Front Cover
 Table of Contents
 Back Cover

Title: Jamaica journal
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00090030/00071
 Material Information
Title: Jamaica journal
Series Title: Jamaica journal.
Abbreviated Title: Jam. j.
Physical Description: v. : ill. (part col.) ; 31 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Institute of Jamaica
Publisher: Institute of Jamaica.
Place of Publication: Kingston
Publication Date: December 1997
Frequency: semiannual
Subject: Periodicals -- Jamaica   ( lcsh )
Genre: periodical   ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage: Jamaica
Dates or Sequential Designation: Began with Dec. 1967 issue.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00090030
Volume ID: VID00071
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 01797964
lccn - 75027862
issn - 0021-4124

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover 1
        Front Cover 2
        Advertising 1
        Advertising 2
    Table of Contents
        Page 1
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    Back Cover
        Page 71
        Page 72
Full Text

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Jamaica's leading cultural magazine

* excellent writing Jamaican history, art and science
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Design & Printing Pear Tree Press

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JAMAICA JOURNAL is published on behalf
of the Institute of Jamaica by
Institute of Jamaica Publications Limited.
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Back issues: Some back issues are available. List
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Ann Arbor, Michigan 48106. USA.
Subscriptions: J$600 for 3 issues (in Jamaica
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Index: Published index available. Articles
appearing in JAMAICA JOURNAL are also abstracted
Vol. 26 No.2. Copyright 0 1997 by Institute of
Jamaica Publications Ltd. Cover or contents may
not be reproduced in whole or in part without
written permission.
ISSN 0021-4124

Cover Illustration: Marble and agate lobby
floor at Grand Lido Hotel, Negril.
Cover Photograph: A. R. D. Porter


History and Life

2 Season of Workers Time
by Leonard Ruddock

10 Women in the Morant Bay Rebellion
by Clinton Hutton

21 A Depiction of African Dress in
Gold Coast
by Glory Robertson
65 Michael Manley ... in memory
by Rachel Manley

Science and Technology

25 Asiatic Cholera in Jamaica
Parts 1 and 2
by C. H. Senior


by A. R. D. Porter and A. Goffe

51 Africa's Baobab Tree in Jamaica: a
further comment
by John Rashford

The Arts

45 Music of the Arawaks
by Astley Clerk

Books and Writers

59 Prose and Poems
by Tony Macneill

67 Book Review
The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro
improvement Association Papers, Robert A. Hill
(ed.) reviewed by Rupert Lewis

58 Contributors


Vol 26 No 2 December 1997





Reflections on the 1970s Sugar Workers Cooperatives in Jamaica

Leonard C. Ruddock

The Struggle and the Search for a Place in the Sun

In his epic work The Development of Creole Society in Jamaica, Edward Kamau Braithwaite quoted
a charming little conversation between a slave accused of stealing some sugar and his master, Charles

'Who planted the cane?'said a slave to me one day, when I checked him for stealing a lump of sugar.
'Who nourished its growth? Was it not the poor Negro? Negro man work all day in the hot sun; he
toil through mud and rain. He have hunger and wet all day, cold all night, yet he plant the cane, he
watch over him, he cut him down, carry him to the mill, he make sugar. Shall Buckra man who do
nothing, eat all, and poor Negro man, who do all dem things, starve?'

The actual date when sugar cane was introduced into
Jamaica still remains a matter for conjecture, although
indications are that it was brought into the Caribbean within
two or three years of the arrival of Columbus. What is certain,
however, is that sugar has played a pivotal role in the
socioeconomic development and political history of the island.
The importance of sugar to Jamaica is clearly demonstrated
by the fact that in addition to being Jamaica's greatest
employer of labour for four centuries, and the principal
foreign-exchange earner and contributor to national income for
most of that time, the sugar industry was intimately involved in
every decisive stage of Jamaican history and development.
The Maroon Wars, Sam Sharpe's Christmas Rebellion, the
Abolition of Slavery, the Morant Bay Rebellion and the 1938
riots, all important landmarks in Jamaica's history, had their
roots deep in the sugar cane plantations across the island.
Through its many years, the sugar industry developed
certain limitations. At the height of its abundant prosperity, the
generally improved economic conditions did not filter down to
the enslaved workers in the field. And this was to remain a
critical factor in a matrix of plantation and production and
social relations, even after Emancipation.
What, therefore, may be referred to as fundamental
contradictions were camouflaged deep in the industry by the
time the need for modernization had emerged in the first half
of the twentieth century. As Carl Henry Feuer noted:
These contradictions were of three sorts: internal contra-
dictions, relating to the accumulation of technological
deficiencies and micro-economic problems; social
contradictions, relating to class antagonism and conflict

between the workers and the owners of capital; and
national contradictions, relating to the conflict between
foreign capital and the national interest.'
In spite of these contradictions, sugar continued to be
indispensable to Jamaica's economy even up to the second half
of the twentieth century. In the 1960s the industry was
directly employing some 50,000 workers, approximately 2.5
per cent of a total population estimated at a little over two
million. In addition, a further 500,000 persons were in some
way dependent on the industry which in most rural areas
continued to be the main source of their economic support. By
the same token, however, the large owners of the industry, and
especially Tate and Lyle (West Indies Sugar Company) and the
United Fruit Company, began to experience difficulty in
dealing with the large labour force, the workers' trade unions
and their frequent resort to strike action. Since the companies
obtained their profits from shipping the raw sugar and refining
it in the metropolitan centres, they were growing increasingly
disenchanted with the industry, and especially the cane-
farming operation. It was necessary to resolve the growing
conflict. Divestment of their cane lands by the large companies
was one possible solution.
Realizing that they were losing on the cane operations, the
companies offered to sell the cane lands to the Jamaican
Government. Negotiations were concluded in the sixties but
only after it became clear that Jamaica would not allow exten-
sive mechanization of the cane farms since that would throw so
many people dependent on the sugar industry out of work. The
result was a social and industrial experiment: the formation of
the first large-scale workers' cooperatives in Jamaica.


The first cooperatives
Government had acquired the lands from the sugar
companies in the 1960s, but at first there was some lack of
consensus as to how these lands were to be farmed. Finally it
was recognized by all that the continued production of sugar
was vital to Jamaica's exports and foreign exchange earnings.
Meanwhile, a State company, the Frome Monymusk Land
Company, had been formed to manage operations for the first
years until a final decision was made.

Factories operating in 1975
Areas in which sugar cane is predominant crop.
Areas suitable for growing sugar cane

The Sugar Workers Cooperatives were born in the 1970s
when twenty-three farms, comprising approximately 45,000
acres of land, were leased to about 5,000 sugar workers.
The twenty-three farms were located on the three largest
sugar estates in Jamaica: Frome, Monymusk and Bernard
Lodge which had all been owned by the West Indies Sugar
Company, a subsidiary of the British Tate & Lyle Company,
and United Fruit Company.
The objective in establishing the cooperatives on these
lands was to institute greater worker participation and self-
management thus effecting some economic transformation in
an industry which for some time had been witnessing a decline
in production. It was hoped, as well, that there would be an
improvement in the social and economic well-being of the
work force.
From the start, the fact that a number of farms were not

viable in their existing state, especially those at Monymusk,
made the need for additional injection of capital, as well as
improved management and worker attitudes, crystal clear.
Unfortunately, many people felt, in all innocence, that by the
simple act of introducing a cooperative structure, thus making
the workers the owners of the farms, the increase in costs
would be halted, unrest among the workers would be reduced
and production would be increased.
The sugar workers themselves invested half of their
severance pay, about $4.7 million, in a medium-term loan.
This amount was to prove to be insufficient As
a result, with no equity and no collateral, the
cooperatives eventually reached a state of
virtual insolvency.

Workers' time
,c su'r Sugar estates had always been centres where
turbulence could occur, but never more so than
in the 1970s, and especially after the formation
Bowden of the Sugar Workers Cooperatives. All over
Frome and Monymusk there were 'fires' being
lit literally and figuratively. A group known
as the Social Action Centre saw themselves as
having a proprietary right to go among the
sugar workers and organize them.
At Lionel Town, a Roman Catholic priest, Father Joe
Owens, had seen the social and economic situation of the
agricultural workers, especially of sugar workers. The advent
of the Sugar Workers Cooperatives in 1974 was, for Joe
Owens, a godsend.
'Listen, brothers,' he said, 'stop corking your ears and lis-
ten. It is only if we, the workers at Frome, Monymusk and
Bernard Lodge, understand the gospel of cooperatives
that.. .' The need to understand cooperatives was evident, but
it would not be as easy as all that. And in any case, hardly had
the idea of cooperatives achieved a level of consciousness than
the workers were being radicalized into seeing various existing
organizations and persons as instruments of oppression.
By 1975 and 1976, workers were being urged to achieve
worker control. Between the concept of 'freeing the workers'
and 'carrying the movement', the ecstasy of the gospel of co-
operation swept like a sugar-cane fire through the estate areas
in Monymusk, Frome and Bernard Lodge,
convulsing workers and staff alike.
The feeling that the 'Busha day done'
created a euphoria and heightened tensions.
Somehow workers felt that something new was
happening because they were now burning and
cutting their own cane. They were no longer
working for WISCO (West Indies Sugar
Company) or for FMLCO (Frome, Monymusk
Land Company). They were working for them-
selves, for their brothers and sisters and for
their children.

Forced to dig you,
breed you into cane,
I loved you, O earth,
but loved you in vain.
Now you are for me,
O dark and lovely earth,
And to a new-time harvest
We will surely give birth.

Field Operations at Frome


result of investigations which were conducted,
not only were the two officers of the Society
suspended, but the Assistant Project Manager
himself was suspended as well.
At Springfield Co-op Farm, pressure was
exerted of a different sort. Having applied to join
the co-op, a cultivation headman was told by the
Committee of Management to deposit half of his
severance pay in addition to purchasing his
shares. A long tug-o'-war ensued with the
headman and his union plus a bag of tricks on his
side. On the co-op side was a resolute Managing
Committee determined that the headman had to
follow the principle of 'Pay up or no work'. He
eventually made his severance deposit and bought
his shares and everything went happily after in
that cooperative.
The contradictory feelings of workers were
never felt so much as in the early years of the
Sugar Workers Cooperatives. Possessed them-
selves, workers in sugar, of this 'slavery' feeling,
An estate co-op members' general meeting consisting of sugar workers, project managers they wrestled to rid themselves of it and burst
and estate/co-op staff. :1,. .. ...... ,4 ,:a, .... L, 1:
iIL ldi ~ WIUwti a d11~iff f~ii~ ai

Early organization

The early co-op organization was, of course, beset with
numerous contradictions. Estate staff had traditionally been
accustomed to various fringe benefits free house or housing
allowance, free utilities, the services of a domestic helper and
gardener and the like. It was hardly likely that they would
agree to the removal of these benefits. If the new 'bosses', for-
merly the workers, attempted to get rid of them entirely, such a
wholesale change of technical and administrative staff
might result in a serious dislocation of management.
The general estate staff members were abusive to the new
committee members and to members of the cooperative in
general. The case of the assistant Project Manager at the
Frome Farm Co-op was one of several such. He was contemp-
tuous of the Committee of Management and openly told the
committee at one of their meetings that they were a bunch of
ignoramuses who were merely there to earn high salaries and
use the co-op's money.
Yet despite these rather unpropitious beginnings, a great
feeling was developing among the sugar workers on the three
estates that theirs was a struggle for emancipation, for a better
way of life, for a place in the sun.

Early problems
As soon as the co-ops began to take shape, concerted efforts
were made to ensure that they did not develop some of the
more glaring instances of corruption or indiscipline which had
been heard about in similar organizations. One of the earliest
such exposures took place at the Exeter Workers Cooperative
Society at Monymusk over suspicions that the Chairman had
conspired to pad the paybill by including persons on the
contractor's list for work that was not done. With the finger of
suspicion pointing at him, he resigned as Chairman but was
later accused and tried by the members at a special General
Meeting, and finally expelled from membership in the Co-op.
This harsh action resulted in his not being permitted any longer
to work in the Co-op.
While this was going on at Exeter, similar happenings
were taking place at Masemure Co-op Farm at Frome, this
time involving both the Chairman and the Secretary. As a

lo Ita new wor WLI a u rent el ng;llllg, a
feeling of brotherhood.
The skills necessary to understand and tackle these
problems were not there. The organization to administer the
undertaking had not emerged and so, when faced with what
appeared to be insurmountable difficulties, people retreated to
what they knew best: earnest entreaties and mobilization. But
little did everyone realize that other instruments in a sugar cane
growing cooperative in 1976 were needed and that it was
essential to devise the instruments and develop the skills.
It was beginning to become clear that running a sugar cane
growing cooperative was a complex affair. The question of
achieving viability on many of the co-op farms was a serious
consideration from the start. Under WISCO's tenure, farms
were not in themselves profit earners since only the total
profit from the overall production of sugar was considered.
Hence, as WISCO had seen it, the objective of management at
farm level was to achieve maximum production (increased
productivity) while exercising control over costs of production
(cost cutting).
But many of the brothers and sisters at Bernard Lodge and
other estates got upset and angry if the co-ops tried to keep
costs down.
'Wha a gwaan wid de money?' they asked. 'Mi hear say de
money inna de office and di staff dem nu waan wi fi get it.'
The motivations were often at cross purposes. Workers
looked for and expected returns as wages or other benefits
immediately (short-run). This was usually at variance with any
entrepreneurial initiatives by the technical staff or the
committee of management. For instance, to spread the work
more evenly through the week, the cane cutting schedule was
arranged with less weekend time. But this had a direct negative
effect on the pay packet of cutters. So workers felt that the co-
op worked against their interests; hence they looked again to
their union to help them to fight wicked management. Thirty
years of trade union struggles focused entirely on wage nego-
tiation hardly prepared the workers for the collectivist entre-
preneurial approach required as a co-operator.
The search to find ways to reduce the contradictions
between the individual, 'material benefit' motivation of the
sugar worker and his collective-interest urges as a co-op
member, engaged the attention of the cooperatives all during


the 1975/76 and 1976/77 sugar crops. In the end, the tension
induced helped to confuse the worker more and more while
making it difficult for him to manage well and achieve

Rescuing the Sugar Co-ops
All those who expressed the view that the Sugar Workers
Cooperatives could work, and even those who took an
anti-co-op position, were always of the opinion that a proper
on-going education programme was of critical importance if
the co-ops were to be a success.
There were four periods in the educational effort of the
Sugar Workers Cooperatives. First, the initial thrust of the fact-
finding period, 1973 to 1974, when interested parties were
engaged in examining the whole cooperative concept, the
feasibility of organizing sugar workers into cooperatives,
looking at the economics of cane farming and formulating
plans to motivate and educate the sugar workers. The second
period embraced 1974 and 1975. Here the efforts were
devoted to mobilizing the sugar workers to form themselves
into cooperatives and preparing them to fit their new role. This
was an intense period which coincided with the formation of
the pilot cooperatives. The three main agencies, namely the
Cooperative Department; the Frome, Monymusk Land
Company; and the Social Action Centre, began.to lay different
emphases on aspects of training and these differences had the
effect of creating tensions. It was from this period that the staff
of Frome, Monymusk Land Company became isolated and felt
threatened, developing what appeared to be an anti-co-op
The third period, 1976 onwards, was geared towards
helping the sugar workers to ran the business in an efficient

One of the early voice
show a way out of the
was Brother George
Chairman of March P
operative at Bernard
He had served as a s
worker in the industry
years. If March Pen c
secure its much need
then, Parker thought,
would apply hard wor
duce more, and poss
"raising a few cows".
Parker was not expec
things to be easy. To
self and his society, h
early advocate for sac
hard work and divers

and profitable way. On each estate, a Member Services
Department functioned as part of the United Sugar Workers
Cooperative Council (USWCC). The Government's Co-op
Department and Cooperative Development Centre (CDC)
exercised its role, and SAC, along with some Worker
Educators, performed a role as well.
In an attempt to rationalize what went out to the members
and coordinate the training as well, the programme was turned
over to the CDC which was, however, hampered by inadequate
resources and personnel. The result was that there was

increasing divisiveness which the CDC was incapable of
A word needs to be said about the part played by the Social
Action Centre almost from the start of the Sugar Workers
Cooperative in 1975. The Social Action Centre, which was a
Roman Catholic-linked organization, took an early interest in
helping the sugar workers to understand and form the sugar
cane cooperatives. Among the most prominent leaders were
Jim Schecker (an American), Father Joe Owens, Horace Levy,
Ronnie Thwaites and Matthias Brown.
By publishing the monthly Workers Time newspaper from
1975, the Social Action Centre helped greatly in informing,
educating and mobilizing the sugar workers in establishing and
improving their cooperatives. But the Social Action Centre
remained the 'black sheep' among the various organizations
trying to mobilize and educate the sugar workers, mainly
because it tended to appeal to the workers over the heads of
'constituted authority'.


WORKERS TIME is devoted to the best interests of workers
in Jamaica, particularly those in the sugar industry. WORKERS
TIME is published by WORKERS TIME LTD., 9 Central Ave.,
Kingston 10, Telephone: 92-60956.

WORKERS TIME Directors are Stanford Phillips, Horace
Levy, Ronnie Thawaites, Glen Francis, Trevor Coleman,
Acting Editor Beth Robinson.


es to Addressing educational needs
e debacle
Parker, It became evident to the cooperators and all
'en Co- concerned that the sugar cooperatives really needed
Lodge. a massive thrust in education which could only be
for ten carried out by the co-operatives themselves, each
would one with its own resource and training staff.
led water, The funds for providing the new programne came
they through a grant from the Inter-American
rk, pro- Foundation (IAF). This grant had been negotiated
ibly start
George soon after the Co-ops were established but, due to
:ting the conflicting positions taken as to who should
build him- control the education programme, the agreement
e was an could not be signed.
fiction. In 1979 the agreement between the IAF and the
USWCC was concluded and the programme finally
launched. This was to be USWCC's fourth and final effort at
supplying a much-needed education programme without which
the chances of success for the Sugar Workers Cooperatives
were virtually nil.
Programmes such as education programmes for a sugar
workers' cooperative are usually based on the popular
assumption that the purpose is to effect a behavioral change
in the cooperators in order to improve the social and econom-
ic state of the society. But people at a certain stage of develop-
ment are primarily interested in a material benefit to improve


their quality of life.
This perception identifies the 'materialist' as against the
'social' incentive, discovery of which was to be made early in
the programme and which was used successfully as a means of
securing the cooperators' interest and education, as such.
For instance, an eye-testing programme was one such
appeal to the sugar workers' 'material benefit' urge. It had
several advantages. Some sugar workers who were members of
the co-ops suffered from poor eyesight which affected their
ability to engage in peer group or literacy classes. What better
way to show interest in their welfare than providing free eye
tests to determine who needed glasses or surgery? In addition,
it brought the opthalmologist's services to the cooperator 'at
his workplace' instead of requiring him or her to travel far
distances. Participation in classes would have significantly
increased if there had been no logistical deficiencies such as
the failure to provide eye-glasses. The provision of such a
service would have been seen by the sugar worker as a major
achievement through his co-op.
Another instance could be seen on National Heroes Day,
October 20, 1980. The cooperators, led by their education staff,
decided to mark the occasion through the enactment of a
pageant. For the Monymusk SWCC, this presented a grand
opportunity. Using the figure of an old sugar worker talking to
some young people as the link, the cast of thirty-six depicted
what conditions had been like and what improvements had
been effected. As people sat or stood in the open air at the
sports ground they witnessed scenes depicting such harsh
working conditions as seasonal unemployment, favouritism,
absolute control of workers by the 'Bushas', and others.
Through songs and dance and skits, people watched and were
encouraged that their human condition was being transformed.
Bernard Lodge's pageant was centred around 'the struggle
for land', a most apt choice for a pageant for the Bernard
Lodge 'plantation' community.
While recognizing through songs that
One man name Lopez own whole a March Pen
Own whole a March Pen
One man name Dolphy own whole a Phoenix Park
Own whole a Phoenix Park,
they could nevertheless in another part of the dialogue say:
Beryl: Alfred, whey you a do ya?

Two sugar workers undertake an education assignment during a break at

Alfred: Beryl, you lef'de pickney down a yard an' trail mi?
Beryl: Trail you, ee! From morning di pickney dem no
even drink little bush tea, and you siddung ya a
drink rum wid careless man. You ol' drunkard an
money so scarce already!

The human condition, it was being demonstrated, could be
changed not by the miracle of a grant of land, but by the
individual aiding his own transformation.

National Heroes Day Pageant, October 21, 1980.


Workers' Skit

Brother Joe look up from him work and
realize seh two a de members stop work.
Him walk over to Brother Winston, 'Wha
happen man? Wah gwaan?'
'Me nah weed dis ya piece a bad grass, oonu
too fool fi bruck oonu back over it,' Winston
replies. 'We a co-ops now,we can afford fe hire
people fi do it. It too hard fi me. Mek de butter-
foot2 dem do it,'
Joe looks puzzled. His black sweaty face
changes in appearance.
'A wha yu a gwaan wid?' Joe puffs out star-
ing at him and the grass. 'A we mus weed de
grass. When WISCO did own it ah who did
weed it?' He is now stuttering with anger. 'Wha
make oonu man come so? Now dat is fi wi own
all of a sudden we can't do it.'
Brother Joe turns his head and looks up in
the sky. The bright sun is burning down hot.
The green sprouts of the cane contend with the
grass but the stretches of full-grown cane
impressively frame the landscape.
'If we can't take the sweet wid de sour den

might as cheap wi gi back de farm to the Land
Company or mek di 'butterfoot' or de Busha
dem, tek it over. Ah dat oonu want. Mi see't yu
know. Ah fi me. Mi ha mi shares in a it an mi
put mi severance in deh too. A no lickle money
'So we can't spray it den or mek de machine
do it?' Winston asks.
'Mi disappointed wid you. Weh we gwine
fin' money fi pay you fi si down, and den, fin'
money fi pay contractor fi do yu work. Grow up
nu man. You must be don't realize how much
money it tek fe run de business. Is sake a people
like yu mek de weed so high. Mi hear mi own
Busha a tell 'im fren say a weed we a grow. So
you gwaan fool yourself! If yu no tek care a de
business we going lose it, and we won't ha
nobody fi blame but we own rahtid self. A wey
yu want? Fi tun Busha?' Joe laughs mockingly.
But Winston still sit down under the 'prickle
yellow' tree. Him look up pon Brother Joe, his
mouth breaking into a half smile.
'Cho Joe man, de weeding well hard. Jus'
ease me up no man.'
'Dis is not di time fi play ease up man. All a

we have fi work, and work hard too. If a so some
of you gwine expec' fe reap the benefits and
don't do no work, Co-op dead even before it
start. Decide you mind mi brother whether you
work wid de rest a we and share what we get and
sacrifice wid we or you come out a de Co-op. If
you don't work yu get nothing.'
Brother Joe's passionate outburst was not
being lost.
'Man you hard, sah, mi know you right wid
what you a sey, but sometime, believe me, de
work get really hard,' Winston loved Joe and
knew he was his best friend. 'See me a get up,'
he added.
'Me know it hard, brother, but when we all
pitch in, it little bit easier. Yu come, time going.'
With that they went back to their job of weeding
the grass. The strong breeze ruffled the leaves
of the cane and cooled their sweaty faces.

Our old ancestors die in slave
They never know no ease
Co-operative come and burst the chain
At last and set us free.

Insolvency, collapse and dissolution

'Whilst it is possible to turn one's back on a fire, accom-
modation of the resultant blister is uncomfortable.'
Mr Greenslade, adviser to cooperative management, made
this graphic observation in 1978 as he reflected on the
unfavourable fortunes of the Sugar Cooperatives.
The country's economy was on the decline, and so was
finance in the Sugar Cooperatives. The era of hard times had
begun with shortages in every known commodity. On the sugar
estates this meant shortages of herbicides, fertilizers, vehicles,
parts for vehicles, factory equipment and virtually everything
else necessary for their operation. This had serious effects on
the farms, the most conspicuous being the deterioration taking
place in cane cultivation. Some fields had to be taken out of
canes as there was no money to carry on the normal
agronomic practices.
Although the co-ops did not have a heavy capital outlay
when they took over the estates, they were nevertheless
burdened with a heavy debt which involved interest payments.
In addition, they had taken over old, run-down equipment,
much of which should have been retired from service long
The seeds for future unresolved conflicts and disaster were
already sown as 1977 neared its end. These consisted of the
recurring cash-flow problems caused by the failure of the cane
farms to generate a surplus or even to halt their decline in
production and also the failure to reduce the frustration among
members of the co-ops, caused by the hard times they were
experiencing. They began to lose faith in the cooperatives as a
means of improving their economic condition. As a result,
members wished to have their severance deposits returned to
them out of sheer economic necessity, if for no other reason.
The trouble was that if the workers had not invested that fifty
per cent of their severance pay in the co-ops, there could have
been no co-ops. What would happen if workers took out their
money, assuming that sufficient money could be found to pay
them? Wouldn't it mean that they had no confidence in the co-
ops or in themselves?

The search for a way to reduce this large debt burden and
improve the cash-flow engaged the attention of everyone
through 1978 and beyond, faced as the co-ops were with falling
production and declining world sugar prices. Increasingly,
everyone agreed that orthodox cooperative methods could not
solve the chronic problems.
In addition, there was a people problem. Project Managers
and other staff were not making enough effort to explain the
financial side of the business to their farms. When monthly
meetings of Farm Committees of Management were held, there
were no regular financial reports which would familiarize the
members with the ways in which expenditure could be
equated with revenue. In many cases, it was reported that not
only did Project Management not submit a financial report but
they did not bother to attend the meetings. No disciplinary
action was taken against them.
For the cooperative members, it must be remembered that
the people who became members of cooperatives were raw,
inexperienced, simple sugar workers with absolutely no
background or tradition in big business or, for that matter, in
business itself.
In such a situation, it is not surprising that the members
would expect that whatever expenses were incurred would be
met by 'someone' other than themselves. Neither the huge debt
nor the expenditure had any reality for them. Even at an early
stage, the cooperators ceased to consider themselves
responsible for what was taking place, especially in financial
The gathering momentum of the speed of the financial
decline meant that urgent radical measures were needed. The
cure, if there was a cure, was to introduce and maintain finan-
cial discipline after providing, by way of grant or subsidy,
relief from the burden of debt.
On January 14, 1978, Prime Minister Michael Manley
called a meeting which was convened under a cloud. For over
two weeks, discussions had been proceeding on how to resolve
the problems confronting the cooperative operations. Instead
of improving, the situation had deteriorated.
Mr Manley listened as the acting General Secretary of the


USWCC, Winston Higgins, outlined the chaotic state of the
sugar cooperatives. At Frome, cooperators were demanding
payment of their 50 per cent severance deposit which was now
due, and to back their demand they had ceased working. The
situation at Monymusk and Bernard Lodge was just as threat-
ening, with cooperators insisting on repayment of their loans.
Two factors added a frightening urgency to these developments
in the sugar belt: (i) this situation was bound to affect the sugar
crop and delay it; (ii) politics had begun to take a hand in
influencing the behaviour of the cooperators.
As Mr Manley listened, it became obvious that, in a time of
increasing economic stress, people least able to endure the
difficulties wished for their money to be returned to ease their
problems. Since their organization was in no way able to bear
the cost, they looked to Government (the 'someone') to
provide the money. The sad thing was that elements opposed to
Government or to the co-op experiment or to the socialist
ideology wished to exploit the situation.
If he felt disappointment, Manley did not show it. For him,
the way ahead was clear: compromise. Minister of Agriculture
Bellinfanti and his deputies must go out among the people
They must be frank, patient and honest. The money was not
loaned to Government but to the cooperators themselves. A
way had to be devised, possibly through a loan scheme with a
commercial bank, to provide financial relief for their
cooperators in their distress. In an attempt to save the industry
and the foreign exchange derived therefrom, the Government
could look into the possibility of absorbing the interest
Charles Edwards, worker leader from Frome, was worried
about the situation at his estate and the mood of the people.
Nevertheless, he felt that that the money should be paid when
the Cooperatives were viable. The people should be made to
understand and be a part of the mounting struggle taking place.
But despite major efforts at reform, involving education,
training programmes and significant crop diversification on the
co-op estates, the Sugar Workers Cooperatives continued to
slide downhill. By 1981, the new Government began to hold
several mass members meetings on the three estates to
ascertain how members in general felt about their co-ops.
Other surveys were also conducted. When later that year a Sole
Enquirer was appointed to enquire into the constitution,

Awards Ceremony, Bernard Lodge Sugar Workers Cooperative
L-R Minnie (a well known sugar worker, famous for cutting two tons of cane
day) the author, and two cooperators.

working and financial conditions of the sugar cooperatives, it
came as no surprise, given the highly-charged anti-co-op mood
prevailing, that this social experiment had to be terminated.
Consequently, in November 1981, the Sugar Workers
Cooperatives were dissolved.

Looking back
Without a favourable political climate it is doubtful if the
co-ops could ever have survived. Because the Government had
such an interest in the establishment of the co-ops, it meant that
there was an invisible line which linked the co-ops with the
Government and this fed a belief among the members that their
future success depended on how far Government was able to
help them to deal with their problems.
That apart, many people felt that the sugar workers, given
their level of development, were incapable of managing their
own affairs. In the circumstances, such experiments as
workers' cooperatives were luxuries which Jamaica could not
afford at that time and therefore the Government should retreat
and take back control of the co-op farms from the workers.
There was considerable ambivalence within the society and
within the sugar workers' own groups as to the value of such
an experiment.
The Sugar Workers Cooperatives started with the
commendable objective of lifting the status and earning power
of the sugar workers. If those in the cooperatives hoped to
change their material condition, this was an intent so wide and
all-embracing that it, perhaps, related not only to the realities
of their security and better living conditions but also to a
change in their attitude to their co-op, to their work, to one
another and even to their society.
Three questions would forever haunt like ghosts the
memory of the sugar cooperatives. The first dealt with the
several contradictions which surfaced as time went on and
which the cooperatives found themselves unable to deal with.
The fundamental contradiction was the initial one: the incom-
patability between the cooperator as a member of the co-
operative and, therefore as owner, and, at the same time, as a
worker and a member of a trade union. This contradiction
increased his confusion as time passed.
The second question is; Was the pace of development of the
sugar cooperatives too rapid? There is no doubt
that there is a class problem in looking at this
question. Sugar estates, with their plantation
structure, entrenched this class position to far too
great an extent. The problem was that the decision-
makers, who would judge the pace, represented a
different class background. One could never be
sure whether they would exercise judgement in
favour of the 'lower' class or, alternatively, protect
their own class interests.
The final question deals with influence: Which
had the greater influence? Was it concern for
equity or concern for equality? The sugar co-
operatives symbolized a triumph for egalitarian
principles, true, but as emerged later, with no
equity, no investment funding, and no collateral,
S the co-ops were not able to negotiate loans for
operating the business or for development.
Equity investment in the co-op, as in any
business, was therefore important for success,
Which, in the final analysis mattered more, equity
in a single or equality?


1. Jamaica and the Sugar Workers Cooperatives the Policies of
Reform. Carl Henry Feuer.
2.'butterfoot' hired, migrant, outside-the-coop labour.

