Front Cover
 Table of Contents
 Life and history
 Science and technology
 Books and writers
 Back Cover

Title: Jamaica journal
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00090030/00079
 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 2006
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: VID00079
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
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
    Table of Contents
        Page 4
        Page 5
    Life and history
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
        Page 32
        Page 33
        Page 34
        Page 35
        Page 36
        Page 37
        Page 38
        Page 39
        Page 40
        Page 41
        Page 42
        Page 43
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        Page 45
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        Page 54
        Page 55
        Page 56
        Page 57
        Page 58
        Page 59
        Page 60
        Page 61
    Science and technology
        Page 62
        Page 63
        Page 64
        Page 65
        Page 66
        Page 67
        Page 68
    Books and writers
        Page 69
        Page 70
        Page 71
        Page 72
        Page 73
        Page 74
        Page 75
        Page 76
        Page 77
        Page 78
        Page 79
        Page 80
    Back Cover
        Page 81
        Page 82
Full Text

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Ar i

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HoeI Wti






January 14 February 28

Exhibition Gallery, Istitute of Jamaica
Comer, East and Tower Streets, Kingston
Tel: 922-06206

Official Opening 1907 Quake Exhibition
loint project between 101 (Museum of History
and Ethnography) and National Gallery

uNadoa Gallery of Nmaica National Biennial Exhibition
January March 1 Kingston Mall 922-1561/8540
Annual February Programme
African Caribbean Institute of jamaica/ 200th Anniversary of the Abolition of the
lamaica Memory Bank Trade in Africans
February Kingston Mall To feature Poetr Reading wth
922-7415/4793 Canadian Poet Dr George Ellio Clarke
at Emancipation Park among other activities
Discovery Room, Natural History Division World Wetlands Day, Open Day and Workshop
February 2 Comer, East and Tower Streets, Kingston Mason River Field Station, Clarendon

Contact Alison S. Prieto Exhibition on the Legendary City of Port Royal, lamaica
Historical Museum of Southern Florida H loina proecu between 101 and
February 16 -- June 3 Tel: 305-375-1492
February 16 lume 3
Address 101 West Flagler Street Miami, Educational pgrammes. lectures offered by the Historical
Florida, USA, 33130 Museum related to lamaican history and cultural
Florida UA 310 traditions, Family Fun Days and more

Liberty Hall Sankofa III
February 23 76 King Stree Kingston (Reclaiming nour past so you can movie forwaidi
To include symposium on African Heritage

March 5 Aprl Institute of lamaica ICC CWC 2007
March 5 April 29 1016 East Street Kingston Cricket Exhibition

Institute of amaica Lecture Hall Award Ceremony for Ar in
March 7 at 10:00 a.m. Preparatory Schools Exhibition
"Cricket Lovely Cricket"
March 12 March 21 National Gallery of Jamaica The paintings of Barnngton Watson

The Opening Cremony for the exhibition,
April 19 Museum of History & Ehnography Fo. Fashionable ne: rrrture in lmaica


Jamaica Journal Vol. 30 Nos. 1-2
December 2006
Kim Robirison-.alcott
Assistant Editor
SAuvaun Heame
Editorial Committee
Petrine Archer-Straw
Rupert Lewis
Wayne McLaughlin
Verene Shepherd
Editorial AssistanI
I atnya Pennant
Design and Production
Image Factor) Limited
!-aith MyNers
Advertising and Sales
Tamara Williams-Martin
Pear Tree Pre-s
lamana Iouaml is published by
the Institute of lamaica
All correspondence and subscrption
requests should be addressed to
Institute of Jamaica
10-16 East Street Kingston. lamaica
Telephone (87b1922-0620-6
Fav 18"6) 22-114'
Email il.lam@mail intohan.com
Website' www.instbtuteotjamaica.org im
Back issues
Most back issues are available List sent on request
Entire senes available on microfilm from
PoQuest Information and Learnng
Periodicals Acquisitions
PO. Box 1346,.nn Arbor MI 48106-1346
Telephone: ("34) 761-4700
Individual copies J600/ US$10; a subscription for
three issues is available from the Institute of lamaica
for J$1,800/ US$32 Including shipping and handling.
Cheque or international money order payable to the
Institute of Jamaica.
Articles appearing in Jamaica journal are abstracted
and indexed in Historical Abstracts and Amenca
History and Uife.
Vol. 30 Nos 1-2
Copyright 0 2006 by the Institute of Jamaica
ISSN 00214124

CoCer or coenenismy not be.repodwciin wiare .
i tp arttiitheuuf;ti ittenp.~riis fi 6 tie basute. "-
of Janica. .
Cover mage ofinton Kwesiohnasoiextraded fomn
front cover of A Resualaliunery v Selected Poems
enguhin 2002)

Rethinking Family

in Black and White

I am recovering from a serious illness
that kept me on life support for weeks
and sent shock waves through my
family as they considered the possibility
of my death. I was in a coma, so these
anxieties were unknown to me. Instead,
I was in another place of indescribable
time and space conversing with angels
who determined my fate.
In the real world there were
other conversations. Mobile phones
in Jamaica, the USA, Canada, New
Zealand and the UK rang incessantly,
linking family groups with each other.
Faster than CNN, friends, personal
and professional, shared news of my
illness. In the ten days I 'slept', my life
conflated from a loose global network
into a tight village of friends and family
who referred to each other with ease,
as if they had known one another all
their lives. I was filled with tubes and
needles in the intensive care unit, while
these people gave another type of life
support praying, negotiating and
fighting for my survival.
I woke up to find that I had no
control over this; I merely had to
accept the transparency of my new life
and its interlocking friendships. My
once reserved life was now the shared
responsibility of a diaspora family one
that had always been there, but one
that I had never fully acknowledged or
appreciated. Aunts, uncles and cousins,
twice and sometimes three times
removed, had joined in a collective
prayer to keep me alive. When I asked
one of my American cousins whom I
have met barely twice in my life why
she had involved herself in the anxious
telephone updates on my progress, she
said she loved me. How could you love
me, I asked? She explained that she had


St Mary's School, 1962

grown with me as part of her family
not because of my physical presence
but because of our family pictures that
she had known from childhood. These
photographs circulated throughout
our extended family; they were images
of weddings, of new babies, and
annual school photos sent initially to
our maternal grandmother and then
duplicated and circulated to each
branch of the family. Each year, she
studied how my pigtails had grown,
was I smiling or sad, and how I became
more independent of my brother and
sister initially huddled into the same
Now, retreating from near death, I
find myself returning to these pictures
of myself and others, piecing together
the shape of this family spread across
the globe, but bound close with familial
ties. This is the diaspora family typical
in so many of our Caribbean lives so
rich with history, pain and sentiment.
This is the story of a life almost lost but

saved by black and white photos, faith
and the cell phone.
My parents went to England in the
early 1950s. Their separate journeys
there (followed four years later by my
brother and sisters) began a process of
fragmentation that would become more
evident in future years. Photographs
from our family album reflect the
sense of adventure, independence and
aloneness of that time.
A rare photograph of my father
and five fellow passengers perched
on the deck of the SS Arigua suggests
the camaraderie and high spirits that
attended the three-week journey to
Genoa, Italy. Even as they are poised
precariously between one life and
another, their confidence is palpable.
After all, they are all young, able
men, eager for independence and the
possibility of making their way in a
'common-wealth' and empire that even
on the verge of its dismantling still
offered economic advancement. It is
also clear that the diaspora took roots
on the journey, because all those men in
the picture became lifelong friends of
my father and an extended family to his

On board the SS Arigua, 1955

Beneath the railings, other
passengers quizzically observe the
scene, perhaps envious of their
agility and fearlessness. Their casual
occupancy of the stem signals the
rudimentary nature of their facilities
and their status as economy passengers
on this banana boat. They are crossing
the Atlantic on a journey so different
from their African forebears who,
packed like sardines below deck,
had little time for self-expression or
By contrast, the photograph of
my mother taken almost a year later
at Palisadoes Airport is replete with
apprehension. It is the first time that
she will take a plane, to travel with
my aunt to the UK via the bitter cold
of Newfoundland. Predictably, she is
dressed in a short-sleeved dress entirely
inappropriate for this journey. Halfway
there she will shiver and cry for the
warmth she has left behind. She is
flanked by my brother and sisters, all
three clinging to her, instinctively aware
of her pending departure and their
future estrangement. Looking on are
other children dressed in their finest for
their trip to this place of departure. Like
my siblings, they are also apprehensive
about that moment when they too
might be able to board a plane and
become part of this global adventure.
Jamaican US-based photographer
Albert Chong has
created images
and poetry about
this moment of
leaving, and the
anticipation and
excitement of finally
boarding a BOAC
plane. He framed
this experience
in a series of
childhood passport
referencing the
beginning of his
transient life.
His poignant
recollections of
his first departure
echo the voices of so many Jamaican
families who scattered across the globe
in the 1950s and 1960s. Motivated by

TOP Cousins Junior and Hilary, 1955
MIDDLE My mother at Palisadoes Airport, Kingston,
BonoM Independence Ball, 1962

economic need and working-class
ambition, this mass migration set in
motion a shift in the demographics
of most of these foreign cities and a
reappraisal of their cultural identities.
It also caused a paradigm shift in the
domestic lives of many homes where
husbands left wives, mothers separated
from children and grandmothers
became default heads of households.
Photographs played a role once
again in these dislocations. Those
parents forced to leave their children
behind, often for many years,
sometimes forever, watched them grow
in black and white. Such images taken
in Jamaican studios mimic those of the
metropole. Sometimes the backdrops
are even more ostentatious, and
there is the prerequisite prop, often
a (white) doll as a silent witness to
every scene that mocks our need for
companionship and 'normal' family
life. The dislocation caused by waves of
Jamaican migration since emancipation,
whether to Panama, the USA, Canada
or the UK, represents the second
wound to a family structure already
made fragile by the legacy of slavery
and plantation life.
My father arrived in England carry-
ing a letter signed by the then Jamaican
labour leader Michael Manley that
introduced him as a linotype press
operator and a reliable worker. With
this recommendation,
he was able to get a
job with the Birming-
ham Post newspaper
and send for my
mother, brother and
sisters. A photo of my
parents at a gala ball
to celebrate Jamaican
Independence in 1962
shows their naive
optimism about what
that event might
bring. The implied
confidence helped
them and thousands
of Jamaican families
adjust to the harsh
realities of life in Eng-
land. That all the other couples at that
table would move on to Canada and
the USA in a few years also suggests

the difficulties of this transition, as well
as an ingrained migratory restlessness
typical of our people.
Rather than uproot the family
again, my father chose to stay in
Birmingham, becoming a political
activist in the black community. Our
home became a hub for Communists,
Trotskyites, refugees, and Black Power
youth. My mother, who ran the West
Indian women's group, cooked endless
pots of food that fed the inevitable
visitors who presented themselves at
our family dinnertime. On Sundays, I
would do the rounds with my father in
his house-to-house campaigning, and,
in the summer, attend the numerous
protest rallies and marches.
Over the years, my memory has
not faded but grown more acute. I see
events as clearly focused pictures, like
my memory of the night Angela Davis's
sister came to our home. Crammed into
our tiny living room, an entourage of
Afro'd and black-suited bodyguards
considered ways to protest Angela's in-
carceration. I remember such incidents
so vividly that I hunt for the photos
still, even though we kept too few.
My sister and I sat at the top of
the stairs listening to discussions like
these, enthralled by their sense of
urgency. Even as youngsters, these
concerns were not lost to us. We felt
the tensions and anxieties of our
parents and what it meant to "seize
the time". We knew also that these
were life and death matters because we
read Stokely Carmichael and Malcolm
X, whose books were stacked on the
mantelpiece. In 1968, most discussions
were to do with alliances, how to win
the confidence of more complacent
West Indians, whether to align with
the white working-class Marxists, and
how to deal with the more radical and
impatient demands of black youths,
like my oldest sister who had become
a Black Panther sympathiser. But
positions had become polarised by
then, leaving little room for these grey
areas of discussion. In the wake of
assassinations and racial victimisation,
black and white were the only two
colours that seemed to matter.
There are other memories of those
years, remembered in colours too subtle

TOP Terry's wedding, c. 1960
ABOVE My grandmother, London, c. 1956

for even the camera to record. These are
usually visualised in tones of blue that
come from pure spirit and a mixture
of sadness and joy that only the hearts
that have lived with the consequences
of forced migration can share. How do
you capture that moment at a house
party at two o'clock in the morning
when old and young alike are on
their feet, united by strains of reggae,
chanting, "For the wicked carried us
away into captivity, requiring from us a
song, how can we sing the Lord's song
in a strange land ..."? These moments
are mellow and less easy to depict. It
is a feeling of belonging, even as one

is estranged. It is a feeling that bears
the weight of more than four hundred
years of history and the sense that like
the Israelites of biblical times, we find
ourselves in a strange land. I have
experienced that feeling just as strongly
in Birmingham as I have in Kingston.
Some black scholars have
challenged the use and abuse of
the term'diaspora', especially with
reference to Caribbean people who
chose to migrate for economic reasons.
They consider the term to be used too
loosely because it no longer bears the
weight of its origins coined for the
exiled Jews of the Old Testament, or
the holocaust victims of fascism. On
the other hand, cultural theorist Stuart
Hall, referencing that large body of
immigrants who found themselves
adrift in urban centres in London,
New York and Toronto, considers
these immigrants "twice diasporized",
linking the pain of our forced
migration from Africa to the distressing
displacement of West Indians because
of economic constraints in the region.
Perhaps only those who have lived
through it can fully understand the
sadness of these families huddled into
small brick houses, working on buses
and in factories, punching coins into
meters for warmth, giving rent parties
out of hardship but also a need for
companionship, dancing the ska and
the blues until our white neighbours
complained. The cramped cities were
like wildernesses. We all clung together
for the memory of home. We danced to
both calypso and reggae trying to sing
the same song in a strange land?

Predictably, the pictures of these
families sent back home show little of
this discomfort. Instead, they proffer
images of false prosperity. Taken
against the backdrop of a city studio,
their neo-classical styling supports
the sense of grace that their models
wish to portray. For the working-
class family, such depictions were an
important record of their survival and
improving status. So they dressed
accordingly in best coats, dresses and
church hats. Even so, it is difficult to
conceal the sense of grim determination
and sheer willpower required for life
in a cold, inhospitable and sometimes
racist environment. The photograph
of my mother taken at a good friend's
wedding shows how easily this scene
of prosperity could be undermined
in spite of their suitable garb. The
group is crammed into a framing
device too small and the faux design
of its backdrop and curtains delineates
fantasy from reality. There is a sadness
and impoverishment to these images,
despite the festive nature of
such occasions. Compared to
the smugness of the men in this
photograph, the women look
strangely serious, as if acutely
aware of the perils of this step into
a new domestic arrangement as
a way of securing a new life in a
new country. j
Perhaps more heartening P
are the informal snapshots from
weekends and holidays when we
came together to celebrate the
smaller events of life. It is these
moments that I remember as family
gatherings, family being those who
lived through an immediate experience.
In this respect, family could be anyone
close at hand, including a neighbour
or a friend. A cousin could share more
with you than an absent brother or
father or even mother. Our ties were
contingent rather than genealogical.
Family was anyone who shared your
pride in new flock-patterned wallpaper,
gas central heating or a Christmas cake
that had "so much rum". As teenagers,

TOP Aunt Mavis, c. 1950
MIDDlE With the Philpotts, 1969
RIGHT The Van Vechtens, 1974

knew more about the characters
ur favourite soaps than we did
ut our own grandparents left back
amaica. When we mourned the
th of a character from television's
ironation Street", it was like we had
an old friend or an uncle.
Looking at these photographs now,
possible to see the formations of
v family structures and new lives,
the ways in which new faces show
to redefine our sense of being black,
amaican, or Caribbean, or African.
re is the picture of Aunt Mavis who
lived in London since forever. We
rvelled at her ability to pass as white
ur albums and in London where
had settled and married an English
ap' called Ron. Her St Elizabeth
during provided easy passage
tough the streets of Tottenham. That
intil you heard her speak.
Over the years, there has emerged
rnse of a creeping miscegenation as
children of our parents' generation
*e chosen partners from there and
elsewhere. Our identities shift and
separate from frame to frame. We
begin to look like the places and
faces where we have settled. We
come to see ourselves as diasporic
and different. We question
whether we might be more or less
than those we have left behind.
Death is perhaps that moment
when such inquiry is uppermost.
Where will I die? Who will
attend my funeral? Where will
they bury me? These are some
of the questions that I faced this
nmer. They are the questions that
resent the uncertainties implicit
hin a contingent way of being that
typically 'diasporic'. They are at
root of my family's existence and
irger conversation that keeps our
ones engaged. As I consider these
series and the photographs from my
st, I recognize that I am not ready
lie because I am nowhere near
e to answer such concerns. This is
nothing that my diaspora family
ms to understand also even at a
tance. o

All photos provided courtesy of the author.




If i




The SS Empire Windrush:

Myths and Facts


June 1998 marked the fiftieth anniver-
sary of the SS Empire Windrush's voyage
carrying the first post-1945 Caribbean
migrants to the UK. Celebrations took
place that year in the UK, where the
significance of the event was widely
recognized as a way of acknowledging
the Caribbean's contribution to that
society over recent decades. But what
do we really know of the Windrush, her
passengers and the reactions on their
arrival in the UK? Too much of what we
think we know is myth.
The SS Empire Windrush was a
prize of war captured from the
Germans and renamed. In 1948 she was
owned by the New Zealand Shipping
Company Limited. Early in 1948, the
British government abandoned its
powers to direct merchant shipping.
Up to that point the Empire Windrush
was a troop ship used to transport
soldiers back to countries of origin and
for other priority tasks of the British
government. Before the Windrush's
June 1948 voyage it had been almost
impossible for civilians to get to the
mother country from the colonies.
There were hundreds, if not thousands,
in the Caribbean who wanted to make
this journey.
Between 1945 and 1948, official
discussions involving colonial
governors and the British government
took place about using "surplus"
West Indian labour to ease the "labour
shortage" in the UK. Studies of the
official records show that the British
government would have none of this,
despite wartime use of thousands of
men and women from the Caribbean
colonies in the Royal Air Force,

opposITE Windrush passengers, 22 June 1948.
SOURCE: The Guardian Weekend, 21 June 1997.

in factories on Merseyside and as
woodcutters in Scotland. The British
authorities had sexual-moral fears for
the fate of British girls at the hands of
black male workers. They also faced
a practical problem. Black Caribbean
workers, as British subjects with full
citizenship rights, could not be told on
arrival in the UK that they must work
only in this or that industry or locality.
So in the early post-1945 period,
the UK government directly recruited
as workers only white non-citizens
from continental Europe, often former
prisoners of war. Julius Isaacs's book
British Post-War Migration (1954) is
an early account of this 'European
volunteers' scheme. In short, however
great her labour needs, the British
government was not ready to organise
the mass entry of black, largely male
labour into the UK. The Windrush
voyage was emphatically not a
government operation.
It is a myth that this 1948 voyage
is the first piece of evidence of that
'call' from the British to the children
of the Empire to come 'home' and
help rebuild the shattered mother
country. Equally, it is a myth that the
1948 British Nationality Act was a legal
signal that her black colonial subjects
were welcome to rush to Britain. When,
in April and May 1948, news of the
coming voyage spread and the interest
of prospective passengers mounted in
Jamaica, the role of the colonial labour
department was mainly to sound
warnings to workers against going to
the UK. They were told to abandon
high expectations of employment and
accommodation in Britain.
The Windrush is thought of as
a ship that carried 492 Jamaicans
to the UK. In fact, it also conveyed

people from British Guiana (picked
up in Trinidad), from Trinidad and
Tobago, from Jamaica (Kingston), from
Tampico (Mexico), from Cuba, and
from Bermuda. The total number of
expectant souls on board was 1,027. It
departed from Kingston's Royal Mail
Wharf on Thursday, 27 May 1948. The
passengers travelled in three classes
that the UK Customs called A, B and C.
The passenger list, compiled by
UK Customs at Tilbury, suggests that
a large number of British civilians
stranded overseas travelled home on
the Windrush, the first such transport
available. They included a fair number
of families. This is most strikingly so
for the batch boarding at Tampico. To
my mind, the most interesting A-class
name is that of Ms Nancy Cunard,
author of the massive 1934 publication
Negro. The B-class passengers seem all
to have been UK seamen and military
personnel men of the Gloucester
Regiment returning from a tour of duty.
The C-class passengers were our
people. Actually, there was a class
below them, or rather a small non-class:
that of stowaways. Considerable efforts
were made at embarkation points to
keep the stowaways from boarding.
But, as was reported at the time, a
waterfront habitue chirped: "The best
system can be beaten." It was. The
record shows two stowaways.
One boarded in Trinidad, the other
in Kingston and, remarkably, the latter
was a thirty-nine-year-old woman, a
dressmaker by the unusual surname
name of Wauchape: Evelyn Wauchape.
I would very much like to interview
this woman if she is still alive. What
would have been the mental and
social processes by which a working-
class Jamaican woman of thirty-nine

prepared herself to stow away to the
UK on the Empire Windrush? Daring it
certainly took.
In Caribbean cultural terms, among
the most distinguished of the C-class
passengers were the world-class master
potter Mr Cecil Archibald Baugh,
and Lord Kitchener, the Trinidad
calypsonian, whose real name is
Aldwin Roberts. Kitch boarded the
Windrush in Kingston. This may be
evidence of the pan-Caribbean practice
of the early calypsonians.
Looking further at the list, it is
clear that quite a few of this class of
passengers were cultural workers:
perhaps ten musicians and three or four
people describing themselves as artists

and so on. The rest of the Windrush's
C-class passengers were mainly
artisans, skilled tradesmen: barbers,
cabinetmakers, carpenters, chauffeurs,
fitters, machinists, mechanics, a piano
repairer, two welders. There were also
salesmen, clerks and a chemist as well
as the first of those farmers/cultivators
who, with ex-cane cutters, were to leave
the Jamaican countryside for the cold
of the urban UK over the next fourteen
years. The UK Customs list of the
Windrush passengers does not indicate
former Royal Air Force personnel, and
it is an open question how many of
these skills had been acquired in the
British army.
The age and sex breakdown of the
C-class passengers is worth noting. The
oldest passenger appears to have been

forty-seven years old. A few, like Mr
Baugh, were in their thirties. But the
overwhelming majority were in their
twenties. Without having actually done
the calculations, I would estimate that
the average age would have been no
higher than twenty-seven or twenty-
Apart from that female stowaway,
the list of Windrush C-class passengers
does not disclose many women. My
provisional search shows eighteen-
year-old Lorraine Rochester as the
only woman in this category. There are
about three names that apply to either
men or women, but their occupations
suggest that they are men carpenters
and the like. It is worth repeating
that a very different gender profile
prevailed elsewhere: in classes A and

TOP Many of those immigrants who arrived on the 55
Empire Windrush were temporarily accommodated
in Clapham Common underground shelter.
LEFT Brixton, 1950s.
SOURCE: loyce Egginton, They Seek a Living
(Hutchinson, 1957).
B, women and children were present
in considerable numbers. Overall,
on the ship there were 69 women
accompanied by their husbands, 188
not so accompanied, 30 female children
under twelve and one female infant.
News of the coming of the Empire
Windrush caused some consternation
in the Labour government, civil service
and media circles in Britain. We must
not be misled by the warm civic
reception put on by Lambeth Borough
Council in Brixton Town Hall for some
of the Windrush passengers a few days
after they arrived. In Parliament it
was said that "they would not last one
Colonial Secretary Arthur Creech
Jones submitted a memorandum to
Cabinet on 18 June 1948. He spoke
in worried tones of the interest
being taking in the Windrush both in
Parliament and the press. He explained
the background. The voyage was
"certainly not organised or encouraged
by the Colonial Office or the Jamaican
government". He confirmed that "on
the contrary, every possible effort
has been taken to discourage these
influxes". He optimistically continued,
"I do not think that a similar mass
movement will take place again
because the transport is unlikely to be

available, though we shall be faced with
a steady trickle."
What was obviously a trickle was
soon seen as a flood of "coloured
immigrants". Labour and Conservative
governments and the UK civil service
constantly thought about how to
devise both legal and non-racist ways
to stop black Caribbean migration.
When in 1961 the first Commonwealth
Immigration Act was finally passed,
it was indisputably racist since it was
directed at black New Commonwealth
countries and not the white Old

Finally, the criminalisation of the
largely black Caribbean people began
much earlier than social theorists have
argued. By October 1948, the main
local newspaper in South London (the
South London Press) carried the headline
"Jamaicans Drifting into Crime". A
combination of local newspapers, the
magistrates' courts and the police
worked with diligent malevolence
to ensure that black people were
associated in the white public's mind
with vice and criminality.
It must be noted as well that Britain
was, indeed, a land of educational


LCE c ari oured Bt late on Saturday night and on
L Suoda) Wrtching for any signs of racial riotligl
Two West Indian had been
beaten up within halt an hour "_ P
at opposite ends of Brixton.
The police think the same gang J3 I
as responsible.
In Du*ic h-rd fe %outh run s P
kn(y jumped on cn Baptst 1 ,
Mo t s. a West Indian "ho uses
in Roitlmo -rd. TuISe

Around they sied and tOcko
him uth a tholtl He "33 ta k5e E

tond Ings (otlee lo"0p11 a "lO to
nfi Bouth, ruon awae and jump
n assrb tod pc '- area
fl>"( sl % 1s ate ... p

rd.. James N. antt hr Wer t tr'Ictt p
Indian of Asylum-d. Peckham. %I%% akindck5liC
The U. a-d atbl a waitgd nft tya
Ico1re ws,:crk a -childrens, t'. ,\orok l a
nurserN) h wer aTe Leant
Once again five sOuthi lert a
responsible and this time they C
clubbed their victim %ith a lum p aCCotnt en tile
ofwlood they %ere seen to arid sittro' anl
board a bus going in the direction fel 9 n"; CrT
,If Billion c hu ate
%lr acsa i,'. l ak,,n to Jarals c4k 1
The t ll' .ch rd iutilc. -1, ncINS Tce
place t the time ,f 1w rcO rot I Ut
disturbancs at' N0iting Hilt Tio' ef
In Buxtion Watcrtane. nct
colourcd mcn -etc A0ta.k t and
many ,.Jndo-s Of houses of A an p
rd. s.lon, .ere smashed.-

opportunity for the early migrants,
especially those who already had a
sound educational base and high self-
confidence. Many of them did fulfil
their great expectations. But the full
story of the 1948 Windrush voyage
must take into account the ways in
which Britain failed the children and
grandchildren of that pioneering
generation. *

This story was adapted from the
article "More Light on the SS Empire
Windrush" which appeared in the Daily
Observer, 21 July 1998 (p. 7). It was
based on a presentation by Cecil Gutzmore
at a ceremony held on 22 June 1998 at the
University of the West Indies, Mona, to
commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of
the SS Empire Windrush's 1948
journey to the UK.


FASCISTS are believed to be
about to launch a new cam-
paign against the coloured
people in Britlon.
lere are scng that their tirades
against Ihe Jews are being
switched to West Indians.
*rveral Rrllonn streets this week
gters hearing c-idely-painted
Viastkas were found on shop
Widows and doors.
Carried messages such as
o o'otr--1o home" 'Britain
a*e hltC People" and the
the ar Keen Brizion White."

L. re"" 4004 'Wouh
Whites rSg jo
tthe postrrs were patted
resi f rom windows of Brimuam
55tua Part' offices. in Will-
tell% b .err d on Wenlimday night
Cati blJw, f Slaicus Lipton was
WOrrqJ~f g., a ls coisiuentns
Iw Li -ale~ was. S e" WetakLe the view
H00Wf "l-" ed Uh Lod %** 4ple prnldtsiin thes
dette ti'5t People a bo-it tthi livgg Oe to h..ngo "
Whichytil, a U dotcn or
C aat aus b a Jr. areb a as ,us1d a 1 1, 0 ed in the carly
ter J2 Caused 11'ehc
Off'*er of Publil rei io rv., r ot A- *-s.irk. it -as s.id
Lilsed So ha be the e Cul
Atr 'I -owam (Mdwp


Aboard the

SS Empire Windrush


Baugh's demonstration for BBC TV of the walk-around technique, 1949.

Many readers of Jamaica Journal know
that potter Cecil Baugh was one of the
founders of the Jamaican School of Arts
and Crafts in the early 1950s with Edna
Manley, Albert Huie, Lyndon Leslie and
Jerry Isaacs. Some even remember that
when he first sought to go overseas for
further studies in ceramics, the only
way he could afford to do so was to

join the British Army. In 1941 he saw
an advertisement in the Gleaner, asking
for volunteers, and later explained his

I wasn't a mechanic. I was a potter,
but I never thought anything was
impossible ... There was something
I wanted: more knowledge of

pottery. One of my problems, the
greatest problem then, was how to
prevent a pot from leaking although
it was well fired ... I couldn't get
the knowledge I needed in Jamaica,
so I gambled that if I should survive
the war, I would perhaps be able to
pick up something here or there in
England that I could use.'


Baugh with friend Olga Barrett, both newly arrived in England, 1948.
SOURCE: Laura Tanna and Cecil Baugh, Baugh: Jamaica's Master Potter
(1986/1999), reproduced by permission.

He did survive World War II, serving in both Egypt and
Aden not Burma or South Africa as some have mistakenly
believed. His one stop in South Africa was a port leave en
route to Egypt round the Horn of Africa, while his return
from Africa was aboard a ship en route back to the United
Kingdom, bringing home troops who had served in Burma.
Cecil got back to Jamaica in 1946 and soon made an impact,
his pots splashed across the front page of the Gleaner after an
Arts and Crafts Exhibition at the Institute of Jamaica in 1947.
But since painter Albert Huie had already been awarded the
British Council Scholarship for 1948, and even though Cecil
was promised an award for the following year, his ambition
was too strong to wait. With only a letter of introduction from
the British Council, Baugh paid his own fare aboard the SS
Empire Windrush and joined that first shipload of Caribbean
civilians to reach the UK after World War II, the most notable
of his C-class fellow passengers being Aldwin Roberts, better
known today as the Trinidad calypsonian Lord Kitchener.2

Jamaica Journal readers appreciate the impact that studying
at the Leach Pottery in St Ives with Bernard Leach had upon
Baugh, and subsequently upon the world of ceramics in the
Caribbean, as Baugh absorbed Leach's knowledge of both
British and Japanese methods of building kilns and wheels,
of clays, firing, slips, and glazes. But have you ever wondered
what impact Baugh had upon the people with whom he
interacted in England in 1948-49? Fifty-eight years ago
England was a very different place. I got some inkling of just
how different when I received a letter from Katrin FitzHerbert
(nde Norris), who first met Baugh when she was just a twelve-
year-old child in foster-care to Edith Hyne, an elderly widow
who lived a few hundred yards from the Leach Pottery. Katrin
had spent her childhood in Nazi Germany, while Mrs Hyne
had lived an isolated life in Cornwall. Neither knew what
to expect when, as a result of Mrs Hyne's son Reg being a
talented artist and friend of David Leach, she was asked
to provide lodging for one Cecil Baugh. With no television
in those days, and hardly any cinema, neither woman had
ever seen a black man, though tabloid depictions usually
showed wild-haired black men clad in loincloths and wielding
primitive weapons. Recalls Katrin:

It must have been quite a shock to find on her doorstep a
black man in a smart suit and tie, with a melodious voice,
gentle manners and the sweetest smile imaginable. The
softness of Cecil's voice and his immense sweetness is
what I remember about him more than anything else.3

Baugh went on to appear in a presentation of the BBC
Television in 1949, demonstrating to the British how large
earthenware jars could be built using a traditional Jamaican
free-form walk-around technique, while Katrin Norris
eventually found her way to Jamaica to become a reporter
for the Gleaner and author of Jamaica: The Search for an Identity
(Oxford University Press, 1962). A*

1. Laura Tanna and Cecil Baugh, Baugh: Jamaica's Master Potter
(Miami: DLT Associates Inc., 1999), 15.
2. Cecil Gutzmore, "More Light on the SS Empire Windrush", Daily
Observer, 21 July 1998, 7.
3. Laura Tanna, "The Private Baugh", Gleaner, 10 August 2005, B14.

