollution in Kingston Harbour, culminating
in publication of "The Pollution Ecology of Kingston Harbour,
Jamaica". 1977 awarded the Silver Musgrave Medal. 1978
awarded Officer of the Order of Distinction.
In May 1979 an O.A.S. appointed Task Force
comprised of representatives from each of the
Caribbean member states met in Port-of-Spain,
Trinidad to prepare a contingency action plan to deal
with oil spills occurring anywhere in the Caribbean.
Among other things, the Task Force reviewed the
history of oil pollution in the region and attempted
to assess the present threat of oil spills occurring as a
result of the increased drilling, transportation, and
refining activities throughout the area. However, in
doing so, the Task Force was struck by the poorly
documented record of oil spill incidents in the
Caribbean and their effect on the environment
although it was well known that several spills had
occurred and in some cases damage had been severe.
Hence it was felt that a useful purpose might be
served if the observations of previous occurrences in
the Caribbean were published, including one which
had taken place at Portland Bight in Jamaica in
1974, and which the author had been requested by
the Ministry of Mining and Natural Resources to
investigate and report on. This article is based on
that report and is published with the kind permission
of the Natural Resources Conservation Authority of
the above Ministry.
Since the meeting in Port-of-Spain, a number of
incidents have occurred in the greater Caribbean
region and in Jamaica, which highlight the need for a
concerted plan of action to prevent or contain and
clean up oil spills when they occur. In addition, these
incidents have exposed the level of our regional
ignorance about methods of prevention or mitigation
of ecological damage from these spills, and how to
assess the level of damage that takes place.
The first of these incidents was the blow-out of the
Mexican (Pemex) exploratory well, Ixtoc 1, on June
3, in the Gulf of Mexico, discharging approximately
30,000 barrels of crude oil into the sea per day
initially and, four months later, continuing virtually
unchecked with about 10,000 barrels per day being
lost. This has been the world's largest oil spill ever.
The second incident was the collision on July 19,
1979, of two supertankers the Atlantic Empress
and the Aegean Captain just 18 miles north-east
of Tobago, with the subsequent sinking into the
Atlantic of the Atlantic Empress with about 130,000
tons of crude oil. Like the Ixtoc 1 blow-out, this
collision has been the largest ever of its kind and the
cause of the largest amount of oil yet lost to the sea
after a shipping accident. Thus, within the space of
six weeks, the Caribbean and its adjacent waters
have been the site of two of the world's worst oil
disasters ever. Truly this is a frightening record.
In Jamaica last year, we have been reminded of
the threat of major oil pollution damage in our
coastal waters by two smaller but significant oil
spills which have occurred in Kingston Harbour. In
April, a spill of less than 100 gallons occurred in the
Newport West area and quickly spread across the
harbour to foul the Port Royal area including the
mangroves, the fishing beach and all the boats and
marine structures nearby. Then in October, a spill of
several hundred gallons occurred in the eastern end
of the harbour and grossly fouled the harbour side of
the Palisadoes strip, including Gun Boat Beach and
the Yacht Club. In neither of these cases was the
ecological damage assessed.
The incidents mentioned above should serve to
alert us as to how real the threat of oil pollution is to
our coastal waters, and how imminent a really major
spill might be. On the other hand the account of the
Portland Bight spill given below shows us how
widespread and severe the damage can be and how
completely unprepared we are in Jamaica to deal
effectively with any such occurrence.
The Portland Bight Oil Spill:
The Area: -
Portland Bight is the largest semi-enclosed body
of water in Jamaica, being approximately 100 square
miles in area or more than four times the size of
Kingston Harbour (Fig.'l). It is separated from the
open sea by a chain of coral islands stretching from
the Pelican Cays in the north to the Portland Cays in
the south. Most of the mainland shore is fringed by
mangrove swamp, and this area represents by far the
largest mangrove stand in Jamaica.*The average
depth of water is about 40 feet and the deepest water
is more than 90 feet in the main ship channel.
Portland Bight is one of the largest centres of
fishing in the island. Most of the activity is carried
out from Old Harbour Bay in the north but quite a
few fishermen also fish out of Barnswell Dale Beach
in the south. In addition to the actual fishing which
takes place in the area, Portland Bight is of great
importance as a fish breeding nursery ground and is
a good potential site for oyster cultivation.
There is quite a bit of ship-traffic in Portland
Bight as a result of four large industrial installations
on the coast. The largest of these are the Alcan
alumina loading facility at Port Esquivel and the
Alcoa bauxite and alumina port at Rocky Point.
Sugar loading takes place from the WISCo (West
Indies Sugar Company) wharf at Salt River, and the
Jamaica Public Service generating plant at Old
Harbour imports oil through.Port Esquivel.
There are two ship channels leading in and out of
Portland Bight. The main channel is from the south
passing between Bare Bush Cay and the Pelican
Islands. Both channels begin more than 10 miles out
from the mainland and are well marked by buoys.
On Labour Day May 23rd, 1974, fishermen in
Portland Bight sighted thick black masses of oil
arriving at the Half Moon Cays. Within a few hours
the entire cays were fouled, and within another day,
the oil had come ashore along the mainland. As the
fishermen described it, the oil arrived along the shore
as a long continuous black mass, so thick as to give
the impression that one could walk on it. Once the oil
arrived on the shore, all efforts to protect boats and
equipment had to be abandoned due to the difficulty
of working in the thick oil and the intense fouling
which occurred to the body. Unfortunately, no one
had the presence of mind to report the spill in its
early stages and, even up to a week later, the
authorities had not been contacted about attempting
clean-up operations in the area.
Four weeks after the spill, eventually after
receiving complaints Government Fisheries and
Conservation officers visited the site and confirmed
that a major oil spill had occurred and that the
effects were widespread and severe. Two weeks after
this, investigations into the cause and extent of the
spill were begun and an attempt made to fit the
pieces of information together into a coherent
The first task was to determine the extent of the
areas affected by the oil. From a survey of oil
contaminated shorelines, the area was found to be a
triangle extending from Portland Point in the south
to Rocky Point in the north to Little Half Moon Cay
in the east (Fig. 2). This area, covering more than 15
square miles, was entirely confined to downdrift of
the main ship channel. From the pattern of
contamination, the obvious origin of oil was near the
entrance of the channel, that is, somewhere south
and east of Half Moon Cay. If one draws an arc of 45
degrees representing the angle of direction of the
prevailing sea breezes (roughly east to
east-south-east) and incorporating the shoreline from
Portland Point to Rocky Point, a point of origin is
established approximately half a mile outside the
entrance of the main ship channel.
This seems a logical point of origin of the spill
since a ship wishing to discharge its waste oil could
only do so without detection after it had cleared the
channel and let off its pilot. However, this presumes
that the spill was deliberate, and in fact there is
every reason to believe that it was. In the first place,
this spill, although the worst to have occurred in the
Portland Bight area, appears to have followed a
pattern of previous spills which have originated near
the ship channel. In the second place, neither this
spill nor previous ones were reported by the shipping
companies. And in the third place, it is well known
that tankers frequently clean out their tanks in
Jamaican coastal waters soon after leaving port. In
this case the oil appeared to be Bunker C fuel.
From calculations performed based on the length
of shoreline contaminated by the oil and eye-witness
accounts of the width and thickness of the oil as it
came ashore, a minimum amount of 300 barrels (43
long tons) of oil is believed to have been spilt (or
discharged) in Portland Bight. However, it is
possible that the figure could have been as high as
3,000 barrels. Whatever the actual figure, the range
of possible values fits well within the volume of
waste oil known to be commonly discharged during
A tar ball collected on the Peake Bay Beach.
Turtle grass blades completely covered with oil.
These were collected in two feet of water.
An example of the smothering effect of oil on the
edible oyster, Crassostrea. Note that the upper
valve which has been removed is completely
covered with oil. (Photos by the author).
tanker cleaning operations at sea but outside that
released by dry cargo vessels. Hence, this is further
evidence that the pollution originated with a tanker
and not with some other vessel.
Once the oil was discharged it moved shoreward
under the influence of the prevailing sea breezes and
reached shore within 24 hours. There, because of its
stickiness, it adhered to all solid surfaces within the
intertidal and shallow subtidal zones. Oil which did
not stick eventually found its way into the calm,
shallow, almost completely enclosed inlets where,
with time, it became emulsified, producing a pinkish
white emulsion of oil and water which then persisted
for several weeks. This emulsion was undoubtedly
toxic and probably accounted for the great ecological
damage arising from the spill.
a) The Mangroves: By far the most widespread
damage occurred to the mangroves and more than
six miles of mangrove shoreline were affected. The
specific effect of the oil was to smother the stilt roots
of the red mangrove thus clogging their breathing
pores. In some cases, the leaves also became coated.
Where the oil penetrated beyond the red mangrove
fringe, the pneumatophores of the black mangroves
affected showed generally poor condition with a
tendency to dessication and brittleness. Many
mangrove plants contaminated with oil had died or
showed a tendency towards wilting.
Almost complete mortality occurred among the
sessile organisms on the red mangrove root and the
mangrove oyster (Crassostrea rhizephorae) popula-
tions were virtually eliminated. The long-term effect
of this decimation may have been catastrophic.
b) Fish and Wildlife: Fishermen reported that
several dead snook (Centropomus undecimalis) and
Jew fish (Epinephalus itajara) up to 10 pounds in
weight were seen floating in wind-driven clumps of
oil for several days after the spill. During
investigations six weeks after the spill, some dead
fish were also seen, especially among entangled
masses of sea weed and emulsified oil, and a foul
odour was prevalent.
During such mortality, large dead fish are usually
the most conspicuous; however, the numerous dead
small fry are equally, or even more important
because they represent future fish stock, and their
decimation could severely affect future fisheries, and
the effect of the oil spill on the fisheries of the
Portland Bight area should be considered in this
A large amount of lobsters suffered heavy
mortality following the spill as a result of the
fishermen's habit of "crawleing" them in pots in
shallow water for several days after they have been
caught on the reefs. It is estimated that more than
2,000 lbs. of lobsters being held for sale in this way
Six weeks after the spill, there was readily
observable evidence that birds had been badly
affected by the oil and a number of oil-contaminated
carcasses were found. Fishermen reported
unsuccessful attempts to clean some birds with gas
The effect of the oil on the benthic organisms was
varied. Corals did not show any effect nor did the
inhabitants of rocky shores in strong wave-splash
areas. However, where wave action was low as in the
sheltered lagoons, oil could be seen sticking both
intertidally and subtidally down to a depth of about
three feet. In these areas, turtle grass (Thalassia
testudinum) had their leaf blades coated with oil and
many plants were dead. In many instances dead leaf
blades were observed scattered over the sand
bottom. Usually all epibiotic growth on the turtle
grass blades were dead.
c) The Beaches: All the sand beaches within the
range of the spill showed signs of oil contamination.
Along the more sheltered beaches especially at the
cays, oil had become incorporated in the sand at
three feet depth or less to form a fairly continuous
mat of soft, sticky, asphalt-like material, in some
places as much as six inches thick. In the more
exposed beaches, the oil mats were small and more
broken up but just as thick. On both kinds of
beaches, tar balls up to three inches in diameter were
Even up to six weeks after the spill, the beaches
were unsuitable for any kind of recreational use, and
it was estimated that another six weeks or more
would be necessary for self-cleansing to occur. Thus
the loss of amenity as well as the threat to stability
of the beaches was significant.
d) Boats and Facilities: About 30 fishing and
pleasure boats were heavily coated by oil from the
spill, requiring up to three days for beaching,
cleaning and repainting. In addition, landing giers,
gear and equipment were fouled, requiring repair as
well. One conservative estimate put the direct
economic loss due to fouling of boats and facilities at
more than $5,000. Today this amount could be in
excess of $20,000.
Oil Clean-up Capability
By the time the Portland Bight oil spill was
reported, the oil had already reached shore and had
begun to emulsify, thus making recovery or clean-up
operations impossible and pointless. However, even
if the spill had been reported in time, it is extrerrely
R. LA N'D a q4
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Figure 2: Portland Bight, showing the areas polluted by oil. The unbroken line indicates heaviest pollution.
Red mangrove roots with heavy coating of oil.
A red mangrove leaf almost completely coated with oil.
corporate beach sand ro
Oil incorporated in beach sand tron
doubtful whether much of the damage could have
been prevented due to the very limited clean-up
capability available in Jamaica.
Oil clean-up capability in Jamaica in 1974 (and
today) rests almost entirely with the Oil Control
Committee of the three oil companies operating in
the island. This committee was set up as a joint
venture in 1971 in order to handle clean-up
operations in the event of oil spills occurring
anywhere in the island. The Committee has an
arrangement with the three oil companies, the
harbour master, the water police and the coast
guard, so that in the event of a spill, a fleet of boats
fitted with available equipment and manned by
trained crews can be ready for rapid deployment to
the area of the oil spill. However, the capability of
handling a spill such as occurred in Portland Bight is
still very limited, due primarily to the inadequacy of
equipment and logistic support.
The Oil Control Committee has geared itself to
dealing with fairly well contained and localised spills
of moderate proportions rather than larger spills in
open sea. Thus its largest oil containment boom in
1974, if it had been deployed, would have only been
able to enclose less than one-tenth of the spilled oil at
Portland Bight, (i.e. 30 barrels). If the boats had
been deployed and all the conditions had been
favourable for its operation, it would also have taken
two days or more to recover the oil. However, even
given that the boom had got there in time and that
the spill was quite well contained, it would probably
not have been able to function with maximum
efficiency since it is only able to work in relatively
calm water. Thus it is possible that use of the boom
would have had to be delayed until the oil had come
inshore. By all estimates, oil containment and
recovery if it had been set into action by the Oil
Control Committee, would have met with very little
In addition to booming, the Oil Committee also
deals with spills by spraying with Corexit which
emulsifies the oil and causes it to disperse more
readily throughout the water column. However, the
use of dispersants in coastal waters is very
questionable and there is every likelihood that if
Corexit had been employed in Portland Bight, the
ecological damage would have been much greater.
The situation which exists today in respect of oil
clean-up capability in Jamaica is very similar to that
of 1974, and recent experiences indicate that if a
major spill occurred in our coastal waters little, if
anything, could be done about it. For, in addition to
requiring better equipment and methods of recovery,
logistics support in the form of surveillance and alert
communications, prediction, boat availability,
trained personnel and a streamlined command chain
still appear to be highly inadequate. Thus it is
essential that priority attention be given to the
establishment of an effective National Contingency
Plan which is properly equipped, operated by trained
personnel and supported by the full range of
specialised services. In addition, it is necessary that
such a national plan be linked in with sub-regional
and regional plans for preparedness and action
against spills of such sizes that are normally outside
the scope of a single country, and of possible threat
to more than one. At present the private oil
companies have some agreement for foreign
assistance in such an eventuality, but an increasing
number of nations are finding out that such
contingency planning cannot be left to the oil
companies alone. -It must, in all cases, be primarily a
The oil spill which occurred in Portland Bight in
1974 was almost certainly caused by a tanker
cleaning out its tanks after leaving port. This is a
common practice which, though recognized, is still
prevalent, and more and more of our shoreline is
being polluted with oil as a result. In addition,
accidental spillages have occurred and will continue
to occur, especially in Kingston Harbour, with
Since the Portland Bight spill, which was the
worst of its kind to occur in Jamaican waters, oil
pollution surveillance, an alert network, the methods
of oil clean-up and logistic support do not appear to
have been improved significantly. Hence a similar
spill today could create as much or even greater
damage depending upon the location and prevailing
conditions, while a larger spill could be disastrous.
The Caribbean region as a whole and Jamaica in
particular have been warned again by recent
occurrences of oil spills. Yet our response is tardy
and our purpose unconvincing. What are we waiting
Dr. Wade is a Member of the OAS Task
Force for preparation of a Contingency Action Plan for the
Prevention and Control of Oil Spills in the Caribbean and by
IOCARIBE (an agency of UNESCO). Selected by UN as one of 5
specialists to investigate the Ecological Damage by the Ixtoc I
Oil Blow Out in the Gulf of Mexico. Member of staff of Zoology
Dept. U.W.I. since 1967.
I^^^- i- .. -""
Turning partly dried sods by hand at Negril. Cutting, turning and stacking of
Is is a fully mechanised operation it
60 I I
Peat as Fuel
By Edward Robinson
Edward Robinson, Dept. of Geology, U.W.I., Kingston 7.
Professor of Geology at the University of the West Indies. Brought
up in India as a child, educated at Ellesmere College and Birming-
ham University in England. Has lived in Jamaica since 1956,
working, initially, at the Geological Survey Dept. and, since 1961,
at the University of the West Indies.
The mud of their soil they knead with
their hands, dry it in sun and wind, after
that they burn it to cook their food and
warm their stiff bodies.
PLINY (A.D. 23-79).
It is not known when man first discovered that the
black turf found in vast stretches of mossy and
reed-choked bogs and heather-covered moorlands in
northern Europe, Asia and America, could be dried
and used to make fires. In a bog in Denmark there
are distinct traces of this material, known to us as
peat, being so used in the second or third century
before Christ. Certainly, by the time of the Roman
Empire and Pliny's comments (directed at the
inhabitants of the Netherlands) peat appears to have
been used as a fuel over much of northern Europe,
including the British Isles, in those areas where there
were no forests.
By the 14th century there was a flourishing peat
trade in Holland, and in other places the winning of
peat from the local bog, for domestic heating and
cooking, was an important cottage industry. Leland,
for instance, during his 16th century travels through
England, mentions the working of peat for fuel in
Lancashire. In addition to its use as a fuel, as early
as 1589, Thomas Proctor discovered a way to smelt
iron ore with pit coal or peat, although wood
continued to be used long after that date.
In other parts of the world peat never seems to
have been used as a fuel, in most cases because there
has always been enough wood for fires, at least until
recent times. In those countries, such as China,
India, and the Middle East, where deforestation did
occur at a relatively early date, other fuel
substitutes, such as animal dung, were burnt and
climatic conditions had not favoured the
development of peat bogs.
To the best of my knowledge there is no record of
peat from tropical swamps having been used to
generate electrical power. This is why the present
investigations into the use of Jamaican swamp peat
for fuel, by the Ministry of Mining and Natural
Resources, the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica.
and the University of the West Indies, are of more
than passing interest.
Formation of Peat
Peat itself is a dark brown or black material,
consisting mainly of partly decomposed residues of
vegetable matter originating in and accumulating in
a water-saturated environment. In its wet state peat
consists of between 9 and 19 parts of water to 1 of
solids. Over the course of millions of years, through
burial, compaction and the expulsion of water, peat
is eventually transformed into coal. However, the
majority of the vast deposits of peat scattered across
North America and Eurasia have been forming only
since the end of the last Ice Age, some 10.000 years
ago, and peat deposits elsewhere are mainly of a
Most peat deposits show evidence of having
passed through several phases of growth. These
often begin by the deposition of organic detritus in a
lake, or river, or a landlocked arm of the sea. As
vegetation begins to choke up the open waterway, a
reed swamp develops. Decaying organic matter from
the swamp vegetation gradually fills the waterway
completely up to the water surface giving rise to a
fen, populated by sedges. In tropical coastal areas
one of the dominant plants by this stage is the
mangrove. With the infilling of the swamp the way is
cleared for the encroachment of forest vegetation.
Finally, in many of the wet zones of the northern
hemisphere, the continually damp conditions permit
the development of vegetation dominated by moss,
which gradually builds itself up into a sort of dome
over the peat bog, giving rise to what the Irish term
a raised bog, continuously wet, but free draining and
perhaps tens of feet thick. The same kind of
conditions promote the development of moss peats in
many mountainous areas, although here they are
likely to be a relatively thin veneer over the sloping
Exploitation of Peat for Fuel
Although a few Dutch towns had developed a
thriving trade in peat by the 14th century, the
exploitation of peat on a commercial scale was not
attempted seriously until the mid 19th century. As
early as 1809, however, the foundations for such
exploitation were laid when a comprehensive survey
of the peatlands of Ireland was undertaken. Initially,
large scale peat production followed the traditional
methods. In well-drained deposits the peat was dug
out by hand and cut into brick-shaped blocks or
sods, about a foot long and six inches across. These
were left on the surface of the cut bog to dry in the
sun and wind. During the drying, which might take
up to two or three months, depending on weather
conditions, the moisture content of the sods dropped
from around 90 per cent to some 50-60 per cent. At
this stage the sods could be heaped into stacks or
windows for further drying. Eventually sods at
about 30-40 per cent moisture would be piled into
large stacks, ready for use as fuel.
Although the peat fuel industry flourished locally
in many areas, from Russia west through Europe to
Ireland, during the late 19th and early 20th
centuries, the rapid increase, first, in the use of cheap
coal and then, in the 1930s and 40s of even cheaper
oil, led to a decline in the peat industry. Fortunately
for the future of peat technology, however, the
situations in two European countries ensured that
the industry was kept alive and that it developed
particularly in the direction of using peat as fuel to
The U.S.S.R. has by far the largest peat resources
in the world and in the years following the revolution
of 1917, a concerted attempt was made to develop
these resources on an extensive scale, as an adjunct
to using coal and to provide employment in
depressed areas. Methods were developed to increase
mechanisation in the industry, by designing special
vehicles which could travel over the bogs without
sinking, and a wide variety of techniques of
production were experimented with. Similar
mechanisation efforts were attempted, on a smaller
scale, in other European countries. Many important
advances in the development of peat-winning
machinery were also made in Germany in the 1920s
and 30s where a peat extraction industry survived.
Thus it is that today, about 95 per cent of all peat
extracted commercially is extracted in the Soviet
Union, where some 80 power plants are in use, or are
being built, to provide some 6,500 megawatts of
electrical generating capacity, with the largest
station designed for a 1000 megawatt output. Some
65 million tons of peat a year are used for this
The other European country which pursued a
policy of industrial peat development was Ireland.
Faced with virtually no coal or oil resources of its
own, but with large areas of underdeveloped peat
bogs in Central Ireland, and with a tradition of using
peat on an extensive scale for domestic heating and
cooking, the Irish set about developing a peat-based
electrical supply industry on a massive scale. Since
1950 the Irish Peat Board (Bord na Mona) has
expanded its industrial base to the point where it is
producing about 30 per cent of the electrical power in
the country and employing several thousand people
in the process. Today, Ireland's peat extraction
industry is probably the most technologically
advanced in the world.
We in Jamaica are faced with a situation
somewhat analogous to that of Ireland in the 1940s.
We have no large, cheap, local source of energy. So
the need to investigate all the possibilities for
indigenous energy production must receive the
highest priority, for cheap energy is one of the bases
for a successful technological society. For these
reasons the Government is investigating the
possibilities of using local peat resources as a fuel for
electric power generation.
Jamaica's Peat Resources
Small accumulations of peat do occur in Jamaica.
Most of these are found in the wetland areas of the
south and west coasts, as deposits up to a maximum
of 50 ft. thick. Minor amounts also occur in parts of
the mountain rain forest and in certain areas with
poor drainage. The two principal deposits are to be
found in the Lower Morass of the Black River
drainage basin, St. Elizabeth, and in the Great
Morass of Negril. Preliminary investigations
indicate that those two regions together contain in
excess of 20 million tons of peat, on an air-dried basis
(in its natural state it contains about 91 per cent
water). This amount is insignificant in world terms,
about 0.005 per cent of the total global resources,
but, if recoverable, it could fuel about 80 megawatts
of electrical generating capacity for about 30 years,
replacing some of our imported oil in the process.
Collecting samples and probing thickness of peal, using a special .,, SW
auger, in sedge marsh, Negril. tPhotos by the author).
In Ireland a narrow-gauge railway carries the dried peatl .' .
directly tothe power station from the bog. -
Fully automated mining, spreading and cutting of peat into
sods, central Ireland. In the background is a long stack of
sods from the previous year's operations.
Ditching machines at work on a bog in central Ireland. Here
the bog is drained before peat mining commences.
Southern part of the Lower Morass, Black River. Mangrove ,
borders most of the waterways, with reed and sedge marshes
between. Town of Black River, in the background, is built on a
the limestone bed rock bordering the swamps to the right.
(Photo by I. Tyndale Bl-coe)
About 40 per cent of the present electrical demand on
the Jamaica Public Service Company could be met
by burning local peat.
Clearly, there are four crucial questions to be
answered before any development can proceed:
i) Is there really that much peat?
ii) Can it be burnt in a power station, if dried?
iii) Can it be dried economically?
iv) If the peat is extracted, to what extent will
the environment be affected?
In order to provide answers to these questions
various steps must be taken. To answer the first
question, detailed surveying and sampling of the
peat deposits is required. It is important not only to
determine the volume of material available but also
to determine the amount of ash and moisture
contained in the raw peat. For example 1000 cubic
yards of peat at 90 per cent moisture will yield 120
tons of dry combustible solids, whereas the same
volume at 95 per cent moisture will contain only 60
tons of dry solids. This range of moisture variation is
usual in an undrained peat swamp. The amount of
ash present will also affect the heating value of the
peat, the more ash there is, the more difficult it will
be to burn. The ash content to be expected in
Jamaican peats is from 8 to 25 per cent (dry weight
basis) which is more than that of Irish and most
The question as to whether or not dried Jamaican
peat can be burnt in a power station has already been
answered. It can. During 1978, 80 tons of Jamaican
peat were dried and sent to be tested in a commercial
peat-fired power station in the west of Ireland. The
tests showed that Jamaican peat will burn
effectively in a power station designed for peat use.
Perhaps the major question relates to the drying
of the peat. Because it is not economical to drain the
swamps prior to removing the peat, extraction would
probably be carried out either by dredging and
subsequent transport of the wet peat to a suitable
drying area, or spread ground, or by a hydraulic
method, involving removal of the peat as a slurry
and transporting it by pipeline to the drying area. In
either case the wet peat will need to be spread out, to
a depth of 5 or 6 inches, left to dry in the open air,
and cut into sods to accelerate the drying process,
and to produce handleable material. This type of
operation will approximate to the method of
producing sodpeat, as already described and used in
Europe. The rate at which the material can be dried
will determine the number of times the same area of
spread ground can be used in a given period and this,
in turn, will determine the total acreage of spread
ground which has to be prepared and maintained to
sustain any given rate of peat production. If a given
area can be used, say, six times a year, then only half
the amount of land will be needed compared with a
similar production demand in which it is possible to
use the spread ground only three times a year. In
Ireland the climate is such that spread grounds can
be used about 1.5 times a year. First indications from
local trials are that drying rates will be better in
Jamaica because of higher temperatures, more
extensive sunshine and lack of a winter period. On
the other hand the intense nature of the rainfall in
Jamaica, compared with Ireland, may inhibit the
progress of drying. It would appear that about 4
annual crops of dry peat will be possible, but further
drying trials are being carried out.