SAC Social Action Centre, a Roman Catholic linked group geared osten-
sibly for securing social upliftment for economically disadvantaged
persons in the Jamaican society.
CDC Cooperative Development Centre, the development arm agency of
the Government's Cooperative Department.
WISCO West Indies Sugar Company, a multinational company involved
in sugar production and marketing worldwide.
FMLCO Frome Monymusk Land Company, established to manage the
estate lands which Government secured from WISCO.
NSC National Sugar Company established to manage the sugar factories
also acquired from WISCO.
USWCC United Sugar Workers Cooperative Council, a control body
which managed the 23 farms and three estate cooperatives.
IAF Inter American Foundation, a USA-based trust/foundation which
assisted people-based private enterprise organizations.

For further feference
Carl Henry Feuer. Jamaica and the Sugar Workers Co-operatives The
Politics of Reform.
Clinton Black. A History of Jamaica.
G. E. Cumper. A Modern Jamaican Sugar Estate Social and Economic
Studies Vol. III No. 4.
Economic & Social Survey, Jamaica 1984. Planning Institute of Jamaica.
Noel Donaldson. 'The West Indies Sugar Company: Where from, Where
to?'Jamaica Sugar Digest. May-August 1976.
Harvard Business School. 'The Frome Monymusk Land Company' Case
Study. 1975.
New World Group Pamphlet No. 5. 'King Sugar and the New World story
of the Great Sugar Debate'. Kingston, June 1968.
lan Sangster. Sugar and Jamaica. London. Thomas Nelson and Sons,
Carl Stone. 'An appraisal of the Cooperative Process in the Jamaican
Sugar Industry'. Social and Economic Studies. 27 March 1978.

Anthony Goffe is a geologist. He has worked with ALCAN and
is currently involved in micro-hydroelectric pilot projects. He spe-
cializes in the cutting and processing of Jamaican gem-stones.
Clinton Hutton is a historian, political scientist and painter. He is
a lecturer in the Department of Government, University of the
West Indies, Mona.
Rachel Manley is the oldest daughter of Michael Manley. She a
poet and recently published Drumblair a memoir of her childhood.
Anthony R.D. Porter was one of the first post-graduates students
in the Geological Department of the UWI. He has co-authored
Minerals and Rocks of Jamaica with T.E. Jackson and E.
Robinson, and is the author of Jamaica; A Geological Portrait,
published by IOJ Publications.

John Rashford has been contributing to JAMAICA JOURNAL since
1984. He is a member of the Sociology/Anthropology Department
of the College of Charlton, South Carolina.
Glory Robertson has been an occasional contributor to JAMAICA
JOURNAL since 1968. Her area of special interest is Jamaican dress
and its history.
Leonard Ruddock was Special Advisor to the Ministry of
Education at the time of his retirement. In 1979, the Ministry had
appointed him Director of Education and Training with the Sugar
Workers Cooperatives.
Carl H. Senior gained his Ph.D. in history from the University of
the West Indies (Mona). He now teaches in England.


Basic statistics on the Jamaican Sugar Industry

1939-1943 1959-1963 1969-1973 1979-1983
Annual Average Annual Average Annual Average Annual AVerage
Sugar production (tons) 138,929 429,0108 367,290 222,040

Sugar exports (tons) 121,310 363,368 286,019 139,537

Gross revenue from sugar sales 1,880,557 18,420,576 J$31,695,400 J$184,545,542

Acreage reaped estates 33,003 70,147 73,802 53,321

Number of cane farmers 9,000 22,394 18,883 12,684

Industry employment 45,254a 57,750b 54,657 47,830b

Source: Jamaica Department of Statistics, Census Report, 1943 (Kingston: Government Printer, 1945 & 1960): Report; Jamaica Sugar Industry
Enquiry Commission, Report of the Sugar Industry Enquiry Commission, John Mordecai, Chairman (Kingston: Government Printer, 1967), subse-
quently referred to as Mordecai Report
a. This is the average weekly employment in-crop.Out-of-crop employment dropped by about 40 per cent
b. This is based on census figures for estate employment, plus an estimate of the number of workers on cane farms.


Illustrations by the author

Women in the Morant Bay Rebellion

A Force in the Struggle for the Definition of Post-Slavery Society

by Clinton Hutton

THE ROLE OF BLACK WOMEN in the Morant Bay Rebellion
should be seen within the context of attempts by African-
Jamaicans to bring about, in their favour, a social, economic,
political, cultural psychological and philosophical definition of
post-slavery society. The Morant Bay Rebellion represented
the highest expression of the antagonisms between the plan-
tocracy and the recently freed Africans over the direction of
post-slavery construction and development.
The policy direction of the post-slavery colonial govern-
ment and the plantocracy included:
1. restricting and or preventing blacks from formal
political participation, political office and state-
building enterprise;
2. restricting and/or preventing African-Jamaican from
ownership of the means of production;
3. shaping blacks into a coerced, degraded semi-
feudal/pre-capitalist labour force; and
4. domesticating the black woman.'
The Morant Bay Rebellion was a direct consequence of
the struggles to realize the above policies on the one hand and
the struggles to prevent their realization on the other hand. For
their part, the black masses indicated in petitions, letters to
newspapers, speeches, resolutions and pamphlets the type of
post-slavery society they would like to construct.
Among the people's demands were the call for the training
of the 'rising generation . in all branches of mechanical,
commercial and agricultural industry, the arts, science,
jurisprudence, religion and political economy;'2 an increase in
the education budget along with better training and pay for

teachers;3 the establishment of an 'Island Collegiate
Institution, where our youths may be instructed and qualified
to fill the highest position in society;'4 the abolition of all
export duties on produce;' and 'the free admission of all
agricultural implements and machines used in the cultivation
of the soil and in the preparation of its production .. .;'5 access
to land by purchase and free issue, and opposition to 'officials
who solicited sexual favours from women in lieu of taxes
which the women were finding difficult to pay.'6
Between three hundred and twelve hundred persons
marched with Paul Bogle down to Morant Bay on October 11,
1865, and among them was 'a large mob of women.'7 Indeed
eye witnesses like James Britt, a brown member of the
Volunteer Militia, credited a woman for starting the fighting.
According to Britt, a woman who 'was a sort of leader... first
fired a stone, and several other women followed her, and then
the men rushed right in.'8
Women showed a deep resolve to fight at Morant Bay and,
while there, some probably exhibited more resoluteness than
men in seeing the battle through to its conclusion. Cecelia
Gordon, citing one example of such resoluteness, spoke of the
following incident: 'The female rebels had their way, because
when the women spoke to the men they divided again, and
returned to the Parade'10 in Morant Bay.
The idea of burning down the Morant Bay Court House
and forcing its besieged occupants out might have emanated
from a woman, Rosanna Finlayson, who was reported to have
said, 'they must go and get a fire stick and trash, and set the
school-room on fire,' because 'if they set fire to the school-
room the whole people would be burnt up alive'."


Black women like the '"young" Elizabeth Fidd, who with
cutlass in hand, swore vengeance against the Volunteers,
because they had shot her paramour one Brown from St
David's,' were an integral part of the fighting force at Morant
Bay. In reporting her capture, the Colonial Standard news-
paper said, 'This same she-devil was among the crowd of those
who, on the night of the insurrection, compelled Mr Kirkland's
clerks to open the store and supply them with what they
wanted... '12
Verbal venom from high society was directed against Paul
Bogle and his men as well as women. In one report, which
proved to be false, it was stated that:
after the white men had been murdered, the negro women
came and sat on the bodies and gashed them with broken
glass ... the men opened the skulls of all the white men
and scooped out all the brains which they collected into a
gourd or calabash. This they mixed with rum; and then in
the Baptist Chapel . they proceeded to drink the
In another report, a 'Special Correspondent' for the
Colonial Standard described Paul Bogle's wife as a person
about '5 feet 2, with a wrinkled yellow face, a half decrepit
piece of humanity' and a 'most disgusting creature.'14
Although women played a leading role in the upheaval in
St Thomas-in-the-East, and might be credited for casting the
first missile in the 'war' at the Bay, the politics of the black
masses in post-slavery society in general, and in Paul Bogle's
movement in particular, were dominated by men. Women, it
would appear, were not allowed to drill, take the oath of
allegiance to the movement and its activities, sign letters or
petitions respecting public meetings or issues, or to march
alongside men to Morant Bay on October 11, 1865.15 The
organizational regime of the movement, fifty men to one
captain and possibly one secretary for each district, was
largely based on the need for black men to strengthen their
cohesion and unity to better confront the Euro-plantocratic
patriarchal ruling class and its allies standing in their way.
There is no known female captain or secretary of the
movement. Contemporary literature/reports had little to say
about the leadership role of women in the Bogle movement.
This reflected the sexist bias of the writers and reporters who
were certain to be almost entirely men. This also reflected the
fact that women were the junior partners in the struggles waged
by former enslaved Africans for emancipation with empower-
ment. Yet, despite that state of affairs, there are indications that
some women did play leading roles in Bogle's movement. A.
E. K. Mudie's assertion that to his 'knowledge ... one of the
concubines of Paul Bogle went up in the month of September
to a negro village, known as Wilmington, and endeavoured to
obtain a house to hold meetings, but the residents were persons
in communion with the established church, therefore she met
rather a cold reception,'16 is one indication that there were
women who were playing a leading role in organizational and
agitational work for the movement. There is no doubt, how-
ever, that the majority of the front-line leaders of the move-
ment and rebellion were men belonging to a core that could be
classified as free-holding, own-account middle class.
Among the top leaders of the movement were: Paul Bogle
- preacher, baker, farmer, 'king', 'lord' and 'general' of the
rebellion; Edward K. Bailey preacher, upholsterer, shop-
keeper, sergeant of the State Volunteer Militia, 'captain' of the
rebellion; John Edwards school master of a Wesleyan
school, 'captain' of the rebellion; James Bowie an old Cuban,

'captain' of the rebellion; William Grant an old coloured
man, saddler, shopkeeper, 'captain' of the rebellion; Arthur
Wellington- farmer, sawyer, Obeahman, 'captain' of the rebel-
lion; John Anderson a brown man, teacher; George McIntosh
- building contractor; and James McLaren labourer, 'captain'
of the rebellion. Of all the leaders, only McLaren could be said
not to be of the free-holding own-account middle class.
The suppression of the black women
The Morant Bay Rebellion was brutally suppressed.
Indeed, no incident in any of the other anglophone West Indian
colonies ever provoked the type of brutality and sadism that
were visited upon black Jamaicans by the colonial authorities,
the plantocracy and the merchant class. Within two weeks, 439
persons were killed by the suppressionist forces, according to
official statistics. My research suggests that the number of
people killed was more in the region of 1500.17 Among those
killed were nine in a chapel in Foothill. On October 20, 1865,
Colonel Hobbs, the British officer who was responsible for the
execution of those men, reported as follows:
I accordingly shot nine of the Foothill rebels in a chapel,
where their leader commenced with prayers and ended
with blasphemy and sedition; and there I adopted a plan
which struck immense terror into those wretched men,
far more than death, which is, I caused them to hang
each other. They entreated to be shot to avoid this, which
appears to me to be by far more dreadful an ordeal to
them than death.18
Nine women were executed by military and paramilitary
personnel of the State. Among them were sixteen-year-old
Amelia Stewart who was shot by the Maroons in Thornton and
died a week later; Ellen Dawkins, executed for 'rebellion and
assisting in murder'; Justina Taylor, Mary Ann Francis, and
Lelitia Geoghegan, for 'rebellion'.
Flogging as a method of coercion was used with devastat-
ing and indiscriminate frequency during the suppression.
Hundreds of men, women and children had their backs reduced
to 'raw meat' by men wielding the cat-o-nine whip wrapped
with plain brass wire.19 Ann Galway, a resident of
Manchioneal, was whipped the order of Codrington, a shop-
keeper and member of the local Militia. She said:
He gave me 25 on my back, and tied me on a cart wheel,
and took salt, and washed my back.20
In another incident, Charlotte Scott related the following:
I was going to Port Antonio with a bowl of coconut milk
upon my head, and as I passed I saw Mr Codrington at
his shop. I said 'Good morning,' and by the time I passed
he sent a Constable after me to take me, and they
smashed my bowl, .. They stripped me ... they took
off all my clothes and left my back bare.21
Sexual violence was also used as a method of suppressing
black women in St Thomas-in-the East. Several women were
raped by the suppressionists. One of these women, Chloe
Munro, related how a soldier raped her and 'tore up all [her]
front' so that she could not 'pea-pea[urinate] for two days.'22
In another report, the Reverend Henry Harris, a member of the
English Baptist Society residing at Belle Castle, Portland, told
how in two separate incidents 'soldiers forced' two girls. With
respect to one of the victims, Reverend Harris reported how a
man 'met the girl crying' shortly after she had been sexually
assaulted. The Baptist Minister who knew both girls said he


spoke to the mother of one and the guardian of the other
following the incidents.23
Pregnant women and mothers with young children were
not spared by the suppressionist forces. John Grant, a stiller
man of Albion Estate who was detained by the authorities and
ordered to dig graves for the executed, related the following
incident which took place near Stony Gut in November 1865:
When we got to a house a person was grunting in the
house, and directly a soldier went up to guard the house,
and when the woman was grunting he said, 'You bitch, I
will let you grunt for something,' and directly I heard,
'Oh, oh.' I went to the door and saw a female naked in
the house, and a baby came out from her in the house,
about this [one foot long], and at that time the soldier
shot an old lady and a little boy in the house ... Six
fired in the house and six fired the top of the house.24
The old lady was apparently helping the 'naked female'
with the delivery of her baby when the twelve soldiers of the
6th Royal Regiment struck. In another incident, Esther
Williams, who was visibly pregnant, had her house set on fire
by Codrington. Williams said, 'He set my house on fire, and I
was in childsbirth.'25 Although she pleaded with him because
'I don't know where I go to live with my picanniny', her house
was not spared. Williams started out for her sister's house and
'by the time I got to my sister's house the child dropped
[born]'.26 Meanwhile, Charlotte Carr was detained and flogged
in the street of Bath. She was eight months pregnant. In
another incident, Mary Ann Kidd told of a woman who 'was in

the family way' and was hanged in Morant Bay.
A common practice instituted against black women during
the suppression in St Thomas-in-the-East and Portland was the
shaving of their heads. In one example, Elizabeth McIntosh
related her experience with this method of torture and humili-
ation. For allegedly laughing at one 'Miss Fowles', Captain
Field and Colonel Hobbs decided to punish her.
[T]hey took me down to the tree and shave off my head
. They cut off the four plait with the scissors, and
shave my head quite off, they put a piece of string round
my head, and stuck feathers in it, all round; and when
them done, they mix up a pudding with some lime, and
fat, and put... on my head.27
Many women were imprisoned for participating in the
rebellion. Esta McKayne was sentenced to five years' hard
labour, Mary Bailey, five years; Ann Walsh, five years' hard
labour and Eleanor Thomas two years. While on a tour of the
prison in Port Antonio in 1866, Harvey and Brewin found a
number of female prisoners.
We found in the prison between twenty and thirty pris-
oners under sentence of court martial, chiefly women,
some of them mothers of families who knew not what
had become of their children ... 28
Widespread Destruction
Burning and looting were used with intense frequency by
the British colonial authorities to suppress the black masses.
Over one thousand houses were burnt to the ground. Most were

Morant Bay Massacre. 45"x 30" Oil on canvas. 1987
Collection The late Ms. Jennifer Cox.
Description: Soldiers of the Jamaica Regiment suppressing St Thomas residents, October 1965.

looted before they were torched. Houses from over fifty rural
towns and villages were put to the torch. Entire villages were
burnt off the face of the earth. Among them were Stony Gut,
Somerset, Fort and Barracks. Thomas Harvey and William
Brewin who visited Stony Gut in 1866 reported:
The head of [the village] was conspicuously marked by
four white, roofless walls, the remains of Paul Bogle's
chapel. The village had been entirely desolated, the sites
of the houses being simply denoted by a fire-blackened
patch of ground: the cocoa-nut and other valuable fruit-
trees had also been partially destroyed.29

The consequences of the mass destruction of the so called
'negro houses' were far reaching. At least 20 per cent of the
black population of St Thomas-in-the East lost their homes.30
Women and children, especially those who lost their men and
their fathers, were particularly hurt by the wholesale burning of
houses and looting of their contents. From Long Bay, Elizabeth
Berry pleaded for her house to be saved.
I went to the Constable and begged him as the young
man [sweetheart] had been shot and was dead, and I
had nowhere to live with my seven children, not to
bum the house.31

From Fonthill, Sophia Davis also pleaded but to no avail.
I had nine children in the house. My husband saw the
soldiers come, and he ran into the bush, for fear they
should shoot him. I sat down with my little child at
my breast, then I rose with the child in my arms and
said, 'Mass, I beg you not to burn my house with my
nine children ... '32

Gender conflict
Although the British colonial authorities and the
plantocracy did not recognize women politically, black women
nevertheless played an important role in the struggles of
African-Jamaicans for emancipation with empowerment.
Compared to any other group of women in Jamaican society,
black women's political activism could easily be placed in the
same category as that of men. Apart from its strategic aim of
maintaining European racial hegemony over blacks, the
suppression of the black masses had within it a determined
gender conflict. The decision by the suppressionists to elimi-
nate and incarcerate significantly more men than women was
principally motivated by Euro-patriarchal notions of the role of
men and women respecting the holding, practising, contesting
and conceding of political power. The whipping of 'a young
woman', ordered by Joseph Briscoe, a Maroon captain because
she 'was charged' by Peter Espeut, the son of a St Thomas-in-
the-East estate owner, 'for taking six shillings to go to this
Williams [the Obeahman] and buy obeah to mix with some
spruce to tempt young Mr Espeut,' 33 had nothing to do with
the suppression of the rebellion per se, but everything to do
with the suppression of a black woman who dared to want a
serious relationship with this 'brown' upper-class son of a
white planter, instead of being content to be one of his
mistresses. John Mendes's justification for flogging Catherine
Williams was an argument for male domination over the
female gender. According to Mendes, Williams was punished
because she 'had left her husband a long time, and has been
living with several others. She is nearly a prostitute.'34 It would
be highly unlikely that John Mendes or any other male under
Governor Eyre's command would justify flogging any man,
rebel or loyalist, black or white, for leaving his wife and living
with several other women.

Notes and References

1. For more on these policies see Clinton Hutton 'Colour for Colour; Skin
for Skin': The Ideological Foundations of Post-Slavery Society, 1838-
1865 the Jamaican Case." PhD. Dissertation, University of the West
Indies, 1992.
2. Sentinel. 30 January, 1865.
3. Report of the Jamaica Royal Commission, 1866 Part II: Minutes of
Evidence and Appendix (1866: Shannon: Irish University PRess,
4. Falmouth Post 29 July, 1859.
5. Edward Bean Underhill, Dr Underhill's Letter: A letter addressed to the Rt
Honourable E. Cardwell, with Illustrated Documents and the Condition of
Jamaica (London 'C', 1865) 20.
6. Swithin Wilmot, 'Women and Protest in Jamaica 1838-1865,' Paper
presented at the Nineteenth Annual Conference of Caribbean Historians,
Martinique, April 13-17, 1987, 13.
7. Governor [Edward] Eyre, Papers Laid Before the Royal Commission of
Inquiry (London 1866. Shannon: Irish University Press, 1971) 98. Paul
Bogle was the leader of hundreds of black Jamaicans who revolted at
Morant Bay.
8. Royal Commission 178.
9. Royal Commission 180.
10. Royal Commission 180.
11. Hutton 261-2
12. Colonial Standard, 6 November, 1865.
13. 'Reminiscences by the Right Hon.Viscount Elibank, Commander of the
Royal Navy'. An Interview. May 2, 1923.
14. Colonial Standard, 6 November, 1865.
15. Women were not permitted to march with men. They 'were all at the side'.
[Royal Commission 202].

16. Eyre 92.
17. Hutton Chapter 7.
18. Royal Commission 1122.
19. Hutton Chapter 7.
20. Royal Commission 580.
21. Royal Commission 461.
22. Royal Commission 932.
23. Royal Commission 961.
24. Royal Commission 55.
25. Royal Commission 564.
26. Royal Commission 565.
27. Royal Commission 939.
28. Thomas Harvey and William Brewin, Jamaica in 1866,
(London, 1867) 15.
29. Harvey and Brewin 11.
30. The black population of St Thomas-in-the-East in 1861 was 23, 230.
31. Royal Commission 284.
32. Royal Commission 249.
33. Royal Commission 1030
34. Royal Commission 1049.

Caption for illustration p.10;
Colour for Colour; Skin for Skin. 20"x 15"
1980 Pen and Ink
Collection: The African National Congress of South Africa (ANC)


n ...They made the breastplate double...
SAnd they set it in four rows of stones;
the first row was a sardius, a topaz,
and a carbuncle: this was the first row.
And the second row, an emerald, a
sapphire, and a diamond.
And the third row, a ligure, an agate,
and an amethyst.
And the fourth row, a beryl, an onyx,
and a jasper...
Ch. 39, vv 9-13
Cross section of agate showing a dilation, tube of escape and uniformly crystallized layers
of chalcedony enclosing clear quartz.

AGATE: A Jamaican Gemstone

by A R D Porter and A Goffe

The oldest known treatise on
minerals and rocks is the De
Lapidibus of Theophrastus (372 -
287BC). According to this Greek
philosopher, agate was named
after the Achates River (now
Acate or Dirillo) in Sicily, where
the mineral was found. Agate is
also mentioned in the Bible in the
Book of Exodus where the twelve
stones used in making the high
priest's breastplate are listed.
This mineral with its fascinating
range of markings occurs in many
countries throughout the world
and was probably collected thou-
sands of years before Christ for
ornamental and other purposes.

Agate is a semi-precious gemstone
found worldwide. It is a conspicuously
banded variety of the mineral quartz, a
naturally occurring compound consisting
of two elements, silicon and oxygen,

represented by the chemical formula
SiO2. Quartz is a very common mineral,
found in a wide variety of forms in all
the major classes of rocks: igneous,
sedimentary and metamorphic. Quartz is
divided into two groups on the basis of
crystallinity: coarse or macrocrystalline,
and fine or crypto-crystalline. The for-
mer group includes the six-sided, prism-
like crystals and the massive granular
lumps whereas the latter is composed of
microcrystalline material which is either
granular or fibrous, but this property can
only be detected with the aid of a power-
ful microscope. The name chalcedony
has been applied to the fibrous forms, of
which there are several varieties such as
agate, which is concentrically layered,
and onyx, which occurs in straight black
and white parallel bands,
As a general rule, the layers of agate
are closely spaced, varying in colour and
transparency, and are aconcentric, wavy
or irregularly-shaped. Naturally-formed
agates are dull in colour, but the bands
may vary from white through grey to
black, or they may be in shades of pale
yellow to brown or green to blue. Some
agates contain inclusions of other
minerals, in branching or dendritic form,
while others occur in a variety of

patterns which have inspired a multitude
of names. There are far too many to list
here, but a few of the better known are
moss agate, eye agate, fortification
agate, sagenitic agate, and lace agate.
The colours are the result of various
impurities in the siliceous solution from
which the agates have crystallized.
Black, for example, is usually due to the
presence of manganese dioxide (MnO2),
red to iron oxide (Fe203), and green to
minerals such as chlorite.

Generally speaking, agates possess
characteristic features which are not
difficult to recognize although there may
be various structures peculiar to specific
areas. While it is relatively easy to rec-
ognize most of these features it is
extremely difficult to explain their
formation. Usually two or more of the
following structures are present in most
1. Bands of chalcedony enclosing
either a centre of solid quartz, or an open
cavity frequently lined with inwardly
projecting crystals of quartz.
2. A thin outer layer of clear
chalcedony, or a dark-coloured skin of
other mineral matter.


3. Small concentrically-layered
spheres, called eye or hemi-agate.
4. Thin parallel layers of onyx,
which may be truncated sharply within
the agate or merge into the concentric or
wavy bands of chalcedony that compose
the agate.
5. A 'tube of escape', often in
association with a small balloon-like
structure called a dilation.
6. A crack or very fine fracture
(dyke) infilled by chalcedony.
7. Some agates also contain fossil
shells, coral, or structures that resemble a
mineral, fossil, or other natural object,
giving rise to the many names used to
describes such material.

Agate occurs at several localities
throughout Jamaica in one or more of the
following ways:
1. As large nodular lumps, rounded
pebbles, or small angular fragments
(broken chips), in various rivers, notably
Rio Nuevo; Rio Tiber (St Mary); Rio
Minho and its tributaries (upper
Clarendon); Hector's River (Manchester
-Trelawny parish boundary); Great
River-Sevens River (Hanover); Back
Rio Grande and Swift River (Portland).
2. As loose material lying on the
surface of the ground or embedded in
unconsolidated (or poorly consolidated)

alluvial gravel deposits, notably the area
between Gravel Ground and Hayes in
lower Clarendon.
3. In rock cavities as amygdules (or
amygdales British usage), veins or
irregularly shaped infillings, notably at
Nutfield in St Mary.
4, As subangular to rounded frag-
ments in sedimentary rocks called

Geological background
The secrets of the formation of agates
are embedded in the ancient rocks which
shape Jamaica. During the latter half of
the Cretaceous period (the geological
interval of time extending from about
136 million to 65 million years ago), the
Jamaica region was occupied by clusters
of small volcanic islands that were
intensely active spewing out large
volumes of lava and ash. The rivers that
drained these islands were also very
active, removing vast amounts of rock
material and depositing the debris
Then, some 65 million years ago,vol-
canic activity ceased and was replaced
by massive earth movements. This
tectonic activity produced widespread
uplifting, folding, faulting (fracturing)
and displacement of rocks. In the area
between Port Maria and Bull Bay (see
Figure 1) a deep basin, known as the

Wagwater Trough developed, and
became the repository for much of the
weathered debris. Today, these compact-
ed sediments are exposed to view as a
series of conglomerates and sandstones
(the Wagwater Formation) and a series
of thinly bedded sandstones, siltstones
and shales (the Richmond Formation).
Both these formations are intermixed
with fine grained lava (the Newcastle
Volcanic Formation).
About twenty million years later, the
region was once again subjected to
tectonic activity which caused much of
the land mass to slowly subside beneath
the sea. As the land began to sink,
erosion set in and the debris (consisting
of gravel, sand, silt, clay, marl, and
impure limestone) was deposited on the
submerged flanks of the Cretaceous
landscape. This sequence, which was
originally named the Yellow Limestone
by the nineteenth century geological
surveyors, is today known as the
Chapelton Formation of the Yellow
Limestone Group.
When most of the land west of the
Wagwater Trough had disappeared
beneath the sea, new conditions set in
which favoured the growth of reefs and
the deposition of a thick sequence of
pure calcium carbonate. This deposit,
which is devoid of nodular agates, rests
directly on the sediments of the Yellow
Limestone Group, and is called the

O S o 1iS
Sunderland Benbow I,, .
ce II r Central Inlier Ilier Pembroke

CiQ-A.BI il

180 N Blnacr RMel r

Marchmon Citiesrve ;

SDrainage DivideBull Bay

\ Wagwatei Trough Blue unlain
'': Allurial Gravel
Fi M Cretaceous Inliers d Rivs of J aicc
0 Cities
,-,- Drainage Divide
A,, Agate

Figure 1. Major Cretaceous Inliers and Rivers of Jamaica


Vein agate and quartz in white limestone from western Jamaica.

White Limestone.
Today, the core of Jamaica is made up
of interior mountain ranges composed
largely of rocks formed during the latter
part of the Cretaceous period (110-65
million years ago). Such areas are
referred to as inliers because they are
surrounded by younger rocks and are
'windows into the past'. In all probability
there were two or more episodes of
agatization during this time, but exactly
when is not yet known because the
formation of the host rock and the
deposition of agate are not necessarily
contemporaneous, or even connected.
This means that in estimating the age
or time of formation of agates, deductive
reasoning has to be combined with a
certain amount of speculation.
In the Blue Mountain Inlier, veins of
agate, accompanied sometimes by
jasper, another form of microcrystalline
quartz, have been found in rocks of
known Cretaceous age, such as in the

Fractured blue agate from Jamaica (180mm or 7.2in

upper reaches of the Back Rio Grande
Valley. Since similar occurrences of
agate have not yet been found in any of
the post-Cretaceous sedimentary rocks
that outcrop not far away, it has been
assumed that the formation of vein agate
occurred during late Cretaceous times.
Moreover, to the best of our knowledge,
no large nodular agates have yet been
found in either the Blue Mountain Inlier
or the Wagwater Trough, which suggests
that the geological conditions in eastern
Jamaica during Cretaceous times were
quite different from those in the west.
For example, in the Central Inlier,
there is a thick sequence of volcano-
sedimentary rocks known as the
Summerfield Formation. This unit con-
sists of pebbles and boulders of igneous
rocks, together with assorted minerals,
embedded in a fine grained matrix. In
the upper part of this sequence there are
at least two horizons of volcanic ash
called ignimbrites (formerly hornblendee
pumice tuff'), ex-
plosively ejected
from one or more
volcanoes, be-
lieved to have been
somewhere in what
is now central and
southern Jamaica.
To the best of our
knowledge, how-
ever, no lavas have
ever been found in
this formation. Yet,
on the northern
flank of the
Hector's River
Valley in the vicin-
. in length) ity of Allsides,

Trelawny, superb specimens of nodular
agate have been found in the topsoil, and
in the bed of the river below. Also pre-
sent in the river bed are small boulders
composed of angular fragments of vol-
canic rocks cemented together by agate
and clear quartz. This variety is referred
to as agate breccia.
Since this valley is almost completely
topographically enclosed, these stones
could not have been transported from
elsewhere by any other river system. So
how did they get there?
On the basis of the rock record, it is
clear that in this area the agates have
been liberated by weathering of the
Summerfield Formation. But this raises
other questions: Did agatization occur
during or after the formation of this unit?
Or are these nodular agates the weath-
ered remains of an earlier geological
period? To answer these questions more
investigative work needs to be done,
However, the presence of large pieces of
petrified wood in the same formation
suggests that at least one phase of silici-
fication occurred either at the end of the
Cretaceous period or shortly thereafter
(i.e. during early Paleocene times).
Agates have also been found on the
northern side of the Benbow Inlier in the
beds of the Rio Nuevo and Rio Tiber,
upstream from their confluence at
Pembroke Hall in St Mary parish. But
the source of these stones is still a matter
of speculation as extensive landslips in
the area make mapping of the underlying
in situ rock formations difficult. We
speculate that some may have been
liberated from a Cretaceous-age se-
quence of volcano-sedimentary rocks
known as the Tiber Formation, which is
older than the Summerfield Formation in
the Central Inlier. But, unfortunately, we
may never know for certain how and
when they were formed.
In western Jamaica, small pebble-
sized agates have also been collected by
us in the bed of streams in the vicinity of
Sevens River district situated north of
the Marchmont Inlier. This inlier lies in
the Great River valley and is composed
largely of fossiliferous limestone and
shale, apparently completely devoid of
agate. The source of the agates in this
area, therefore, is as yet unknown. But,
the previously unreported occurrence of
vein agate and crystals of clear quartz in
what appears to be white limestone from
the nearby district of Bickersteth in St.
James, raises many questions and needs
to be further investigated. The samples
in our possession were provided by a
resident of Bickersteth, where the


samples were said to have been found.
Unfortunately, we have not yet been able
to find any material in situ, but we intend
to continue our search as the presence of
any micro-fossils in the enclosing rock
will assist us in determining the type of
limestone and its geological age. The
source of the silica is also a mystery as it
does not appear to be related to any
volcanic activity in this area.
During lower Eocene time, about
fifteen million years ago, volcanic
activity recommended but on a much
smaller scale. The result of the small-
scale agatization associated with this
period of activity can be seen today at
Nutfield in the parish of St Mary where
narrow veins and irregularly-shaped
fractures of white to colourless agate
occur in the exposed lava. This agate,
however, is of limited extent and,
although academically interesting has
little or no commercial value.
At about the same time as the
renewed tectonic activity, erosion of the
older agate-bearing beds in Central
Jamaica began and occasionally small
pieces of rolled or broken agate can be
found amongst the sediments of the
Chapelton Formation. Since then,
erosion of the land has been a never-
ending process. In the years ahead, new
material will continue to be brought
down, particularly during times of
intense flooding, by the many rivers and
streams which decend from these inliers.