Adults of 12 'ears
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63,Wiclkbam Rd,S.E.4,

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262,Carriasoon ane'h
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Chich ester. SussQa.
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27,Red Lion StW.E3l.
19,Howland St W.1.
24,Chiltern Vlw.

57.aeoldgato St.;.l,
14,Dartmouth Rd,NW.5.
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Turning History Upside Down



My interest in the life of the African-
Caribbean population in Britain was
first stimulated by a visit in 1972. I had
just graduated from the University of
the West Indies, Mona, and was filled
with curiosity about visiting the seat
of the former British Empire, meeting
relatives there and acquainting myself
with my kith and kin. This first visit
was followed by several others, which
eventually led to a sojourn of more than
three years with my husband Frederick
Hickling, a psychiatrist, between
1997 and 2000. We were engaged in
providing mental health care for the
African-Caribbean population in
Birmingham, England.
These visits gave me the
opportunity to delve into notions of
the ideology of Britishness civility,
fair play, justice and other concepts
which had been promoted by colonial
educational and other institutions,
almost suggesting that all things
British were beautiful. The myth and
the reality proved to be two different
Each visit triggered deeper and
deeper exploration of what it is to be
black and in Britain as well as being
black and British. There is a common
myth that England "makes you mad".
One of the most devastating aspects of
these journeys was the recognition that
something in that society did indeed
seem to cause many black people to
develop mental illness. During the
last sojourn, I had many first-hand

OPPoSIrE Section of passenger list for the SS Empire
Windrush, 1948
Public Records Office /HIP

experiences of the pressures which
African-Caribbean people in the UK
faced and their efforts to survive. I also
struggled to understand the impact that
Caribbean migrants had had on Britain.

I eventually realized that Louise Bennett
in her famous poem "Colonization
in Reverse" had been right when she
suggested that the West Indians who
had migrated there, "by de hundred, by
de tousan... / by de ship-load, by de
plane-load", had indeed turned Britain
upside down.

What a islan! What a people!
Man an woman, ole an young
Jussa pack dem bag an baggage
An tun history upside dung!'

"Colonization in Reverse"
illuminated the process of Jamaican
migration to Britain since 1948, which
Bennett suggested was history being
turned upside down. Her poem alluded
to some of the ways in which history
had been turned upside down; how
Britain's carefully structured society
had been infiltrated and transformed
by Jamaicans who have had a history of
subversion of the colonial order since
1655, the date of British conquest of
Jamaica. So instead of the British being
the only conquerors and colonisers,
West Indians, and particularly
Jamaicans, had become the colonisers
in reverse. Indeed the very idea was
audacious, outrageous and full of irony.

Oonoo se how life is funny,
Oonoo see de tunabout?
Jamaica live fi box bread

Out a English people mout.

What a devilment a Englan!
Dem face war an brave de worse;
But ah wondering how dem gwine
Colonizin in reverse.2

Jamaicans constituted the largest
group of migrants from the English-
speaking Caribbean to Britain and, as
is noted below, their entry into Britain
was historic.

When four hundred and ninety-two
Jamaicans disembarked from the SS
Windrush in 1948 they may not have
been aware that they had opened a
new chapter in history. They were
the beginning of the largest mass
migration of black people to come
to England. Although to be black
and British is nothing new, since
there have been Africans in Britain
at least since Roman times.3

The mass migration of black
people was most unwelcome, and the
people who came from the West Indies
were met with hostility. When they
tried to find housing, they frequently
encountered signs that said "No
coloureds". My husband tells the
story of his experience searching for
a flat while studying at a prestigious
medical school in London in the 1960s.
His white friend and roommate would
find the house, but when he turned up
the landlord would apologise that the
house was gone, a tenant had already
taken it. This happened several times
and they eventually settled on a grotty


flat in London. He was to experience
racism several times during his stay,
from Teddy Boys who pursued him on
the streets to an experience at church
where an elderly woman refused to
shake his hand and asked him if he
lived in a tree in Jamaica. He had
grown up in an Anglophile household
in Kingston, and was completely
unprepared for these racist experiences.
A colleague recounted the
experience of his father who hailed
from the hills of Clarendon and had
returned from England a broken
man. He was a man who was in deep
psychological pain, who told terrible
stories of having to fight for his life on
various occasions as he was pursued
by Teddy Boys. He never recovered,
and was unable to explain what had
befallen him over the twenty years that
he had lived and worked in London;

instead he tried to drown his sorrows
with alcohol, and became a burden
to his family. Alas, the modem-day
equivalents of the Teddy Boys have
killed other black people in the UK in
recent years, such as Stephen Lawrence,
brutally murdered in London while
standing at a bus stop, and Anthony
Walker, another young man in
Liverpool who was recently killed by
an axe-wielding man for being in the
company of a white woman. So many
stories have remained untold because
of the horror and trauma involved.
Imagine a retired bus driver who
still has not told his children of his
experiences in the 1960s when he was
continually spat upon and had faeces
pushed through his letterbox at home.
All of these experiences demonstrate
that these people were punished for
coming to the 'Promised Land'.

TOP The 55 Empire Windrush
SOURCE: South London Press/The Voice, Forty Winters
On: Memories of Britain's Post-war Caribbean
Immigrants (Lambeth Council, 1988).
LEFT A black bus crew at Peckham garage
SOURCE: South London Press/The Voice, Forty Winters
On: Memories of Britain's Post-war Caribbean
Immigrants (Lambeth Council, 1988).

There were other challenges. Many
Jamaicans who had been steeped in
their home country's classifications of
skin colour, from 'jet-black' to 'brown'
to 'red', now found that in the UK they
were 'plain black'. The old ideas could
not fit into the new context, and many
made the adjustment with difficulty.
On the other hand, describing people
therefore became more straightforward
as they were reduced to simply black or
white. Meanwhile, people of mixed race
became commonplace and the changes
in Britain became more visible. The
shade issue had to be addressed in the
new setting.
There was also a significant
improvement in relationships between
West Indians from various countries
as they found themselves battling
the common enemy of British racism
and needed to organise themselves to
address their problems collectively. Old
island rivalries gave way to new levels
of cooperation.
The migratory experience has been
bittersweet for most people. Although
for some the positive has outweighed
the negative, for others the experience
has been filled with ambivalence. As
Winston James states,

In recent years ... many, having
been made economically obsolete

by a Thatcherite [and Blairite] Brit-
ain, have become distinctly hostile
and bitter about their rapidly de-
teriorating social condition. Many
more than hitherto are returning
home. But even more feel 'trapped'
within Britain because they are in-
capable of mobilizing the financial
wherewithal to resettle in the Carib-
bean.'Trapped' in Britain during
their lives, a considerable number
make detailed plans and get rela-
tives to promise that their bodies
will be returned to their native land
to be buried as soon as possible
after their death... It is also worth
noting that a considerable number
have returned to the Caribbean and
discovered, to their chagrin, that the
meagre financial resources which
they have scrimped and saved
over the years in Britain were not
enough to facilitate resettlement
in the land they have loved and
romanticized during their painful
sojourn in Britain in circumstances
of high unemployment and ram-
pant inflation in the Caribbean.4

Yet there are people who have
prospered and done very well in the
process of migration. Colonisation
in reverse does not entail the kind
of conquest or subjugation that an
imperial nation can undertake. Instead
it represents an opportunity for getting
employment, further education,
exposure to the latest technology in
a large metropolitan setting, and the
experience of living in a much larger
society than the small island from
which you come. As James points out,

Despite the horrors of their exile
in Britain, It would be a mistake
to believe that the first generation
of Afro-Caribbeans regards their
experience of living in Britain as
an unmitigated disaster. They
experience racism and they occupy

in their vast proportion the lowest
rung of the social hierarchy of
Britain. Nevertheless, in material
terms, the overwhelming majority
enjoys a standard of living in
Britain, which many would
not have dreamt of back in the

In Britain the black community
has established itself as a permanent
presence, in spite of its seemingly
paradoxical nature. Stuart Hall

I've been puzzled by the fact
that young black people in
London today are marginalized,
fragmented, unenfranchized,
disadvantaged and dispersed.
And yet, they look as if they own
the territory. Somehow, they too,
in spite of everything, are centred,
in place: without much material
support, it's true, but nevertheless,
they occupy a new kind of space at
centre. And I've wondered again
and again: what is it about the long
discovery-rediscovery of identity of
blacks in this migrant situation that
allows them to lay a kind of claim
to certain parts of which aren't
theirs with quite that certainty?6

The contribution of Jamaicans to
British popular culture has been very
significant, in the arts, fashion, food,
sports and religion. In spite of the small
size of the Caribbean population, it
has spearheaded the development of
the Notting Hill Carnival, the largest
street festival in Europe. Although
the carnival is of Trinidadian origin,
Jamaican music and Jamaicans have
played an integral role.
Writers such as Zadie Smith,
Andrea Levy and Tony Sewell, poets

such as Benjamin Zephaniah and
Lincoln Kwesi Johnson, academics such
as Stuart Hall and Harry Goulbourne
are part of the recolonisation process.
There are athletes such as Linford
Christie, footballers such as John
Barnes and those who came to enrich
the Jamaican national football team to
enable it to qualify for the World Cup in
1998. Music has provided opportunities
for persons as diverse as the jazz
musician Courtney Pine, the gospel
choir Black Voices, and the reggae band
Steel Pulse. The experiences of the
artists, sportsmen and sportswomen
have been plagued by many difficulties
- there continue to be challenges for
black people wishing to rise to the
pinnacles of the professions they
have chosen, for sportsmen and
women wanting to become coaches
and managers but they have found
a way to survive and even thrive in
Britain. They continue to struggle
to achieve their goals. They are now
representatives of Britain on the stage,
on the track and on other platforms.
Only a few of the successful
Jamaicans and West Indians have been
identified here, and there are many
more. The fact, however, is that for a
black person to succeed in Britain, he
or she must surmount many hurdles.
Although they were not welcomed to
Britain, they have imposed themselves
on that country to claim whatever
is owed to them. Indeed, they have
colonised that country against its will as
colonisers are wont to do.
The contradictory nature of the
experience has meant that some want
to stay in Britain while others have
returned to the Caribbean. Some live
between the two worlds and are now
termed transnational. The trauma of
the experience has resulted in mental
illness, disappointment and loss, but
with customary Caribbean resilience,
many people have overcome the odds
and have found their place in Britain. *

1. Louise Bennett, "Colonization in Reverse",
in Selected Poems, ed. Mervyn Morris (1982;
rpt., Kingston: Sangster's Bookstores, 2003),
2. Ibid., 107.
3. Peter Fryer, Black People in the British Empire

(London: Pluto, 1988), 77.
4. Winston James, "Migration, Racism
and Identity Formation: The Caribbean
Experience in Britain", in Inside Babylon: The
Caribbean Experience in Britain, ed. Winston
James and Clive Harris (London: Verso,
1993), 246.

5. Ibid., 244-45.
6. Stuart Hall, "What Is This'Black' in Black
Popular Culture?", in Black Popular Culture,
ed. Gina Dent (Seattle: Bay Press), reprinted
in Stuart Hall: Critical Dialogues in Cultural
Studies, ed. David Morley and Kuan-Hsing
Chen (London: Routledge, 1996).

Grappling with British Racism




Babylon system is the vampire

Research in the UK has repe
demonstrated increased rate
psychotic illness among the
population in Britain, and th
have now been accepted as
orthodoxy. The need for the
to create separate concerns

psychiatry based on a Eurocentric
-BOB MARLEY paradigm is not a new phenomenon.
Holliday' in 1828 suggested that
mental illness was rare among the
savage tribes of Africa, the slaves of the
atedly West Indies and the Welsh and Irish
s of peasants, but common in the civilised
Caribbean nations of western Europe as a product
iese reports of the stress of civilisation. In contrast,
psychiatric Harrison and his colleagues2 in 1988,
British one hundred and sixty years later,
within were prepared to conclude that rates

of schizophrenia for first- and second-
generation African-Caribbean people
were six to eighteen times higher than
for white English people.
A number of other issues affecting
black and other ethnic minority groups
in Britain have emerged through
research during the past twenty years.
Black and ethnic minorities (compared
to the 'white' majority community) are
more often diagnosed as schizophrenic.
They are more often compulsorily


detained under the Mental Health
Act, admitted to hospital as 'offender
patients', held by police under a
section of the UK Mental Health Act
that authorises a police officer to
remove from a public place someone
thought to be mentally ill. Black and
ethnic minorities are also more often
transferred to locked wards from open
wards of mental hospitals, not referred
for psychotherapy, given high doses of
medication, and sent to psychiatrists by
My own entry into this debate
began in the late 1980s when I started
collecting the admission data for
schizophrenia in Jamaica in order to
compare it with the admission rates
that were being reported for African-
Caribbean people in the UK. After an
intense struggle, the British Journal of
Psychiatry (the official publication organ
of the Royal College of Psychiatrists
in the UK) reluctantly agreed to
publish my findings. My study
demonstrated that the admission rate
for schizophrenia in black Jamaicans

in Jamaica was considerably less than
that which was being reported for
African-Caribbean people in the UK.4
In a further study of black mentally ill
returned emigrants to Jamaica which
was published by the British psychiatric
press only after a period of intense
academic struggle back and forth by
letters across the Atlantic, I reported
that the vast majority of these patients
who had developed schizophrenia,
had done so after migrating to North
America or Europe and not before
leaving, or after returning to Jamaica.5
These emigrants also had much
higher rates of schizophrenia than
matched Jamaican control patients
who had never migrated. It was also
shown that a statistically significant
number of these patients had a higher
socioeconomic class status before
migration from Jamaica, and had taken
a step down in social class by migrating
to Britain. They might have been
earning more money from working on
the buses and the railways in Britain,
but this had been achieved only at
the expense of taking a
serious decline in social
-and psychological
The world-famous
Jamaican neurologist
Pamela Rodgers-
e ." Johnson received a
research grant in 1991
to study the causes
of schizophrenia in
Jamaica, from the
Theodore and Vada
Research Foundation in
the USA, and recruited

me to execute the study of this problem
in Jamaica. The excitement which
the incredibly high incidence rates of
schizophrenia being reported in the
UK held for international psychiatry
grew out of the logic that, if the high
rates in black Jamaicans in the UK
were indeed accurate, then scientific
studies of black Jamaicans at home and
abroad would possibly reveal the root
cause of this condition which afflicted
people all around the world. We argued
that if it were true that the cause of
schizophrenia was genetic or viral, it
would be expected that there would
be a similar high rate of schizophrenia
for black Jamaicans in Jamaica. Every
month for the entire year of 1992, I
examined personally every patient with
acute first-contact psychosis that was
reported by the islandwide system.
Our findings showed the world that if
there was a schizovirus, then Britain
was the host. Our research led us away
from the virus as a cause, but pointed
to more profound issues of racism and
colonisation, as we helped to chart a
profoundly new understanding of the
human brain's reaction to stress. David
Ndegwa makes the point clearly:

TOP Dr Hopetoun Bond (1884-1939), Acting
Senior Assistant Medical Officer, Lunatic Asylum,
ABOVE LEFT Haverstock House Health and Wellness
Centre in inner-city Birmingham, UK
LEFT Connolley House, Kingston, Jamaica

Studies in Jamaica (Hickling
1991; Hickling and Rodgers-
Johnson 1995) show that
admission rates for people
diagnosed as suffering from
schizophrenia are in keeping
with corresponding rates
reported for the general
population in Britain. These
studies lend some credence
to the argument that reported
variations in rates of diagnosing
schizophrenia in the UK and
Jamaica might be due to a high
rate of misdiagnosis in the
former, or some other anomaly
whereby schizophrenia is over-
diagnosed among black people
by British psychiatrists.6

The tragic case of Derek
Morgan, a young African-
Caribbean male who was sentenced
to several life sentences in prison
following his attack on fifteen white
females at the Rackhams Department
Store in Birmingham was the catalyst
which led to this new phase of
development of a mental health service
for African-Caribbean people in the
West Midlands. It was clear that Derek
Morgan had been severely mentally ill
for a considerable period of time and
had not been provided with adequate
mental health support from the national
health services of North Birmingham
Mental Health Trust. In the inquiry that
followed, it became clear that Derek
Morgan had sought professional help
days before the attack from the North
Birmingham Mental Health Services
and received scant attention. It also
became clear to all that the assessment
service for black people with mental
health problems in the Midlands and
the UK in general was abysmally poor
and seemed to be getting worse.

It was at this time that Nancy
Johnson, a black British social worker
of Jamaican descent, looking for
solutions, came to Jamaica to observe
its psychiatric facilities. She visited
Connolley House, which was the
home of Psychotherapy Associates
in Kingston, a private community

roP Birmingham City Centre
BOTroM The Bull Ring, Birmingham

mental health service developed by my
wife, psychologist Hilary Robertson-
Hickling, and myself. In June 1997 we
moved to Birmingham from Jamaica
to take up the work permit facility that
had been granted to Psychotherapy
Associates International Limited by
the British Home Office. By doing
so, we effectively bypassed the
monopolistic role of the government-
funded National Health Service (NHS)
in mental health service provision to
the black community. We joined Mrs
Johnson to become the first professional
employees of this company, and set
about establishing the first African-
Caribbean mental health collaboration
in the UK based on transferred
principles of mental health care from
Jamaican initiatives.
The transferred Jamaican
psychiatric initiatives were fourfold.
These included culturally appropriate
psychiatric-led assessments and the
development of private community
health and development centres,
fashioned off the Connolley House
concept which had been developed in
Kingston in the 1980s and 1990s. The
techniques of socio-drama and cultural
therapy, which had been developed in
the Bellevue Hospital in the 1970s, were
also offered. Aggressive community
rehabilitation programmes, which had

been developed with the Jamaican
community's mental health service
in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s,
were also a major programmatic.
Finally, psycho-historiography,
as an analytic technique and
insight-giving process, formed
the basis of culturally appropriate
psychotherapy to be used by group
and individual psychotherapy
The first project of this
initiative was the development
of the Private Community
Health and Development Centre
in Birmingham. It was quickly
launched at Haverstock House, a
facility in Handsworth owned and
operated by a Jamaican general
practitioner, Dr Kenneth McNeil
Bartley, and his wife, Mrs Angela
Bartley, herself a fully qualified nurse.
The Private Community Health
and Development Centre adopted
the model of the primary care Health
and Wellness Centre which had been
developed at Connolley House in
Kingston, Jamaica, in the 1980s and
1990s. Haverstock House is situated in
Handsworth in the city of Birmingham.
It combined the services of a general
practitioner and mental health
practitioners with dental care and other
services, including a travel agency.
The second project was the
creation of the Voluntary Charitable
Organisation to run parallel to the
Private Community Health and
Development Centre in Birmingham.
It was recognized that within the
context of the UK, the welfare state
predominates, and medicine is
primarily the preserve of the NHS. As a
result, the Bond Hickling Institute was
set up in 1996. The name acknowledged
an important figure in African-Jamaican
psychiatry: Dr Hopetoun Bond. Born
in 1884 in Jamaica, he was the first
black Caribbean psychiatrist, trained
at Edinburgh University in Scotland
and then McGill University in Canada,
and was the first black senior medical
officer at the lunatic asylum (now
Bellevue Mental Hospital) in Jamaica.

He practised as a general
practitioner (GP) in the UK
from 1920 until his death
in 1939. The name of the
institute was soon changed
to the Bond Hickling
Bartley Institute in order to
acknowledge and recognize
the twenty years of
pioneering medical work of
Dr Kenneth McNeil Bartley
for black people in the UK.

The fundamental tenet of
both the Bond Hickling
Bartley Institute and
Psychotherapy Associates
International was that of
a culturally appropriate
psychiatric-led assessment.
The major undertaking
was the development of a
collaborative project between
Psychotherapy Associates
International and the North
Birmingham Mental Health
Trust. Commencing in
July 1997, Psychotherapy
Associates International
contracted my services as
a psychiatrist to the North
Birmingham wards of Aston
and Nechells in the Small
Heath area of Birmingham.
Small Heath locality is a
densely populated inner-city area of
three electoral wards Aston, Nechells
and Small Heath. Small Heath locality
has a geographical population of 82,000
and a general practice population of
118,000. The ethnic composition of this
general practice population is 45 per
cent white, 41 per cent Asian, and 12
per cent African-Caribbean. Essentially
an impoverished inner-city area, the
Small Heath locality had severe levels
of poverty and deprivation.
The Small Heath Assertive
Outreach audit of the work undertaken
by my team was carried out in July
1999. The review of the outcome of
forty-six patients seen between 1997
and 1999, of which thirty-three were
male and thirteen female, showed
that there was a statistical significant

improvement in medication compliance
and clinical health of the patients.
There were stable housing and living
situations, stable dietary and eating
patterns, stable patterns of human
social contacts, and stable patterns
of living companion contacts over
the period. There was a significant
reduction in risks of suicide, violence to
others and accidental self-harm. There
was a reduction in hospital admissions
of these severely ill patients by 73 per
cent and a reduction of days spent in
hospital by 75 per cent in the three-year
period under consideration. The Small
Heath Assertive Outreach Audit proved
beyond doubt that the methodology
that I had applied in this locality
had been successful in managing
all racial groups and genders of
severely mentally ill patients, but was

TOP Small Heath Assertive Outreach
Hospital Admissions (p<0.0001)
MIDDLE Small Heath Assertive Out-
reach Mean number of hospital
days (p<0.000 1)
soTTom Aston Community Mental
Health Centre, Birmingham

particularly successful in
the management of African-
Caribbean mentally ill
patients in this community.
The success of the
psychiatric leadership
emphasised the need
for African-Caribbean
consultant psychiatrists in
the UK, and the need for
greater collaboration in
evidence-based cultural
therapies within the British
NHS. This project also
helped to demonstrate to
the British government that
this model of care that had
been proposed by North
Birmingham Mental Health
Trust was a viable model of
community mental health
care. The fact that the Small
Heath locality won the
coveted Nye Bevan Award
of the British government
for the best UK community
project in 1999 is a testament
to its proven efficacy.

Running parallel to the project with
the NHS were the projects established
in the Birmingham community on a
private and not-for-profit basis. The
Health and Wellness Centre is situated
in the heart of the so-called inner city,
where the majority of the African-
Caribbean population in need of these
services resides. This was the only
centre of its kind in the UK, and there
was no parallel service in the NHS
in the UK. Many African-Caribbean
people are terrified and suspicious of
the NHS, and often refuse to access
either the GP or mental health services
until their condition is 'terminal'. Our
service was able to provide a culturally
appropriate psychiatric assessment
for African-Caribbean people which

pivots around the assessment of their
condition by an African-Caribbean
psychiatrist who understands the
culture and speaks their language.
Families brought their mentally ill
relatives from different areas of the
UK for assessment and treatment by
a psychiatrist of their own cultural
background, with the majority voicing
dissatisfaction with the services
provided by their local NHS facility.


A fifty-eight-year-old African-
Caribbean old male born in Jamaica,
who migrated to Britain forty years
ago and who has worked in factories
in the West Midlands, was referred
to the psychiatrist in our service by
our private GP. He presented with
symptoms of severe phobic anxiety
and depression and was treated with
the appropriate anti-depressant and
psychotherapy. He reported major
incidents of racism during his time
in Britain. His depressive illness had
started some ten years previously
when his marriage of thirty years broke
down. As a result of the many racist
experiences at his workplace, he was
terrified about attending the GP to
whom he was registered or the mental
health services. He had suffered with
his psychological illness for ten years
until he learned of the existence of our
African-Caribbean health service and
was able to receive the appropriate

Inappropriate psychiatric
assessment and treatment of African-
Caribbean people, especially young
people, have been a widespread
occurrence across the UK. The
following case study mirrors the
day-to-day operational finding of our


A twenty-two-year-old female with
an African-Caribbean mother and
white English father was brought
privately by her parents to our service,

having been referred by her aunt,
and an African-Caribbean medical
practitioner working in the UK who
knew of our service. She lives in
another part of the Midlands, and had
been diagnosed by the NHS Trust in
her area as having a depressive illness,
and treated with anti-depressants with
little success. Culturally appropriate
assessment revealed a severe racial
identity crisis and an early psychosis,
which responded well to appropriate
medication and psychotherapy.

The NHS had not established
an appropriate psychotherapy
service meeting the needs of the
African-Caribbean community. Our
files are replete with case studies of
psychotherapy requested, and provided
to clients, by our service. This case
study illustrates the problem:


An African-Caribbean female, aged
twenty-three, presented at Good Hope
General Medical Hospital for delivery
of her first pregnancy. Dissatisfied with
services and conditions after the birth of
her child, she requested her discharge
from hospital. The nurses refused her
request. When she packed up her bags
to leave, the nurses called the police. In
the ensuing confrontation she slapped
a policewoman. She was arrested and
imprisoned, and her two-day-old infant
was placed in care by the Birmingham
social services. A prolonged dispute
ensued, with costly care proceedings
in the justice system. Psychotherapy
Associates International provided
her solicitors with an independent
psychiatric report, recommending that
her child and herself be reunited under
appropriate conditions for assessment
of child care, and the woman be given
appropriate psychotherapy services.

Also, there were a number of
African-Caribbean people with severe
mental illness in the Handsworth area
of Birmingham receiving inadequate
community mental health care.


A fifty-six-year-old African-Caribbean
Jamaican woman has been living
in Britain for forty-eight years.
She has had a chronic deteriorated
schizophrenic illness for over thirty
years and presently receives care from
the Handsworth Community Mental
Health Service of North Birmingham
Mental Health Trust. She has been
banned from attending a number
of local day care centres run by the
social services, and she was receiving
inadequate care from the NHS
Mental Health Service. She attended
our service on a daily basis where
she was able to access supportive
psychotherapy, and a place to stay for
several hours per day in a culturally
familiar environment, without charge.
She is still not receiving the appropriate
rehabilitative or follow-up care by the
NHS Mental Health Service in spite of
numerous attempts by our service to
involve them with her care.

At least 30 per cent of patients seen
by our service were in the age group
fourteen to twenty-two years. We
identified that there is a major service
deficiency to address the mental health
of African-Caribbean young people
who are casualties of institutional
racism, young people with identity
crises, young people in care, juvenile
offenders and children of mentally
ill African-Caribbean adults. There
are no African-Caribbean child and
adolescent psychiatrists working in the
UK. There is a huge paucity of child
and adolescent psychiatrists in the
Birmingham area. There is a major need
for the development of a culturally
sensitive young people's service to meet
the mental health needs of African-
Caribbean youth.


A nineteen-year-old British-born
African-Caribbean man was brought
to our service by his mother, a single
working parent with limited resources.

His GP and psychiatrists at the Queen
Elizabeth Hospital had previously
seen him. He had been diagnosed as
having depression, treated with anti-
depressants and seen occasionally by a
white psychologist who had completely
ignored his cultural concerns. After one
year of this treatment, his condition
was deteriorating, and he started
attacking his mother at home and
destroying furniture. He was also seen
for six months by the Early Psychosis
Service of the North Birmingham
Mental Health Trust without successful
diagnosis or treatment. We made a
diagnosis of acute psychosis and he
was treated with the appropriate anti-
psychotic medication. His anger about
the racism that he had experienced was
addressed in psychotherapy, and our
psychologist addressed ongoing family
therapy and personal development
issues. He has made significant

Options for Inclusion was a pro-
gramme developed by Psychotherapy
Associates International to promote

mental health and well-being in young
people with a potential for exclusion
or already excluded from school, par-
ticularly although not exclusively in the
African and Caribbean communities
in Britain. Some of the difficulties en-
countered by young people who do not
complete their education satisfactorily
include problems with authority, inap-
propriate social behaviour, negative
labelling, bullying, low self-esteem,
under-achievement, lack of challenge,
alienation, untapped creativity, cultural
conflicts, identity problems and offen-
sive behaviour. Our approach was based
upon recognition that the timing and
appropriateness of the intervention can
significantly affect the outcome. Even
where a pupil had been expelled from
one school, we saw the re-integration
of such a pupil into another school and
community as possible and desirable.
Our main focus was on the secondary
schools and the needs of children aged
eleven to sixteen years, and we recog-
nised that it was the age group eleven to
thirteen years from which 83 per cent of
those excluded came.


A fourteen-year-old African-Caribbean
male was referred to our service from
his school by his headmaster. He was
constantly in trouble with the staff and
other students and had been excluded
before for short periods. He had been
identified for permanent exclusion
by the end of the current academic
year. His parents were estranged; his
mother acknowledged that she had
had bad experiences at school and
that she wished that her son would
have a better time. After an assessment
by Psychotherapy Associates
International, we arranged a family
therapy meeting which included the
boy, his mother and younger brother,
the psychiatrist, the psychologist, the
social worker and a leading African
councillor who is a solicitor. We
addressed issues of male adolescence,
aggression, gender, dealing with
authority, parental roles, and career
planning. He expressed the desire to
become a solicitor. Therapy identified
the deleterious effect of racism on
his growth and development, and

explored appropriate strategies for
dealing with these problems. He made
significant improvement.

We established a cultural therapy
programme at Servol Community
Mental Health Trust, a private black-
owned and -run organisation. In 1997,
Hilary Robertson-Hickling delivered
a two-month training programme for
Servol's staff and service users. Patients
were trained in new methods of coping
and sharing in the community, ways
of channelling abnormal thoughts
and behaviour into adaptive coping
skills, acquisition of new skills training,
reduction of anxiety, raising of self-
esteem, improvement of self- and
cultural identity.
Based on the cultural therapy
programme developed at Bellevue
Hospital in Jamaica in the 1970s, the
programme facilitated the expansion of
the Servol Clubhouse's operations into
regular large group meetings, physical
exercise and sporting activities.
There was increased client and staff
participation in the clubhouse's catering
programme, in working in the tuck
shop, and in the hairdressing salon,
which was expanded to include clients
as apprentices. This latter service was
extended and taken up by clients, staff
and other members of the community.
The craft and sewing programmes were
restarted, and users were organised
to engage in social activities with
external community organizations. A
regular Users'Newsletter was developed

and published. Servol Community
Trust Limited continues to provide an
excellent service for the chronic and
acute mentally ill. It is undertaking
pioneering work in mental health
and has much to teach others in the
statutory, voluntary and private sectors.
The cultural therapy programme also
realized the establishment of a popular
musical band, the Servol Players, and
the development of a performance
component of the clubhouse. Since
its inception, many users have
been encouraged to play musical
instruments and to write and create
new poems and songs, and the group
has been invited to perform in Stoke-
on-Trent, London and other venues
in Birmingham. The very process that
had galvanised the Bellevue Hospital
in Jamaica in the 1970s had crossed
the Atlantic and was catalysing the
mental health programme at Servol in
After five years of operation, the
Bond Hickling Bartley Institute and
Psychotherapy Associates International
had concluded that the mental health
services for African-Caribbean people
in Birmingham, though improved,
were still woefully inadequate. Forensic
mental health problems were another
major area of concern.

My engagement with the British
judiciary in a number of other child
care cases prompted the West Midlands
Court Service to invite me to make a
presentation to their annual conference
in 1999.

Socio-drama exercises at Servol Clubhouse,
Birmingham, 1998


A twenty-year-old African-Caribbean
woman, who had been born in Britain,
was in court fighting for the right to
have custody of her second child. She
herself had been brought up in care
and had experienced being excluded
(expelled) from school as a teenager.
Her first child, born when she was
sixteen years old, had been removed
from her care after one year by the
British social services, and placed in
foster care. She had been charged with
breaking the child's arm, a charge that
she vigorously denied, claiming that the
child's father had inflicted the injury.
She had her second child at age twenty.
This child was also removed into care
by the social services and fostered when
he was one year old, after she had been
accused of injuring the child. Again she
denied the charge, claiming that she
had left the child in the care of a friend
who had inflicted the damage received
by the child.
The psychometric evaluation of
the woman by a white psychologist
suggested that she had borderline
intellectual dysfunction and a
psychopathic personality. I contested
this vigorously at her court hearing.
My clinical evaluation identified a high
level of street awareness with culturally
consistent intelligence out of keeping
with the psychometric test scores. The
presiding judge called me a crusader
for African-Caribbean rights, implying

that my evidence was more in line with
political rhetoric than with professional
evaluation. In his judgment, this court
ruled in favour of the psychometric
evaluation and the second child was
again taken away from her and placed
in foster care. I had argued strongly
that this woman should be allowed
the chance of being given a period of
assessment by an appropriate agency of
her parenting skills with the child, and
suggested that culturally appropriate
psychotherapy be provided for her.
These were disallowed. The woman has
subsequently had a miscarriage with
her third child as she continues her
mortal struggle with the British state for
the right to have a family.