Finally, the environmental problem will need very
careful evaluation. The most immediate result of
extracting the peat will be to create extensive lakes,
in the range 10 ft. to 40 ft. deep, in the morass areas.
The side effects of peat production, of
environmental significance, may include one or more
of the following:
i) Destruction of a zone of primary production,
supporting aquatic life, such as fish larvae,
shrimps and manatee within the swamps,
and, perhaps also the adjacent inshore fish-
ii) Destruction of natural flood control mechan-
iii) Promotion of erosion within the drainage
system and along the adjacent coastline.
iv) Increase of sedimentation within the drain-
age basin and adjacent coastline waters.
Such sedimentation may include excessive
quantities of particulate peat matter.
v) Destruction of wildlife refuges and vegeta-
tion stands of scientific, economic or aesthe-
However, remedial measures to combat adverse
effects might include:
i) Careful design of mining areas to avoid water
courses and known areas of fish spawning.
Mined-out areas could be made largely
independent of the existing waterways.
ii) The creation of shallow lakes by mining
should provide artificial flood basins to
absorb excessive flood waters.
iii) Isolation of mining areas would minimise
erosion. However, larger lakes may erode at
the perimeters during hurricanes. Shoreline
erosion should not be affected at all by peat
mining, provided channels are not cut
through protective bars.
iv) Again, isolation of mining areas should
minimise any excess sedimentation side
feat spread out to dry opposite the airstrip at negrn. great on tne ngnt
has been cut; on the left the sods have been windrowed to accelerate
effects. But it can be expected that some fine
peat matter will be expelled to the sea
v) Careful selection and design of mining areas
and mining sequences will reduce interfer-
ence with the vegetation and wild life, but
there is bound to be some encroachment on
the natural environment.
Other Uses of Peat
The only other major use of peat, apart from burn-
ing it for heat and electricity, is as a soil conditioner
and as a carrier for fertilisers. Virtually all North
American peat production is for these purposes.
Although peat by itself is notoriously infertile as a
soil, it has the property of absorbing nutrients and
moisture supplied to it to a great degree. It can also
be mixed with other soils, either too sandy or too
clayey, to provide a good humus content artificially.
It is for these reasons that suitably drained and
prepared peat soils have long provided rich
However for the last 100 years there have been
ongoing investigations in using peat for all kinds of
other things. Basically these uses depend either on
its physical or its chemical properties.
Chemically peat can be regarded as a form of coal,
but with a higher content of hydrogen and oxygen. It
can be heated in closed retorts, like wood or coal, to
produce peat coke or charcoal, with the simultaneous
release of low calorie gas, which in turn can be piped
and used as a clean fuel in boilers, lime kilns,
glass-making furnaces or pottery kilns. On dry
distillation, depending on the temperatures reached,
gas, benzine, tar and waxes are produced together
with ash, small quantities of ammonium sulphate (an
important fertilizer) and residues from which alcohol
can be obtained. These materials, in turn, can be
used in making plastics, dyes, and so on, in much the
same way as has been done in the coal industry. It
Sods stacked and dried, ready for burning, Negril.
can be hydrogenated to make synthetic petroleum
products. It has been used as the primary energy
source in manufacturing ceramics and glass and as
an energy chemical to make synthesis gas for
subsequent production of ammonia. It could provide
fuel for caustic soda plants, cement factories and in
the manufacture of sulphuric acid from anhydrite.
Less successfully, it has been used as a source of
carbon in the reduction of metal ores to metal. Less
successfully, because unlike coal, or even wood, it is
mechanically weak and light and tends to
disintegrate and get blown away in, say, a blast
Prime amongst the physical properties of peat is
its outstanding capacity as an absorbent. This is
particularly true of moss peat, which, unfortunately,
is rare in Jamaica. Secondly, its often fibrous texture
allows it to be considered as a raw material for
products traditionally based on wood (or bagasse).
Apart from its agricultural use, peat has been tried
as a raw material for blotting and other papers, and
mixed with molasses as cattle food. It has been
compressed into plates, plant pots and boards. Its
fibres have been woven to produce cloth. In its loose
dry state it is an ideal heat insulator. It has also been
used as a carrier for explosives and magnesium
flares, and as a bonding agent for foundry sands. It
even has its place in medicine as surgical dressings
and in balneology, therapeutic treatment for
rheumatoid arthritis, through the use of peat baths.
Such a vast number of possibilities and so little
peat! That is really the situation which we face in
Jamaica when we turn to look at peat as a natural
resource and raw material for industry.
Ewbank Engineering Consultants Ltd., 1979, Pre-feasibility study
report on the production and utilisation of peat at Negril and Black
Sijbolts, R., 1954, the peat industry in Holland. Proc. International
Peat Symposium, Dublin, 3 pp.
The Productivity of
By Cerald Lalor
Dr. Gerald Cecil Lalor was born in Jamaica. and educated at the
University College of the West Indies.
After serving for several years as chief, chemist in a Jamaican
manufacturing concern. he joined the stafi of the Unikersity of the
West Indies where he is now Pro-Vice Chancellor. He has researched at
Cambridge. Berkley. Havard. the University of Rome and the Chalk
River Nuclear Laboratories of Atomic Energy of Canada.
Professor Lalor has published %ery widely in international scientific
journals, and has served on several Government advisory bodies. Inter
alia he is Regional Editor of Revlsta Latineamercana Quilica,
Chairman for the Committee on Peaceful Uses of the Atom, was a
member of the Jury for the first award of the Maracay Prize, and
recently Advisor to the Director General of UNESCO at UNCSTD.
Some of his present research interests included Rapid Reaction
Kinetics: Thermodynamics, and Alternative Energy Sources.
The Impact of Science
The impact of Science on humanity has been
summed up as follows:
The greatest event in the world today is not the
awakening of Africa, nor the rise of Communism
vast and portentous as those events are, it is
the advent of a new way of living, due to Science: a
change in the condition of work and the structure
of society which began not so very long ago in the
West and is now reaching out over all mankind.
So pervasive has been this impact that a strong base
in Science and Technology is now essential for the
economic health of the industrialized countries, as
well as for the development process of the poor
Perhaps 80 per cent of present scientific
knowledge has been obtained in the last 40 years and
the very volume of this information, as well as the
pace of discovery, present problems in building the
required base. Although scientific research is
international and successes achieved anywhere can
generally be available, each society needs to have the
capability to understand, select, and modify, unless
it is to be isolated from the mainstream of
Weakness in Science and Technology and the lack
of a Research and Development base have profound
economic effects. For example, in Latin America,
more than twice the amount of money spent on
Research and Development within the region is paid
out for foreign technology in the form of licences and
royalty payments. The Licensor usually keeps
control of the technology and does not provide
sufficient knowledge which would help lead to the
development of new products or processes.
Large foreign-owned firms operating in lesser
developed countries may contribute significantly to
local training in certain limited technologies and in
management practices but their contribution to local
Science and Technology, and particularly to
Research and Development, is usually trivial since
their Research and Development base resides in the
large laboratories of the home territory and there is
no compensating stimulation of local effort. There is
little evidence that the locally-owned industries
perform differently. They too depend on overseas
experts to such an extent that there is a disincentive
to the development of local expertise and an
encouragement of the brain drain, both of which lead
to an increasing utilization of foreign expertise and
experience; also their support of local Research and
Development is small. If a country is to develop its
own agriculture and industry, etc. there must be a
break away from this type of technological
It is argued that the poorer countries ought now to
have several opportunities to lessen this dependence
since there exists worldwide an enormous body of
knowledge and experience which the industrial
countries took decades to build up, but which can
now be accessed and utilized. But even to do this,
even to take advantage of the fruits of others'
labours, pre-supposes the adequate base, the correct
choices, and the possession of the needed skills to
run various operations: in short, a measure of
scientific and technological independence which is
only attainable if there exists at least a core of
scientists and technologists. Without well-trained
scientists and engineers, there will be defective
transfer of technology. It will not be possible to
effect the necessary selection and adaptation of
processes developed in other places to different
markets, different local conditions and different
needs. But correcting major deficiencies in human
resources takes time and planned effort. In this
effort, the development of an indigenous Research
and Development capability is a major priority both
in regard to the knowledge and information to be
gained and in the opportunities it would provide for
training and experience.
The Jamaican Situation
It is generally agreed that the application of
Science and Technology to agriculture, industry, the
utilization of mineral and other natural resources,
energy, health and the many other areas which
contribute to our well-being, is essential to national
development, and various attempts are being made
to strengthen several key areas of scientific effort.
Because funds are limited, it is unlikely that the
problem can be attacked on a broad front and more
selectivity and concentration of resources on certain
problems and indeed on certain institutions may well
prove necessary. It is therefore of interest to examine
the present state of Science in Jamaica, if even in a
preliminary way, as this paper admittedly does, to
begin to understand its strengths and weaknesses.
Among relevant indicators are:
i) the number of institutions involved in
Research and Development;
ii) the amount of money spent on Research and
Development activities as a percentage of
iii) the number of Scientists and Engineers per
100,000 of population.
The above indicators are used in a preliminary
study covering the period 1971-1973.2
That study reports over 100 scientific or
technological institutions with a total budget of
some $11.3 million for 1973, representing 0.76 per
cent of G.N.P. and some 32 Scientists and Engineers
per 100,000 of population. For comparison, in 1972,
the U.S.A. and U.S.S.R. had about 500-600
Scientists and Engineers per 100,000 of population.
The expenditure on Research and Development in
the U.S.A. was 3 per cent of the G.N.P. in the same
The present study is rather differently focused
from that done by the National Planning Agency of
Jamaica. We examine the number of authors
publishing; the institutions from which the work is
reported; and the amount and type of work reported
on. It also provides a preliminary directory of "Who
is Publishing in Science and Medicine in Jamaica"
with names of authors and institutional sources. An
analysis of productivity is reported and some
comparisons are made between Jamaica and other
This study was made possible by the use of
facilities for computerised retrieval of information.
The Dialog Information Services was accessed by a
Texas 745 terminal linked by the normal telephone
system to the TYMNET modem in Miami and
thence to the computer bank in Palo Alto, California.
The file used for this initial work was
SCISEARCH, Dialog File 94,- which covers the four
year period beginning January 1974 and contains
more than two million citations. The citations are
claimed to include more than 90 per cent of the
world's significant scientific and technical literature
indexed from articles, reports of meetings, editorials,
letters, etc. from about 2,600 major journals covering
all aspects of science and technology including
clinical medicine and agriculture. Prints of titles and
addresses which originated in Jamaica were
retrieved in the format shown below:
0714867 ARTICLE OATS ORDER#: AJ900
REACTIONS OF NICKEL IONS WITH
NITROSO-NAPHTHOLS EQUILIBRIA AND
DISSOCIATION KINETICS OF SOME
NICKEL- COMPLEXES (EN)
INORGANICA CHEMICAL ACTA. V14, N2,
UNIV W INDIES, CHEM
Since SCISEARCH covers so much of the world's
significant scientific literature, it seems reasonable
to assume that this information, although not
necessarily complete, provides a fair indicator of the
relative levels of scientific effort and/or success in
Jamaica in recent years.
Results and Discussion
Table 1 gives the frequency of publications by
source and the various percentages of the total
contributed by each institution.
Frequency of Publications by Source retrieved from
Alcan Jamaica Ltd.
Caribbean Food & Nutrition Institute
Citrus Growers Association
Coconut Industry Board
Institute of Jamaica
Javamex Alumina Ltd.
Jentech Consultants Ltd.
Ministry of Agriculture
Ministry of Commerce & Consumer
Ministry of Health
Ministry of Mines
National Water Authority
per cent of per cent
No. Total excluding
3 1 6.5
5 1.4 10.9
3 1 6.5
1 .5 2.2
5 1.4 10.9
1 .5 2.2
1 .5 2.2
1 .5 2.2
1 .5 2.2
7 1.9 15.2
TABLE 1 (Continued)
Pan American Health Organisation
Revere Jamaica Alumina Ltd.
Scientific Research Council
University of the West Indies
Total 369 87.5
A breakdown of publication frequencies by area is
shown in Table 2.
TABLE 2: Publication frequencies and percentage grouped by
fields for the period 1974-77 for Jamaica
FIELD UWI (%) Others (O/ Totals (%/
Agriculture & Plant Science 19 5.9 14 30.4 33 8.9
Chemistry & Biochemistry 44 13.6 5 10.9 49 13.3
Computer Sciences 0 0 0
Earth Sciences 9 2.8 0 9 2.4
Energy 0 0 0
Engineering 0 3 6.5 3 0.8
Food & Nutrition
Maths & Physics
Marine Biology and
There is an inevitable
the sub-divisions in Tab
further sub-divided but
indicators at present.
The comparative n
medical science shown ii
seem to be remarkab
Agriculture and Pit
distressingly low; and on
there were no publication
Sciences despite the
"Computer age;" and
energy which is an area
Comparisons of Jamaica
Campus with St' John's
Table 3 gives the frequ
ed from SCISEARCH i
1974-1977. Any compare;
treated with caution s
retrievals seems to be m
that perhaps journals
SCISEARCH are being i
this, only the relative nu
TABLE 3: Frequency o
FIELD St. A
Chemistry & Biochemistry
Food & Nutrition
Maths & Physics
TABLE 4 reports data on St. John's University,
New York. We do not have sufficient information on
St. John's at this time to make a detailed comparison
with U.W.I., so the frequency of publications by
Department is listed.
TABLE 4: Frequency of Publications in Science & Technology
as retrieved from SCISEARCH 1974-1977 for St.
Department Number 96 (age)
0 7 15.2 7 1.9 Maths
25 7.7 1 2.2 26 7.0 Physics
177 54.8 10 21.7 187 50.7 B
49 15.2 6 13.0 55 14.0 Pharmacology & Allied
Element of arbitrariness in
le 2, and each field could be
the chosen ones are useful
umber of publications in
n Table 2 does at first sight
ily high; the number in
ant Science may seem
te cannot escape noting that
Because we do not yet understand the reasons for
what appears to be a low retrieval rate from Trinidad
and do not know enough about St. John's
University, direct comparisons might well be
invidious. But Tables 2, 3 and 4 separately and
together, seem to refute the following views
commonly held in Jamaica:'
ns whatsoever in Computer 1. Publication rates in Agriculture and the
advent of the so-called Plant Sciences are "low" because of the long
even more particularly in times needed for experiments.
of critical importance. 2. For similar reasons Zoologists cannot be ex-
Swith Trinidad and Mona pected to publish at a "high" rate.
University. N'Y" 3. The Medical Sciences involve a great deal of
ency of publications retriev- long term experimentation and a high service
for Trinidad for the period load, therefore publication rates are low.
sons with Jamaica must be 4. Publication rates in Mathematics are "low"
ince the total number of because it is "difficult to publish" Mathe-
uch too low. This indicates matics.
other than those cited by 5. It is "easy to publish" in Chemistry there-
sed in Trinidad. Because of fore the publication rates of Chemists should
embers in the various areas be high.
A remarkable feature of the tables is the compara-
f Publications for 1974-1977 tively high publication rate in the Medical Sciences
or Trinidad in all examples. Nearly 55 per cent of the papers
tine (%) Others( o ) Totals () retrieved for the Mona Campus are medically based.
For other institutions in Jamaica, the spread is
6 35.3 3 23.1 9 30 perhaps more uniform: Medicine is now second to
1 5.9 0 1 3.3 Agriculture and Plant Science, but retains a very
respectable proportion (18 per cent) of the total.
Taken as a whole for Jamaica, the Medical Sciences
contributed 50 per cent of the publications and
Agriculture and Plant Sciences together only 9 per
The Zoology contribution is of the order of that of
Chemistry/Biochemistry but is somewhat larger, 55
compared with 49, i.e. 15 per cent against 13 per
Even in Trinidad, which has the Faculty of
Agriculture and a relatively small presence from the
Faculty of Medicine, the number of Medical papers is
47 per cent of the total compared with 30 per cent for
Agriculture. The figures for St. John's University
also show a preponderance of publications for the
medically related departments. Nor does it seem that
in Mathematics publication rates need be low. The
figures for St. John's are relatively high and
interestingly enough the largest number of papers
per person that this author has learnt of, is due to a
If there is nothing inherently favouring
productivity in any particular area of science,
differences may well be due to personal factors as
well as the number of workers in particular areas and
the institutional structures and levels of support.
Workers in Science and Medicine
The very long Table 5, is a first directory of "Who
is Publishing and from Where in Jamaica". In this
Table an attempt is made to identify: women;
bachelors of U.W.I. ; and authors who performed
most of their graduate work (M.Sc. and/or Ph.D) in
U.W.I. In this directory, the numbers refer to the
number of timesan author's name was retrieved. Since
most of the paper have multiple authorship, the sum
of these numbers greatly exceeds the actual number
of papers published. Also because of collaborations
between institutions, there will be names in this
directory of persons who have never actually worked
in Jamaica. In subsequent studies we hope to be able
to identify these names and to allow for them in
some, as yet undetermined, appropriate manner.
TABLE 5: Directory of Institutions, authors, and numbers of
publications retrieved from Scisearch 74-77 with
Corporate Source in Jamaica, West Indies.
Alcan Jamaica Limited
Chandler, J.L. 2
Morgan, G.W. 1
* Dempster, F.D. 1
Shillingford, C.A. 1, 2
Caribbean Food and Nutrition
Campbell, E. 1 1
Campbell, J.A. 1
Cook, R. 1
Forbes, A.L. 1
Heywood, P.F. 1
Jellife, D.B. 1
Lathan, M.C. 1
Sabry, Z.I. 1
Citrus Growers Association
Weir, C.C. I
Coconut Industry Board
Edengreen, S.J. 1
Harries, H.G. 1
Romney, D.H. 2
Waters, H. 1
Ministry of Agriculture
Free, J.B. 1
Kawaguch, K. 2
,Mahadevan, P. 1
Raw, A. 2 1
Schrieeberger, C.P. 1
VanVleck, L.D. 1
Weir, C.C. 1, 2 1
Wellington, K.E. 1
Wiggans, G.R. 1
Ministry of Commerce
& Consumer Protection
Been,B.O., 2 3
* Perkins, C. 1 3
Thompson, A.K. 3
Ministry of Health
& Environmental Control
Braithwaite, A.R. 1
Cline, R.E. 1
Diggory, H.J.P. 1
Ellington, A.C. 1
George, W.F. 1
Hall, J.A.S. 1
Isaacs, B. 1 1
Kimbrough, R.D. 1
Latimer, K.P. 1
Landrigan, P.J. 1
Lawrence, A.W.W. 1 1
Liddle, J.A. 1
Ramu, M. 3
Smrek, A.L. 1
Thomas, E. 1
Ministry of Mines
Davis, C.E. 2
National Water Authority
Mohsen, F.N. 1
Wisner, P.E. 1
Pan American Health
Collis, R. 1 1
Green, P. 1
Revere Jamaica Alumina Ltd.
Martin, W. 1
Scientific Research Council
Jordine, E. St. A.
lavamex Alumina Limited
lentech Consultants Ltd.
Institute of Jamaica
University of the West Indles
Achong, A. 1,2
Ahern, E. 1(
Ahern, V. C
Ali, S.D. 1 1
Ali, Z. 1,2 1
* Alexander, J.E. 1
Alleyne, H. 1,2 1
Alleyne, G.A.O. 1,2 1i
*Alleyne, S. 1
c Ami, S. 1 1
*Amin, U.F. 1
*Anderson, M.F. ]
*Anderson, N. 1,2
Ariyanayagam, R.P. 1
Ashcroft, M.T. 11
Ashley, D. 1 1
Atkinson, D.O. 1
Atkinson, D.W. 1
Audretsh, J.J. 1
Bajue, S.A. 1 2
Ballantine, J.A. 1
Bardouille, V. 2 1
Baretz, B.H. 1
Barnes, D.H. 2
Barrow, C.H. 4
Bateson, E.M. 1
Bennett, C.R. 1
Bennett, F.I. 1,2 5
Black, R.L.B. 1
Blackburne, J.S. 1
Boase, D.L. 1
Bohlm, E.L. 2
Bolton, F.G. 1
Bourne, R.K. 1
Box, V.G.S. 1,2 3
TABLE 5 (Continued)
Brookes, S.E.H. 1,2
* Calogero, H.
Chan, W.R. 1,2
Chance, M.P. 1,2
Chin, P. 1,2
Chutkan, W. 1
Coke, L.B. 1
Commission, J.N. 1
Dabek, A.J. 2
Davis, A. 1
Donaldson, E.K. 1
Egbe, P.C. 2
Ferdinand, A. 1
Figureoa, J.P. 1
'isher, E. 1,2
1 *Flaherty, B.J.
4 Fletcher, P.R. 1
1 Flores, H.
4 Florey, C.D.V.
1 French, C.
S French, G.L.
S Forbes, M.
SForrester, T.E. 1
1 Fossar, N.
1 Fraser, H.S. 1
3 Freakley, G.
1 Freeman, B.E.
1 Friedman, S.
1 Fritz, R.B.
1 Gajraj, M.K.
1 Garvey, M.J. 1,2
1 Gibbs, W.N. 1
6 Gibson,J. 1,2
1 Gilson, R.J.L.
1 Goffe, S.
1 Golding, J.S.R.
1 Goodbody, I.
1 Gooden, H.M.
1 Gordon, Y.B.
1 Gold, E.
1 Golden, B.E.
2 Golden, M.N.H.
3 *Goreau, N.I.
1 Goreau, T.F.
2 Grant, L.S.
2 Grant, C.J.
6 Graham, E.A.
1 Graham, J. 1
1 *Grantham-McGregor, S.
1 Greenway, M. 2
2 Gray, R.
3 Griffiths, B.B. 2
1 Gunn, B.M.
1 Gumbs, F.A.
13 Haggis, G.
1 Hall, J.S.E.
1 Hammerton, J.L.
2 Hanchard, B.
1 Hansensmith, F.M.
I Harding, T.W.
I Harland, P.S.E.G.
1 Harris, G.M.
1 Harris, M. 1
1 Hayes, R.L.
1 Hemmings, R.T.
1 Henderson, H.E.
1 Henry, L.L. 1
1 Herbert, R.
1 Hicks, C.P.
1 Hill, A.A.
1 Hilton, T.
1 Holder, W.
1 Holland, S.
1 Homi, J.
1 Horsfield, W.T.
6 Howard, C.
6 Hoyte, D.
3 Hughes, G.R.V.
1 Hunt, P.
1 Hunte, W. 1,2
2 Iravani, J.
1 Ittyeipe, K. 2
6 Itzkowitz, M.
3 Jackson, A.A.
1 Jackson, J.B.C.
1 James, B.O.L.
1 James, O.B.O.
4 *Jayalashmi, M. 2
1 Jayasingh, D.B. 2
1 Johnson, B. 1
3 Johnson, K.W.
1 Johnson, P.S.
1 Jones, D.P.
2 Jones, J.J.
2 Jones, P.N.
0 Jones, R.T.
S Jordan, P.
2 Kahn, B.J.
1 Kanengoni, E.
2 Kaufman, L.
3 Kean, E.A.
1 Keefe, M.B.
3 Keenliside, W.
2 Kemp, A.W. 2
1 Kent, G.S.
1 Kerr, D.S.
1 Kersley, L.
1 *King, S.D.
1 Klein, F.K.
1 Klorbucha, J.A.
9 Knight, F.
1 Konchige, H.W.
2 Koster, J.R.
1 Kutney, J.P.
2 Lachmann, P.J.
1 Lagrandade, J. 1
1 Lalor, G.C. 1,2
1 Lalsingh, A.
4 Land, L.S.
1 Lang, A.
1 Lang, J.C. 1
1 Langler, D.
1 Lehmann, H.
2 Leslie, J.
1 Liburd, A. 1
1 Lockhard, A.B.
3 Lodenquai, J. 1
1 Loeschck, H.H.
2 Lowe, H.I.C. 1
2 Lowry, M.F.
1 Lyons, C.W. 1,2
2 McCall, I.W.
3 McCormac, M.K.
3 McDonald, H.
1 McDougal, J.W.
1 McGregor, S.M.
2 Mclver, C.
1 *McLaren, E.
5 McNeill, D.
2 McNeill, R. 1
1 Magnus, K.E. 1,2
2 Manchand, P.S.
2 Manchester, K.L.
2 Mansingh, A.
1 *March, Y.
2 Marsh, G.W.
2 *Martin, P.A. 1,2
1 Mason, K.
1 Matsouka, D.A.
3 Maxwell, W.L.
2 Mbizvo, M.
1 Melville, G.N.
4 Mandillo, M.
2 Miall, W.E.
1 Middleton, A.
1 *Millard, D.P. 1,2
1 Miller, C.G. 1
5 Miller, G.J.
1 *Miller, H.
4 Miller, N.E.
1 Millington, H. 1
5 Milner, P.F.
2 Milner, R.D.G.
1 Ming. M.
3 Moodie, K.
1 Moore, C.H.
1 Morgan, O.
1 Morrison, E.Y.
1 Moule, N.J.
1 Mullick, S.
1 Munro, J.L.
1 Murari, J.
2 Musgrave, R.B.
7 Nicholson, G.D.
1 Norman, W.J.
3 Notcutt, W.G.
1 Oldham, A.J.
2 Ottey, F. 2
1 Palmerley, S.M.
1 Palomino, E. 1
1 Panonu, K.L.
1 Patrick, J.
TABLE 5 (Continued)
Persaud, T.V.N. 2
Persaud, V. 1
Picou, D. 1
Prince, E.C. 1
Rawle, J.R. 1
Rawlings, S.C. 1,2
Redwood, A.M. 1
Roberts, E.V. 1
*Robinson, H.M. 2
*Rodgers, P.E.B. 1
St. Louis, P.