Although it is relatively easy to
recognize the characteristic features of
agates, it is extremely difficult to explain
their formation. Simply speaking, agate
forms when a solution containing silica
in a very finely suspended state, called
silica gel, enters cavities in rocks and is
deposited as chalcedony a hydrous
microcrystalline variety of quartz are
found most frequently in volcanic
igneous rocks and, to a such lesser
extent, in some sedimentary rocks.
The formation of cavities in rocks
occurs in three principal ways: the
escape or entrapment of gases and
liquids; the deformation of rocks by
earth forces; the dissolution of a solid by
a liquid.
1. Molten rock material that issues
from a volcanic vent or fissure is called
lava. All lavas contain variable amounts
of steam or volatile gases. As the lava
cools after extrusion, the steam and
other gases may either rise rapidly to the
surface and escape or they may become
trapped during solidification, leaving

Moss agate (left) and concentrically banded agate (right) with a prominent ochre-coloured layer
(due to the presence of iron oxide).

bubbles within the hardened lava. These
gas-filled cavities, which are known as
amygdules (or amygdales in British
usage), may vary in shape from oval to
irregular, and in size from microscopic to
small boulders. Long after the lava has
solidified, silica-bearing solutions
penetrate the cavities and deposit their
load. One of the most perplexing prob-
lems, however, is: how exactly does the
silica material penetrate cavities and
produce the many features described
above? The origin of these solutions
also remains a mystery
2. Movements within the earth's crust
produce stress, which often produces
cracks and fractures in rocks. Agate
deposited in such openings is referred to
as vein agate.
3. Hollows in rocks may also develop
as a result of the dissolution of soluble
substances by the natural action of

Oval agate pebble showing contrast between the
rough, pitted outer surface, and the concentrical-
ly-banded interior (maximum length 3.5in. and
diameter 2.25 in.)

percolating water. In this way, large
caverns, caves, and underground
passageways, for example, develop in
limestones. Similarly, primary minerals
and organically derived matter, deposit-
ed in sedimentary or pyroclastic (vol-
canic ejecta) rocks, may be dissolved
and, in time, replaced by the precipita-
tion of new mineral matter. In some
cases, precipitation may begin around a
central nucleus which may be a mineral
fragment, or the remains of some animal
or plant.
The formation of nodular agate has

long been a mystery. Each stone is
unique. Even within the same volcanic
rock no two are exactly alike. It is prob-
able, therefore, that these agates formed
in more than one way. Several theories,
each with many variations, have been
proposed to solve this mystery. At
present there are two basic schools of
thought. On the one hand, there are those
who believe that a dilute solution of
silica initially penetrates the cavity by a
process of diffusion and deposits a thin
layer of silica against the wall, which
crystallizes as chalcedony. Over time,
more and more silica-rich solutions enter
the cavity, deposit the silica and other
constituents, and then withdraw minus
these substances. Such a solution is said
to be spent.
Opponents of this theory argue that
spent solutions cannot escape from
cavities once the inner wall has been
solidly lined by chalcedony. They
propose that dense silica gels (in
colloidal form) penetrate the cavity and,
once inside, remain there and undergo
reconstitution. By a process of segre-
gation, bands of chalcedony, quartz, or


both, begin to form, then grow and
eventually crystallize, thus producing the
characteristic banding plus other
A more recent theory described by Dr
Harry Macpherson in his book Agates,
published in 1989, is a version of the
second theory, which he dubbed the 'In
and sort-out' theory. But, as he points
out, all the theories advanced thus far are
'based to some extent on speculation as
there are aspects of the process that
remain a mystery.' He is of the opinion,
as are many others, that the formation of
agate will never be satisfactorily
resolved until 'sophisticated methods of
experimental mineralogy are applied to
the study of such gels.'
According to Macpherson, water
percolates thought the lava, decomposes
some of the minerals and carries away
various elements in solution. These are
subsequently deposited in the form of a
green silicate skin on the wall of the
empty gas cavity. Silica-bearing colloidal
solutions subsequently penetrate the
cavity and, either partly or wholly, fill it
with a dense silica gel. The constituents
of the gel begin to separate or segregate
by a process of chemical differentiation
and diffusion. Inward growth then takes
place by spherulitic crystallization, a
process which results in the formation of
tiny needle-shaped fibres of chalcedony,
growing in close and radial association
with each other. The fibres eventually
crystallize to form a layer of clear
chalcedony near the wall. The remaining
segregated hydrous and anhydrous lay-
ers of silica are now contained within the
cavity and sealed by the crystallized
chalcedony layer. At this point there
appears to be a break in the development
of the agate, interrupted occasionally by
the formation of eye or hemi-agates
which are also formed by spherulitic
Each enclosed agate-forming gel
layer has its own composition of silica
(with or without water and impurities)
prior to final crystallization. In time the
whole mass hardens, giving rise to the
characteristic bands. Regular symmetrical
configurations suggest that crystal-
lization progressed unimpeded under
uniform conditions. On the other hand,
many agates contain visibly distorted
bands and other features which suggest
that one or more forces acted on the
gelatinous mass prior to consolidation.
In addition, some agates possess features
called tubes of escape and dilations
which are indicative of deformation just
before crystallization. And these some-
times connect with a narrow fracture

(called a 'dyke' by Macpherson) which
cuts across the clear chalcedony layer.
One other point worth mentioning
here is that of colour banding. This is
produced by the impurities present in the
gel and is not related to growth bands.
The coloured bands are usually much
broader and cut across layers of crystal-
lized chalcedony. Agates of different
types and colours can develop beside
each other even though the rock envi-
ronment is the same. Thus, each agate is

Discovery in Jamaica
For those attempting to establish just
when agates were first discovered in
Jamaica, the following extract from
Edward Long's History of Jamaica
(1774), dealing with the minerals in the
parish of Clarendon, is of particular
In most of the gullies bordering
upon the coast, are large quantities
of agate, chiefly of the flesh-
coloured, blood-coloured, and
yellow kinds. But there are others
more variegated. These natural
productions are so little enquired
after here, that, I believe, they are
even unknown to many: yet the
pains of collecting those most in
esteem might be rewarded by the
profit of vending them to Great-
Britain. The most valuable species
are the white-veined, the flesh-
coloured, the red, the pale-yellow,
the dark-brown with black veins,
and the greenish-brown variegated.
A few, which an ingenious gentle-
man of this island brought with him
to London, were greatly admired.
Ship-loads might be procured here at
no other charge than that of
gathering them; and by breaking a
few, the best sort might be easily dis-

To the best of our knowledge, this is
the first published reference to the exis-
tence of agate in Jamaica. However,
Long, who was a historian and not a
scientist, seems to have used the term in
a general sense. For example, he refers to
the 'blood-coloured, and yellow kinds'
and the 'dark-brown' species 'with black
veins'. These descriptions are not typical
of agate and probably refer to other
varieties of quartz. Moreover, as we shall
see later, there are no 'large quantities' of
agate anywhere in Jamaica, so it would
have been impossible to procure 'ship-
loads' as he suggests.
Another fifty years were to pass

before the presence of agate was
confirmed by Henry de la Beche, who
was the first to conduct any formal
geological research in the island. On the
death of his father, Colonel Thomas de la
Beche, in 1801, Henry had inherited the
family estate at Halse Hall in Clarendon.
The estate was administered by Kingston
attorneys while Henry was educated in
England. He pursued the study of
geology, being admitted to the British
Geological Society at the early age of
In December 1823, Henry de la Beche
returned to Jamaica and stayed for just
over one year. During that time, he con-
centrated his geological pursuits 'east-
ward of a line drawn from Alligator Pond
Bay to St Ann's Bay, thus taking in
nearly the eastern half of the island' (de
la Beche 1827, p 145). He stated, 'As
yet, no geological description has
appeared of Jamaica, nor indeed of either
of the large islands, Cuba or Hayti: so
that we have few or no facts previously
ascertained to guide us while investi-
gating the rock formations in Jamaica.'
(p 145).
At the beginning of 1825, de la Beche
sailed for England. Two years later, the
Geological Society published his report,
the first geological account of Jamaica,
together with its first geological map,
showing the eastern part of the island. In
the report, de la Beche stated, 'At Halse
Hall, the conglomerate is composed of
rounded pieces of various porphyries
and trap rocks, cemented by a dirty white
argillaceous substance and mixed with
carnelians, agates, chalcedonies, onyxes
and jaspers' (p 182). There could be no
doubt that agates were to be found in
If any further proof were needed, it
came when the first official geological
survey of the island was carried out.
Lucas Barrett, a young London-born
naturalist, arrived in the island with his
older assistant, James Gay Sawkins, in
the spring of 1859. Lucas was the
Director of the surveying team but
unfortunately, in December 1862, he
drowned at the early age of twenty-two
while diving among the Cays on the
south side of Port Royal. Sawkins and
his colleagues were left to carry on the
monumental task of systematically
mapping the island's rock formations
and mineral occurrences without the
guidance of their late Director. The
results of their work were subsequently
published in 1869 in the form of a
comprehensive memoir, accompanied by
a geological map (dated 1865) on a scale
of a quarter-inch to one mile,

A pair of Jamaican agate earrings (fashioned by
A. Goffe)

In addition to confirming the
presence of agate and other semi-
precious stones among the alluvial
gravels of the Clarendon Plains and the
Savannahs of Vere, Sawkins and his
co-workers discovered other localities in
the western half of the island. On the
Trelawny-Manchester border, for exam-
ple, he made the following observation:
'There are in Hector's River and some of
the streams that flow over this formtaion,
agates and jaspers of fine quality that
may be profitably collected.' (Sawkins
1869, p 225).

Commercial utilization
The agate industry as we know it
today had its commercial beginnings
over four hundred years ago in the
Idar-Oberstein district of southwestern
Germany. It remained the industrial
centre for cutting and polishing agates
for centuries. The method of cutting
agates, and other stones, to produce a
convex rounded surface, polished but not
faceted, and a flat underside is called en
cabochon. This practice has remained
unchanged in the region for centuries but
many of the older localities which
supplied the stones have long since been
exhausted. Today, much of the material
is imported. At present, the most impor-
tant source of agate in the world is the
Rio Grande do Sul region of Brazil and
In addition to being used in cabochon
form for rings, agate is also used in the
manufacture of ornaments for personal
wear; for example, necklaces, brooches,
bracelets and beaded belts. It is used
commercially in the manufacture of ash
trays, book-ends, paper-weights and
ornaments, mortars and pestles, the
knife-edge bearings of chemical bal-
ances, and also as a decorative stone in
buildings, inlaid on floors, walls and
counter-tops. It has even been used, over
centuries, for marbles in children's
Although agates appear extremely
compact and dense to the naked eye,

many of the layers are composed of
numerous tiny spaces, called pores,
which are capable of absorbing
colouring matter from solution. More-
over, different stones and even different
layers within the same stone have dif-
ferent absorptive powers. The discovery
of this property allowed early workers to
use natural substances to improve the
colour and enhance the aesthetic quality
and value of otherwise dull-looking
Then, in 1856, with the accidental
synthesis of a violet dye, called
mauveine, from aniline by William
Perkin, an English chemist, natural dyes
gradually became less important and
were eventually replaced by synthetic
dyes. Today, much of the agate fashioned
for ornamental purposes has been arti-
ficially coloured by having been placed
in a prepared solution for a specific
period of time. The depth of colour
produced depends on the porosity of the
layers, the types and colours of dyes
used, and the length of time each stone is
left in the solution.
Here in Jamaica, the cutting, faceting,
polishing and setting of local agate, and
other semiprecious gemstones, did not
begin on a commercial scale until the
late 1960s. Before then, many hobbyists
and amateur lapidarists, with access to
tumblers or cutting saws, had tried their
hands at polishing assorted stones for
personal use. Some of the stones
were of local origin having been
found on beaches or in river beds,
while others were obtained from
The commercial utilization of
Jamaican gemstones was due
largely to the entrepreneurial
efforts of a Canadian tourist, Alan
O'Hara, who on a visit to the
island 'spotted an agate among the
gravel which had been used to
pave the sidewalk.' On successive
visits to Jamaica, he tried to trace
the source of the agate, and ,
plotted a graph of the gemstone .
content in the rivers along the ;,
northcoast. [Focus on Jamaica .
1972/19731. Having located a
source 'in the Blue Mountains', .---
O'Hara established Blue
Mountain Gems in 1970 at the
Holiday Village Shopping Centre,
opposite Holiday Inn, east of
Montego Bay. Some years later
Alan's son, Mike, and Ruby
Otway took over the operation,
but in the mid-1980s Mike left
the island. Ms Otway still con- Slabs
foyer o

tinues to operate the business at this
locality, but on a reduced scale.
At about the same time, another
Canadian, Mr Sam Smith, had a similar
interest and in 1970 formed Gemcutters
Jamaica Limited. This operation was
conveniently located in the town of St
Ann's Bay on the northcoast. Like Blue
Mountain Gems, it offered visitors free
daily tours of the factory. Both opera-
tions manufactured many fine pieces of
jewelry using local stones from the same
source, which initially was situated in
the Pembroke Hall-Rio Nuevo Valley
Area in St Mary. As Sam Smith told one
of the writers, 'There was enough
material for both of us.'
Some years later, one of us (AG),
while out hunting for antique bottles met
an elderly prospector, Mr Gilbert
Griffiths of Mandeville (now deceased),
who related a story about a piece of agate
the colour of 'pigeon's blood' being
found in a river north of Mandeville.
This agate, he said, had been sent to the
Netherlands around the turn of the 20th
century by a Mr Nash, where it was cut
and polished, and received favourable
comments. The presence of good quality
agates from this area had, however,
already been noted by Sawkins in 1869,
but they remained largely unexploited
until Sam Smith began purchasing and
then collecting material from there for
his factory in St Ann's Bay. According

of inlaid Jamaican agate decorate the floor of the
f the Grand Lido Hotel, Negril.


to Trevor Fearon, Smith reportedly listed
'some twenty-two different types of
gemstones that are periodically available
at the factory.' [Fearon 1980]. Un-
fortunately, Gemcutters Jamaica Limited
went out of business in 1981, and its
owner returned to Canada shortly there-
after. At about the same time, one of us
(AG) decided to continue the gemology
tradition pioneered by O'Hara and
Smith. A detailed examination of the
Hector's River Valley deposit com-
menced and this has revealed that agate
is not only more extensive but is also of
higher quality and greater diversity than
the deposits in eastern Jamaica (see
Fig.l). Generally speaking, the colour
banding of the agates in the Hector's
River area range from colourless to
white, through shades of blue to pale
grey, red, green or brown; those in the
Rio Nuevo/ Pembroke Hall region from
blue to blue-grey or black, and occasion-
ally greenish. Those on the Clarendon
Plains are similar to but smaller in size
than Hectors River material,
In February 1983, Queen Elizabeth II
was presented with an oval-shaped box,

bearing an incised map of Jamaica, on
which the locations of important towns
were highlighted with Jamaican agates.
Mr Mike O'Hara, Alan's son, drilled
some of these stones that were set in the
box. Jamaican agate is also prominently
displayed in some recently constructed
homes and buildings in Jamaica, most
notably the Grand Lido Hotel in Negril.

In 1993, Knox Community College, under the
dynamic leadership of Dr Errol Miller, the head
of the Science Department, entered a project in
the Schools and Colleges Science Exhibition
entitled Exploring Jamaica's Agates. This
exhibit, which focused on the location, uses and
economic potential of agate,received the
Jamaica Bauxite Institute's 'Best Mineralogy
Award'. Expanding on the same theme, the
College were repeat winners in 1994, and later
that year won a gold medal at the Science Fair
held in Georgetown, Guyana. Then, in 1996,
they obtained a certificate of excellence for
their exhibit at the 47th International Science
and Engineering Fair in Tuscon Arizona, U.S.A.

Photographs by: A.R.D. Porter

DE LA BECHE, H.T. Sir, 1827. Remarks on the
Geology of Jamaica. Transactions Geological
Society of London, Vol.2 Second Series, pp.
Focus ON JAMAICA 1972/73. Blue Mountain
Gems.Volume 14, No 1, pp 112-113.
FEARON,T. 1980. Jamaican Gemstones. Skywriting
Magazine No. 25. Air Jamaica's inflight
magazine. Creative Communications Inc. Ltd
Kingston.pp 26-27.
LONG, E. 1774. The History of Jamaica. London.
T. Lowndes. vol.2. pp .65, 66.
Macpherson, H.G. 1989. Agates. British Museum
(Natural History) London, and National
Museums of Scotland, Edinburgh, 72p.
MATLEY, C.A, 1929. The Basal Complex of
Jamaica, with special reference to the
Kingston District. With petrographical notes
by F. Highan. Quarterly Journal of the
Geological Society, London. Vol 85, pp 440-
PORTER, A.R.D., 1976. A guide to the identifica-
tion of Jamaican minerals. JAMAICA JOURNAL,
Vol. 10, Nos 2,3,4.
-1990. Jamaica: A Geological Portrait. IOJ
Publications. Kingston, Jamaica. 152 pp.
PORTER, A.R.D., T.E. Jackson and E. Robinson.
1982. Minerals and Rocks of Jamaica.
Jamaica Publishing House. 174 pp.
SAWKINS, J.G. 1869. Reports on the Geology of
Jamaica, Memoir. Geological Survey, U.K.
Longmans, Green and Company, London.
ZANS,V.A., 1951. Economic Geology and Mineral
Resources of Jamaica. Bull. No.l, Geological
Survey of Jamaica, Kingston. 61pp.

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A 1 7th Century Depiction of

African Dress in Gold Coast

Notes compiled by Glory Robertson

(Ghana) shown here appear as plate 21 in Jean Barbot's
Description of the Coasts of North and South-Guinea and of
Ethiopia Inferior, vulgarly Angola: being a New and
Accurate Account of the Western Maritime Countries of
Africa, published in London in 1732. In the text Barbot
also gave a detailed description (p. 236-239) of the
clothes worn by various classes of Gold Coast Africans.
Barbot, a French Protestant who emigrated to
England in 1685 because of religious persecution in
France, had made two voyages to West Africa for a

French trading company in 1678-79 and 1681-82. On
both voyages he had kept journals and made drawings;
from these journals and from already published works by
other writers he wrote a book on West Africa (or Guinea,
as it was called at the time).
In a recent publication by the Hakluyt Society
entitled Barbot on Guinea the editors, P. E. H. Hair,
Adam Jones and Robin Law, set out to distinguish
between Barbot's own observations and the material he
derived from other writers. They have shown that Barbot
first wrote his book in French, in 1688, but failed to find
a publisher. He later translated it into English, adding


- ---?----- ---- -r-- ---


~_ ~J r-* r
F~---~.- -.-~ -- ~
pi,- ~;s *

more information on West Africa, extending the area
covered to Congo-Angola and adding a brief section on
the French colonies in Guiana and the Caribbean. This
was the version eventually published in 1732.
The editors aimed at presenting only Barbot's
original material on West Africa. Using the 1688 manu-
script as their base, they have inserted or noted addition-
al information which Barbot obtained from other authors,
unless the original and derived material were so inter-
twined that separation was not feasible. In consequence,
both this illustration and some of Barbot's text on Gold
Coast dress are not included in the new edition.
P. E. H. Hair has traced the illustration to a
description of Gold Coast by Pieter de Marees, published
in Dutch in 1602, and points out that the captions have

not been copied with complete accuracy by Barbot's
engraver. In the top left segment, showing three men, the
two right hand figures, says Hair, are an interpreter and a
merchant not 'A Fisherman' and 'A Factor'. Of the eight
women, the one captioned 'A Woman of the good sort',
third left, is labelled a prostitute in Marees; 'A
Merchant's Wife' is a young girl and 'A Woman of the
good sort suckling her infant' is a woman of the common
sort ('good' and 'common' in this context meaning upper
class and lower class). Hair also notes '[The] noses
shown in the illustrations of both men and women are too
European in Marees, and grotesquely so in Barbot.'
Barbot's text on Gold Coast dress also comes largely
from Marees, with further information from a later writer,
Bosman, first published in 1704. To a lesser extent, he



, t l i

also used works by Villault,who visited West Africa in
1666-67, and Dapper, first published in 1668. Hair
describes Marees's book as 'outstanding'. He points out
that the two subjects for which Barbot used Marees
'extensively and overwhelmingly' were natural history
and ethnography; in these areas the fact that Marees's
information was collected so long before Barbot's own
voyages to West Africa 'would hardly have mattered'.
(Barbot on Guinea 1:xxvii; 2:497-500).
Dress in traditional societies preserves the same lines
for very long periods, changing only in minor ways, as
we can see even today from the traditional dress of Indian
and Japanese women. So it is entirely feasible that Barbot
copied these drawings from Marees because they

depicted what he had himself seen years later on his
voyages but had not included in his own sketches in his
Early writers on Jamaica, such as Sir Hans Sloan and
John Taylor in the 1680s, record that the clothing,
provided for African slaves was scanty and some slaves
were almost naked. The usual garb provided for male
slaves was trousers or knee-length breeches and a shirt or
jacket, but in illustrations of the 1760s and 1770s a few
men are depicted in waist cloths and loin cloths. In one
print of the 1760s two women are bare above the waist
and the garment of another is wrapped under her arms,
leaving her shoulders and arms bare. Leslie in 1739
remarked that slave women did not like to wear the


petticoat (i.e. skirt) provided for them. Like the men, he

many of them [go] quite naked, they don't know
what shame is; and are surprised at a European's
bashfulness, who perhaps turns his head aside at
the sight. [Charles Leslie. A New and Exact
Account of Jamaica. Edinburgh, 1739.]

It must be noted here that the word 'naked' as used
by these writers did not always mean quite what it means
today; a man in trousers but bare above the waist might

be described as naked. But to many West Africans bare
legs and nakedness above the waist would not have been
unusual or shameful, and Leslie and others who made
similar remarks were only expressing their own

Note A copy of the 1732 edition of Barbot is in the National
Library of Jamaica and the University of the West Indies
Library has copies of Barbot on Guinea and of the 1912 Dutch
reprint of Marees.


Map of Jamaica showing twenty-two parishes. From The Island of Jamaica by James Wyld, 1843

Asiatic Cholera in



Part I

C.H. Senior

he modern history of Asiatic cholera began in 1817. In that year the disease, hither-
to confined to parts of eastern India, spread rapidly and relentlessly across the sub-
continent, aided by troop movements, caravans and coastal shipping. During the five
years after 1817 it burst like a tidal wave into much of Asia, into east coast Africa and as
far as the shores of the Mediterranean.

A second wave of the disease began in India in 1826, this
time extending its international career even further. In the
summer of 1831, nearly every European capital was suffering,
or had recently suffered, the ravages of cholera, and in the
following year it was transported across the Atlantic where it
afflicted North America from Quebec to New Orleans.1 In
1833 the shores of the Mexican Gulf were attacked by the
disease with devastating virulence. In the West Indies, howev-
er, the only island to fall victim to the world epidemic was
After a decade of general retreat, cholera again burst out of
India. By mid-1846 it had appeared in the Middle East, and
within a year was in the heart of Russia; by the end of 1848 it

had spread across Europe and, over the following two years,
into much of the United States and Canada and into areas along
the shores of the Mexican Gulf and the Caribbean shores of
Central and South America.2 Within the Caribbean, Cuba once
again was affected and, alone among the British possessions in
the area, Jamaica was attacked. During the world epidemic of
1853-1854, Jamaica suffered a second attack and cholera then
appeared among the islands of the eastern Caribbean. By May
1854 it was in Barbados, where it took some 18,000 lives; by
November it had appeared in St Christopher where within a
few months an estimated 4,000 people had died.3 And so the
disease extended its career of destruction into all the islands.
During the cholera epidemics in Jamaica, and the epidemics

The first part of this article by Dr Senior first appeared in JAMAICA JOURNAL 25:2. It is very much regretted that owing to
unavoidable circumstances, it was impossiblefor the conclusion to be published within a reasonable length of time. It has
therefore been decided to publish the article in its entirety in this issue in a convenient pull-out format.


of smallpox, scarlatina, measles and influenza which appeared
among the island's weakened population in 1851 and 1852,
mortality statistics were usually hopelessly inaccurate, based
as they were on the work of beleaguered, fearful and hard-
pressed parochial boards of health and private individuals
whose main concern was to bury the dead as soon as possible.
The system of official registration and certification of deaths,
notoriously inefficient and inaccurate, was even more so
during the epidemic years between 1850 and 1855. Estimates
of the number of deaths varied considerably and during the
first cholera epidemic alone were put as high as 50,000 by one
authority.4 In fact, the deaths caused by all the epidemics of
these years was perhaps nearer a total of 31,000.5
Nevertheless, this was eight per cent of the island's population.

Course of infection
The disease most responsible for sowing misery and death
in the island was a virulent form of vibrio cholerae, a micro-
organism identified by Koch in 1883. The vibrio is propagated
in the human intestine and disseminated by the oral ingestion
of excreta which has contaminated water supplies or human
hands. The incubation period is often only two or three days.
The onset of the disease is rapid and spectacular, death
sometimes occurring within a few hours. A sensation of giddi-
ness and weight and oppression in the stomach is usually
followed by a sudden violent purging and vomiting. The
classic diagnostic sign of the disease is the evacuation of
odourless rice-water motions. The severe, generalized
dehydration caused by the loss of body liquids is followed by
wrinkling of the skin, sinking of the eyeballs, and hollowing of
the cheeks; breathing becomes difficult and there are strong
muscular cramps. If an attack is severe, collapse is succeeded
by coma and death, death being caused by debility, respiratory
failure, acidosis, dehydration, or uremia. An early and extreme
rigor mortis follows. In untreated cases, the fatality averages
about fifty per cent, although it may be as high as ninety per
cent early in an epidemic. Cholera patients excrete the vibrio
not only during the three or four days at the acute stage of the
disease, but for up to two, and sometimes six weeks thereafter.
Healthy people can also transmit the disease. The stress of an
epidemic in a particular area may last from three to six weeks.6

Suggested causes
During much of the nineteenth century there was vigorous
and often bitter disagreement about the cause, nature and
propagation of the disease. Some physicians believed cholera
acted on the heart, others that it stifled the respiratory system
or infected the stomach or poisoned the blood-stream.
Treatment was concocted to suit that part of the anatomy in
which individual physicians, and quacks, thought the seat of
the disease lay. Flies, shellfish, an unknown poison similar to
arsenic, electricity in the atmosphere which turned body fluid
acid, were variously blamed for bringing on the disease. Two
broad camps arose on the matter of its spread: contagionists,
convinced it was spread by physical contact between infected
human beings or contact with food, clothing, bed linen and
other articles touched by the infected; miasmatists, who
blamed a choleraic poison in the atmosphere-phere which was
said to arise from filth and rotten vegetable and waste matter
which, after lying dormant for years, was stimulated into
virulence by certain local circumstances such as a high electric
atmosphere, a marked concentration of 'miasma' and
unusually extreme temperature changes.

Sir Charles Grey, Governor of Jamaica 1850-53

In Jamaica, as elsewhere, medical and non-medical opinion
was deeply divided. This was reflected in the attitudes to
quarantine and isolation of the sick. While contagionists
stressed their importance, miasmatists (since they believed that
the disease spread independently of human intercourse)
considered shipping quarantine and isolation of the sick not
merely a waste of time, and public money, but often positively
harmful since commerce would be disrupted, thus affecting the
free importation of essential food and medical supplies. But on
at least one matter contagionists and miasmatists were agreed:
the importance of public and private cleanliness. It did not go
unnoticed that epidemics of cholera began and usually proved
most virulent in particularly insanitary areas occupied by
human beings.7

Need for sanitary reform

That there was a connection between pollution and cholera
was recognized, but in England in the 1850s the advocacy of
major, comprehensive public health and sanitary reform by the
state was put forward by only an enlightened minority among
the aristocracy and middle class. Parliament took little interest
or action, preferring to allow private initiative and competition
to have free play. And what the British Parliament neglected,
the Jamaican Assembly tended to neglect too.8 In addition to a
tradition of inaction in the field of health and sanitation, and in
services for the mass of the population generally, the Assembly
was distracted by economic depression which, though common
to all the British West Indian colonies, was particularly acute in
Jamaica. With the British government apparently determined
to end protection for its colonial sugars in 1854, the Assembly


cried ruin. And in anticipation of this ruin the House
embarked, between 1849 and 1853, on a policy of financial
retrenchment. During this period, Supplies were refused and
expiring Revenue Acts were not renewed.9 Cholera or no
cholera, even less thought than usual was given to issues such
as public health and sanitary reform. The consequence of this
neglect was 'probably the greatest catastrophe ever visited
upon the population' of the island.10

Living conditions
In Jamaica, cholera found an environment well suited to its
propagation and spread. Quarantine was neglected and
inefficient; the island's malnourished working class popula-
tion, already subject to a high degree of stomach disorders,
yaws, tuberculosis, hookworm and other debilitating diseases,
was particularly susceptible; only three towns Spanish
Town, Kingston and Falmouth were supplied with piped
water, but the price demanded by the water companies was
beyond the means of most of the inhabitants. Most of the
population obtained their water from rainwater tanks, wells,
and direct from rivers and ponds.1 Filth and pollution
abounded, in towns and rural areas. In Kingston, the commer-
cial capital with a population of between thirty and forty thou-
sand, sanitary measures and local ordinances for the correction
of nuisances were generally 'neglected, unthought of, and
uncared for' by its governing body, the Corporation. A physi-
cian who visited the town in 1851 wrote:

The usual way of getting rid of pail slops, chamber vessel
contents etc. is by tossing them into the street before the doors, or
into the lane at the side: ashes and other domestic rubbish are
generally thrown out at the same time. The accumulation in
many parts is such as to form a midden on one side of the
thoroughfare. Then, too, the surface drainings from filthy
courtyards, foul stables, fouler pigsties, housing out from openings
in the wall near the ground, flow down the side declivities of the
streets in lengthened gutters of filth, until they stagnate in the
hollows in the middle.