The UK child care system has
an appalling record in the rearing of
black children that it places in care.
Although there is a paucity of research
in this area, the evidence indicates that
there are proportionately many more
black children in care than white or
Asian children. Many end up tragically
scarred for life. Black children in the
care system are more physically and
sexually abused, become mentally
ill and have a forensic outcome. The
UK child care system is often much
more draconian and destructive than
the parents from whom the children
were removed. The gravity of the
situation for African-Caribbean people
in Britain is further highlighted by the

Dr Frederick Hickling presents his findings to the
West Midlands branch of the Royal College of
Psychiatrists, Staffordshire, 1999.

problems that extend into the younger
age groups and to the education and
schooling system. The number of
permanent exclusions of black pupils of
compulsory school age is far in excess
of that of the white population. African-
Caribbean children were excluded
four times more commonly than white
children. This 'exclusion' policy extends
to black children as young as age five.


An African-Caribbean male child
aged six years old was excluded
from his primary school. He was
excluded because he was accused of
being aggressive and dangerous, and
of sexually harassing girl children
at his school. His parents were both
professionals, both in social class-one-
level jobs. The family had migrated
to England from Jamaica two years
previously. Examination revealed a
bright, almost precocious child, with
an extremely creative and inquisitive
mind. He was a physically big child, tall
as well as ample. The child described
that his white teachers would put him
in punishment if he defended himself
when other children pushed him or
hit him. His mother explained that
the sexual harassment charge had
arisen out of an incident when the
child went under the table to pick up
a pencil which had fallen on the floor.
A five-year-old Asian girl had accused
him of looking up her dress. The boy
had no understanding of the charge
the girl or her teacher had levelled
at him. He returned to Jamaica and
spent six satisfactory months at a local

preparatory school, which helped to
rebuild his self-confidence before he
joined a private preparatory school in

Clearly, the concept of dangerous
black males who are sexually
threatening to females is applied to
the youngest of boys in racist Britain.
The comments of Fernando et al. about
the construction of dangerousness
in relation to black male behaviour
in white Britain reflect deep-seated
insecurities in white British people
and have far-reaching implications
for finding solutions for black mental
health problems in this country.8 An
increasingly common coping strategy
of African-Caribbean parents in Britain
today is to send their children to
schools in the Caribbean.

My own clinical experience in the UK
underlines the label of 'dangerousness'
given to African-Caribbean males in the
UK. My experience with the forensic
system in the UK has demonstrated
how quickly and how easily black
men in particular are liable to be
incarcerated for indefinite periods for
relatively simple 'crimes', or for crimes
that are circumstantially linked, and
often not afforded any appropriate
system of cultural assessment or justice.
Black men also know this, and would
prefer to face the criminal justice system
and go to prison for a finite sentence,
rather than face the indefinite detention
of the forensic psychiatric service. The
following case study illustrates the point:


A thirty-year-old African-Caribbean
male presented with a history of
multiple prison sentences for charges
of grievous bodily harm. Three weeks
after release from prison, he went to
the welfare office to claim his income
support. After a number of frustrating
visits which failed to provide him
with the financial support he was
entitled to, he had an argument with
a clerk at the welfare office. A white
male onlooker remonstrated with
him about his behaviour. He punched
the man, breaking the man's jaw. He
was adjudged to be suffering from a
paranoid mental illness by a white
psychiatrist, and found not to be
mentally ill by an African-Caribbean
psychiatrist. The judge ruled in favour
of the white psychiatrist and sentenced
him to a 37/41 Hospital Order, which
is potentially a life sentence in a closed
mental hospital. He is now incarcerated
and is furious with his solicitors, as
he claims that if psychiatrists had not
been involved in his case, he would
have received a finite prison sentence.
This he could have coped with rather
than the indefinite detention sentence
placed on him by the Mental Hospital

Of course that raised a troubling
diagnostic issue. Do the issues of risk
and violence influence psychiatric
assessment and diagnosis of psychosis
in black patients, especially by white
One of the patients from the
diagnostic study at the Institute
of Psychiatry in 1993 was a thirty-
seven-year-old black woman, born
in St Thomas, Jamaica. She had been
previously treated for thyrotoxicosis
prior to her admission. She had had
several racist experiences with the social
services and the educational services
about her daughter. Finally she kept
the child at home to teach her herself,
which is a common practice in her home
country, Jamaica. A serious conflict and
standoff occurred with the social services
who eventually invaded her home with
the police. During the confrontation that

took place, she set a window curtain
aflame and she was arrested for arson
with intent, sectioned under the Mental
Health Act and admitted to hospital with
a diagnosis of schizophrenia. Amazingly,
in spite of the diagnosis that had been
made, she was on no medication when
I saw her after she had been in the
hospital for three months. She was
detained under Section 3 (the six-month
compulsory detention section) of the
1983 Mental Health Law.
As good fortune would have it, she
was seen and examined independently
by another Jamaican psychiatrist,
Dr Aggrey Burke, at about the same
time. He had been asked to do an
independent evaluation for the child
protection issues in court, without
either of us realising that the other
had examined her. Independently we
came to the same conclusion that this
woman did not have schizophrenia.
We were both forced to conclude that
the diagnosis of schizophrenia had
been based primarily on the history of
violence, and the issue of risk.
A similar situation presented itself
in late 1999 at the Manchester Royal


I carried out an independent
assessment on a thirty-year-old second-
generation African-Caribbean male,
for a mental health review tribunal. He
was a six-foot-four-inch tall black male,
a professional footballer and boxer,
the stereotypical African-Caribbean
man. Skilled also in judo, he was
extremely intelligent and articulate.
He had had a good job for several
years as a computer graphic designer,
then he lost his job, and he went into
a very serious decline. For the first
time in his life he had the problem of
having no money, an accumulation of
bills and other difficult stresses. He
developed an acute manic illness and
had three hospital admissions in nine
months. Then he was well for a period
of sixteen months. Suddenly his key
worker decided that he was not well.
He was brought into hospital forcibly
by six policemen, accompanied by
two psychiatrists, a social worker, and

various other professional staff. He
went quietly into hospital without any
struggle or violence. When I examined
him six weeks later I could find no
clear evidence of mania at that time.
He was only being treated with a
mood stabiliser, but the medical staff
was trying to persuade him to take
a powerful atypical neuroleptic anti-
psychotic medication. I could see no
phenomenological indication for this
latter medication.

So we really have to look again at
these diagnostic questions. Can
white psychiatrists and other health
professionals in the UK distinguish
between a well and an unwell African-
Caribbean person? In the above case,
it seemed as if all that was needed
to certify him as being insane was a
prior history of illness. The emerging
conclusion is that diagnostic and
therapeutic errors based on racial and
ethnic issues greatly affect the outcome
of the patients treated in England.9
Inappropriate assessment leads, in my
view, to under-diagnosis and under-
treatment in both white and Asian
patients, and an over-diagnosis of
psychosis in African-Caribbean people.
White clinicians confuse illness and
wellness in African-Caribbean people,
leading to incorrect treatment, under-
and over-medication, prolonged patient
suffering, poor resource utilisation,
increased stigmatisation and devalued
mental health care, and eroding the
family support system. A focus on
clinical governance and racism within
these institutions must play a primary
role in the future, and may help to
resolve these problems.
It is hard to comprehend how
European society successfully renders
people with black skins 'invisible'.
Melba Wilson argues, "In mental health
terms, the invisibility engendered by
the image, when combined with the
overall tendency to portray people
with mental health problems outside
the bounds of normality, compounds
the disadvantage experienced by black
people in both the mental health and
criminal justice systems."1'

The stereotypical images of black
men as violent rapists, black people
as lazy and unproductive, and black
families as unstable and pathological
are clearly rooted in the experience
of racism that pervades black mental
health. These images are endemic in
many white societies. As a medical
student in London in the mid-1960s
it was common for me to experience
signs on the high street bulletin
advertisement boards that read "Flat
for rent: no dogs, no blacks, no Irish".
Black people had extreme difficulty
in getting rental accommodation.
Racism was overt in the British society.
Europe was the mother, the architect
of racism in the Deep South of the
USA, in Australia, in South Africa.
With the passage of race relations
laws in the USA and in the UK, racism
has gone underground and is now
covert. As a friend in South Carolina
quipped to me, "White people have
all attended the latest course, 'How
to Deal with Niggers 101', but racism
is alive and well!" Even now, racism
is metamorphosing in white societies

as the legal and political 'blacklash'
intensifies. Today, to speak of race, of
blackness in these white countries, is
politically incorrect. Blacks are lumped
together under the heading 'gays,
lesbians and ethnic minorities'.
The sad fact, however, is that as
racism becomes more politically covert,
the racist realities of these countries
are becoming harsher and more overt.
Black people are over-represented in
the prison population in the UK." In
1995, the rates of imprisonment per
100,000 were: 1,048 for blacks, 134
for whites, 104 for south Asians and
280 for Chinese and other Asians.
Excluding life sentences, 51 per cent
of black prisoners over the age of
twenty-one were serving sentences of
over four years as compared to 35 per
cent of their white counterparts.12 In
the mental health arena, black people
(especially males) are much more likely
than white people to be incarcerated
in regional secure forensic hospitals,
and are much more likely to be the
recipients of psychiatric evaluations
that support the courts in applying

Section 41 of the Mental Health Act
(imposing indefinite intra- or extra-
mural supervision of a mentally ill
patient).13 My own experience in
visiting African-Caribbean patients
at secure forensic hospitals such as
Ashworth or Broadmoor always filled
me with the horror and foreboding of
Dante's Inferno: "Abandon hope, all ye
who enter here!"
No doubt, as black people struggle
to explode the mythical concepts
generated by European racism of black
men and black women as 'other',
which are linked with implications
of inferiority and dangerousness,
our experiences of the mental health
systems designed by Europeans will
continue to be draconian, and the
system will continue to attempt to
divide and rule us. The struggle for
the mental health of black people must
continue, therefore, to be a struggle
against mental enslavement and social
relegation, and a continued struggle for
black and African liberation. +

All photos courtesy of the author.

1. A. Holliday, A General View of the Present
State of Lunatics and Lunatic Asylums in Great
Britain, Ireland, and some other Kingdoms
(London: Thomas and George Underwood,
2. G. Harrison, D. Owens, A. Holton et al.,
"A Prospective Study of Severe Mental
Disorder in Afro-Caribbean Patients",
Psychological Medicine 18 (1988): 643-57.
3. S. Femando, Race and Culture in Psychiatry
(London: Croom Helm, 1988); S. Fernando,
Mental Health, Race and Culture (London:
Macmillan/MIND, 1991); S. Fernando, D.
Ndegwa and M. Wilson, Forensic Psychiatry,
Race and Culture (London: Routledge, 1998);
R. Cochrane and S. Sashidharan, "Mental
Health and Ethnic Minorities: Review of
Literature and Implications for Services",
in Ethnicity and Health: Reviews of Literature

and Guidancefor Purchasers in the Areas of
Cardiovascular Disease, Mental Health and
Haemoglobinopathies, CRD Report 5, 105-26
(York, UK: NHS Centre for Reviews and
Dissemination, University of York, 1996).
4. F.W. Hickling, "Psychiatric Hospital
Admissions in Jamaica, 1971-1988", British
Journal of Psychiatry 159 (1991): 817-21.
5. F.W. Hickling, "Double Jeopardy:
Psychopathology of Black Mentally Ill
Migrants and Returned Migrants to
Jamaica", International Journal of Social
Psychiatry 37 (1991): 80-89.
6. D. Ndegwa, "Problems with Research:
Issues of Bias", in Forensic Psychiatry, Race
and Culture, ed. S. Femando, D. Ndegwa
and M. Wilson (London: Routledge, 1998),
7. Department for Education and
Employment News, "Minority Ethnic
Pupils in Maintained Schools by Local
Education Authority Area in England",

January 1997 (provisional), 342/97-30
October 1997.
8. Fernando, Ndegwa and Wilson, Forensic
9. F.W. Hickling, F. Lolsa, E. Sorel and G.
Hutchinson, "Ethical Issues in Psychiatry:
A Caribbean Perspective", in Images of
Psychiatry: The Caribbean, ed. F.W. Hickling
and E. Sorel (Kingston: Department of
Community Health and Psychiatry, 2000),
10. Melba Wilson, "Public Perceptions:
The Psychology of Image", in Forensic
Psychiatry, Race and Culture, ed. S.
Femando, D. Ndegwa and M. Wilson
(London: Routledge, 1998), 148.
11. Home Office, Protecting the Public: The
Government's Strategy on Crime in England
and Wales, White Paper Cm 3190 (London:
Home Office, 1996).
12. Ndegwa, "Problems with Research", 98.
13. Ibid., 85.

Art and Society




Eddie Chambers was born in Wolverhampton in 1960, the child of Jamaicans who
had migrated to the UK from Hanover in the 1950s. Educated firstly at Coventry
Lanchester Polytechnic then Sunderland Polytechnic, he completed his PhD,
"Black Visual Arts Activity in England Between 1981 and 1986: Press and Public
Responses", at Goldsmiths College, University of London. He has lived in Bristol for
the past twenty years.
Since the early 1980s he has been involved in organising and curating a
considerable number of artists' exhibitions in the UK, starting with Black Art an'
Done at Wolverhampton Art Gallery in 1981. In 1989, Dr Chambers established
the African and Asian Visual Artists' Archive (AAVAA), at the time the only
dedicated research and reference facility in the country exclusively concerned with
documenting the history, presence and work of British-based black artists. He
coordinated AAVAA until autumn 1992. Over the past decade his exhibitions have
included Black People and the British Flag; Eugene Palmer; Us an' Dem; Home and Away;
Phaophanit and Piper; Frank Bowling: Bowling on through the Century; Tam Joseph: This
Is History; and Mildred Howard in the Line of Fire. His most recent curatorial projects
have included exhibitions by Avtarjeet Dhanjal, Denzil Forrester, Medina Hammad
and Anthony Key.
In addition to his exhibition work, he has written a large number of catalogue
essays and articles which have been published widely in journals and magazines,
including Race Today, Africa World Review, and Art Monthly. A collection of his articles
and essays, Run through the Jungle, was published by the Institute of International
Visual Arts (inIVA) as part of their "Annotations" series in 1999.
As a visual artist he has also had a number of exhibitions of his own work in the
UK. These have included The Black Bastard as a Cultural Icon, The Slaughter of Another
Golden Calf, and Marcus Garvey, The Blackest Star. His work was also included in the
major Hayward Gallery exhibition The Other Story Asian, African and Caribbean
Artists in Post-War Britain. In 1986, in conjunction with the Watershed Media Centre,
Bristol, he researched, collated and assembled an exhibition of local black history,
called Black Presence. Eddie Chambers is currently visiting professor, History of Art,
at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, teaching courses on the visual arts of the
African diaspora.
Dr Chambers was the curator of the exhibition Curator's Eye II, Identity and
History: Personal and Social Narratives in Art in Jamaica shown at the National Gallery
in early 2006. Here he discusses his work with Dr Jonathan Greenland, executive
director of the National Gallery of Jamaica.

How would you describe the theme
of the Curators Eye II exhibition for
a layperson?
The exhibition explored the many
ways in which Jamaican artists
engage with and interpret Jamaica's
history and their place within it.
Of course, some viewers might
be of the opinion that the theme
of the exhibition applied to some
artists more than others. But it was
very important to me that it wasn't
overly didactic. I hoped to keep the
messages of the work open. Two
good examples are Shosana Fagan
and Tricia Gordon-Johnston. I see
them as artists whose work has no
single, explicit 'meaning' or 'idea',
rather, their work is particularly
open-ended in its readings. With
Tricia's work that was displayed
in Curators Eye II, its redness was
strongly symbolic, to me at least,
of blood, and that can evoke the
violent history of Jamaica. Or maybe
it is menstruation. In many ways
the overwhelming redness could
refer to either a womb or a wound.
Now, with Shosana, I see her as
disrupting our comfortable notions
of domesticity. She had these sheets
strung out across the gallery like
laundry, but they were blackened,
defaced and torn. Sheets remind me
of bed and healing and rest, love and

t 11


i~n A




Ebony Patterson, Untitled Venus (Inverts), 2004

Christopher Clare, Blackboard #20: Untitled, 1999

And privacy...
Yes, but she drove a coach and horses
through all that! There was almost a
suggestion of violence tied up in the
work. The sheets looked abused or

Do you think it was a feminist work?
I think the feminist leanings were very
strong. The sheets were covered in text
but they were not legible. They evoked
the sense of voices not being heard,
experiences not being acknowledged.
There was again, at least to me great
violence in the work; it made me think
of victims of violence.
Then there were Keisha Castello's
works: these hybrid creatures were
displayed in cases all along the wall. I
see them as a metaphor for Caribbean
hydridity in visual form. Maybe they
are a play on the motto "Out of Many,
One People" as the pieces comprise so
many different elements and forms.
And although the artist had just
recently made the work, they looked
like they were dug up like that!

Do you think you were projecting this
theme onto the different works? There
are many artists around the world
working in similar forms and they are
not necessarily reflecting the Jamaican
Maybe I was. But this is the job of
the curator: to interpret. Like an art
historian. This is not the only and
absolute interpretation of the work.
In fact, I dislike the idea of the art
historian as being something like a
dispassionate librarian or authority.
For one thing, it causes all sorts of
problems when curators are considered
to be the arbiters of truth. It has a false
implication of objectivity which I don't
think the term 'art history' necessarily
carries. As a curator I want, first and
foremost, for viewers to know that
what I'm presenting is my opinion and
should not be seen as carrying any sort
of factual objectivity.

I respect this statement of openness
and vulnerability very much. How
can curators foster and encourage
this sense of discourse and differing

I think that in general, it's difficult for
many people of influence in the art
world to accept the notion of divergent
opinions having equal intellectual or
curatorial value, because the dominant
culture within art history and the art
gallery is to privilege the idea of the
'expert' or the 'learned authority'. It
is of course correct that if someone
has spent many years learning about
a particular aspect of art history, then
their opinion must count for something.
But it is in my view wrong to suggest
or imply that other opinions have an
inherently lesser credibility. I believe
that we should allow for multiple art
histories, as well as multiple curatorial
perspectives. But I don't think that the
art world is necessarily comfortable
with that type of openness or
vulnerability. I think the problem is even
more acute in environments in which
positions of influence or professional
opportunities are relatively few. In
answer to your question, I would say
that those in positions of influence need
to actively be cognisant of the curatorial
aspirations of others and to respect the
idea that curatorial and art historical
plurality is a good thing.

What other links did you see between
the works in Curator's Eye II?
There were many cross-references: one
strong visual link was that iconic image
of the slave ship. You saw it repeated
in many different ways in Charles
Campbell's work and Christopher
Clare's and also K. Khalfani Ra's.

How did the work of those particular
artists relate to your theme?
It's clear from looking at the titles of the
work in the exhibition by K. Khalfani
Ra that he's keen, even anxious, to
intervene into Jamaica's history and
pass highly opinionated, perhaps
even highly contentious, commentary
on that history. First and foremost, I
see his very distinctive use of nails
as a powerful, yet surprisingly open-
ended symbolism: nails as a symbol
of suffering and pain and violence
on the one hand; nails as a symbol of
creativity, construction, production on
the other hand. The nails in his work in
Curators Eye II remind me in particular

of slaves, packed into the holds and
decks of slave ships. This is profound
work by an artist clearly committed to
engaging with history for the good of
himself, and others living at the present
Charles Campbell's work was also
evocative of the slave trade. This artist
manages to turn something particularly
traumatic, murderous and brutal into
art works that are almost beautiful.
His very beautiful, very moving, very
simple paintings of migratory flocks of
birds in flight are amongst my favourite
works by Campbell in this exhibition.
Migration (or multiple processes of
migration) lies at the heart of African
diasporic sensibilities and this artist
captures that sense of importance
incredibly well.

And you used some older work by
Christopher Clare.
I saw a reproduction of a painting by
Christopher Clare some years ago.
It was a re-presentation of the iconic
image of the slave ship, crammed
with its human cargo, like so many
sardines in a tin. I was immediately
struck by Clare's painting. It had an
almost haunting beauty, despite the
horror of what was being depicted.
Christopher Clare was one of the
first Jamaican artists that I wanted
to see when I began my research
into this exhibition earlier this year. I
was delighted when the opportunity
presented itself to include in Curator's
Eye II one of his 'slave ship' paintings.
This one, a sombre yet majestic work
in four sections, again re-presented
the slave ship. This time, the wretched
inhabitants of the slave ship were
transformed into a dignified shoal of
humanity: liberated souls swimming
with purpose and grace. The piece
speaks of the seas as a merciful receiver
of tormented people, choosing suicide
by drowning over the relentless horrors
of the slave ship.

Whenever I walked past Khepera
Hatsheptwa's installation I felt this
intense, silent, brooding energy.
Khepera's work was clearly to me
at least about the need for and the
importance of building sustainable

Omari Ra, Reconstruction: Legbara in Space, 2004/5

TOP, MIDDLE AND BOTTOM Keisha Castello, Hybrid Realities, 2005

Charles Campbell, Maroon Mandala, 2005

Charles Campbell, Meditation Rack, 2005

African-Caribbean family units: units
that are in turn nurtured and sustained
by a supportive community. The work
speaks of family units, and individuals
within these families, needing to be
acknowledged and supported and
kept safe from harm. With so many
people living broken, fractious and
dysfunctional lives, progressive
economic, political, social and cultural
agendas need to be accompanied by
healing processes that seek to bring an
almost medicinal good to black people.
Khepera's work spoke to me about
these ideas.

How did you choose the pieces by
Omari Ra?
I love oversized, cinematic images
and I especially liked the blackness
of the portraits. Even in Jamaica, an
overwhelmingly black country, this
stood out. In these portraits the people
were wearing hats and one of them
was holding what might be a rifle. I
asked the artist if it was a reference to
cowboys and he said, "Maybe." Omari
Ra's not didactic. He never says, "This
is what the work is about." I think these
images of his are, in their own ways,
quite confrontational. I am particularly
intrigued by what the black image
means in Jamaica, because in the USA
and UK it comes with a great deal of
baggage. If you see the black image in
advertising or art, you seldom have the
option of reading it in a race-neutral
way. We tend to read it in a very
different way to an image of a white
person. Generally I am very interested
in the ways in which the black image
might be read, here in Jamaica: Might
the black image be read in ways that
are race-specific? Or race-neutral? Or
both, perhaps? I see Omari Ra's work
as confronting and visualising ideas of
blackness. These are ideas that some
people might find uncomfortable.
I find Ebony Patterson similarly
confrontational. She had these large
images of naked black women in
the exhibition. They definitely evoke
nakedness rather than nudity. In
many ways they are the antithesis of
the conventional woman as depicted
in advertising, the media, etcetera.
Ebony's work in some ways might

amount to a declaration of identity
that flies in the face of proscribed
and choking notions of femininity.
The bodies in Ebony's work are
deviant, naked, raw, and unvarnished,
and we simply cannot ignore these
monumental, imposing bodies.
I could be wrong, of course, but it
seems to me that to be black in Jamaica
is not in and of itself entirely seen as
beautiful or respectable. The image that
Jamaica projects, the celebration of the
'browning', Jamaica's colour-coding (as
I would call it), all these things imply
that hybridity makes beautiful. This in
turn implies that what is perceived as
being 'undiluted' African is in some
way less 'beautiful'. It seems to me
that there is great beauty in the figures
in Ebony's work. Not a conventional
notion of beauty and perhaps not a
mainstream Jamaican notion of beauty,
but beauty nonetheless.

How did Chris Irons fit in to the
I saw the two dogs as a metaphor of
the JLP [Jamaica Labour Party] and
PNP [People's National Party]: One
body with two heads. For such a
relatively young country, one thing
that continually dismays me is the
two-party system in Jamaica. They
became entrenched so rapidly. I listen
to the radio, read the newspapers, and
the hegemony of the JLP and PNP is
never, ever questioned. In a democracy
the people deserve more than a choice
between Tweedle-dee and Tweedle-
dum. In the USA and UK it is the
same, of course. You can either vote
Republican or Democrat, Conservative
or Labour, but the political tribalism is
not such a problem. In Jamaica it is a
problem and has caused the shedding
of so much blood. I see the Chris Irons
piece as symbolising a dysfunctional
system at war with itself, with ordinary
people, poor people as the victims of
this constant political warfare.

What about the work of Andrae
The strange thing is I've always found
when I'm in Jamaica that Cuba and
Haiti might as well be somewhere
near Australia, even though they are

near neighbours. Jamaica is isolated
in its anglophilia. It is surrounded by
Cuba, Mexico, and Haiti and yet there
is a real language barrier. Andrae's
work is all about Haiti. The painting
in the exhibition explores a dialogue
between a man in Jamaica and what is
happening in a neighboring country.
I like this work because it extends the
pan-Caribbean dialogue.

Is this why you chose the work of
Remond Mangoensemito?
Remond is from Suriname but he
studied at Edna Manley College. His
painting is of a huge red rooster and
I have always found the rooster very
evocative of Caribbean culture. It makes
me think of voodoo, ritual sacrifice and

One thing that struck a lot of people
about this exhibition was how young
many of the artists are.
Yes, many of them are young. But it
was never intended to be like this; that
is, I didn't have a policy of picking
younger artists. I picked them because
they were new artists to me. I'd not
seen their work before. But some are
not new or emerging: Carol Crichton is
a good example. Her work fits perfectly
into the theme of the exhibition and
her concerns resonate with those of the
other artists: her focus on geography
- physical, historical and psychological;
her exploration of land, The Land, as she
sees it. So, the answer is a lot are young,
but I didn't exclude anybody on the
basis of age.

Some of Carol's work was as close as it
comes to the more mainstream interest
in Jamaican landscape painting. Did
you consider this tradition to be of
importance to the theme of the show?
Yes, because questions about 'land' and
'landscape' are in my view at the heart
of cultural and national identity. Access
to land is obviously a highly political
(or highly politicised) issue, especially
in a country such as Jamaica. And ideas
of 'landscape' are eternally fascinating
because landscape is always such a
constructed commodity. I think Carol's
work subtly unpicks and reconfigures a
sense of the Jamaican landscape.

Carol Crichton, Land We Love, 1995/2003

K Khalfani Ra, Script(ure) the (Re)constitution of Arcahaie, 2003

Khepera Oluyia Hatsheptwa, Architecture ot Being, 20(u

L d

Oneika Russell is a very interesting
young artist who explores different
materials and technologies.
Yes, one of her works in the exhibition
was a series of pieces that explored
Manet's painting Olympia. This is a very
famous French painting of a young,
naked prostitute lying on a bed. But
Oneika took a long look at the black
servant woman in the background
who is almost always ignored by
many people. Even art historians have
ignored the black woman in writing
about Olympia. She is mainly mentioned
as being some kind of compositional
colour balance to the white prostitute!
There is hardly ever any mention of her.
Oneika gave full life and sustenance
to this woman and explored all sorts
of aspects of her appearance. So in a
general sense Oneika explored the role
of the black woman and her invisibility.
I think there is a link with Ebony
Patterson in that sense. They both seem
to give a platform and a voice to black

Was there also a link with Oya
Oya's work in the exhibition related
to a specific moment in Australian
aboriginal history: the clearing in
Tasmania of its native people. This
reference to Tasmania reached far
beyond the black diaspora; it exists
as a symbol of white persecution, it
exists as a symbol of resistance and
defiance. What fascinates me is that
the artist reaches into history and pulls
this woman out of time and gives her a
moder-day resonance.

Can you tell us why you chose the
Zawdie Reece painting?
Well, Zawdie is something of a mystery
to me. In fact, I never actually met him!
But the work is a strong exploration
of self. I find the concept of the 'self-
portrait' to be fascinating. And given
the history of Jamaica it has added
poignancy. To confront one's physical
nature is a powerful thing, but in the
Jamaican context you are confronting so
many things, not just weight or gender,
but also slavery. What different factors
have gone into creating your physical
being: Africa, the Middle Passage, a

plantation owner, a sailor, a member
of the British Army who was stationed
here ... It is never really addressed but
it always there, and in a way that the
sugar-coated gloss of "Out of Many,
One People" does not really address. To
confront one's self is always a profound
act in Jamaica.

From what you have said, many of
the works in the show were very
serious and strongly evoked the
painful history of Jamaica, as well as
the present; do you feel that it lacked
some of the humour and playfulness
of the way Jamaican artists deal with
their lives?
Absolutely not. I can't see how anyone
can suggest that the show might have
lacked humour or playfulness. We
only have to look at the work of artists
such as Keisha Castello and Oneika
Russell to see an abundance of humour.
Elements of Carol Crichton's work
also resonate with subtle but distinct
humour. Of course, if people insisted
on seeing the exhibition as a grim and
cheerless selection, that's their choice.
But I certainly didn't see the exhibition
in those sorts of terms. I saw it as
being, in parts, very consistent with the
humour and playfulness of the way
Jamaican artists deal with their lives
and their environment.

What parallels, if any, do you see
between the contemporary art scene
and contemporary society in Jamaica?
I'm not sure that we can speak
of genuine parallels between
the contemporary art scene and
contemporary society in Jamaica. I
think elements of contemporary society
in Jamaica are in some ways deeply
dysfunctional, as are, in my view,
elements of society in countries such
as the UK and the USA and elsewhere
in the world. At the same time, of
course, Jamaica is a confident and
robust country, very much a part of the
modem and contemporary world. But
its art scene pretty much functions in
a sort of parallel universe, so evidence
of significant interplay between 'visual
art' and 'society' is hard to convincingly
pin down. However, in curating
this exhibition I was keen to explore

some of the ways in which artists in
Jamaica offered unflinching or candid
commentary on Jamaican society and

Carolyn Cooper [guest speaker at
the opening] took issue with your
statement that it was impossible to
talk of Jamaican art, in the sense of
it being a national school, and this
reminded me of something Stuart
Hall has said: that the moment when
everything can be defined in terms
of territorially bounded Jamaica is
finished because globalisation has
finished it. Is that something you
would agree with?
I think that's a very interesting idea. In
response to Carolyn's insistence that
there ought indeed to be something
particularly and peculiarly 'Jamaican'
about the Jamaican art scene, the
question then has to be, "What might
those things be?" For the life of me
I can't identify or even locate them.
Non-Jamaicans (if I can use that term)
have had a commanding influence
on the notion of 'Jamaican art', much
more so than in the areas of Jamaican
literature, music or dance. In areas such
as literature, music or dance, it's not
difficult, in my view, to identify specific
strands of Jamaicanness. But I think the
world of the visual arts is an altogether
different prospect.