Sangster, A.W. 2
Schwartz, E. 1
*Seakins, A. 2
Smith, K.A. 1
Stewart, M. 1
Stuart, K.L. 2
Taylor, D.R. 1,2
The, T.L. 2
* Thomas, S. 1,2
*Tinglin, N.L. 1,2
Warner, G.F. 2
Warner, J.M. 1
* Wells, D.M. 2
*Whittle, Y.G. 1
Williams, E.M. 1
Wilson, W.A. 1
Wooming, M.O. 1
Wooming, R.B. 1,2
Wright, J.A. 2
2 Wright, J.M.
3 Wynter, H.H. 1
4 Yeh, K.C.
4 Young, C.L.
1 U.W.I. Graduates
2 Most of Postgraduate work done at U.W.I.
The frequency distribution of papers among authors
in Table 6, shows that most were involved in only
one published contribution during the four year
period under review, and that the numbers of
authors with multiple publications decreases rather
rapidly though not smoothly with number of
No. of Papers
No. of Authors
No. of Papers
No. of Authors
Ibquency of Publications by Authors (Jamaica)
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
255 62 28 14 6 8 2 1 3
39 2 4 -- -
10 11 12 13 14-18 19 29-29 30
4 3 0 1
0 1 0 1
The publication records of the more productive
authors, defined as those with more than five papers
in the relevant period, are in Tables 7 and 8 for
Medical Sciences, and the Natural Sciences and
Agriculture respectively. These authors number 20,
of which 13, as much as 65 per cent, work in the
Medical Sciences. Indeed, among the Natural
Scientists, only one attained double figures
compared with the nine "Medicals" in Table 7.
However, it is obvious from the numbers of names
per paper, and of the numbers of authors associated
with each of the major authors' work, that a great
deal more co-operative work was done in Medicine
than in the Natural Sciences. This may enhance the
apparent higher productivity of the Medical
One of the great difficulties in determining the
productivity of an author is the assessment of credit.
In counting publications, each may be assigned unit
weight however many authors are listed; but in lists
like Tables 7 and 8, this duplicates many entries.
Although absolute numbers of papers must be
important, it is clearly nonsense to compare the
productivity of a person associated with a large
number of other authors with, say, an individual
worker, so some form of weighting is necessary. The
easiest method seems to be to weight each paper in
inverse proportion to the number of authors listed as
is done in column 8 of Tables 7 and 8. The numbers
are now, except in a single case, very substantially
reduced and only one author remains credited with
Profiles in Productivity
Outside of the University, three of 63 i.e. 5 per cent
of the authors were women. In the University, there
were 40 women (two listings refer to the same person
and are counted once only) among 391 authors. This
is about 10 per cent. Numerically, therefore the
contribution from women is not at all large. Among
the 20 most productive authors, there are three
women comprising 19 per cent so that
proportionately the contribution from women is
higher than might be expected.
Publishable research over the period examined
appears to have been concentrated in a few
institutions only, viz: The Banana Board, The
Coconut Industry Board, some Ministries of
Government and the University of the West Indies.
Although The University of the West Indies
produced 8.5 times the number of papers published
by all the other centres combined, the average
number of paper published per worker is not all that
different; 323 papers from 391 workers for The
University of the West Indies and 46 papers from 63
authors for the other institutions. The respective
ratios papers/authors are 0.8 and 0.7. Since these
averages cover a wide range of institutions and
fields, the similarity is worth noting. Is it that those
who wish to research can find ways to work and to
Comparisons of institutional productivity should
take into account such factors as: the purposes of the
institution; the number of.employees; total budgets
and research budgets. One would expect a higher
publication rate from academic than from industrial
researchers and a higher productivity from
specialised research institutions compared with more
general purpose units. A four year period might be
too short for meaningful deductions, but the
remarkable influence which the units sponsored by
the Medical Research Council have had on medical
research is very much worth noting. On the 177
publications attributed to the Faculty of Medicine,
fully 75 (42.4 per cent) originated from these two
research units. Even more remarkable is the fact that
of the 13 most productive authors in Table 7, only
one has not been intimately connected with a
Medical Research Council unit.
As a consequence of this, metabolism, nutrition
and haemaglobinopathies are the fields which
dominate medical research in Jamaica.
More Productive Authors
The similarity in the ratio number of
papers/number of authors between the University
and other institutions has been commented on
earlier. Tables 7 and 8 allow another comparison. In
the former the work of the Medical Research Council
unit is the dominant feature but no comparable units
TABLE 7: Analysis of Publications of Authors with more than
six papers in Medical Sciences over the period
No. of o paper Weighted
No. of No. of maes on papers atho per no. of
p.por Total.. M ... .M .Av. -oc. author papers
26 30 Pper
Sergeant. G.R. 30
16- 20 Paper
Alleyn,. G.A.O. 1.2 19
11 15 Papers
Dcsai, P. 13
Picou, D. 1,2 11
6 10 Paper
Ahem, E. 10
Golden. M.N.H. 10
Persaud.V. 1,2 10
Sergeant, B. 10
Waterlow, .C. 9
Condon, P.I. 6
Patrick. 3. 6
9 1 4.00 53 0.57 10.63 S.C.A.
59 9 1 3.11 24 0.79 9.50 Metabolism
38 6 2 2.92 9 1.44 4.53 Nutrition
27 5 1 2.45 8 1.38 6.53 Nutrition
36 4 2 3.27 13 0.85 3.58 Nutrition
Average Weighted number of papers = 60.34 13 = 4.64 for most
1 Graduate of U.W.I. (or U.C.W.I.)
2 Most of graduate work done in Jamaica
S.C.A. Sickle Cell Anemia
II 15 Paper
Sturt, K.L. 2
6 10 apers
Lalor, G.C. 1,2
Chan, W.R. 1,2
Analysis of Publications of Authors with more than
six papers in Natural.clFece Weighed
No. of No. of names on papers author of paper no. of
papers Total..Max...Mbl...Av o e. r pnathor papers Field
11 24 5 1 2.18 10 1.1 5.70 Natural
9 9 1 1 1.0 1 .0 9.0 Agriculture
7 10 2 1 1.67 3 2.33 4.0 Zoology
7 14 3 1 2.0 5 1.17 3.83 Physical
6 23 6 2 3.83 13 0.46 1.78 Chemistry
6 15 4 2 2.5 7 0.86 2.58 Zoology
1.5 4 1.50 4.50 Zoology
Average Weighted number of papers = 31.39 7= 4.48
1 Graduate of U.W.I. (or U.C.W.I.)
2 Most graduate work done in Jamaica
On The Road To Blue Hole Pon Amnonlo
are involved in Table 8. At first sight the
performance in Table 7 seems much better than that
shown in Table 8, but the average weighted number
of publications per author is 4.64 in the first case,
and 4.48 in the second. These averages are very
close. Again it appears that there is no significant
"discipline factor" between Medicine and the
Natural Sciences, but they do more than this; the
averages seem to indicate that productive authors
may be roughly equally productive even in different
situations, but that the research institution allows
more persons to achieve the higher levels of
COMPARISONS WITH OTHER Countries
H. Szmant' has compared the numbers of authors
publishing from Latin America during 1975. These
originate from 30 Latin American countries. Brazil
headed the list with 1,047: Jamaica was eighth with
64, just below Colombia (104) and Peru (81), but
above Uruguay (53) and Cuba (45). Worldwide, the
U.S. led by far, with 141,314, followed by England
(24,850), the Soviet Union (23,116), and West
Germany (18,414). A listing of some of the
developing countries is in Table 9.
TABLE 9: The Numbers of Authors In Science from Selected
Lesser Developed Countries Publishing in 1975
Compared with Populations in Millions 161
AuthorslAl Populadon MI
account for size of population as in the ratio A/M in
Table 9. When this is done, the relative performance
of Jamaica is second only to that of Singapore, and is
much better than that of the much larger territories
listed. These indicators are certainly encouraging.
Of the more than 100 local institutions reported in
reference 2 to be involved in Science and Technology,
only eighteen reported work in sources which include
more than 90 per cent of the world's significant
scientific literature for the period 1974 1977.
Despite this, the fairly substantial amount of work
which was retrieved highlights the significant efforts
in Medicine and in some other limited areas. There
are many productive researchers in Jamaica, and it
may be that there exists a ready core of manpower
and facilities which, with nurturing and some
co-ordination, could help provide a research and
development foundation which would help build the
Science and Technology base on which the economic
future of the island may well depend.
While it is never good to use the lowest common
denominator for comparisons, on the basis of
population, .Jamaica's research output is quite
respectable when compared with that bf much larger
Ratio A M Finally, the information presented in this paper,
emphasises the importance of the individual
8.5 researcher. Without the efforts of a very small
proportion, perhaps less than 5 per cent of the 650 or
17.6 so Scientists (2) working in Jamaica, the picture
15.7 presented would have been very different.
2.8 The author wishes to record his gratitude to- Dr. William Miller.
formerly of U.S.A.I.D. Kingston. for introduction to computerized
58 retrieval of information and the gifl of the computer terminal: Dr.
Jost Yff who introduced him to the search techniques and to Mrs.
5.6 Cheryl Coote and NMis Jenniler Edwards for assistance with the
8.4 sorting, arranging and cross checking of several hundreds of cila-
Ghana 87 9.6 9.1
Zambia 84 4 17 9
Jamaica 64 2.0 32.0
Bangladesh 54 "5.0 0."2
Cuba 45 9.0 5.0
Ethiopia 42 27.0 1.6
These numbers emphasize just how wide is the gap
between the developing and developed world in
Science, but perhaps they should be adjusted to
1. Vannevar Bush, quoted in A.L. MacKay "The Harvest of a
Quiet Eye", The Institute of Physics, 1977.
2. Survey of Jamaican Science and Technology Research Insritu-
tions and Preliminary Outline of Development Needs National
Planning Agency. 1974
3. And expressed ad nauseum in University Committees.
4. Arthur Cayley (1821-95) is credited with 995 published items.
Geraldine Baglow and R.T. Bottle Chem. Bris. 15, 138, 1979.
5. H.H. Szmant. Science, 199, 1173 (1978).
6. Data from The Economist Diary, 1977.
The Natural History
of the Coconut
By H.H. Harries
Mr. H. H. Harries holds the B.Sc. degree in Horticulture from the
University of London. He spent five years at the Glasshouse Crops
Research Station, U.K., breeding and testing tomatoes and cucumbers
before joining the Coconut Industry Board's Research Department,
Jamaica, in 1967 as Botanist-Plant Breeder. He is best known for his
work in identifying and classifying coconut varieties, the development
of a system of mass controlled pollination and the production of the
Maypan hybrid coconut. He has carried out consultations in Ghana,
Costa Rica and Cuba. He is Convenor of the FAO Coconut Breeders
Committee and author of numerous scientific papers in Oleagineux,
Turrialba, Principles and other journals. He has recently commenced
an assignment in Thailand with the United Kingdom Overseas
By the side of the Palisadoes road to Port Royal,
less than a mile past the Plumb Point Lighthouse,
there is a pillar bearing an inscription:
The first cocoa-nut tree was
planted here 4th March 1869
JOHN HORTON, ESQUIRE
Superintendent of the
The event that is commemorated is the
establishment of the Palisadoes Plantation and not,
as might appear, the location of the original coconut
palm in Jamaica. Many people realise that the
coconut has grown in Jamaica for more than a single
century but how many know that it has not always
Columbus found tall palms on the north coast of
Cuba in 1492 and, anxious to convince sceptics that
he had reached Asia, claimed that the palms had
large nuts "of the kind belonging to India". At that
time the coconut was known as 'nux Indica' and had
been described by Europeans, such as Marco Polo,
who had travelled overland to Asia. It is now
considered that the coconut did not reach the shores
of the Atlantic and the Caribbean until after Vasco
de Gama returned from East Africa in 1499.
Possibly, coconuts from Mozambique were
established by the Portuguese on the islands of
Santiago or Goree on the Cape Verde coast of West
Africa. From there they were certainly taken to
Puerto Rico in '1549 and probably to Jamaica and
other territories under Spanish control. By the time
that Sloane came to Jamaica in 1687 he found that
coconuts were common here and in other Caribbean
islands in the "drier and sandy places". When
Captain Bligh brought breadfruit from Tahiti in 1793
he also carried some coconut seedlings. Two were
intended for the botanic garden at Bath and two for
Spring Garden in Liguanea. Unlike breadfruit
plants, coconut seedlings were not a novelty. Even if
their origins were exotic the palms from Tahiti could
not have been sufficiently different, in habit, fruit
shape, size or colour, to be memorable. As the result
of recent research it is now known that the coconuts
in Tahiti and Jamaica have many points of
similarity, including susceptibility to lethal
yellowing disease. If any Tahiti progeny still exist
they will be impossible to identify and will soon
succumb to the disease.
Sloane's remark that coconuts grew in drier places
may seem strange to anyone who knows how well
they grow in Portland where the annual rainfall may
be more than 100 inches. This is due to the different
purpose for which the coconut has come to be used,
both in Jamaica and elsewhere in the tropics.
Originally, it supplies only a refreshing and pure
drink and it was brought to the Caribbean to supply
uncontaminated fresh provisions for sailing ships. In
Jamaica, it would have been planted near to
harbours and coastal settlements such as Rio Bueno
and Seville on the north coast and Port Royal and
Passage Fort on the south coast. Later, with the
development of sugar plantations, coconuts would
have been planted around cane pieces to supply
refreshment at crop time. Rum added to a freshly-cut
jelly coconut must have been appreciated at a very
early date. It was not until the middle of the
nineteenth century that the coconut became the
agro-industrial crop that we know today. Indeed, the
date 1869 which is commemorated by the Palisadoes
monument coincides with the introduction of the
King coconut from Ceylon, part of a batch of 32 palm
species sent by Sir Joseph Hooker at Kew and
planted at Castleton. Ceylon was then an important
source of information on growing coconuts since it
was there that the first coconut plantations
developed as early as the 1840's. By the time that the
Palisadoes plantation was established, plantations
were being established as far away as Samoa in the
middle of the Pacific ocean. This coconut boom
continued until the First World War; and its effects,
the pre-eminence of coconut for vegetable oil exports
lasted until 1963. Coconut oil from copra, the dried
'meat' inside the nut, was the raw material for the
production of soap, explosives and margarine in
Europe and North America. For the plantation
owner in Jamaica coconut provided year round work
for a small labour force and this suited sugar
plantations when the high and seasonal labour
demands of that crop could no longer be met after
the abolition of slavery.
The Palisadoes Plantation was planted on land
now occupied by the Norman Manley International
Airport; the monument is separated by only a
narrow stretch of water from the main runway at
about the point where this projects into the harbour
on reclaimed and artificial land. Lying directly
across from the old Kingston waterfront the
plantation was easily accessible from the General
Penitentiary and the inmates did the clearing and
planting. By 1876 hundreds of the first palms that
had been planted started to bear and presented a
very effective appearance from Kingston when
compared with the scrubby vegetation that
previously (and now subsequently!) characterized
that spit of land. The earliest reference in Jamaica to
the use of manure on coconut palms was in the
establishment of this plantation when holes were dug
in the sand three feet across and three feet deep and
filled with a mixture of manure and soil. It is
recorded that trees receiving this treatment came
into bearing within six or seven years. By 1880 over
500 acres had been planted, there were 23,000 palms,
3,300 were in bearing and 49,000 coconuts were
harvested. There were obviously other coconut
plantations elsewhere in the island for during the
period of establishment at Palisadoes the export of
coconuts from the island rose from 0.9 million in 1860
to 1.5 million in 1870 and 6.1 million in 1880.
Unfortunately, the further history of the Palisadoes
Plantation does not maintain this optimistic picture.
In 1881 although yield increased to 75,000 nuts 20%
of the immature nuts were lost to rats. In 1887 the
plantation was leased and, despite fertilization with
refuse, carried by boats from Kingston, the trees
rapidly deteriorated and many died altogether
particularly on the land to the west of the lighthouse.
In 1897, the Director of Agriculture gave as his
opinion that although the plantation bore fairly well
when bush was cleared, pigs and goats kept out and
the trees manured, a constant supply of water was
needed. With an average of only 38 inches of rain per
year the salinity of the ground water on Palisadoes
was presumably too much even for the salt-tolerant
coconut. Today very few coconuts can be seen at
Port Royal, at Plumb Point or at Gunboat Beach.
If the Palisadoes Plantation did not survive there
can be no doubt that coconuts flourished elsewhere
in the island. It was reported in the Agricultural
Society's Journal for 1897 that there was unlimited
demand for coconuts on the English and American
markets and it would have been at this time that
coconuts, along with the banana, would have been
planted wherever there was good rainfall. At that
time the system of planting was simply to interplant
the coconut seedlings in the bananas and let them
benefit from weed control and surplus fertilizer and
suffer from competition for space and for light.
Eventually the coconuts overtopped the bananas
and started bearing. The number of plants per acre in
the resulting coconut field was so low (40/acre) that
bananas might be replanted underneath or pasture
might be developed. In this way coconuts and
bananas came to be grown on the hillsides that were
not suitable for cane, particularly in the wetter parts
of the parishes of St. Thomas, Portland and St.
Mary. The western end of the island also had fine
stands of coconuts and it was in Montego Bay in
1891 that the seriousness of a disease, now known as
lethal yellowing, was first recognized.
However, until 1961 it was windstorm, rather than
disease which influenced the coconut industry in
Jamaica. Since 1869 there have been 14 years with
hurricanes and a total of 17 hurricanes (on average
1.2 hurricanes every 7.8 years). Some of these
hurricanes are associated with particular develop-
ments in the industry; for instance, the introduction
of seed from abroad, the spread of disease,
windstorm insurance and the establishment of a
research department. Probably as a result of the
1903 hurricanes which swept over north-eastern
Jamaica, 20,000 seed nuts were ordered from San
Bias in Panama. The demand in Jamaica was so
great that 10,000 more were ordered in the same
year. However, the firm at San Bias failed to fill the
complete order for 30,000 because there was an
increase in the price for coconuts on the United
States market. Those who had ordered were given
the alternative of accepting nuts from Bocas del Toro
(also in Panama) or 'sprouters' from Hon. James
Harrison's nursery at Hordley, St. Thomas.
Fourteen 'San Bias' coconut seedlings are known to
have been planted in Hope Gardens in 1904. The
1912 hurricane was confined to western Jamaica and
appears not to have affected coconuts but in 1915,
1916 and 1917 there were six hurricanes altogether
and two caused widespread damage. In 1915 seed
was again introduced from Panama it was from the
Pacific Coast. This was probably because of the
unsatisfactory deliveries in 1904 and took advantage
of the opening of the Panama canal in the previous
year. When 80,000 palms in eastern St. Thomas and
Portland were cut down after the 1915 hurricane
damage, the whole output of one Pacific coast
plantation was contracted for planting purposes. It
was immediately noticed that the coconuts from the
Pacific coast of Panama were quite different from
those on the Caribbean coast. This has been
confirmed by subsequent research and it is believed
that the Spaniards probably' carried these coconuts
from the Philippines to the Pacific coast of America
in the sixteenth century. In fact, the coconuts on the
San Bias islands and at Boca del Toro in Panama are
very similar to the 'Jamaica Tall' coconut. Yet the
name 'San Bias' for coconuts on the New York and
London markets had become so well known that it
was assumed that the very different Pacific coast
coconuts were the special ones and for many years in
Jamaica they were called, incorrectly, by this name.
This type was planted in large numbers at Kildare
and Agualta Vale on the north coast, at Rose Hall
near Bog Walk and at Caymanas and Lyssons on the
south coast. These are now referred to as 'Panama
Tall' and the original 'San Bias' type, no longer
distinguishable from the 'Jamaica Tall', is being
rapidly wiped out by lethal yellowing disease.
The demand for coconuts in Central America was
All photos taken from Picturesque Jamaica
By A. Duperly & Sons National Library
so great in 1917, and the cost of freight so high, that
it became prohibitive to import more. The trade in
Jamaica consisted almost entirely of the husked
nuts. In most years no copra was shipped, except
after a storm or drought had affected the size of the
nuts and the quantity was too great to use locally.
Probably there was a good market for coconut
because at this time the First World War was
making unprecedented demands for nitroglycerine-
based explosives. Glycerine is a by-product of the
soap industry and coconut oil was the basic
ingredient. In other countries oil crops, such as the
African oil palm, were also being developed as
plantation crops but in Jamaica attention turned to
finding better coconut varieties. As early as 1916 a
*paper had been read at the Agricultural Society
meeting which mentioned 16 coconut varieties in Fiji
and in 1920 seednuts were ordered from there. A
sample of twelve coconuts was received and
distributed in 1921. One of three sent to Mr. S.S.
Stedman survived and its progency can still be found
at Woodstock in Buff Bay. This was the 'Niu leka' or
'Fiji Dwarf' type and is very distinctive; similar
plants grow at Tullock near Bog Walk. A further
1,000 nuts were requested in 1921, but dispatch was
delayed in 1922 when an outbreak of bud rot was
reported in Fiji. However, it was felt that the nuts
were still required. The dispatch of 1,000 'Niu damu'
eventually took place in 1923 but the ship carrying
them had apparently only reached Vancouver
(Canada) when a report was received that the Tahiti
coconut weevil occurred in Fiji. The consignment
was destroyed. An order for more of the 'Niu leka'
seed was also countermanded because of this and
because attempts to develop this dwarf commercially
in Fiji had not proved successful.
Possibly the apparently unsuccessful performance
of the dwarf was not unexpected. In 1921 a paper on
dwarf coconuts in Tropical Life was read to the
Agricultural Society and it was particularly noted
that the initial spike (inflorescence) bore only male
flowers. This in fact commonly occurs on any young,
underfertilized palm regardless of variety. There
seems to have been no thought that there might be
different types of dwarf coconut. In fact the 'Fiji
Dwarf' is quite distinct from the 'Malayan Dwarf'.
In the Eastern Caribbean at this time the Imperial
Department of Agriculture requested that the
Director of Kew Gardens obtain coconut seed from
other countries with a view to obtaining for the West
Indies the main economic types. In 1921 a supply of
dwarf seednuts, identified as red and green were
received from the Federated Malay States and were
distributed from Barbados to all islands under
British administration between Trinidad and St.
Kitts. Later the same year the Nicobar and West
Coast varieties came from India, the 'San Ramon'
from the Philippines and eight varieties from a
private collection in Ceylon. In 1923 further dwarf
seed from Malaya were sent to St. Lucia. Although
the germination of many of the coconuts sent from
the Far East was poor, because of the duration of the
sea voyage, some of the types which were established
can still be seen today. The fact that none were
consigned to Jamaica is important to subsequent
Perhaps it was the common interest in other crops,
such as sugar and bananas and the almost identical
area (of just over 4,000 square miles) of Jamaica and
the main Fijian Island of Viti Levu which gave these
countries a common bond, and set them apart from
the continental colonial territories in Asia and
Africa. Certainly, after the opening of the Panama
canal ships from Fiji to New York and London might
well favour this more direct route and would call in at
Kingston for coal. Government officials taking up or
returning from posts in Fiji would undoubtedly meet
their opposite numbers in Jamaica. It comes as no
surprise to learn that in 1933 the new Director of
Agriculture in Jamaica, Mr. A.C. Barnes, brought
with him from Fiji (and at his own expense) twelve
seeds from two coconuts which were hybrids between
the Malayan and Fiji dwarf types. These hybrids in
Fiji were the result of the first scientific coconut
breeding ever undertaken. Eleven of the seed
brought to Jamaica germinated and were taken to
Hope Gardens, Potosi (St. Thomas), Muirton
(Portland) and to Bonham Spring Lodge (St. Ann).
Now, this type, which has become known as the
'Fiji-Malayan', can be found in many private
gardens and on a few farms. Because it is from a
hybrid parent it is too variable in habit and
production for commercial use but it has good
promise for the future.
In the 1930s there was a decline in the world price
for copra. Oil factories began to operate in Jamaica.
In 1934, following hurricanes in 1932 and 1933 a
disease began to cause considerable damage on the
north-west coast between Lucea and Montego Bay.
Similar, possibly identical diseases had been
reported 100 years earlier from the Cayman Islands,
before 1872 in St. Elizabeth and at Montego Bay as
early as 1891. These reports, together with others
from Cuba around the same period are now
considered to be lethal yellowing disease. For many
years the disease was confined to the western end of
the island and came to be known as West End Bud
Rot. Why it took more than 40 to 50 years to become
serious around Montego Bay whereas it has spread
all across the eastern end of the island since its
outbreak in Buff Bay in 1961 is not clear. Strangely
enough, similar coconut disease outbreaks appeared
in West Africa in 1934 also. For reasons that are not
yet understood the 'Malayan Dwarf' coconut is
highly resistant to lethal yellowing. This was not
known at that time, and as has been mentioned
previously, this variety had not been introduced
to Jamaica. In 1939 the Superintendent of Public
Gardens received 70 red and 30 yellow seed from
'Malayan Dwarf' growing in Florida (on Key
Biscayne) where they had been introduced earlier
and established by Mr. Hugh Mathieson. A further
20 yellow and 30 red were sent to Mr. Vincent
Grossett in Port Antonio. However, germination was
(once again) unsatisfactory and very few grew. Some
can be seen today on Navy Island in Port Antonio
harbour. In 1940 Major Pease, of Roundhill near
Montego Bay, who had watched the disease
spreading on his estate and had not been able to
control it by cutting and burning, managed to get
twelve dwarf coconut seed from the Imperial Collegg
of Tropical Agriculture. These were from plants
raised from the 1921 consignment mentioned
previously. Germination (yet again) was poor and
only three seedlings were planted. Two are now
mature trees nearly 40 years old and still grow at
Roundhill where the whole estate consists of 10,000
palms all red fruited and raised from the original
plants. This first practical demonstration of
resistance to lethal yellowing surely also merits a
monument to match the one on Palisadoes.
The export of dry, husked coconuts declined
during the Second World War, when space on North
Atlantic cargo ships was at a premium, and ceased,
for all intents and purposes, when the 1944 hurricane
destroyed 1.5 million coconut palms, mainly in the
parishes of Portland, St. Mary and St. Ann. This
represented 41% of the bearing palms in the island.
To help coconut farmers bring their coconut fields
back into production with the least delay almost
70,000 seed of the dwarf variety growing in St. Lucia
were brought in between 1945 and 1950. This was the
'Malayan Dwarf' that had been introduced to St.
Lucia in the 1920s and it was known to come into
bearing early and have satisfactory fruit size.