There were no underground drains or sewers in the town.
While the wealthier inhabitants could afford piped water, from
the Hope River, the supply was irregular and insufficient; the
majority obtained their water from wells distributed through
the town at street corners and in private yards. This water was
frequently brackish and impure, the wells being sunk near
unbricked privies whose fluid contents permeated the soil.12
At Spanish Town, the political and administrative capital,
and at the town and naval station of Port Royal lying at the tip
of the long coral 'palisados' enclosing Kingston harbour,
sanitation was just as neglected. 'Human ordure as well as
other excrementitious matters, stinking fish guts, and putrid
slops' were everywhere in Port Royal, the town where cholera
was to make its first appearance in the island. The hovels of its
one thousand established inhabitants were crowded, dirty and
damp. Pigs, dogs and goats rummaged and scuffled in the filth
of hovel yards and streets. Spanish Town, with a population of
between ten and fifteen thousand, had three sources of water:
pumped water from the nearby Rio Cobre, which was
deposited in an uncovered reservoir (available to the better
circumstanced inhabitants three times a week);13 three wells;
and a direct supply from the Rio Cobre. There was one under-
ground sewer, leading from the army barracks to the river, and
this was more often than not blocked by filth which entered by
open gratings along its course. The five or more cemeteries

were swampy and choked with weeds, and sometimes emitted
'nauseous exhalations' due to shallow burials. The negro
hovels within the town were 'squalid and miserable', as were
those on the outskirts where cholera proved to be particular-
ly virulent.14 The island's smaller towns scattered along the
coasts and the many Negro villages in the interior presented a
similar picture in miniature.

Early warning

In 1849 the island authorities were given a warning of the
danger of allowing the pollution in their midst to remain
undisturbed. A handful of troops, mainly in Kingston, came
down with a disease having the 'symptoms of malignant
cholera'. Had not cholera been raging in several ports with
which the island was in frequent communication, these
symptoms would not have given any cause for alarm. The
Kingston Board of Health warned the Mayor and Corporation
of the danger of the spread of the disease, but the warning was
ignored. The Board lacked the executive and financial power to
take further action and the Corporation, short of funds and
racked by jobbery and corruption,15 made no move to clean up
the town. The Governor, Sir Charles Grey, in consultation with
the Council, instructed the quarantine officers at the outports to
be 'doubly vigilant' in detaining vessels from infected or
suspected localities until they had completed five clear days
from leaving their last port without sickness on board. But to
be doubly vigilant did not mean a great deal when the officers
were notoriously lax.16 Besides, for reasons of diplomacy and
convenience, certain vessels as, for example, American emi-
grant ships and ships of the Royal Navy were exempt from
quarantine. Some ports, such as Cuban ports, were in free
communication with Port Royal when cholera raged in Cuba.17

Dr James MacFadyen


Cholera in Jamaica

That the island escaped a cholera epidemic in 1849 was due
more to good fortune than design. The introduction of 'malig-
nant cholera' was only a matter of time. Although the evidence
is far from conclusive, the disease was probably introduced in
1850 by passengers aboard an American steamer from Chagres
in Panama which called at Port Royal and Kingston to re-
coal.18 Among those in the island who inclined to the miasmic
view of the cause of cholera there were other indications of an
imminent outbreak of the disease. Once the epidemic had
started, those thinking retrospectively and imaginatively,
remembered that a dry spring season in 1850 had not only been
followed by unusual May rains which had persisted intermit-
tently into the late summer but also by unusually oppressive
heat and an electrified atmosphere. Just as potato blight was
said to have been a precursor of cholera in Europe, so one of
the island's chief esculents, the coco, was said to have rotted in
the ground long before harvest time; the tides were said to have
been unusually high, and the sea breezes irregular. In the town
of Falmouth, houses were said to have become infested with
swarms of flies and mosquitoes which died in such numbers
that they were 'swept off the tables in handfulls'. Many physi-
cians were reported to have predicted an autumn of severe
forms of fever and dysentery. 19

Port Royal
Asiatic cholera first manifested itself on the night of
October 6, 185020 when a black washerwoman named Nanny
Johnston, an inhabitant of the filthiest section of the town of
Port Royal, collapsed, went into a coma and died, all within the
space of a few hours. A postmortem held on the following
morning confirmed the presence of the disease. Other deaths
quickly followed. During the night of the 7th and 8th, two
other Negroes, from the same yard as Nanny Johnston,
collapsed and died, both within five to seven hours of seizure.
Over the following three days, eleven others died; within a
week of the first death in the town, a total of thirty inhabitants
died. Recoveries from an attack were rare, and the disease
showed a decided preference for the black and poor; the
'respectable' white community cleaner and better nourished
- were, with few exceptions, to escape death during the course
of the epidemic.21
Once it was known that there was cholera at Port Royal,
panic spread among the inhabitants, aided by rumours and
fear-swollen statistics of mortality published daily in the press.
Fear was the 'predominant passion' at Port Royal one news-
paper, the Despatch, reported on October 10, 'and never was
diarrhoea so abundant and instantaneous'; the 'whole popula-
tion of Port Royal seemed to be simultaneously affected'.
There was no resident physician in the town and the Naval
Hospital was already crowded with fever patients, but a cholera
hospital was hastily prepared and supplied with beds, blankets
and disinfectant by the Commodore of the Jamaica Station.
Two surgeons from HMS Imaum were directed ashore and, as
the epidemic gathered pace, other naval medical personnel
were directed to assist them.22 By October 28 between ten and
fifteen people were dying every day, and the total deaths since
the start of the epidemic were estimated by the Press to be 198;
another 54 (as estimated by the Rector) had died by November
17.23 With the rapid acceleration of deaths during October the
burial of the dead became a major problem, many having to be
deposited just below the loose, shifting sand of the palisadoes,

Dr Charles Morales, Speaker of the House of Assembly, 1850-1865

soon causing the emission of 'noxious and pestiferous gases'.
By the end of the epidemic in the town in mid-November, some
300 corpses lay in shallow graves along the palisados.24

Across the harbour in Kingston, the Corporation met in
special session on October 10. Three physicians from the
Board of Health, Doctors Campbell, Fiddes and MacFadyen
were in attendance, the former having visited Port Royal
shortly before to investigate the reported outbreak of cholera.
Dr MacFadyen, acting president of the Board of Health, and
shortly to be himself a victim of cholera, presented a list of
suggestions prepared for the Corporation on ways of meeting a
cholera invasion.
The first suggestion, and clearly the most pressing if it
was not already too late was that steps should be
immediately taken to clear the filth from the town's lanes and
yards. Besides this, disinfectant should be distributed among
the poor and steps taken to purify their privies. To ensure that
this was done, the town should be divided into districts under
the charge of sanitary inspectors. Cholera hospitals and nurses
should be found, and the dead, until they could be buried,
should be immediately removed to a depot. Since there was
only one dispensary for the poor in Kingston, other such places
should be established for purposes of consultation and coordi-
Dr MacFadyen announced that a committee of the Board of
Health would be prepared to meet a committee of the
Corporation each morning. The Corporation agreed to the
necessity of these measures but it could not, or would not, bear
the burden of financing them; instead, an appeal was made to
the Assembly's Board of Public Accounts (a permanent board
which could disburse public money without prior approval by
the Legislature) for a financial grant. Since expense would be
saved by using convict labour to clean the town, it was


resolved that Sir Charles Grey should be petitioned to provide
a hundred convicts from the penitentiary for this work.25
Time for preventative action by the Corporation had long
since passed. On the morning of October 10, just a few hours
before the meeting of the Corporation, a poor fisherman named
Phipps who had a hovel in Oxford Street in the north of
Kingston suffered the agonies of cholera and died. He had
recently been to Port Royal. This, the first case in the town,
was followed by another death on the 11th: the victim had lived
a few hundred yards from Phipps, on the same street. On the
12th, three more cases occurred in different sections of town.
Then the disease began in earnest, striking rapidly and
ruthlessly all over town, but mainly in the west the poorest
and filthiest section.26 As at Port Royal, newspaper accounts
and rumour fanned the flames of panic. 27

Emergency measures

On October 11, a hastily convened Board of Public
Accounts responded to the emergency. Any parish which set up
a 'competent board' and established that cholera had appeared
within its boundaries could draw on a sum of 1,000; Port
Royal was immediately allotted 100 and Kingston 400.28 On
the following day a Cholera Committee elected from among
the members of the Corporation met, as agreed at the meeting
held two days previously, with representatives of the Board of
Health. With funds at its disposal, this 'Combined Committee'
proceeded to business: subcommittees were appointed to pro-
cure two cholera hospitals, one in the east and one in the west
of the town; one thousand handbills on suggested ways of
staving off cholera and another five hundred appealing for
nurses to attend the cholera hospitals were to be printed and
distributed; all pigsties in town were to be destroyed and the
pigs removed to a depot.
With only ten physicians in town there was a shortage, as
there was in all other parts of the island,29 of men with
expe-rience of treating disease; and few, if any, would have had
experience of Asiatic cholera. But all possible help was need-
ed and the medical officers of the Army and Navy in the island
were to be requested to cooperate with the Combined
Committee. So were ministers of religion, who could act not
only in a religious capacity and as suppliers of collection-box
funds, but also as searchers for cholera cases among the poor.
At the daily meetings of the Cholera Committee (held in
private after October 15 so as to prevent the dangerous
accumulation of 'cholera animalcula' in the atmosphere among
the large crowds who had been coming to observe), plans were
made to combat the onslaught of the disease. The decisions of
the combined Committee on the 12th were to be carried out; a
subcommittee was appointed to require the townspeople to
remove the filth and rubbish on their premises onto the lanes
and streets prior to a daily visit from rubbish carts; the police
were to prevent the sale of unwholesome food30 and the
carrying about the town of 'uncured or putrid cowskins', and
were to ensure that butchers' yards were kept clean. The physi-
cians on the Committee were to report three times daily on new
cases of cholera and on the condition of the sick, and ministers
of religion who were members of the Corporation were to orga-
nize a subscription to aid the poor suffering from the disease.
Soup kitchens for the poor were established, quicklime from
the penitentiary supplied, and the sick poor sent to the cholera
hospitals. Many members on the Committee and the god-
fearing among the population generally regarded the
epidemic as a manifestation of divine displeasure or the

'exhaustion of divine forbearance',31 and so ministers of reli-
gion, of all denominations, were requested to offer up prayers
'suitable to the prevailing epidemic'.32

Worsening conditions

The inhabitants of Kingston certainly had need of prayers to
the Almighty. Even if the measures planned by the Committee
had been carried out they would have done little to stay the
epidemic; as it was, the proposed measures foundered on the
Committee's and the Corporation's physical, financial and
legal powerlessness. The town's physicians, some exhausted
from visiting the sick at all hours of the day and night, some
weakened by sickness themselves, had little time or patience
for three daily reports.33 The police and the rubbish collectors,
terrified by the prospect of infection, were even less in
evidence than before. Unwholesome food continued to be sold
in the markets and streets, and the filth and rubbish dumped
by some citizens outside their yards, as the Committee had
required, remained there or was scattered by the heavy daily
rains.34 The town's sizeable pig population continued to root
and wallow in the mud and filth of lanes and yards. Pigsties
were not, and could not, be destroyed by the Committee or the
Corporation as there was no town ordinance to authorize such
interference with private property, however much a public
'nuisance' they were.35 And there was nothing that could be
done to force sick citizens into the isolation of cholera
hospitals institutions which quickly gained the reputation of
being places of certain death. On October 22, when the
Legislature met at Spanish Town for its usual annual session,
the Committee formally admitted its impotence and appealed
for an increase in its power. In fact, the Legislature was
shortly to bring the existence of the Cholera Committee to an
By the time that the Legislature was convened, cholera had
reached epidemic proportions only in the towns of Port Royal
and Kingston, but to the assembled Members in Spanish Town
there was every indication that the disease was progressing
westward towards them. Earlier, there had been sporadic cases
of cholera in the town36 but in the previous week it had
appeared in epidemic form on Farm Pen and several other
properties on the Liguanea Plain, and further westward at the
fishing village in Passage Fort. As soon as the cholera appeared
at Passage Fort, a coroner and physician from Spanish Town
visited the village to examine the corpses and, in an attempt to
stay the disease, a physician visited the village every day, but
no physician visited Farm Pen, and here an estimated eighty to
ninety villagers, one-third of the inhabitants, died within
two weeks.37

Effects on the House of Assembly
With cholera appearing sporadically in Spanish Town and
with it well established in several villages and estates between
that town and Kingston, few country Assemblymen ventured
out of the apparent safety of their parishes. It was with consid-
erable difficulty that a quorum was formed in the Assembly
room for the conducting of legislature business. Driven by fear
of infection and the absence of so many Members, the session
was cut to a mere three days, further business being postponed
for nearly three weeks.38
Sir Charles Grey appealed to the scanty Assembly for the
enactment of measures which would give local authorities
more power to help abate the 'destroying pestilence' at Port
Royal and Kingston and prevent its outbreak in other parts of


the island. In particular, he called for the granting of more
power for the 'abatement of nuisances, and the removal of
obstructions to sanitary regulations, upon the principle of
compensation to the owners of property, who may suffer by the
removal.' The governor anticipated, despite a long history of
neglect of health and sanitary legislation, that in view of the
emergency the Assembly would introduce the appropriate
measures, if for no other reason than self-interest. But the
Assembly, despite an assurance that it would 'cheerfully' con-
sider the Governor's appeal, was not prepared to abandon its
policy of financial retrenchment, whatever the emergency.
Besides, Members were anxious to be out of Spanish Town and
the view seems to have been taken that not only was time short
and too many Members absent for the House to consider health
and sanitary reform, but that cholera might well fail to spread
out of the eastern parishes and therefore that Members'
constituents in central and western parishes could not
justifiably be charged with the cost of reform which might not
benefit them.39 Undoubtedly some Members, like many whites
in the island, also took the view that the Negroes were incorri-
gible and therefore reform in the field of health and sanitation
would be wasted on them.40
During the short October session, two Members gave notice
of the presentation of motions, one motion proposing that
responsible bodies in the parishes should be given the power to
remove and destroy 'nuisances' at central government expense,
the other proposing to compensate physicians who attended
cholera hospitals free of charge.41 Neither motion was

Boards of Health
The only measure passed to meet the emergency was an Act
(14 Vict. c.1) placing 5,000 at the disposal of seven
commissioners in Spanish Town. Parishes which wished to
draw from the fund were to form boards of health, one to each
parish, and composed of the Assemblymen, the Custos or
Senior Magistrate, the churchwardens, ministers of religion of
all denominations, the parish physicians, and 'such other
persons as they shall associate with themselves'. The fund was
to be made available to the boards, acting with a quorum of
four, not when cholera was in the vicinity or appeared to be
approaching but when it had actually appeared within parish
boundaries. And since the fund was to meet the possible needs
of all the island's twenty-two parishes it was clear that the
Spanish Town Commissioners could not risk generosity to
particular parishes where cholera appeared.42 The boards were
given no power, and no central board was established to advise
and guide them. It was on these powerless, financially weak,
inexperienced and unguided boards that the burden of
preparing for and combating the onslaught of cholera lay.
Within five days of the adjournment of the Legislature on
October 25, local boards of health had been formed in at least
seven parishes; by the end of the first week of November few
parishes were without one.43 Although lacking in central direc-
tion the boards followed a similar pattern of preparation and
action, a pattern based on a combination of common sense and
the adoption of methods used by British boards of health dur-
ing 1848-1849 epidemic. Buildings were borrowed or rented
for use as cholera hospitals; beds, stretchers, blankets and
medicines were sought from various sources, tenders were
issued for the construction of coffins for the poor and searches
began for suitably isolated burial grounds; appeals for
physicians to come and reside in the parishes appeared in the

press, and work parties organized for the draining of stagnant
water and the removal of refuse. Quicklime was accumulated,
as well as quantities of zinc chloride, used as a disinfectant. In
order to catch cases of cholera at the incipient stage, to direct
the sick to the cholera hospitals, and for overall administrative
and medical efficiency, the boards of health divided their towns
and parishes into districts or wards under the direction of
subcommittees, each subcommittee including, if available, a
physician or dispenser. Subcommittees within the wards were
directed to make house-to-house visitations in search of
cholera victims.
The evidence suggests feverish activity and careful
planning by the boards, but like the Combined Committee in
Kingston they were to find that the best made plans founder
under the impact of an invasion of epidemic cholera.

Spread to the west

Neither the creation of local boards of health nor Sir Charles
Grey's belated imposition, on October 25, of quarantine on all
vessels arriving at the outports from Kingston and Port Royal,
44 could prevent the advance of the disease. Towards the end of
October it appeared sporadically in the St Catherine hills
behind Spanish Town, and west of the town in the parishes of
St Dorothy and Clarendon.45 To the north of the town there
were sporadic cases in St John and St Thomas-in-the-East.
Areas touching the eastern road from Kingston, in the foothills
of Port Royal parish and in St David, also saw a sporadic
appearance of cholera. Before the end of the month there had
been one fatal case at Morant Bay, the capital of St Thomas-in-
the-East, and another at Annotto Bay, the capital of the north-
eastern parish of St George. Although by month-end cholera
had not yet appeared in epidemic form outside Kingston, the
town of Port Royal and parts of the St Catherine plain, it
seemed to contemporaries that the disease had well and truly
established a firm footing in the island.
During November, cholera continued its advance into the
central and eastern section of the island, bursting into
epidemic proportions in every parish except Portland, whose
turn was to come in December. Between Yallahs on the eastern
road and the parish of St Thomas-in-the-East, it was reported
in the Press that 'the dead could not be buried, and the corpses
were left for days on the ground, a prey to dogs and vultures'.
On November 19, after a week of epidemic cholera in the area
of Yallahs Bay, a local resident described the inhabitants as
'dying like rotten sheep'.46 The onset of the disease here, and
in other parts of the infected parishes, was said to be usually so
sudden that victims sometimes fell into a lethargic stupor and
then coma without a period of vomiting and purging, with
death following within only a few hours of seizure. Perhaps the
most severely struck villages in the entire island during the
1850-1851 epidemic were Brazilletto in the parish of Vere and
Golden Grove in St Thomas-in-the-East. At Brazilletto some
fifty of the inhabitants died in nearly as many hours; at Golden
Grove eighty were said to have died within a week of the onset
of disease.47
Panic and demoralization in many areas resulted in the
abandonment by Negroes of their provision grounds, and there
were reports of starvation.48 With many negroes refusing to
work on the estates for fear of infection and with many field
hands and skilled workers having died, planters in some areas
found themselves in severe difficulty.49
Rumours flourished in the atmosphere of panic. It was said,
for example, that the whole police force of St David, not


having received their wages, had died of starvation; and so
striking was the comparative exemption from cholera of the
island's cleaner and better-nourished white population that
some Negroes suspected that they were being poisoned by the

Disposal of the dead
The most urgent task for the boards of health was the
removal and burial of the dead as promptly as possible, but
with the rapid accumulation of corpses, the horror of touching
them, and heavy daily rains, the task could not always be
accomplished. Members of the Vere Board of Health who
visited Brazilletto discovered

seven unburied corpses lying on the ground in coffins, and carts
constantly conveying bodies for interment. Twenty other bodies,
in the hospital, had been, and were at that moment, uninterred
since Friday last.... Crows were in number about the place, and
the scene altogether was one of horror. This morning (Tue.) in
consequence of the inability to bury the dead, those negro
houses which contained dead bodies were burned to the ground
with the bodies in them; and as regards the corpses in the
hospital, which it was intended should be completely covered
with lime, ... no one could be found to remove them as no one
could enter the room in which the bodies lay... on account of the
horrible effluvium.51

The burning of cottages containing putrifying corpses was not
an uncommon one, 52 nor was the difficulty in burying the dead
confined to estates and villages. In Spanish Town on
November 5 at least seventy unburied corpses lay on the
ground in one churchyard. With the convicts from the peniten-
tiary failing to dig graves as rapidly as was wished, the
Governor called the West India Regiment to do the job. The
race course was adopted as a burial ground, the turf being torn
up and nine large pits and dozens of graves dug; several
corpses were put into each grave, and those near the surface
were soon emitting 'pestilential exhalations' into the
atmosphere.53 Meanwhile, the Board of Health sought to assist
the living by the establishment of a soup kitchen on the Church
Parade and by the liberal distribution of brandy and camphor.54

Effects on daily life

In Spanish Town and other towns in the central and eastern
parishes, the familiar noise and bustle of daily life was
suspended. Lime was strewn about streets and lanes, and aban-
doned houses daubed with whitewash, their doors and win-
dows flung open were grim evidence of the destructive
power of the epidemic. In one town, St Ann's Bay, the parish
capital of St Ann, most of the inhabitants had fled; shops were
closed and secured and mercantile and other business
suspended. By the time epidemic cholera disappeared from the
town at the end of the first week of December, an estimated
three hundred of the pre-epidemic population of nine hundred
to one thousand had died. It was reported that such was the
panic in the town that many cholera victims were buried in the
death-like coma which precedes death.55
In Port Maria, the parish capital of St Mary, the onset of the
disease brought, if possible, even more destruction. There was
reported to be scarcely a house without a dead or dying
occupant, 'and in several four or five'. With deaths (reaching
the reported, but certainly exaggerated, figure of four hundred
and fifty) and the flight of many of the inhabitants, there was a
time when there were no more than fifty souls remaining in

town. Victims were prostrated almost immediately after the
first indication of cholera, and they lay 'in a state of stupor,
with their faces usually turned round upon their beds or the
ground where they had fallen down, until they expired'. The
disease broke out with such fury that the preparation of a
cholera hospital had to be abandoned. The board of health,
reduced to six hard-pressed members, had difficulty in seeing
to the welfare of the inhabitants; food ran short as country
provisions ceased to be brought to the town and as vessels
which called thought it best not to remain.56

Conditions in Kingston
The epidemic reached its height in Kingston during the first
half of November. Virtually all mercantile and judicial
business ceased 57 and, adding to the gloom caused by the
presence of sickness and death, heavy daily rains poured down,
darkening the sky and turning roads and lanes into river
courses. With monotonous regularity, the new Board of Health
met every morning at ten o'clock. In accordance with the
recent Act a large number of individuals had been invited to
'associate with' the Board and now, swollen by the additions,
it became a mammoth debating society torn by ceaseless
wrangling and dispute. Records of the Board's meetings clear-
ly show that despite the common crisis in which the town was
engulfed, many members but especially those who were also
members of the Corporation were unprepared to abandon
self-interest and personal and political animosities. Matters
such as the granting of contracts, procedure and status, occu-
pied an inordinate amount of time. Allegations of corruption
proliferated. Before long, the physicians and other 'respectable
members of the community' who were members of the Board
withdrew from its meetings in disgust.58
Fortunately for the poor and sick of Kingston, aid was
provided during November by the Merchants' Benevolent
Society, a society formed on the 6th of the month for the
purpose of relieving distress and supplementing the ineffective
efforts of the Board of Health. With an initial capital of 1,200,
raised by subscription, the Society made small loans to the
Board, established its own cholera hospital and a well coordi-
nated system of house-to-house visitation, set up bread and
soup kitchens, distributed medicines, blankets and clothing,
had coffins made and assisted with the burial of the dead.59 A
good deal of aid for the distressed, who included a large num-
ber of orphans, was also provided by Kingston's religious
bodies and by a few individuals acting in a private capacity.6
Later, in early 1851, additional aid for the distressed of
Kingston and the island as a whole was provided by the British
Government (3,000), the Bishop of Jamaica (1,080, raised
by subscription in London), and the public and Legislature of
Barbados (1,420).61
During the first week of November, deaths in Kingston were
occurring at the estimated rate of one hundred a day, rising in
the second week to one hundred and fifty or more. In one of
many overcrowded houses, twenty of the thirty-nine occupants
died in two days. In the west of the town, the Board of Health's
cholera hospital was quickly filled and remained so. On the 4th
of the month, an exhausted Dr Fiddes pleaded with the Board
to supplement the work of the subcommittees and the physi-
cians, two of whom were sick, by permitting the clergy to dis-
tribute opium and laudanum among the poor. The plea was
wisely refused, and besides, these and other drugs were in
desperately short supply. For a time, food supplies were also
desperately short as market people were not coming into town


and several bakers had died.62 In the existing state of public
alarm and medical ignorance, physicians and quacks alike had
an attentive audience and few had the inclination for half
measures.63 The newspapers teemed with 'remedies and modes
of cure, and with the nostrums of advertising charlatans'.64
There were golden opportunities for the unscrupulous.
As in the parishes, the burial of rapidly accumulating
corpses became a major problem. Some were left for days or
unceremoniously flung into nearby gullies.65 Traditional burial
grounds continued to be used and special cholera grounds were
opened within the town's precincts,66 but by the beginning of
November a large proportion of the corpses were being trans-
ported to a large cholera ground at May Pen estate, about one
and a half miles to the west of the town centre. In mid-
November clergymen were urged by the Board of Health not to
take their dead to the denominational grounds but to May Pen,
and a newly appointed Inspector of Graves and Burials was
instructed by the Board to ensure that corpses remaining above
ground after ten o'clock at night were despatched to the Pen.
Between November 5 and 10 alone, some three hundred and
seventy corpses had been interred in about twenty-six trenches

Desperate measures
While the godfearing of Kingston's populace appealed to
the Almighty in specially appointed days of island-wide
'Humiliation and Prayer', the more secular-minded Board of
Health attended to finding more unusual, radical methods of
ridding the town of its persistently 'pestiferous atmosphere'.
In late October, when deaths were occurring at the rate of ten
to fifteen a day and with no sign of an abatement, the
Commodore of the Jamaica Station resolved to deal with
cholera animalcula by firing broadsides of blank cartridges
from HMS Imaum. This, he informed the Admiralty, had been
'strongly recommended by Medical Men who witnessed its
effect at Cartagena'.68 The Board of Health, like the
Commodore, was convinced of the efficacy of a dramatic,
violent attack; nothing would be lost at least by the attempt.
Accordingly, the Board requested that the Island's military
authorities fire canons to the windward of the town every day
and that three hundred pounds of powder be delivered to the
batteries for the purpose. The Board also resolved to adopt the
system of fumigation used by British boards of health during
the epidemic years in Britain. One hundred pounds of
frankincense as well as a quantity of tar were to be obtained
and the permission of the Mayor sought so that fumigation of
houses and streets could commence.
Fearing a repetition of the destructive Kingston fire in 1843
the Mayor would not agree to the fumigation of all sections of
the town but he did sanction fumigation in 'open and obscure
places and recesses'.69 He also evidently sanctioned the firing
of cannons on the Parade, on the edge of town. On November
11 the Despatch wrote contemptuously that for two days the
town witnessed,

half-a-dozen explosions, morning and evening, from Col.
Smith's 'three pounders', stationed in the Parade, and discharged
by a couple of Artillerymen who have been permitted solemnly
to minister to the farce. On each occasion about four pounds of
powder were burned ... as a disinfectant of some quadrillions of
cubic feet of pestiferous atmosphere.

The farce of cannon firing continued for a few days, until the
Mayor began to have doubts about its utility.

At last, towards the end of November, it was evident that
cholera was on the retreat in the town. On the 23rd of the
month, deaths were occurring at the estimated rate of fifty a
day; by the end of the first week of December there were only
thirty-six patients at the cholera hospital in the west of the town
(a reduction of fourteen in four days) and at the other cholera
hospital, in the east, there was only one patient and the nursing
staff was being despatched to the parishes.
During December, cholera was sporadic and 'generally
tractable' although it was not until January 27, 1851, that
Kingston and Port Royal were officially declared free of the
disease. Spanish Town began to show signs of an abatement at
the same time as Kingston. On November 23, it was reported
that cholera had almost ceased its attacks, and nine days later
that it had 'entirely disappeared' from the town. As to the num-
ber of deaths that had occurred in Spanish Town and Kingston
there could only be rough estimates. The press estimated about
1,800 deaths in Spanish Town and anywhere between 4,000
and 5,000 in Kingston.70


The Response of the Legislature
The Assembly met only briefly during November and
December, 1850: for five days during the former month and
four days during the latter. The absence of a large number of
Assemblymen meant that legislative business was conducted
with a reduced quorum of eleven. It was 'desirable and pru-
dent', the Assembly observed, to postpone general legislative
business until 'such time as it may please Almighty God to
withdraw the pestilence under which the island is suffering'.
Expiring and expired laws were simply given a further five
months of life, statistical returns of cholera deaths including
details of the property of those who had died intestate were
ordered to be drawn up and four copious documents presented
to the House by the Governor, concerning the quarantine and
sanitary arrangements adopted by the British Central Board of
Health during the cholera epidemic of 1848-49, were referred
to a committee for the purpose of compiling and printing the
'useful parts'. The Assembly also took the opportunity of its
meeting to petition the Queen for a supply of African labour-
ers, to replace those native labourers who had died and were
continuing to die from cholera.71
By the time of the November meeting of the Legislature, the
local boards of health were in desperate need of funds. The
Spanish Town Commissioners responsible for distributing the
5,000 grant to the parish boards had disposed of all but 450.
The grant had been fairly evenly spread among the eastern and
central parishes, although the lion's share (1,200) had gone to
Kingston. Nevertheless, the Kingston board alone had incurred
liabilities of over 3,400.72 As desperately needed as funds
was a repeal of the law under which the local boards of health
operated in favour of a new law creating small, manageable
and more powerful boards. The Kingston Board of Health, in
particular, had shown itself incapable of performing any effec-
tive function under its existing composition. While the
Assembly did attend to these urgent matters during its brief
meeting in November it did so only after a prorogation and in


an inadequate fashion. An additional sum of 10,000 was allot-
ted to the Spanish Town Commissioners and the existing
boards of health were dissolved; new boards were to be creat-
ed, consisting of the Assemblymen, the Custos or resident
Senior Magistrate, the churchwardens 'and such other resident
gentlemen, not exceeding ten in the whole' in each particular
parish.73 The matter of providing the boards with more power
- by declaring them to be corporations was discussed but
ultimately rejected;74 nothing, it seems, was to be allowed to
interfere with the power (limited though it was) and the vested
interests possessed by the existing local authorities, the

Western parishes
On December 13, the last day of the December session, the
newly-formed Board of Health for Kingston appealed vainly to
the Assembly for more power and a sweeping measure of
sanitary reform.75 Three days later, frustrated at the refusal of
the Spanish Town Commissioners to provide it with more than
300 of the new grant and burdened by the debts of its
predecessor, the Board resolved to adjourn until it was in a
position to 'resume its functions with effect'.76 For the Spanish
Town Commissioners, Kingston had ceased to be a priority in
the allocation of its limited funds ... the lion's share now had
to be reserved for those parishes where there was no sign of an
abatement of epidemic cholera and where cholera had only
begun to reach epidemic proportions. Large sections of St
Andrew, St Dorothy, St David and Vere were free of epidemic
cholera by the end of December, but it continued in many
districts of other parishes, particularly St Thomas-in-the-East,
St Thomas-in-the-Vale and St George. Portland, which had
hitherto experienced only sporadic attacks, came in for its full
share. Only one western parish, Trelawny, had received any
funds from the Commissioners prior to mid-November;
hitherto cholera had appeared only very sporadically in the
west and it was uncertain if it would reach epidemic propor-
tions. During late November and early December, however,
epidemic cholera burst out in all the western parishes except
Westmoreland.77 Clearly, in view of the limited resources
available to the Commissioners and the prospect of further
cholera advances, only limited funds could justifiably be given
to Kingston and parishes where there were signs of abatement.
As early as the second week in November, sporadic cases of
cholera appeared at Falmouth, the capital of the western parish
of Trelawny, and, after Kingston, the busiest town in the island.
But it was not until several weeks later that epidemic cholera
appeared in the town and surrounding countryside.78 A vigor-
ous campaign by the local board of health to clean up the town
and the fact that Falmouth had the best supply of fresh water in
the island (piped underground from the Martha Brae River and
stored in a large stone reservoir in the centre of town) perhaps
accounts for the low death rate there compared to other towns
of similar size.79 The official almost certainly exaggerated -
estimate of deaths during the 1850 epidemic was four hundred
and eighty-five,80 just less that fourteen per cent of the pre-
epidemic population of the town. The parish as a whole, with a
population of some 30,000, suffered an estimated 2,388
deaths;81 most of these deaths occurred during December 1850
although cholera, with a persistence typical of the disease,
continued in very sporadic form until January 1852, and
possibly longer.82
There were, however, districts of Trelawny which saw only
sporadic or very mild cholera, in spite of the length of its stay.