What would you say about the state of
contemporary art in Jamaica?
I'd say that generally, the state of
contemporary art in Jamaica is healthy.
And I think that opportunities such
as Curator's Eye are good because
they offer the possibility of different
perspectives and different artists
having a profile. In undertaking my
research last summer, I constantly came
across artists expressing the sentiment,
the impression, that the Jamaican art
scene is dominated by a limited and
privileged number of practitioners. This
may or may not actually be true, but
it's a formidable impression. In theory,
exhibitions such as Curator's Eye offer
the prospect of a wider or a different,
selection of artists to have their work

How did this exhibition fit
in with your interests as an
art historian and a curator
The exhibition fitted in very
well. In my ongoing curatorial
work I'm keen to work with
artists I feel have not had, or
are not getting, the exposure
they deserve. I deliberately
sought to bring this principle
to Curator's Eye. It is, of course,
for others to judge the degree
to which I may have achieved

How easy was it for you as a
British-based curator to curate
an exhibition in Jamaica?
I think that any experienced
curator with some knowledge
of art in Jamaica would, whilst "
respecting the challenges, be
up to the task. I think one of the .
biggest challenges I faced was
seeking out the work of artists
whose names and practice
were, by and large, unfamiliar
to me. I'd made a number of
trips to Jamaica over the years,
plus of course I'd read the art
books and seen some of the
catalogues. But I think for the
casual observer, getting beyond
the familiar names of Jamaica's
art scene can be quite a challenge. In
this regard, being able to catch the
Edna Manley College [of the Visual
and Performing Arts] painting degree
show was a great help. That's where
I came across artists such Shosana
Fagan and Tricia Gordon-Johnston,
whose work was new to me. Whilst
I have enormous respect for all those
artists who have established names
and reputations for themselves in
Jamaica, I wanted to curate something
new, something different, at least
in terms of my own grasp of art in
Jamaica. That led me to a distinctly
younger group of practitioners, though
it did of course also lead me to Carol

Crichton. Jamaica can be a challenging
environment, though that possibly
applies to residents and visitors alike.
Having a familiarity with how things
are in Jamaica was a great help to me in
working on the exhibition. If my very
first visit to the island had been to work
on Curator's Eye II, I think I'd have had
greater challenges.

Did you face any significant cultural
Having been to Jamaica a number of
times before, including several periods
of teaching at the Edna Manley College,
I pretty much knew what to expect
in Jamaica. Between 1993 and 2002
I made seven visits, so I really don't

K Khalfani Ra, The Vicissitudes of Memory:
Long Live the Maroon Killers, Death to
the Maroon Traitors. For De Serras the
Unsung, 2004.

think I faced any unexpected
cultural challenges, as you've
termed them. I think by its
nature, the art world can be
S a very peculiar sort of thing.
That goes for elsewhere in the
S world as much as it goes for
Jamaica. Understanding and
S navigating such peculiarities
will, in my view, always be the
main challenge facing a visiting

Who or what has been your
greatest influence?
I'm not sure that I have a
'greatest' influence, but as a
student, some twenty-five
years ago, I was profoundly
influenced by the work of an
artist and writer named Rasheed
Araeen. In his own way, he
gave me a blueprint for how
an artist could make strategic
interventions, how an artist
could be an activist, and how an
artist could challenge accepted
notions of art history. He was an
enormous influence on me.

Do you have any advice for
aspiring Caribbean curators?
I think opportunities for aspiring
Caribbean curators are few and
far between. Realistically, it's not
possible for an independent curator to
sustain his or her practice (let alone, a
reasonable level of income) working
only within a Caribbean country. My
advice would be to seek curatorial
training and gallery experience
outside of the region. That will then
put aspiring Caribbean curators in
a commanding position to make
interventions back in their respective
countries. 8

The Lost Portrait


It is every biographer's fantasy, particularly if there is a paucity of primary source material on their subject both visual and
written to discover something new and which changes our perception of that person: a cache of letters, an unpublished work, or
perhaps even better still, a portrait which, till then, no one knew existed.
I counted myself extremely lucky to be one of those who have experienced that magical, serendipitous moment the day that I
held in my hands a lost image of the Jamaican nurse and doctress Mary Seacole, a heroine of the Crimean War for her services to
the sick and wounded, who has, in the last twenty years since her rediscovery, become an inspirational figure to many.
But not only was I looking at the portrait of a woman for whom there was, up to that point, only one image (a small carte
de visit) covering the last twenty-five years of her life till her death in 1881, but it was, to boot, an iconic, authoritative image of
Seacole at the height of her fame and powers. And, by some miracle, it had landed in my lap.

In the autumn of 2003, I was living
the usual freelancer's nightmare of
trying to get enough work coming in
as a writer, women's historian and
Russian translator to pay the bills. It is
a habit of mine, when times are lean, to
seek refuge in my favourite historical
subjects and the endless fascination
of other people's lives. I already
knew Mary Seacole's extraordinary
story, having written about her in my
Encyclopedia of Women Social Reformers.'
From the first, I had been captivated by
her wonderful idiosyncratic narrative
voice and had found her feistiness and
indomitable spirit inspiring. I decided
to start researching her biography
even though I had no publishing deal.
Soon after, I discovered that thing all
biographers dread: someone else had
got there first.2 A biography had already
been commissioned. I was disconsolate,
but felt compelled to continue. I was
determined to fill in some of the many
huge gaps in Mary's life story, so I
carried on regardless, as and when time
and money permitted.
But I needed the help of experts,
especially military specialists on the
Crimean War, in order to progress my
research. The Web revealed to me the
encyclopaedic knowledge and expertise
of the members of the Crimean War
Research Society and the Orders and
Medals Research Society (OMRS), where
I rapidly entered into a fascinating and
sometimes heated online discussion on
the contentious issue of Mary Seacole's
medals and how she got them.

It was now late December, and I
was due to go away for Christmas. But
I could not tear myself away from my
computer; I was still bashing out email
exchanges with military historians,
when suddenly, almost as I was about
to close down my machine and leave,
an email arrived from one of my medals
experts with a jpeg attached.
I'll never forget the excitement, the
wonder and the sheer shock, which
simultaneously stopped my breath,
when I opened that jpeg. For there, on
the computer screen, was the face of
the mature, dignified Mary Seacole.
With her head held high, in profile, she
was proudly displaying the emblem of
her Creole identity a red neckerchief
- and wearing a set of three miniature
medals: the British Crimea; the Turkish
Medjidie and the French Legion of
Honour (as my medals experts later
confirmed for me).
On enquiring where the portrait
had turned up and who had it, I was
told that it had been bought by an art
dealer "somewhere in Oxfordshire". He
had contacted a friend, who in turn had
passed on an enquiry to an expert in the
OMRS on medals awarded to women,
who in turn had forwarded the email
to me as someone who knew about
Seacole for confirmation of who the
subject was.
I've never been more certain
of anything than I was then: that
I was about to embark on a quest:
first, somehow or other, to secure
the portrait; and second, to ensure it

remained in England, that it did not
disappear into some air-conditioned
collector's vault or a faraway US
repository. Some might say that the
portrait ought to be in Jamaica; but that
would limit access to it to only a few.
Mary had been so proud to be a British
subject; she had served that nation
during the Crimean War, and there
seemed only one true and fitting place
for her in London, in Room 23 of the
National Portrait Gallery amongst the
other famous personalities of that war,
including Florence Nightingale.
Trying hard to contain my
excitement, if not my state of total
panic that the painting might any
minute disappear into an auction,
and then God knows where, I sent a
message asking whether the dealer
was prepared to sell. I discovered
that that he happened to live only
fifteen miles away from me, just across
the border in Warwickshire. But his
answer was extremely disconcerting:
yes, he would be selling the portrait,
but not for another six months, after
he had exhibited it in his local annual
But it was Christmas, and that was
not until the end of next May. How
could I contain myself till then or
live with all the worst-case scenarios
entering my head. The painting might
be lost, damaged or stolen. The dealer
might change his mind and sell it on
without my knowing.
There was only one thing for it
contact the dealer directly and throw


myself on his mercy, explaining my
passion about Seacole and women's
history, in the hope that I could secure
at least the promise of first refusal on
the portrait.

When I went to see the dealer, Jerry,
at his home, he was so laconic about
what, for me, was a big moment as
he nonchalantly produced the painting
for me to examine. Seeing it this time
for real, I knew without a doubt that it
was Mary. The painting's date and her
visible, physical age seemed to coincide
perfectly. And there was something
about Jerry that immediately reassured
me: here was a man who I somehow
knew would empathise, who would be
sensitive to my passion about Seacole,
about saving the painting from being
sold on and possibly out of the country.
I knew that Jerry was far too
canny to be deceived, so I laid my
feelings bare. I told him I could only
pay a limited amount; that it was of
huge importance not just to me but to
women's and black history that he let
me buy the portrait. But he is also a
pragmatist; on more than one occasion,
Jerry told me, he had bought paintings
and then sold them on for less than
they eventually turned out to be worth.
He knew he could have pushed the
painting's price beyond what I
could afford to borrow from the
bank. But in the end money was
not what it was all about with
Jerry. He actually cared about 1
where some of his paintings
I was lucky; Jerry agreed
to sell the portrait to me but
not until after his exhibition
in May. We shook hands on it.
I came away happy but still
paranoid. Say someone saw
it at the exhibition and stole it
from me at the eleventh hour
with a bigger and better offer?
There was nothing I could do
but wait it out.
Meanwhile, I had to
raise the money not an
easy prospect, having been
struggling without success
for a couple of years to sell
another biography idea,

and, with work so intermittent and
underpaid, even having to take
occasional waitressing jobs to keep
going. It seemed total utter madness to
stretch myself even further financially
at such a difficult time. But I had to do
it. And Jerry kept his word. Eventually,
one sunny Sunday in early June, I drove
over to Warwickshire to collect Mary
and brought her home.
Meanwhile, I had to find out what I
could about the painting and its artist.
Although Mary was not named
as the sitter (what might have been an
identifying label on the back had long
since been removed), the portrait was
signed "A.C. Challen, 1869". Of the
painting's provenance, Jerry could tell
me frustratingly little. He had bought it
in autumn 2003 at a small local auction,
held regularly at the social club of an
industrial works in Warwickshire. But it
had been put in the auction by another
dealer something of an elusive
mystery man about whom nobody
knew very much. All Jerry could
ascertain, from asking the auctioneer,
was that the portrait had apparently
been part of an assortment of things

from a deceased person's house that
had been sold at "a posh boot sale in
Even worse was to come: Jerry, of
course, had no idea who the deceased
person had been, or who had sold the
painting at the boot sale. But what
put the lid on all hopes of tracking
backwards to the original owner was
that, when it was sold at Burford, the
vendor did not even know it was there.
For the portrait, painted on board, had
been used, turned face in, to back a
print of some kind. It was the mystery
dealer who had noticed something odd
- the Challen signature and date on the
back and had unsealed the frame and
discovered the portrait hidden behind
the print.
So how and when had it happened
that Mary's portrait perhaps
considered unfashionable or even
undesirable to be hung on somebody's
wall in the changing social and racial
climate of late nineteenth-century
Britain had effectively been discarded
by its owners? How long had it been
lost to view in this way? How had
it wended its way from London,
where I now know it was painted,
to Oxfordshire? The questions were
endless and the chance of answering
any of them unlikely.
Soon afterwards, I took the
painting to Peter Funnell, curator
of nineteenth-century portraits
at the National Portrait Gallery,
for his opinion. The portrait
was subsequently examined
by a specialist, and pigment
tests and X-rays were taken.
Much to our collective relief
the tests confirmed the dating
which meant the portrait was
definitely contemporaneous and
not painted posthumously. But
the National Portrait Gallery,
despite the resources of its
S wonderful reference library, the
Heinz Archive, could tell me
absolutely nothing about the
artist A.C. Challen. For they had
no record anywhere of a single
other work by him.
Freelance life creates many
opportunities for pursuing side
interests in imposed periods

of unemployment, and genealogy
had always been another passion of
mine. Knowing where to look, I started
searching and eventually found my
man. There he was on the 1881 census:
Albert Charles Challen, born Islington
8 October 1847, living at 5 Penford
Street, Camberwell with his parents
and siblings. And better still: under the
heading "profession", was the magic
word "artist". But when I searched
the Society of Genealogists' library
and its family name collections, the
Victorian trade directories and reference
sources on artists, as well as checking
with the Royal Academy and other art
schools, I drew a complete blank. It was
as though Challen had never existed.
Yet, here was a young man
who, at the age of twenty-two, had
unknowingly painted what I am sure
will become the defining image of one
of the most fascinating black women
in nineteenth-century history. But one
thing is clear this was no expensive
studio portrait. For by the time of
the 1871 census, two years after the
portrait was painted, Albert Challen
was living in Hammersmith and listed
as being an "art student" studying
painting, which suggests that if he was
at art college in 1869, the portrait was
painted as a student practice piece.
Either that, or it had been done before
Challen had even begun his art school
training. Between 1867 and her death
in 1881 Mary Seacole seems to have
lived in and around the Marylebone
and Paddington areas. It strikes me
that Albert Challen must either have
personally known her, or had lived
near her and known of her lingering
celebrity, thirteen years after the
Crimean War, in order to ask her to sit
for him.
But did the portrait remain in the
Challen family after it was painted or
did Mary Seacole herself purchase it?
And if so, where did it end up after
Mary's death? From my research
I knew that Mary had relatives in
Brixton: her nephew William James

Kent and his wife Sarah and children.
Sarah Kent had been present at Mary's
death and was a legatee in her will.
Whilst leaving most of her important
valuables to military and royal patrons
and her sister Louisa in Jamaica, Mary
had specified that all "her furniture
deemed fit, pictures, prints, engravings,
plate, linen and china" should go to
Sarah. So if the Kent family did inherit
the portrait, they either handed it down
within the family or sold it after Mary's
death and it somehow found its way to
So far I have not come across
another portrait by Albert Challen,
but I have at least traced the short, sad
trajectory of his life. And here is the
most poignant coincidence of all. He
died, unmarried, on 1 September 1881
at his home in Camberwell, of phthisis
(a lung disease similar to tuberculosis)
- only four and a half months after
Mary Seacole (who had died in
Paddington that May). After 1881, all
three Challen, Mary and the portrait
- were, together, lost to history.

Shortly before going away on holiday
in September 2005, I was overcome
by an irrational sense of panic at the
thought of leaving Mary's portrait
hanging on the wall in my home. What
if there was a break-in; a fire; a flood; an
act of God? I couldn't bear the thought
of her portrait being lost again. So I
enveloped her in bubble wrap, phoned
the National Portrait Gallery and took
her there for safe-keeping.
I recently went to pay my respects
to Mary at St Mary's Roman Catholic
Cemetery in north London. It's a forlorn
place in the dead of winter especially
its neglected nineteenth-century
section, with its lopsided crosses and
broken headstones interspersed only
by patches of scrubby, boggy grass
and mud. There's hardly a tree to
offer shelter or solace and none of the
romantic, enveloping Gothic serenity of
that great Victorian necropolis, Kensal
Green, next door. Yet in its newness

and whiteness, decorated with plastic
flowers and a toy Jamaican flag, Mary
Seacole's restored grave stands out
like a beacon in this disconsolate
monochrome wasteland.
As I stood there and pondered
how she had inhabited my creative
imagination for the last three years and
how her portrait had been my good
companion through some difficult
times, it struck me that if she were
alive today, she would, in response, no
doubt take me into her ample bosom
with her characteristic joviality and a
big, warm Jamaican laugh. In her own
way, metaphorically, Mary has taken
care of me, and I in turn have been able
to help restore her story and, more
importantly, herface to history.
Mary Seacole's portrait will
not return to my wall again, except
perhaps in reproduction. She is where
she belongs now on indefinite loan
to the National Portrait Gallery, as a
part not just of our collective, British
and Jamaican heritage but of black
history too. And I am content; because
even if I am never able to solve the
many puzzles about her life and the
painting's provenance, at least she
is there for everyone to see, with a
campaign in full swing to have a statue
erected to her in London, and at a time
when British schoolchildren are now
learning about her as part of the Key
Stage 2 curriculum. +

My thanks to Norman Gooding and Mike

1. Helen Rappaport, An Encyclopedia of
Women Social Reformers, 2 vols. (Santa
Barbara and Oxford: ABC Clio, 2001).
2. Jane Robinson, Mary Seacole: The
Charismatic Black Nurse Who Became
a Heroine of the Crimea (London:
Constable, 2005).

Dusky Doctress



On the bicentenary of her birth, Mary Grant-Seacole was celebrated as "the greatest
ever black Briton", a "charismatic black nurse", and a "notable black writer".' She has
been described as "an unsung heroine", whose exploits as a nurse "have long been
eclipsed by those of her more famous white contemporary, Florence Nightingale".2 The
president of the Royal College of Nursing recently contended that "against all odds,
Mary had an unshakeable belief in the power of nursing to make a difference".3
Mary Grant-Seacole was a remarkable woman. But these eulogistic
characterizations are a re-invention, and fail to portray Mary's real greatness and
importance as a role model for today. In particular, they ignore the Jamaican dimension
of her life and work. At this time of celebration, when many adulatory books and
articles are appearing, it is needful to answer six pertinent questions. Was Mary Seacole
a "black" woman? Was she a "Briton"? Was she a "nurse"? Was she "charismatic"?
Was she "an unsung heroine"? And was Mary Seacole "eclipsed" by her "more famous
white contemporary Florence Nightingale"?

You might think that this would be the
easiest of the six questions to answer.
And in a sense it is, depending on
one's point of view. There are eight
known likenesses of Mary at various
ages and stages of her life.4 Mary's own
self-identification at age fifty-two was
in these terms: "a motherly yellow
woman"; "I am only a little brown a
few shades darker than the brunettes
whom you all [British people] admire
so much"." There are many verbal
descriptions by careful observers,
friendly and unfriendly. An American
at a celebration at Edward Embleton's
Independent Hotel in Cruces, Panama
said of Mary, "Providence made her a
yaller [yellow] woman", and he called
her "the best yaller woman [God] ever
made... so many shades removed
from being entirely black".6 A British
army officer, Captain Hopton Scott, in a
letter to his family, wrote that he bought
cigars at a caf6 kept by a "well known
old lady, Mrs. Seacoal, a nickname
most probably, for she is black as any
coal".7 Other attempts to describe

Mary's colour include the following:
"la mere noire" [the black mother]; "an
old dame a few shades darker than the
white lily"; "berry-brown"; "a coloured
woman"; "a nigger woman"; and "a
lady of colour".8 A News of the World
reporter, present at a public banquet
for army officers returning from the
Crimea, commented that Mrs Seacole's
"dark features were quite radiant with
In the popular February 2004 media
poll in which Mary Seacole was voted
the greatest of all black Britons, "black"
seems to have had a wide genealogical
connotation and included individuals
with any non-white ancestry, however


remote. Number five on the list was
Philippa of Hainault, queen of Edward
III, and number fifteen was Charlotte,
queen of George III. These two ladies
were of impeccably aristocratic
European ancestry. Philippa was the
mother of Edward, the Black Prince;
but his blackness seems to have had
reference to his treatment of the
French rather than his physiognomy.'
So "black" in a British context may
sometimes be an apologetic social
categorisation, and not a genetic or
anthropological description.

Until Tony Blair and New Labour's
'politically correct' multi-ethnic Britain
arrived, Mary Seacole could never
have been a real 'British' heroine. She
was a Jamaican with 'a touch of the
tarbrush', and was considered so by
everybody who mattered. Officially,
she was a British subject, but only in a
subordinate, strictly colonial, sense. It
was friendship with her British army
'sons', cemented through their illness

Romantic portrayal of Horatio and Mary Seacole


in Jamaica, rather than patriotism,
which inspired her to go to war on the
British side. "The inclination to join my
old friends of the 97th, the 48th, and
other regiments, battling with worse
foes than yellow fever or cholera, took
such exclusive possession of my mind
that I threw over the gold speculation
altogether."10 She stated clearly that
her ambition was to be "a Crimean
heroine" rather than a British heroine."
For this reason she cared for Russians,
Sardinians, Turks and French in the
throes of the conflict, which she could
never have done had she been initially
accepted by Mrs Herbert as a British
army nurse. "I attended to the wounds
of many French and Sardinians, and
helped to lift them into the ambulances
... I derived no little gratification from
being able to dress the wounds of
several Russians; indeed, they were as
kindly treated as the others."'2
As for nationality and residence, in
her seventy-six years of life, Mary spent
seventeen months in Russia (now the
Ukraine), a little less than two years in

Colombia (now Panama), about a year
at sea and visiting various Caribbean
islands, five extended periods totalling
eighteen years in England, and fifty-
four years in her native Jamaica. It was
mainly financial necessity that required
her to spend her declining years in
London. I consider that all this entitles
us in Jamaica to consider Mary Grant-
Seacole as "one o' we".
Aleric Josephs believes that Mary
saw herself as an Englishwoman."'
Personally, I think that she was more
ambivalent about both her nationality
and, as might be expected in the
nineteenth century, her race. As an
upwardly mobile, coloured female
of colonial provenance, it was clearly
expedient to be seen as English, and
loyal to the mother country and her
great queen.'4 But there is no doubt that
Jamaica was home.

Now let us get the facts straight.
Her modem gravestone in St Mary's
Cemetery, Kensal Green, describes her
as "a notable nurse". But in her lifetime
she was not a nurse in any formal
sense. In fact, she had no professional
qualifications in anything at all. As the
daughter of a mulatto woman, she was
seriously disadvantaged in that regard,
as we would say today. And in 1854,
when she went to the war front in the
Crimea, nursing was not a recognized
profession for lay people. It was simply
one of the acts of mercy carried out
by nuns or sisters in religious orders.
At that date, Florence Nightingale's
'nurses' have been described as "an
incongruous medley of women".'5
Only long after the Crimean War did
Florence Nightingale's heroic work
raise nursing to become a reputable and
respected form of employment.
When Seacole applied to join
Florence's new nursing corps, in spite
of excellent letters of reference she
was turned down, probably because
she was a brown woman just arrived
from Jamaica. Another possible reason

ABOVE LEFT Mary did much to alleviate the appal-
ing privations suffered by the British troops in the
Crimea as suggested by this cartoon in Punch.
LEFT Mary Seacole. Drawing in Punch 1855.

was that applicants were not to be
attractive to men, which Mary certainly
was. Mary Seacole was a physician-
pharmacist-surgeon of the highest calibre
in the Creole (West Indian) 'eclectic'
herbal tradition, with a successful
practice. There is abundant evidence to
support this.'6 But she was unlicensed
and operated 'illegally' according to
the conventions of the time. There were
three plain reasons for this.
Firstly, she was a woman. In 1854,
women were not admitted to the
universities or to the professions, and
certainly not to medicine. Three years
after Mary's death, the male tutors of
Oxford University told the women of
Britain: "inferior to us God made you,
and our inferiors to the end of time you
will remain"." Nearly forty years after
Mary Seacole's death, female medical
students had to perform dissection of
cadavers in a room apart from men, and
were instructed in male anatomy only
"down to the level of the umbilicus".'
The only female to qualify as a medical
practitioner in Britain in Mary's time
was Dr James Barry, who graduated
and practised disguised as a man (he/
she also practised in Jamaica). Mary
was too feminine, independent-minded
a person to attempt such a subterfuge,
and in any case she was a widow
who had married in Jamaica. Creole
medicine was considered by the British
medical establishment to border on
voodoo. It followed the 'eclectic' school,
widely recognized in Seacole's lifetime
in the Americas, but not in conservative
Secondly, she was coloured and
from Jamaica, a British colony. Most
Jamaicans who 'made good' in Britain
in the mid-nineteenth century were
Creole white ('red men') from the
wealthy plantocracy or were Jewish.
One of her letters of reference from
a British diplomat commends "her
professional zeal and ability in the
treatment of aggravated forms of
tropical diseases ... at a time when
I am apt to believe the advice of a
practitioner qualified in the North [i.e.,
Europe] would have little availed".19 A
lieutenant in the West Suffolk Regiment
wrote: "She was a wonderful woman.
All the men swore by her, and in case of

any malady would seek her advice and
use her herbal medicines in preference
to reporting themselves to their own
Thirdly, we have to understand
that Mary's international reputation
as a successful doctresss' was in large
part due to the appalling standards of
medical care (read, ignorance) during
her lifetime. During most of Mary's
life, it was the academically qualified
medical professional, however famous
and well paid, who was the 'quack'.
This was the popular perception of a
leading physician, Dr John Lettsom:
"When patients come to I, I physics,
bleeds and sweats 'em; / Then if they
choose to die what's that to I I lets

Mary as doctress
To understand Mary's unassailable
confidence in her medical knowledge
and skills, and her extraordinary
success and fame, we must appreciate
the appalling ignorance and sheer
quackery that reigned supreme in the
medical profession in her day. "I can
scarcely think of a single disease that
the doctors actually cured," states
one medical historian. There were
"too many worthless medicines, too
few remedies, insecure doctors and
ignorance everywhere. Unlike today,
doctors were not likely to be held
legally accountable for their failures
and mistakes". Medicine was really
a form of benevolent homicide.22
The most famous English physician
contemporary with Mary was Dr
James Clark, LRCP, FRS, of St George's
Hospital in the heart of London.23 In
1839 he prescribed opium, camphor,
rhubarb and ipecacuhana for Lady
Hastings, to treat her for "derangement

of the bowel and possible pregnancy",
although he admitted that she appeared
to be a virgin. She died of tuberculous
peritonitis.24 Dr Clark then went on
to treat Queen Victoria's weakling
firstborn infant child with mercury
and a diet of ass's milk and chicken
broth. It must be said that her father
firmly, and accurately, contended
that she was being poisoned by the
doctor. Dr Clark made sure that the
queen herself was never without her
chlorodyne, a mixture of chloroform,
ganja and morphia.25 Dr Hyppolyte
Blot, one of the most notable French
physicians of the mid-nineteenth
century, treated ophthalmic gonorrhoea
with "cautery, belladonna, opium,
and violent purgatives".26 The poet
William Henley, in 1861, developed
tuberculous osteomyelitis. He was
"pricked with rods of caustic, taken to
a slaughterhouse and his feet plunged
into the offal of a newly slaughtered
cow". Then (not surprisingly) his left
leg was amputated below the knee.27
Here is a treatment prescribed by a
serious, fully qualified and therefore
wealthy doctor of the time: a quart
each of rum and lime juice, simmered
over an easy fire, to which are added
iron filings and coal cinders, and
bottled. Malaria, which was hardly
a problem to Mary with her tropical
potions, was treated with "opium,
brandy, mercury and muriatic
[hydrochloric] acid".28
Hospitals were death traps, where
"gin and brandy were freely available,
and many patients were in a state
of inebriated stupefaction". Patients
quarrelled constantly and fought with
one another on the wards. Patients were
not washed, and it was forbidden for
a patient's genitals to be examined or

Sinkle Bible Physic Nut
(Aloe vera) (latropa curcas)

(Quassia amara)

even observed except in an emergency,
far less to be kept clean. Even during
cholera epidemics, "a new patient was
put into the same sheets used by the
last occupant". Wards were "saturated
with organic matter".29 While Mary
Grant "gained a reputation as a skilful
nurse and doctress", using "Creole
medical art", Dr Richard Warren treated
a royal patient thus: blistering of his
shaven scalp to coax out the poisonous
matter from his brain, mustard plasters
to draw the humours from his legs,
leeches to his forehead, purges, emetics
and sedatives in quick succession,
rounded off with mercury and opium.30
At the same time Dr William Knighton
was treating gout with cherry brandy,
opium, arsenic and copious bleeding.
Seven bloodlettings were typical for a
bad cold, sixty-four for rheumatism.
In 1835 Dr Graham promoted mercury
as the wonder cure-all in his bestseller
Modern Domestic Medicine: "no other
drug can soothe and tranquillise the
disordered system quite as successfully
as mercury".31 Mercury, opium, arsenic,
antimony, copious bleeding, "terrible"
purges, blistering, cupping, emetics and
sweating: this was the inevitable fate of
any patient who consigned his or her
body to the 'care' of an academically
trained physician. No wonder the death
rate was so high. No wonder there were
so many invalids in Europe, especially
women. And no wonder the Grant's
Blundell Hall sanatorium in Kingston
did so well.

Still in the medical field, Mary
also excelled as a midwife. During
Mary's early and mature years as a
practising doctress, a medically assisted
confinement was typically (as described
by one keen observer) "a horrid scene
of human butchery".32 As childbirth
drew near, obstetricians insisted on
copious bleeding and violent purging.
Charlotte, Princess of Wales, expecting
to birth, was "bled profusely" and
purged "so successfully" that when
labour commenced, she was so weak
that "uterine inertia" was noted.
Mother and child both died.33 Babies
were fed opium from birth (to quieten
them), and a study of inquests in 1838

showed that twenty-eight out of every
hundred neonatal infants died because
of the use of opium.34
Mary reports very simply of her
experience as a midwife during a
serious fire in Gorgona, Panama: "a
poor young creature, borne in from
one of the burning houses, became
a mother during the night; and a
stout little lassie opened its eyes
upon this waesome world during the
excitement and danger of a Gorgona
conflagration".35 Not surprisingly,
among many distinguished women,
Lady Campbell, wife of Sir John
Campbell, entrusted her confinement
to Mary. This was despite the fact
that Mary had no official licence to
practise. I was told that Mary once
boasted that she had never lost a
mother or child, at a time when such
an achievement was exceedingly rare,
but I have not been able to verify or
document this claim.

Physiotherapist to royalty
Mary was the chosen physiotherapist of
Alexandra, Princess of Wales, later the
queen of Edward VII.

Renowned pharmacist
For several periods and in various
locations she owned and ran what
we would now call chemist's shops,
stocking them with an exceptionally
wide range of pharmaceuticals, many
of which she concocted herself. Indeed,
in life-saving pharmacology she was
decades ahead of her time.

Mary's skills and compassion were
lavished upon animals as well as on
humans, and she appears to have been
a successful vet. One orphaned and
badly wounded colt, discovered alive
beside its dead mother and Russian
owner, was restored to health and taken
with her from the Crimea to England.
It is intriguing to imagine what fifty-
year-old Mary Seacole would do with
a young pet Cossack horse in the busy
streets of London.

In other, non-medical, fields Mary
excelled as:

Chef and restaurateur of
international repute
The most famous French
chef of the mid-nineteenth
century, Alexis Soyer,
considered her an equal.
Mrs Seacole's cuisine at the
front in the Crimea was
"prodigious: course after
course made its appear-
ance, and to soup and fish
succeeded turkeys, saddle -- -
of mutton, fowls, ham,
tongue, curry, pastry of
many sorts, custards, jelly,
blanc-mange, and olives".6

She owned and ran several diverse
business enterprises, most of them
successfully. Some of them were in
'pioneer' regions for business, such
as the interior of Colombia, Haiti and
Cuba. She was a successful itinerant
trader or 'higgler' in the true Afro-
Caribbean fashion. How she kept
her store far away in the Crimea well
stocked and supplied in the middle of a
war was her undivulged secret.

It was recognized that during the
Crimean conflict Mary Seacole
gave new dignity to a previously
disreputable 'profession'.

Mary was a supremely successful
hotelier in what are now Jamaica,
Panama and the Ukraine. These were
not 'temperance' establishments, but
she managed to keep them up-market
and respectable, and they were popular
and well patronised.

At her hotel, to quote Mary herself,
"laughter and fun re-echoed through
its iron rafters"." 'Entertainment'
in Caribbean parlance also includes
genteel, upscale prostitution and
personal service. She was the love child
of such a liaison, as was her mother
before her. The global sex trade is not
new. But it seems that she confined this
to the Caribbean, and there is scarcely
a hint of it in her British or Crimean

Two famous chefs of haute cuisine Mary Seacole
and Alexis Soyer at the British Hotel in the Crimea.

days. She quickly absorbed British

Bestselling author
Mary's very personal and moving
account of her adventures is one of the
more lucid and readable books of her
century. It went through two editions
within a year. It is acknowledged to
be a splendid piece of philosophical

A few of her enterprising economic
activities were rather less successful.
At the age of forty-nine, Mary became
a gold prospector and miner in a
serious way. She travelled by sea to
the operations of the Fort Bowen Mine
of the West Granada Gold Mining
Company. Jane Robinson treats this
period as "a pleasant interlude",
which is surprising, perhaps because
this episode is only of peripheral
importance to her British readers.3 But
to Jamaicans, with their long business
associations with Panama, it is of great
interest, and was far from being an
interlude. Mary was in earnest. She
caught the worldwide gold fever of
the early 1850s, and did prospecting
with a male companion and two girls,
along with some Amerindian guides.
She expressly stated that she went
exploring the Palmilla River "for the
purpose of prospecting a mine said to
be obtainable at an easy price".39 That
is to say, she led the party up the river

by canoe and other means in search
of an abandoned mine that was up
for sale. She had by this time learned
the hard lesson of fool's gold at Fort
Bowen, and seems to have convinced
herself that this Palmilla Mine had
serious prospects. She joined with other
investors in London to purchase it.
She must also have invested heavily
in another mining venture in the
Escribanos area, also financed in the
City of London, and which went bust.
In this particular case, Mary mentioned
three years later that her claim on this
syndicate had never been honoured.
Mary was compelled to go to London
for pressing financial reasons connected
with her gold fever. No doubt some
disillusionment with mining in the
remote tropical rainforest dampened
the enthusiasm for speculating in
precious metals on the part of both
Mary Seacole and Thomas Day.
They both used their respective and
necessary visits to Britain to go off
on a totally new venture together. As
Robinson vividly expresses it: "Late in
August 1854, widow Mary Jane Seacole
(forty-nine), quadroon, of Kingston,
Jamaica, left Escribanos ... for London.
She was going to war.""
In her book, Robinson has got the
details of this gold mining venture of
Mary's completely wrong. The location
of Escribanos on her map on page xvi is
incorrect by more than 200 kilometres.
This is curious, since Mary gives precise
details as to location, and her own
Palmilla mine can be identified exactly
today, more than 150 years later.41 The
Palmilla mine is 120 kilometres west of
Navy Bay (Colon), not east as Robinson
states. Then, it was in one of the most
inhospitable and difficult regions in
the world, and it is even more so today.
The area receives more than 7 metres
of rainfall annually. As in Mary's time,
it is inaccessible except by very small
coastal vessels, and then only at great
hazard through notoriously rough
seas. In terms of present population,
there is only one person to every 10
square kilometres, and no one lives
permanently anywhere near Palmilla.