Disease resistance was not a factor at that time. The
effect of the 1944 hurricane was to reduce copra
production from 11,846 tons in 1943 to 1,374 tons in
1945. Production increased but before most of the
replants came into bearing the 1951 hurricane
reduced production to 3,408 tons in 1952. Windstorm
insurance, introduced in 1949, gave some farmers
compensation and once more seed was brought from
St. Lucia. On this occasion at least 65,000 dwarf seed
were brought, in addition to more than 102,000 tall
seed. Since the tall variety in St. Lucia and that in
Jamaica have a common origin it is not now possible
to tell them apart and the current ravages of lethal
yellowing disease will eliminate both indiscriminate-
ly. By contrast, the Tall variety from the Pacific
coast of Panama, survived the 1944 windstorm well.
At one site near Buff Bay only 5.5% of 5,120 palms
were lost as against 59.5% of 18,169 'Jamaica Tall' in
an adjacent field. This same lot of 'Panama Tall' also
survived the outbreak of lethal yellowing in 1961.
Fortunately production rose rapidly after the 1951
hurricane because the 1944 planting came into
bearing. No hurricane has since caused serious
damage to coconuts in Jamaica but as a result of the
1967-8 drought a further 50,000 dwarf seed were
brought from St. Lucia to supply the newly
developed Lethal Yellowing Rehabilitation Pro-
gramme. Jamaica is now fully self-reliant for dwarf
planting material because of the efforts of this
programme. The need to keep building up the
industry and the success of the industry-financed
Sugar Manufacturers Association research group
encouraged the Coconut Industry Board to set up a
Research Department in 1959. At that time the main
lines of research were seen to be improvement of
planting material, with windstorm tolerance as a
prime aim, and to determine what farming methods,
soils, fertilizers, spacings, intercrops, weed control,
and so on should be applied. Hardly had the
Research Department appomted its scientists than
lethal yellowing disease, which had managed to
move less than 40 miles from Montego Bay since
1934 suddenly jumped from Rio Bueno to Buff Bay
(nearly 60 miles) in 1961. By 1970 the disease
reached St. Thomas and the entire island has been
considered as a diseased area since 1972.
To counter the disease the search department
made the most complete collection of world coconut
varieties in the years from 1964 to 1967. It has also
developed commercial methods of producing
resistant Fl hybrids, such as the 'Maypan'. These
and other research findings which include those on
rat control (the same problem encountered on the
Palisadoes Plantation in 1881), fertilizer needs for all
major soil types, spacing and intercropping have
been fully documented. The fundamental cause of
lethal yellowing disease has proved more difficult to
establish. This research has been done by many
scientists of international repute supported by the
Jamaican, British and US governments and the
FAO and is at last yielding to very sophisticated
research methods including an electron microscope
built at the UWI Mona specifically for the purpose.
It is to be hoped that it will not be long before this,
the final chapter of the natural history of coconuts in
Jamaica, can be written. However, pests and
diseases, windstorm and praedial larceny, shortage
of rain and shortage of labour will probably continue
to beset the: coconut farmer. Nevertheless, the
industry can face the future with confidence knowing
that the production of vegetable oil will provide
domestic and industrial needs and that the jelly
coconut will always taste well with Jamaican rum in
TlE FIRST BLLANTY.
The Panama Railway
By Olive Senior
Olive Senior is a Jamaican author, poet and short story writer.
On 20 May 1850 two American citizens leaped
from a canoe on to a swampy islet off the Caribbean
coast of Colombia and started swinging axes at the
nearest trees? Thus symbolically and actually were
struck the first blows for American capitalism on the
Atlantic coast of Latin America. The- swampy little
Manzanillo Island would later become joined to the
mainland as the town of Colon, and the endeavour
marked the commencement of the building of the
Panama Railroad, "one of the grandest and boldest
enterprises ever attempted".
The railway ended centuries of searching for an
easy route linking the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans
and paved the way for the later construction of the
Panama Canal. In the absence of road or rail
connections between the eastern and western
seaboards of the United States of America, the.
railway also facilitated the exploitation of the
American west. For it provided the quickest route
to California where the discovery of gold at Sutter's
Mill on 24 January 1848 had triggered off the 'gold
rush'. Passengers would sail from Atlantic ports
down to the Isthmus, disembark and travel by
canoes and mules across the strip of land, and board
another ship at the Pacific side for the trip to
The construction of the railway would also become
the first link in a chain that would bind British West
Indian labour to the exploitation of the Latin
American coastlands. Hundreds of Jamaicans were
among the workers of many nationalities who died
along the railway tracks during the five years of
construction which cost an uncounted number of
lives. Yet because the experience proved that the
antillanos (English speaking island blacks) could
withstand the harsh climate and environmental
conditions better than other workers available, they
would increasingly be in demand for work in the
opening up of Tropical America. These undeveloped
coastal areas were so unhealthy that the native
populations refused to work or live there. It
was not until many decades of pioneer work by the
antillanos to turn the swamps and jungles into
healthy, productive, environments that native
labour began to seek work on the coast and,
incidentally, to see the English-speaking blacks as
But recognition of their value in working in
climates and terrains which others less impelled by
necessity found impossible did not at any time bring
the antillanos any special compensations. Even as
they provided the backbreaking labour which made
possible the construction of the Panama Canal in-the
20th century they were being classified by white
Americans as "little better than useless".4As canal,
railway construction, or plantation workers
throughout Latin America they eventually became
the targets for racist policies and attracted hostility
from the indigenous populations leading to violent
attacks and, ultimately, discriminatory legislation in
many countries (e.g. Panama, Colombia, Costa Rica,
Cuba). In these enterprises, antillanos were hardly
paid a living wage (except in artificial situations like
the Cuban sugar 'bubble') and housing and sanitary
conditions were often primitive. The British West
Indian in Latin America was in fact regarded as
nothing more than a commodity: cheap, mobile,
But for many, work in Latin America was still
desirable when compared to the even cheaper wages
offered on the plantations at home, or no job
opportunities at all. Men rioted in downtown
Kingston to get on to ships leaving for Colon or
Cuba. They allowed themselves to be packed like
sardines on the open decks of ships belonging to local
schooner owners or British and American
corporations which found the Kingston-Colon run a
profitable one and offered bounties to the ships'
captains who supervised the packing.6
However, the first emigrants were not drawn from
only one class of people. A significant aspect of the
emigration of the 19th century is the fact that
Jamaicans of all walks of life were leaving their
homeland which had become economically and
morally bankrupt and, certainly in the 1850s, had
also become for many a nightmare of epidemic and
There seems little doubt that the majority of the
migrants were actually forced out of their homeland
by inability to make a living there. Indeed, the
newspapers of the 1850s expressed it in terms of
escaping 'starvation' because of lack of opportunities
at home. But a great deal of the movement to
Panama also indicated entrepreneurial initiative by
Jamaicans in all walks of life. They took with them
their strength, their skills, their professional
qualifications, their business acumen, their capital,
or simply their goods to trade in a country which was
then an open frontier where the Jamaican
businessman already had a firm foothold. The best
known of the new Jamaican adventurers pouring
into the Isthmus to 'turn hand' was no other than
Mrs. Mary Seacole before she achieved her greater
fame in the Crimea as 'the brown Florence
Whatever their motives, or their origins, these
first migrants to Panama seem also to have taken
with them a great deal of the customs of home. For
one of the remarkable features of the emigration is
the way in which from the 1850s Jamaicans
transplanted their way of life on to an alien soil. So
vigorous were the roots they put down that even
today, 175 years later, a 'Jamaican presence' in the
Republic of Panama is strongly discernible.
Conditions in Jamaica
Recruiters for the Panama Railroad would have
had no difficulty in attracting workers from Jamaica.
In the same month that the first trees were felled on
Manzanillo island, one hundred young men left for
Chagres (then the Caribbean landing place on the
Isthmus).7 In July 1854 the Governor of Jamaica
informed the Colonial Office that 2-3,000 adult males
had already left Kingston for Panama.sAlthough no
figures on the migration are available, it is safe to
estimate that by 1855 whdn the railway was
completed, at least 4-5,000 must have gone.
Many of these young men were drawn from the
artisan class; carpenters in particular were in great
demand and their going to Panama had a marked
effect on the wages and availability of such workers
The building of the railway coincided with a period
of severe dislocation in the Jamaican society which
contributed to the feeling of wanderlust on the part
In the first place, the period immediately following
Emancipation was one of high internal mobility as-
the former slaves relocated themselves. The majority
quickly left the plantations and their negative
associations and established free communities in the
mountains. Many others drifted into the towns. But
by 1850 conditions on the island were on a steeply
downhill course, accelerated by the Sugar Bill of
1846 which no longer afforded preferential treatment
to West Indian sugar on the London market. The
inefficient Jamaican plantations were unable to
compete with cheaper sources of sugar and fell into
even greater decline. The ruin of the plantations in a
monocrop economy meant hard times for everyone.
Wages for field labourers fell, as did the demand for
their services. As a result, those who had started to
grow provisions on their own plots found their
markets on the plantations reduced. Merchandising
trade came almost to a standstill.
People of all classes began to leave Jamaica. Some
headed for Panama, others continued across the
Isthmus to the gold fields of California, still others
set out for Australia.l In commenting on these
migrants, a local newspaper noted that "all the
commissions that the British Government may send
out cannot gainsay .... the impoverished condition of
a country in which all classes are viewing with each
other in quitting as soon as possible", a phenomenon
brought about, the paper claimed, by the
'treacherous conduct' of the British Government
over the Sugar Bill.'Many persons, it seems, were
forced to leave their homeland out of sheer necessity.
In an article on the migration to Panama, one
newspaper editor claimed, "We could name many
persons who were walking the streets of this City for
a long period of time, literally starving because
they could not get employment, who are now
doing well in Chagres".12
In the 1870s, a Kingston craftsman (giving
evidence before the Commission on the Condition of
the Juvenile Population in Jamaica) reminesced
After the Sugar Bill came into operation, say in
1846 and 1847, there was not a day's work to be
found for a carpenter or bricklayer throughout
the length and breadth of this city. Many
thousands of tradesmen and labourers were
forced to seek employment elsewhere. They
went to the Isthmus and completed the Panama
Railway and nearly all of them died there,
indirectly the victims of the free traders and
sugar refiners of England.'s
But an event even more traumatic than the
economic depression occurred which caused many to
quit the shores of Jamaica. This was the cholera
epidemic of 1850-2, the first ever experienced by the
island and "probably the greatest catastrophe ever
visited upon the population". For the 19 months it
raged (September 1850 March 1852) an estimated
40,000 50,000 people died. The epidemic was
followed by a smallpox outbreak, then by less
virulent outbreaks of cholera and scarlatina.14
Whereas during slavery the estates provided
doctors for the slaves, virtually no medical services
were available to the freed population. The period
was one of acute poverty, distress, suffering and
fear, so much so that many were willing to take the
risk of migrating to what was frequently referred to
as the unhealthiest place on earth.
The Railroad Enterprise
For centuries, the narrow strip of land known as
the Isthmus of Panama provided the shortest
overland route from the Atlantic to the Pacific
Oceans. When American capitalists began to think
in terms of a railway linking the oceans, they
naturally focused on the Isthmus.'6
In 1845 a charter was granted by the New York
State Legislature for the formation of a joint stock
company known as the Panama Railroad Company
headed by the entrepreneur W.H. Aspinwall.
Contracts were signed with the engineers in 1849 and
in 1850 construction began on the line which would
cross the Isthmus from Navy Bay on the Atlantic to
Panama City on the Pacific.
The island of Manzanillo on which the first trees
were felled was separated from the mainland by a
mangrove swamp. The island was cleared, filled in, a
village began to grow there and was named
Aspinwall in honour of the promoter although the
Colombian authorities later enforced the name
Colon. A wooden trestle bridge was built across the
swamp to connect it with the mainland. On this the
first tracks were laid. The first high ground reached
was at Monkey Hill (now Mt. Hope). From there the
line again crossed swamps to an area within the
vicinity of the Mindi river. After a bridge at Mindi
the line ran on firmer terrain to Gatun.
The second station had been established at Gatun,
a native village on the banks of the Chagres river,
and construction began from here back to Navy Bay.
The first miles from Monkey Hill to Gatun were over
such difficult terrain it took a full year to accomplish.
Some 3-400 men were employed on this work.
Sickness and desertion were high especially
during the rainy season and remained so for the
entire construction. The first train of working cars
landed at Gatun 1 October 1851.
But the railway company was near bankruptcy,
workers were soon laid off and the project seemed
doomed to failure. Then occurred a happy
coincidence. In November 1851 during heavy storms,
two ships from the United States were unable to land
at Chagres, the usual disembarcation point, and put
in at Navy Bay. The passengers were all caught up in
the rush across the Isthmus to the California gold
fields and wanted to get there as quickly as possible.
Their demand for transportation by rail to Gatun
gave the impetus to the continuation of the railway.
Navy Bay then became the permanent landing point
and the town of Aspinwall suddenly became a boom
town catering to the needs of impatient travellers
rushing to and fro across the Isthmus. As fast as the
sick and dying workers pushed on through the
swamps and jungles to lay the tracks, the California-
bound passengers were right behind them. Work on
the other end of the line was started at Panama City
and workers from the two ends met on 27 January
1855, marking the completion of the entire 47-mile
Previously, passengers would land at Chagres and
from there travel by 'bongo' boats paddled by
Panamanian boatmen upriver as far as they could
go, depending on the season. They usually
disembarked at Gorgona where if they were lucky
they would find mules for hire for the last stage of
the journey to Panama City. If not, they would walk,
leaving the river at Cruces to follow the old 'gold
trail' to the city. This was the ancient trail taken by
the treasure shipments from the Spanish colonies in
South America to the Atlantic for shipment to
Spain. (It was also the route buccaneer Henry
Morgan took when he sailed from Jamaica to
Chagres and marched overland to sack the City of
For the construction period, the slender resources
of the Isthmus were taxed not only by the thousands
of railway workers who poured in but by the
thousands of 'Yankees' travelling across the
Isthmus. Those who had to live and work there had
to compete with the travellers for the scarce
resources available. For others, especially the traders
among whom were numbered many Jamaicans, the
Isthmus itself became a gold mine.
The Working Environment
The proponents of the railway could hardly have
chosen a more unhealthy terrain. Because of the
peculiar geographical configurations of the
Isthmus, it is one of the wettest places on earth. The
mean annual rainfall on the Pacific side is 70 inches,
on the Atlantic it is 130; over 2 inches of rain in one
hour have been recorded7Much of the route for the
railway crossed marshy rivers and extensive swamps
which provided the ideal environment for the aedes
aegypti and anopheles mosquitoes, carriers of yellow
fever and malaria respectively, although at the time
of the railway construction medical knowledge had
not yet identified these diseases as transmitted by
insects. Rather, the 'fevers' were attributed to the
miasma, vapors, or poisons in the air exacerbated by
the quantities of liquor in which Isthmus residents
indulged. Typhoid, dysentery, smallpox, hookworm
and cutaneous infections were also endemic. In the
summer of 1850 there was a virulent outbreak of
There is no doubt that the railway venture was
accomplished only with appalling loss of life. Thus
the company from the start had a problem attracting
and retaining workers especially when the
contractors resorted to impositions such as the
withholding of wages to keep workers on the jodf?
lashings by overseers'9and the use of stocks?20The
native population of the Isthmus was too small to
provide a labour force. Black labourers were
recruited from Cartagena, St. Thomas, St.
Domingue, and of course, Jamaica. White
adventurers and soldiers of fortune attracted by
posters advertising "Money, adventure, women'i
came in from all over the world. The company also
recruited a group of Irishmen and two shiploads of
Chinese. Many died within a few hours of landing;
others deserted after a few hours of the 'green hell';
still others committed suicide like most of the
Chinese prostrated by sickness and suffering from
melancholia brought about by enforced opium-
withdrawal. (See Appendix).
The Jamaicans gained a reputation for hardiness
because they were more or less immune to yellow
fever, the disease then most dreaded. However, they
readily succumbed to typhoid and malaria and
especially to environmental diseases such as
pulmonary infections, tuberculosis and pneumonia.
They had no immunity to pneumonia and many
contracted this complaint immediately on arrival,
partly because they arrived- in a malnourished
condition and thus had no resistance.22
Apart from the diseases arising from the filthy
conditions of the settlements and contaminated
water supplies and the endless swarming
death-carrying mosquitoes, the environment in itself
For most of the railway line the labourers worked
waist-deep in stinking mud-flats on which they were
throwing up trestles to carry the lines. Those who
strayed too far from the group would be attacked by
alligators. Deadly snakes lay in wait. Stinging
insects and mosquitoes plagued them constantly.
The white men wore pith helmets and gauze veils to
protect their heads, the black and native labourers
worked without protection. Chigoes bore into their
skin; they would frequently be swept away by
turbulent rivers; they had to hack their way through
jungles where the vines were so thick their eyes could
not penetrate the gloom beyond. They were almost
always wet; those just arriving frequently had no
change of clothing; their clothes mildewed in the
perpetual dampness and their shoes turned green
overnight. Their sleep was broken at nights by the
howls and screeches of unfamiliar wildlife, the
monkeys which howled and chattered on Monkey
Hill, the (imaginary) lions and tigers on Lion Hill
and Tiger Hill which were named after these dreaded
For even though the vegetation was tropical, for the
Jamaican it was nothing like home. Even trees which
were found in Jamaica in the steamy conditions of
the Isthmus jungles were transformed into
unrecognisable giants enormous palms scarcely
lifting their trunks from the ooze sent out leaves half
a dozen yards in length; cedar towered for hundreds
of feet; enormous vines covered with parasites
blocked out the sunlight.
The fauna was also varied and strange. In addition
to the monkeys, there were wild turkeys, tapir,
opussum, anteaters, peccaries or wild hogs, sloths,
deer, bears, cougars and some varieties of tiger cats.
Iguanas abounded as did enormous tarantulas, land
crabs, scorpions and snakes.23
In a situation where food was scarce and
expensive, the Jamaicans like the white travellers
- soon learned to adapt to the environment by
eating monkey, iguana or snake stew in order to
The country then a sleepy and backward
province of Colombia was not mobilised to supply
the vast hordes of labourers plus the streams of
travellers with even basic foods, though the railway
established a commissary. A staple of the diet was
jerked beef sold in strips. Butchers did not joint beef
but cut it into strips about three inches wide of
varying lengths and these were dried and hung up in
front of their huts along the trail. Mrs. Seacole, on
her first trip up to Cruces paid one quarter of a real
for a strip.26
The travellers followed the natives in
supplementing their diet with the wild meat which
abounded many dared not ask what was put in
front of them at the so-called 'hotels'. Still, the
fortunate traveller who found a night's lodging did
not starve. At the Independent Hotel at Cruces, one
night's throng was served slapjack a thick
substantial pancake made of flour salt and water -
followed by strips of beef stewed with hard
dumplings, hams, great dishes of rice, jugs of
molasses and treacle, tea and coffee.26
Chicken and eggs seemed to have been great
luxuries. An egg was selling for eightpence; chickens
were so scarce that the hotelkeeper who had this
luxury item would hang a chicken on his signpost as
Shopkeeping activities started in a small way in
the villages along the line, a few of which existed
before the coming of the railway, others coming into
being as railway camps. Business activity in Panama
and Colon expanded in response to the demands of
the travellers and construction workers. However,
because of the great demand from the travellers and
the prices those en route to the gold fields were able
to pay, it is possible that the labourers may not have
been able to afford an adequate diet. Labourers were
being paid 80 cents a day for work and 30 cents for
keep; mechanics or artisans received $2-3 daily?~
Many tropical fruits familiar to Jamaicans such as
breadfruit, grew wild. The little white schooners
RUNNING THE LINEB.
NATI" NON(Kh PANAMA.
which brought the labourers in from the West Indies
and Cartagena also carried on board provisions such
as yams, plaintains turtles and chickens.
Some enterprising Jamaicans set out for the bush
and started cultivations?9 Jamaican women were
selling to travellers at the railway stations
bananas,green coconuts and orangesswhich came
from these cultivations. Even water was sold on the
Isthmus. In the city of Panama for instance, water
came from a spring about a mile outside the city and
was carried by women in earthen crocks holding
three gallons which they sold for 10 cents a crock.a3
But if water was scarce, drink was plentiful and
cheap and the constant threat of sickness and death
generated a recklessness in its consumption:
The American mechanics and better-paid rail-
roaders of other nationalities restored them-
selves periodically from the wastage of the'
fevers .... by going on a regimen of champagne
cocktails, using quinine for bitters .... 2
The women were as freely available as the liquor -
in most places both went together: In Colon,
the women .... occupied tiny verminous stalls
along Bottle Alley and employed barkers to
stand in the ankle deep mud of the street,
describing their charms and propelling passers
by through their saloon-type swinging doors. In
time the bottles that had been tossed into the
street formed a solid surface beneath the mud,
and when the pavement-laying crews arrived
years later [i.e. during U.S. canal construction
days] there was no need for them to put down a
There are no reliable figures on the death rate
which ranged from 35-40 per cent of what was an
average work force of 6,000. The engineer in charge
of the project claimed that the total deaths for one
year were 835 of which whites were 295, blacks 140
and Chinese 400?4On the other hand, another source
claimed that no statistics were kept for the black
work force.?In any event such figures refer only to
workers on the payroll. We have no records of the
hundreds of Jamaicans in the terminal cities and line
towns who died from disease or violence. But the
actual death rate becomes even less important when
we realise that those who did not die were more than
likely to have been attacked by one of the 'fevers'
and would thereafter be condemned to a death-in-life
existence so long as they remained on the Isthmus.
One visitor in 1855 claimed that no one who
remained on the Isthmus for over two months
escaped the 'fever'. The first attack would either
result in death or be followed by habitual fever and
ague. Complete recovery on the Isthmus was
impossible. The railway was so conscious of the
debility engendered by a residence on the Isthmus
that they refused to employ labourers who left to go
to healthier climates and returned. For "it is found
that such are unprofitable servants and yield at once
to the enervating and sickening climate". In
startling vampire imagery we are told that "The
enterprise requires all the vigour of unweakened
sinews and of pure, wholesome blood".36
The same visitor questioning Jamaicans about
how they liked the country got the universal answer,
"Not at all because of the fever"?"He claimed that the
Jamaican children told him, "me hab de feber ebery
odder day"'He concluded that
A walk in the streets was painfully convincing
of the fact that I was among the sick and dying.
The features of every man, woman or child,
European, African or Asiatic I met had the
same ghastly look of those who suffer from the
malignant effect of miasmatic poison. I do not
believe there is a wholesome person in all Aspin-
Mrs. Seacole on her arrival was immediately
struck by the unhealthiness of Colon: "It seems as
capital a nursery for ague and fever as Death could
hit upon anywhere .... The white men who met us on
the wharf seemed ghostly and wraithlike and the
very negroes seemed pale and wan".4'
The environment in which the people lived was
largely one of filth and squalor. There were no roads,
no pavements, no water supplies, no sewers, and for
the vast majority both natives and workers -
insubstantial or largely non-existent shelter.
The first workers for the railway lived aboard a
boat anchored in the swamps of Navy Bay. There
was no readily available building material on the
Isthmus and virtually everything had to be
imported. When some months later lumber was
shipped in from the United States, the workers
carried the boards on their backs through the
swamps to the highest point Monkey Hill -
where they erected shanties.As the work progressed,
the labourers threw up huts of thatch and bamboo or
wattle and daub with earthen floors, similar to the
ones occupied by the natives.
The houses were usually unfit to resist the rainy
season and equally unsuitable for the dry. Whole
towns, such as Gorgona on the banks of the Chagres
were subject to frequent flooding.2When the dry
season came the highly combustible building
materials provided tinder for the fires which
periodically swept through the settlements. Some of
these precarious shanty towns supported substantial
numbers of people. When Gorgona was destroyed by
fire in 1851 it was reported that it had a population of
Even the most substantial structures in the towns,
the so-called 'hotels, were themselves hastily thrown
up to meet the demand for accommodation from the
Indeed, Jamaican businessmen had a profitable
business in the export of 'prefabricated' wooden
houses to Panama: .
Many persons of capital in this city (Kingston)
have embarked large sums in the building of
frame-houses, some of which have already been
sent on to Chagres; and upon this speculation,
they expect to realise large returns. Mr.
Delapenha and Mr. Mordecai have entered
largely into that business and the sloops
"Seven Sisters", "James Farewell" and
"Bristol" which left the harbour yesterday
crowded with passengers, carried many of them
But some Jamaicans were not content simply to ship
out the houses. The same paper mentioned "as an
instance of the success of some of our fellow
townsmen", the case of
Mr. Ariano,. a person well known in this com-
munity (who) had a frame house put together
in this City, and the same being pulled to pieces
by the withdrawal of the temporary pegs by
which the building was kept together, he carried
it with him to Chagres; he could not have ex-
pended more than a couple hundred dollars upon
this building; and on his arrival in Chagres he
had offers of purchase for it; he refused six
The 'wide awake' Mr. Ariano obtained some land
near to where the passengers at this time were
landing at Chagres and erected his building. Small as
it was, it 'proved superior' to the others on that side
of the river. He called it The Washington Hotel from
which, according to the newspaper, he soon expected
to amass some wealth.46
But he was not the only Jamaican hotelier on the
Isthmus. One of the two hotels at Cruces the most
important overnight stopping place on the trail -
was owned by Mrs. Seacole's brother Edward who
had come over in 1850. "The Independent", she tells
was a long low hut built of rough unhewn un-
painted logs, filled up with mud and split
bamboo, with a sloping roof and a large veran-
dah. The interior was one long room hung with
strips of dirty calico all of downstairs was
occupied by one long table which went from one
end of the room to the other. Upstairs was a
dormitory for sleeping. At the entrance sat a
black man, taking toll of the comers in, giving
them in exchange for coin or gold dust (he had a
rusty pair of scales to weigh the latter) a dirty
ticket which guaranteed them supper, a night's
lodgings, and breakfast .... and as the evening
wore on, the shouting and the quarrelling at
the doorway in Yankee twang increased
Amidst all this confusion, her brother Edward "was
quietly selling shirts, boots, trousers etc. to the
travellers; while above all the din could be heard the
screaming voices of his touters without, drawing
attention to the good cheer of the Independent
Hotel"f7'our crowds usually passed through Cruces
each month, coinciding with the movement of the
steamers. In between, it was a quiet place48When
Mrs. Seacole herself started "The British Hotel"
opposite her brother's, she described it as a 'tumble
down hut' of wattle and daub'9Another hotel which
she started later at Gorgona (devoted to
entertainment of ladies and care of the sick) she
described as a 'miserable hut'.50
Medical care and treatment were largely
inadequate where they were not wholly lacking. Mrs.