These districts were largely confined to mountainous parts
where the cholera vibrio was kept at bay by the isolation of the
inhabitants, lower temperatures and lower absolute humidity,
and perhaps the use of rain water collected in tanks rather than
from rivers, ponds and wells. Other mountainous parts of the
island, but not all, escaped serious cholera outbreaks too, due
to one or more of the inhibiting factors: for example, the Santa
Cruz mountain area of St Elizabeth, the Pedro district of St Ann
and the military garrisons at Newcastle and Maroon Town.
The mountainous parish of Manchester hardly experienced
cholera at all. Contemporaries estimated that out of a popula-
tion of some 20,000 there were not above two dozen cases in
that parish.83
Like Trelawny, the western parishes of St James and St
Elizabeth experienced very sporadic cholera cases as early as
mid-November. But in St James epidemic cholera was raging
in several districts before month-end. The first death in
Montego Bay, the parish capital, was on November 28; three
weeks later a resident of the town described Montego Bay as
an immense assemblage of misery and death, "a mammoth
hospital sending out its dead for burial, with no time for
mourning." It was estimated that between 700 and 800 of the
town's six or seven thousand inhabitants died during December
1850. As in Trelawny, cholera continued to appear in various
parts of the parish, in sporadic form, during the year 1851.84
The parish of St Elizabeth was more fortunate. Reported deaths
in the parish were next to Manchester, the smallest in the
island: between three and four hundred, most of them having
occurred during December; subsequent deaths were very
scattered. At the parish capital of Black River, certainly no
better prepared to meet a cholera invasion than most other
towns, there were about 120 deaths among the pre-epidemic
population of between 900 and 1,000.85 As already noted, in
the Santa Cruz mountain area there was no serious outbreak of
cholera at all.
After a fewisolated cases of cholera in Hanover, a parish in
the extreme west of the island, epidemic cholera commenced
late in December, reaching its peak in many districts in late
January 1851. The parish capital of Lucea quickly came in for
its full share, and not surprisingly, since it was possibly the
dirtiest town in the island, with open, blocked sewers running
across its one main street, with utters choked with years of
accumulated filth, and with a water supply which was 'often so
largely charged with decomposing animal matter, that it will
blacken paint in the course of a few days'. The mortality in the
town was very high, although almost certainly not as high as
the contemporary estimate of 336, one third of the inhabitants.
Following the pattern in other towns, cholera took the lives of
only a handful of whites and 'respectable browns'.86
At the start of the new year, 1851, the only western parish
remain unscathed by cholera was Westmoreland. The popula-
tion of the parish was between 25,000 and 30,000, fifteen hun-
dred of whom lived in the parish capital of Savanna-la-Mar, a
town consisting chiefly of one main street running down to a
bay fringed with mangrove swamps. Deep mud, formed by the
recent rains, and undisturbed filth lay in the main street and
many private yards when the parish authorities learned of the
appearance of cholera in the east of the island; it was too far
away to cause any great concern, although the precaution of
naming a board of health was taken. But once news came that
cholera had struck in the neighboring parish, at Black River,
the authorities were galvanized into action: efforts were made
to clear away years of dirt and rubbish, blankets were distrib-
uted to board of health district committees, a cholera hospital






Extracted from the Notifications of the General Board of Health in England.

First Instruction.
Gu(;rd ray/list Loosnuess o/ hlli Boliels and Purying.

Before a person has a decided attack of Cholera, there is usually for
a few hours or longer, some looseness of the bowels or purging. If this
looseness is attended to at once, the disease is generally stopped. This
looseness is often unaccompanied by pain, but thigh must not put any one
off his guard, as to the importance of this warning. If a person is purged
let him go to bed, be kept quite warm, and if he is cold, apply bottles of
hot water, or bags filled with hot salt, or bran, to the stomach and feet.
Let him take immediately eight drops of laudanum in a wine glass of hot
and weak brandy and water; the same dose should be repeated every
2 hours, as long as he is purged : and should be given night and morning
for one or two days after the purging has stopped.

Second Instrution.
Hhat is to be done if a Pei sa.. i h,,e' -j:.." ;th Cholera.

This comes on with cold, giddiness, sickness, vomiting and purging
of what looks, like dirty water, or rice and water.. Let the patient get
t'nto"'a lit ed, and be %ell .coered .with blankets; apply bottles of hot
'water, or bags filled with hot -alt. and, i..r ran. to the stomach, spine,
and l eet be sure he is not exposed to a draught or cold, the object
being (o get him into a sweat. Put a large poultice of mustard and
vinegar over the stomach, and keep it on 15 or 20 minutes. Give the
person 15 drops of laudanum, with a teaspoonful of brandy, rum, or
other spirit in the absence of brandy, in a little hot water ; a little
ginger or cloves may be added. This medicine may be given every
hour for 6 hours, but not longer ; it must be then left otf. When the
patient begins to sweat, give him some hot tea, with a teaspoonful of

bL !o b~J, n ,,.. ',,,, k- ~.. ...... i. .. ,,. lh 1 . .. a.. ',, ,..:.. ,

Third Instruction.

Medical advi,:a should be got as soon as possible, in any case of
Bsizutb, as the del.y of even one hour may cause death.

(ItFt (ii-5,,..

Handbill distributed during the Cholera epidemics.


Fourth Instruction.
On u All kinds of fruits, salads, cucumber, celhry, nild pickles had better
lie avoided; also oysters, lobsters, crabs, inus.rls, or other sh.:ll fish.
The most wholesome articles of food are well baked bread, good
biscuits, rice, oatmeal, and good potatoes; solid food is better than

Fifth Instruction.
On /fl Ia)nnyer /' S-piris, RIm, Beer, ,c.

It is a very common notion that brandy, whiskey, rum, wine, and the
like, are good as a protection against the Cholera. This is a total and fatal
i;,sike : iii e very country and tomwn where ti,' ('hnlirn lii, broken out,
drunkards, and those who drink freely, have been the first and greatest
sufferers from the disease; temperate Persons ,,yi l .-,i, drunkards
usually die. *

Sixth Instruction.
,Against expo,,r. l,. II i / t.'d C-Id.

Wet and cold should as much as possible be guarded against, by
warm dry clothing ; sudden changes of temperature should also be

Seventh Instruction.
Conuernini (. Canli/uns and lFenti/ation.

N.. ]I, .. of greater import icc as a protection against Cholera,
1.>.f .,. 5i~i-Largocd suppy Trf fiTh-tgTr. Is, mml=eretl
iliir.. n .. remove all filth from and around dwellings; to lime-
wash livii' and sleeping apartments ; to admit freely pure air; and
especially o guard against over-crowding.
European experience has confirmed the experience of India, that
Cholera ii not contagious. There is no danger from infected persons;
the true danger is continuing to live in infected districts, in close,
damp, and filthy dwellings.

Jamaica National Archives.

_ __ __

was sought, pine boards for coffins were ordered, and grave
diggers were ordered to commence work in anticipation of a
cholera onslaught. The Mayor, Thomas McNeel, also decided
on an experiment which had been tried to good effect at two of
the island's military garrisons: the establishment of a cordon
sanitaire. This cordon, encompassing Savanna-la-Mar and
much of the central part of the parish, was guarded by regular
and special constables; their job was to ensure that no-one,
including outside suppliers of the local markets, crossed 'the
line'. Those who did hazard a crossing and were caught were
obliged to suffer the indignity and discomfort of fumigation
with tar, frankincense or some other supposedly purifying sub-
stance, and then a severe thrashing. All shipping was subject to
strict and lengthy quarantine. Although the line of the cordon
was crossed from time to time, despite the efforts of the con-
stables, the policy of self-imposed isolation was not without
success, at least for a time. Epidemic cholera did not break out
in Westmoreland until late May 1851, five months after its
appearance in Hanover.87

The Response from London
Cholera had been raging in the island for many weeks
before the full extent of its spread became known at the
Colonial Office in London. A despatch from the Governor, Sir
Charles Grey, dated October 26, had reported the appearance
of the disease in Port Royal, Kingston and parts of St
Catherine; but it was not until the arrival of the mail-packet in
mid-December that the Governor's subsequent despatch
brought news of cholera's virulent invasion of most of the
central and eastern parishes and the information that there was
the likelihood that it would 'spread throughout the island'. 88
With the arrival of this news and a flood of memorials from
West India Associations and West India business interests in
the United Kingdom,89 the Colonial Office began to consider
the most appropriate ways of aiding the stricken colony. Since
neither the Governor nor the Assembly had appealed for
medicines (although the many memorialists in the United
Kingdom had indicated a severe shortage) medical supplies
were not to be sent. The Admiralty, however, agreed that the
naval stores at Port Royal should be made available to the civil
authorities in Jamaica provided they were not needed by HM's
ships stationed there. They also agreed that four of the navy's
assistant surgeons should be dispatched to the island. The
Colonial Office gave permission for the sum of 3,000 from
the commissariat chest in Jamaica to be distributed, at Sir
Charles Grey's discretion, among the widows and orphans of
cholera victims. It also agreed that three highly qualified and
experienced physicians, recommended by the British Central
Board of Health, should proceed to the West Indies one of
them, Dr Gavin Milroy, to Jamaica, the others to the British
Windward Islands. 90
The mail-packet bringing news of the financial grant and
bearing Dr Milroy and the four assistant naval surgeons arrived
at Port Royal on January 28, 1851. The two physicians
appointed for the Windwards had previously disembarked at
the island of St Thomas. Dr Milroy, like his colleagues, had
had a good deal of practical experience of cholera both in the
tropics and during the British epidemic of 1848-49. Milroy, in
particular, came highly recommended by the British Central
Board of Health, having been employed by the Board as a
medical superintending inspector during the earlier British
epidemic. He was later to distinguish himself during the
Crimean War (1853-1856) as a member of the Sanitary
Commission at Scutari.91

The instructions issued to the three physicians by the British
Board were clear: Dr Milroy, in Jamaica, was not to treat indi-
viduals; he was to act only in an advisory capacity, informing
local authorities, estate managers, physicians and other indi-
viduals on the best means of preventing and combating
cholera. His colleagues in the Windwards were to do the same
in order to prevent the spread of the disease into other West
Indian colonies where preventative measures were thought to
be as 'deficient' as they were in Jamaica. They were to report
to and be guided by the Governors of the respective colonies.92
Dr Milroy began work without delay. After consulting Sir
Charles Grey, the principal medical officer of the troops and
members of the Kingston Board of Health, he proceeded on
February 1 to tour the island for two months. It was in the west,
in Hanover and St James in particular, that cholera was
proving most destructive and it was westward that the
Governor directed Dr Milroy. By February 10 he was at Lucea
where cholera still lingered and found that the inhabitants had
suffered in a 'most terrible manner'. Four days previously he
had crossed the cordon sanitaire in Westmoreland, presumably
without the usual treatment afforded to those who crossed the
'line', and had spoken to the board of health at Savanna-la-
Mar. As a firm miasmatist he would have disapproved of the
cordon established by the board but on the whole he found the
board's work highly commendable. From Lucea, in accordance
with Sir Charles Grey's suggestion, he planned to move on to
Montego Bay and then eastwards round the island to St
Thomas-in-the-East and Kingston. Wherever he went, as he
wrote to Edwin Chadwick, the great English sanitary reformer,
he found that a 'prodigious deal requires to be done'.93
John Parkin was an English physician who came to the
island in December 1850 at his own expense out of what Dr
Milroy described as 'professional zeal'. He worked with sev-
eral boards of health, and later averred that it was only the
Westmoreland Board of Health which took any notice of the
advice offered by Milroy.94 The truth of this is suggested by Dr
Milroy's failure to mention any but the Westmoreland Board in
his correspondence with the Colonial Office. But Dr Milroy
was well aware, if not before then during the course of his tour,
that the boards were hamstrung by a combination of a severe
lack of funds, physicians and medicines and of power to imple-
ment their recommendations. He was confident, however, that
whatever the shortcomings of the local boards of health, the
source of legislative power in the island, the Assembly, was
willing if not anxious to embark on a health and sanitary
reform programme; that it was simply awaiting the advice and
guidance of an expert on the matter. On March 10, 1851, he
told Chadwick in a letter from Buff Bay in St George that he
had been giving a great deal of consideration to the subject of
public health as the Assembly 'I am told is unwilling to take
any steps until they learn my views'.95 Dr Milroy was to find
much to his disappointment that he had been misinformed.

Dr Milroy's report
Back in Kingston, having completed his island circuit, he
set to work drafting a report to Sir Charles Grey96 in
anticipation of its submission to the Assembly. The report,
dated March 31, delved into the miasmic cause of cholera in
general as well as local island circumstances accumulated
filth and sanitary neglect which 'inevitably favoured' the
development of a choleraic atmosphere and which gave
'activity and force to its operation'. The need, he pointed out,
was not piecemeal legislation but a comprehensive scheme of
sanitary and health reform which should include an accurate


and systematic registration of births and deaths (the 'true
foundation of all permanent and successful sanitary
legislation'), encouragement for physicians to settle and
practise in the island, the provision of dispensaries for the use
of the entire population, and the creation of boards of health
with more defined and extensive powers than the existing
boards possessed. These reforms, he suggested, should hinge
on the appointment of a single superintending medical officer
to each parish by the Governor, who would superintend and be
assisted by the board of health in his parish and by a corps of
young physicians (three or more, depending on the size of the
parish and its population) each in charge of a dispensary. Each
medical officer's principal duties would be to ensure that
medical aid and medicines were provided for those of the
labouring population who required them, to act as sanitary
inspectors of villages, estates and towns, to superintend a
smallpox vaccination campaign and the registration of births
and deaths, and perhaps to act as a parochial coroner. The offi-
cers would also regularly report and make recommendations to
the Governor, for submission to the Legislature. How the
scheme should be financed and the details of its organization
were matters for the Legislature to ponder but, Dr Milroy
warned, only immediate action would prevent Jamaica's inhab-
itants from suffering from recurring disaster.
Milroy did not give all the details of his scheme since he
anticipated presenting these to an Assembly committee which
he hoped would be appointed to consider health and sanitary
reform when the Legislature convened in mid-February.97
During his tour of the island he had written to Sir Charles Grey
suggesting that such a committee could usefully commence
work during his absence by hearing the evidence of physicians
from across the island, leaving his own evidence until his
planned arrival in Spanish Town. While he thus hoped to save
valuable time he found, much to his annoyance, that it was not
until he was actually in Spanish Town, in late March, that the
hoped-for committee was appointed; equally annoying was the
fact that there was a lengthy delay before he was summoned to
appear before it.

The Assembly's response
A bill named the 'Sanitary Bill' by Dr Milroy which
included many of his ideas was finally introduced into the
Assembly on April 30, but three weeks later the session ended
with the Bill only at the second reading stage. Another useful
bill, in Milroy's opinion, which aimed to 'provide for medical
relief in the parishes', was left at the same stage.98 Objections,
he wrote angrily to the Colonial Office, had been made to the
probable expense of the measures and the lack of time to
properly consider them; yet in his opinion an excessive amount
of time had been spent in considering a new Police Bill. With
one or two exceptions, Members thought the next session
would be soon enough to consider health and sanitary
measures. The Assembly, he wrote, had 'neglected its duty ...
in a most discreditable manner'."
The Sanitary and the Medical Relief Bills were not the only
measures to be abandoned during the session. A bill to encour-
age the study of medicine and surgery in Jamaica and another
to establish parochial dispensaries and district medical officers
were also left in abeyance. Two notices of associated motions
were not brought forward at all: one had proposed that a prize
worth two hundred guineas should be given for the best essay
written in the island on Asiatic cholera, while the other pro-
posed that a small annuity should be provided for the widows

and orphans of physicians who had fallen 'victims to the cause
of humanity'.100 The Assembly was to prove more generous in
its thanks than in its pecuniary grants to the widows and
orphans of physicians who had shown their humanity during
the epidemic. But during the meeting of the Legislature
between February and May 1851, the Assembly did attend to
the considerable financial embarrassment of the local boards of
health by authorizing them to draw up a list of liabilities for
submission to the Board of Public Accounts.101 The House was
less generous in providing funds for the Spanish Town
Commissioners; their remaining funds 500 in mid February,
reserved in case of an outbreak of cholera in Westmoreland -
were not supplemented with an additional grant. Instead,
1,000 was placed in the hands of a Central Board of Health,
created under an Act passed on May 23.

The Central Board of Health
This latter Act was passed, according to Dr Milroy, only
reluctantly and after a personal appeal; he had urged the
immediate adoption of a measure to establish a 'competent
board' which could at the very least, during the recess, prepare
measures for the consideration of the Assembly when it
convened. Ideally, Dr Milroy hoped to have a salaried board
composed mainly of physicians with power to act effectively in
matters of sanitation and public health (including the power to
prosecute individuals, corporations and local authorities at
public expense), and with authority to direct and control the
local boards of health. And he hoped to have such a board free
of interference by political, non-medical authorities specifi-
cally the Governor-in-Council, the traditional source of power
in island medical matters.102 However, the Board of Health
Act, which was hurriedly passed through the Assembly on May
14 and 15, was certainly not based on any suggestions Dr
Milroy might have offered. While physicians were well repre-
sented on the Board of nine and while statutory provision was
given for them to call witnesses and to administer oaths in an
investigation of the sanitary condition and state of health of the
island, not one member was salaried. This meant that their
work would have to be part-time. All power remained vested
in the Governor-in-Council. Only when any district of the
island was threatened by an epidemic disease, not before, could
the Board make use of the 1,000 made available to it; only
then would it draw up and issue suggestions and rules for
protecting any threatened district, providing the Governor-in-
Council approved. In its dealings with local authorities the
vestries, and the boards of health created under the Act of
November 1850 the Central Board of Health would have to
depend on its skill of persuasion. This new and virtually
powerless Board was given a life of seven months.
The Board put more enthusiasm and effort into its work than
the Legislature could reasonably have expected from
unsalaried officials. It immediately began a correspondence
with the British Central Board of Health which from time to
time supplied the Board with voluminous information gathered
during the recent British epidemic and with British and local
naval and army medical officials. It issued questionnaires on
sanitary and public health matters to physicians, health officers
and clergymen in the various parishes.'03 Anxious to provide
the Board with the benefit of his experience, Dr Milroy delayed
his departure from the island. When he did return home, in
August 1851, he maintained a regular correspondence and
acted as the Board's unofficial spokesman and lobbyist at
Whitehall. 04


While the Board spent a good deal of time gathering and
analysing information with a view to making suggestions on
reform to the Legislature, it also gave attention to serious
developments in the parishes. In late May 1851, cholera
breached Westmoreland's cordon sanitaire, quickly making the
parish suffer for having kept the disease at bay for so long. At
Savanna-la-Mar, between 300 and 350 lives were officially
reported lost, the epidemic reaching its height in the town in
In the meantime, other parishes were experiencing only
sporadic outbreaks, but in July a new scourge, smallpox,
appeared in Trelawny and spread to nearly all parts of the
island. It remained until mid-1852, possibly longer, and took
hundreds of lives. Three other epidemic diseases, influenza,
measles and scarlatina, followed quickly in the wake of
smallpox and savagely attacked the island's weakened,
susceptible population.1o5 Considering the Central Board of
Health's lack of executive and financial power, there was little
it could do to aid the stricken parishes but rules and bye-laws
to help prevent and treat epidemic disease were submitted to
the Governor-in-Council, advice was printed and distributed
and appeals were made to parochial officials to enforce
existing sanitary bye-laws. And once smallpox appeared in
Trelawny, the Board confirmed the outbreak, then appointed a
physician as chief vaccinator for the affected districts; since
vaccination had hardly been practised in the island, there was
only a very limited stock of lymph, and a supply had to be
obtained from abroad. When cholera flared up again in parts of
Hanover in October 1851 the Board dispatched a physician
armed with a supply of medicines.106
Considerable painstaking effort was put into drawing up a
general report on the health and sanitary state and needs of the
island together with details of the Board's activities during its
seven months of statutory existence. The report, nearly six
hundred pages in length with appendices, was a sharp
indictment of existing conditions and a plea for drastic,
immediate reforms. Without such reforms, the island would
remain a hotbed of epidemic diseases. While changes in per-
sonal hygiene were needed, the main impetus for change would
have to come from local and central government which had
had been 'fearfully negectful' of the welfare of the island's
population.107 The reforms needed including those already
outlined in Dr Milroy's report to the Governor earlier in the
year were given in great detail. One which was particularly
needed, the report emphasized, was the Act under which the
existing Central Board of Health was constituted. A new Act
should be passed which would clearly define what the
functions of the Board were (the Attorney-General, Chief
Justice and some of the Council disagreed in their
interpretation of the law) and which would provide the Board
with more extensive and defined powers. During the seven
months of its existence, the Board had been frustrated by lack
of cooperation from local officials and the absence or
vagueness of parochial bye-laws submitted for approval
because of doubts about their legality. Twenty rules and bye-
laws had been submitted in June 1851 and it had taken over
four weeks for a decision to be made as to whether or not they
should be approved, largely because of what Sir Charles Grey
described as 'defects in the Island Act'. In the end only one of
the bye-laws was approved.19
A new Central Board of Health Act was passed by the
Legislature during its session at the beginning of 1852, clearly
stating what the duties of the Central Board were to be and
providing it with a sum of 80 to enable it to employ a

secretary. Unfortunately, the Act left the Board virtually as
powerless as it had been before. The members of the previous
Board were retained but during the twenty-one months of the
Board's statutory life they were to remain unsalaried and
without funds for their activities, except for whatever had been
saved from the 1,000 granted under the old Act. It was not
long before the Board was unable even to pay its postage.
Undoubtedly, the Board was disappointed by the new Act -
and by the failure of the Assembly to take up its proposal for
reform during the session but at least the House had
appointed a committee of eleven to examine the Board's report
during the recess and to draw up sanitary and public health
legislation in time for the following session.
Whatever hopes were held by the Board were soon dashed
by the failure of the committee to meet even once during the
recess.110 In the new session of November 1852 to April 1853
- and indeed in subsequent sessions only one of the reforms
urged in the Board's report of late 1851 was presented as a bill
in the Assembly. This bill, to establish dispensaries and 'effi-
cient medical relief in the rural districts', received its first read-
ing and was then rejected."11 The members of the Assembly, in
fact, had no intention of embarking on a major programme of
reform, especially after the apparent disappearance of cholera,
which they perhaps thought would never return, especially
when it became clear that the British Government was still
determined to go ahead with the abandonment of its protection
of British Colonial sugar. With the now familiar cry of 'ruin',
the Assembly persisted with its policy of financial retrench-
ment in anticipation of the lean years ahead.
After the cholera onslaught of 1850-52, the island remained
free of the disease in epidemic form for nearly two years, long
enough for the lethargy of pre-cholera days to return. The
Central Board of Health continued to meet from time to time,
but not the local boards, and the local authorities maintained
their indifference to sanitary bye-laws.112 The Assembly,
meanwhile, was preoccupied by the retrenchment crisis and the
discussions leading, in 1854, to an amendment to the island's
constitution, which was intended to add stability to the
government at a time of great economic uncertainty. Even
basic sanitary precautions had been abandoned in the
complacent belief, or hope, that cholera would not return. In
the two years of reprieve, sanitary abuses were, as the Central
Board of Health commented, 'aggravated by the lapse of time,
and the disregard of the authorities to the existing laws'.113 On
February 22, 1854, with the new epidemic on the point of
breaking out, the Kingston Daily Advertiser wrote that the
island was as 'ill-prepared as ... four years ago, to combat the
insidious foe'.

A new attack
The first reported victim of the insidious foe in the
epidemic of 1854-55 was a seaman who had recently arrived in
the island from Halifax, Canada, and who almost certainly
brought cholera with him on board ship. He was taken to the
overcrowded, dirty and poorly-drained Kingston Public
Hospital where the disease quickly spread. Three days later, on
February 15, cholera appeared among the hapless inmates of
the Lunatic Asylum on West Street, the same street as the
hospital. The inmates had suffered severely from cholera in
1850;114 it returned in 1854 with what the Governor, Sir Henry
Barkly (who had replaced Sir Charles Grey in 1853) described
as 'great violence'. For a time the disease remained within the
walls of the hospital and asylum, but its presence in the town


was enough to shake the Corporation out of its lethargy.
Meetings were held and an eleventh-hour attempt was made to
clean up the desperately dirty streets and yards; the
Corporation, however, as in 1850, was 'too much embarrassed
to grant more than a trifling sum' of money towards the task.115
The Kingston Board of Health and the Central Board at
Spanish Town were also in financial straits, but the latter
appointed a Sanitary Officer without pay to assist in
Kingston's preparation for a cholera invasion. The Board also
quickly drafted and distributed a pamphlet on the symptoms,
prevention and treatment of the disease; rules and regulations
for preserving public health were, with prompt Governor-in-
Council approval, also issued. Sir Henry Barkly, in submitting
to the Assembly correspondence he had received from the
Mayor and the Central Board of Health on the 'threatened
emergency', appealed for extraordinary executive powers and,
despite the 'embarrassed' state of island finances, for a large
enough financial grant to enable the authorities to act
promptly and vigorously.116
The Assembly, however, did not share the alarm of the
Governor, the Central Board of Health and the Corporation: it
chose to believe that a grant of 300 for the purpose of
cleaning and draining the Kingston Public Hospital and the
Asylum was adequate to prevent an epidemic. In fact, a sum
four times as great was needed for that very limited purpose.
Even a larger and more general-purpose grant, so late in the
day, would not have contained cholera within the two institu-
tions, especially in view of the failure to isolate the infected.
The Assembly was clearly prepared to take the risk of a repeti-
tion of another island-wide epidemic. 'Economy is admirable
in due season,' the Governor commented in a letter to the
Secretary of State for the Colonies shortly after his appeal to
the Assembly, 'but ... it will be but a melancholy reflection
that a few hundred pounds were saved, at a moment, when, in
all human probability, their prompt expenditure might have
saved the lives of thousands!'117
Any hopes of confining the cholera outbreak to the patients
and inmates of the hospital and the asylum soon evaporated.
Shortly after the appearance of cholera in the asylum, the
inmates both the sick and the uninfected were transported
to the unfinished buildings of what was to be the new Lunatic
Asylum, Bellevue, just outside Kingston. Although the incom-
plete buildings were clean and better drained than the old asy-
lum, the disease spread unchecked. The Kingston Public
Hospital authorities also found that an attempt to thin out the
crowded wards by moving a number of patients away from the
hospital to Admiral's Pen, to the north of town was no solution.
Cholera was soon raging in both the hospital and the Pen. And
by the end of February the disease was rife among the four
hundred convicts at the General Penitentiary in Kingston. The
penitentiary, like the nearby hospital and asylum, was
overcrowded, ill-drained and dirty, but the convicts had to
remain where they were since the prison authorities could find
nowhere adequately secure for them.
During late February or early March, cholera appeared
among the general population of Kingston, four or five cases
coming to light every day. The local Board of Health was
active in distributing medicines and other relief, using funds
raised by subscription, 118 but was not confident of its ability to
keep the disease in check: 'it will eventually triumph over
every effort to restrain it', the Secretary of the Board told the
Governor. Sir Henry Barkly feared that not only would cholera
'triumph' in Kingston but that the anticipated rainy season
would cause the disease to spread across the whole island.'19

By the time cholera in epidemic form eventually
disappeared from Kingston, towards the end of March 1854,
some two hundred lives had been lost.120 While the Governor
attributed the low mortality in the town, compared to that of
1850-51, to the 'excellent arrangements' of the local Board of
Health, it is clear that, in fact, the populace had developed a
natural immunity to the disease as had a large proportion of
the general island population. By the end of the epidemic,
between 4,000 and 5,000 lives had been lost, according to
contemporary estimates,'21 far fewer of course than in the first
epidemic. Many of the areas attacked by cholera in 1850 and
1851 suffered a reappearance in 1854 but it also appeared in
many areas hitherto untouched. In these areas, as could be
expected, the attack was particularly severe.122
When epidemic cholera burst out beyond Kingston,
beginning in early to mid-March, it seemed at first to follow a
distinct route along the mountain road to the north of the town
leading to Stony Hill and Lawrence Tavern; possibly the Wag
Water River, whose route the road followed, had become
infected. In mid-March thirteen cases were reported to the east
of Kingston, in the parish of St David; a month later cholera
was reported to be extending itself deeper into the parish.123
On the night of April 22, cholera seemed to develop
simultaneously in four or five localities in and around Spanish
Town, taking 129 lives in Spanish Town itself over the
following four weeks and more lives in June and possibly in
July. Again cholera seemed to follow a river path, this time the
Rio Cobre which passed by Spanish Town; on this route the
village of Linstead was attacked in May causing what the
Governor described as 'terrible havoc'. It then seemed to strike
eastwards, into the parishes of St Thomas-in-the-Vale and St
John. By late May, cholera had appeared in most of the north-
ern and eastern parishes taking, by early July, an estimated
seven hundred lives in St Ann and five hundred in Metcalf and
St George; mortality was also 'very high' according to Sir
Henry Barkly's information in St Thomas-in-the-Vale, St John,
Clarendon and Vere.124 By mid-August, epidemic cholera had
abated in all the parishes except St Mary where, after a previ-
ous mild outbreak, it had returned with virulence.'25
In all the parishes, boards of health were convened, some
after cholera had been in their parishes for some time, but the
usual problem of lack of funds dogged their efforts.126 The
matter was raised in the Assembly in March 1854 and it was
resolved that the Board of Public Accounts should enquire into
the expediency of making 'some immediate provision' to meet
the likely cost of an epidemic and prepare a bill on the subject.
No bill was prepared and the House did not deem it necessary
to pursue the matter. The same was true of another resolution
passed later in the same month to the effect that the Board
should also prepare a bill to authorize the vestries to impose a
tax for the purpose of raising money for cholera purposes.'27
The proposal put forward by one Member that 100 should be
provided by the Legislature for each parish 'in case of
necessity' was rejected outright. Thus the Assembly was
unwilling to provide funds for the boards of health and the
vestries were not to be permitted to raise money to protect their
own parishes. When, in July, Sir Henry Barkly considered
recalling the Legislature in the hope that Members had come to
their senses he was persuaded that it would be pointless.
Members, he was told, would be 'very much disinclined to
leave their homes, and that nothing really would be done even
if they did meet'.128 Boards of health, therefore, were obliged
to rely on private generosity and on running up debts in the
hope of future generosity by the Assembly. The British


Government assisted the boards when in July it provided the
Governor with 1,000 for cholera purposes,129 but this sum did
not go far to meet their needs.
Most of the money provided by the British Government was
reserved by the Governor for the boards of health in the
western parishes along whose boundaries cholera seemed to
hover during the months of June, July and August.130 The cat-
alyst was perhaps the unusually heavy October rains which
came after a four-week period during which cholera had all but
disappeared in every central and eastern parish. When the rains
came, cholera broke out in sporadic form in many of latter
parishes and in a virulent, epidemic form in the west.
Westmoreland and St Elizabeth suffered during the outbreak,
but not as severely as Trelawny, Hanover and St James, where
cholera was reported to be 'raging' during November and
December.131 As soon as the disease appeared in the west, Sir
Henry Barkly distributed the limited funds at his disposal to the
local boards and, after consultation with the Central Board of
Health, appointed a visiting British physician, Dr Craig, as a
roving adviser and practitioner in the most stricken districts of
the west.132 There was little else the Governor could do.
Exactly when epidemic cholera ceased in the west or when
the disease in sporadic form finally disappeared in the central
and eastern parishes is unknown; there is no 'last case' to
provide a tidy conclusion to the history of the disease in the
island. All that is known is that cholera disappeared for ever in
February, or possibly March, 1855.133 There were some indi-
viduals, such as the members of the Central Board of Health,
who were convinced that cholera had not gone but was lying
dormant, awaiting only certain favourable circumstances for a
renewal of its attack. In Jamaica, the Board warned the
Legislature, cholera 'has found a home a rest congenial to its
brood; and, like other epidemic maladies, will from time to
time, in a sporadic and epidemic form, break forth and claim its
prey'.134 The Board was mistaken, but its warning was under-
standable in view of the fact that the island had already
suffered two cholera epidemics and that the Assembly, the one
body capable of initiating and financing a comprehensive pro-
gramme of public health and sanitary reform, appeared to be

A decade of neglect
This apparent lack of concern during the years following the
epidemic of 1854-1855 was reflected in the Assembly's
disbanding of the central and local boards of health in March
1855 and the complete dearth of public health and sanitary
legislation on the island's statute books during the ten-year
period before the introduction of Crown Colony Government.
During these ten years any temporary precautions made during
the last epidemic were abandoned in favour of the easy-going,
careless pre-cholera days, as William Sewell, an American
visitor to the island, observed in 1860. Neglect and apathy, he
reported, were everywhere to be seen, with the local authorities
failing to insist on even the most basic of sanitary precautions.
Echoing the condemnation expressed years before in the
private correspondence of Gavin Milroy and the 1852 report of
the Central Board of Health, Sewell concluded that the island's
governing classes had 'shamefully neglected' the inhabi-
What the Central Board of Health described as a strong and
'unbecoming' fatalism among the ruling classes,136 together
with financial retrenchment, the expectation of ruin with the
coming of sugar equalization, and the lack of attention to

public health and sanitation in England were all partly to blame
for this neglect. But there was also a conviction among many
white colonists that the blacks were to blame for their own
misery: the cholera epidemics brought into the full light of day
almost unbelievable squalor, malnutrition and chronic disease
among the blacks, but the exposure of this state of affairs
seemed only to confirm the view that they were congenitally
idle, immoral and unwilling to better themselves. This being
so, any attempt to impose a programme of public health and
sanitary reform would be not only a waste of time and effort
but also a waste of money. Besides, many whites took the view
that since there had been disease in the island's more
prosperous past it was obviously not the cause of its present
decline in fortunes, and therefore not worthy of much
attention. 137
Numerous accounts written during the cholera years
describe the enormous difficulties the epidemics caused among
many of the island's sugar planters138 in particular their dif-
ficulty in planting and reaping crops because of the deaths of
workers or because workers were fearful or dispirited or were
demanding 'ruinous' wages. Numerous peasants and small
farmers neglected or abandoned their cultivations.139 The mon-
etary loss to many individuals was undoubtedly great. So was
the human misery of many of those who survived the epi-
demics. Scarcely a family in the island could have failed to
suffer the loss of friends and relatives, and hundreds of chil-
dren, made into 'cholera orphans' during the epidemics, were
left to fend for themselves.140 It is interesting to speculate on
the ways in which the losses created by cholera influenced later
developments in the island's history: the religious revival in the
early 1860s, for example, and the discontent which led to
bloodshed and major constitutional change in 1865.