The entire area has not been inhabited
since the last weary gold prospector
carried off his shovel and sieve more
than a century ago, and remains an
impenetrable rainforest. In following
Mary Seacole's travels, nowhere else
was a more riveting revelation of this
indomitable businesswoman's character
than Seacole and Day's Palmilla gold
She invested in gold mining shares,
notoriously volatile, and lost. Some of
her other investments in real estate,
for example were modestly successful.
She may have "defied poverty", but
certainly she was never poor at any
time in her life. She was much too
shrewd for that. In later life she was a
woman of means, both in Jamaica and
in England. In fact, throughout her
life she had an international financial
network of support.

In my opinion, Mary's autobiography
and Jane Robinson's Mary Seacole unite
in presenting her as a charismatic
individual. To be charismatic is to
"possess a gift or power of leadership
or authority, the capacity to inspire
devotion or enthusiasm, and endowed
with 'special grace' for the fulfilment of
a given mission".42 Without question,
Mary "inspired devotion". She had no
formal or legal authority whatsoever,
yet she undoubtedly had a natural
gift which amounted to authority in
a multitude of real-life situations. In
crises, and not only medical ones, she
was magnificently charismatic. We only
have to picture Lord Rokeby, who was
stiff, formal British imperial authority

Lord Rokeby

personified, happily feting a dusky
illegal doctress from Jamaica, sitting
beside her in the Surrey Music Hall, to
appreciate the extraordinary charisma
Mary had over important personalities,
especially prominent men. Lord Rokeby
even managed Mary's investment
portfolio for her. Or we can remember
Mary in Escribanos ordering around
the local magistrate: "When I heard
Alexander give his men instructions to
shoot the culprit if he resisted, I started
off to his hut, and reached in time to
prevent bloodshed ... we got him off
for a fine of five hundred dollars."43 Or
think of her raising "great laughter" in
the boring bewigged bankruptcy court
in London with her easy hauteur and
her shafts of wit.4

Low describes Mary Seacole as "an
unsung heroine of the Crimean War".45
This is a singularly unfortunate turn of
phrase, since few Jamaicans in history
have ever been more spectacularly feted
in music and song than Mary Seacole.
A century ago, in 1902, twenty-one
years after her death, she was publicly
honoured as "historic by right of good
deeds. In an enlightened century [the
nineteenth, of course], [she] stands out
As an impecunious and miserable
student, fifty-five years ago I lodged
not far from the Royal Surrey Gardens.
The Music Hall and the menagerie
have long gone. But fifty-eight years
later I just had to revisit this tiny patch
of green in the concrete jungle of inner
south London, and write down these
thoughts as I sheltered from a chilly
drizzle and imagined the "gigantic
four-day musical tribute" exactly 147
years earlier. There were a thousand
performers, eleven military bands,
and a huge orchestra. "On no previous
occasion", bubbled The Times reporter,
"have the Royal Surrey Gardens been
thronged by a greater multitude. The
Music Hall was literally crammed,
many hundreds of persons being
compelled to remain in the grounds,
unable to penetrate into the interior of
the building".47 The Illustrated London
News in slightly more muted tones

referred to "the nation's gratitude"
towards Mrs Seacole as akin to that
due to Miss Nightingale. "Mrs. Seacole,
as soon as she was recognized, was
greeted with loud cheers and every
demonstration of enthusiasm." The
"showman-conductor" and founder
of the Promenade Concerts Monsieur
Roch-Albert Jullien (he had thirty-
five other Christian names) was the
master of ceremonies. And there on
the stage was the virtuoso pianist
Johann Sebastian Bach Mills. Jullien
conducted the extravaganza with "a
magnificent maplewood baton, richly
inlaid with gold, and almost covered
with diamonds. A large diamond
surmounts it, and flashes when used,
being a pure, flawless brilliant." As
might be expected from the number
of performers, Jullien's music was
described as "noise, noise and always
noise". The monstrous event was an
unqualified success, with rave reviews,
and vast sums collected. But for
unworthy reasons that Jane Robinson
makes clear in her biography, Mary got

ABOVE Royal Surrey Gardens Music Hall, scene of
the "Grand Military Festival for the Benefit of Mrs.
Seacole". (Robinson, Mary Seacole, 175.)
lEFT Roch-Albert lullien, conductor of the "Colossal
Orchestra". (Robinson, Mary Seacole, 176.)

a great deal of adulation but almost
none of the money. Perhaps even the
lions and tigers in the gardens outside
roared their approval.
It was men who sang Mary's
praise. To some 'respectable' women,
such as Mrs Herbert and Florence
Nightingale, and even Elizabeth
Blackwell, she was biblically frowardd'
or, as we would say, 'out of order'.
Mary had more than merely a medical
interest in her patients, who were
overwhelmingly male. She was known
as the soldiers' friend. But she was
everybody's friend. She felt that she
was following the example of Jesus
Christ in her own sweet way, and was
a role model of genuine morality. She
showed, by example, that a woman
can be as strong as any warrior in
the face of the savagery of war and
bloody death. Everything we know
about Mary Grant-Seacole tells us that
she was a very fulfilled woman. She
deliberately chose a life rich and wide
with friendship, rather than 'romance'
or erotic intimacy. So it is difficult for
our over-sexed age to understand
Mary Seacole. That a healthy woman
should enjoy a full love life without
climaxing with a man in bed is almost
inconceivable. But I have no doubt in
my mind, having followed Mary into
all sorts of situations, that she enjoyed
every moment of her life, even the
rough patches. In its own wonderful
way, to me her biography is a true

So Mary was not an "unsung
heroine" in her lifetime. She basked
in popular adulation for her "medical
triumphs". Indeed, in 1867, Queen
Victoria herself, along with peers of
the realm and many military chiefs,
established the Seacole Fund in her
honour and towards her financial
support, an absolutely unique
distinction for any Jamaican, black or
otherwise. "Unsung"? No way. Mary
Grant-Seacole was feted and celebrated
as no other Jamaican and few Britons
have ever been.
So why was Mary Seacole forgotten
in Britain for most of the twentieth
century?48 She was never forgotten
in her native Jamaica. In 1932 a
commemorative book was published
in Jamaica on the fiftieth anniversary
of her death.49 A hall of residence at
the University of the West Indies was
named after her half a century ago.
There are four possible reasons.
Firstly, because she was an amateur
and had no academic or formal
qualifications or a professional career,
she could not possibly be honoured
with a place in Britain's imperial
meritocracy, based as it was on gilt-
edged certificates in Latin. Unlike
Florence Nightingale, a blue-blooded
British aristocrat who deserves her
museum at St Thomas' Hospital and is
the greatest alumna of King's College
London, Mary Seacole was a nobody.
Nevertheless, she went to her rest in
Kensal Green personally loved and
mourned by thousands, from royalty to
medically rehabilitated army privates.
Secondly, she was a Jamaican
whose ancestors on her mother's side
had been slaves. Colonialism and
racism in Britain were much worse
in the twentieth century than in the
Thirdly, in her later years Mary
returned to work in her native Kingston
and purchased property there. When
she had enough and to spare, she was
content with the crumbs from the
master's table. She was happy simply
to be appreciated and befriended.
Fourthly, and, to me, most
importantly, "in the professions, it is
a law of nature that the eccentric shall
not survive"." And, for sure, Mary
Seacole was eccentric. She successfully

challenged the medical establishment
where it mattered most in the
trenches, in pandemics of cholera,
dysentery, typhoid, typhus, malaria and
yellow fever. She cured multitudes who
would have certainly died within days
or hours if left to academically qualified
doctors. But people like that do not
easily get into the history books.

Florence Nightingale was fifteen years
younger than Mary, and lived twenty-
nine years after her death. So they were
not really contemporary. Moreover, in
the crucial period after the Crimean
War, Mary was back home in Jamaica,
so it was a case of 'out of sight, out of
mind'. As we have already discussed,
Miss Nightingale was socially acceptable
to the British establishment, even if her
ideas seemed a bit weird, and therefore
she was revered. She had friends in
very high places. But Mary broke all the
official rules, and her fame was based
upon simple personal affection, which
is not historically sustainable.
To call Mary Seacole "a black
Florence Nightingale" is unfair to both
women. In no sense were they rivals,
nor is it possible to consider them as
complementary. Indeed, they cannot
be compared at all, as their motivation,
their educational background,
their social outlook, and even their
concepts of 'nursing' were poles apart.
Florence was an intellectual, steeped
in European culture, and at heart a
combination of transcendentalist mystic
and lover of Western art. She told her
friend Dr Benjamin Jowett, the vice-
chancellor of Oxford University, that
"it is a religious act to clean out a gutter
and to prevent cholera"."' She had an
exalted, almost metaphysical, concept
of her chosen vocation: "nursing is
an Art; and if it is to be made an art,
requires an exclusive devotion, as
hard a preparation, as any painter's or
sculptor's work; for what is the having
to do with dead canvas or cold marble
compared with having to do with the
living body the temple of God's Spirit.
It is one of the Arts; I had almost said,
the finest of the Fine Arts".52 At least
in theory, Florence believed in human
perfectability, and expected her nurses

to be saints, or better still, angels, doing
all to the glory of God, and with little
thought of earthly reward. Of course, in
the real world of her age, only well-read
and pious gentlewomen with a private
income (like herself!) could rise high
enough to grace the nursing profession.
Nightingale nurses were expected to be
exacting (especially upon themselves),
cold, clinical and unemotional. And, of
course, academically trained physicians
provided the medication.
Mary's outlook was altogether less
aesthetic, and much more practical
and down-to-earth. Her concept of
nursing was essentially medically
skilled "mothering", with a warm
heart and medicines that she had either
manufactured herself or proven to be
highly efficacious. Moreover, to Mary
'nursing' involved not just clinical
attention, but providing lots of creature
comforts, good food and cheering
company. She treasured letters like one
from "General B-", which began,
"My dear Mrs. Seacole, I am very
much obliged to you indeed for your
pork."5" At the battle of the Tchernaya,
Mary attended a Russian, "a handsome
fellow", who took a ring off his finger
and gave it to her, kissed her hand, and
as she explained, "smiled more thanks
than I had earned". Mary specialised
in smiles, "that one common language
of the whole world". "I thought," she
wrote afterwards, "that my knowledge
of human ills would enable me to be
of use to the overworked doctors."54
The key phrase there is "be of use".
Mary was essentially a utilitarian, not
a mystic.
Florence Nightingale was so
puritanical and neurotic about
gender and the human body that her
nurses were not allowed to show any
tenderness or to behave in a way that
might conceivably be interpreted
as immoral. They had to look at the
ceiling when performing some duties.
Reports reaching her about Mrs Seacole
convinced her that Mary was a woman
of loose morals, as she was actually
"very kind to the men", and offered
them liquor and "persons". Florence
spread around a salacious rumour that
the beautiful teenager Sally Seacole was
the illegitimate daughter of Mary and a
certain Colonel Bunbury.55

How should we recognize and honour
her? First and foremost, Mary Seacole
was a shrewd, successful super-
higgler, Jamaican style. This enabled
her to follow her real vocation, a
successful, popular and immensely
respected doctress. That is to say, to
quote Elizabeth Brooke, "she was a
skilled and practising physician and
surgeon" of mixed race, without any
European academic qualifications, and
therefore technically practising illegally
in Jamaica and every other country
she visited."6 Nevertheless, she had an
extensive and grateful international
clientele. "She doctors and cures all
manner of men with extraordinary
success", was the evaluation of war
correspondent Billy Russell.57 Her
bedside manner was idiosyncratic,
deliberately feminine in ethos and
therefore defiant of convention, and
derived from her African and Afro-
Caribbean roots. This endeared her
to multitudes of sick folk, especially
wounded soldiers. Mary felt her skills,
her self-confidence, and her particularly
West Indian 'brand' of Christian love
would do more to triumph over racial
and gender prejudice than agitation
and confrontation. And, as we all know
now, and can commemorate, she was
absolutely right.
My late wife, Mary, worked
in Kingston hospitals most of her
professional life, and Mary Seacole
was one of her role models. She was
known to hundreds as "Mom". She
was much more proud of that than of
her certificates or medical reputation.
This was much more the case with
Mrs Mary Grant-Seacole. None of her
many accomplishments meant nearly
as much as one simple title in which
she revelled throughout her long life:
"Mother Seacole". Childless herself
(assuming we discount Florence
Nightingale's unkind innuendoes), she
had an enormous extended 'family' and
bestowed mother love on a multitude of
men and women of many nationalities
and languages across the world. That is
where her true greatness lies, and she
knew it. +

1. Valentine Low, "Poll Celebrates
Contribution of Black Britons", Evening
Standard, 9 February 2004, 15; Jane
Robinson, Mary Seacole: The Charismatic
Black Nurse Who Became a Heroine of
the Crimea (London: Constable, 2005),
title page; Jeffrey Green, "Before the
Windrush", History Today 50 (2000): 34.
Robinson knows well the readership
she is writing for. The front cover of her
splendid, deeply perceptive biography,
a definitive work on Mary's life, has the
blackest of the available portraits, and
the subtitle "the charismatic black nurse
who became a heroine of the Crimea".
Get going inside, and we soon meet
the real Mary. Gently and tortuously,
Robinson leads us to conclude for
ourselves that she was not really a
Great Black British Nurse after all, but
a much more complex and fascinating
person. Indeed, Robinson has drawn a
compelling word picture of a Jamaican
woman that we can instantly recognize
and with whom we can readily
2. Low, "Poll Celebrates", 15; Danielle
Demetriou, "Nurse Tops Poll
Recognising 100 Greatest Black Britons",
Independent, 10 February 2004, 25.
3. Cited by Demetriou, "Nurse Tops Poll", 25.
4. These consist of four portraits, two
drawings by Punch, a photograph
and a bust. One portrait has recently
been discovered by Helen Rappaport.
It is hardly true to say that Mary was
5. Ziggi Alexander and Audrey Dewjee,
eds., Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole
in Many Lands (Bristol: Falling Wall,
1984), 124, 58.
6. Ibid., 97.
7. Alastair Massey, The Crimean War: The
Untold Stories (London: Sidgwick and
Jackson, 2004), 237.
8. Alexis Soyer, Soyer's Culinary Campaign
(London: Routledge, 1857); Punch, 6
December 1856; Douglas Reid, Memoirs
of the Crimean War, 13-14; Alexander
and Dewjee, Wonderful Adventures, 106;
Morning Advertizer, 19 July 1855.
9. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
(Oxford: Oxford University Press,
2004). Philippa was the daughter of
William the Good, Count of Hainault,
and Jeanne de Valois, granddaughter
of Philip III of France. It was said of
Queen Charlotte that her facial features
did not look very European, but I have
failed to find the slightest 'taint' (sic) of
non-white ancestry, as some have darkly
hinted. Of course, 'inconvenient' facts
about the ancestry of both ladies could
have been suppressed; there is now no
way of knowing.
10. Alexander and Dewjee, Wonderful
Adventures, 121.

11. Ibid., 123.
12. Ibid., 203.
13. Aleric Josephs, "Mary Seacole: Jamaican
Nurse and Doctress", Jamaican Historical
Review 17 (1991): 49.
14. Although of Scots paternity, and ready
to admit it, Mary never seems to have
shown any affinity at all with Scotland.
In 2006, it seems odd that her father's
nation has not yet claimed her as a great
15. Cecil Blanche Woodham-Smith,
Florence Nightingale 1820-1910 (London:
Constable, 1950), 176-77.
16. See Elizabeth Brooke, Women Healers
(Rochester: Healing Arts, 1995),117-22.
17. Michael De-la-Noy, Exploring Oxford
(London: Headline, 1994), 30.
18. Paul Weindling, "The University's
Contribution to the Life Sciences and
Medicine", in The Illustrated History
of Oxford University, ed. John Prest
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993),
19. Alexander and Dewjee, Wonderful
Adventures, 123.
20. Peter Fryer, Staying Power: The History
of Black People in Britain (London: Pluto
Press, 1984), 249.
21. Barbara Griggs, Green Pharmacy
(Rochester: Healing Arts, 1970), 142.
22. C.D. O'Malley, The History of Medical
Education (Berkeley: University of
California Press, 1970).
23. Dr Sir James Clark, according to George
Villiers, Lord Clarendon, was not fit to
attend a sick cat.
24. For these and other details of Dr Sir
James Clark's doctoring, see Raymond
Lamont-Brown, Royal Poxes and Potions
(Stroud: Sutton, 2001), 95-147 passim.
25. This ferocious and addictive compound
long survived Queen Victoria. My own
mother swore by it and insisted that I take it
regularly as a child seventy years ago.
26. Julia Boyd, The Excellent Doctor Blackwell
(Stroud: Sutton, 2005), 109.
27. Lamont-Brown, Royal Poxes, 177.
28. Boyd, The Excellent Doctor, 31.
29. Guy Williams, The Age of Miracles:
Medicine and Surgery in the Nineteenth
Century (London: Constable, 1981),
87-91 passim.
30. Alexander and Dewjee, Wonderful
Adventures, 59-61; Lamont-Brown, Royal
Poxes, 51.
31. Thomas J. Graham, Modern Domestic
Medicine (London, 1835).
32. Samuel Thomson, A Narrative of the
Life and Medical Discoveries of Samuel
Thomson (Boston, 1825), 25.
33. Ida McAlpine and Richard Hunter,
George III and the Mad Business (London:
Pimlico, 1995), 241.
34. Williams, The Age of Miracles, 87.
35. Alexander and Dewjee, Wonderful
Adventures, 105.
36. Robinson, Mary Seacole, 146.

37. See Alexander and Dewjee, Wonderful
Adventures, 175-85 for details of the
entertainments Mary put on at the
British Hotel.
38. Robinson, Mary Seacole, 73.
39. Alexander and Dewjee, Wonderful
Adventures, 117.
40. Robinson, Mary Seacole, 74.
41. With the kind assistance of the
Geography and Map Division of the
Bodleian Library, Oxford, I was able
to identify the location of the mine
from the map archive of Panamanian
gold deposits within ten minutes. The
location was also confirmed from old
maps at the Library of Congress in
Washington, DC.
42. The Oxford English Dictionary (Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 1989).
43. Alexander and Dewjee, Wonderful
Adventures, 115.
44. Robinson, Mary Seacole, 161.
45. Low, "Poll Celebrates", 15. Although
deserved distinction is a matter of
individual opinion, I am puzzled at not
finding anywhere in the media's list of
one hundred "black Britons" William
Hall, VC, of HMS Rodney, the first black
Briton to receive the Victoria Cross. Like
Mary Seacole, he was also awarded the
Crimea Medal.
46. T. Kelly, From the Fleet in the Fifties
(London: Hurst and Blackett, 1902);
see Alexander and Dewjee, Wonderful
Adventures, 40, 44.
47. For descriptions of "The Seacole
Festival" see Robinson, Mary Seacole,
175-80; The Times, 30 July 1857;
Illustrated London News, 1 August 1857;
Simon Schama, A History of Britain,
vol. 3 (London: BBC Worldwide, 2001),
218-23; Adam Carse, The Life of Juillen
(Cambridge: Heffer and Sons, 1951),
58-93 passim.
48. Sue Carpenter, "The Forgotten Angel
of the Crimea", Times Analysis, Hidden
History (London: BBC, 2004).
49. T.S. Phillips, Mary Seacole (Kingston: the
author, 1932).
50. Jeanne Peterson, The Medical Profession
in Mid-Victorian London (Berkeley:
University of California Press, 1978), 251.
51. Florence Nightingale, Letters and
Reflections (Evesham: Arthur James,
1996), 41-56.
52. Ibid., 64.
53. Alexander and Dewjee, Wonderful
Adventures, 162.
54. Ibid., 123.
55. See Robinson, Mary Seacole, 155, and
the letter on 191. Robinson discusses
in some detail Miss Nightingale's
jaundiced opinions of Mrs Seacole.
56. Brooke, Women Healers, 121.
57. Quoted in Alexander and Dewjee,
Wonderful Adventures, 173.


More Than a Nurse




Mary Seacole has recently been voted
Britain's greatest black person.' Her
claim to fame rests in the feats she
performed on the battlefield of the
Crimea as a nurse and doctress.2 What
is not usually focused on is what gave
this woman her rounded personality
and what made it possible for her to
serve so well outside of the official
institutions and offices3 established
to manage the Crimean War for
Britain her role as 'mother' and
businesswoman. Seacole's other roles
beyond nurse and doctress marked
her as being both conservatively
woman and yet one who rejected the
conventions of her day. She managed
to challenge the Victorian view that a
woman's place was in the home while
satisfying the ideal vocations of being
wife and 'mother'. Her liberation as a
nineteenth-century coloured woman
went far beyond the use of her skills
as nurse and doctress in situations
where no Victorian British woman
should have been found. She was
wife and surrogate mother, satisfying
the Victorian norms while being a
businesswoman of note. It is this
latter untraditional occupation which
facilitated her activities as nurse.

At thirty-one years of
age, Mary Seacole
became a wife. On 10
November 1836, Mary
Jane Grant married
Edwin Seacole4 in
Kingston and moved to
Black River in St Elizabeth.
By November 1844 she was
widowed. So she was only a wife
for a few years, but her marriage

allowed her to satisfy the Victorian
ideal of women's ultimate vocation as
being a wife serving sovereign man.
From her own account, her major role
as wife was to be her husband's nurse.
Of him she said:

Poor man! He was very delicate:
and before I undertook the care of
him, several doctors had expressed
most unfavourable opinions of his
health. I kept him alive by kind
nursing and attention as long as I
could; but at last he grew so ill that
we left Black River, and returned
to my mother's house at Kingston.
Within a month of our arrival there
he died.5

She had known that he was in
poor health when she married him
but had probably seen it as a challenge
to nurse him back to health. She had
desired since childhood to find "human
patients" to practise her skills in Creole
medicinal art.6 No doubt she cared for
him, as she expressed her distress at his
death,7 but she certainly could not have
married him for the usual protection
and subsistence expected of a husband.
He was a merchant, but she had had
experience in that area of business
before the marriage8 and would have
brought invaluable knowledge to the
merchandising necessary in keeping the
store they established in Black River.9
Marriage would have changed her
status. It was unusual in Jamaica for
mixed marriages to take place, even
in 1836 after the removal of the civil
disabilities for coloureds.'0 The common
practice during and after slavery was
for a coloured woman to be the mistress
of a white man." So Seacole could not

have been unaware of her changed
status not only as a married woman,
but especially as a coloured woman
marrying a white man, and one,
furthermore, with links to the elites of
England.12 The marriage thus allowed
her to live with Mr Seacole in
respectability while she nursed
Seacole became a widow
R at an early age she would
have been under forty.
Yet she chose to remain
a widow, although there
seem to have been suitors
for her hand: "I do not mind
confessing to my reader, in a
friendly confidential way, that one
of the hardest struggles of my life in
Bust of Mary Seacole by
Count Cleichen

Kingston was to resist the pressing
candidates for the late Mr. Seacole's
shoes."14 Her decision not to remarry
speaks of her independence. Of this
she said, "It was from a confidence
in my own powers, and not at all
from necessity, that I remained an
unprotected female."'5
This liberated woman did not see
herself as being in need of the usual
protection provided by marriage. And
unlike many widows in Jamaica in the
eighteenth and nineteenth centuries,
she did not find herself destitute on the
death of her husband,16 although she
suffered many setbacks and challenges,
including "many promising speculation
proving a failure" and the destruction
of her home, burnt by the 1843 fire in
Kingston." The potentially devastating
situation, which could have made
her vulnerable, was an opportunity
for Mary Seacole.1 Her escape from
destitution was due to the fact that she
was an astute businesswoman. This she
was before her marriage and no doubt
continued throughout her marriage. In
widowhood she continued what she
had always done well business.
In widowhood she carried the
status that would have allowed her
some protection and elevation in some
circles. The title of 'Mrs' must have
facilitated her as an unchaperoned
woman as she resumed the life of travel
she enjoyed before marriage,19 for she
was now a respectable Mrs Seacole. She
rejected the Victorian concept of being
housebound. And being no longer a
wife and having no biological children,
she was free to roam as she willed. She
demonstrated that the Victorian woman
could be independent, active outside
the home yet remain quite feminine.
She saw herself a "stout female" and
"a hearty strong woman" with a soft
heart.20 She was right womanly.

Being right womanly for Seacole
included surrogate motherhood. To
date no evidence has been found
to support the view that she was a
biological mother. She always had a
female companion on her travels who
might have been mistaken by some
as being her child. At about the age of

fifteen years she went on her first
visit to England and "a very dark
companion" accompanied her.21 On
her trip to Panama she also had a
young girl to whom she referred as
her "little maid" Mary.22 The practice
was not unusual; women who
travelled in the Atlantic World often
took a companion with them. From
Jamaica the companion was often a
black slave.2 Though Seacole did not
mention her in her autobiography, a
young girl named Sarah accompanied
her to the Crimea. She was said to be
of lighter complexion than Seacole and
was fourteen years old in 1854.24 Was
she Seacole's daughter? This would
mean that she had this child when
she was still married to Mr Seacole.25
It is understandable if Seacole did not
acknowledge an illegitimate child. She
herself was illegitimate and would
have been keenly aware of the stigma
attached to such birth. On the other
hand, Seacole seemed quite forthright,
and her reputation, from those who
truly knew her, does not support the
type of impropriety which the date
of birth suggests. While it may have
been unusual for persons like Florence
Nightingale, one of Seacole's detractors,
to understand the nature of 'family'
relations in the Caribbean, it was quite
normal for non-whites to 'mother'
the children of others and even take
them into their own families. White
missionaries of the nineteenth century
'adopted' children of those they wished
to convert and called them their 'sons'
and 'daughters'.26 Seacole herself was
brought up by a patron:

When I was a very young child
I was taken by an old lady, who
brought me up in her household
among her own grandchildren, and
who could scarcely have shown me
more kindness had I been one of
them.. .27

While Mary Seacole's biological
status as mother is still uncertain, she
styled herself as "Mother Seacole".28
She mothered the men in the army
she served. She had 'adopted' the
soldiers from the West India Regiment
whom she served at Up Park Camp.



Wall plaque, National Library of Jamaica, East Street

She saw them as her "sons".29 Going
to the Crimea for her was to continue
the process of taking care of these her
sons: "The authorities ... would not
listen to the offer of a motherly yellow
woman to go to the Crimea and nurse
her 'sons' there, suffering from Cholera,
diarrhoea, and a host of lesser ills."3
Her projection of herself as
'motherly' and her embracing of
the name "Mother Seacole" speaks
of the "submerged motherhood"31
recognized in many Caribbean women.
Coloured women were noted for
being affectionate mothers who were
very attached to their children.32
As with other non-white women,
they served as mothers to white
children, even breastfeeding them,
a prevalent feature of slave society.
The resulting bond was quite obvious
to the point where visiting whites
feared the consequences.33 Seacole
was therefore not only reflecting one
of the characteristics of Victorian
womanhood, but she was being
typically coloured.
Her image as Mother Seacole
might have been a necessary strategy
to protect her femininity and possible
chastity in a man's world. With such
an image she distanced herself sexually
from the men she served and deflected
any possible accusations of impropriety.
For her "the strong men" were but
children, made so from "illness and
weakness".3 What better way to serve
them than to be their mother, giving
them a taste of home in the meals she
provided and taking care of them as she
treated their wounds? Hotel-keeping
provided the means through which
she served her "sons", channelling the
domesticity of Victorian womanhood.

While her hotel-keeping activities
and her merchandising reflected
her domesticity in many ways,
Mary Seacole's life reflected the
contradictions of the nineteenth-
century concept of women. She had
to be employed in income-generating
activities to support herself from her
teenage years.35 Up to age thirty-one
she was unmarried and clearly did not
choose to follow the usual path of being
the mistress of any man.36 She was not
unaware of the difficulty in being an
independent, self-supporting woman in
the nineteenth-century Caribbean, but
she seemed unwilling, or was unable,
to depend on any man to support her:
"Although it was no easy thing to make
ends meet, I never allowed my self to
know what repining or depression was,
and so succeeded in gaining not only
my daily bread, but many comforts
besides from the beginning."37
So she chose to be a business-
woman, and emerged as such during a
turbulent economic period in Jamaica's
history. From early in the nineteenth
century there were signs of decay and
stagnation. By 1865 the economy was
in crisis.38 It is against this background
of economic adjustment that Seacole
showed her prowess in business,
taking risks and overcoming a number
of setbacks. This remarkable woman
was one of the coloured population of
Jamaica who after 1830 were able to
set aside the earlier social disabilities
imposed on them. Seacole was an
astute businesswoman, resourceful
and independent. While most of her
business activities were centred on
hotel-keeping, she demonstrated the

Medals awarded to Mary Seacole for work done in
the Crimean War.

ability of Caribbean women to be
multi-skilled and to carry out multiple
tasks in unison.39 She emerged in
the post-slavery era as a prosperous
businesswoman, even sharing in a
small part of the export trade.4"

Seacole seemed able to sniff out
opportunities for business ventures and
to carry on trading activities of one kind
or another. She recognized quite early
that there were Caribbean products
which were in demand in England, and
that Jamaican products were desired
around the Caribbean and vice versa.
Like many of her Jamaican sisters, she
recognized that her homemaking skills
could be put to good use as income-
generating activities.41 Her second trip
to England was not only a holiday,
it was a business trip. She was about
eighteen years old at the time. She
recalled the trip in her autobiography:
"Before long I again started for London,
bringing with me this time a large stock
of West Indian preserves and pickles for
sale."2 This was her first independent
business activity. Her other trips were
within the Caribbean: "Before I had
been long in Jamaica, I started upon
other trips, many of them undertaken
with a view to gain. Thus I spent
sometime in New Providence, bringing
home with me a large collection of
handsome shells and some rare shell
work which created quite a sensation in
Kingston and had a rapid sale. .."43
So when at marriage she joined
her merchant husband in opening a
store in Black River,4 she was already
a businesswoman in her own right,
involved in the export/import trade.
These 'business trips' reflected her
astuteness and her independence of
spirit. The pattern continued on her
trip in 1850 to Panama.45 She went to
Panama ostensibly to visit her brother
who had gone there earlier that year
to establish a store and hotel,4 but she
refused to go as a dependent woman.
She no doubt knew of the need for a
variety of commodities in the frontier

conditions of the Isthmus in the mid-
nineteenth century as many railway
and hotel workers were from Jamaica.47
The knowledge of the consumption
patterns must have filtered back to
Jamaica and so she capitalised on it: she
carried those goods that would fetch
good prices.48 So her trip was carefully
planned and she used the resources at
her command to prepare for it:

I allowed no grass to grow beneath
my feet, but to set to work busily,
for I was not going to him empty-
handed. My house was full for
weeks, of tailors, making up
rough coats, trousers, etc., and
sempstresses [sic] cutting out and
making shirts. In addition to these,
my kitchen was filled with busy
people, manufacturing preserves,
guava jelly, other delicacies, while
a considerable sum was invested in
the purchase of preserved meats,
vegetables and eggs.49

Other Jamaican women had also
gone to Panama not only to work but
also on business ventures; they were
shopkeepers and sellers of agricultural
produce.50 Seacole's enterprise was
different in that it was varied: she
offered several services from her table
d'h6te operation, which she established
after finding the most suitable site.51
Her base for business was, as in Jamaica
and later in the Crimea, a hotel.