Seacole herself gained fame as a nurse during a
cholera outbreak at Cruces where she saved her
patients "by dint of mustard emetics, warm
fomentations, mustard plaster on the stomach and
the back and calomel, at first in large then in
gradually smaller doses" techniques which she
had developed during the cholera outbreak in
Jamaica. In her autobiography she records terrible
scenes of the death plague which struck the village
- she herself providing the only medical services
Usually people sickened and died where they were
at home, in the line towns, along the trails, by the
rivers. The luckiest would be put on the funeral train
which ran daily to the railway cemetery at Monkey
Hill. The bodies of the unfortunate ones and these
included both labourers and travellers crossing the
Isthmus would often as not be thrown into the
river along with the remains of other refuse and
garbage where hopefully they would be carried
out to sea. If they weren't it would add just that
more to the general stench which pervaded the
settlements?2It is claimed that where the workers
died in hospital the Railway doctor had a thriving
business supplying cadavers in wholesale lots to
medical schools all over the world, the profits from
the sales making the railway hospitals
self-sustaining during the construction years.53
Colour and Class
The inhabitants of Colon were of every variety of
shade, colour and nationality. The railway officials,
steamboat agents, foreign consuls and a score of
Yankee traders, billiard makers and bartenders
comprised the whites who were the 'exclusive few'.
The 'better class' of shopkeepers consisted of
mulattoes from Jamaica, St. Domingue and the
other West Indian islands. The dispensers of 'cheap
grog, hucksters of fruit and small wares' were mostly
The main body of the population was made up of
labourers of which the Jamaicans were the majority.
But the Isthmus attracted Jamaicans of every class.
Some came merely to satisfy their thirst for
adventure; others were fleeing the horrors of cholera
and the depressed economic conditions at home; still
others were merely in search of business
opportunities. Among those migrating to Panama
and Latin America during the cholera epidemic were
some described as of the 'best blood"and many of
these people already had commercial and family ties
with Panama. Many Jamaican Jews seemed to have
been 'forty-niners', i.e. gone over in 1849 at the
beginning of the gold rush, others had relocated
earlier following the abolition of the Free Port
system which had led to the decline of Jamaica in the
entrepot trade. Jamaica had been a traditional base
for trade with or raids on Latin America dating back
to the Spanish-English rivalry of the 17th century.
The break-up of the Spanish-American empire in the
18th century led to the establishment and
regularisation of trading relations and by 1815
Jamaica has established "important trading
connections across the Panama Isthmus with the
coasts of the Pacific"?6With the abolition of the Free
Port system, however, the Latin American republics
traded with England direct, thus cutting out the
The activity connected with the building of the
Panama Railroad and the constant passage of gold
seekers flocking west enhanced the opportunity for
business among old-established firms. There were
also many enterprising new traders such as Mrs.
Seacole who functioned on the Isthmus at various
times as a hotel keeper and shopkeeper and who on
her trips to and from the Isthmus carried goods for
trade and profit in the respective countries.8White
Jamaicans also occupied high positions in commerce,
on the Panama Railroad, and in the professions.9
Many of the labourers did not come from the
labouring but from the artisan class. In fact so many
skilled craftsmen seem to have migrated that the
competition in Kingston among skilled workers such
as carpenters or masons intensified as a result.~It
also appears that most of the workers were drawn
from Kingston and Spanish Town In view of the
poor communications existing in Jamaica at the time
it is reasonable to assume that the urban workers
would have been the first to hear of the recruitment
Not all the labourers worked on the railroad. Many
soon found other sources of employment or 'scuffled'
as they would have done at home. Jamaicans filled
positions as household servants (male and female),
hotel employees at all levels, as cooks in restaurants,
as porters, boatmen and coachmen. Some joined the
police guard of the legendary Texas ranger Ron
Runnels who was brought in by the railway to
establish a vigilante force to put down the thieves,
murderers and highwaymen who infested the
Isthmus.62 We have already noted that many
Jamaicans squatted on lands in the bush and became
cultivators, the women becoming vendors of sweets,
fruits, ice cream and other goods. Thus very soon a
Jamaican 'presence' was established, with
Jamaicans stratified according to occupations and
race pretty much as they would have been at home.
Jamaicans and Violence
Although the Isthmus was a lawless frontier
society which may have modified somewhat
differences of class, colour and ethnic, origins were
still of considerable importance and contributed to
the frequent bursts of violence in which Jqamaicans
One of the main antagonisms of th dwas
between foreigners in general and cu native
population, specifically between Jama ans and
Colombians. Overlaying all social relations however
was the acute hostility between the white Americans
on the one hand and native Panamanians and blacks
on the other, arising largely from the uncouth
treatment by the Americans of the natives in
particular. This hostility culminated in what is
known in Panamanian history as the "Watermelon
War" an incident over a slice of watermelon which
ended in a near massacre of all white Americans
trapped inside the Panama Railway building.
The Panamanians who most frequently came into
contact with the American travellers were the
mestizos who provided boat, porterage and mule
services at Chagres harboui and along the Cruces
trail. Note was frequently taken of the Americans'
treatment of these providers of services. With the
goldseekers, desire for speed overshadowed
everything. When the first ones arrived on the
Isthmus they forced the reluctant boatmen to take
them upriver at gunpoint. Though the boatmen
themselves later recognized the advantages of doing
business with the 'Yankees', relations between the
two did not improve. Mrs. Seacole recorded that
"terribly bullied by the Americans were the boatmen
and muleteers, who were reviled, shot, stabbed, by
these free and independent filebusters 4..." Knives
and guns were frequently brought into play by the
passengers. Stories also circulated of passengers
being robbed and massacred by boatmen.
At some point, Jamaican and Santo Domingo
blacks seemed to have become boatmen as well.
Between the native and foreign boatmen there was
antagonism fostered largely by economic
competition. Yet when a riot between the two groups
of boatmen erupted as it did at Chagres in 1851, it
finally expressed itself in bloody Anti-American
anti-white feeling. According to a newspaper
account, 30-40 Americans were killed.65
This particular dispute between native and foreign
boatmen centred around their charges. The natives
were suspected of undercutting prices for
transporting passengers from the ships anchored out
in the harbour to shore at Yankee Chagres, an
American settlement on the other side of the river
from the native Chagres. Following the beating and
killing of some of the native boatmen and an
altercation between the foreign blacks and an
American, the blacks armed themselves and
marched into Yankee Chagres, shot a man opposite
the American Consul's office, threatened the Consul
himself and took possession of the town for several
hours before retreating to the native Chagres. The
Alcalde declared that he was unable to prevent
"Jamaicans and Santo Domingans" from
committing outrages since they were too numerous
for any forces he had available. But he gave
authority to the citizens to arrest the principals
whenever they had the opportunity.
But the blacks ended up seizing the old Chagres
fort and firing at Yankee Chagres, until two cannons
were obtained and, presumably, dislodged them.
Reports claimed that whites were "butchered by
negroes", and that in all 30-40 Americans were
killed. Whether or not this is an exaggeration,
anti-American feeling undoubtedly ran high: the
U.S. Mail could be put on board a steamer only
under the protection of the British flag. Two and a
quarter million in gold dust was also put on the ship
in the same way, and "as the last box was removed
the negroes fell on the boat and in a few minutes cut
it to pieces.~ The Star (owned and published by a
white American) commented that "a handful of
blacks, either native or foreign, are permitted to arm
themselves and spread death or destruction around
them, without let or hindrance from the civil or
military authorities". It was clear however that the
feelings were not so much anti-white as
antfiAmerican. For the Star complained that:
An American dare scarce present himself as
such now in the neighbourhood of Chagres, else
he will have a horde of semi-savages upon him
to cut and hew him to pieces. His only safety is
to deny his country and say he is an Englishman
or a Frenchman.6
The American travellers were coming directly
from a society in which slavery still flourished, and
their behaviour to non-white persons was tailored
accordingly. It was also true that passage through
the Isthmus attracted more than its fair share of
riff-raff and cut-throats who were incapable of decent
behaviour even to each other. Mrs. Seacole who is
as patronising toward the Americans as she is
ingratiating with'the English presents a picture of
the typical American traveller passing through her
hotel. She saw no point in giving them knives and
forks at table since they would put their hands in the
dishes anyway. She also feared the utensils might be
brought into play during the frequent quarrels which
broke out at table.68
But the anti-American feeling was induced not
only by proximity to 'ugly' Americans but was
actively encouraged by many former American
slaves who resided in Panama and who in many
cases had risen to positions of prominence and
power. In Panama at the time most of the public
offices were occupied by blacks and mulattoes?9Mrs.
Seacole informs us that many of these blacks were in
fact fugitive slaves from the American South. They
occupied positions of prominence in the priesthood,
army, and municipal offices. They were described as
'bold' with white Americans and the natives soon
followed their example.7 When white Americans
crossing the Isthmus brought their slaves with
them, the people of the towns and villages frequently
connived with the slaves to escape. When they did,
the authorities refused to aid in their recapture. In
one case the people of Gorgona rescued a slave being
beaten by her mistress and took her before the
(black) judge who freed her. When the owner
threatened reprisals against the slave's child left
behind in New Orleans, the people took up a
subscription to purchase the child's freedom.71
Frequently, however, great antipathy existed
between the Jamaicans and the natives and was
greatest between the Jamaicans and the
Carthiginians, that is those labourers, mostly black
from the Caribbean coastal area of Cartagena,
Colombia. The original reason for the hostility is not
clear it could be that they represented numerically
superior groups "of workers. There were also
linguistic, religious and cultural differences. That the
mutual antagonism was deep-seated is not open to
question: serious and bloody confrontations between
the two groups continued up to the time of the
American canal construction in the 20th century.
This particular antagonism also resulted in many
stories which used to circulate in Jamaica about the
violent nature of life on the Isthmus.
The problem was no doubt aggravated by the fact
that such forces of law and order as existed were on
the side of the Colombians unless modified by
lavish bribery. This fact is repeatedly emphasised in
contemporary accounts of life there72Mrs. Seacole
describes the soldiers of New Granada as "a dirty,
cowardly, indolent set more prone to use their knives
than their legitimate arms, and bore old rusty
muskets, and very often marched unshod.''sAs far as
justice was concerned, "... you might commit the
grossest injustice, and could obtain the simplest
justice only by lavish bribery ... I generally avoided
claiming the protection of the law whilst on the
Isthmus, for I found it was ... rather an expensive
luxury."74 In addition, facilities for speedy
apprehension and trial did not exist as these
A Jamaican named Carter went to hunt aucks.
He was passing near where some natives were
burning charcoal when he was axed and stabbed
... great excitement among the Jamaicans. They
wanted the criminal tried in Colon and not
Panama where he would not escape, but at this
time there were no courts in Colon.75
A Jamaican who had been confined in jail left.
A bunch of natives armed with machetes went
after him and mauled him until he was rescued
by a police officer. The newspaper correspon-
dent from Colon reported that this was the
fourth instance of a row between natives and
Sometimes the violence would escalate:
A ball-was given by a Senorita on the American
side of Chagres which was attended by a large
number of natives, Carthaginians and Jamai-
cans. During the evening a difficulty arose
between the Carthaginians and Jamaicans
respecting the hostess of the evening. This was
followed by a general fight. The Carthaginians
got the worst of it. A large party of Carthagi-
nians ran to the river and called for help from
the native side. Some 200 natives sprang to
their boats armed with machetes and hastened
to the house. The house was surrounded and the
slaughter began. The Jamaicans attempted to
escape and ran for their boats but were cut down
at the first attempt, others were followed to the
river where they plunged in and drowned. In
this manner 6 or 8 were killed. The rest made
their escape, some severely wounded. The house
was literally gutted of everything. During the
night crowds of highly excited natives went
about the streets stopping whoever they met
and asking, "Are you an American"? If the
reply was yes it was allright and the reply was
"Bueno Americano, Muerto a los Jamaicanos'"7
Of course the Jamaicans were not always the vic-
tims. They were frequently perpetrators of violence
against others and among themselves. The Star
headed one article:
On Thursday, a Jamaica Negro, a servant man
of Senor Maximo Perez, we believe, attacked a
servant girl of Mr. Benjamin in the street and
beat her severely with a cart whip. He was
sentenced to 14 days in jail. Soon after his
master made application for his immediate
release and this was done.78
Jamaicans also figured prominently in reports of
other criminal activity such as theft and robberies.7
The exposure by Jamaicans to constant violence
or the threat of violence and the adoption by many of
an explicitly violent mode of life was in contrast to
their behaviour in Jamaica at the time. There,
repressive forces of authority co-existing with gross
discrimination in the administration of the law
combined to produce a facade of quiescence which
finally exploded in the Morant Bay Rebellion some
10 years later.
Everyone on the Isthmus lived close to death at all
times, and the risk of death by violence may have
seemed preferable to the risk of death from diseases
or other environmental hazards. Along the line a
gun, like a watch, soon became an indispensable
accessory for the Jamaican. The labourers were also
frequently caught up in constant political violence.
Not surprisingly, the cheapness with which life was
held spread from the public into the domestic arena.
Along the line the restraining influences of legal,
cultural or social institutions of an established
society were largely non-existent. Nor were there any
integrative mechanisms on the Isthmus except
the railway construction itself. But even here tasks
were frequently assigned along racial or ethnic lines
- e.g. the West Indian labourers were regarded as
the best pick and shovel men while the Colombians
proved best for machete work.
At the time, Panama was a state of Colombia then
known as the Federation of New Granada. The
country was experiencing constant political turmoil
and the Government of New Granada was unable to
provide effective government in Panama which was
separated by jungles from the mountain capital of
Bogota and which was accessible only by boat. Thus
the Jamaican, like everyone else, lived in a state of
actual or threatened anarchy. The boldest among
them adopted the values of the society and
swaggered about with gun and gold chain. The more
circumspect attempted to graft on to Panamanian
soil their own institutions and values.
We have little information on the social activities
of the Jamaicans who came at the time of the
railway. But based on information we have of the
Jamaicans who came 20 years later for the French
attempt to build a canal across the Isthmus, it seems
reasonable to suppose that these earlier emigrants
also established rudimentary churches, schools,
banking and social security systems (through
'partners', 'societies' and the like). Further, we do
know that they made a valiant attempt to tame a
hostile environment through their agricultural
Although many of the labourers came merely to
acquire money and return home, there were
Jamaican women and children on the Isthmus
during railway construction days, indicating that
some of the emigrants must have had intentions of
settling. Some of the men got caught up in the
excitement of the gold rush and followed the
American travellers across the Pacific to California.
Many Jamaicans remained on the Isthmus after
the opening of the railway in 1855. Some, both male
and female, worked as household servants,
commanding higher wages than the natives. Others
became porters, coachmen, and of course many
obtained permanent employment with the railway.
Since the line had been thrown up so quickly to
accommodate the American travellers, much of it
was temporary; it was in no sense 'finished' in 1855.
Rebuilding continued for many years afterwards.
And of course, the Jamaican mercantile class
However, with the opening of the railway,
travellers could transit the Isthmus without
stopping overnight and the prosperity which they
brought to Isthmus businessmen soon ceased. For a
while, the Isthmus and its inhabitants were again
sunk into apathy. It was not until the coming of the
French Canal Company in 1880 that the Isthmus
again awakened, and the second large group of
emigrants left Jamaica in search of work overseas.
NOTE: It has not been possible to publish all the references in this
issue, however, the full manuscript has been lodged in the National
Library of Jamaica for the benefit of Researchers.
THE CRtIMN Sf
WHO CAME FROM PANAMA
An interesting sidelight to the Panama-Jamaica
connection is the fact that among the first Chinese to
come to Jamaica was a group sent by the Panama
Railroad in exchange for Jamaican workmen. They
arrived in 1854, the same year that the first shipload
of Chinese indentured labourers arrived in Jamaica
directly from Hong Kong.
The Chinese who came to Jamaica via Panama
were the survivors of what was one of the most
bizarre and disastrous episodes in the history of the
railroad. It took place at a camp on the railway line
This summary account is taken from the following
sources (1) A contemporary account by R. Tomes
(Panama in 1855) an American journalist who
visited the Isthmus as a guest of the railway officials
(2) Joseph L. Schott, Rails Across Panama, a recent
account (3) Jacqueline Levy, "Chinese Indentured
Immigration to Jamaica during the latter part of the
nineteenth century", Fourth Conference of
Caribbean Historians, U.W.I., Mona, April 9-14,
1972. She treats briefly with the Panama experience'
and more fully with the arrangements to bring the
Chinese to Jamaica and their experiences here. (4)
The Star and the Herald (Panama) later combined as
the Star and Herald. The story of the Chinese at
Matachin immediately passed into legend and
although there is no doubt about the basic facts,
certain details such as the number who actually
committed suicide may have become exaggerated.
Research into documents such as the Panama
Railroad Company records in the United States is
needed to properly document the story.
Eight hundred Chinese recruited as labourers
arrived in Panama 30 March 1854. They were
brought by the Panama Railroad Company which
paid labour contractors in Canton $25 per head for
them. The irony is that some of those who went to
Panama might have had the opportunity of going
directly to Jamaica but.because the railway company
was able to pay higher prices, it successfully
competed against the British agents in China.
From the start, mortality was great among the
Chinese. Of those who set out for Panama, 16 died on
Culebra (Summit) in 1854 when
the tracks stopped there by F.N. Otis
the voyage, 16 more died shortly after arrival to be
followed in less than a week by 80 more. They were
housed in a line camp at Matachin, a place name
from the Spanish word for 'butcher', though many
have since assumed that it derives from matar (to
kill) and Chinos (Chinese).
The high death rate in part reflected the prevailing
level of mortality on the line; in addition, the Chinese
seemed to have suffered from lack of fresh vegetables
in their diet. Certainly the deaths of so many of their
shipmates, the lack of proper medical attention and
the deplorable work conditions seem to have induced
a state of apathy in the remainder. The trauma
would have been heightened by the Isthmus practice
of dumping dead bodies into open graves without
funeral rites, a practice which must have been
extremely repugnant to the Chinese.
Shortly after arrival, the Chinese began to run
away to the City of Panama where, if they were not
caught and returned to the works, they became
beggars. While the authorities regarded the destitute
Chinese begging on the streets "half starved, half
naked and covered with loathsome sores" as a
nuisance, the native apparently assisted them with
food and money.
The Chinese contractor who had supplied the
workers had agreed to furnish their own cooks and
mess facilities while the railway company agreed to
stock supplies of Chinese goods in their commissary.
Schott claims that the contract also specified that
the Chinese would be supplied with joss houses and
opium, regarded as a normal part of their culture.
Tomes on the other hand says that these concessions
were made at the suggestion of the Chinese
interpreter as one means of reducing the sickness
and melancholy among them.
Regardless of the sequence of events, the railroad
did agree to provide opium; once this was done the
Chinese lost their apathy and became model workers.
Then fate in the form of some Irish labourers, a New
York Catholic priest, and the Railway company
book-keeper stepped in. The Irish labourers were
from the start hostile to the 'heathens', and one
wrote to the Priest complaining about the Chinese.
The Priest in turn wrote an 'expose' which was
published in the New York Herald, accusing the
railway of trafficking in drugs. The book-keeper then
became officious, pointing out that the laws of the
State of New York under which the company was
chartered specifically prohibited the unlicensed
dispensing of drugs. But an even greater incentive in
the decision to end the opium supply was the
realisation that the drug was costing the company 15
cents per man per day. The Railway cut off the
With the withdrawal of the drug, the Chinese
again stopped working and fell into a state of misery
and prostration. But the deadly fevers of the
Isthmus could not end their misery fast enough and
the Chinese en masse began to commit suicide. One
morning, an incredible sight met the eyes of the
railroad contractors at Matachin "More than one
hundred of the coolies hung from the trees, their
loose pantaloons flapping in the hot wind". Some
had hung themselves with bits of rope and tough
vines. Many used their own hair, looping their long
pigtails round their necks and tieing the ends to a
tree limb. Over 300 more were lying on the ground,
their mode of suicide as varied as their ingenuity.
Some tied stones to themselves and jumped into the
river, others sat on the banks waiting for the waters
of a freshet to come and wash them away, some
bargained with their companions to kill them, some
threw themselves on pointed machetes, others cut
crutch-shaped sticks, sharpened the points, and
thrust their necks on them.
The accounts differ as to the number who killed
themselves. Certainly within the space of eight
months most of the Chinese had died by one means
or another. Tomes claimed that only 200 of those
arriving remained. "This miserable remnant of poor,.
heartsick exiles prostrate from the effects of the
climate, and bent on death, being useless for labour,
were sent to Jamaica where they have, ever since,
lingered out a beggar's life".
While a few of the Chinese may have 'escaped'
permanently in the wider Panama society, this would
have accounted for a very small number indeed.On 1
November, 1854 when the schooner Vampire arrived
in Kingston only 195 Chinese were on board. Of
these, 24 had to be sent to the public hospital in a
state of extreme emaciation and 34 were found unfit
for agricultural work. Although the Jamaican
Government had agreed to take the Chinese as they
were believed to be suitable for agricultural work, for
a variety of reasons the arrangement to bring them
to Jamaica proved satisfactory for neither the
Chinese nor the planters.
Chinese indentured labourers continued to arrive
in Jamaica in more orthodox fashion and the
subsequent history of the Chinese in both Jamaica
and Panama proved a much happier one. Of those
who went to Panama in the railway era, a few may
have remained and survived. Large groups of
Chinese workers again went to the Isthmus some 20
years later during the French canal construction,
many of them coming via the British West Indies
where they had served out their contracts of
indenture. Since then the Chinese have become a
large and prosperous group on the Isthmus. It is
interesting to speculate whether any of those who
survived the earlier horrors of Panama were among
those who voluntarily chose to go back later from
Jamaica to the former scene of such despair.
"Defenders of the national integrity". Set against the symbolism of superior forces, is this photographic group in which is
shown escorting the Spanish flag: an artillery officer at center, a militia volunteer and a regular soldier at the left, a sailor and a
negro guerilla fighter at the right. Imp. Military. La Hab. 1870.
Jamaica and the Cuban Cen Years dar
By Charles C. Jacobs
Dr. Charles C. Jacobs was born in Jamaica, educated at Wolmer's
Boys' School, Kingston, and obtained the B.A.(Hons.) and Ph.D.
from the University of Birmingham, England. Dr. Jacobs has
been a lecturer at the University of the West Indies, the New
University of Ulster, and is currently lecturing at the University
of Jos in Nigeria. He is a specialist in 19th Century Cuban
On 10 October 1868, a Cuban planter, Carlos
Manuel de Cespedes and thirty-seven supporters
initiated a revolt against Spanish rule in the island at
his sugar estate La Demajagua, near Yara in Oriente
or the Eastern Department which has come to be
called the Ten Years' War on account of its long
duration. The movement for independence spread
rapidly in Oriente, and the initial surprise enabled
the Cubans to capture the town of Bayamo, which
became the insurgent capital. However the Cubans
failed to capture the seaports of Santiago,
Manzanilla and Gibara from which the Spaniards
could mount counter attacks. In November 1868,
the province of Camaguey rose in revolt, and in
February 1869, Las Villas joined the movement.
Although taken by surprise Captain General
Lersundi reacted promptly and sent troops to
eastern Cuba under the command of General Count
Valmaseda, who marched through Camaguey into
Oriented and after defeating the Cubans on the banks
of the River Cauto reoccupied Bayamo on 16
January 1869. After the brief initial phase the
Cubans abandoned conventional warfare and
resorted to guerilla tactics. The war became one of
attrition in which each side tried to exhaust the
,other. The Cubans were able to operate relatively
freely in the countryside in Oriente and Camaguey,
and in parts of Las Villas; but they never possessed
sufficient munitions to capture and hold any major
town. The Spaniards were able to isolate the
insurrection in relatively poor and thinly populated
regions of eastern Cuba and Camaguey and to
protect the rich sugar lands of western Cuba; but
they made little progress towards destroying the
Cuban guerrilla forces in the countryside. A
prolonged stalemate followed until the winter of
1876-1877 when large Spanish reinforcements were
sent to Cuba following the conclusion of the Carlist
war in Spain. The new Spanish Commander in Chief
Arsenio Marti'nez Campos skilfully combined
intensive military operations with offers of amnesty,
and political reforms so as to exploit the internal
political divisions and war weariness in the Cuban
camp. In consequence a negotiated settlement
known as the Pact of Zanjon was reached on 10
February 1878 by which the Cubans abandoned
their bid for independence in return for promises of
reforms. It was to prove a mere truce, and in 1895 a
new revolt broke out against Spanish rule, which
culminated in American intervention.1
The prolonged and brutal character of the war in
Cuba aroused great sympathy in the United States
on behalf of the Cubans, and the high-handed actions
of Spanish officials against American ships and
American citizens suspected of aiding the insurgents
caused repeated crises. A war between the United
States and Spain would almost certainly have been
followed by the loss of Cuba from Spain to America,.
and very probably by its annexation to the United
States. Traditionally Britain had been opposed to
the American acquisition of Cuba as it would upset
the balance of power in the Caribbean. However with
the economic decline of the British West Indies the
area was downgraded in terms of political and
military importance. The negotiation of the
Clayton-Bulwer Treaty in 1850 and the acceptance of
the American interpretation of that treaty in a series
of treaties with the Central American states in 1859
and 1860 by which Britain relinquished the Mosquito
Protectorate and the Bay Islands signified British
disengagement from political involvement in Central
America. The process was not interrupted by the
American Civil War as Britain did not attempt to
take advantage of that conflict to restore her
position in Central America.2 The Danish War and
the Austro-Prussian war of 1866 made Britain more
conscious of her weakness in Europe, and the need to
use her power sparingly. The strained relations with
the United States over the Alabama claims and
Fenian activities in that country made Britain
cautious in opposing American expansion lest it be
used by Anglophobes in the United States to
promote aggressive policies against Britain. Thus
Britain might prefer the status quo in the Caribbean;
but she was not prepared to use force to prevent
American expansion. The British Government made
it clear to the Spanish Government during the crisis
of 1872 over the abolition of slavery in Puerto Rico
and during the Virginius crisis of 1873 that should
Spain become involved in a war with the United
States she need not count on British support.