After 1865
It was that constitutional change and the enquiries into the
cause of the insurrection in 1865 which brought in their train
the desperately needed public health and sanitary reforms
which cholera and the loss of some 31,000 lives had failed to
bring forth. In the twenty years after the establishment of
Crown Colony Government, the foundation of Jamaica's
medical services were laid and a start made on improving town
sanitation.141 But progress was slow, and the island's popula-
tion was to suffer, into the twentieth century, from many of the
debilitating diseases, such as hookworm, yaws and tuber-
culosis, which the Central Board of Health had described in
1852 as annually thinning the population and yet attracting
little or no public attention.142 But at least cholera, the disease
which had proved the most short-lived, the most ruthless and
destructive in the island's history, had gone for good. The only
grim reminders today of the 'cholera days' of one hundred and
thirty years ago are the many overgrown and disused cholera
cemeteries scattered across the island.


Notes and References

This article was written a number ofyears ago
and is essentially a narrative description of
the progress of the Asiatic Cholera epidemic
that struck Jamaica between 1851 and 1855,
and how the authorities in the island met or
failed to meet its challenges. Readers who
are interested in recent demographic assess-
ments of the epidemic in Jamaica and the
Caribbean generally should see Philip
Curtin's Death by Migration: Europe's
Encounter with the Tropical World in the
Nineteenth Century (Cambridge University
Press, 1989) and the article by Brian Higgins
and Kenneth Kiple in the Jamaican Historical
Review, Vol. XVII, 1991. Higgins and Kiple
provide extensive footnotes for those readers
who might wish to research the topic further,
and they help to explain why it was that in
proportion to their total number in Jamaica
the black population was more likely to
succumb to the Cholera vibrios than East
Indians and those of European descent. They
estimate the total number of deaths in the
island as 40,000 more than the figure of
31,000 suggested by Gisela Eisner in her
book Jamaica, 1830 1930, a Study in
Economic Growth, originally published in
1961, and the figure used in my article. The
higher figure is possibly nearer the truth,
although as Higgins and Kiple admit, the
mortality figures for the cholera epidemic are
inevitably impressionistic in the absence of
hard data.
1. For accounts of cholera in North America
see J. S. Chambers, The Conquest of
Cholera, America's Greatest Scourge
(MacMillan of New York, 1938); F. H.
Top, The History of American Epidemi-
ology (St Louis, 1952); G. F. Pyle, 'The
Diffusion of Cholera in the United States
in the 19th Century', in Geographical
Analysis, vol I, pp. 59-75.
2. Copy of a Report made by Dr Milroy to
the Colonial Office on the Cholera
Epidemic in Jamaica, 1850-1851
(London, 1854) p.5. Milroy's report here-
after cited as MR.
3. Approximate mortality statistics for
Barbados given in Jill Sheppard's The
Redlegs of Barbados: their Origin and
History (KTO Press, New York, 1977),
p.75. Statistics for St Christopher given
in Votes of the Assembly of Jamaica
(hereafter cited as Votes), appendix 2, pp.
1-20. A fund of information on the
cholera epidemics in the eastern
Caribbean is to be found in the records of
the British Central Board of Health,
Public Records Office, reference MH
4. MR., p.33. John Parkin, Statistical Report
of the Epidemic Cholera in Jamaica
(London, 1852), p.6, estimated 40,000.
The official but unreliable statistics com-
piled for the Legislature and presented in
January 1852 show a total
5. Gisela Eisner, Jamaica, 1830-1930, a
Study in Economic Growth (1961; by
Greenwood Press, 1974), p.136.
6. Norman Longmate, King Cholera: The
Biography of a Disease (London, 1966),

p.235; Jacques May, The Ecology of
Human Disease (New York, 1958), pp.
7. Votes, April 22, 1851, pp. 373-6; MH
13/248; Report by the General Board of
Health of Jamaica. (Spanish Town, 1852),
pp. 4, 6-7, 79-121, 215-54. The latter
report hereinafter cited as BH.
8. Philip D. Curtin, Two Jamaicas: The Role
of Ideas in a Tropical Colony, 1830-1865
(Harvard U.P., 1955), pp. 160-1.
9. Eisner, p.357.
10. G.W. Roberts, The Population of Jamaica
(Cambridge, 1957), p.177.
11. BH., pp. 102-3, 121-122; J.C. Phillippo,
Cholera in Jamaica in 1850, 51 and 1854;
and the Lessons to be learnt therefrom
(Kingston? 1892), pp. 18, 24.
12. MR., pp. 12, 39-42, 116-117. See also
Votes, 1850-52 appendix 23, p.123.
13. In 1850 the arrangement and construction
of the waterworks were said to be 'faulty
and in disrepair'. MR., p.51.
14. BH., map of Spanish Town, 1851; MR.,
pp.34-5, 57-8, 61-2, 111; C.O. 137/307,
C.E. Grey to Earl Grey, Oct. 26, 1850, no.
86; C.O. 137/308, Admiralty to Hawes,
Nov. 21, 1850 (encl.). Quotations from
15. MR., pp. 39, 107. See also, for example,
Colonial Standard and Jamaica Despatch
(hereafter cited as Despatch), Nov. 6, 14,
19, 1850.
16. MR., pp. 7, 79-87, 116-17; Votes, 1850-
51, pp. 123-7.
17. C. 0. 137/318, Grey to Newcastle, Sept.
23, 1853, no. 93; MR., pp. 80, 84.
18. C. 0. 137/307, C.E. Grey to Earl Grey,
Oct 26, 1950, no.86; Despatch, Oct. 10,
19. MR., pp. 7-9.
20. On September 26 there was a death in the
northern parish of St James 'under cir-
cumstances which seem to indicate that it
was from an attack of pestilential
cholera', but the evidence was 'imperfect'
since the patient was not examined by a
medical practitioner. MR., p.12.
21. MR., pp. 12, 36-7; Suppl. to Falmouth
Post, Oct. 14, 18, 1850 (from Morning
Journal). The Falmouth Post hereafter
cited as F Post. See also Despatch, Oct.
16, 1850.
22. MR., p. 36; C. 0. 137/308, Admiralty to
Hawes, Nov. 21, 1850 (end.).
23. Ibid.; Despatch, Oct. 31, 1850.
24. MR., pp. 36-7; Despatch, Nov. 7, 1850.
25. Despatch, Oct. 11, 1850; Votes, March 5,
1851, pp. 210-11.
26. MR., pp. 42-3; E Post, Oct. 18, 1850
(from Despatch).
27. Despatch, Oct. 14, 18, 22-26, 1850; E
Post, Oct. 22, 1850 (from Despatch).
28. Despatch, Oct, 12, 1850. A 'competent
board' was to consist of the Assemblymen
of the parish, the Custos or Senior
Magistrate, the physicians and church-
wardens. The board for Kingston was to
include the Corporation.
29. One hundred and twenty-eight physi-

cians were registered with the College of
Physicians and Surgeons in Jamaica in
1850, at least two of whom were off the
island. Many parishes had only two or
three resident physicians during the
cholera epidemics and this number was
sometimes reduced due to debility, sick-
ness and death. BH., appendix H.
30. Rotting fruit and vegetables, as well as
all uncooked fresh fruit and vegetables
were supposed to be highly susceptible
to cholera animalculaa'. See, for exam-
ple, the Notice to the Public in Despatch,
Oct. 12, 1850.
31. Henry Blaine Foster, Rise and Progress of
Wesleyan-Methodism in Jamaica
(London, 1881), p.133.
32. Despatch, Oct. 16-18, 22, 1850; Suppl. to
F Post, Oct. 18, 24, 1850 (from
33. Parochial physicians, like their Kingston
counterparts, tended to abandon the idea
of presenting daily reports to their
boards of health once epidemic cholera
broke out. Parkin, p. 34. For an example
of the kind of workload placed on
parochial physicians during the epidem-
ic in the parishes see Votes, March 5,
1851, pp. 213-14.
34. Phillippo, p. 15; MR., p. 14; Despatch,
Nov. 19, 1850.
35. Motion Papers of the House of Assembly
(Spanish Town, 1851); Votes, Dec. 13,
1850, pp. 52-4; Despatch, October 22,
36. The first death occurred on October 19.
The second death was that of Dr Parmer,
leaving only one physician in town. MR.,
p. 51; BH., p. 199.
37. MR., pp. 12-13; Despatch, Oct. 25, Nov.
4, 1850; EPost, Oct. 25, 1850, p. 12 (from
Despatch and the Morning Journal).
38. C. 0. 137/307, C. E. Grey to Earl Grey,
Oct. 26, 1850, no. 88; Votes, Oct. 22-5,
1850, pp. 18-25; E Post, Oct. 25, 1850.
39. These views were not documented dur-
ing the October 1850 session but were
certainly discussed in subsequent ses-
sions. See Despatch, Oct. 30, 1850
(debate) which gives a hint of Members'
opinions; same newspaper, Jan. 17, 1851;
C. 0. 137/326, Barkly to Grey, Feb 8,
1855, no. 14.40. BH., p. 2.
41. Motion Papers of the . Assembly
(Spanish Town, 1851).
42. Votes, Nov. 21, 1850, pp. 42-3.
43. The following account of the activities of
the boards of health is based on the
reports and resolutions published in the
following newspapers: Despatch, Oct. 24,
25, 30, Nov. 4, 7, 8, 11, 14, 15, 18, 19,21,
22, 26, 1850; E Post, Oct. 25, Nov. 5, 11,
15, 19, 22, 1850.
44. Quarantine was imposed on vessels
which had been at sea for I 'ss than five
days. The outport health officers or other
'competent authorities' (i.e. the boards
of health) were left to determine the
length of quarantine after the five days
had elapsed. Sir Charles Grey, who
believed in the contagious nature of
cholera, feared a major exodus of people


from the infected areas by vessels bound
for the outports and thus the introduc-
tion of cholera into the distant western
and northern parishes. There were reports
that a vessel from Port Royal had
attempted to land cholera corpses on a
cholera-free part of the coast but had met
local resistance. C. 0. 137/318, Grey to
Newcastle, Sept. 23, 1853, no. 93. Why
the Governor delayed imposing quaran-
tine on vessels going to the outports for
so long is unclear. Rumours at the time
suggest that for a time he had bowed to
the views of the non-contagionist
Council. Despatch, Oct. 10, 1850.
45. Unless stated otherwise the following is
based on MR., pp.13, 15-22.
46. Despatch, Nov. 20, 1850.
47. MR., pp. 17, 21; F Post, Nov. 19, Dec. 10,
1850 (from Despatch). There are several
accounts of the virtual depopulation of
villages. See for example Suppl. to E Post,
Dec. 6, 13, 1850; MR., p. 18.
48. MR., p. 21; Despatch, Dec. 2, 1850; E
Post, Nov. 19, Dec. 2, 17, (from
Despatch); Suppl. to E Post, Dec. 13,
49. See for example C. O. 137/307, C. E. Grey
to Earl Grey, Dec. 13, 1850, no. 94 (encl.);
F Post, Nov. 19, Dec. 17, 1850 (from
Despatch); Despatch, Nov. 21, 1850, April
15, 1851; MR., p. 18.
50. Despatch, Nov. 16, 20, 1850; MR., p. 76.
51. F Post, Dec. 10, 1850, p. 4 (from
52. Henry Blaine Foster, Rise and Progress of
Wesleyan-Methodism .... p. 130; Votes,
Jan. 16, 1851, p.87; April 29, 1851, p. 408.
53. C. 0. 137/307, C. E. Grey to Earl Grey,
Oct. 26, Nov. 11, 1850, nos. 86, 87; MR.,
p. 52; BH., map of Spanish Town; Votes,
Feb. 19, 1851, p. 141; Despatch, Nov. 5,
54. W. A. Fuertado, A Forty-Five Years'
Reminiscence of the Characteristics and
Characters of Spanish Town (Kingston,
1890), p. 9.
55. MR., 19-20; Despatch, Nov. 25, 28, Dec.
28, 1850; Suppl. to E Post, Dec. 13, 1850
(from Despatch).
56. MR., pp. 22, 56-7; Despatch, Dec. 16, 26,
1850; F Post, Dec. 12, 24 (from
Despatch) Suppl. to E Post, Dec. 13, 1850
(from Despatch). Quotation from MR., p.
57. F Post, Nov. 8, 1850; Despatch, Nov. 7,
1850. For the effect of the epidemic on
such business in other parts of the island,
in November and subsequent months, see
Despatch, Nov. 7, 1850, Jan. 3, 10, 18, 24,
30, Feb. 22, 1851.
58. Despatch, Nov. 23, 1850; MR., p. 14.
59. Despatch, Nov. 6-9, 12, 18.
60. Despatch, Nov. 7, 29, Dec. 4,9, 1850; Jan.
20, Feb. 19, 1851.
61. Votes, Feb. 28, 1851, pp. 196-8; C. O.
137/309, Earl Grey to C. E. Grey, Jan. 1,
1853, no. 393. MR., p. 14; Phillippo, p. 16;
Despatch, Nov. 7, 14, 15.
62. Despatch, Nov. 6, 7, 9, 19, 1850; Suppl. to
F Post, Nov. 8, 1850; MR., p. 14;
Phillippo, p.16.

63. See for example the regime recommended
by Dr Fiddes and A. E. Robbins, published
in F. Post, Nov. 22, 1850 (from Morning
Journal) and Despatch, Dec. 24, 1850.
Venesection or bleeding using a lancet or
leeches was practised, but how widely is
uncertain. Despatch, Dec. 19, 1850, letter
dated Dec. 10.
64. MR., p. 14.
65. Despatch, Nov. 16, 1850; Feb. 19, 1851.
66. For example, on unenclosed lands on
Admiral's Pen Road. This burial ground
was intended mainly for those who died
in the Slipe Pen Road area.
67. Despatch, Nov. 16, 19, 1850.
68. C. 0. 137/308. Admiralty to Hawes, Nov.
21, 1850 (encl.)
69. Despatch, Oct. 30, Nov. 2, 4, 6, 7, 8, 11;
MR., p. 14. Quotation from Despatch,
Nov. 11, 1850.
70. F Post, Nov. 29, 1850 (from Standard)
and Suppl; Despatch, Nov. 22, Dec. 2, 3,
7, 1850; MR.,
71. PP 1851 (104) XXXVI, 561, E. E. Grey to
Earl Grey, Dec. 12, 1850, no. 97 (encl.);
Votes, Nov. 20-22, 25-26, Dec. 10-13,
72. Votes, Nov. 21, 1850, p.44: Despatch, Dec.
7, 1850.
73. Laws of Jamaica (1851).
74. Votes, Nov. 26, 1850, p.9.
75. Votes, Dec. 13, 1850, pp. 52-4.
76. Despatch, Dec. 17, 1851.
77. MR., pp. 22-25; Votes Nov. 21, 1850,
p.44; E Post, Dec. 10, 17, 24, 1850 (from
Despatch); Despatch, Dec. 11, 16, 21, 24,
28, 1850.
78. MR., pp. 20, 22; F Post, Dec. 3, 6, 17, 24.
79. MR., p. 53; William G. Sewell, The Ordeal
of Free Labour in the British West Indies
(1862), reprint by Frank Cass, 1968, p.
204; C.O.318/194, Milroy to Hawes, Feb.
10, 1852.
80. MR., p. 55
81. BH., p. 236
82. MR., p. 26, 33.
83. Phillippo, pp. 17-18; MR., pp. 64, 71, 73-
6; BH., p. 102.
84. MR., pp. 20, 23-24, 26, 28, 30, 59-60.
Some interesting accounts of the epidemic
in St James are given in Suppl to F Post,
Dec. 20, 1850; Despatch, Dec. 19, 24,
85. MR., pp. 24-25, 75; BH., p. 192.
86. MR., pp. 26-28, 61-63; F Post, Dec. 6,
87. MR., pp. 27, 31; C.O. 318/194, Milroy to
Hawes, Feb. 10, 1951; E Post, Nov. 5,
Dec. 6, 13 (Suppl.); Despatch, Nov. 11,
Dec. 21, 24, 1850, Jan. 6, Feb. 3, 1851.
88. C.O.137/307, Nov. 11, 1850, nos, 86, 87.
89. C.O. 137/312; 309, Earl Grey to C. E.
Grey\, Feb. 15, 1851, no. 398 (encl.).
90. Votes, 1850-51, appendix 23, p. 99;
C.O.137/307, Earl Grey to C. E. Grey, Jan.
1, 1851, no. 393; MR., p. 78.
91. Cecil Woodham-Smith, Florence Nightingale,
1820-1910 (Constable & Co., London,
1951), pp. 204-5.

92. MR., p. 78; Votes, 1850-51, appendix 23,
p. 99; C.O.137/307, Earl Grey to C. E.
Grey, Jan. 1, 1851, no. 393 (encl.)
93. MR., pp. 26-7; C.O.318/194, Milroy to
Hawes, Feb. 10, 1851; to Chadwick,
March 10, 1851.
94. Parkin, p. 39; MR., p. 78.
95. C.O.318/194.
96. C.O.137/322; Votes April 22, 1851, pp.
97. The Legislature met for three days in
January 1851 and then adjourned due to
the absence of most members.
98. Votes, April 30, May 1, 2, 5, pp. 435, 436,
448, 453; C.O.318/194, Milroy to Hawes,
April 26, 1951
99. C.O.318/194, Milroy to Hawes, May 28,
July 13, 1851.
100. Motion Papers of the. . Assembly
(Spanish Town, 1851).
101. Laws of Jamaica (1851). 14 Vict. c. 30.
102. MR., pp. 79, 107; C.O.318/194, Milroy to
Hawes, May 28, 1851.
103. BH., pp. 284, 286-7, 118-22.
104. See, for example, BH., p. 284; C.O.318/194,
200, Milroy to Hawes, Aug. 26, 1851, to
Desart, June 7, 25, 1852; C.O.1337/325,
Milroy to British Central Board of Health,
April 8, 1854.
105. MR. pp. 32-3; C.O.137/310, C. E. Grey to
Earl Grey, July 12, Aug. 29, 1851, nos. 58,
106. BH., pp. 285-9; appendix A, pp. 1-26;
C.O.318/200, Milroy to Desart, June 25,
107. Such criticism of government in the sec-
ond report of the Board, in 1853, led to
'angry feeling' in the Assembly and the
House refused to allow it to be printed.
C.O.137/316, C. E. Grey to Newcastle,
May 11, 1853, no. 45 (encl.)
108. BH., pp. 288-9.
109. C.O.137/311, Earl Grey to C. E. Grey, Oct.
3, 1851, no. 442 (end.); C.O.137/316, C.
E. Grey to Earl Grey, Dec. 15,1851, no.
111 (encl.)
110. Votes, Feb. 26, 1852, p. 516; C.O.137/309,
C. E. Grey to Earl Grey, Jan. 9, 1854
111. Votes. March 3, 17, 1853, pp.383, 441.
112. C.O.137/309, Barkly to Grey, Jan. 9, 1854
(encl.); C.O.137/325, Milroy to British
Central Board of Health, April 8, 1854.
113. Votes, 1854-55, appendix 26, p. 34.
114. Votes, 1850-51, appendix 3; Feb. 16, 1852,
p.521.Over a quarter of the 508 inmates
died, mainly in October.
115. C.O.137/322, Barkly to Newcastle, Feb.
25, 1854, no. 29.
116. Ibid.; Votes, Feb. 22, 1854, pp. 362-3;
1854-55, appendix 26, pp. 32-3
117. C.O.137/322, Barkly to Newcastle, Feb.
22, 1854, no. 29; Votes 29, Feb. 22, 1854,
p. 371.
118. Daily Advertiser and Lawson's
Commercial Gazette, Feb. 24, 1854 (here-
after this newspaper is cited as


119. C.O.137/322, Barkly to Newcastle, March
11, 25 (encl.), 1854, nos. 34,41.
120. Notification of the Central Board of
Health... (Kingston, 11854), p. 20,
121. C.O.137/326, Barkly to Newcastle, May
21, 1855, no. 59.
122. See, for example, C.O. 137/323, Barkly to
Newcastle, May 25, 1854, no. 62.
123. Ibid.; Advertiser, April 12, 1854.
124. As above, n. 122; C.O.137/323, Barkly to
Grey, July 10, 1854, no. 84; Advertiser,
April 26, May 3, 5, 11, 1854.
125. C.O.137/324, Barkly to Grey, Aug. 21,
1854, confidential; Advertiser Aug. 2,
126. See, for example, Votes, 14, 21, Dec. 1854,
pp. 118, 173, Jan. 30, 1855, p. 231.
127. Votes, March 2, 31, 1854, pp. 392, 523.
128. C.O.137/323, Barkly to Grey, July
10,1854, no. 84.
129. Ibid., Grey to Barkly, July 15, 1854. The
Government regarded this sum as a loan,
to be repaid later by the Legislature. The
Assembly, however, took the view that it
was part of Great Britain's 'natural oblig-
ation' to the island after the 'ruinous'
abandonment of protection for British
colonial sugar. The chances of the loan
being repaid, Barkly told the Secretary of
State for the Colonies were low. (C.O.
137/324, Aug. 130. C.O.137/324, Barkly
to Grey, Aug. 21, 1854, confidential);
Advertiser, June 26, July 6, 1854.
131. Ibid.; Nov. 9, Dec. 18, 1854.
132. C.O.137/326, Barkly to Grey, March 12,
133. Ibid.
134. Votes, 1854-55, appendix 26, p.32.
135. Ordeal of Free Labour. ., pp. 175-8, 204-
13, 246, 294.
136. BH., p.2.
137. Curtin, p. 160
138. For 27 planters in St George parish,
cholera was the last straw at a time when
they were suffering 'distress and
poverty' due largely to 'recent Imperial
policy'. The 27, headed by the Custos,
(unsuccessfully) petitioned the Secretary
of State for the Colonies for land grants
in Australia. C.O. 137/314, Grey to
Packington, Sept. 25, 1852, no. 85 (encl.)
139. See, for example, F Post, Dec. 2, 1850;
same newspaper (from Despatch), Nov.
19, 21, Dec. 17, 1850; Despatch, April
15, 1851; C.O.137/323, Barkly to
Newcastle, May 25, 1854, no. 62.
140. Votes, Dec. 11, 1850, pp. 37-8; Despatch,
Jan. 15, 1851; C.O. 137/309, C. E. Grey to
Earl Grey, March 15, 1851, no. 26.
141. Eisner, pp. 340-43; Roberts, 258-61.
142. BH., p. 8.




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Astley Clerk

This article first appeared in JAMAICA JOURNAL 11: 3 & 4, March 1978, and was based on an illustrated lecture given by
Astley Clerk in 1913. It is reprinted here because it is felt to be of particular interest today.

When on the 4th May, 1494,
Christopher Columbus discovered
Xamayca, as he was told by the
Indians of Cuba our island was
named, he found on our shores a
people opposite in disposition to
the warlike, man-eating Carib tribes
who had greeted him and his (to
them) strange-looking lateen-
rigged caravels, among the Wind-
ward Islands. The Arawaks, as the
aborigines of Jamaica are called,
were, in comparison to the Caribs, a
quiet, peaceable people, and,
although history tells us that they
did greet Columbus with a fleet of
at least seventy canoes, advancing
in warlike array; painted and
adorned with feathers; uttering loud
yells; brandishing their lances of |
pointed wood, and using their bows g
and arrows, they meant no more
than that opposition which you and
I would make if we were to see a
strange man entering our homes
without our permission. In fact, I doubt
not but that this hostile demonstration
was made because of the bewildered
uncertainty of the Arawaks who but a
short while before this had seen the
white sails of the Santa Maria and her
consorts appear on the horizon.
Trembling with excitement, they
watched these never-before-seen craft
approaching their shores nearer and
nearer they saw them come, and then,
when not far off, suddenly there broke on
their ears, sung by a chorus of male
voices, the sounds of the "Salve Regina"
and other Christian hymns of thanks-
giving which the grateful Admiral would
command his mariners to sing whenever
they neared his latest discovery.