Seacole was always on the lookout for
investment, a way for earning, though
she claimed that she "never thought too
exclusively of money".52 Her business
ventures included storekeeping and
gold prospecting.
Seacole's first venture in store-
keeping had been the store that she
opened with her husband in Black
River,53 a venture which ended
prematurely when her husband fell sick
and they had to return to Kingston. She
again tried her hand at storekeeping
while in Panama, opening a store in
Colon/Navy Bay. This was a response
to observed needs: Navy Bay was the

terminus of the Panama Railway and an
important transit point for travellers on
their way across the Isthmus en route
to California (it was the time of the gold
rush), and so a store was a strategic
business supplying the needs of oft-
stranded travellers." Although business
was good, Seacole seemed deterred by
the "endless quarrels, often resulting in
blood shed ... between the strangers
and the natives",55 so she abandoned
the business for another risk-taking
It would have been surprising
if Seacole had not invested in gold
mining, since she was exposed to
so many persons involved with the
venture and had an eye for good
investment. It must have been risky,
as she herself was unlikely to be
directly involved in the operations of
the business. However, she did spend
some time in the area of the mine in
which she invested.56 She probably took
the risk because the superintendent
was "a distant connection of [her] late
husband"." Seacole left the mining
community of Escribano in New
Granada before she "found gold", but
she wrote in 1857 that she "had claims
on a Mining Company that [were] still
unsatisfied"."8 There is no evidence to
suggest that she ever received a return
on her investment.

A major part of Mary Seacole's
business activities was built around
hotel-keeping. It was not by accident
that she chose this occupation. She
was intimately involved from an early
age in her mother's boarding house
activities.59 She inherited her business
acumen from her mother who, like
many other coloured Caribbean
women in the age of plantation
slavery, operated a lodging house.
Lodging houses were the forerunners
of the hotel industry and provided
accommodation in the towns of the
Caribbean for travellers. They provided
the best accommodation for travellers
in Kingston and other towns." They
sometimes served as convalescent
homes for European travellers,
including army and naval men who
succumbed to tropical diseases.61

For Mary Seacole, her lodging house
benefited from such patrons: "My
house was always full of invalid officers
and their wives from Newcastle, or the
adjacent Up Park Camp. Sometimes I
had a naval or military surgeon under
my roof."62
Seacole inherited Blundell Hall
located on East Street in downtown
Kingston from her mother. She gives
no specific date as to when she took
over Blundell Hall, but at the time of
the 1843 fire in Kingston63 she was
already proprietress of this boarding
house. What is remarkable is that this
woman was able to rebuild her hotel
and expand her activities in a time of
economic recession."
Hotel-keeping in Panama was
a good business decision for Mary
Seacole. With the gold rush in
California, the Isthmus was the transit
point for traffic from America's east
to west coasts.65 Seacole had the skill
in this area already. She also had the
benefit of her brother's experience on
which to draw; and while she was very
alert to economic potential in a number
of areas, the risk involved in others
she avoided. So in Cruces, she did not
provide lodgings in her hotel, only
board, and in following her brother's
example "closely", she "forbade all
gambling in [her] hotel".6 Her keen
business sense led her to set up a badly
needed barbershop and to move from
Cruces to Gargona, when the route to
California shifted in the dry season.67
Her resourcefulness and astuteness are
exemplified in her building of her hotel
in Gargona and her careful selection of
the clientele:

I at last found a miserable little hut
for sale, and bought it for hundred
dollars. It consisted of one room
only, and was, in its then condition,
utterly unfit for my purpose; but I
determined to work and build on it
... The alcade's permission to make
use of the adjacent ground was
obtained for a moderate consider-
ation ... The building process was
simple enough, and I soon found
myself in possession of a capital
dining-room some thirty feet in
length... a store-room, a bar and a

small private apartment for ladies
... the whole building did not cost
more than my brother paid for three
months' rent for his hotel.68

Having secured a place for her new
hotel, she selected her services and
customers carefully. She opted to serve
women only: "I gave the travelling
world to understand that I intended to
devote my establishment principally
to the entertainment of ladies, and
care of those who might fall ill on the
route, and I found the scheme answer
[sic] admirably ... the speculation paid
well."69 Given the frontier conditions
of the towns in which she did business
and the propensity of men in those
areas for violence, her decision to focus
on service to women was a wise one.
She was very much aware that she was
a woman in a man's world.
Seacole loved the idea of hotel-
keeping and was naturally skilled in
it. It is not surprising, then, that on
arrival in the Crimea she would set
up a hotel and that in some ways she
modelled this hotel on Blundello Hall
in Jamaica and on her table d'h6te
operation in Panama. Her British Hotel
in the Crimea did not offer lodgings,
but it was a base from where she
could offer her services as a nurse and
doctress. It was a 'store' from where she
distributed a variety of products and
a place where she offered table d'h6te
meals reminiscent of home to her
clientele. It was one of her most daring
ventures and the only one in which she
had a partner. It was the one that could
most ruin her reputation as a woman.
And it was the only one which left her
The partnership, the Seacole-Day
Company, which she formed with her
cousin-in-law,70 had some difficulty in
setting up their establishment, which
was called the British Hotel. Even
before Seacole's arrival in Balaclava, her
partner informed her of the untenable
circumstances there, but Seacole was
not deterred by the bad news she had
received. As far as she was concerned,
her plans were "perfected" and her
"purchases were made", so there was
no turning back.71 She made use of
any contacts and names of persons

she knew from Jamaica, and even
secured the aid of the Turkish Pasha for
securing goods, material for building,
builders and protection for thieves.72
The strategic placing of the British
Hotel at Spring Hill, Balaclava, near
the army headquarters and near
the railway station, ensured good
business and facilitated access to much-
needed supplies. Good business was
guaranteed, especially as the British
Hotel was a variety store where one
could obtain anything "from an anchor
down to a needle".73 The services of the
hotel were many: it was a convalescent
home, surgery, store, restaurant and
grog shop. Clothing, boots, foodstuffs,
bandages and other nursing appliances
were sold there. There Mother Seacole
gave a taste of home in her sponge
cakes and rice puddings.74
If Seacole's operation in the
Crimea is closely examined, one can
only conclude that it was essentially
philanthropic and would most likely
not have made a profit. The likelihood
of the business not succeeding was
even greater when the motivation
was not primarily for profit, but was
Seacole's way of overcoming the official
rejection of her services as nurse. Yet,
the solution she found to her dilemma
on her rejection by the War Office, the
Quartermaster General's Department
and the Nurses' Enlistment Centre
was a business decision reflecting
her expertise as a businesswoman.
The service she offered was badly
needed. The army ration was limited
in quantity, in kind and in nutritional
value. Seacole's fare filled a major gap
in a way the army could not.75
As a storekeeper in a war zone,
catering to the soldiery, she was a
sutler. Seacole's decision to become
a sutler was a risky venture in terms
of her reputation as such persons
were reputed to be worthless and
mercenary.76 From her own account,

it can be seen that she maintained
high standards and demanded good
behaviour in her establishment;
drunkenness was discouraged, no
gambling was allowed, and it was
closed on Sundays." Fortunately for
her there were those whose integrity
was known, such as William Howard
Russell, war correspondent for The
Times, and Lady Alicia Blackwood, who
testified that she did not just follow the
British army to sell goods at substantial
profit. Her actions were often
philanthropic as she offered goods and
services free of cost to the needy.78 She
did charge those who could pay and at
times the price was high because it was
costly to supply the need.79 She was
very much involved in the business of
Given the unpredictability of war,
to have gone to war to do business was
a seriously risky undertaking, and to
have combined that with philanthropy
funded from a business that was
at best temporary, added greatly to
the risk. So with the Crimean War
ending unexpectedly, the Seacole-Day
Company ultimately had to declare
bankruptcy.8 Seacole attempted to
establish a table d'h6te operation at
Aldershot, a military town in England,
and a coffeehouse at Tavistock, London
with Mr Day, but was unsuccessful.8' In
1857 Seacole wrote that she considered
herself beggared.82
Did she recover from this beggared
state? We know she worked as a
masseuse to Princess Alexander.
But before that, she published her
biography, which may have been an
income earner. The first edition of
Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in
Many Lands was published in 1857, and
there was a second edition in 1858. Her
philanthropy in the Crimea paid some
dividends as her friends rallied to her
cause and established a fund for her.83
By the time of Seacole's death in 1881

she owned two houses on Duke Street,
Kingston and her estate was valued
at 2,615 11s 7d.8 She was no longer

Mary Jane Grant Seacole broke the
gender divide in occupational pursuits.
She demonstrated that she had the
perseverance and acumen required to
be more than a nurse, an acceptable
occupation for women of the nineteenth
century. She was wife and 'mother'
and a risk-taking businesswoman. As a
wife she was self-sacrificing, as Mother
Seacole she gave herself to Britain's
sons in their times of suffering, and
as a businesswoman Mary Seacole
made use of her multiple skills, faced
many challenges and operated under
frontier conditions beset with diverse
dangers. In Panama she encountered
the skilful thievery of some residents
and the attempts of less scrupulous
travellers to outwit her.85 In the
Crimea, her economic well-being, her
reputation and her life were at stake.
She was in danger from the diseases
which characterized the communities
in which she operated and offered her
service, but she was resilient. She faced
bankruptcy, but bounced back to end
her life with some resources. Her own
words sum up her life: "How slowly I
gradually succeeded in life, need not be
told at length. My fortunes underwent
the variations which befall all.
Sometimes I was rich one day, and poor
the next. I never thought exclusively of
money, believing rather that we were
born to be happy, and the surest way to
be wretched is to prize it overmuch."8
From the title of her autobiography
published in 1857, her life was full of
wonderful adventures and her business
activities were very much a part
of those adventures. She must be
remembered in all her dimensions, for
she was more than a nurse. +

All photos courtesy of the National Library of

1. BBC News Online, The International
Version, 11 January 2005. I would like
to thank Paul Kerr of Octoberfilms, UK

(BBC) for pointing me to these online
news items as well as providing me with
an extended chronology of Seacole's life.
His timeline aided me in the discussion
on Seacole as mother.
2. October Films has produced a recent
video, Mary Seacole: The Real Angel of the

Crimea, which focuses on her role in the
Crimea. Since the 1930s, several articles
in daily newspapers and magazines
have been written about her which have
sought to compare her with Florence
Nightingale and have emphasised her
role as nurse.

3. Seacole attempted to go to the Crimea
as a nurse through application to the
War Office, Quartermaster General's
Department, the Medical Department
and the Nurses' Enlistment Centre. She
was rejected by all.
4. Index for Marriages in Kingston Parish
Register, volume 1, folio 65 1836, p. 65,
no. 92.
5. Mary Seacole, Wonderful Adventures
of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands (London:
James Blackwood, 1857), 5-6.
6. She had leart these skills from her
doctress mother. Ibid., 3.
7. Ibid., 4.
8. Ibid., 4-5.
9. Ibid., 5.
10. W.J. Gardner, A History of Jamaica
(London, 1873), 5.
11. Patrick Bryan, The Jamaican People
(Kingston: The Press, UWI, 2000), 101.
12. Edwin Horatio Seacole was the godson
of Viscount Nelson. Seacole's Will, p. 2,
BN Files National Library of Jamaica.
13. The marriage of Seacole to a white man
has to be interpreted in the context
of the Jamaican society in which
coloured women had a reputation
of licentious behaviour. Both Seacole
and her husband had to guard against
violation of the mores of the society if
they wanted to keep their reputation.
For Mr Seacole, the lesser evil was to
marry Mary Jane Grant, though it was
unusual. He gained a nurse and a highly
domesticated woman who was yet quite
a businesswoman. That was the fortune
brought by Mary Jane Grant to the
marriage. For Mary Seacole she retained
her respectability. As cited by Campbell,
"an Englishman who visited Jamaica in
1823, was appalled when he discovered
that he could not travel in the same
carriage with his brown nurse without
contravening one of the mores of the
society" (Mavis Campbell, The Dynamics
of Change in a Slave Society [London:
Associated University Press, 1976], 55).
14. Seacole, Wonderful Adventures, 8.
15. Ibid.
16. Letters of L. Street, 1881, USPG D
Series Rhodes House Library, Oxford
17. Seacole, Wonderful Adventures, 7. She
lost the boarding house owned by
her mother by fire a year before her
husband's death which probably
accounts for the records stating that her
husband was living at East Queen Street
at the time of his death. Register, volume
4, folio 1844, p. 350, no. 541.
18. It was not unheard of for widows of
white men to be reduced to charity in
Jamaica. Letters of L. Street, 1881, USPG
D Series Rhodes House Library, Oxford
19. Seacole had travelled to England,
Bahamas, Haiti and Cuba.
20. Seacole, Wonderful Adventures, 7, 89.

21. Ibid., 4.
22. Ibid., 12, 45-46.
23. Geraldine Mozely, Letters to Jane from
Jamaica, 1788-1796 (London: West India
Committee, 1938); Lucy Watt Records,
24. Ziggi Alexander and Audrey Dewjee,
eds., Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole
in Many Lands (Bristol: Falling Wall
Press, 1984), 26, 46.
25. The age of Sarah and the claim to her
illegitimate birth fathered by Colonel
Bunbury seemed to have originated
from Florence Nightingale who was one
of Mary Seacole's detractors.
26. Quaker Papers, JA 5/8/10; Letters
of Lucy Woodcock, Oberlin College
Archives, RG30/81.
27. Seacole, Wonderful Adventures, 2.
28. Ibid., 8 passim.
29. Ibid., 8, 75, 84 passim.
30. Ibid., 78.
31. Edward Brathwaite, Contradictory Omens
(Kingston: Savacou, 1974), 17.
32. R. Renny, A History of Jamaica (London,
1807), 190.
33. Brathwaite, Contradictory Omens, 17-18.
34. Seacole, Wonderful Adventures, 88.
35. Ibid., 4-6.
36. Campbell, 51-56.
37. Seacole, Wonderful Adventures, 7.
38. Eric Williams, Capitalism and Slavery
(London: Longman, 1967), 32, 151-53.
39. Blanca Silvestrini, Women and Resistance:
Herstory in Contemporary Caribbean
History (Kingston: Department of
History, University of the West Indies,
40. Gad Heuman, Between Black and White
(Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1981), 74-
75; Jerome Handler, The Unappropriated
People (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins
University Press, 1974), 131; Seacole,
Wonderful Adventures, 4, 5, 9.
41. Censuses of Jamaica, 1911-1931; Aleric
Josephs, "Female Occupation in Jamaica,
1844-1944: Becoming Professional
Women" (MPhil thesis, University of the
West Indies, 1995).
42. Seacole, Wonderful Adventures, 4.
43. Ibid., 5.
44. Ibid.
45. Ibid., 9.
46. Ibid.
47. L.S. Lewis, The West Indian in Panama
(Washington, D.C.: University Press of
America, 1980), 17; F.N. Otis, The Isthmus
of Panama (New York, 1867), 36.
48. W. Nelson, Five Years in Panama (London,
1891), 20; Seacole, Wonderful Adventures,
49. Seacole, Wonderful Adventures, 9.
50. R. Tomes, Panama in 1855 (New York,
1855), 58-59.
51. Seacole, Wonderful Adventures, 37.
52. Ibid., 7.
53. Ibid., 5.
54. Otis, Isthmus of Panama, 75; Collin's
Panama Guide, 9; Willis J. Abbot, The

Panama Canal (New York: Syndicate,
1914), 28.
55. Seacole, Wonderful Adventures, 54.
56. Ibid., 66.
57. Ibid.
58. Ibid., 71.
59. Ibid., 2.
60. John Bigelow, Jamaica in 1850 (Westport,
Conn.: Negro Universities Press, 1970),
2; Anthony Trollope, The West Indies and
the Spanish Main (London, 1859).
61. Handler, Uappropriated People, 134;
Seacole, Wonderful Adventures, 8.
62. Seacole, Wonderful Adventures, 7, 8.
63. Frank Cundall, Chronological Outlines of
Jamaican History (Kingston: Institute of
Jamaica, 1927).
64. Seacole, Wonderful Adventures, 7; Gad
Heuman, "White Over Brown Over
Black: The Free Coloureds in Jamaican
Society during Slavery and after
Emancipation", Journal of Caribbean
History 14 (1981): 63; Bigelow, Jamaica in
1850,14; William G. Sewell, Ordeal of Free
Labour (London: Frank Cass, 1968), 174.
65. Tomes, Panama in 1855, 60; Seacole,
Wonderful Adventures, 37.
66. Seacole, Wonderful Adventures, 39-40.
67. Ibid., 48-49.
68. Ibid., 49.
69. Ibid., 49-50.
70. Ibid., 82.
71. Ibid., 93.
72. Ibid., 146-55.
73. Lady Alicia Blackwood, Narrative
of Personal Experience in the Crimea
(London, 1891), 263; Seacole, Wonderful
Adventures, 157.
74. Seacole, Wonderful Adventures, 139-41.
75. Blackwood, Narrative of Personal
Experience, 263; C. Hibbert, The
Destruction of Lord Raglan (London:
Longman, 1961), 213; P. Warner, The
Crimean War: A Reappraisal (London:
Wordsworth, 1972), 250; Seacole,
Wonderful Adventures, 89.
76. Alexander and Dewjee, Wonderful
Adventures, 25.
77. Seacole, Wonderful Adventures, 146.
78. William Howard Russell, preface to 1857
edition of Seacole, Wonderful Adventures;
Blackwood, Narrative of Personal
Experience, 263.
79. Blackwood, Narrative of Personal
Experience, 263.
80. London Gazette, 28 October 1856, 352;
Feb. 6, 1857, 459.
81. The Times, 5 July 1856; notes by J. V. Webb,
B/N File, National Library of Jamaica.
82. Seacole, Wonderful Adventures, 198.
83. The Times, 24 November 1857, 27 and
28 July 1857; Alexander and Dewjee,
Wonderful Adventures, 34.
84. Daily Gleaner, 29 August 1939; Will of
Seacole, B/N File, and National Library
of Jamaica, 4.
85. Lewis, West Indian in Panama, 14;
Seacole, Wonderful Adventures, 20, 39.
86. Seacole, Wonderful Adventures, 7.

The Most English Town

in Jamaica




Mandeville has long claimed the title
of "the most English town" in Jamaica.
Noting the.prvalence of "fair",
"colotid" or "upper-class" residents
living inMandeville, Femando
.Henriques described Mandeville as
!Jrica's Cheltenham",1 and Jamaican
h <.,isiadaHli .P,acobs observed that
S nchiMte. as ithe only area in
S.wf~dlhthe Eiish ever came anywhere
o; b achievingAheir original idea of
;a tropical New England".!
'nv jpiicans and others, the
s an estimated
umigrats who
a deville

Made ille A, Harr\ Goulbourne
describes in an article focusing on the
police\ implication-, ot return migration

the hill trow\n ot Mande ille has
acquired the reputanon ot being a
desirous destinahton for returnee-
who create a prosperous ghetto
characterized b\ ,omne English
pastime.s tea in the afternoon, the
cultiation and display\ of \\ell
manicured lan ni and gardens
ordered for more aesthenc pleasure
than pracncal use. which stand in
sharp contrast to the

kitchen and fruit gardens of
rural lamaica Some would see
an irons here because the town
ot Made\ ille in the parish ot
Manchester like Smmla in the
Himala\ an foothills, used to be the
retreat tor British administrator, in
the colonial past during the hottest
months '

In both popular and academic
discourse. the decision of migrants
ot the post-w\ar generation to return

to Mandeville is often read as self-
evident. Indeed, in an edited volume
highlighting the contributions of the
Windrush generation, Rex Nettleford
noted that many English returnees
decide to return to Mandeville because
"it is England".5 Yet my ethnographic
research6 among returnees in
Mandeville throughout 2000 and 2001
led me to reconsider the notion that
Mandeville, as an 'English place',
naturally resonates with returnees'
sense of being an 'English people'.
Recognising place as a geographical
location as well as a particular
location within a social hierarchy,7
this essay explores the production of
Mandeville as an English place, locating
Mandeville's origins as a British hill
station and relating it to the arrival
of returnees, often referred to as 'the
English', and the ways they interpret
and resituate their identification
with Englishness and, in turn, being

Located 628 metres above sea level on
the Manchester plateau, Mandeville
and its surrounds remained isolated
until the English and Spanish
contest over the island. The parish of
Manchester and Mandeville, its capital,
remained relatively uninhabited until
1814 when the freehold landowners of
the parishes of Vere, St Elizabeth and
Clarendon appealed to the House of
Assembly for the creation of a new,

centralised administrative centre. The
measure (approved in Act 55 George
III C 23) resulted in the establishment
of Manchester, named after the
governor of the island, the Duke of
Manchester, Williams Montagu who
was governor between 1808 and 1827.8
Two years later Mandeville, named for
Montagu's eldest son Lord Mandeville,
was appointed the capital. The vestry
(six vestrymen and two magistrates)
determined that, in order to purchase
land in Mandeville, a person should
hold British nationality and own at least
ten slaves or alternatively earn a salary
of 160 per annum in 1819." The next
year the vestry raised the requirements
to 200, or twenty slaves, a condition
which continued to increase annually.
Once the capital was established,
the vestry planned four buildings in the
town which today still symbolise the
image of law and order associated with
British colonial rule: the courthouse,
parsonage, gaol/workhouse and
church. The courthouse, noted today as
an historic monument, was completed
in 1817. Based on a Georgian design
and ornamented with Doric columns
and a double staircase, the courthouse
was built by slaves out of limestone
bricks. The courthouse still stands
today as a symbol of the law and order
established under British rule. Across
the village green (now a park named
after former mayor Cecil Charlton)
stands the Anglican Church of St Mark,
completed in 1820.10 The accompanying
rectory, the first official house built in

Mandeville, was rented out as a tavern
by the first rector, the controversial
Rev. George Wilson Bridges. In the
mid-nineteenth century, a number of
English troops living at the garrison
in the town centre were buried in the
parish churchyard after a yellow fever
Unlike the rest of the island which
was dominated by large sugar (and
later banana) estates, the parish of
Manchester became known for the
presence of small coffee plantations
which were established after the
prohibitions were lifted on coffee
importations to Britain." Due to
the rocky limestone soil and the
cooler climate enjoyed throughout
Manchester, coffee thrived and was the
primary source of income.'2
Barry Higman suggests that
"the organization of labour was less
strictly regimented" and more flexible
occupationally on the coffee estates.13
The structure of coffee plantations
resulted in two other distinct features of
colonial Manchester. In contrast to the
predominance of absenteeism on sugar
estates, two-thirds of the proprietors
lived on or near their coffee plantations.
Verene Shepherd attributes this pattern
to the small size of the plantations as
well as the expense of employing others
to oversee the property, which made
living abroad less feasible for the coffee
proprietors who did not share the
wealth, prestige or political influence
of the absentee sugar estate owners
who could afford to return to Europe.4

However, coffee plantation owners
possessed greater status than pen
owners due to their ability to export the
coffee.'5 This residence pattern resulted
in closer supervision of the slaves by
the estate owners, and many of the
owners married and brought their
wives to the area.
In addition, coffee plantations in
Manchester primarily used young
African slaves rather than the more
established creole population of slaves
born on the island who traditionally
dominated the large sugar estates.
Higman suggests that the near majority
of African slaves (49.2 per cent) present
in the newly settled parish influenced
the process of creolisation on the
plantations, although the degree to
which this influenced integration
or division varied.'6 For example,
Kamau Brathwaite contends that the
newly imported African slaves were
more prone to rebellion than the
creole populations, who were often
preferred due to their knowledge of
the plantation system and previous
contact with whites.17 In contrast,
Jacobs argues that Manchester
proprietors encouraged their African
slaves to conduct themselves in
an English manner by introducing
marriage, European family patterns
and participation in religious life. He
further notes that in 1950, the parish of
Manchester showed the third lowest
illegitimacy rate on the island, behind
the Kingston-St Andrew Metropolitan
Area and the parish of St Ann.'1
After emancipation in 1838, the large
upheavals occurring across Jamaica
between ex-slaves and planters were
relatively absent in Manchester,'9
and many of the freed slaves became
independent farmers who grew coffee
and other small crops. In contrast to
other parts of Jamaica, then, Manchester
was an area of stability.
During the Crown Colony
government, Manchester developed
citrus products and Mandeville
continued to be a leisurely retreat
for British officers, planters and
wealthy Kingstonians. Hotels such as
the Waverley Hotel, the Mandeville
Hotel, the King Edward Hotel and
the Newleighly Hotel became the

centres of social life in Mandeville,
and Marshall's Pen established
its reputation as a preserve with a
large number of endemic birds and
animals. In addition, the Manchester
Horticultural Society, one of the oldest
horticultural associations in the world,
was founded in 1865 with twenty-
seven members, and in 1927 the society
became affiliated with the Royal
Horticultural Society of Great Britain.
The Manchester Club also constructed
a nine-hole, eighteen-par course in the
image of St Andrew's Golf Course in
Scotland, which was completed in 1895.

One of the issues which emerged over
the course of my research was the
question of the 'natural' affinity of UK
returnees to Mandeville, particularly
because returnees consistently denied
the idea that Englishness played any
role in their decision to return to the
town. When talking to returnees about
their decision to move back and live in
Mandeville, their primary motivations
revolved around the attainment of
a retirement lifestyle, proximity to
family and the presence of a returning
resident community. For example,
the Thompsons20 represent a typical
example of people who made decisions
to relocate in Mandeville based upon
lifestyle. When they first started making
preparations to return to Jamaica,
the couple contemplated living in
Hanover where Mrs Thompson's
family originated. In Hanover, they
envisioned a life at the seaside, enjoying
the ocean breeze surrounded by
extended family members. The couple
also considered living in the hills of
Kingston where they had easy access to
shopping, cultural events and aspects
of urban life to which they had become
accustomed in London. However, they
disliked the need for extensive security
systems, and the traffic and pollution
in Kingston itself. The Thompsons
eventually decided upon Mandeville
because it possessed cultural events,
was only a short (two- to three-hour)
drive from Kingston, and had all of the
modem conveniences such as health
care, water and electricity, without the
crime of Kingston. In addition, and

after living so many years in England,
they had become accustomed to the
climate and found that the north coast
and Kingston made their hands and
feet swell, an uncomfortable physical
side effect of the heat which could
potentially restrict their ability to enjoy
life in Jamaica. Mr and Mrs Brown went
back to their home parishes in eastern
Jamaica only to discover that very few
of their family or their friends were still
living there. Mr Brown, who was more
reluctant to return to Jamaica than his
wife, worried that he would feel lonely
and trapped in the parish of their birth.
He also managed to convince his wife
that Mandeville would be a better place
to move to because they could make
friends with other returnees who had
shared their experience of living in
England. In addition, two of their close
friends moved to Mandeville as they
were contemplating their return. The
ease of attaining land and a building
contract while living in London
solidified the Browns' choice.
Notably, not one returnee I
interviewed or encountered suggested
that Mandeville's supposed similarity
to England or English heritage played
a role in their decision to return,
and appeared quite puzzled by the
association between a decision to
return to Jamaica and the idea that they
were moving back to some version of
England. Although some returnees
admitted to being somewhat amused
by this reference during the early
years of their return, many expressed
frustration with the "locals" (their
words) who, on the streets and in the
shops, referred to the returnees as
"English" and the clusters of returning
resident homes in Mandeville as "little
England". Returnees indignantly stated
that just because they possessed an
English accent, sipped tea, donned
English clothing or held a British
passport, they were no less Jamaican,
let alone English.
Other returnees, who clearly felt
uniquely qualified to identify authentic
Englishness, explicitly contested
what I came to know as the 'myth' of
Mandeville's Englishness. Noting the
dramatic changes in the town over
the last thirty to forty years, returnees

contended that what remained were
mere vestiges of English life captured
in the chimneys and buildings of old
Jamaica. In the place of Englishness
were strong North American
influences. In 1942, a Canadian
company commenced bauxite mining,
followed a few years later by an
American company. Subsidiaries of
North American multinational firms
have been the key players in the
bauxite industry for most of its life.
With bauxite came other beacons of
North America and of globalisation,
such as McDonalds, Burger King and
Kentucky Fried Chicken (the latter of
which could be argued now to be as
'Jamaican' as rice and peas), arriving
alongside Dodge Rams, Escalades and
other American imports. There were
also a large number of individuals,
both retired returnees and otherwise,
who regularly travelled between
Canada, the USA and Mandeville for
family, commerce and education. Many
returnees were therefore ambivalent
about the Englishness of the town; over
one-third of the returnees I interviewed

explicitly stated that Mandeville had
become a "little America" with all of the
shopping malls and fast food chains,
the quaint country town destroyed by
modem consumerism. In other words,
and in contrast to earlier suggestions
that returnees move to Mandeville
because "it is England",21 for many
returnees North America loomed large
in 'English' Mandeville.

The questioning of Mandeville's
Englishness also reflected another,
often very personal transformation
in returnees' own historical and
racial consciousness. On a bright
February morning, I travelled to one
of Mandeville's many Sunday worship
services with four returnees. Our
journey commenced in the rolling
hills on the outskirts of Mandeville
through neighborhoods where
returnees lived in their bright white
homes, and proceeded past the closed
and grilled businesses on Main Street.
As we made our way up the road to
the roundabout in the centre of town,

everyone looked towards the village
green and St Mark's Anglican Parish
Church. We then turned and passed
the bright yellow and royal blue Courts
store, yet another visible indication of
Mandeville's British heritage. Shortly
thereafter, our attention shifted to
the steep, narrow road in front of
the Mandeville Hotel, the same road
which leads to the Baptist church.
Interrupting the appreciation of
Mandeville's aesthetic environment,
the brown-skinned Sister B suddenly
asserted, "All these [English] buildings
were built by our people during slavery
days." Sister B's comment, particularly
the recognition of Jamaican heritage
and claim to building spaces
commonly attributed to the British,
signals an important transformation
in beliefs about place and English
heritage among many returnees.
It indicates an important shift in
perspectives, an explicit recognition
of Jamaica's African heritage and the
role that African and creole slaves
played in shaping the local landscape
- an awareness which may well have

arisen out of the years of living in the
UK. Sister B's acknowledgement and
embrace of Mandeville's African and
creole heritage effectively destabilise
the dominant trope of English
Moreover, a questioning of the town's
English heritage reflects returnees'
struggle to assert and situate their
own'place' in Jamaica. As geographer
Doreen Massey argues,

place can be understood as
particular moments in such
intersecting social relations, nets
of which have over time been
constructed, laid down, interacted
with one another, decayed and
renewed. Some of these relations
will be, as it were, contained within
the place; others will stretch beyond
it, tying any particular locality into
wider relations and processes in
which other places are implicated

Within the national arena,
Jamaicans emphasise Mandeville's
clean, orderly streets and cool climate

which they translate into the character
of its 'English', 'white' or 'rich'
people, Mandeville's residents being
noted for their law-abiding nature
and cool, but civilised detachment.
Returnees, on the other hand, assess
Mandeville's importance in terms
of the climate, sense of community,
economic prosperity and status. Living
in the salubrious hills of Mandeville
signals achievement and a feeling of
accomplishment, and returnees are
keen to realise a lifestyle associated
with Mandeville, particularly by
maintaining a proper house as well as
participating in the community through
church, voluntary and charitable
associations all those symbols of
middle- and upper-class realisations of
This is not, of course, to say that
returnees do not 'play' with the notion
of Englishness. Certainly, returnees
enjoy identifying the beauty of their
large, modern homes alongside the
vestiges of the English past such as
bricks and chimneys, or the green
hills of the surrounding countryside
and the occasional fog of the winter

mornings which remind them of
their days in England. They also
seek to develop their new status as
returnees by playing upon the value of
Englishness in colonial and postcolonial
Jamaica, for example emphasising
their British accents and dressing
in the brands and styles of clothing
that, in their eyes, symbolise British
superior quality and craftsmanship
- such as Marks & Spencer. They also
socialise with others who share their
same cultural experience and spaces.
But in many ways this engagement
with Englishness has less to do with
an overwhelming sense of being
English or performance of an inherent
or ascribed Englishness and a related
sense of English superiority than it
does with their attempts to reframe
their symbols of success in a place
where the value accorded to the
purchase of their large homes and
other more traditional symbols of
success seems to be decoupled from
the years of hard work and thrift which
have underwritten their acquisition.
Anthropologist Deborah Thomas has
argued that the recognition of creole

symbols of status and success namely
land and education which were
sponsored by the state and elites in the
era of creole nationalism has gradually
shifted to what she refers to as a
sensibility associated with "modern
blackness" which is marked by a radical
consumerism (often tied to American
consumer items) and urban rather
than rural sensibilities.23 So the tension,
then, is over whether or not returnees'
symbols of success become recognized
appropriately which, in turn, allows
them to realise their desire to be
recognized as proper Jamaicans, the
migration and return migration being
one trajectory of Jamaican personhood.