Britain's principal interest in the Caribbean was
commercial, and the prospect of a maritime war in
the West Indies was an eventuality which Britain
was anxious to avoid. The damage caused to British
trade in the recent American Civil War had not been
forgotten, and as neither the United States nor Spain
had signed the article of the treaty of Paris which
forbade the use of privateers, they would almost
certainly employ them to supplement their naval
forces. The British Government therefore used its
influence at Madrid and Washington in favour of the
peaceful resolution of the differences between the
two countries arising from the war in Cuba.8
Since Britain had colonies in the West Indies
which, due to their close proximity to Cuba, could be
used as bases of operations for attacks on the
Spanish authorities in that island, it was necessary
for her to ensure that the neutrality laws were
properly enforced in the West Indies. As Britain was
engaged during the early years of the Ten Years'
War in diplomatic discussions with the United
States concerning the Alabama claims and the
Fenian attacks on Canada from the United States,
she was anxious not to prejudice her case by
appearing to be lax in the enforcement of her
neutrality laws especially in her colonial possessions
during the Cuban insurrection. Although Britain
was not prepared to give Spain positive diplomatic
support to retain Cuba, her enforcement' of the
neutrality laws tended to aid the established Spanish
authorities in Cuba rather than the Cuban
insurgents who had not been recognized as
belligerents, and hence had no existence in
international law. In dealing with the neutrality
questions arising from the Cuban insurrection
Britain was also influenced by the fact that she was
an imperial power with periodic difficulties in
Ireland, and it was therefore consistent with her
position not to wish to establish precedents which
might restrict her capacity to deal with Fenians
based in the United States.4
Since Jamaica is only ninety miles south of Cuba,
the Ten Years' War was bound to impinge upon the
island in various ways. Jamaica became the resort of
Cuban refugees fleeing from the devastation and
insecurity caused by the fighting. Some of the
refugees, although they had fled from Cuba, sought
to continue the struggle from Jamaican soil by
aiding the insurgent movement through the
organization of gunrunning expeditions and courier
services in small vessels from the north coast of the
island. They also sought to aid the well-known
Cuban gun runners such as the Edgar Stewart and
the Virginius when they put into Jamaican ports to
escape from Spanish cruisers or to carry out repairs.
The Spanish authorities were highly suspicious of
the activities of the Cubans in Jamaica, and in
consequence they closed the cays off the southern
coast of Cuba to Caymanian fishermen, and treated
with excessive harshness any Jamaican or
Caymanian vessels which were blown on to the
Cuban coast by bad weather.
The devastation of eastern Cuba during
Valmaseda's counter-offensive, and the terror
unleashed by the loyalist volunteers in Havana and
other towns led many Cubans to emigrate to
neighboring islands such as the Bahamas and
Jamaica. Some were refugees fleeing from the
unsettled state of Cuba while others had relatives in
the Cuban ranks, and feared reprisals. Some of the
refugees merely used Kingston as a transit port on
their way to the United States; but others settled in
Jamaica. Governor Sir John Peter Grant estimated
the number of Cubans in Jamaica in 1872 at about
1,500.6 Some of the Cubans had acquired land and
were cultivating tobacco successfully. One Cuban
was reported to have purchased a sugar estate worth
7,000.6 However, there were complaints in 1872
that the Spanish authorities in Cuba were exiling the
dependants of Cuban insurgents to Jamaica, who
were destitute on arrival, and likely to become an
expense to the colony. A protest was made to the
Spanish Government; but no satisfaction was
obtained. The Colonial Secretary, Lord Kimberley,
recommended that a law be passed in Jamaica
requiring any shipowner bringing passengers from
Cuba to give a bond for the maintenance of the
passengers before they were allowed to land.'
Some of the Cubans were active in promoting the
Cuban cause and organized a junta to raise funds,
and organize expeditions.8 Although Jamaicans were
quite sympathetic toward Cuban independence they
showed no interest in shedding their blood for the
cause. A report from the Spanish Vice Consul at
Kingston, Mr. Pietersz dated 8 November 1872 casts
some light on Jamaican attitudes to the Cuban
Here nothing can be done without money or credit
and the enemies of the (Spanish) Government lack
either one or the other and in spite of the
sympathy expressed by the press of this town for
what they call the 'cause of Cuba' they cannot
count upon the help or material aid of any kind
from the sane and prudent persons of the country,
and with regard to their resources hereI consider
them impotent to undertake anything of con-
sideration against the Island of Cuba.9
Since the Cubans had not been recognized as
belligerents they had no international existence and
hence could not own ships flying the Cuban flag, and
were therefore obliged to employ front men or agents
who nominally owned the vessels which the Cubans
actually controlled. In Jamaica these services were
provided by a Jewish nierchant, Mr. Altamont de
Cordova,'o who as a British subject could obtain a
British register for any vessel he purchased as, for
example, in the case of the Octavia.n De Cordova
was engaged in a number of speculative enterprises
involving both the Cuban and Haitian insurgents,
and he acted as agent for all the well-known Cuban
gun-runners which put into Kingston.12 Although De
Cordova's son, Rudolph, states that his father was a
strong supporter of Cuban independence13 it is also
apparent that gun-running could be a highly
profitable if risky venture.14
During the years 1868 to 1870, the Cubans
attempted to use the Bahamas as a base for
gun running operations to Cuba; but they were
never able to use Jamaica in the same way because
the laws of the two colonies were different. In
Jamaica there was a local act15 under which the
governor could issue a proclamation forbidding the
export of arms, and Sir John Peter Grant
accordingly issued a proclamation under the date of
7 July 1869.'e It was also illegal to import arms into
Jamaica from other countries in the Americas under
the customs laws." Following the irregularities
which occurred in the enforcement of the Foreign
Enlistment Act in the Bahamas in 1869, the Colonial
Office at the instigation of the Foreign Office sent a
circular dispatch to the governors of the West
Indian and North American colonies instructing
them to call special attention to the provisions of the
act in the colonies under their administration, and to
exercise the utmost vigilance in preventing any
infraction of its provisions. Accordingly, Grant
published a notification in the Jamaica Gazette,
dated 30 August 1869 calling attention to the
provisions of the Foreign Enlistment Act.18 It was
thus almost impossible for the Cubans to use
Jamaica as a depot from which arms could be
shipped to Cuba by fast blockade-runners.
The captains general of Cuba repeatedly
complained that small quantities of arms were being
shipped from Jamaica to Cuba in small boats. In
response to such a complaint in September 1871 by
Captain General Valmaseda, Grant replied that he
had used all his legal powers to prevent Cubans
resident in Jamaica from aiding the insurrection. A
proclamation against the export of arms had been in
force for several years, and although it caused some
inconvenience it had been kept in force on account of
the Cuban insurrection. It was possible that small
quantities of arms were smuggled in open boats to
Cuba but he did not believe that the traffic was on a
large scale.19 In 1872, Captain General Valmaseda
again complained that expeditions were being fitted
out in Jamaica; but Grant replied that he had no
knowledge of any expedition being fitted out.20 Later
in the same year Valmaseda went further, and
alleged that the insurrection was only kept alive by
arms and supplies received from Jamaica and the
United States and that Jamaica was the more
important of the two sources of supply. These
charges were strongly denied by Grant who did not
believe that there was any substantial trade in arms
to Cuba although it was possible that small
quantities were being smuggled to that island.21
In 1873 a case occurred which might serve as an
example of the trade in arms in small vessels to
Cuba. In March, 1873, the small schooner, Village
Bride of Kingston, owned by Mr. Altamont de
Cordova, put into Port Antonio with a small cargo of
arms, and ten Cubans she had picked up at sea while
on a voyage from Porto Plata in the Dominican
Republic to Kingston. The arms were confiscated
under the customs laws; but were restored as the
local act was in the process of repeal. De Cordova
then obtained a special licence to export the arms on
giving a bond for k500 that they would not be taken
to Cuba. The Village Bride cleared for St. Marc,
Haiti; but returned within a few days alleging that
she had been forced back by stress of weather.
However it was strongly suspected that she had
proceeded to the Cuban coast, landed her passengers
but had been driven off by a Spanish cruiser before
she could land her cargo of arms. The owner then
applied for a licence to export the arms to Central
America; but as it was suspected that she was an
auxiliary of the Virginius, the Governor delayed
arranging the bond until after the Virginius
In July 1874 Captain General Concha alleged that
an expedition was being fitted out in Jamaica and
that General Quesada2s had gone to Jamaica to
organize an expedition similar to that of the
Virginius. The governor of Jamaica replied that
General Quesada had only touched at Jamaica for a
day on his way to a Colombian port.24 In October
1874 the Spanish Government alleged that the
Cubans were preparing an expedition in Jamaica,
but when asked to report, Governor Sir William
Grey replied that he did not believe that such an
expedition was being fitted out.25 It would seem
doubtful that substantial quantities of arms reached
the Cuban insurgents by means of small, open boats
from Jamaica in view of the difficulty of importing
and exporting arms legally from the island, and
because in the nature of things the small vessels
could only carry small quantities at a time. It seems
more likely however that these small schooners
provided an important courier service linking the
Cuban leaders in Cuba with those on the outside.26
The occasional visits of Cuban gun-runners
presented the colonial authorities in Jamaica with
considerable legal problems. Early in the Ten Years'
War the Jamaican Government suffered a legal
defeat and had to pay damages when it attempted to
place a rigorous interpretation on the local customs
laws. In June, 1869, the American schooner,
Grapeshot, which had landed arms and men on the
Cuban coast put into Falmouth with the residue of
her cargo of arms which was confiscated under the
customs laws.27 In the same month the British
schooner La Have was towed into Kingston with a
cargo of arms on board by the Spanish warship
Fernando el Catolico. Although it is clear that the La
Have's cargo of arms was intended for the Haitian
insurgents she had been seized on suspicion by a
Spanish warship on the high seas. Her release was
obtained and it was insisted that she be towed to her
nominal destination which was Kingston, Jamaica.
Her cargo of arms was seized under the colonial
revenue laws.28 However the United Kingdom law
officers gave it as their opinion that the seizure was
not justified as the arms were not intended to be
landed in Jamaica and were therefore not imported in
the meaning of the colonial act.29 The owner of the
cargo of the La Have, Mr. Altamont de Cordova,
brought a successful legal action in tle Vice
Admiralty Court, and damages were compromised at
7,920 and the return of the cargo. That amount,
together with the interest, totalling 8,029 7s 3d was
voted by the Jamaican legislature; but at the same
time it requested that as the damages had been
incurred in an attempt to maintain neutrality in the
Cuban struggle the amount should be reimbursed by
the imperial treasury. Local feeling was incensed,
and the Treasury eventually agreed to reimburse the
amount from imperial funds.30 The result of the La
Have case was to make the colonial authorities in
Jamaica more cautious in seizing arms on board
Cuban gun-runners which put into Jamaican ports.
In April, 1872 the steam yacht Edgar Stewart,
flying the American flag but controlled by the Cuban
insurgents put into Kingston in distress in need of
repairs. She was supposed to be on a voyage between
New London, Connecticut and Key West, Florida;
but had in fact attempted to make a landing on the
Cuban coast when bad weather, and the appearance
of a Spanish warship had forced her to abandon the
attempt.31 The Captain General of Cuba, Valmaseda,
and the Spanish Government were very anxious that
the Edgar Stewart should be detained.32 She was
detained for a time, and then released as the
governor was advised that as she had put into
Kingston in distress to obtain repairs, her cargo of
arms had not been imported in the sense of the
custom laws, and the proclamation against the
export of arms did not apply to her as arms which
had not been imported could not be exported. There
was no evidence that the arrival of the Edgar
Stewart was anything but fortuitous as there was no
activity amongst the Cuban refugees, and therefore
it was difficult to link her to the Cuban insurrection
or to claim that she had been despatched in the sense
of the Foreign Enlistment Act.33 The United
Kingdom law officers confirmed the opinion of the
Jamaican attorney general.34 The Edgar Stewart was
allowed to sail from Kingston, and continued her
In July 1873, the steamer Virginius flying the
American flag but controlled by the Cuban
insurgents put into Kingston, Jamaica, with a cargo
of arms after making a landing on the Cuban coast.
The Virginius had rendered herself notorious during
the previous three years as she cruised round the
Caribbean pursued by Spanish cruisers. Her
consignee in Jamaica was Mr. Altamont de Cordova
and the Gleaner of which he was part owner
published an article boasting of her exploits. The
arms on board were confiscated under the revenue
acts, and the vessel was closely watched. Although
the vessel was considered highly suspicious there
was no hard evidence which would justify her
seizure. In consequence she was allowed to clear for
Port Limon, Costa Rica, on 23 October 1873 with
a hundred and eight passengers, chiefly Cubans but
including some Jamaican deck passengers who were
going to Central America in search of work. She took
on a cargo of arms in Haiti, and while approaching
the Cuban coast she was sighted, pursued and
captured on the high seas by the Spanish cruiser
Tornado. She was then towed into Santiago de Cuba
on 1 November, 1873."6
The Governor of Santiago, General Burriel
proceeded to try those captured on the Virginius by
court martial, and on 4 November the four in-
surgent chiefs, Bernabe Varona, Pedro Cespedes,
brother of the Cuban president, Colonel Ryan, an
Irish-American adventurer, and Jesus del Sol were
shot. On 7 November, Captain Fry, an ex-
Confederate naval officer and thirty-six others,
chiefly members of the crew, were shot, and on the 8
November a further twelve persons were shot
making a total of fifty-three executions. Among
those executed were fifteen American citizens and
nineteen British subjects.36
The executions might have continued had it not
been for the arrival of H.M.S. Niobe, Commander Sir
Lambton Loraine, Bart, on 8 November in response
to telegrams from the British Vice Consul Brooks
who had evaded General Burriel's attempts to
prevent news of the executions reaching the outside
world before they had all been carried out, by
inducing the telegraph operator of the British cable
company to telegraph the news to his opposite
number in Jamaica. The Senior Naval Officer at Port
Royal, Commodore Algernon de Horsey, despatched
Sir Lambton Loraine in the Niobe to Santiago with
instructions to prevent any further executions.'
Commander Loraine entered into a correspondence
with General Burriel on the subject; but the
governor insisted not only on his right but his
intention to shoot whoever should be condemned by
the court martial.37
Thereupon Sir Lambton
allowed it to be understood in the town that I was
revolving the idea of obtaining your [de Horsey's]
permission in the event of another Englishman's
life being sacrified in contempt of the representa-
tion made, to sink the Spanish man of war nearest
to the 'Niobe'.38
Sir Lambton believed that his threat had had a
significant effect on General Burriel who eventually
agreed to refer the matter to Havana, and no further
executions occurred. It can be said that Sir Lambton
Loraine's prompt action saved the lives of those
Jamaicans amongst the passengers and crew who
were awaiting execution.
Since the Virginius was flying the American flag
at the time of her capture on the high seas, and a
number of Americans were included amongst those
executed, a major crisis developed between the
United States and Spain. There seemed a very real
threat of war but the conciliatory attitude of
Secretary of State Hamilton Fish enabled a
settlement to be reached by which the Virginius and
the survivors were to be handed over to the United
States, the American flag was to be saluted at
Santiago unless it could be proved that the Virginius
was not entitled to fly the American flag at the time
of her capture, and General Burriel was to be
brought to trial.39
Among the survivors of the Virginius who were
handed over at Santiago on 16 December 1873 were
two Jamaican crew members and seven passengers.
The two Jamaican crewmen were mere boys aged
thirteen and seventeen who had shipped as a servant
of the second engineer and as a lamp trimmer
respectively.40 There were seven Jamaican boys aged
twelve to twenty-two, three of whom were orphans,
who were going as deck passengers to Port Limon,
Costa Rica, in search of work. Five of them were
paying part of their passages by working on the
ship.41 The survivors were taken to New York, and
then shipped back to Jamaica; but no claim for
compensation was made on their behalf by the
Early in 1874 when the threat of war between the
United States and Spain had receded the British
Government preferred claims on behalf of the British
subjects taken on the Virginius and executed at
Santiago. After the usual delays the Spanish
Government was induced to settle the claims
because it was anxious to obtain British recognition
of the new regime created by the military coup d'etat
of January 1874. The British claims were blatantly
discriminatory in that 300 was claimed for each of
the nine coloured men, making a total of 2,700,
while 500 was claimed for each of the ten white
men, making a total of 5,000 and an overall total of
7,700. It was agreed that the Spanish Government
would hold back 1,000 until the final settlement,
and would pay 5,700 in the form of an advance to
the relatives of those executed so as not to prejudice
the Spanish position in relation to the American
Amongst the British subjects executed at
Santiago were James Floody, the second mate and a
native of Whitehaven, Cumberland who left a widow,
Mrs. Maria C. Floody, a Jamaican; James Samuel, a
coal passer, from Westmoreland, Jamaica;43
Zaccheus Durham, a seaman, from Turk's Island;
George Thomas, a Jamaican and Samuel Jose M.
Feran, a cook, who was said to have been a Jamaican
but was probably a Cuban.44 Of those connected with
Jamaica, Mrs. Floody received 500 compensation
for her husband, and remarried soon afterwards.45
The father of Zaccheus Durham made a claim on
behalf of himself and his son's two children, and
received 300 in compensation.46 The relatives of the
other Jamaicans executed did not present claims.
In October 1875, the steam yacht Uruguay,
formerly the Octavia, flying the Uruguayan flag, put
into Kingston with a cargo of arms. Under the name
of Octavia she had been refused a British register at
New York on a technicality because the British
Consul General at New York, Archibald, had
received information that her sale to a British
subject called Bainbridge was not a bona fide sale,
and that the money for purchasing and refitting the
vessel had been provided by the Cuban junta. The
Octavia was then nominally sold to a clerk in the
Uruguayan consulate at New York, and was
registered as a Uruguayan ship under the name of
Uruguay. Subsequently the Uruguayan Government
informed the British Government that it had
revoked the right of the vessel to fly the Uruguayan
flag.47 The Uruguay proceeded to Central America
where she took on board a cargo of arms and
attempted to make a landing on the Cuban coast;
but after landing nine men was driven off by the
Spanish cruiser Tornado. She then put into
Kingston, for which port she was nominally cleared,
to repair her engines, and obtain orders from the
owner's agent, Mr. Altamont de Cordova.48
The Governor, Sir William Grey, on legal advice
detained the Uruguay under the Foreign Enlistment
Act on the ground that she had been fitted out by the
Cubans, was controlled by them and judging by the
large number of persons on board was a Cuban
transport which was about to be despatched in the
sense of the Act.49 Instead of bringing an action in
the Vice Admiralty Court to obtain the release of the
Uruguay. de Cordova, the agent of the owner of the
vessel, arranged the sale of the vessel to himself and
obtained a British register in the name of Octavia,
de Cordova then arranged for the release of the
vessel and cargo on giving a bond for ;1,000 that the
vessel would proceed direct to New York with her
cargo of arms.s0 There is strong reason to believe that
de Cordova bought the Octavia and her cargo of
arms as part of a speculation in connection with the
Haitian revolution of 1875, and that she was
therefore no longer connected with the Cuban
insurgents.51 On the other hand, de Cordova was
undoubtedly the Cuban agent in Jamaica, there were
three Cubans on board her at the time of her capture,
and the Octavia remained within striking distance of
Cuba after her departure from Kingston.52 The
Octavia sailed from Kingston in February; but she
was in such a poor condition that she was forced to
put back to Port Morant, then call at Jacmel, Haiti,
and then proceed to St. Thomas, Virgin Islands for
repairs. While at St. Thomas she was watched by the
Spanish warship Hernan Cdrtes, and when she sailed
on 13 March 1876 she was followed and captured on
the high seas. She was then towed into San Juan,
The British Government took the view from the
outset that as there was no war in Cuba, only an
insurrection, there could be neither blockade nor
contraband of war. The seizure of the Octavia
outside Spanish territorial waters was illegal, and
the British Government was entitled to demand the
release of the ship, the cargo and the crew.54 In view
of the fate of those captured on the Virginius, the
British Government was naturally anxious
concerning the fate of those taken on board the
Octavia. Consul Pauli at San Juan and Captain
Erskine of H.M.S. Eclipse secured the release of the
twenty-two crew members, including all the British
subjects, in March 1876. The Captain, a German
subject, his wife, and three Cubans were still held by
the Spanish authorities.6 Captain Walsman and his
wife were released on the 25 April 1876 so that only
the three Cubans remained in custody.56 When the
Brigadier of Marine threatened to shoot the three
Cubans, one of whom claimed to be an American
citizen, should the Octavia be declared 'a good prize',
the British Government made a strong
representation at Madrid, and secured their release
on 25 September 1876."7
The British Government pressed repeatedly for
the release of the Octavia and her cargo; but the
Spanish Government endeavoured to justify her
capture on the ground of her past history as a
gun-runner, that she had a cargo of arms on board
and was behaving suspiciously." Meanwhile a
Spanish naval court at Havana in April, 1876
declared the Octavia a 'good prize', that is that her
capture was justified.9 The British Government
denied the jurisdiction of a Spanish prize court over a
British ship taken on the high seas.60 The Spanish
Government claimed that it could not hand over the
Octavia while the case was before the Supreme Court
of Admiralty without severe political repercussions,
and suggested that the Octavia be placed in deposit
at some port until the decision of the court was
known.61 The British Government declined the
proposal on legal advice as it would amount to an
admission of Spanish jurisdiction over a British ship
on the high seas.62 Finally the Spanish Supreme
Court of Admiralty declared the Octavia a 'bad prize'
in June, 1877, and she was restored to her owner.63
The Octavia had been lying in tropical waters for 479
days and was in a thoroughly rotten condition."
The Foreign Office was very reluctant to prefer
claims on behalf of de Cordova because it did not
believe that he was her real owner but merely the
agent of foreigners. After considerable discussion, it
was decided to reclaim the expenses incurred by the
Board of Trade on behalf of the crew, to prefer claims
on behalf of the crew for damages for imprisonment
and the stealing of their personal effects; but to limit
de Cordova's claims to demurrage or compensation
for the detention of the ship, and damages for the
deterioration of the ship and her cargo.65 The Spanish
Government declined to grant compensation on the
ground that the seizure of the vessel was justified by
her past history, and that the Spanish Government
had fulfilled its international obligations by releasing
the vessel, her cargo and crew.66 The British
Government took the advice of the law officers, and
the lord chancellor, and then renewed its demands
for compensation at the same time declaring that de
Cordova's claims would be held in abeyance pending
an investigation.67 In October 1878 the British
Minister at Madrid, Sackville West, reported that
the Spanish Government was anxious to reach a
settlement of the Octavia claims and was prepared to
admit the principle of indemnity provided that the
sum claimed was not excessive as the Spanish
Government was suffering from financial
stringency 68 The British Government accepted the
Spanish proposal as the best that could be obtained,
and West was instructed to inform the Spanish
Government that in submitting a claim the British
Government would 'be guided by a spirit of strict
justice and moderation.'69
There was a great reluctance at the Foreign Office
to prefer any claims on behalf of de Cordova because
of his well-known role as Cuban agent in Jamaica.
The Permanent Under Secretary, Lord Tenterden,
was particularly outspoken in his opposition and
argued that to ask for compensation on De
Cordova's behalf 'is practically to ask it for the'
Insurgents.'70 However, it would have been difficult
to throw de Cordova over entirely as he had enlisted
the support of Serjeant Simon who had repeatedly
asked questions in the House of Commons
concerning the Octavia.7' The Foreign Office asked
the Colonial Office to supply information as to
whether the Octavia had been really bound for New
York at the time of her capture, whether de Cordova
was the bona fide owner of the vessel, and whether
there was any evidence that she was intended to be
used contrary to the Foreign Enlistment Act. The
Governor of Jamaica, Sir Anthony Musgrave replied
that de Cordova had won his case in the action to
forfeit his bond which he had given that the Octavia
would proceed to New York, that he was a native
born British subject, and that he had fulfilled all the
legal formalities in registering the vessel, and that he
intended to use the Octavia in breach of the Foreign
Enlistment Act was only'a question of suspicion.72
The Foreign Office decided to refer the question of
whether claims should be preferred on behalf of de
Cordova to the Lord Chancellor, Cairns, who replied
on 30 December 1878: -
that the Colonial Government there (Jamaica)
have gone so far in recognizing Cordova as entitled
to British protection and intervention that (scoun-
drel though he may be & probably is) I don't think
he can be thrown overboard or called on to dis-
prove mere suspicions. I think the best way would
be to settle with Spanish Govt. for as small a sum
as can fairly be asked on the basis suggested in
Mr. West's despatch.73
The Foreign Office then began to work out the
actual totals of the claims, and found that there was
no record of a precise claim made by de Cordova
and the Colonial Office was accordingly asked to
obtain the requisite information. In April 1879, the
Colonial Office forwarded a claim submitted by De
Cordova for 81,194 9s Od, the particulars of which
Sir Julian Pauncefote, an assistant under secretary
at the Foreign Office, described as 'preposterous'.74
It was decided that de Cordova should be made to
prove his claims before Mr. Rothery, the Wreck
Commissioner, who was an expert at assessing
damages in cases of maritime disasters.76 De
Cordova came to England in October 1879, and on
11 November conferred with Rothery concerning
his claims. He then admitted that he had put in such
an inflated claim because he had not expected the
claims to be investigated by the British Government
but merely transmitted to the Spanish Government,
who would, as a matter of course, cut down the
amount. De Cordova had grossly exaggerated his
claims in that he had claimed 6,000 for the
deterioration of the cargo of arms for which he had
paid 2,000 and had sold to the Haitians for 5,000.