Should we wonder, if thinking, as we
know the Indians of Trinidad actually
thought and acted on, on a later occasion,
that such songs were meant as a battle
cry, they too acted on the defensive?
Our Arawaks were, as the story of the
kitchen-middens tells us, just partially
emerged from the Stone Age. We would,
therefore scarcely expect to find among
them anything pertaining to either music
or musical instruments, and yet, when
Columbus, some four months after,
interviewed the Cacique of the Harbour
"de las Vacas", now known as Old
Harbour Bay, this Chieftain, (Lord of
numerous villages, who resided in
Cabaritta, now called Goat's Island, the
largest and most elevated of the seven

islands found in this bay), came in
state, not only with the ordinary
attendants and his standard-bearer,
but even with a band of musicians
as well. One of the earliest histori-
ans thus describes his retinue:
In the prow of the canoe stood
the standard-bearer of the
Cacique, clad in a mantle of
variegated feathers, with a tuft
of gay plumes on his head, and
bearing in his hand a fluttering
white banner. Two Indians with
caps or helmets of feathers of
uniform shape and colour, and
their faces painted in a similar
manner, beat upon tabors; two
others with hats curiously
wrought of green feathers, held
trumpets of a fine black wood,
ingeniously carved. There were
six others, in large hats of white
feathers, who appeared to be
guards to the Cacique.
It is worth while emphasizing
the fact that this is the only known
instance, not only in Jamaica but in all
West Indian history, where an organized
and uniformed band of musicians has
been described by our discoverers.
Here then, in the harbour "de las
Vacas", after the evening shadows had
fallen, as we know how quickly they
can fall in our tropic home, Columbus
and his crew lay at anchor, and far into
the night they heard the faint taps of
what the hearers rightly conjectured
was a drum and to their attentive ears
was borne, on the cool, fragrant North
Wind, the sound of distant song,
chronicling, I have no doubt, the sud-
den appearance from 'turey' or
Heaven, of these strange white beings


The Trumpet Tree note hollow stalk. (From The Flowering Trees of Puerto Rico)

and equally strange-looking craft. And
so, thus early in our history, we find a
band of regularly organized musicians,
of at least four men proving that the
inhabitants of this "land of wood and
water" have always been, if not a
musical, at least a music-loving
people. The historian unhesitatingly
names two of the instruments used by
this band Tabors and Trumpets.
Tabors, of course, in the then strict
sense of the word, they could not have
been, but they must have, undoubtedly,
suggested the instruments he knew by
that name in his own sunny Spain, and
so he not only names them but does not
think it necessary to describe them.
You will note that the trumpets
made of this fine black wood were
ingeniously carved, showing that our
aborigines were artistic not only musi-
cally but otherwise. It is possible that
these trumpets were made from the
leaf-stalks of the trumpet tree, a tree
indigenous to Jamaica and which, you
will see, has a stalk divided, like the
bamboo, into hollow sections. [slide
shown] Even to-day, in the country
parts, these trumpet tree sections are
used, on the spur of the moment, to
take the place of the post-horn.
Browne the botanist tells us that he
saw some of the smaller branches of
this tree cut and holed in the form of a
German flute and he was very pleased
with their tone production. I am per-
suaded that our aborigines must also
have made use of the Wild Cane [Wild
Cane Stem shown] to make flutes of.
They had it growing all around them;

they knew that, like the
trumpet tree, its stem was
hollow, for they were
accustomed to employ it
in the construction of their
houses, and consequently,
it is not difficult to sup-
pose that they used it as
well to fashion their flutes
out of.
The Arawaks also had
a drum which, we are
told, was heard at a "vast"
and "immense" distance.
This drum was evidently
large, or very deep, and
was made either out of the
ever-useful trumpet tree
(the trunk of which is
found, even today, to
exceed five feet in cir-
cumference, and the mid-
dle of which is easily
cleared of its sap) or a log
of some hardwood, the
interior of which was
hollowed out by fire and
the stone chisels, hatchets,
or axes which the aborig-
ines were accustomed to
use in the making of their
famous Ceiba Canoes.
The skin to cover these
large drums was, un-
doubtedly, taken from the
Manatee, or Sea Cow
[slide shown], the only
animal from which our
Arawaks also obtained a
beef supply. I am inclined

to believe, further, that our first known
inhabitants had a drum made of earth-
enware and, to illustrate my surmise, I
turn to Duerden's "Aboriginal Indian
Remains in Jamaica". Opposite page
46, on plate 5, fig. 6 and fig. 7, you
will see two pieces of pottery which,
with their curled-over rims, would
appear to have been specially prepared
to receive a skin stretched across it
and tied around, and thus do the work
of a drum.
It is authoritatively acknowledged
that clay was utilized, among certain
peoples and nations, in the manu-
facture of musical instruments. We
know, for example, that clay was used
by the Chinese, two thousand-odd
years age to make one of their eight
kinds of musical instruments, forming
a whistle, with finger holes, known as
the Hiuen, the oldest Chinese wind
instrument. I go further and suggest

Wild Cane. (From The Grasses of the West Indies)


that several of the highly polished
perforated flint stones which are today
classed as Arawak 'implements',
'weapons' and 'ornaments' were also
used similarly to the Chinese 'King'.
A certain number of these so-called
'implements', etc., were graded and
hung in a row and struck to produce
different musical tones. Even those of
writers who support the 'implement'
theory entertain some doubt as to its
genuineness, one remarking, "it is not
unreasonable to suppose that some of
these stones may have had ceremonial
function," and among our aborigines
there were no functions so ceremonial
as their Sacred Festivals at which
Music, Song and Dance formed the
most prominent features. It was for
these sacred dances that our Indians
were so intensely eager to obtain in
barter the 'Hawks-bells' brought over
by the discoverers. A look at the next
slide will impress you that the hole,
shown at the top part of the stone,
might have been intended to receive
the string by which the stone was
hung. [Slide shown] One of our latter-
day writers, after stating that this very
illustration was generally regarded,
and I would emphasize this latter
word, as a 'sinker' for fishing, asserts
that the perforation enabled it to be
We learn also that the Arawaks
possessed a flute made of bone.
Unfortunately, our historians go no
further they might have said what
kind of bone was used to make this
flute, and the only bone I can think of,
for Jamaica had no indigenous animal
large enough, the alco and coney being
small quadrupeds, is the human bone,
and the aborigines were, we are told,
too careful and respectful of their own
dead to trifle with their bones for any
much less such a purpose. It is, how-
ever, very possible that they might
have used the bones of their enemies,

the Caribs, who had been killed in
battle. The smaller sections or stems of
the trumpet tree were, as they still are
to-day, utilized to make flutes; I do not
think that hardwood was ever
employed for this purpose, for even
granting that the Arawaks had the
intelligence, and when you examine
their beautifully ground and polished
and symmetrically proportioned tools
and implements which time has not
destroyed, a few samples of which I
now show you [Arawak artefacts
shown], you will grant that the people
who could do such work were gifted
with no mean order of intelligence; I
say, then, that granting that our
Arawaks had the intelligence to bore
through a sufficiently long enough
piece of solid wood, they were not able
to do it with the stone [slide shown]
and only tools which we know they
were accustomed to use.
It is, likewise, almost certain that
this martyred people must also have
employed the stems of the papaw tree,
a native of this Island, to make flutes
and small trumpets of.
There was, moreover, an Aeolian
Harp made from the Aeta Palm how
that harp was constructed we are,

unfortunately, not told but I would
suggest that it was made similarly to
the Aeolian Harp still used by the
Arawaks of British Guiana and thus
described by Im Thur: 'a sort of
Aeolian Harp, formed from the leaf
stalk of the Aeta Palm [slide shown],
by picking and separating, without
severing, four or five or several of the
parallel fibres of which the skin of the
stalk consists; a bridge like that of a
fiddle is then placed under each end of
these fibres so as to raise them from
the level of the stalk [slide shown].
The leaf stalk thus prepared is fastened
upright in some exposed place, and the
wind passing through the strings
causes a soft musical sound which
rises and falls as the strength of the
breeze varies. Strings for other
stringed instruments were also made
from the same palm, or from the silk-
grass plant 'furcraea tuberosa' [slide],
a doubtful native of Jamaica which,
nevertheless, was well known to the
aborigines of this land. Twine was also
made from the ordinary cotton shrub
which grew then as it does now in this
Island. Those of you who were present
at the Jamaica Exhibition of 1891 will
remember the Caribs of St.Vincent
demonstrating their method, which
was also that of our Arawaks, of
making string and twine. I will describe
this method the fibres of the Aeta
Palm or the silk grass plant were
placed on the right thigh, held with the
left hand, then twisted into a strand,
thin or thick, with the palm of the right
hand, 'the twisting being rendered easy
by the fact that the skin of the Indian is
smooth and hairless.' It is possible that
the Arawaks might have extracted the
fibre of the F. Tuberosa [sample of
fibre shown] in the same way as our
country people do today, that is, by


beating the leaves [E Tuberosa leaves
shown] on a stone and washing them in
The Indian of Jamaica also pos-
sessed a kind of timbrel or tambourine,
called a Maguey or Maguei, made
from the trumpet tree and covered with
certain shells. This instrument, howev-
er, the ordinary subject was never per-
mitted to play. It was strictly confined
to the Cacique or the next chief person
of the village they, and they only,
were authorised and permitted to touch
it, and only when accompanying the
Sacred Areytos or Songs, which were
taught, by the Butios (or religious
priests), to the children of the Caciques
and sung by them and their fathers.
As far as the absolutely restricted
use of this instrument is concerned, it
is indeed interesting to note that an
almost similar custom existed in Africa
as late as 1890, where the Emir of
Nupe possessed a war-trumpet which
no one but his own personal guards,
could dare sound, nor could any of his
subjects make or possess a similar
instrument on pain of instant death.
Like the Maguey of our Arawak
Caciques, the Emir's trumpet was
strictly confined to Royal use.
The Tabor which I have already
referred to was evidently a small drum,
and, I am inclined to believe more after
the tambourine species and yet without
shells. It must have put the Spaniards
in mind of their own Atabal, hence
they designated this Arawak drum,
which was probably not made round
like the tambourine, 'Tabor'.
And so we find that the aborigines
of Jamaica possessed at least six
musical instruments, viz:

Tabors or small Drums.
Timbrels or Tambourines
Large Drums.
Aeolian Harps.
One would have thought that amid
the refuse of the 'kitchen-middens' and
shell mounds scattered about on the
north and south sides of the island,
among the limestone caves in which
relics of these martyred people were
found, on the rocks of St. Catherine,
St. Mary, Trelawny, etc., bearing rock
carvings and pictures made by our
aborigines, one would have thought
and wished that some clue could have
been found which would have shown,
at least, what their flute and Maguey
were like. On page 46 of Duerdon's

book, already referred to, plate 5, fig.
5, is to be seen a piece of pottery [slide
shown] which appeals strongly to me
as made, not alone to hold the flattened
skull of the Arawak Cacique, but to
have strings strung across, and thus
produce sounds.
About the ordinary songs of the
Arawaks, our Spanish historians, from
whom only information can be
obtained, are silent. They have, how-
ever, told us, spasmodically it is true,
of the sacred and traditional songs of
these people, who, in a few short years,
they, in their vain and grasping greed
for gold, and oft-times in mere wanton
cruel sport, wiped completely off the
face of their native land. And having
such songs, we cannot doubt but that
they had their home songs as well.
How interesting it would be, if, for
instance, I could demonstrate, vocally
or instrumentally, the lullaby with
which the Arawak mother hushed her
baby to sleep, or the soft tune the
Cacique's wife hummed when, over-
come by the pain caused by the process
used to compress the forehead of her
son [slide shown] the babe became
fretful and restless but none of such
are mentioned. We must therefore
speak of that about which we have
some little knowledge.
Their songs were historical and tra-
ditional, although the majority of my
references insist that there was no
method of preserving them for any
length of time. Historical songs were
confined to the events of the reigning
Cacique. Our Arawaks had to do their
share of fighting for home and native
land their natural enemies, the
Caribs, were continually swooping
down on and ravaging their shores,
devastating their cultivations of tobac-
co, cassava, maize, etc.; destroying
their circularly built houses covered
with wild canes, or palm leaves; and
sometimes even capturing and taking
away their wives and daughters. These
had be be protected, and it was the
Cacique who had to general the forces,
and his victory or death was told in
song, his bravery and valiant deeds
eulogized, and the man himself
extolled, to the accompaniment of
music and dancing.
Says Bryan Edwards: 'These hymns,
reciting the great actions of the depart-
ed Cacique, his fame in war and his
gentleness in peace, formed a national
history which was at once a tribute of
gratitude to the deceased monarch and
a lesson to the living. Nor could any-

thing have been more instructive to the
rising generation than this institution,
since it comprehended also the antiqui-
ties of their country, and the traditions
of their ancestors. Expressions of
national triumph for victory in war,
lamentations in time of public calami-
ty, the voice of festivity, and the lan-
guage of love were likewise the sub-
jects of these exhibitions, the dances,
so essential a part of them, being grave
or gay as the occasion required. It is
pretended that among the traditions
thus publicly recited, there was one of
a prophetic nature denouncing ruin and
desolation by the arrival of strangers
completely clad, 'and armed with the
lightning of heaven'.
But such songs, as I have already
stated, others affirm, were never
handed down to more than one
generation, for at the death of a
Cacique, and after his body had been
burnt and dried, as well as at all
festivals of his successor, these
laudatory songs commemorating the
principal happenings during the reign
of, and extolling, the departed Caci-
que, were composed and sung. And as
these songs were confined to this very
limited period, you will understand
how quickly the traditions of the past
were lost to the present and, conse-
quently, to the future.
Other songs were sung by female
voices only, no male taking part.
Alas, that the day had to be record-
ed when the songs of these trustful and
quiet people, songs full of natural joy
and happiness, gave place to the
mournful tune and saddened voice
caused by the untold misery (of which
the half has never been told) brought
upon these simple folk by the devilish
dealings of their inhuman Spanish dis-
coverers. Little did the Cacique of 'de
las Vacas' realize that he spoke
prophetically when, on that memorable
interview, he addressed Columbus in
these words:

I have heard from these Indians,
who are with thee, of the irre-
sistible power of thy sovereigns,
and of the many nations thou
hast subdued. Whoever refuses
obedience to thee is sure to suf-
fer. Thou hast destroyed the
canoes and dwellings of the
Caribs, slaying their warriors,
and carrying into captivity their
wives and children. All the
islands are in dread of thee; for
who can withstand thee now that


thou knowest the secrets of the
land and the weakness of the

But so it proved.
It is a grave pity that our Spanish
discoverers did not do as discoverers
of to-day would, record the facts of the
musical condition of the people among
whom they had come. And yet, who is
to say that Columbus, the all-observant,
or Las Casas, an intimate of the
Admiral, has not left fuller but unpub-
lished accounts of the subject which
claims our attention tonight, accounts
which, if proper search were permitted
to be made, would to-day likely be
found forgotten, it may be inten-

tionally so, and covered with centuries
of dust, in the Vatican Library or some
old monastery of Spain. Columbus, we
know, positively took away among the
many West Indian curiosities he pre-
sented to their Majesties Isabella and
Ferdinand [slide shown] (and I name
the Queen first because, but for her
keen desire and determination after the
King [slide shown] had refused to
assist Columbus, as far as Spain is
concerned, Jamaica would still be
undiscovered) various musical instru-
ments found in the different islands he
discover. If the ordinary Spanish
colonist of those far days had any anti-
quarian curiosity before he came to the
West Indies it was, after he reached

these waters, quickly supplanted by the
over-powering greed for gold which
characterized his stay in our beautiful

A Note on Astley Clerk
Astley Clerk was a man ahead of his times in
many ways. He was an early advocate of
Independence for Jamaica and designed a
flag and a national anthem for the island.
However, he was insistent that all Jamaicans
should recognize and develop their own cul-
tural heritage. An account of his career, by
Cheryl Ryman, appears in JAMAICA JOURNAL

Atrawafi ov-Song

... ... I J J N

f.i.. t s j .1 I- J /







ATrolrtd by OriverLewin 9uyt aa, Appead in7. SUig AyeJ. P/-tSi
This song, collected by Olive Lewin, first appeared in JAMAICA JOURNAL 1/1.


For those who want
in an instant, a cup
of coffee of the
highest quality

i ,
i loultal

J,-:i. : -s.

Africa's famous baobab tree is a
prominent member of the genus
Andansonia, a small group of
tropical trees that includes seven
species native to Madagascar
and one to Australia (Wickens
1982). Much has been written
about this symbol of Africa since
it was first systematically
described in the 1750s, and its
image now appears on coins,
paper currency, stamps, and
postcards (Steffens 1984, Asch
1968, Thebaud 1984).

T he baobab is rare in Jamaica.
Though introduced some two
hundred years ago, it remains unknown
to most Jamaicans (Adams 1972, Powell
1972). I found only four trees in 1987
when I published the results of my effort
to document the history and cultural
importance of this species in Jamaica.'
Since then, one has died and eight new
trees have been identified. This article
discusses these developments. It also
includes a map of Jamaica's baobabs,
(Fig. 2) photographs of the trees identi-
fied since 1987, six drawings showing
the variation in the size and shape of
fruits from the only two bearing trees,
and a table that brings together informa-
tion for all known baobabs in the island
with details of their status, size, flower-
ing, fruiting and uses.

The Baobab at Alpha Boys' School
Jamaicans knew Alex Hawkes
through his Daily Gleaner column that
often dealt with the island's flora.
Hawkes first became aware of Jamaica's
baobabs when he learned that the small
tree in Kingston, at the intersection of
Old Hope Road and Munroe Road
(above the Mountain View gully), was
threatened by construction (Fig. 3). The
tree was brought to his attention in a
letter from C. Bernard Lewis, then
Director of the Institute of Jamaica.
Hawkes made 'a plea to preserve' this
tree, describing it in his April 16, 1970
column as 'presumably the only example
of the African Baobab in all of Jamaica'.
This priceless tree, certainly is
unique, and an example of Jamaica's
African heritage, it's not in the path
of anyone's progress, hence its

.. .. .xa. -- iI IW' S
Figure 1. The baobab at Alpha Boys' School.

Africa 's



in Jamaica

by John Rashford

destruction simply cannot be con-
doned... As has been pointed out in
these pages far too frequently of late,
we are losing far too many of our pre-
cious trees, which are absolutely irre-
placeable within our current life
spans. I venture to suggest that our
special African Baobab tree should
become a special case, and that all of
us join together in preserving it for
our children and grand-children and
indeed great-grand-children! It takes
so little effort to destroy such a tree.
And these days it seems to require
such a concerted public effort to pre-
serve it!
Reader response later indicated that there
were not one, but six baobabs in
One of the letters Hawkes received

identified two baobabs in Kingston at the
Convent of Mercy Academy (Alpha)
School. The letter was from Bill du
Mont, who was identified by Hawkes
(1970b) as 'Games Master at the institu-
tion'. It indicated that one of the trees
was at the Boys' School and the other at
the Girls' School. The tree at the Alpha
Boys' School (Fig. 1) was the second
largest baobab in Jamaica, and this is
what I wrote about it in 1987:
In his [May 21, 1970] article [in the
Daily Gleaner], Hawkes said the tree at
the Boys' School was a small one, but it
was not. I was surprised to see an
enormous tree some sixty feet tall that
was thirty-three feet in circumference
measured at three and one-half feet from
the ground. This is one of the largest
baobabs I have seen in the Caribbean.


We noticed it wasn't looking that
good but we didn't know what was
the complaint. It started drying up
from the trunk. We noticed that it was
getting corroded, you might say, and
the leaves started withering; and then
the branches started falling off. On
night, we heard a terrible crash about
10:30 p.m. and one half of it fell off.
After that half fell off we cut it down.

The baobab's shade had kept the print
shop cool, said Sister Ignatius, but 'now
it is unbearably hot.' The effect of the
loss of this baobab's shade is immediate.
This is not true of some of its other uses
which, even if unrecognized, were an
important part of the tradition at Alpha
Boy's School. The four baobabs I wrote
about in 1987 all produced flowers, but
only the trees at Munroe Road,

Hopefield Avenue and the Alpha Boys'
School bore fruit.
The magnificent tree at Alpha Girls'
School is Jamaica's oldest and largest
Baobab, measuring 48 feet (16 metres)
in circumference at one foot above the
ground (Fig. 4.) It produces an abun-
dance of flowers 2 from the late spring
through the early autumn but fruits rarely
develop. After visiting this tree in May,
1970, Hawkes wrote, 'Mr du Mont
informs me that it flowers profusely, and
that the extraordinary blossoms are
frequently used as subjects in the
school's art'. Hawkes said nothing of the
fruits. Vanessa Soarez (1977), a former
student at Alpha Girls' School, provides
further evidence that the fruits did not
develop. She wrote in the first issue of
Hibiscus, the school's newspaper:

Figure 3. The baobab at Munroe Road.

Sister Marie Therese who is in charge of
the Boys' School, said when she first
arrived in 1939 it was already a large
tree. Unfortunately, a good third of the
tree that had grown over the roof of one
of the buildings had been chopped off
sometime between the end of April and
the beginning of May 1986 and the
pieces, some of which were quite large,
were strewn all around the base of the
tree. Noel Herman, a guidance counsel-
lor at the school, said the branches had
been cut because they were damaging
the zinc roof of the print shop by resting
on it and by the trampling of the boys
'who climb the roof to get at the fruit, the
pulp and seeds of which they eat. .' The
boys also used the flowers to play a
game called 'keep up'. They compete to
see who can bounce a flower up and
down on the top of the foot the most
times. The flower, when used in this way,
is called 'seaway lash'. When I saw the
tree on June 5, it was full of new leaves
but there were no fruits, due perhaps to
the fact that the boys had eaten them.
The tree was flowering, for it had buds,
and I saw a few withered flowers on the
ground amidst the tangle of scattered

This baobab is now dead. When I saw
it on August 8, 1989, there were still
decaying branches on the ground, but
this time they were scattered around a
rotting trunk. In early January or
February 1989, Sister Ignatius said:


Fig. 2. Disrtibution and status of Jamaica's baobabs. Numbers 1-17
identify all Jamaican baobababs past and present (See Table 1).
Roman numerals indicate two or more trees at the same location.

During the year at intervals, the tree
blooms beautiful white flowers which
later wither and turn a brown colour.
They later fall off the tree along with
their stems [my emphasis] and are
used to make various decorations.
My research confirms this absence of
fruit. Students and staff at the Girls'
School, including the gardener and the
watchmen, were unfamiliar with the
fruit. During an interview with one of the
watchmen, he pointed to flower buds as
the fruit. Unlike the flower, there were
no school traditions that indicated
familiarity with the fruit.
Of the three bearing trees, only the
fruit from the tree at Alpha Boys' School
were eaten. The fruits from the Munroe
Road tree fall to the ground where they
escape notice on the bushy hillside of the
Mountain View gully [Fig. 3]. I have
collected fruits from under this tree on
several occasions, and Hawkes
(1970a) published a photograph
of a fruit he found under this
tree.3 The fruits of the
Hopefield Avenue tree (Fig. 5),
which grows in a front yard
ornamental garden, are swept
up and burned by the gardener.
He said no one ate them and that
he did not know they could be
eaten. In fact, he remained
stubbornly sceptical when I said
they could be eaten. It can be
said, then, that the students at
Alpha Boys' School have lost -
much more than just an unusual Figur
tree that provided shade.
Insofar as they ate the fruit, they
have lost an important aspect of their
immediate environment, and a unique
tradition with which it was associated.

Baobabs at Hope Botanical Gardens
In 1987 when I reviewed the litera-
ture on baobabs in Jamaica, I mentioned
Edwin Atkins of Boston. In 1900, he
established a garden in Cuba on his plan-
tation at Soledad, near Cienfuegas. Grey
and Hubbard (1933) studied this garden
and noted the presence of baobab trees.
Especially interesting was their report
that the trees had grown from seeds
acquired from Jamaica on three occa-
sions. In 1907 seeds were sent by D.
Houghes, and in 1908 by both D.
Houghes and R. Cameron. In 1987 I
thought it interesting that although
baobab seedlings were grown for sale in
Jamaica in the 1880s, and seeds were
sent to Edwin Atkins's garden in Cuba

Figure 5. The baobab at Hopefield Avenue.

e 4. Benches built around the lower trunk of the baob
Alpha Girls'School

Figure 6. The baobab at the entrance to Hope
Botanical Gardens (Hope Gardens I).

(and perhaps elsewhere), not a single
baobab was to be found in any of
Jamaica's botanic gardens today.
I was confident in saying this in 1987
because I had looked for baobabs in
Jamaica's botanic gardens without suc-
cess. When I first began this study, I
anticipated finding baobabs in the
botanic gardens because of published
reports and the information received
through correspondence. For example,
in the 1885 Annual Report of the Public
Gardens and Plantations, D. Morris, then
Director of Public Gardens and
Plantations, included 'baobab tree bark'
in 'a list of medicinal specimens
prepared by [the]. . Department and
forwarded to the late [World] Exhibition
at New Orleans.' There was also a list of
fruit trees grown for sale in the botanic
gardens published in the September
1887 Bulletin of the Botanical
Department (No. 3). Baobabs were on
the list and could be purchased
for three pennies each.
I was further encouraged to
search the botanic gardens
when, in response to my inquiry
about baobabs in Jamaica, I
received an informative letter
from George Proctor, who is
well known for his knowledge of
Caribbean flora:

I have seen several of these
i trees in Jamaica, at least two
in Kingston. One of these is
fairly conspicuous, just across
ab at the gully from Old Hope Road
just below the intersection of
Wellington Drive . The
other tree is just west of
Hopefield Avenue about 150
yards or so south of its junc-
tion with Hope Road. There
may be one at King's House or
Hope Gardens but if so I have
not seen them.

I reported in 1987 that I did find the
tree at the intersection of Old Hope Road
and Munroe Road (just before Munroe
Road becomes Wellington Drive), and
the tree at Hopefield Avenue (thanks to
Hawkes's column) but my search at
Kings House and at Hope Botanical
Gardens was unsuccessful. It turns out,
however, that I was wrong about bao-
babs in Jamaica's botanic gardens.
On July 31, 1989, I was surprised to
discover a small baobab alongside the
entrance of Hope Botanical Gardens
(Fig. 6). It was 7 feet 8 inches (2.33


retired Area Extension Officer for Hope
Botanical Gardens, could help. I met
with Newton Holness on December 21,
1993. While he provided no additional
information on the young baobab at the
main entrance, I did learn of another tree
in the nursery of Hope Botanical
Gardens (Fig.7).
This baobab was about 30 to 35 feet
tall (10-11 metres) and 11 feet 9 inches
(just over a metre) in circumference,
measured at 1 foot 6 inches (50 cm) from
the ground. It grew at the base of a huge
flamboyant tree (Delonix regia) and a
mahogany (Swietonia mahagoni). The
branches of all three were intermingled.
The baobab leaned noticeably to the
southeast. Holness said it had been per-
fectly upright before Hurricane Gilbert
in 1988.

Figure 7. The baobab at the Nursery of Hope
Botanical Gardens (Hope Gardens II).

metres) in circumference, mea-
sured at 2 feet (60 cm) from the
ground.4 The top had been torn off
by Hurricane Gilbert which devas-
tated the island on September 12,
1988. Now the tree was covered
with a thick flush of new leaves on
the many small branches that had
sprung up since then. The tree had
termite trails on the trunk, and sev-
eral columns of ants made their
way to the leaf-bearing branches.
The trunk was covered with mark-
ings such as 'Sis was here' and
'Joan and Orville' and there was
also the usual drawing of a heart
pierced by an arrow. The baobab is
conspicuous and that, together
with its broad trunk and soft bark,
seems to provide a convenient
place for people to leave messages
by writing, drawing or painting
on the tree or by attaching posters
and other signs. This use of the
baobab as a communications cen-
tre has often been noted in the lit-
erature, and similar markings have
been used to trace the movements
of early European travellers in
Africa and Australia (Guy 1967).
On December 29, 1993, I
sought out the gardeners at Hope
Botanical Gardens. One of them, I
thought, might know something about
this small baobab at the entrance to the
garden. I spoke to two retired gardeners
who have been at Hope since the 1950s
and were now independent guides for
tourists. Neither of them knew of the
baobab, but they said Newton Holness, a

well, and had photographed one or more
at Treasure Beach. I did not mention
these in 1987 because of my decision not
to write about trees I had not seen unless
I was convinced my informant was gen-
uinely familiar with the tree. I adopted
this policy because there were many
occasions in the Virgin Islands and
Jamaica when I was directed to baobabs
only to discover that they were cotton
trees (Ceiba pentandra). In fact, I started
studying baobabs in the Caribbean in
1983 because of my experience in
Antigua when I went with colleagues to
locate cotton trees and twice ended up at
baobabs instead.

Figure 9. At Treasure Beach
(Treasure Beach III).

Figure 10. At Treasure Beach
(Treasure Beach V).

Figures 8a & 8b. Baobabs at Treasure Beach
(Treasure Beach I & II).

Baobabs at Treasure Beach

Olive Senior told me in August of
1988 that Andreas Oberli (a contributor
to the JAMAICA JOURNAL of which she
was then editor), said he had two baobab
seedlings, and that there were four trees
at or near Treasure Beach in the parish of
St Elizabeth. She said he knew the tree


I decided to search for the Treasure
Beach baobabs, since the information
came from a reliable source. At 7.30 a.m.
on December 19, 1993, I left Kingston
for St Elizabeth, Jamaica's largest parish,
famous for its beauty and its traditional
small farming that supplies island
markets with such produce as water-
melons, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers,
scallion, thyme and onions. I headed first
for Treasure Beach Hotel, since the trees
were reported to be at or near there. This
small hotel, for which the earliest
construction began about 1937, fronts
the best part of the beach that forms
Calabash Bay. The hotel is actually
located in Frenchman District, but today
the whole area is known as Treasure
I arrived at the hotel at noon. As I
made my way through the lobby, I met
Portia Daley, a native of St Elizabeth
and a receptionist at the hotel. I told
her that I had heard there were baobab
trees on the grounds or near the hotel
and I wanted to locate them. I was
pleasantly surprised when she said
there was one. She could not remem-
ber exactly where it was on the prop-
erty, but she would take me to find it.
We went to the north end of the hotel
grounds where there was a small con-
struction site just south of a long
building of guest rooms and there we
found two baobab trees.
The larger one (Treasure Beach I),
the first baobab I saw there (Fig. 8a),
was 7 feet 6 inches (2.25 metres) in
circumference, measured at 1 foot (30
cm) from the ground. The small tree
next to it (Treasure Beach II) had a
slender trunk 3 feet 6 inches (about 1
metre) in circumference, also mea-
sured at 1 foot above ground (Fig 8b).
Both were healthy trees in full leaf,
though crowded on the north side by a
huge guinep tree that had limited the
development of the baobab branches
in that direction.
I was surprised when Portia said
that neither of these was the tree she
knew and suggested we continue ou
search. As we walked on a path that toot
us down the hillside towards the pool, a
magnificent grove of sabal palms, anc
the beach beyond, we saw the baobat
along the path not far from the pool. Thi,
wind-swept tree (Treasure Beach III
was 7 feet 6 inches (2.25 metres) in cir
cumference at 1 foot (30 cm) from thf
ground and about 20 to 25 feet (7 metres
tall (Fig. 9). Like the two baobabs at thf
construction site, it was also a healthy
tree full of green leaves.

While Portia and I were sitting by the
pool talking about the Treasure Beach
baobabs, we were joined by Donovan
Bernard. He had been working at the
hotel for over ten years and was respon-
sible for the care of the facilities and
grounds. Donovan said there were two
other trees. One, which had died in 1991
(Treasure Beach IV), was not far from
the two trees at the construction site. The
other tree (Treasure Beach V) was at the
entrance to the hotel a short distance
from the main gate (Fig. 10). The tree
that died had divided into twin trunks
about a foot above ground and it was
hollow. 'A big piece broke out from the
side,' said Donovan, 'and then it died. It
just fell down.' The tree at the gate, that
serves as the hotel's signpost, was also a
healthy tree in full leaf. At 1 foot 6 inch-
es (50 cm) from the ground it was 8 feet

Figure 11. Cotton tree at Hampton School, by the
biology lab.

r (2.5 metres) in circumference, Donovan
Said the tree that died was as big as the
Sone at the gate.
I The baobab, from a practical point of
View, is primarily valued in Jamaica as a
Shade tree. This significance is particu-
)larly true of the tree at the entrance to the
- hotel where people gather in its shade by
e the roadside as they wait for transporta-
)tion. The limited value placed on the tree
e in Jamaica is in stark contrast to Africa
y where there are many uses for all parts of
the tree, serving the most important areas

of daily life. The leaves are eaten, used
medicinally, and fed to animals. The
same is true of the pulp and seeds of the
fruit. The bark is used for making bas-
kets, cordage, snares and a variety of
other things. The stored water in the
baobab's massive trunk is precious in the
hot, dry places to which the tree is
native. And the baobab is also a honey
tree, since bees often establish their
hives in hollow baobabs. Given its use-
fulness, it is easy to understand why
there have long been reports in the scien-
tific literature of the baobab's close asso-
ciation with human settlement in Africa
(Dalziel 1937, Owen 1970, Rashford 1987b).
While Portia, Donovan and I were
sitting at the pool side, I took the
opportunity to ask about the Treasure
Beach baobabs. Both said they had never
seen the trees flower nor had they
noticed any fruit. Portia said there
were many questions from visitors
about the trees. Donovan explained it
was mostly Jamaican guests who
asked about the baobabs, and what
they wanted to know most was
whether they were cotton trees. 'They
always wonder,' he said, 'how come
all the trees are labelled and these
were not'. He added, 'Foreigners
mostly ask about the name of it'.
Because baobabs are deciduous, shed-
ding their leaves in the winter dry sea-
son, both Jamaican and foreign
visitors wanted to know 'why the tree
died' when they saw them at that time
of year.
Portia learned of baobabs while
attending Hampton School for Girls
in Malvern, a small town about 2400
feet (800m) up in the beautiful Santa
Cruz Mountains, some twenty miles
northeast of Treasure Beach Hotel.
She said there was a large tree right in
front of her biology classroom and her
biology teacher had told her it was a
baobab. She was always interested in
that tree, she told me, and that is why
she remembered the name. I asked
about its flowering and fruiting, and
she said she had never seen it bear flow-
ers or fruit. Since Hampton School was
not far from Treasure Beach Hotel, I
decided to go and see this tree when I left
Treasure Beach.
I arrived at Hampton at about 3.00
p.m. and met Gloria Vernal and Inez
Edwards who were House Mothers
there. Gloria Vernal explained the layout
of the school and accompanied me to the
biology classroom. Here was another big
surprise! The expected baobab turned
out to be a large cotton tree (Fig.11).5


Baobabs of the University of the West

I have already mentioned that Olive
Senior told me Andreas Oberli had two
baobab seedlings. I wrote to him on
August 31, 1988, to learn about these
seedlings but heard nothing more.
However, on December 23, 1993, Dr
Aubrey Jacobs and I went to visit
Professor Sidrak of the Botany Department
of the University of the West Indies at
Mona. I told him that I was researching
baobabs in Jamaica, and he mentioned
the trees at Alpha School. He said he had
asked the Sisters to germinate some
seeds for him, and these were the two
seedlings which Andreas Oberli had.
Although the Alpha Boys' School
baobab is now dead, it is noteworthy that
there are at least two seedlings some-
where in Jamaica that are the offspring
of this tree.