1. Fernando Henriques, Family and
Colour in Jamaica (London: Eyre and
Spottiswoode, 1953).
2. H.P. Jacobs, "Manchester: Roots and
Branches", Mandeville Weekly, 2 June
1994, 8.
3. Exact numbers are difficult to
determine due to the transient nature
of 'returning resident' status and the
requirement of only one returnee per
household having to register with
customs; however, 20,085 individuals
enrolled for returning resident status
between 1993 and 2003 (Economic and
Social Survey 2004, Ministry of Foreign
Affairs and Trade 1997). While only
250 individuals joined Mandeville's
two returning resident associations in
the year 2000, estimates suggest that
there are enough returning residents
in Mandeville to create at least six
active associations. Moreover, the
membership of 250 does not count
spouses or those returning residents
who did not wish to formally enlist in
the associations, but often participate
in the group's organised activities
(personal communication, 2001).
4. Harry Goulbourne, "Exodus? Some
Social and Policy Implications of
Return Migration from the UK to the
Commonwealth Caribbean in the
1990s", Policy Studies 20 (1999): 164.
5. Rex Nettleford, interview by M.
Phillips and T. Phillips in Windrush:
The Irresistible Rise of Multi-Racial
Britain (London: Harper Collins,
1998), 396-97.
6. Between August of 2000 and
2001, I carried out ethnographic
research with return migrants in
Mandeville, Jamaica. Research
included participant observation in
returning resident neighborhoods,

Playing with the symbols and idioms of
Englishness becomes a way of shifting
the focus to returnees' life projects and
their attainment of status rather than
signalling an identification with or
expression of being English.
Yet, unlike many of the other
towns where returnees might resettle,
Mandeville because of its association
with Englishness exacerbates rather
than resolves their desire to return
and be recognized as Jamaicans. In
moving back to Jamaica, returnees
want to experience the positive
aspects of Jamaican culture which
they remember and imagine while
abroad, aspects of Jamaican culture

homes, funerals and churches as
well as returning resident association
meetings and special events. In
addition, I developed case studies
of twenty returnees which focused
specifically upon the material culture
of home.
7. Doreen Massey, A Place Called Home?
Space, Place and Gender (Minneapolis:
University of Minnesota Press, 1994),
8. Edward Brathwaite, The Development
of Creole Society in Jamaica, 1770-1820
(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971).
9. J.T.G. Grant, "Address on the Early
History of Manchester, 1816-1838"
(Mandeville, Jamaica, 1946), 11.
10. G. Bowen, "An Intriguing 170 Years",
Sunday Gleaner, 16 November 1986,
11. See Douglas Hall, Free Jamaica,
1838-1865: An Economic History
(New Haven: Yale University Press,
1959); B.W. Higman, Slave Population
and Economy in Jamaica, 1807-1834
(Kingston: University of the West
Indies Press, 1995); Braithwaite,
Development of Creole Society; Jacobs,
12. See J.A. Delle, An Archaeology of Social
Space: Analyzing Coffee Plantations in
Jamaica's Blue Mountains (New York:
Plenum Press, 1998).
13. Higman, Slave Population, 26-27.
14. Verene Shepherd, "Land, Labour and
Social Status: Non-Sugar Producers in
Jamaica", in Working Slavery, Pricing
Freedom, ed. Verene Shepherd (Oxford:
James Currey, 2002), 153-80.
15. Ibid., 159.
16. Higman, Slave Population, 77.
17. Brathwaite, Development of Creole
18. Jacobs, "Manchester".
19. There is some controversy over

which were ignored or denied in British
media depictions of Jamaican culture,
such as the association with drug
running and violence carried out by
'yardies'.24 Carrying the material and
cultural symbols of success resulting
from their migration, many returnees
arrive in Jamaica only to find that those
Jamaicans who stayed behind appear
to possess the authority to define who
they are. Unless returnees re-work the
meaning of Mandeville as a place, the
myth of English Mandeville effectively
leaves them in the position of being
cultural outsiders in the very culture
they identified with and attempted to
retain while living abroad. +

the extent to which the large-
scale rebellions were experienced
throughout Manchester. Hall argues
that the Moravian churches of
Manchester actually initiated what
later became known as the Baptist
Revival. While Hall presents the
spread of the revival throughout the
island as reasonable, he is perplexed
by its Manchester origins. As Hall
queries, "It is difficult to explain
why the movement began where
it did. Manchester contained no
sugar estates. It was a relatively
prosperous parish of small settlers. It
is unlikely that the religious feeling
arose as a reaction to any peculiar
economic distress. In part, it may be
described as a desire to break away
from the rather hum-drum routine
of daily labour. Social amenities and
recreational facilities were limited.
The chapel was usually the social
centre. An intense emotional appeal
by the local preacher might well sway
a congregation, and the response,
as well as the appeal, might prove
infectious" (Free Jamaica, 237).
20. All names have been changed.
21. Nettleford, interview, 396-97.
22. Massey, Place Called Home, 120.
23. Deborah Thomas, Modern Blackness
(Kingston: University of the West
Indies Press, 2004).
24. Paul Gilroy, There Ain't No Black in
the Union Jack (London: Routledge,
1987); Tracey Skelton, "Doing
Violence/Doing Harm: British Media
Representations of Jamaican Yardies",
Small Axe 2, no. 1 (1998): 27-48;
Geoff Small,"Do They Mean Us? A
Reflection on the Making of the Yardie
Myth in Britain", Small Axe 2, no. 1
(1998): 13-25.


A Really Little Fish Story



"Nuff fish inna di Yallahs!" was the cry for at least two
weeks in January 2006 from people in the area around
the major fording of the Yallahs River in St Thomas
(Figure 1).
It had been reported that large numbers of what
appeared to be tiny fishes could be seen coming up the
river from the direction of the sea. For a number of days
in early January 2006, the normally tranquil Yallahs
River was continuously filled with millions of the 2-
centimetre fishes wriggling their way up to the culvert
on the western side of the fording (see Figures 2, 3, 4 and
5) and appearing to get stuck there for a period. During

FimuE II

Caribbea Sea


Caribbean Sea ;
Jamaica .o

this time, dozens of persons per hour
converged on the site to take a look.
What were they, people wondered? "Is
really fish dat?", "Is a sign dat, man!",
"Is where dem really going?" were just
some the comments that I heard.

They have been identified as two
species of diadromous (species whose
life cycle takes place partly in fresh
water and partly in sea water) gobies
Sicydium punctatum and Sicydium
antillarum (formerly lumped together as
forms S. plumieri),1 both from the family
Gobiidae, and subfamily Sicydiinae.
Called 'suckstone' fish, they are two of
about twenty freshwater fishes found
in various Jamaican rivers. They are a
group of secondary freshwater fishes.
This means that they evolved from
marine fishes and consequently have
a part of their life cycle in the sea, but
live in fresh water for most of their
lives. They are found in the tropical
and subtropical fresh waters of Central
America and the West Indies.2

These passing hordes of tiny larval
fishes used to form the basis of a brief,
but lucrative, traditional small-scale
fishery in the Buff Bay and Swift
rivers on the north coast in the not
too distant past. My research on these
fishes in the 1980s revealed that older
persons recalled the use of dipnets,
sieves, kitchen strainers, finely woven
baskets and even bed sheets to collect
hundreds of the tiny fishes as they
swam upstream from the sea. Several
kilos of these fishes, called 'fry' or 'tiki-
tiki' (derived from a West African word
for 'very small'), can be collected by a
persistent fisher in one to two hours.

FIGURE 3 Masses of gobies almost completely cover
a boulder in the Yallahs River at the western side of
the fording as they attempt to swim upstream in a
mass migration from the sea, January 2006.
FIGURE 4 Masses of tiny gobies on the side (dark
zone) of the culvert which forms the western side
of the Yallahs River fording, St Thomas, and some of
the persons observing the fish run in January 2006.
FiGRE 5 So many migrating gobies swarmed up the
river that they appeared to observers to be masses
of inanimate or vegetable matter on the edge of its
banks. Close examination reveals masses of wrig-
gling fishes slowly moving upstream.

They are found in many other islands
around the West Indies where they
also form the basis of small seasonal
traditional fisheries that go back many
years. In St Vincent and the Grenadines
and Dominica they are called 'tri-tri',
while in Puerto Rico they are called
'ceti' and are collected (Figure 7)
and sold live in plastic bags in the

In islands such as Puerto Rico,
Guadeloupe and Dominica, they may
be either fried, made into a soup or sun-
dried for later consumption. Related
goby fishes in the Philippines also
constitute fisheries for persons living
near those rivers where the fishes make
their 'run' upstream. Here in Jamaica, it
was said to be much the same with the
small 'suckstone' or 'fryers'.3 But since


about the 1950s, the fishery in Jamaica
has all but disappeared.
Gobies are not the only fishes that
make migrations in Jamaica's larger
rivers. In November 2005, an event
described as an eel migration came
from the Great River in Hanover.4
Photographs of specimens taken from
that migration showed that they were
in fact young eel, called elvers, of the
Atlantic eel Anguilla rostrata of the
family Anguillidae. These eels perform
long-distance oceanic migrations as
adults. The first larval stages drift and
swim towards the continental shelf area
where they change into a transparent
ribbon-like stage called a leptocephalus

FIGURE 6 Sicydium antillarum, suckstone gobies col-
lected from the mass migration at Yallahs River ford-
ing on 16 January 2006 showing their small size,
vertical banding and the small ventral sucker almost
under the head, formed by modified ventral fins.
This sucker enables them to climb over obstacles,
while their oily, evaporation-retarding mucus cover-
ing slows their drying rate, allowing them to remain
exposed out of water, e.g., while climbing rocks, for
several minutes. Ruler below fishes is in centimetres.
FIcuRE 7 Collecting the wriggling gobies in a bucket
for human consumption was not as easy as it
seemed. Many of them fell to the ground by the
Yallahs River and were wasted. In a few Caribbean
countries today they still are collected for eating.


'I :

FIGURE 8 Life cycle of Sicydium antillarum, the suck-
stone goby, showing the unusual pyriform (pointed
eggs), their brief sojourn in the sea and their return
to the rivers at about 80 days on average (Bell and
Brown, "Active Salinity Choice"; Bell, Pepin, and
Brown, "Seasonal, Inverse Cycling").

or 'glass eel', becoming pigmented as
they reach coastal waters.5 The eel at
this pigmented stage is an elver. The
elvers swim upstream into rivers and
spend between eleven and fifteen years
feeding and growing to maturity, at
which time they migrate to spawn in
the Sargasso Sea (near the Bahamas).
The young eels return to certain
ancestral streams in sometimes large
numbers, whereas gobies like Sicydium
do so in large numbers simultaneously
over several days. Jamaica's National
Clearing House Mechanism website,
which is maintained by the Natural
History Division of the Institute of
Jamaica, mentioned two migratory
events for gobies, the first in November
2005 in the Great River, Hanover and
the other in January 2006 in Yallahs.
The fish species was identified in the
both events as a goby called Sicydium
plumieri. But this is a synonym of S.

Gobies are from a large family of
marine and estuarine fishes that
inhabit much of the tropical and sub-
tropical zones worldwide. Their main
identifying feature is a circular fused
pelvic (ventral) fin forming a sucker
(see Figure 6). This is one of their
several adaptations to life in flowing
water and can be used in climbing
obstacles such as rocks. Their bodies
are long, slender and subcylindrical
with paired fins, with slightly dorsally
placed eyes and a ventrally opening
mouth. They grow to about 14
centimetres and probably live for an
average of four or five years, but related
species are known to live to twelve
years. Both species (S. antillarum and
S. punctatum) have a vertical banding
on them but with S. antillarum having
more pronounced barring: vertical,
parallel pairs of brownish-green bars
on a lighter yellow-brown background.
Researchers in Dominica7 described

S. punctatum with oppositely angled,
crossed black bars in pairs. Close
examination of specimens collected
from the Yallahs River west fording
site showed that nearly all of them are
S. antillarum (Figure 6). A few have
another pattern that may indicate some
S. punctatum are present but at less than
1 per cent.

These gobies do not inhabit all
Jamaican rivers and may have been
eliminated from some streams due to
manmade interference. Generally, they
appear to prefer clear, fast-flowing,
relatively shallow streams and rivers
with stony or rocky bottoms, and
avoid muddy or silty substrates. Thus,
they are always found in permanent,
stony streams and rivers, like the
Yallahs, which open to the sea, so they
can complete their life cycle. The life
cycle was studied in Dominica8 and
found to involve both fresh water (for
the adults, eggs and larvae) and the
sea (larvae and postlarvae). Adults
live in rivers from the coastal zone to
altitudes of at least 1,000 metres in the
Blue Mountains, up to 20 kilometres
inland. Spawning occurs throughout
the year. The eggs are adhesive and
deposited on the underside of stones.
The eggs of S. antillarum which are
attached to the underside of stones
were described from Dominican
examples as pyriform9 (tapered to one

point) and stalked (Figure 8). Larvae
are just 2 millimetres in length at
hatching and are actively swimming
soon after hatching, and as they swim
up and down vertically in the water
column, they are swept into the sea
by the river currents. These larvae
are thought to live near the surface of
the sea water and begin the return to
river mouths at a size of 2 centimetres,
whereupon they metamorphose into
benthic juveniles.
It was that found that the larvae
stay in nearshore coastal waters for
about eighty-four days on average.
How far out from shore they live in this
period is presently uncertain. Other
gobies also have similar life histories. It
is these multitudinous postlarval gobies
that are seen and collected from the
lower reaches of the rivers. They have
short intestines suggestive to me of a
carnivorous diet. But as they grow they
eat algae from the surface of stones,
and for digesting algae the intestines
metamorphose into a long coiled
structure which is typical of herbivores.
This type of metamorphosis is also
seen in a similar species of Sicydium in
Hawaii.10 The fishes that survive the
odyssey of the upstream migration feed
each day on the epilithic flora (algae
and diatoms that grow on the stones
on the river bottom) and slowly grow
to maturity. They then spawn near the
mouth of rivers such as the Yallahs, and
the life cycle repeats itself.

181800 Pan i

ADULT (yolk absoprtion to
(ileropeaoon) veonntentl)

--K-- nekn to a,14 km from coas
i _50- 50d, 22mm
:.-oceenic dflancee unk-on-
40a 0e0e


Estimates of age have not yet been
made on local species of Sicydium,
but work on a Hawaiian relative has
yielded information that suggests they
may grow to just over five years old
on average and that a large specimen
measuring 13.3 centimetres was twelve
years old. Suckstone gobies of about
that size are known from the upper
Swift River, Portland.

It is quite remarkable that in the upper
reaches of the Swift River in Portland,
they were observed by myself in the
early 1980s on the northern side of
the Blue Mountains above several
waterfalls each with sheer vertical
drops not less than 20 metres." They
could only exist above these falls
by having climbed the falls! Yet,
how would they have achieved this
feat? The answer is, by using their
suckers and their mucus-covered
bodies to cling to and climb over
the wet exposed rocks. The mucus
slows the rate of drying out while
they are exposed to the air. This is
quite an achievement for a very small
freshwater fish. The oily mucus they
exude from their bodies enables them
to survive the 'fish run' where millions
of fishes clamber over each other
in an effort to go up small streams

The cause of the Yallahs River fish
run or upriver migration is thought
to be related to several of the
characteristics of the river itself. Jamaica
is characterized by dominant central
highlands running east to west, with
adjacent coastal plains. Our tropical
maritime climate has a bimodal
rainfall pattern, with peaks in May
and October and dry seasons between
February and April as well as June to
about September. These seasons have
great impact and consequences for
riverine fishes. The Yallahs River is
part of the southern watershed of the
Blue Mountains, which lie in the path
of the trade winds and thus receive
the highest annual precipitation in the
island, in excess of 330 centimetres.12
Significantly, the Yallahs River is
supplied by several tributaries
draining the southern slopes of the
Blue Mountains. But the lower Yallahs
River only periodically has sufficient
water for surface flow to reach the
sea. This is due to the diversion of
water for Kingston and St Andrew's
water supply via the Mona Dam
and for agricultural purposes. Thus
movement of fishes to and from the
sea is prevented except in years when
there is exceptional rainfall. It is likely
that if fishes are unable to reach the
sea for several consecutive years, then
their adult populations would slowly

FIGURE 9 By the end of anuary 2006, the migration
had dwindled to significantly smaller numbers.

fall in size due to natural mortality.
This reduction would be due to a lack
of new recruits to the population as the
gobies would be unable to complete the
life cycle providing young that have
recently hatched in the sea.
During the last quarter of 2005,
the eastern end of Jamaica received
higher than normal rainfall. This is
believed to have been responsible for
sweeping many millions of newly
hatched fish larvae down into the sea
via the mouth of the Yallahs for the first
time in several months. The large sand
bar blocking the mouth would have
previously prevented fish larvae from
entering the sea. It may be recalled that
the Yallahs fording was damaged by
heavy runoff in this same period, and
this runoff would have likely broken
the sand bar.
It is probably these events that
produced a larger than usual number
of larval gobies from mid-October
through December 2005. Roughly ten
weeks later, these larvae would have
completed their compulsory 'sea-time',
living and feeding in waters close to
the Yallahs River delta. Importantly,
they would have metamorphosed to
postlarvae (Figure 8) and have started
to feel the instinctive urge to migrate up
their ancestral river, the Yallahs. Thus
the migration would have started in
January 2006. This exactly matches both
the known life cycle and periodicity
observations made in nearby Puerto
Rico.13 The migrants in north-coast
Puerto Rican streams were two types of
transparent postlarvae and pigmented
juveniles. These were found between
November and January, when heaviest
rainfall occurs. As in Jamaica, in Puerto
Rico it was also found that there was no
significant migration in their secondary
rainy season in May. In Jamaica as
well as other Caribbean islands, the
migration lasts only for a few weeks;
thereafter, it gradually becomes
successively smaller until the following
year at about the same period.
What was really unusual about
the January 2006 migration or fish
run of suckstone goby was the very

large numbers involved, and such
a phenomenon had not been seen
anywhere in Jamaica for many years.
So many fishes were present at the
site at the Yallahs River fording that
sea birds such as brown pelicans and
cattle egrets gathered and gorged
themselves on the unaccustomed feast.
Another observation during this fish
run at the Yallahs River fording was the
migration upstream of large numbers of
juvenile Mountain mullet, Agonostomus

monticola, moving in single file along
the edges of the river alongside the
gobies. But that is another story.

What does the future hold for these
fishes? It appears that they rely on
regular flow of river water to the sea
at least every few years in order to
successfully maintain populations.
Thus it would seem that we need to
pay more attention to factors such as

FIGURE 10 Although present in significantly smaller
numbers, they were still an attraction to passersby.

deforestation and lack of re-forestation
on the slopes of the Blue Mountains,
expanded coffee farming, excessive
coffee pesticide spray usage, and
pollutants from rapidly growing
hillside communities. All of these
factors, along with larger-scale climatic
change, impact on the regularity,
volume and quality of runoff in the
Yallahs River and other streams that
drain the upper watersheds. If we lose
the battle to properly regulate most
of these factors, then the future may
not be very bright for these gobies,
other riverine fishes and generally
for freshwater biodiversity in eastern
Jamaica. Further ecological studies on
gobies of the genus Sicyidium will also
assist in developing integrated national
management plans for the eastern
watersheds. 4

I would like to thank Anita R. Pal for her
invaluable assistance during the various
field trips to observe and photograph the
Yallahs River migration of January 2006.
I also thank Dr Kim Bell, Canada, for
permission to use the life-cycle illustration.
I am also grateful to the two anonymous
reviewers of this article for their useful
comments and suggestions.

1. K.N.I. Bell and J.A. Brown, "Active
Salinity Choice and Enhanced
Swimming Endurance in 0 to 8 Day-
Old Larvae of Diadromous Gobies,
Including Sicydium punctatum (Pisces)
in Dominica, West Indies", Marine
Biology 121 (1995): 409-17; K.N.I. Bell,
P. Pepin and J.A. Brown, "Seasonal,
Inverse Cycling of Length- and Age-
at-Recruitment in the Diadromous
Gobies Sicydium punctatum and
Sicydium antillarum in Dominica, West
Indies", Canadian Journal of Fisheries
and Aquatic Sciences 52 (1995): 1535-45.
2. K.A. Aiken, "Sicydium plumieri
(Bloch) A Migratory Goby Fish From
Jamaican Rivers", Natural History
Notes (Natural History Society of
Jamaica), new issue, 1, no. 10 (1985):

3. K. John and A. Bailey, "The Aquatic
Exodus: An Overview of Migratory
Species in Jamaican Freshwater
Systems", http: /www.jamaicachm.
org.jm/Articles/ aquaticexodus.asp
4. M. Hepburn, "Migrating Eels
Spark Renewed Interest", http:/ /
gleaner/ 20051125/ news/ news9.html
5. John and Bailey, "Aquatic Exodus".
6. Bell and Brown, "Active Salinity
Choice"; Bell, Pepin and Brown,
"Seasonal, Inverse Cycling";
Hepburn, "Migrating Eels".
7. Bell and Brown, "Active Salinity
8. Ibid.; Bell, Pepin and Brown,
"Seasonal, Inverse Cycling".
9. Bell and Brown, "Active Salinity

10. M.T. Tomihama, "The Biology of
Sicydium stimpsoni, a Freshwater Goby
Endemic to Hawaii" (MSc thesis,
University of Hawaii, 1972).
11. Aiken, "Sicydium plumieri".
12. Ibid.; A. Gupta, "Stream
Characteristics in Eastern Jamaica: An
Environment of Seasonal Flow and
Large Floods", American Journal of
Science 275 (1975): 825-47.
13. D.S. Erdman, "Spawning Patterns
of Fishes from the North-eastern
Caribbean", in Cooperative
Investigations of the Caribbean and
Adjacent Regions II, ed. H.B.
Stewart, 145-70 (New York: Food and
Agriculture Organisation, FAO Fish.
Rep. 200, 1977).

All photographs the author.


Linton Kwesi Johnson

On 3 April 2006, Lynton Kwesi Johnson, Silver Musgrave Medallist 2005, was
presented with his award at a ceremony held at the Kingston and St Andrew
Parish Library. The citation read at the ceremony is reproduced below.

The Institute of Jamaica recognizes Mr
Linton Kwesi Johnson for outstanding
merit in the field of poetry.
Born in 1952, Linton Kwesi Johnson
spent his early years, until the age of
eleven, in the bustling rural township
of Chapelton, in the hills of Clarendon.
Like his literary predecessor and fellow
Clarendonian Claude McKay, he in turn
wended his way down from the hills
of that parish, leaving the green hills
of Jamaica on a journey that would,
in 1963, take him to join his parents in
England. He would also be following in
the footsteps of many of his compatri-
ots, who travelled across the Atlantic to
Britain or rather "Inglan", as he would
later inscribe it, in the hope of a bet-
ter life. There he completed his formal
education in the British secondary
school system, at Tulse Hill Secondary
School and later at Goldsmiths College,
University of London, where he read
The Britain that greeted Linton
Kwesi Johnson in 1963, and that would
be his main place of residence for the
future, presented the now longstand-
ing resident of Brixton in south London
with a set of contrasts that would have
a profound impact on the boy from
Chapelton. He now found himself in an
environment that was at best ambiva-
lent towards the immigrants who came
in the post-war period. "T'ings an'
times" would tell, however, as in this
environment was nurtured the creative
impetus that would later emerge from
the lips and writings of this Jamaican,
now ensconced inna "Inglan".
The artist and activist in him were
aroused while he was still at school in
London. There he joined the Black Pan-
thers, and within the movement played
a role in organising its literary activism
through poetry. At this time, too, he
began to hone his own craft, working

with a group of poets and drummers
dubbed "Rasta Love". In time, his
activism was to lead to his involve-
ment along with Darcus Howe in
the establishment of the journal Race
Today, which in 1974 published his
first collection of poetry, Voices of the
Living and the Dead. This was to be
the beginning of a long and prolific
public presence in the literary world.
This was to be no ordinary presence,
Credited by some as being the
world's first dub poet, Linton Kwesi
Johnson has proved an indefatigable
writer and performer, whose incisive
analyses have sought to address con-
temporary life and issues emanating
from the inherent tensions of a multi-
ethnic and multicultural environment.
These have found accommodation in a
number of publications, among them
Voices of the Living and the Dead, Dread
Beat an'Blood, Inglan Is a Bitch, and Tings
an' Times. They have also found accom-
modation in recordings of his perfor-
mances, including Forces of Victory, LKJ
in Dub, Bass Culture, Making History,
LKJ Presents, LKJ A Cappella Live, More
Time, Independent Intavenshan, Straight to
Inglan's Head and LKJ Live in Paris.
In 2002, a collection of his poetry,
Mi Revalueshanary Fren, was published
in the Penguin Classics series, making
him the first black poet and second liv-
ing poet to be published by Penguin
Among his many accomplishments,
Linton Kwesi Johnson has had the dis-
tinction of being listed among the top
one hundred great black Britons, in the
company of such other personalities as
Mary Seacole, Bill Morris and Johnny
Barnes, also Jamaican by birth.
From performance stage to ivory
tower, the calibre of Linton Kwesi John-
son's contribution has been recognized,

Linton Kwesi Johnson, flanked by 101 chairman
Barry Chevannes (right) and 101 council member
Rex Nettleford, with his Silver Musgrave Award.

and internationally so. The forcefulness
of his lyrical commentary has reverber-
ated on stage in Africa, the Americas,
Europe and Asia. In the mid-1980s, his
album LKJ Live in Concert with the Dub
Band was nominated for a Grammy.
In 1985, he was made an associate fel-
low of Warwick University. In 1987, he
was conferred an honorary fellow of
Wolverhampton Polytechnic, and in
the same year received an award for
his contribution to poetry and popular
music from the city of Pisa. In 1998, he
was again honoured in Italy. In 2003,
his alma mater, Goldsmiths College, be-
stowed upon him an honorary fellow-
ship. In 2004, he became an honorary
visiting fellow of Middlesex University,
Poet, performer, activist, political
theorist, broadcaster Linton Kwesi
Johnson has undoubtedly and emphati-
cally made his mark as one of the liter-
ary giants of the twentieth and twenty-
first centuries.
For his contribution to poetry, the
Council of the Institute of Jamaica is
pleased to award Mr Linton Kwesi
Johnson the Silver Musgrave Medal for
outstanding merit in the field. *




The following poems have been excerpted from Linton Kwesi Johnson's collection
Mi Revalueshanery Fren: Selected Poems (London: Penguin, 2002), with the author's permission.


wen mi jus come to Landan toun
mi use to work pan di andahgroun
but working pan di andahgroun
yu don't get fi know your way around

Inglan is a bitch
dere's no escapin it
Inglan is a bitch
dere's no runin whe fram it

mi get a likkle jab in a big otell
an awftah a while, mi woz doing quite well
dem staat mi awfas a dish-washah
but wen mi tek a stack, mi noh tun clack-watchah!

Inglan is a bitch
dere's no escapin it
Inglan is a bitch
noh baddah try fi hide fram it

wen dem gi you di likkle wage packit
fus dem rab it wid dem big tax rackit
yu haffi struggle fi mek enz meet
an wen yu goh a yu bed yu jus cant sleep

Inglan is a bitch
dere's no escapin it
Inglan is a bitch fi true
a noh lie mi a tell, a true

mi use to work dig ditch wen it cowl noh bitch
mi did strange like a mule, but, bwoy, mi did fool
den awftah a while mi jus stap dhu owevahtime
den awftah a while mi jus phu dung mi tool

Inglan is a bitch
dere's no escapin it
Inglan is a bitch
yu haffi know how fi suvive in it

well mi dhu day wok an mi dhu nite wok
mi dhu clean wok an mi dhu dutty wok
dem seh dat black man is very lazy
but if yu si how mi wok yu woodah seh mi crazy

Inglan is a bitch
dere's no escapin it
Inglan is a bitch
yu bettah face up to it

dem have a likkle facktri up inna Brackly
inna disya facktri all dem dhu is pack crackry
fi di laas fifteen years dem get mi laybah
now awftah fifteen years mi fall out a fayvah

Inglan is a bitch
dere's no escapin it
Inglan is a bitch
dere's no runin whe fram it

mi know dem have wok, wok in abundant
yet still, dem mek mi redundant
now, at fifty-five mi getin quite ole
yet still, dem sen mi fi goh draw dole

Inlgan is a bitch
dere's no escapin it
Inglan is a bitch fi true
is whe wi a goh dhu bout it?

di killahs a Kigale'
mus be sanitary workaz
di butchaz a Butare2
mus be sanitary workaz
di savajiz a Shatila'
mus be sanitary workaz
di beasts a Boznia
mus be sanitary workaz
inna di new word hawdah

like a dutty ole bandige
pan di festahrin face a humanity
ole hawdah anravel an reveal
ole scar jus a bruk out inna new sore
primeval woun dat time wone heal
an in di hainshent currency of blood
tribal tyrants a seckle de score

di killahs a Kigale
mus be sanitary workaz
di butchaz a Butare
mus be sanitary workaz
di savajiz a Shatila
mus be sanitary workaz
di beasts a Boznia
mus be sanitary workaz
inna di new word hawdah

an is di same ole cain an able sindrome
far more hainshent dan di fall of Rome
but in di new world hawdah a atrocity
is a brand new langwidge a barbarity

mass murdah
an di hainshent clan sin
now name etnic clenzin

an so
di killahs a Kigale
mus be sanitary workaz
di butchaz a Butare
mus be sanitary workaz
di savajiz a Shatila
mus be sanitary workaz
di beasts of Boznia
mus be sanitary workaz
inna di new word hawdah

1. Region in central Rwanda where Hutus car-
ried out genocide against Tutsis in 1994.
2. Region in southern Rwanda where Hutus
carried out genocide against Tutsis in 1994.
3. Palestinian refugee camp where refugees were
butchered by Phalangist Christian militia
in Lebanon in 1982. The area was under the
control of the government of Israel at the time.