Similarly he had claimed 15,000 for the
deterioration of the Octavia for which he had paid
only 5,000 to 6,000. In consequence, Rothery
reduced de Cordova's claims to 2,395 for
demurrage, and 1,100 for expenses and interest
thereon.76 The Foreign Office were not quite as
ruthless as Rothery, and allowed a higher rate of
demurrage and interest and one third of the cost of
repairing the Octavia or 1,000 making a total claim
of about 6,000 on de Cordova's behalf.7
In January 1880, instructions were sent to West to
prefer claims of 7,000 of which 6,000 was on de
Cordova's behalf and 1,000 on behalf of the officers
and crew, and the Board of Trade. He was to explain
to the Spanish Government that the British
Government had closely scrutinized the claims and
had cut them down from 88,501 5s 9d to a mere
7,000.78 In June, 1880 West reported that the
Spanish Government was anxious to settle but
considered that the amount claimed was excessive,
and it was hoped that the British Government would
be content with a smaller amount.79 Pauncefote
minuted that the amount claimed had been cut down
from 80,000 to 7,000 and that the latter sum was
barely sufficient to give a reasonable indemnity for
losses sustained. He considered that the amount
should not be further reduced and he believed that if
the money was not obtained questions would be
asked in parliament.80 Accordingly the Foreign
Secretary, Lord Granville, informed West that the
British Government could not consent to the amount
of the indemnity being further reduced and
instructed West to inform the Spanish Government
of its decision.x' West informed the Spanish minister
of state who thereupon stated that the Spanish
Government had decided on immediate payment;
but that due to an error in addition the correct total
was 6,680.82 Due to further losses in exchange the
amount was further reduced to 6,663 6d of which
de Cordova ultimately received 5,431 6s. 9d.8de
Cordova complained bitterly that he would be
ruined;"4 but he could count himself very lucky that
he had received anything at all as the British
Government was not very anxious to prefer his claim
to the Spanish Government, and the latter probably
only settled because it was anxious to clear away the
obstacles to a detente with Britain.
Since the Spanish authorities in Cuba were
convinced that small boats from Jamaica were
carrying arms to Cuba they decided to extend the
prohibition on fishing off the northern coast of Cuba
to the southern coast as well. In October 1871, the
captain general of Cuba informed Governor Sir John
Peter Grant that fishing was prohibited amongst the
cays off the southern coast as a precautionary
measure to prevent clandestine expeditions from
reaching Cuba. Grant published a notice informing
the public of the closure on 13 October 1871 without
making a protest.8s At the suggestion of the Colonial
Office the Foreign Office instructed Layard to
express the hope that the prohibition would be lifted
as soon as peace was restored in Cuba.s8 In response
to a petition from the Cayman Islanders asking that
the prohibition on fishing off the south coast of Cuba
be removed as they had been cut off from their best
fishing grounds, the British Government made a
representation at Madrid in October 1872 but
Layard was informed that the prohibition could not
be raised as the officials in Cuba considered it
necessary for the security of the island.87 Another
attempt to secure the removal of the prohibition in
1873 was unsuccessful as the Spanish Admiral at
Havana maintained that so long as the insurrection
lasted the prohibition was necessary.88 No further
progress was made during the Ten Years' War but
after its conclusion a further representation was
made at Madrid to secure the removal of the
prohibition on fishing off the Cuban coast. The
Spanish Government persisted in its refusal to
remove the prohibition and in 1889 the British
Government abandoned its attempt to secure its
removal.89 The Spanish Government was thus able to
use the Ten Years' War as an excuse for closing
Cuban coastal waters to Caymanian fishermen which
it had wanted to bring about for a long time, while
the British Government was not prepared to insist
upon the rights of British colonial fishermen because
the British law officers had given it as their opinion
that Spanish territorial waters extended three miles
beyond the cays or small uninhabited islands off the
A particularly difficult category of cases involved
small Jamaican or Caymanian vessels which were
driven on to the Cuban coast by bad weather and
were seized on suspicion of aiding the Cuban
insurgents. In 1870 the Caymanian schooner Star
was driven on to the Cuban coast near Cienfuegos
when returning from a turtling voyage. She was
seized by the Spanish gunboat Alarma on 2 October,
and taken into Cienfuegos, where the vessel and her
crew were detained for 46 days and then released.91 A
similar case occurred in January 1872 when the sloop
Lark of Montego Bay was driven on to the Cuban
coast whilst on a voyage from Montego Bay to
Cayman Brac. The Lark was seized by the Spanish
gunboat Astuto and taken into Manzanillo where the
crew were kept in prison for fifteen days, and were
only released when they consented to sign a docu-
ment declaring that they had been well-treated,
admitted their guilt and waived all claim to
damages.92 From the British point of view these were
weak cases as the seizures had occurred in Spanish
territorial waters, and the presence of the vessels on
that part of the Cuban coast where the Cuban insur-
gents were active could be construed by the Spanish
authorities as suspicious. The British Government
therefore based its claims for compensation on the
Cuban forces under the command of General Ignacio
Agramonte heroically attacking the Optica Tower of
Colon in Pinto Camaguey. Scenes such as these were
presented to indicate the importance of the war and
the bloody and furious fight by the Cubans for their
independence, were proliferated in the international
graphic press during the decade 1868 to 1878.
Historia de la Insurreccion en Cuba: E. A. Soulere
contention that even if the seizures were justified the
duration of the detention of the men had been exces-
sive and that they had been treated with undue
harshness." Claims were presented to the Spanish
Government on behalf of the crews of the Star and
the Lark,94 but after long delays the Spanish Govern-
ment rejected both claims on the ground that the
seizures were justified as there were suspicious cir-
cumstances surrounding the presence of both vessels
on the Cuban coast. It also denied that the crew of
the Lark had been illtreated, and cited the document
signed by the crew on their release as proof of its con-
tention.95 Since the cases were not of sufficient
importance to justify a threat of force, the British
Government had the choice of either abandoning the
cases or of renewing its representations with the
expectation that they would be again rejected by the
Spanish Governmept,?6 It was decided to abandon
the case of the Star;97 but to ask the Spanish
Government to reconsider the case of Lark having
reduced the amount of the claim from 3,150 to
1,550 on the advice of the British Consul General at
Havana, Dunlop.98' The Spanish Government
persisted in its rejection of the claims, and after
further representations the Foreign Office finally
decided to abandon the Lark claims.99 The British
Government had pressed the Lark claims as long as
it did because the law officers declared it to be a case
of grave injustice, and the claimants had enlisted the
support of Serjeant Simon who repeatedly asked
questions in the House of Commons, and urged that
the case should not be abandoned.!0
During the Ten Years' War Jamaica was the
recipient of a large number of Cuban refugees and
the scene of a considerable amount of Cuban
insurgent activity; but the Jamaican people, while
sympathetic to the Cuban cause were mainly
spectators rather than participants in the struggle
taking place in the neighboring island. The colonial
authorities vigorously enforced local legislation and
the Foreign Enlistment Act and it therefore seems
doubtful whether considerable quantities of arms
were shipped from Jamaica to Cuba in spite of
Spanish suspicions to the contrary. The arrival of
Cuban gun-runners at Jamaican ports faced the
colonial authorities with complex legal problems
which in the event of an error of judgement could
lead to defeat in the courts and possible damages.
After its defeat in the case of the La Have the
Jamaican Government was naturally cautious in its
handling of subsequent cases.101 Some Jamaicans
became victims of Spanish ill-treatment when they
incurred Spanish suspicions as in the case of the
shipping incidents such as the Lark or the Star. With
the end of the Ten Years' War, the problem of
enforcing neutrality became less acute although
Jamaica continued to be the venue of Cuban
conspiracies against Spanish rule until the outbreak
of the new war of independence in 1895.
1. Ramiro Guerra y Sanchez et al., Historia de la nation
cubana (10 vols Havana 1952 v); Ramiro Guerra y Sanchez,
Guerra de los Diez Anos, 1868-1872 (2 vols Havana 1950);
Philip S. Foner, A History of Cuba and its Relations with
the United States (4 vols New York 1963-1973) ii pp.
2. Kenneth Bourne, Britain and the Balance of Power in NOrth
America, 1815-1908 (London, 1967) pp. 170-205, 251-312;
Charles C. Jacobs, 'The Diplomatic History of the Cuban
Ten Years' War, 1868-1878', PhD thesis, University of
Birmingham, 1973, ch. 2.
3. Christopher J. Bartlett, 'British Reaction to the Cuban
Insurrection of 1868-1878' The Hispanic American Histori-
cal Review XXXVII (1957) 296-312; Jacobs PHd, 1973 chs.
5, 7, 8.
4. C.J. Bartlett, 298-9, Jacobs Phd, 1973, ch. 6.
5. Grant to Kimberley, 23 June 1872 no. 152 Public Record
Office, London, Colonial Office Archives (cited hereafter as
C.O.) C.O. 137/464.
6. Ibid., Antonio Carlo Napoleone Gallenga, The Pearl of the
Antilles (London, 1873) pp. 147, 196.
7. C.O. to F.O. 20 Mch 1872 & enclos. Public Record Office,
London, Foreign Office Archives (cited hereafter as F.O.)
F.O. 72/1327; Granville to Layard 25 Mch 1872 no.31 F.O.
185/528; same to same 5 July 1872 no.94 F.O. 185/529;
Layard to Granville 4 Apl 1872 no.86 F.O. 72/1310; same
to same 14 June 1872 no.86 F.O. 72/1312; Ffrench to
Granville 12 July, 1 Aug 1872 nos. 3 and 14 F.O. 72/1312;
C.O. to OAG, Jamaica 24 Sept 1872 no. 455 C.O. 137/467.
8. Layard to Granville 11 Nov 1872 no. 346 confidential F.O.
72/1313; Grant to Kimberley 11 Mch 1873 confidential
enclos. in C.O. to F.O. 10 Apl 1873 F.O. 72/1358.
9. Pietersz to Captain General Ceballos 8 Nov 1872 no. 26
secret enclos in Ceballos to minr of the colonies 4 Dec 1872
Archivo Historico Nacional, Madrid, Ultramar, Gobierno
III, Legajo 4726.
10. Mr. Altamont de Cordova died 20 April 1900 at New York,
where he had gone to reside in 1898. He was a leading
member of the Jamaican Jewish community, a freemason, a
Justice of the Peace and a member of the last Assembly at
the time of the abolition of the old constitution. Jacob
A.P.M. Andrade, A Record of the Jews of Jamaica
(Kingston 1941) pp. 30, 118.
11. Grey to Carnarvon, 23 Feb 1876 no. 23 C.O. 137/481. See
12. Grey to Carnavon, 24 Mch, 9 June 1876 confidential C.O.
137/481; Grant to Kimberley 8 Nov 1873 no. 188 C.O.
13. Rudolph de Cordova, 'The "Virginius" Incident and Cuba'
The Nineteenth Century LX (1906) p. 977; Grey to Carna-
von 9 June 1876 confidential C.O. 137/481.
14. He was able to sell the cargo of arms on the Octavia which
he admitted to have purchased for 2,000 to the Haitian
Government for 5,000. Rothery to Pauncefote 13 Nov 1879
Immediate F.O. 72/1675.
15. 25 Victoria, cap 23, sec 1.
16. Grant to Granville 9 July 1869 no. 161 C.O. 137/442.
17. Grant to Granville 9 July 1869 nos. 158 and 159 C.O.
18. F.O. to C.O. 13 July 1869 F.O. 72/1228; C.O. to Govrs. of
W.I. colonies, North American colonies, and Bermuda 16
July 1869 circular despatch C.O. 23/199; Grant to
Granville, 31 Aug 1869 no. 215 C.O. 137/443.
19. Grant to Kimberley 11 Mch 1873 confidential C.O. 137/469.
20. Dunlop to Granville 11 Jan, 10 Mch 1872 nos. 1 and 11
Political F.O. 72/1319A; Grant to Dunlop 9 Mch 1872 no.
1606 F.O. 277/3; Grant to Kimberley 23 May 1872 no. 100
21. Layard to Granville 29 Sept 1872 no. 278 confidential F.O.
72/1312; same to same 11 Nov 1872 no. 346 confidential
F.O. 72/1313; Mem by Kimberley 25 Nov 1872 F.O.
72/1308; Grant to Kimberley 11 Mch 1873 confid. enclos. in
C.O. to F.O. 10 April 1873 F.O. 72/1358.
22. Grant to Kimberley, 21 Nov 1873 no. 191 C.O. 137/473
23. Quesada y Loynaz, Manuel, 29 Mch 1883 30 Jan 1884,
Cuban leader, born in Camaguey, served in Mexican civil
war under Juarez, and then against the French. At the
outbreak of the Cuban Ten Years' War he returned to the
island in the Galvanic expedition. He was made Commander
in Chief of the Army of Liberation, 11 Apl 1869; but was
removed on 17 Dec 1869 for showing dictatorial tendencies.
He was sent on a mission abroad to organize expeditions of
which the Virginius was the most important. He died in
Costa Rica, 30 Jan 1884.
24. Dunlop to Derby 23 July, 2 Aug 1874 nos. 13 and 14 politi-
cal F.O. 72/1375.
25. Mem by Tenterden, 24 Oct 1874 F.O. 72/1389; Layard to
Derby 26 Oct 1874 no. 462 F.O. 72/1370; F.O. to C.O. 24 Oct
1874 pressing and confidential; C.O. to F.O. 2 Nov 1874
confidential F.O. 72/1388.
26. In 1873 the Cuban revolutionary President Cespedes offered
to arrange to have New York Herald correspondent James
J. O'Kelly taken to Jamaica in a small vessel. James J.
O'Kelly, The Mambiland, or adventures of a Herald Corres-
pondent in Cuba (London, 1874) p. 250.
27. Sworn affidavit of William Edward Welch (Captain of the
Grapeshot) National Archives Washington D.C. Notes from
the Spanish Legation, vol 24.
28. Dunlop to Clarendon 24 June 1869 no. 64 F.O. 72/1269;
Phillimore to Mundy 26 June 1869 no. 96 Public Record
Office, London, Admiralty Archives (cited hereafter as
ADM.) ADM. 1/6101; Grant to Kimberley 9 July 1869 nos.
158 and 159 C.O. 137/442.
29. C.O. to L(aw) Officers) 2 Aug 1869; L(aw) O(fficers) to
Granville 6 Aug 1869 F.O. 83/2376.
30. Admiralty to F.O. 14 Dec 1869 F.O. 72/1269; C.O. to L.O.
24 Dec 1869 C.O. 137/445; L.O. to Granville 12 Jan 1870;
Treasury to C.O. 9 Aug 1870 no. 12, 977 8/8 urgent C.O.
137/453; Grant to Granville 8 Apl 1870 no. 97 C.O. 137/449;
C.O. to F.O. 9 May 1870; F.O. to C.O. 12 May 1870 F.O.
31. Grant to Kimberley 23 May 1872 no. 100 C.O. 137/463.
32. Dunlop to Granville 16 Apl 1872 no. 100 C.O. 137/463;
Rances y Villanueva to Granville 11 May 1872 note verbal
F.O. 72/1336; F.O. to C.O. 1 May 1872 Immediate; C.O.
to Grant 1 May 1872 no. 345 enclos in C.O. to F.O. 2 May
1872 E.O. 72/1328.
33. Grant to Kimberley 23 May 1872 no. 100 C.O. 137/463.
34. C.O. to F.O. 2 July 1872 F.O. 72/1329; F.O. to L.O. 4 July
1872; L.O. to Granville 9 July 1872 F.O. 83/2377.
35. Grant to Kimberley 8 Nov 1873 no. 188 C.O. 137/473; same
to same 24 Jan 1874 no. 21 C.O. 137/476; Crawford to
Granville 12, 15 Nov 1873 nos. 25 and 26 consular F.O.
72/1237; Rudolph de Cordova, 976-978.
36. Hall to Davis 12 Nov 1873 no. 302; Schmitt to Fish 4 Dec
1873 no. 107; Hall to Fish 13 Dec 1873 no. 19; Papers Relat-
ing to the Foreign Relations of the United States, 1874 pp.
1062-6, 1081-3, 1090-5; Crawford to Granville 15 Nov 1873
no. 26 consular F.O. 72/1637; Rudolph de Cordova, 978-981.
37. Admiralty to F.O. 29 Nov 1873; Rudolph de Cordova,
981-984. No mention is made in the official despatches of
Rudolph de Cordova's story that his father took the tele-
gram from Santiago across the harbour in a boat to Port
Royal, and after delivering it to the Commodore urged him
to send the Niobe to Santiago.
38. Loraine to de Horsey 19 Nov 1873 ADM 1/6267.
39. For the diplomacy of the Virginius crisis see Allan Nevins,
Hamilton Fish: The Inner History of the Grant Administra-
tion (2 vols. New York 1957) ii, pp. 667-694; Lester D.
Langley, The Cuban Policy of the United States, A Brief
History (New York 1968) pp. 73-77; Foner, ii pp. 244-6;
Jeronimo Becker y Gonzalez, Historia de las relaciones
exteriores de Espana (cont. p. 36) durante el siglo XIX (3
vols. Madrid 1924) iii, pp. 163-206; Herminio Portell Vila,
Historia de Cuba en sus relaciones con los Estados Unidos y
Espana (4 vols Havana 1938-41) ii, pp. 427-453; C.J.
Bartlett, 305-309; Jacobs Ph.D 1973, ch. 8.
40. 'Particulars of British subjects captured on Virginius'
enclos. in Crawford to Granville 3 Dec 1873 no. 36 consular;
F.O. mem and printed circular F.O. 72/1638.
42. F.O. to L.O. 24 Jan 1874; L.O. to Granville 14 Feb 1874 F.O.
1639; Granville to Layard 20 Feb 1874 no. 70 F.O. 185/555;
Derby to Layard 29 June 1874 F.O. 185/556; Tenterden to
MacDonell 12 Aug 1874 no. 278; Derby to MacDonell 7 Sept
1874 no. 312 F.O. 185/557; F.O. Mem by Tenterden F.O.
72/1637; Layard to Derby 2 Mch, 19 June 1874 nos. 201 and
406; MacDonell to Derby 19 Aug 1874 no. 69 F.O. 72/1640.
43. Disappears from later lists.
44. F.O. mem and printed circular F.O. 72/1638; List of men
with particulars by H.C. Elliot 17 Aug 1874 F.O. 72/1640.
45. Mrs. Floody to Derby 8 June 1875; Mrs. Young (Floody) to
Derby 20 July 1875; F.O. to Treasury 30 June 1875; F.O. to
Mrs. Floody 12 July 1875 F.O. 72/1641.
46. Grey to Carnavon 31 Dec 1874 no. 16 Turks Islands enclos.
in C.O. to F.O. 22 Feb 1875 F.O. 72/1641.
47. Archibald to Derby 8, 10, 30 June 1875 nos. 17, 35 and 39;
Thornton to Derby 14 June 1875 no. 178; Derby to Thorn-
ton to Derby 14 June 1875 no. 178; Derby to Thornton 3
July 1875 no. 130; Pritchard to Derby 5 Nov 1875 F.O.
72/1669; Thornton to Derby 27 June 1875 (tel.) F.O. 5/1511.
48. Grey to Carnavon 9 Dec 1875 no. 150 C.O. 137/480.
50. Grey to Carnavon 23 Feb 1876 no. 23 C.O. 137/481.
51. Grey to Carnavon 24 Mch, 9 June 1876 confidential C.O.
52. Grey to Carnavon 9 June 1876 confidential C.O. 137/481;
F.O. mem by Pauncefote 27 Sept 1877 F.O. 72/1675.
53. Declaration by Captain Walsman, master of the Octavia, 26
Apl 1876 enclos. in Pauli to Derby 27 Apl 1876 no. 22. See
Pauli to Derby 12 Apl 1876 no. 20 consular for map showing
place of capture. F.O. 72/1671.
54. L.O. to Derby 25 Mch, 1 Apl 1876 F.O. 72/1670; L.O. to
Derby 18 May 1876 F.O. 72/1671; Tenterden to Layard 22,
23 Mch 1876 nos. 85, 86 and 87 F.O. 185/578.
55. Pauli to Derby 27, 31 Mch 1876 (tel.) and nos. 13 and 14
consular F.O. 72/1670.
56. Pauli to Derby 27 April 1876 no. 22 consular F.O. 72/1671.
57. Pauli to Derby 25 July, 1 Oct 1876 no. 35 consular and (tel.);
Mem by H.C. Elliot 15, 20 Aug 1876; Pauncefote to Wal-
sham 15, 26 Aug 1876 (tels.), Walsham to Derby 19, 27, 28
Aug, 25 Sept 1876 (tel.) nos. 371, 373 and (tels.) F.O.
58. Mem by H.C. Elliot 1 Apl, 1876, F.O. to Layard 3 Apl 1876
no. 97; Layard to Derby 11, 20 Apl 1876 nos. 187 and 210
59. Pauli to Derby 27, 30 Apl, 12 May 1876 nos. 22, 24 and 25
consular F.O. 72/1671.
60. L.O. to Derby 18 May 1876 A and B; F.O. to Walsham 27
May 1876 F.O. Drafts no. 170; F.O. minutes by H.C. Elliot,
Tenterden, Derby and L(ord) C(hancellor) Cairns F.O.
72/1671; Derby to Walsham 27 May 1876 no. 170 F.O.
61. Walsham to Derby 28 June, 1 July 1876 (tels.); Tenterden
to Walsham 1 July 1876 (tel.); Casa Laiglesia to Derby 16
July 1876; F.O. to Casa Laiglesia, 12 July, n.d. (July) 1876
62. F.O. to L.O. 9 Aug 1876; L.O. to Derby 12 Sept 1876 F.O.
72/1672; Derby to Walsham 19 Sept 1876 no. 262 F.O.
63. Derby to Walsham 4 June 1877 no. 127 F.O. 185/590;
Walsham to Derby 10, 22, 27 June, 3 July 1877 nos. 31
confidential and 237, (tel.) and no. 247 F.O. 72/1672.
64. Musgrave to Carnavon 7 Sept 1877 no. 155 C.O. 137/484.
65. F.O. Mem by Pauncefote 27 Sept 1877 F.O. 72/1675; F.O. to
L.O. 6 Nov 1877; L.O. to Derby 20 Nov 1877 F.O. 72/1673;
Derby to Walsham 4 Dec 1877 no. 219 F.O. 185/591.
66. Silvela to Walsham 14 May 1878 enclos. in Walsham to
Salisbury 24 May 1878 no. 6 F.O. 72/1674.
67. F.O. to L.O. 12 June 1878, L.O. to Salisbury 24 May 1878
no. 6 F.O. 72/1674.
68. West to Salisbury 10 Oct 1878 no. 190 confidential F.O.
69. Salisbury to West 4 Mch 1879 no. 33 F.O. 185/600.
70. Mem by Tenterden 11 Nov 1878 F.O. 72/1674.
71. Hansard's Parliamentary Debates, 3rd Series vol 228, 1
May 1876, 1912, 229; 23 May 1876, 1113, 232; 12 Feb 1877,
173-4, 238; 28 Feb 1878, 452; Simon to Bourke 30 Nov 1876;
F.O. to Simon 13 Dec 1876 F.O. 72/1672; Mem by
Pauncefe e 27 Sept 1877 F.O. 72/1765.
Sir John Simon, 1818-1897 born Montego Bay, Jamaica,
educated at schools in Jamaica and England, University
College, London, and Middle Temple, created Serjeant at
law, 1864, Liberal M.P. for Dewsbury 1868-1888. Took
active interest in Jamaican questions and in the fate of Jews
in Eastern Europe.
72. F.O. to C.O. 17 Aug 1878; Musgrave to Hicks-Beach 10 Oct
1878 confidential enclos. in C.O. to F.O. 7 Nov 1878 F.O.
73. Pauncefote to L.C. 25 Nov 1878; L.C. to Salisbury 30 Dec
1878 F.O. 72/1674.
74. Mem by Pauncefote 10 Mch, 2 May 1879; F.O. to C.O. 10
Mch 1879; C.O. to F.O. 13 Mch, 23 Apl 1879 F.O. 72/1675.
75. Rothery to Pauncefote 10, 16 May F.O. 72/1675.
76. C.O. to F.O. 26 Sept 1879; Rothery to Pauncefote 20 Nov
1879 immediate F.O. 72/1675.
77. Mem by Pauncefote 19, 20 Dec 1879; minutes by Tenterden
and Salisbury 22 Dec 1879 F.O. 72/1675.
78. Pauncefote to West 26 Jan 1880 no. 16 F.O. 185/617; West
to Salisbury 31 Jan 1880 no. 25 F.O. 72/1675.
79. West to Granville 10 June 1880 no. 140 F.O. 72/1675.
80. Mem by Pauncefote, minutes by Tenterden, Dilke and
Granville F.O. 72/1675.
81. Granville to West 29 June 1880 no. 110 F.O. 185/617.
82. West to Granville 22 July 1880 no. 127 F.O. 72/1675.
83. F.O. to C.O. 9 Sept 1880 F.O. 72/1675; C.O. to F.O. 30 Dec
1882 F.O. 72/1676.
84. De Cordova to Pauncefote 3, 9 Mch (2), 7 Apl 1880; F.O. to
De Cordova 31 Mch 1880 F.O. 72/1675.
85. Grant to Kimberley 13 Oct 1871 no. 151 C.O. 137/455.
86. C.O. to F.O. 24 Nov 1871 F.O. 72/1306; Hammond to
Layard 28 Nov 1871 no. 105 F.O. 185/517; Layard to
Granville 23 Dec 1871 no. 113 F.O. 72/1306.
87. Grant to Kimberley 22 Aug 1872 no. 177 C.O. 137/464;
Granville to Layard 12 Oct 1872 no. 110 F.O. 185/530;
Layard to Granville 8 Nov 1872 no. 342 F.O. 72/1313; same
to same 20 Nov 1872 no. 354 F.O. 72/1317.
88. C.O. to F.O. 14 Dec 1872 F.O. 72/1318; F.O. to Dunlop 8
Jan 1873 no. 1 commercial, Crawford to Granville 1 Oct 1873
no. 7 commercial F.O. 72/1349.
89. Walsham to Salisbury 27, 28 May 1878 nos. 64 and 65 F.O.
72/1499; F.O. mem F.O. 72/1318.
90. F.O. to L.O. 6 Feb, 8 Mch 1869; L.O. to Clarendon 18 Feb,
18 Mch 1869 F.O. 83/2376.
91. Grant to Kimberley 9 May 1871 no. 59 C.O. 137/456.
92. Dunlop to Granville 30 Jan, 9 Feb 1872 nos. 4 and 8 F.O.
93. L.O. to Granville 30 May 1873 F.O. 72/1561.
94. F.O. to Ffrench 27 June 1871 no. 7 F.O. 72/1273; Ffrench to
Granville 3, 11 July 1871 nos. 20 and 23 F.O. 72/1275; F.O.
to Layard 4 June 1873 no. 134; Layard to Granville 24
June 1873 no. 445 F.O. 72/1561.