The history and cultural significance
of Jamaica's baobabs is a small but
important part of the human dispersal of
this species in the tropical and sub-
tropical regions of the New World
(Rashford 1987a, 1991, 1994). The need
for such information is recognized in the
scientific literature (Wickens 1982). For
example, Armstrong (1984:160-161),
notes, 'The occurrence of Adansonia
digitata in the New World has not been
documented as closely as its distribution
in the lands surrounding the Indian
Ocean Basin.' He concludes: 'A more
thorough study of the distribution of this
species in the Caribbean area, and its
role in the ethnobotany of territories such
as Haiti, would be worthwhile.'
This paper fills the gap for Jamaica. I
have now documented twelve baobabs in
Jamaica (Table 1). Based on a review of

the literature and field research, I still
believe there are more baobabs in
Jamaica yet to be identified. I am con-
vinced, however, we will never be able
to agree with Macfayden (1850) in
saying the tree is 'frequently to be met
with.' After some two hundred years, the
baobab is still a rare tree in Jamaica.
In the nineteenth century, Grisebach
(1868:88) described the baobab as 'only
a cultivated tree in the West Indies' and
this remains true today (Cook and
Collins 1903:68, Little et al. 1974:524-
6). Unlike many other introduced plants
that are now widespread in Jamaica
because they readily spring up from dis-
carded seeds, for example, tamarind
[Tamarindus indica], almond [terminalia
catappa], mango [Mangifera indica] and
ackee [Blighia sapida]), the baobab will
never become common unless it is
planted. Given its remarkable appearance
and many uses, especially its tasty,

Table 1. A Summary of Jamaica's Baobabs


1. Munroe Tree 0 9 40 y y n y
2. Hopefield Tree 0 12.1 60 y y n y
3. Alpha Boys O 33 100 y y y y
4. Alpha Girls 0 48 200 y ? ? y
5. Hope Gardens I 0 7.8 40 ?- y
6. Hope Gardens II 0 11.3 50 ? y
7. Constant Spring -
8. University I A 10 n n
9. University II A 10 n n
10. Port Henderson 0 -
11. Treasure Beach I 8 40 ? n
12. Treasure Beach II 0 4 40 ? n
13. Treasure Beach III 0 7.6 40 ? ? Y
14. Treasure Beach IV 0 ? 40 ? ? y
15. Treasure Beach V 0 8 40 ? ? y
16. Phoenix Hampden I 0 -
17. Phoenix Hampden II -

S = Status; G = Girth in feet; Age = estimated age FI = Flower; Fr = Fruit; Fr-U = Fruit is used; SH = Shade.
Trees Observed
O Dead Trees
[ Unsuccessful Search
A Trees not seen

y = yes; n = no; ? = uncertain; = information


nutritious fruit, the baobab deserves
wider cultivation. The three fruits I col-
lected from the Hopefield Avenue tree
and the three from the Munroe Road tree
(Fig. 12) were given to Professor Sidrak.
He promises to germinate the seeds,
some of which will be planted on the
Mona campus of the University of the
West Indies. I hope one a will also be
planted at Alpha Boys' School.6


I thank the individuals mentioned in the
text for their cooperation and patience,
and Aubrey Jacobs whose support made
this project possible. I also thank my col-
leagues Brad Huber, Dana Cope, and
George Dickinson for helpful editorial

Fig. 12. Fruit variation on the same tree and between trees. Fruits from
the Munroe tree (a,b,c) and the Hopefield tree (d,e,f).


1. Owen presents a good discussion of the uses
of the tree in Africa (1970) and its ecology
(1974). An excellent overall summary of
what is known about the tree is presented by
Wickens (1982).
2. I recorded the flowering of this tree on three
occasions. On June 5, 1986, it was in the
early stages of flowering because there were
many buds on the tree and only a few open
flowers on the tree and on the ground. On
August 8, 1988, it was in full flowering with
many buds and open flowers on the tree and
many flowers on the ground. On August 10,
1989, a year after Hurricane Gilbert had
severely pruned the tree, there were again
many buds and flowers on the tree and on the
ground. On June 10, 1986 when I inter-
viewed Sister Irene who was then the art
teacher, she said it was in September and
October that a lot of flowers fell to the
3. In a brief discussion of the flowering and
fruiting of the Munroe baobab, Hawkes
(1970a) wrote: "The fact that the tree does
produce fruit is interesting, indicating the
possibility that some of our Jamaican 'rat-
bats' have had a hand in its pollination, and
perhaps we can raise some seedlings from
fully mature pods, the one shown in the pic-
ture having been shaken off the tree in an
immature state by the action of the bulldoz-
ers, it seems." While I support the effort
Hawkes made to save the Munroe baobab,
bulldozers were probably not responsible for
the fruit he collected from under the tree.
The baobab begins flowering in the spring or
early summer, and continues into the early
fall, producing fruits which fall from the tree
in the late winter and through the spring and
summer. Sometimes maturing fruits can be
seen on a tree mingled with the ripe fruits
from the previous season.
4. As in my 1987 article, the height of the trees
presented in this paper are estimates, but
their circumference (and the distance from
the ground at which they are measured) was
determined by the use of a tape measure.
5. I had a similar experience in June of 1988
when I drove from Kingston to Mt Alveria
High School in Montego Bay where I was
told there were two large baobab trees.
These were also cotton trees.
6. I welcome any additional information on the
location and cultural importance of baobab
trees in Jamaica. This information can be
sent to the JAMAICA JOURNAL or directly to
me at the Department of Sociology and
Anthropology, College of Charleston,
Charleston, South Carolina, 29424.


Adams, D. C. 1972. Flowering Plants of
Jamaica. University of the West Indies.
Armstrong, P. H. 1984. 'The Disjunct
Distribution of the Genus Adansonia L.' The
National Geographic Journal of India, 142-
Asch, J. 1968. 'Botanical Emblems of the
Nations.' Garden Journal. March/April, 55-


Cook, O. F. and G. N. Collins.1903. Economic
Plants of Puerto Rico. Washington:
Government Printing Office.
Dalziel, J. M. 1937. The Useful Plants of West
Tropical Africa. London: Crown Agents for
Overseas Governments and Administrators.
Grey, Robert and Tracy Hubbard. 1933. List of
Plants Growing in the Botanical Garden of
the Atkins Institute of the Arnold Arboretum,
Soledad, Cienfuegas, Cuba. Cambridge:
Harvard University Press.
Grisebach, A. H. R. 1864. Flora of the British
West Indian Islands. London: Lovell Reeve
and Company.
Guy, G. L. 1967. 'Notes on Some Historical
Baobabs.' Rhodisiana 16, 17-26.
Hawkes, Alex D. 1970a 'Save Jamaica's Rare
African Baobab Tree.' Daily Gleaner, 16
April 1970.
-. 1970b 'Exceptionally Rare Plant.' Daily
Gleaner, 21 May 1970.
Little, E., R. O. Woodbury, and F. H.
Wadsworth. 1974. Trees of Puerto Rico and
the Virgin Islands, Vol 2. Agricultural
Handbook No. 449. Washington: U.S.
Department of Agriculture.
Macfayden, James 1850. The Flora ofJamaica,
Vol. 1. London: Longman. Vol. (unfinished)
215 pp. Printed in Jamaica.
Owen, John. 1970. 'The Medico-Social and
Cultural Significance of Adansonia digitata
(Baobab) in African Communities.' African
Notes, 6 (1):24-36.
-. 1974. 'A Contribution to the Ecology of the
African Baobab.' Savanna, 3 (1):1-12
Powell, Dulcie. 1972. The Botanic Garden,
Liguanea (With a Revision of Hortus
Eastensis). Kingston: Institute of Jamaica.
Proctor, George. 1986. Personal Communication.
Rashford, John. 1987a. 'The Search for Africa's
Baobab Tree in Jamaica.' JAMAICA JOURNAL,
20 (2):2-11.
-.1987b. 'The Baobab Tree and Seasonal
Hunger in Africa: The Case of the San.'
Botswana Notes and Records, Vol. 19:57-
-.1991. 'The Grove Place Baobab Tree'.
Virgin Islands Agriculture and Food Fair.
Bulletin Number 5: 65-69.
-.1994. 'The Search for the St John Baobab'.
Virgin Islands Agriculture and Food Fair,
Bulletin Number
Steffens, F. 1984. 'Philatelica Succulenta:
Baobabs on Stamps'. Part 2. Aloe, 21
Thebaud, B. 1984. 'The Eucalyptus and the
Baobab Tree'. Development: Seeds of
Change, 2: 68-69.
Wickens, G. E. 1982. 'The Baobab Africa's
Upside-down Tree'. Kew Bulletin, 37

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sions and associate bodies operating with
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pb. 161 pp. Illustrated (1974)J$150.00

Herb McKenley: Olympic Star
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pb. 97 pp. Illustrated (1974). J$150,00

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by Clyde Hoyt

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Tony McNeill

from the ms of extended prose poems 'Christopher Dillon's Fall Recollection'

Tanya's Magic Kit

for Voltaire and Wayne Brown
It's a disease that tells you that you don't have it. Recovery slogan

I have three unerasable memories of Tanya they'll bury me with.
The first memory's of the night that I met her. We had just concluded a recovery session.
All the others had gone. She was cleaning up. I recall again being riveted by her height
(strikingly but not overly tall); her wounded good nature; her shining slim beauty. But
what arrested me most about her was her smile that illumined her face from within, the
light radiating outward, and her fey speech of indeterminate accent, with a wonderful
affectedness/lisp recalling strangely Grace Kelly's. It helped, of course, that I was a middle-
aged 'emotional retard' to use a recovery staple drawn to impossible loves.
So I asked her shyly if she was a Jamaican, at which she laughed and said yes. "Then how
come the accent?" "Part of my Irie Druggist's Magic Samfie/Survival Kit," she lengthily
answered," then dashed out to surely a lover, innocuous (it seemed to me then), patient, in
his red Porsche.
The second memory is of seeing her at a recovering friend's. She was 'coming back' in
the recovery jargon from a longish, serious relapse and, in the two or three abstinent
weeks, had already regained her stunning good looks, raised by that radiant smile.
Anyway, she walked in, a leonine and electric presence, in very expensive, waist-high
crissas black boots; with her infant daughter Vanessa; and with Vanessa's father, the same
lover idling his red Porsche that first night, and who by then I had learned was nearly as
dangerous to her as the crack. He had introduced her to it his second or third Svengalian
victim as he ruled with the drug; made her whore for him when he finally tried it and
quickly got hooked by implacable poetic justice; subverted all of her many recovery
If she saw me at all, Tanya, clearly at the top of the world that gold afternoon and to
whom I'd have applied the term 'foxy' for the first (and last) time in the brief season I


knew her gave little sign. I carried my juvenile hurt and resentment home to my gates,
silent on them through two sessions that night.
The third and last memory's of chancing upon her as she talked to a couple of clean
addicts 1/2-an-hour or so before the start of the session downstairs. She was again coming
back, this time from the worst and longest relapse, resulting in even more Stygian losses on
Tanya's part: not the least of which was Vanessa; not the least of which was her freedom to
So I see her again a filthy, crawling, depersonalised thing, her ululant cries more bestial
that human in St Andrew's most dread-as lock-up. I see her again and again in Ward 21
in a time before Detox. I see her when her recidivism/what the doctors call 'unacceptable',
the nurses 'bad' behaviour, inexorably closed that door in the last Alamo of the addict,
Anyhow, as she rose to descend to the session, I noticed the light again, this time more sub-
tle and darker. I have never seen her more terrestrially luscious, Tanya, whose beauty and
psyche were more of the moon.
"Chris," she teased me, words on the run as she passed, "I believe that you like me, don't?"
"I've been praying you make it, glad you are back," I answered instead, as true to the yes
I withheld.
Since then she has stayed in relapse, punctuated by longish abstinent periods when she ran
what she called 'The Bellevue Scam', getting herself biochemically, if not behaviourally
sane after all admitted to the asylum again and again for what seemed to me contrary to
public opinion good food and good shelter on both of my visits to her there. Then that
door under the iron law of active addiction where 'things get worse' equally closed.
In her time on the street during that terrible period, she'd been, I gather, gang-raped;
aborted the ensuing some say, imaginary foetus; incessantly cruised New Kingston at
night, an almost full-time coke whore.
"They stampede like cattle to the crack house for their fix after selling their bodies," a
recovering woman with a first in English and a history of multiple rape during active
addiction, once stated to me. "After the hit, they go back and do the same thing all over
again. Over and over, Only sleep shuts them down for a time. Then death permanently. I
know those sad women. I was one of them."
Last night, Tanya fellated the wrong man and ended up blind and disfigured from acid
thrown by the client's own Browning, "an insanely jealous," reported one daily, "Female
"If you go out (i.e.'slip' or relapse), if you're lucky you die," is a grave warning recurrent
in sessions.
I am sure that most recovering addicts would not disagree, especially those who have
Tanya, for certain. With her magic kit.


I had a most marvellous piece of luck. I died
from Dream Song 26
77 Dream Songs
John Berryman

Two poems from the ms 'William, Lifted from Death by the Father of Shining, Gives Thanks Anyway'

William Steps Forth from the Temple of Stone through the Father of Shining

for my true creator and family

I ride with the ghost
of myself
on Encavas

into I think
her left year:

but the Father of Shining's
my seating companion
this time

nothing can shift Him,
not even your gun

tracking my window,
not even the woman
who made me wish blood

for dumping red William
in a far time
and the summer moon rising;

a liquid May morning
he kindled his work,

then his flesh;
a lovely June evening,

still trained on it,
fell back from the tower,
dusting his feet,

twice then in one season
nearly became
xth guest in the icebox

ahead of us all
unless, like Elijah,
a chariot lifts us

by magic still somehow
wedded to breath
and wasn't he lucky?

as the sea
both tough and romantic
and trembled this murmur

hang in there
the Father-&-Program's

working for you
this time it's so clear
and I'm sure and hope it's forever"

day at a time
for which I cross nocturnes,

Recalling you
empty and sallow
and matchstick-thin

floating through madmen
in Ward 21;

Keep the memory green,
I've heard the word shared
by more than one member

reflecting upon
tri-weekly electrodes
stamped to your skull

May keep you from falling
on your bum;

as I said
It is working,
Daughter of heaven

You were never so lovely and young

after the meeting
she smiled like a coffin and sauntered


William Re-Dreams His Own Death amid the White Driftwood

for Wayne Brown in gratitudefor his timeless The Child of the Sea
&for T.S.Eliot, who mistakenly thought himself evil

... who
Shall be killed first? Do not look up there;
The wind is blowing the building-tops, and a hand
Is sneaking the whole sky another way, but
It will not escape. Do not look up, God is
On High, He can see you. You will die.
W.S. Merwin

William bleeds on a beach
three decades later.
recalling himself
15 or 16
rich black from the sun
jetting its lasers
upon the near-
in the wraith's spring

The winter preceding
he'd found
a flat slab of driftwood
& lying 1/2-
cross it
used it to skim
the emerald ocean.
Parting its line, as
the Father of Fury
split the Red Sea
for the obdurate prophet

The name of the strip
was Red Caps,
adjoining Sans Souci
where his mother
a radiance worked
the final gold summer
before his first verses
woke angels of death

When the shell
at last emptied

Clear was his wish
to be
burnt & then scattered
on the said shore
three feet from the water
so incoming surf
could circle his grave-site
and glittering laurels,
like moving glass

If his double-disease
left any to mourn him
he hoped they'd grace his
wake & recite
their shapeliest visions;
From lost friends:
"The lunatic junky's
finally gone;
My only regret's
it wasn't
years sooner;
Always knew he would come to
a bad end" -
Which prompted a woman
to cry up
"Have mercy on him
immaculate raven;
I'm aware of
how vastly
he sinned,
the many
lives ruined
him to quite marry
poetry's high"

William knows better and starts down
the sky



Willliam Counsels a Beautiful One in Love with a Dream of May Pen
for D.W. &for every addict in denial

I wept when I had no shoes till I met a man who had no feet
from 'It's a Living', a tv sitcom (secondary [modified] source)

When I saw her there
lush with new contours
and the light starting under her skin

like all the clean women
in the interim
upon the upper floor

Scant minutes before
descended the staircase

to William's first meeting
of two
for her the one only

that evening
of wars
& lowering liquor

catholic nearly
over the earth

she smiled
like a wonderful vision
receiving him

lonely and raining
into her arms

"hugs not drugs"
from three different women
at three different times

that wondrous
Christmas Eve

and his heart turned over
and he felt a love vast

unlike William "ailing"
29 years
"and all on account of her"

would see a delusion
after all, junky,

for nearly two decades
you bored everyone
you could collar

to listen

passing the lyrics

from your stone temple
ad & ad &
ad nauseam

I love my poems above everything

A note from the poet for the Acknowledgement:
The author is indebted to Wayne Brown for 'Tanya's Magic Kit'and to the late John Berryman for the 'William [Ruth]'poem.


He's Jamaican


When we harm
our environment, ,
we harm ourselves.
Like this Jamaican Owl
(Pseudoscops Grammicus or Patoo),
every tree, river, fish and bird...every creature of
Nature contributes-to life on this planet and deserves
our respect. In Jamaica we must take care to sustain the
quality of our air, sea and land.
Shell is helping the cause of environmental
conservation in Jamaica. Shell helped found
the Jamaica Junior Naturalists which teaches our
children to value our country's
plant and animal life.
Shell uses its calendar to encourage the protection of
endangered marine life. Company representatives
have discussed with community organizations
the need to balance economic progress with
environmental preservation. They also have urged
business groups to "bring the environment into
the boardroom." Within its own operations, Shell uses
many opportunities to show its customers how to use
its products safely...and in ways that won't hurt the
environment. It was Shell's marketing initiative that
brought unleaded gasoline to Jamaica.
But Shell knows it still has some way to go in its own
operations. The company conducted an exhaustive
environmental audit at all its installations, then
hired a full time, in-house environmentalist to
carry out the improvements. i .
Everyone of us ... children, professionals, I "
the man & woman in the street... must help make '^
sure we have a healthy environment.
After all, we're all Jamaicans too!

The Shell Companies in Jamaica
Rockfort, Kingston 2. Tel: 928-7301-9 / 928-7231-9

Michael Manley

... in memory

by Rachel Manley

A few months before my father died, we were sitting in I cannot
his garden looking out at the mountains. Shostakovich, think of an
art that my
triumphal and passionate, was storming out over Mavis father was not
Bank, and I asked him, if he could keep one gift from passionate
this world for all eternity, what would it be? He stared about, except,
ironically for me,
patiently beyond my customary disturbance, and replied, poetry, of which
'this ability to connect'. It was this ability to connect that he had almost a
characterized his relationship with the arts. schoolboy shyness.
Although he claimed
Growing up in the rich earth of a germinating political and poetry sometimes intimi-
cultural Jamaica, my father was destined to be the ultimate dated him, on the occasions
activist in the world of the former, and the enthusiastic that he expressed reticence, it was usually on a work that was
audience of much of the latter. It is a measure of the man that, either tediously opaque or downright rubbish. He was a avid
though in so many respects he was a natural performer, he collector of Jamaican paintings, sculpture and pottery. A walk
could be equally passionate from the periphery as an through a gallery with him was always enriching as he would
aficionado. He was incapable of being a casual fan of anything, provide the unique combination of the spark of unselfcon-
for if he were a fan at all, he was, in his words, a 'deep fan'. scious, spontaneous connection and the steady beam of objec-
Never simply a bemused bystander, he threw himself into his tive and critical appreciation. His insight provide a conduit that
role as audience with profound gusto, always offering con- led the mind from what it had visually absorbed into the wider
structive criticism. Added to this was his rare ability to place sensitivity of its context.
any creation he perused within a wider context. If my sculptor Whilst being generous in his praise for what he considered
grandmother ignited the spirit of art in me, my father chal- worthy artistic expression, he was a discerning judge. I once
lenged my response to transcend the sensory. accompanied him to a play in Montreal which I had mis-
Michael's response to art was in some ways similar to his takenly chosen for the sole reason that it was by a modem
response to sport. He suffered two early disappointments. An African writer. It was by any standards a sloppy and boring
infantile ambition to be a ballet dancer (inspired by a book of production which he first endured with the absent-minded
photographs of Nijinsky) found his spirit unequal to the scene consolation of crunchng a peppermint loudly between his
of two dozen pink slippers under a flouncing hedge of white teeth, but as the pedantic display lengthened, he treated the
ballet tunics. Later on in his youth he decided to play football, effort to his final disconnection by falling into a heavy baritone
but was thwarted by an injured knee. The young Turk appeared sleep. And it was typical of him that he saved his harshest crit-
to accept his shortcomings with grace. He regulated himself in icism for himself. Despite his many published books, he was
each case to the role of enthusiast and coach. quick to point out that he considered them as merely conve-
Having decided that his contribution to the arts and sport nient devices by which he could record his political journey
would be better served from the indispensable vantage point of and philosophy. (There were many readers, including myself,
observer, he proceeded to make audience an active rather that who felt he had certainly transcended this severe self censure
passive mission. I have heard him equally absorbed with some with his now classic book, A History of West Indies Cricket, but
knotty problem such as the angle of a neck in the placement of he remained unconvinced.)
a figure in one of his mother's carvings as with the tendency of It is strange for me even now writing about him, not to have
a local boxer in Wint's gym to lower his left, or lead with his the help of my father's incisive mind and unerring critical
chin. Rex Nettleford speaks of the amazing appropriateness of instinct to probe the clarity of my meaning and edit my lan-
chin. Rex Nettleford speaks of the amazing appropriateness of guage. I am unconsciously listening out for that calm, never
Michael's suggestions, when they sometimes discussed how to guage am unconsciously listening out for that calm, never
ic su i i iu to overbearing or disheartening, voice of reason to lead me to the
resolve certain problems in a particular dance. The master of best of which I am capable. I believe there may be others who,
the medium will tell you with amusement and almost fatherly like me, will miss his vision and sensitivity, his generous
pride some specific clinch that is held for the extra seconds on applause and intellectual honesty, his instinct in the various
Michael's shrewed advice. I remember vividly his painstaking disciplines of art.
search with choreographer Bert Rose for the rare combination From all of us watching the stage where the curtain closes
of reticence and certainty needed in the movements to portray on your own fine performance, we thank you, and we echo the
N.W. Manley in the dance 'Edna M'. His knowledge of track call with which you so often and generously blessed us ...
and field, cricket, and almost all sport, and his interminable Bravo, Michael, Bravo, Dad . for all you have given of
analyses and insights have become legendary. yourself.. Bravo...


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This is the second of the three African Series volumes in
the Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement
Association (UNIA) Papers project. This volume covers
the period June 1921 to December 1922 and documents the
extensive involvement of Africans from South Africa,
Namibia, Zaire (Belgian Congo), Ghana (Gold Coast),
Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Kenya, Malawi, Lesotho
and Mozambique with the UNIA. This ninth volume of the
Garvey Papers provided evidence from sub-Saharan Africa
of support for the Garvey movement as well as opposition
to it. The extensive surveillance and repression of
Garveyite activity by European colonial officials have
yielded important documents from Belgian, Italian, South
African, American, Portuguese and French archives.
Also covered are the debates concerning the role of
Blacks from the Diaspora, including African-Americans, in
the emancipation of Africa from European colonial rule. Of
special interest in these debates are the differences between
the DuBoisian Pan-Africanist Congress held in Paris in
1921 and Garvey's approach as set out by the 1921
Convention of the UNIA. DuBoisian Pan-Africanism in the
post World War I era sought to organize a Pan-African
intelligentsia to negotiate with European colonial powers
for social, economic and political reforms. DuBois's col-
leagues were a handful of black men, some of whom had
been brought into the system of power and who had to play
the game according to the rules set out by their sponsors.
On the other hand, the intelligentsia within the UNIA,
including Garvey, were outsiders trying to create space for
themselves in a hostile world where racism was not only
institutionalized but democratically sanctioned as in the
United States. Garveyite Pan-Africanism sought to mobi-
lize Africans and people of African descent in the diaspora
for reforms as well as for their political, economic and cul-



Volume IX, June 1921 December 1922.
Robert A. Hill, Editor in Chief Berkeley Los Angeles,
London: University of Colifornia Press, 1995.
Pp. lxxviii, 740; 25 illustrations and 5 maps.
By Rupert Lewis

tural empowerment. In an era when empires were strong
and seemed invincible, especially in Africa and the
Caribbean, Garvey's vision seemed unrealistic and utopian.
On the other hand, Dubois's reformist programme seemed
pragmatic when compared with the message of Garvey's
Negro World newspaper which was widely circulated.
While there is documentation of the differences
between W.E.B. DuBios's Pan-Africanism and that of
Marcus Garvey, of greater importance is the contrast in
views between Garvey and Blaise Diagne, the Senegalese
and first black representative to the French Chamber of
Deputies and President of the 1921 Pan-African Congress,
who declared in his Open Letter to Garvey in 1922: "We,
black Americans, whose leader you claim to be, and who,
moreover, lack property authority in this matter" (p.497).
Diagne's arguments were not mere debating points as they
gave tacit support to the actions of the French Government
in preventing the spread of Garveyism in Senegal. The
arrests and deportation of Garvey activists in Senegal, the
banning of the Negro World, the surveillance of those
suspected of having any connection with the Garvey move-
ment and the interception of mail are well documented.
Diagne's position did not carry the day, however, as a
younger generation of African nationalists were drawn to
Garvey's militant Pan-Africanist message of 'Africa for the
What is striking are the many leads that emerge in this
volume connecting the Garvey movement to the modern
decolonization movement in Africa. Scholars of nationalist
movements in Africa would be familiar with the autobio-
graphical testimonies of Jomo Kenyatta, Nmamdi Azikiwe
of Nigeria and Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana attesting to the
impact of Garvey's ideas but fewer would be aware of
UNIA divisions in South Africa, Ghana (Gold Coast),


Nigeria, Liberia, Namibia (South West Africa), Sierra
Leone, Lesotho, and connections between Garvey and the
nationalist movements in South Africa such as the African
National Congress, in Malawi, Mozambique and the
Belgian Congo.
Several factors were important in bringing about a sit-
uation favourable for Garvey's propaganda and organiza-
tional thrust in Africa. Among these are the impact of the
First World War, the defeat of Germany and the debate over
what should happen to the German colonies in Africa, the
role in politics of demobilized black soldiers on their return
home, migration within Africa connected to capitalist
investments which exposed African workers to modem
ideas of nationalism, politics and trade unionism; then there
is the growth of an educated stratum among Blacks whose
mobility in social, cultural, economic and political life was
hindered by racial barriers and who went into the political
arena to redress these wrongs.
An important theme is the relationship between the
Americo-Liberian political elite and the UNIA. Garvey
courted the political leaders of Liberia as he sought to set
up the headquarters of the courtship with the clear intention
of securing money from the UNIA. The Liberian political

elite was corrupt, self-seeking and brutal in their relation-
ship with the non-Westernised African majority. West
Indians and African-Americans who went to Liberia with
grand ideas about the future of Africa had a rude
awakening to the horrors of government there.
The source materials in this volume certainly challenge
the notion that Garvey's Africa programme was escapist
and millenarian. The UNIA had a real and influential Africa
programme. It also leads us to question the narrow
separatist interpretation of the Garvey movement as their
efforts for civil rights in the Diaspora were integrally
connected to their Africa emancipation agenda.
Professor Robert Hill and his team have provided us
once more with a magisterial volume on the Garvey move-
ment that draws from an astonishingly wide range of
geographical and language data bases, is extremely well
footnoted and deserves the attention of serious researchers
of the history and politics of the Garvey movement in the
early twentieth century.

Rupert Lewis, Ph.D., is Reader in Political Thought, and
the Head of the Department of Government, University of
the West Indies, Kingston, Jamaica.

Institute of Jamaica Publications Limited
Available at leading bookstores and our office, 41/4 41/2 Camp Rd., Kingston 4

Port Royal

A History and Guide

by Clinton V. Black
*('lliotor V.
A Walking Tour of Port Royal (map/poster) V.

The name 'Port Royal' conjures up a vivid picture of pirates and buccaneers, .
English sea-dogs, destruction by earthquake and fire, a town that would never
die.... This lively history gives us the full story of Port Royal from pre-history to
the present a glimpse into its future.
An attractive package which will be popular with Jamaicans and visitors alike.
Poster is a magnificent aerial view of Port Royal.
90pp. 41 b/w illustrations 8.5 x 5.5 in. ISBN 976-8017-06-6 (PB)
Map/poster 17 x 22" in full colour on art quality stock. Text and photos for a
walking tour keyed to the map.



I Bckin ritM


Among our range of Titles are the following:-

Jamaican Folk Tales and Oral Histories by Laura Tanna
(Also available on Video and Audio Cassettes)

Port Royal by Clinton Black

Working Together for Development by Norman Girvan (ed)

The Rebel Women in the British West Indies During Slavery
by Lucille Mathurin-Mair

When Me Was A Boy by Charles Hyatt

Stella Seh by Barbara Gloudon

From Our Yard Poetry since Independence by Pamela Mordecai



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Glimpses of Jamaica's Natural History

The Jamaican Black-billed Parrot
(Amazona agilis)
An endemic species, mostly green in colour, the Jamaican Black-billed Parrot can be distinguished from
the Jamaican Yellow-billed Parrot by its distinctly greyish-black beak. In addition, the throat of the Yellow-
billed Parrot is pinkish-red, that of the Black-billed, greenish.
This species is apparently very rare in the eastern regions of the island but in the more westerly areas,
such as Mount Diablo and the Cockpit Country, flocks of as many as fifty individuals have been observed,
sometimes in the company of Yellow-billed Parrots.
The Black-billed Parrot prefers wet woodlands in hilly limestone country. It is known to nest in tree holes
and, at least occasionally, in abandoned woodpecker nests. It is reported that 2 to 4 white eggs are laid
and that the brooding period is approximately two months.
Thomas Farr
Late of the Natural History Division of the Institute of Jamaica

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