95. Layard to Granville 7 Feb 1874 no. 128 F.O. 72/1366;
Layard to Derby 6 Mch 1875 no. 264 F.O. 72/1561.
96. Minute by H.C. Elliot 17 Jan 1876 F.O. 72/1561.
97. F.O. to C.O. 3, 17 Mch 1874; C.O. to F.O. 11 Mch 1874 F.O.
72/1386; Carnavon to O.A.G. Jamaica 19 Mch 1874 no. 33
98. L.O. to Derby 4 May 1875 F.O. 72/1561; Derby to Walsham
7 Sept 1875 no. 272 F.O. 185/569; Layard to Derby 30 Sept
1875 no. 572 F.O. 72/1561.
99. Layard to Derby 11 Jan 1876 no. 13; F.O. to Layard 31
Mch 1876 no. 96; West to Salisbury 15 Nov 1878 no. 220;
F.O. mem by H.C. Elliot 9 Nov. 1878, minute by Tenterden;
mem by Pauncefote 14 Dec 1878; F.O. to C.O. 30 Dec. 1878;
C.O. to F.O. 20 Jan 1879 F.O. 72/1561; Derby to Walsham
18 July 1877 no. 156 F.O. 185/591.
100. Hansard's Parliamentary Debates, 3rd series, 222, 15 Mch
1875, 1866-7, 232; 12 Feb 1877, 173-4, 240; 20 June 1878,
1883-4, 243; 17 Feb 1879;, 1316-1317; Simon to Bourke 24
Apl 1879; Simon to Salisbury 30 July 1879; Bourke to
Simon 26 Apl 1879; F.O. to Simon 6 Aug 1879 F.O.
72/1561; L.O. to Derby 4 May 1875, 23 Mch 1876 F.O.
101. Sir Anthony Musgrave made the mistake his predecessors
had sought to avoid when on the basis of incorrect legal
advice he seized the Florence which had arrived at Kingston
with a cargo of arms in 1877, and the subsequent defeat in
the courts and necessity of paying damages provoked a
political crisis in the island. H.A. Will, Constitutional
Change in the British West Indies 1880-1903 (Oxford 1970)
V.. -* 4
Historic photo: Marti in Jamaica closely surrounded by a group of Cuban tobacco workers on one of his visits to Temple Hall.
a- ***;*f *
y .A, :"-'^.^L *3W
I"aa~ '' Cr'.
Baugh, Edward: Derek Walcott Memory as
Vision: Another Life (Longman Caribbean Ltd.)
Chester, Edward W: The United States and Six
Atlantic Outposts (National University Publica-
tions) New York, 1980
D'Costa, Jean: Roger Mais (Longman Caribbean
Ltd.) Kingston, 1978
Ellis, Hall Anthony: The Silence of Barabomo
(Hyde, Held and Blackburn Ltd.) Kingston, 1979
Floyd, Barry: Jamaica an Island Microcosm
(Macmillan Education Ltd.) London, 1979
Garrison, Len: Black Youth Rastafarianism (African
Caribbean Education Resource) London, 1980
Goodison, Lorna: Tamarind Season (Institute of
Jamaica) Kingston, 1980
Gribbin, John: Climate and Mankind (International
Institute for Environment and Development
(Earthscan) London, 1979
Hogg, Peter: Slavery The Afro-American
Experience (The British Library) London, 1979
Jamal Foundation: Tacky, Kingston, 1977
Jamal Foundation: An Unforgettable Day in the
Life of Miss Nellie Barrow, Kingston, 1976
James Louis : Jean Rhys (Longman Caribbean
Ltd.) Kingston, 1978
Johnson, Linton Kwesi: Dread Beat and Blood
(Bogle L'Ouverture) London, 1979
Kirkaldy, S.G.: Introduction to Industrial Relations
and Labour Laws in Jamaica (Trade Union
Education Institute, U.W.I.) Kingston, 1979
McKay, Claude: My Green Hills of Jamaica
(Heinemann Educational Books Ltd.) Kingston,
1979 (Edited by Mervyn Morris)
Copyright in the developing countries: (The
Commonwealth Secretariat) London, 1977
Evans Books for the Caribbean 1980: (Evans
Brothers Ltd.) London, 1980
Paper Production Prospects for Commonwealth
(Commonwealth Secretariat) London, 1978
Speech Anthology '80: (Jamaica Festival
Commission) Kingston, 1980
The use of Mass Media in Food and Nutrition
Programmes Guidelines for Planners and
Decision-Makers: (CFNI and PAHO) Kingston,
Caliban: A Journal of New World Thoughts and
Writing, Volume 3, Number 1, Spring-Summer 1979
Caribbean Quarterly, Vol. 24, Nos. 3 & 4,
Sep.-Dec. 1978 (U.W.I.) Kingston, 1979
Casa de las Americas, Number 117, Havana, 1979
Savacou vol. 14/15 New Poets from Jamaica: An
Anthology edited with an introduction by Edward
Kamau Brathwaite, Savacou, 1979
Torch, Vol. 26, No. 2, 1979 (Ministry of Education)
Identified as the author of an
anonymous book about Jamaica
By Michael Ashcroft
Dr. Michael Ashcroft was born in England and obtained his
Medical degree at the University of Oxford in 1949. He has work-
ed in many parts of the world and, for the last 16 years was an
epidemiologist at the Medical Research Council Unit of the UK,
which is associated with the University of the West Indies in
Jamaica. Besides scientific papers he has published articles on
caving and history, and for several years he was President of the
Jamaica Caving Club and Secretary of the Jamaican Historical
Society. He has now retired to live in Wales and is planning to
write a history of Jamaican medicine.
A book entitled "A short journey in the West
Indies in which are interspersed curious anecdotes
and characters" was printed for an author, who
remained anonymous, in 1790 and was sold by John
Murray of Fleet Street and John Forbes of Covent
Garden in London. The book, in two octavo volumes,
consists of descriptions and anecdotes and is written,
or pretended to be written, by the author to his
friend "Eugenio" in England. The title is somewhat
misleading as it is mainly about Jamaica with little
about the other parts of the West Indies. The author
was careful to give fictitious names to almost all the
persons and places he encountered, presumably, one
must suppose, to avoid identification, and no dates
The book gives a vivid, often racy, account of
some aspects of Jamaican society as seen by the
young English-educated heir to a substantial estate
and is remarkable for its bitter attack on slavery.
The day before the vessel, in which the author was
sailing, reached Barbados, an enemy ship flying the
American flag was sighted but eventually sheered
off. This incident dates the voyage to some time
during the War of American Independence,
In Barbados, the author breakfasted with his
friend, Mr. F. A slave, whose duty it was to brush
the flies off the food, allowed one to settle on the
butter and, for this inattention, was violently struck
by Mr. F. "This is the first living picture I had of
slavery .... I felt an affection for the poor negro and
an instant detestation for his master .... the injured
black looks amiable through his sooty skin."
At St. Vincent he saw a sailor killed by a shark, a
particularly sad event as the victim had left behind a
faithful girl friend at his home town of Falmouth in
Cornwall, England. (This incident was to be the
subject of a poem published more than thirty years
later.) Shark stories are rarely absent from West
Indian travel literature and are often of doubtful
veracity but an amusing one was told of the admiral
at Port Royal who would daily feed a large shark,
known as Port Royal Tom, to encourage it to lurk
around the ship and "to prevent sailors swimming
ashore to get spirituous liquors."
The author had a contemptuous opinion of white
society in Jamaica and sarcastically wrote about his
friend Franky, with whom he stayed in Kingston.
"Is not Franky a happy man? An Englishman'in the
torrid zone, loving a greasy old black woman,
indulging his gross appetites, a gentleman, a
companion in request, self-approving, eating,
drinking, sleeping away his life in solid and
He travelled to the estate to which he was
heir-apparent, calling it, aptly, as will be seen later,
Transit Castle. The sycophantic welcome given by
the slaves was distasteful. "Two hundred beings
have been at my feet, despite all my efforts to
restrain them from humbling themselves so low."
Although finding this servility distasteful (as did
Monk Lewis in his "Journal of a West Indian
Proprietor") he realized that, for the slaves, abject
flattery might be one of the few ways by which they
might influence a newly arrived owner to improve
He had little hopes that his estate would ever be
financially viable and railed against trustees and
attorneys. "An estate put in trust is like a
consumptive patient gone to the hot-wells, where
hundreds perish for one that is restored. Trustees are
careless physicians, little interested in the fate of the
patient, whose distemper, say they, was beyond the
reach of art before he came under our hands. Even so
I found the estate my father had left in this island, in
the last stage of its disorder. A small debt, not
one-fifth part of its value, had increased, since his
death, under the care of its physicians, to almost its
whole value." (The financial position of his Castle
was, however, to grow even more shaky in the next
The author recited the dying musings of an
imaginary slave, Alkreah, his capture in Africa, the
horrors of the middle-passage and the cruelties and
hopelessness of plantation life. Finally, sick and
worn out, Alkreah was taken to the hot-house
(hospital) and the estate doctor, who "at the first
glance pronounced me spent and that I should never
again be worth my herring-salt or osnaburgh"
ordered that he should be fastened to a plank and
taken to Carrion Crow Gully, there to perish. (This
may be the first reference to a legend which was also
described by Monk Lewis. H.P. Jacobs, in an article
in the June, 1972, issue of the Jamaica Journal,
suggested that the saga might be connected with
real events occurring at the Spring Garden estate of
George Bedward in Westmoreland in the late 1780's.
Although the "Short Journey" probably took place
about 1779 the author may have heard about the
events later and added them before the book was
published in 1790.)
In contrast to the miserable lot of Alkreah, the
comparatively happy situation of Afra an old slave
woman, sitting contentedly outside her hut, sur-
rounded by a numerous family, is described.
Nevertheless the author was adamant against
slavery "and would root out the very name of
slavery". He speculated that perhaps the only
defence of slavery might be that the African was a
distinct species of mankind as had been postulated
by the "historian of Jamaica" (Edward Long). But
he rejected such a theory out of hand: "Man is man,
place him on what spot of earth you will; distinguish
his customs and manners, and, at pleasure, paint his
countenance white, brown, black, olive; what you
will, man is man, and it is playing shamefully with
terms to talk of a different species and thereby mean
He gave understandable and obviously personal
reasons why he, and others like him, preferred to
remain absentee proprietors. "A mild and virtuous
West Indian (i.e. one who stayed in the West Indies)
has double merit, for he has to fight both with the
demon of despotism and to conquer the baneful
influence of the climate; some there are; but the
greater part choose to avoid the contest and widely
preferring flight to victory, depute the horrid
management to men less virtuous and more savage,
by which they often hurt their fortunes, while they
live happily and more innocently in Europe."
The first volume ends with the "Simkiniad, a
poem in four cantos", describing how Mr. Simkin
falls for a slave girl belonging to his sister and ends
up with the girl being mercilessly flogged. This is
rough, coarse and brutal doggerel written by a writer
who wished to convey that slavery was rough, coarse
The second volume includes the comic arrival at
Prospect Pen of the "trunk-fleet", the slaves
carrying on their heads the numerous boxes and
belongings of their masters, the Chewquids. "After
the first how-dees were over, the ladies were shewn to
their bedchambers, and the gentlemen took chairs in
the piazza .... They draw their chairs to the railing of
the piazza, and fixing themselves nearly upon the
end of their backbones, they elevate their feet into
the air upon the highest rail above their heads ... The
various appearances of a dozen or fifteen men's
bottoms exposed to view, is in a fine contrast to the
sublimity of the surrounding mountains ... The
gentlemen were no sooner seated, than one of them
gave a shrill whistle, by the help of his fingers, and
immediately a negro boy came running in; as soon as
he made his appearance, the gentleman, who had
whistled, cried, (rather laconically, I thought) "Fire"
- upon which the boy went out as fast as he had
entered, and returned in a minute with a bit of wood
burning at one end. By the time the tobacco pouches
were all opened, segars prepared, and each with his
scissors had clipped the ends; the negro then
presented the fire all round, the tobacco was lighted,
and I walked off."
After more vivid description of life on the estate,
the author gave a conventional description of fauna
and flora of Jamaica. He stressed the high mortality.
"Unaccustomed to the sight of death, while I
breathed the air of Europe, I am perhaps more struck
by his visits in this climate. What numbers of my
acquaintance can I already count who have yielded
to his dart."
Towards the end of the second volume, an ode
"The Grotto or Melancholy" based on a visit to a
cave on the north side of the island was inserted.
Three verses, apparently recommending slaves to
run away, take refuge in the cave, and live by
praedial larceny, are worth quoting in full:
Come, thou black fugitive of woe,
Who fliest the torturing scourge;
Whose blood is taught thro' pores to flow,
Whom thongs to labour urge!
And thou, the bolder brother, thou,
Whom Afric never taught to bow.
To bondage rebel and to toil,
Bold C'romantee! whose fruitless strife
But rivets more thy chain for life,
But makes each link a coil.
Come, all ye sable sons of earth,
Spurn'd by the fairer race;
Made slaves by Commerce or by birth.
To Reason's sad disgrace:
Once wanderers on your native fields,
Where Nature ample nurture yields;
Here come and mourn your social lot:
Quench early at the neighboring Spring,
A plain repast from Breadnuts bring,
Or tax the tyrant's spot:
Thence mellow avocadoes gain,
Nor spare his roost or fold;
The plantain thence and juicy cane;
Whence Afric's bonds are told,
Your portion seize ere yet day dawn,
By nature and by hunger drawn;
No theft with ease of conscience blest -
Then to this desert cave retire,
Here kindle oft your friendly fire,
And sink to sleep and rest.
The inclusion of this poem identifies the author of "A
short Journey" as Robert Charles Dallas as the
identical poem was included in that person's
"Miscellaneous writings, etc." published in 1797 and
also in his "Miscellaneous Works and Novels"
published in 1813. Why did Dallas publish the
"Short Journey" anonymously? One reason may
have been that he h&d many relatives and friends in
Jamaica, most of whom would have been
slave-owners, to whom his anti-slavery views would
presumably have been unwelcome and his caustic
description of white West Indian society personally
offensive. To understand this situation a short
summary of his life is needed.
He was born on 14 July 1754, and christened in
the parish church of St. Andrew on Christmas day,
1756. His father, Dr. Robert Dallas, grandson of
George Dallas, Deputy-Keeper of the Great Seal of
Scotland, had come from Scotland about 1730 and,
both by his professional activities and by his first
marriage to Mary Frances, the widow of a wealthy
Kingston merchant, Samuel Themer Main, had
accumulated a considerable fortune. Dr. Dallas also
appears to have been a man of some political
influence, being on the vestry of Kingston in 1751
and a member of the House of Assembly for
Kingston from 1761 to 1764. The author's mother,
Sarah, baptised on 6 August 1733 in Clarendon,
was a member of the Cammack family, who had been
planters in Clarendon since the seventeenth century,
and several of her sisters made well-connected
marriages in Jamaica. Caroline Jane and Elizabeth
Cammack married James and Samuel Jackson
respectively, brothers of a prominent Jamaican and
English family, the Jacksons of Saperton in
Robert Charles Dallas: From a photograph of a miniature once in the
possession of his grand daughter, Mrs. Agnes Bligh-Hill, which is in
"The history of the family of Dallas", a typescript manuscript by A.J.
Dallas. Courtesy of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
Derbyshire, amongst whose forebears was Juxon,
the Archbishop of Canterbury who was present at
the execution of King Charles I. Dorothy Cammack
married William Gray, who was Provost-Marshall
from 1768 to 1776 and a member of the Jamaican
house of assembly at various times from 1773 to his
death in 1778. He was involved in innumerable land
transactions and was a trustee for the management
of the Dallas Castle estate. (A grand daughter of the
Grays, Dorothy Morrison, married William Myers,
an ancestor of the twentieth century merchants
of the "House of Myers" and her sister, Margaret
Morrison, married Samuel Jackson Dallas, whom
we will meet with later). Sarah Cammack's first
husband was John Hewitt, from another Clarendon
planting family, whom she married in 1751.
Legally she was Mrs. Hewitt from 1751 until,
following the death of Mr. Hewitt in 1769, she was
able to marry as her second husband, Dr. Dallas,
who, however, died late in the same year. Various
documents make it quite clear that, between 1754
and 1765, she bore four sons and two daughters to
Dr. Dallas, all of whom were in strict legal terms,
Hewitts but were all baptised with the name of
Dallas. In a register in the church of St. John the
Evangelist, Smith Square, Westminister, is
Robert Dallas, Esquire, widower and Sarah
Hewitt, widow, both of this parish, married in
this church by licence this twentieth day of April
in the year one thousand seven hundred and sixty
nine by me Thos. Bennett Curate. This marriage
was solemnized between us, signed Robert Dallas
and Sarah Hewitt in the presence of John Jackson
and Jos. Heseltine.
(The Dallas signature is very shaky.)
In 1758 Dr. Dallas purchased Boar Castle on the
Cane River in the parish of Port Royal and re-named
it Dallas Castle. Before he and his family left the
island in 1764, he had mortgaged the estate and left
it in the hands of trustees.
It is not certain whether Robert Charles Dallas left
the island with his father and family in 1764, when he
would have been ten years old, or whether he was
sent to Britain earlier to be educated. In England Dr.
Dallas lived in Downing Street, Westminster, a
favourite resort of physicians at that time. His sons
attended the Elphinstone Academy, run by James
Elphinstone, a liberal Scotsman who was a friend of
Dr. Samuel Johnson, an outspoken opponent to
slavery. R.C. Dallas then attended the Inner Temple,
but according to a memoir written by his
sister-in-law, Arabella Dallas, he took "a decided
aversion to the law". In about 1778 he sailed for
Jamaica to "take up his portion of his father's
estate". A document showing that he was appointed'
a Collector of Customs in 1777 probably refers to an
arrangement made before he left England. In 1778 or
1779 he left Jamaica forever' and it was this short
stay which formed the background to the "Short
Journey". Meanwhile his mother, who had married
Lieut. Donald Sutherland, RN, and most of the
family, sailed for Jamaica in an attempt to arrest the
decline in the family income which was dependent on
After his brief sojourn in Jamaica, which, as we
know from the "Short Journey" he detested, Dallas
returned to England and, in 1782, married Sarah
Harding, a Jamaican co-heiress, the posthumous
daughter of Benjamin Harding, an absentee
proprietor of the estates of Blue Hole in Hanover and
Newman Hall in St. James. In 1790, when the "Short
Journey" was published, his mother, Sarah, had
been married to her fourth husband, Dr. James John
Reeve, since 1784, and, probably living with them in
St. Andrew, were the children of her third marriage
to Captain Sutherland who had died in 1782. Two of
his brothers, Stuart George Dallas and Charles
Stewart Dallas, were in the practice of law in
Kingston, both married to Jamaicans. One sister,
Elizabeth, had married James Stewart, a prominent
planter and later Custos of Trelawny, and was
living in Stewart Castle in that parish. Thus Dallas
was connected to Jamaica by birth, by marriage and
by income and it is not surprising that in 1790 he
should have published the "Short Journey", with its
stringent criticisms of the island, anonymously.
At this juncture it is worth while recording the
fortunes of Dallas Castle. Following the departure of
the family from Jamaica in 1764, a series of
indenturies, simple, tripartite and quadripartite, and
legal actions in the Court of Chancery involved the
estate for the next 45 years. From these, which are
filed in the Record Office and Archives of Jamaica in
Spanish Town, much information has been gained
about the Dallas family. Finally, in 1803, the Court
of Chancery decreed that Dr. and Mrs. Reeve and the
infant son, Alexander, of Robert Charles Dallas,
(presumably because he was heir in male tail) were
found to be indebted t55,000 current money of
Jamaica, exclusive of court costs, to John Jacques
for transactions involving Dallas Castle estate. John
Jacques was Custos and later Mayor of Kingston
and was senior member of the merchant firm of
Jacques, Ewing and Laing. The estate was sold at
"public outcry" in 1804 for g16,000 to Humphrey
Ewing, a' member of the afore-mentioned firm.
Dallas's bitter remarks about trustees made in the
"Short Journey" were more than justified. "Transit"
was, indeed, an apt adjective to use, not only for
Dallas Castle, but for many other castles, halls,
parks and houses, established by the plantocracy of
Jamaica and often grandiloquently labelled with
their own names in the heyday of the sugar industry.
Most were to be mortgaged, sold, subdivided or
"thrown-up" and to pass through a succession of
owners, as the fortunes of sugar declined and fell in
the nineteenth century.
From 1782 until 1815 Dallas lived for the most
part in England and his next work, published in
1797, under his own name, was "Miscellaneous
writings, consisting of poems, Lucretia, a tragedy
and moral essays, with a vocabulary of the
passions". In this book he makes no apologia for the
"Short Journey" of 1790 but, accountable, if he
wanted to remain anonymous, included the ode,
written about the cave, now retitled, "The grotto of
melancholy" which had appeared in the earlier work.
Also included was a poem "Kirkstall Abbey" which
contains lines which express sentiments similar to
those expressed in the "Short Journey".
Yes! I fled your scorched savannahs; fled
Your tangled forests, and your torrent rains,
Your quicksands, tempests and tornadoes dire,
Your cloud cap't mountains quaking to their tops,
Your fever'd fountains, and your forked fires,
Your sharks, your snakes, your scorpions; the
whole train. Of venom and voracity; but chief
The lash's echo, that proclaims a stream
Of human blood, through quivering vessels drawn.
Yes! I forsook them; never did my eye
Gloat on the glittering dust that blinds the soul
And sheds false radiance on deformity.
With little skill and less desire to heap,
I daily sicken'd at the ills around me.
Yes! I forsook them; wealth, the mighty spur,
Could never goad me to the common course,
Nor could the syrup of an Indian fruit,
Nor all the dainties of a tropic board,
E'er stifle sighs that in my bosom heaved
For mental food; philosophy and GOD.
Perhaps the publication of these poems in the 1797
collection let the cat out of the bag about his
authorship of the "Short Journey" because in the
preface to his "History of the Maroons", published
in 1803, he had begun to back away from his earlier
sentiments. "It is well known to my friend that I
early professed my abhorrence to the cruelties
attendant on the state of slavery and of slavery
itself, as it appeared to me in my youth. Less the
tendency of my sentiments in these volumes should
expose me to inconsistency, I beg leave to observe
that it is not my opinions that have changed. I am
still an enemy to cruelty. Previous to the French
Revolution, I was an enthusiast for freedom but I
very soon after learned to substitute the words
happiness and order for liberty and right; the former
are equivocal and proceed from God; the latter are
ambiguous and too often become means in the hands
of the devil and his agents."
In 1813, he had published several novels, plays,
poems and translations from French authors, "The
miscellaneous works of R.C. Dallas Esq." were
published in seven volumes. He had moved even
further away from his youthful stance and, in the
preface, he wrote: "Two of the poems, Cavern of
Melancholy (yet another change of title) and
Kirkstall Abbey, written long ago, contain some
strong impressions about West Indian defects, moral
and physical, the perusal of which, as they pass
through my hands to the printer, cannot fail to bring
to my mind that in publishing my observations and
opinions more at large on the subject many years ago
I gave much offence to my countrymen. I frankly
own that I wish I had never published the work I
allude to; of which I would not, when urged, consent
to publish a second edition". (This statement must
refer to the anonymous "Short Journey"). "But
although I cannot retract my sentiments of what
passed under my own eye, I am happy to express my
conviction that an improvement has taken place in
the West Indies which does infinite honour to the
proprietors of the soil. Indeed I never considered the
real West Indian but as a well educated Englishman
with a predominant warmth of heart and
benevolence." (If true he could have met remarkably
few "real" West Indians in his "Short Journey"). In
the very book which offended so many I clearly
stated this, in giving a short sketch of the character
of William Beckford, formerly of Somerley in
Suffolk, a man whose friendship I was honoured to
the last ...." (The arrest of Beckford for debt is
described in the "Short Journey".) "But then, as a
West Indian, to argue against that system upon
which the prosperity of every West Indian is built.
My answer is that I was young and intoxicated with
the Utopian ideas of liberty, which I had imbibed in
the course of my education in England. These ideas
are still dear to me; but I am now fully satisfied that
a real West Indian is sincerely occupied in
ameliorating the condition of his slaves and is a
wiser and more beneficient character than he who
would completely and abruptly abrogate the colonial
system. .... I assure my countrymen, among whom I
have near and dear relations, that I respect their
genuine character, upon which I never meant to cast
a reflexion." The spirited, liberal and sensitive
Dallas had become staid, conservative and stolid
with age, a turncoat indeed.
The last but one of Dallas's publications in 1825
was "Adrastus, a tragedy, Amabel or the Cornish
lovers and other poems": Amabel is a poetic version
of the shark incident which Dallas described at St.
Vincent in the "Short Journey".
"Haste! gain the boat! What sounds of bode!
A monster lurks within the road.
Leviathan? Isn't he? Oh worse!
The glutton shark, a diver curse."
Let Amabel, whose patriot blood
First launched her lover on the flood
Shriek to St. Vincent's hollow cry,
Shriek all in boding agony -
Shriek, British dames! Shriek, British daughters!
For Fate has stained St. Vincent's waters.
Emerging helf his mountain hide
The monster strikes the trembling tide,
And as he sidelong quivers through,
His prey he singles from the crew;
From off the cutter's deck is seen
The human form his jaws between;
And long his course unveiled to view
Thro' crystal depths all eyes pursue,
Till distance mocks the poring eye
And nought reflects but agony.
To be fair, the poet did not, so the impression is
gained from the introduction, wish his work to be
taken as serious poetry, but rather as entertainment.
In the British literary scene Dallas is most often
met with as the distant relative of the poet, Lord
Byron, whom he helped to fame by his assistance in
publishing Byron's early poems, particularly Childe
Harold in 1808. However, as Byron's reputation
grew more famous and his conduct more notorious
and as Dallas grew poorer and more censorious, their
relationship cooled and was at an end by 1814. In
numerous biographies of Byron, Dallas is often
described as being seedy, unctuous, flattering and a
toady, terms which may be largely undeserved. The
biographers are, however, concerned with Byron and
not with Dallas, who, as a secondary character in the
lief of the great poet, received little interest;
deprecatory and inaccurate statements about him
are repeated by one writer after another.