That Polite Way

That English People Have


I was sure my coat would be the finest
coat in England. Oh, everyone would
stare everyone would admire my long
black coat and my black hat with its
netting trim set at an angle on my head.
There, they would say, there is high-
class woman from Jamaica. She is a
woman who has one of the finest coats.
I bought my coat from my
employer, who had only just returned
from England after settling her two
sons into a boarding school in a place
called Dover.
"Blossom," she said, in that polite
way that English people have, "you
will need a coat in England and I have a
coat that you may purchase."
It cost me a great deal of money, but
Mrs Roberts informed me that since the
war the cost of coats in England had
become very high and that this coat I
was purchasing from her was the best
quality money could buy. I would have,
she assured me, no regrets.
I was travelling to England to train
as a nurse. And as I would be arriving
in England in the month of November,
a coat, I felt, would be necessary for
keeping out the cold. It was very
amusing that the day I purchased the
coat from Mrs Roberts was one of the
hottest days I had ever encountered
in all my living. Mrs Roberts allowed
me into her bedroom to view the coat
in her dressing-table mirror. And there
was I on the hottest day God had ever
sent wrapping myself in this thick
woollen coat. My employer assured me
that it fitted and suited me as if it had
been made for I alone. I did not keep on
the coat very long because the day was
too hot.
Later that afternoon I was carrying
eggs home for Mamma and as I walked
from the shop one of the eggs slipped

from the bag and landed on the road. I
was surprised to see that as it hit the hot
ground the egg started to cook. I had no
chance to bend and scoop it back into
the shell. All I could do was watch it
turn white. Mamma had shouted at me,
as I was afraid she would. But I did not
pay it any mind.
"Mamma," I said, "when I get to
England I will send you money enough
to drop as many eggs as you so desire."
But Mamma was not as convinced
as I that travelling to England was the
best thing that I could do to secure a
good future for myself. She said that
leaving Jamaica because the weather
was too hot was no reason at all. But I
told her that was only something that
was in the back of my mind. It was true
the weather was too hot for me and I
could no longer stand the hurricanes
that swept the island and rid us of all
the food from the trees. It was true that
I trembled in my bed when the earth
moved under my feet and flung our
pictures from the walls. But that was
not why I was going to England. I was
going to train as a nurse. Mamma said
I could train as a nurse in Jamaica, that
I did not have to go halfway round the
world to wear a fine starched uniform.
But I told her I was going for better
opportunity. "Mamma," I said, "I will
live in a nice house with a garden
smelling of sweet roses. And I will take
tea in the finest teahouses in London
where they drink from china cups and
eat cake by slicing it with the side of the
Mamma thought I was spending
too much money on my passage. But
I had worked hard for that money I
was a nanny to three English children
from the age of sixteen. And I saved.
Every week a small portion of my wage

was placed in the building society so
that one day I could travel to England.
Mamma thought I could have gone
on the SS Windrush ship, with the
28 pounds and 10 shilling passage. I
laughed. "Mamma," I said, "that ship
was for men." Could she see me on a
ship with nowhere to lie down or place
my things? Could she see me on a troop
ship amongst all those men with their
cards and gambling and carrying on?
"No Mamma," I told her, "I will travel
to England in style." But she did not
understand. All she could see was the
money she said I had wasted. Mamma
was a country girl. She was not what
English people would call refined. She
had not been as educated as I. She had
not had the benefit of living for almost
ten years in the household of one of the
foremost English families in Jamaica.
She had not seen how high life can be.
Which is why Mamma kept coming
to me with food to pack into the trunk
I was taking with me on my journey.
She told me that she had heard from
a woman at her church that there was
no food in England. "Blossom," she
told me, "English people are starving
- they are still on rations from the war."
And she came to me with her arms
full of onions, sugar, rice, guava, limes,
mango, pawpaw and enough ginger
for everyone I would meet. "Mamma,"
I had to say, "stop! Where am I to put
all my warm clothes, my pictures from
home where am I to put my coat?"
But still she tried to make me take some
eggs. "Mamma," I told her, "I would
never get to England with the eggs
Mamma wanted to come to see me
off. "Let me come to the dock with you,
Blossom," she said, "help you carry
your things." But I told her she was

too old to travel so far. The dock was
in Ocho Rios and she was in Kingston.
And it was too hot. She said the heat
did not bother her. "But the noise and
the crowds, Mamma, the noise and the
crowds!" No, we said goodbye in the
room Mamma and I had shared for the
past two years. I went to the ship on my
own a first-class passenger amongst
English travellers.
My trunk was carried on to the
ship by a man who was rough and
uncouth. He made me glad to be
leaving the island. He sucked his teeth
as he showed me to my cabin. And as
he threw my trunk down he started to
scratch himself, on his backside, on his
head. Well, it was so hot in the room
that I fanned my face a little with the
back of my hand. And this man looked
at me, leaned his breath into my face
and said, "Remember you're a nigger."
But I paid him no mind. That class of
people are so jealous that the high class
of us have a chance to better ourselves
in England while they are left in the
sun scratching out a living and waiting
for the pumpkins to grow after the
I had the luxury of having a cabin
for two all to myself. Two beds one
on top of the other a wash basin, a
lavatory, a light that worked with a
flick of a switch and a round window
that looked over the sea. The ship was
so big, bigger than I had seen in my
mind's eye. I had thought of toy boats
with paper sails and little wooden stick
masts boats I used to make and play
with on the river when I was a girl.
But this gigantic metal ship looked too
heavy to stay afloat on something as
unsteady as water. And the wooden
deck seemed to stretch as far as I could
see. They were loading up the hold

with bananas, oranges, lemons, and
crates and crates of I know not what.
But the passengers? Oh, they were
mostly English people returning from
a holiday or going to England to visit a
relative or to do a little business. And
as they came on board they said "Good
day" and "Good morning" in that
polite way that English people have.
I wished at that moment that there
was someone there to see me on this
ship: a first-class passenger among
English people. Someone to say
there is Blossom Hunter, a
high-class woman waiting to
voyage on an adventure to
the Mother Country. As I
walked on the deck I ran
my hand along the cool
of the rail and thought I
saw Mamma. Down on
the dock. I thought I saw
her looking up at the ship.
Standing in her yellow
floral print dress with
her white church hat
sitting low on her head.
I raised my hand
to shield my eyes
against the sun and
looked again. But
there was no one
It was then
that a man came
up and stood
beside me. He
said, "Excuse me,"
in that polite way.
"Excuse me, Miss,
but have you lost
something?" And I
looked up into the face
of the most handsome
English gentleman I had
Andrea Levy

ever seen. His jaw was square and firm.
His slim moustache traced his top lip
and his dark hair that was parted to
one side was slicked down like a movie
star. I had to catch my breath. He spoke
again in that deep English way, "I am
sorry, did I startle you?"
I did not know what to say. "Oh
no, sir," I said. "I am not startled. It
was just that I thought I may have seen






,I' `Si'%lljaprrr


It) I%

somebody who was familiar to me on
the dockside." He looked out to see
where I was looking and I had to tell
him, "But I think I was mistaken."
He had enjoyed a holiday in
Jamaica and was now returning home,
he told me. He asked me if I was
travelling to England and whether I
was travelling alone. I nodded my head
politely. Oh, he looked like a doctor
or a lawyer or the manager of a good
bank. As he left he held out his hand
for me to shake, "My name is Philip
Keyes. May I have the pleasure of your
"Of course you may," I said and
shook his hand.
He asked, "May I ask you your
It was at that point, as he waited
for my reply, that I decided Blossom
was not a name to carry to England.
Blossom was a name that was yelled
from doorways in the hot sun. Women
called Blossom fanned themselves with
banana leaves and drank coconut water
straight from the nut. No, I decided I
would use my real name. The name I
was christened with a name which
would allow me to blend with teatime
and croquet on the lawn.
"Hortense," I told him. "My name
is Hortense Hunter."
"Well, Hortense," this proper
English gentleman said, "I have done
a lot of travelling in my time, so if
you have any problems, please do not
hesitate to ask my advice." He bowed
his head to me as he said, "I hope we
will meet again at dinner."
I watched him walk tall and erect
along the smooth deck. And I began
to feel a breeze ruffle through my
dress, caressing and cooling me. But
then I thought I saw Mamma again.
As the ship slowly moved away from
the dockside I thought I saw her. Half
hidden behind a truck. Her yellow
dress, her white hat. As the dock drifted
backwards I thought I saw her step
out from behind the truck, raise her
arms into the air and call, "Blossom,
Blossom." But it could not have been
Mamma. It was too far and too hot for
Mamma to come.
That night everyone got dressed
up in their fine clothes and went to

dinner. The room was full of chatter.
English chatter, about the weather, the
ship, the food. Everywhere was "How
do you do" and "Please come and join
us" and "Waiter, waiter, do you have
tea?" Women with their hair neatly
waved and sparkling jewels round
their neck. Men with crisp white shirts
and bow ties. I had on my best dress, a
dress Mamma had made me for a house
party I had attended a few years earlier.
I brightened up this green dress with
a strip of yellow satin ribbon, across
the low neckline and over the puffed
sleeves. And I finished off the whole
look with a small piece of ribbon as a
bow in my hair. I thought to myself,
Hortense, you will need more than this
one party dress if every night is like this
in England.
The room was bright and shining
with white tablecloths and silver knives
and forks and crystal glasses at every
place. And as I walked in, the English
gentleman, Mr Keyes, rose from his seat
and said, "Miss Hunter, would you do
me the honour of joining me?" I felt
like a million dollars. I hoped I did not
blush as I slipped into the seat beside
him. I nodded and said "Good day" to
everyone sitting at our table, which was
the polite thing to do. And as we ate
plates and plates of food brought to us
by waiters in clean white jackets, Philip,
as he asked me to call him, enquired as
to why I was travelling to England.
"I will be training as a nurse," I
told him. And he asked me if I had
ever been to England before. "Oh no,"
I said, "but I know a lot about England
because I have read about it in books."
This seemed to amuse him. So I told
him that I was looking forward to
seeing daffodils when I got to England.
A host of golden daffodils swaying
bright yellow in the breeze in one of the
parks maybe Hyde Park or Regents
Park or Richmond Park. He smiled
he could see I knew about England.
And cricket, I told him I wanted to see
the cricket at Lords and ask a London
policeman the time and ride a red bus
around Trafalgar Square. I was going
to continue to tell him all the other
things I would be doing but he held up
his hands and said, "Yes, you certainly
know about England, Hortense."

But then this woman a Jamaican
woman as black as night sat down
at our table. She looked so dressed up
with her ribbons and lace trying to
look high-class. But I could tell she was
rough. Even though she said "Good
evening" and "How do you do" to
everyone, I could tell. She called herself
Petal. "Good evening, my name is
Petal," she said. But when she ate she
talked with her mouth open, showing
everyone her food, and she wiped her
napkin across her face instead of just
dabbing it at the comers of her mouth
like English people do.
Then she leaned across to me. "You
going to England?" I tried to ignore
her but she hissed at me, "Sister?"
And I had to inform her and Philip
and everyone else at the table that I
was most certainly not her sister. But
she paid me no mind. "Where you
from?" she said to me. I tried to ignore
her again by listening very closely to
an interesting conversation about lilac
trees being carried out by Philip and
two women who were returning home
to Northamptonshire. But this Jamaican
woman knocked my arm in an uncouth
manner and said, "Where you from?"
So I told her St Mary just to shut her up
and she said loudly, "Oh, you a country
girl." So I laid down my napkin and
informed her that I had lived for ten
years in the household of one of the
foremost English families in Kingston.
But this woman just looked in my face
then held her head back and laughed.
I was pleased when Philip asked
me if I would like to dance with him.
I answered this handsome English
gentleman, "Oh no, Philip, thank you
very much but I am a little too tired
to dance at this time." I had to refuse
because I had not learned to dance
in that two-by-two way that English
people do. But I was happy that I could
turn away from this Petal woman and
show her that I had better friends. But
still the evening was spoiled by her.
She kept shouting at everyone to call
her Petal and laughing loudly in a rude
manner and dancing around the floor
wiggling her hips.
I was very tired so I left at ten. As I
got up to go Philip said, "Hortense, do
me the honour of letting me walk you

to your cabin?" And I saw this Petal's
mouth drop open as she watched me
walk out on the arm of this fine English
As Philip left me at my cabin door
he asked, "Would you like a nightcap?"
I laughed a little, then thanked him and
told him that I did not usually wear
anything on my head when I slept. We
said good night and I tucked myself
into my happy bed and dreamed of life
in England.
I did not see Philip for the whole
of the next day, but I did not pay it any
mind. I went about the ship. I watched
people playing with quoits, throwing
the hoops onto pegs, and laughing as
they landed several yards away. I sat on
the reclining chairs that were provided
in the shade and watched young people
splashing, jumping and screeching in
the swimming pool. And as I walked
along the deck, smiling at the people I
met, I saw a woman I thought I knew
from Jamaica. She was a friend of Mrs
Roberts, my employer. An English
woman who had once told me that I
was the best nanny on the whole of
the island. And there was she walking
along the deck with her small daughter.
I was sure she would remember me
so I said, "Good day, I believe we may
have met in Kingston." But she walked
straight past me so I realized then that
I may have been mistaken. I napped
in my room after that. I lay on my bed
with the sea breeze cooling me and
watched the sea through the window
gently rise and fall, rise and fall.
It was not until the evening that
I next saw Philip Keyes. He walked
into the dining room and there on his
arm, squeezing and hugging him up,
was Petal. She looked so pleased with
herself, swishing her chiffon scarf
across her bare shoulders. And as she
sat down Philip gently pushed the
chair in for her as he had done for me
the night before. This Petal clicked her
fingers for the waiter and kept giggling
and whispering into Philip's ear. And
he offered her cigarettes from a silver
case and as she smoked them she blew
the smoke out over everyone who was
sitting at her table. I could see the other
English people looking at her from
the comer of their eyes. They were not

used to someone as low-class as she
sitting right next to them amongst
them like she was as good as them.
And I saw them all thinking, what can a
man like him be doing with that sort of
woman? All I could think was she had
put some sort of spell on him. Philip
bowed his head to me when he saw me.
But this time I just turned away. I got
up and went to my room because I was
feeling a little hot.
By the time we got to England it
was cold. My skin rose with goose
bumps and I shivered on the deck. I
was glad to be leaving the ship. For ten
days we had been sailing and I was
tired of moving up and down, up and
down. I longed to place my feet on firm
English soil.
And I was pleased that I would no
longer have to spend my days avoiding
Mr Philip Keyes with his slicked-down
hair and Petal clinging on to his arm.
Every time that woman saw me she
would run to me asking me questions
about myself. "Where will you be living
in London, Hortense? Let me get the
address," she said, as if I would want
to be friendly with a woman like her
once I was in England amongst all
those English people. I told her that I
had not yet decided which hospital to
present myself at when I got to London.
"Oh Hortense," she said, "you should
know where you are going to stay. It
will be difficult for you." So I informed
her firmly that I would be staying at the
lodgings that were supplied for trainee
nurses once I had presented myself at
the hospital. She started to shake her
head, "No, no, Hortense, listen." Then
she said that I should go with her when
I left the ship. She told me she had a
sister with a room just a room, mind
- in a place called Notting Hill. "Stay
if only for a few nights, Hortense,"
she said, "until you know more about
England." I thought to myself, let
her mind her business. As if I would
stay with a woman like her. No. I just
walked away.
There was excitement all around
the ship as we sailed into England.
But it was very dark and I was a little
disappointed that I could not make
out Buckingham Palace and Piccadilly
Circus as we manoeuvred into the

dock. But I went to my trunk. I folded
all my summer dresses and placed
them in beside the mangoes and the
pawpaw. And I carefully took out my
coat. I said to myself, as I slid my arms
into this warm garment and did up
the buttons one by one, I am not one
of those people who come to England
unprepared. I will not shiver in the
street in my flimsy summer clothes.
Then I took my hat and placed it on my
head at just a little angle.
Everyone was out on deck chatting
in that polite way that English people
have. We all stood in our coats looking
to the dockside and some people waved
at I don't know what. And I wished
Mamma could have been there to see
me arrive. Mamma standing on the
dockside in her yellow floral print dress
with her white church hat sitting low
on her head.
But there was Petal, hugging up
and kissing Philip Keyes as everyone
tried politely not to stare. When she
saw me she came over and stood beside
me. She looked at me, up and down,
up and down. Then she started to
shake her head. She said, "Where did
you get that coat?" I wrapped my coat
around me a little more the finest coat
in England and informed her that
I had purchased it from my English
"But this is an ugly coat," Petal
whispered to me. So I told her that
I had paid a great deal of money for
this coat and that my employer had
assured me that this was one of the
finest quality coats money could buy.
But this Petal just looked in my face,
then held her head back and laughed.
"Your employer has sold you a very
old-fashioned coat," she told me. She
ran her black fingers over the fabric;
she twisted a button and flicked at
the collar. "Hortense," she said, "the
English woman rob you. There is
nothing fine about this coat." o

Plantation Ruins


The following excerpts are from the publication The Right to Be Proud: A Brief Guide to
Jamaican Heritage Sites, written and published by David Buckley (2005).

Kenilworth, at Maggotty Cove, is
the finest example of its type in
Jamaica, looking more like a church
than a sugar factory. Its Palladian
arches and cut stone walls contain
the mill, waterwheel, boiling house
and distillery. The tomb of Thomas
Blagrove, 1733-55, descendant of the
regicide John Blagrove, lies in the
grounds; his epitaph acclaims him for
"humane treatment of his servants". It
is now operated as a HEART Institute,
and can be visited.

A few miles south of Greenwood Great
House, Orange Valley's buildings date
mostly from the late eighteenth century;
there is a slave hospital from 1797, a
lime kiln, and the tombstone of an es-
tate overseer. The sugar mill has elabo-
rately trimmed windows and doors. A
cattle driven mill and the boiling house
may be seen. The great house, a modest
building typical of an absentee owner,
has loopholes for defence, and behind it
is a small mausoleum, the Jarrett family

Led by Nevis governor Luke Stokes, 1,600 people
arrived in the 1650s to settle and develop the new
colony. Two thirds soon died; Stokes Hall was built in
c. 1720 by his descendants. The limestone blocks are
2'6" thick, and the building measures about 48' x 30'
x 28' high. Loopholes for muskets were for defence
against pirates, enemy invaders, and presumably
rebellious black people unhappy about slavery. At 290'
above sea level, it commands a view of Holland Bay,
five miles away, and the Morant Point Lighthouse,
Jamaica's first, built in 1841 by Krus, indentured
Africans. Stokes Hall can be reached by car; the road is
difficult but not impossible.


8,:00 S AN ,W IES

Book Reviews

over the roofs of the world

Olive Senior

By Olive Senior
Toronto: Insomniac Press, 2005
ISBN: 1-894663-82-9; 109 pp; J$995

Reviewed by Mervyn Morris
Most people know that Olive Senior
writes excellent short stories and is an
outstanding researcher. She is of course
the author of three short story collections
- Summer Lightning, Arrival of the Snake
Woman and Discerner of Hearts and at
least four non-fiction books, including
the Encyclopedia of Jamaican Heritage. But
if Olive Senior had published only poetry
- her poetry books are Talking of Trees,
Gardening in the Tropics and now over the
roofs of the world she would still be one of
the most significant writers in our region.
She is an accomplished poet, careful
in the craft, with a distinctive voice and
a well-stocked mind which freely makes
connections. In over the roofs of the world,
poems play with knowledge about birds,
mythology, folklore (not only Caribbean
folklore), history (not only West Indian
history), anthropology, art and literature.
Poems draw on, sometimes turn on,
Jamaican expressions (such as Woman luck
lie a dungle heap, /fowl come scratch it up).
A poem which refers to an Amerindian
myth (Women were created from yellow-skin
plum trees transformed by the action of the

woodpecker) slyly exposes the peckerr".
Parakeet (I heard a parakeet in the garden)
is argued to relate linguistically to Peter
- "Perroquet. Perroque. Pierrot. Pierre"
- though it is Judas in the Revival song.
Poems invoke Robinson Crusoe, Wallace
Stevens, M.G. Smith, Pablo Neruda,
pre-Colombian bird-man figures and
the myth of Icarus. When the references
foreground detail they are usually
self-explanatory. In a small number of
instances, there are Notes.
The knowledge is worn lightly. In
language and concept, wit abounds.
In "The Secret of Crusoe's Parrot", for
example, "poor Poll" is presented as
playing fool to catch wise, humouring the
man who senses nothing of the parrot's
full, rich life. The "I" in "Discovery"
knows "the moment you land / I become
islanded" but the discoverer cannot
breach the persona's "impenetrable
heart". When a poem inveighs against
degradation of the environment, the
assault is elegant, the anger wittily

Come walk with me in the latest
rockstone and dry gully. Come for
the Final
Closing Down Sale. Take for a song
the Last Black Coral, the Last Green
the Last Blue Swallow-tail (preserved
behind glass).
Come walk the last mile to see the
Last Manatee,
the Last Coney, the Last Alligator,
the Last Iguana

Oh, them gone already? No Problem,
Come. Look the film here.
Reggae soundtrack and all. Come see
my land. Come see my land and
know, A-oh,
that she was fair. (p. 54)

A village fiddler declared missing
"remained a vibrating source of
conversation / an endless susurration.
With the police indifferent..." (p. 55).
There are existential problems explored,
as in "Blue" and "Here and There".
"Here / was the dark, the damp, the
steadfast dew, / the blue shadows
following the sun..." ("[T]he dark, the
damp, the steadfast dew" phrasing
to die for, its power less dependent on
alliteration than on assonance, and the
perfect weighting of "steadfast".) In this
poem alchemicall light" (another fine
precision), and "magic words for the
getaway", may be illusory. "I had finally
chewed into dust..." In "Leaving
Home" the persona, having "failed to
detach / from that mooring", will be
executioner and/or midwife. Abroad,
"from the architecture of longing"
the Blue Foot Traveller continues to
construct "a bountiful edifice". S/he can
return any day to the place s/he came
from "though the place ... has shifted a
heartbeat" (p. 72).
The longish poem at the end of
the book, "Ode to Pablo Neruda"
(commissioned by BBC Radio 3 for
Poets Fan Mail) is a series of riffs
on the task of poetry. The ambition
is to achieve "the pure voice
untrammelled", yet also to write
"impure poetry that bears witness to
the raw and the natural". Neruda is
quoted as advising the poet to grasp
poetry like thread: You must spin it /fly
a thread / and climb it. Celebrating "that
mantra of obligation", Senior's persona
develops the idea, tracking the ups and
downs of creativity, "seeking a thread
to tie up the bundle which has been
growing unwieldy with the cries and
whispers of the ones I can't name".
When the persona declares, "Yes,
we each have our measure, and our
burden to carry", we are reminded that

measure connotes meter, rhythm, music;
and that burden suggests theme, refrain,
chorus, music. Senior's crafting is skilful
and various. She writes sections or
paragraphs of prose poetry more often
than most of the other major West Indian
poets. She does not hesitate to write
slim stanzas with many one-word lines.
She creates shapes on the page which
reinforce or illustrate concerns in the

poem or passage. She does not often
rhyme at the end of lines, but regularly
makes use of internal rhyme and
assonantal patterning. The work, most
often, declares "it is not a question of
artifice but of becoming. / Not build up
but strip down" (p. 16). She varies the
voice. The tone is usually conversational,
with a playful edge. But it can also be
superbly lyrical.

Maybe I'll accept after all my
commission as apprentice Spider
who spins from her gut the threads
for flying,
for tying up words that spilled,
hanging out tales long
unspoken, reeling in songs, casting
off dances.
And perhaps for binding up
wounds? (p. 102) +

By Curdella Forbes
Oxford: Heinemann Caribbean Writers
Series, 2002
ISBN: 0 435 98957 X (paper); vi, 154 pp;

Reviewed by Maureen Warner-Lewis
How does one write "songs of silence"?
The American Paul Simon whispered
his "sound of silence" to a haunting
melody; and now the Jamaican
Curdella Forbes demonstrates how
it is possible for an exquisitely tuned
sensibility and intellect to achieve
the feat of mediating silence through
language. Her Songs of Silence (2002)
is a collection of eight short stories
written with such style that the ear is
delightfully startled by the intercalation
of poetic and erudite English with

SO G f IE(

seen" (p. 19). For that reason, "silence
was my snail's house on my back
that kept me safe" (p. 29). If "Effita"
is a story about a woman who was
the community's death announcer,
"A Story with No Name" is about a
latter-day Miss Havisham who spoke
not a word to her neighbours, but who
became pregnant and delivered a dumb
boy. The feat of weaving a story out
of this mysterious circumstance is a
credit to the sensitivity of the observant
narrator, her powers of introspection,
social detection, and emotional analysis.
Yet the story is open-ended; to the end,
the child's father, like the woman and
the child, has no name and therefore no
certifiable identity.
The next story, "Nathan", continues
the motif of self-imposed stifled
silence, this time in the character of
the I-persona's brother. But the story
is also a revelation of the I-persona
herself. And it is in this story that
sound/ soundlessness begins to be
imaged as colour: "I knew the red heart
of silence, as red as the heart of my
brother's was blue" (p. 28). And the
recurring Morris Hole River is linked
with these silences, rivers possessing
"their runes and dark murmurous
secrets" (p. 37). In "The Idiot", a worthy
but straight-laced schoolboy, whom the
good sense of later years recognizes as
someone unjustly despised, remains in
her memory, leaving "stains, enigmatic
bright and fading crimson I tried both
to press so I could see the colour

the imagery, lexicon, and idioms of
Jamaican Creole.
In a device reminiscent of V. S.
Naipaul's Miguel Street, the character
portraits depicted in the stories are
filtered through the observations and
ruminations of an I-persona. Here, the
girl's home life, ancestry and emotional
interactions weave themselves in
and out of the various tales, and the
collection culminates in "Epilogue,
A Beginning" to remind us of her
self as the central consciousness of
the narratives. This moment of self-
conscious authority is engineered when
the I-persona is sixteen and about to
leave her village for the city. Unlike the
I-persona of Miguel Street, and more in
keeping with the ideological stance of
George Lamming's G of In the Castle
of My Skin, this narrator imaginatively
and philosophically collapses her being
into the lives she has probed: "I was
me and all of them ... there was no me
before there was them" (p. 152). She
also identifies herself empathetically
with the river which has already
been established as virtually another
personality in the community. It is the
primary landmark in the geographical
space where the villagers have worked,
played, gossiped, and died.
The relationship between the I-
persona and the literary artefact is in
fact a skilful enactment of the ironic
symbiosis between speech and silence:
"Speaking opened your body to
betrayal, speaking allowed you to be

clearly and to rub out against the
shadow of white cloth" (p. 49). This
impressionistic association of sound
and colour is nowhere more impressive
than in the last story, "So Few and
Such Morning Songs", but in addition,
here the extended mourning of Mister
Papacita for his wife moves his singing
from "rose red and orange and flame"
(p. 144) to metallic weapons lancing
and shafting the air.
To cherish Mister Papacita's lust
for life and for song is to enjoy one
of the several memorable portraits of
male devotion in Forbes's collection.
This is a welcome variation on the
more salient theme of mothering in
Caribbean literature and sociology. But
this anthology shines with the caring
attentiveness of males. The father
of the I-persona is associated with
the security imparted by his muddy
waterboots at the front door; the village
is moved by the dogged devotion and
protectiveness of Cudjoe Man for his
retarded daughter; the self-denying
loyalty of Ray for his self-sacrificing
and possessive stepmother is laden
with pathos; the irregular but expected
visits of Long Man to their family home
invite uncertainties over her mother's
emotional life.
But women are powerfully drawn
as well: the I-persona's mother with
her "dignify courthouse voice" (p.
39) and her admonitions to avoid
the despicable ways of the "hootiah"
(pp. 39, 45, 50); Miss Minnie who
drives herself to paranoia over the
love and attentions of her stepson;
Effita the town-crier and Revivalist;
Auntie Sare whose prayers know no
end; and Minna with her charming
playfulness. The more intimate
psychological confusions provoked in
pubescent girls within sexually reticent
societies are given feeling treatment
in "Morris Hole", the name of the
river that becomes the externalisation
of the young girl's sexuality and the
locus of pre-pubescent horseplay
between the genders. So the river is the
contradictory symbol of innocence at
the same time that it is the symbol of
menstrual flow she "lost the river"
(pp. 86, 95) and of adult knowledge,
the "connecting link" (p. 95) between

"the whispered, unsanctioned sexuality
of my grandmothers", the site of
"female shame and shaming", the river
being "female, a fountainhead of loamy
juices like sex and birth ..." (p. 95). The
confusing cross-currents experienced
during this 'change of life' period are
encapsulated in the oxymoron at the
end of the sentence: "I feel I will never
be able to play again, my whole body
amputate" (p. 86).
By recreating the sights, sounds,
smells, activity routines and courtesies
of her community stretching between
Maaga Bay and Green Town, the I-
persona grounds the narratives in the
sensuous and experienced realities of
rural Jamaica, and further solidifies
its social composition by allowing
major participants in one story to have
minor or even ephemeral presence
in another. A society is thus firmly
established in the reader's mind, and
we savour the rush of opinions as
the author sometimes integrates their
speech, without warning by way of
punctuation, with the I-narrator's own
commentary. That commentary is given
in either Standard English or Jamaican
Creole, or a progression from one to the
other: "Effie's rhythmic chant would
increase in volume with the progress
of her advance and the paroxysm of
her trance ... The louder she chant the
faster she buck..." (p. 4); "that is how
Miss Zetta say it happen, for Zetta she
have ears all over her head and she
hear everything, all what don't talk" (p.
107); "after you roll in grass you don't
want no water touching your skin, for
hell scratch out your daylights all night
wholenight" (p. 85); "from she round
the ridge into Black Shop" (p. 3); "my
mother didn't allow us to go to other
people's house since there were nine
of us and your brothers and sisters are
more than enough company so what
more do you want, whatsoever cometh
of more than these is evil, keep you foot
in you house, you hear" (pp. 44-45).
Forbes's stories discreetly touch
on meta-narrative from time to time,
the authorial voice matching the
introspection of her I-persona. Twice
she claims ironically, out of a childish
enthralment with romance, that her
mother's stories "are not real stories

but stories about herself, her childhood
and growing up" (pp. 51, 98). Then,
reverting to her title's theme, the
author muses: "Memory and moment
are never the same. The one can be
recreated, reinvented, even made to
become whole. The other never returns,
and when it comes, too often glimpsed
as other than itself. Falling in the spaces
between knowing and not knowing,
between silence and not speaking" (p.
But as much as the I-persona
"wrap[s] herself in quiet like a cloak"
(p. 45), she is seduced, and in turn
seduces us, by "the sound and feel
and texture of words in your mouth.
Some smooth as silken sweets ...
Others rough and raised and risky
like the tops of mountains and hills ..
. Some singing like songs, southward,
northward, visible invisible ... Others
sharp and secret and ready to pounce.
.. like snake and swish and seacat and
schemes and scheming" (p. 40).
We are thus treated to a command
performance of linguistic skill and flair.
Songs of Silence is a thought-provoking
exploration of the strains of adult
life and responsibility, the prejudices
against difference, the sensitivities and
insensitivities of a young girl's growth
into self-analysis and maturity, a
sympathetically humorous presentation
of human foibles and strengths. It is an
impressive first publication. o


KARL AIKEN is a lecturer in zoology
with the Department of Life Sciences,
University of the West Indies, Mona. His
main focus is on marine fishes, but he
is also interested in natural history and
conservation, and helped to found the
Jamaica Conservation & Development
Trust (JCDT) in 1988.

PETRINE ARCHER-STRAW is an art historian
and curator educated at the University
of the West Indies, Mona, and the
Courtauld Institute, London, where she
has also taught. She is the co-author of
Jamaican Art (1990), the editor of Fifty
Years Fifty Artists (2000), and the author
of Negrophilia: Avant Garde Paris and Black
Culture (2000). She is currently a visiting
lecturer at Cornell University.

L. ALAN EYRE has been associated with
the University of the West Indies for
fifty years, as undergraduate, graduate
student, senior lecturer, reader and
honorary research fellow. He has also
carried out research with the United
Nations, the World Bank, the Library
of Congress, the World Astronautical
Federation, and fifteen universities in
the Cayman Islands, Israel, Australia,
Britain and the USA. He has authored
or co-authored several books and
approximately five hundred publications.

JONATHAN GREENLAND is the executive
director of the National Gallery of
Jamaica and a part-time lecturer at the
Edna Manley College of the Visual
and Performing Arts. He received
his doctorate in art history from the
University of Cambridge in England
and has worked in a number of places
including the Brooklyn Museum in New
York City.

CECIL GUTZMORE, originally from Portland,
spent over three decades in the UK
as student, worker, political-cultural
activist and university lecturer. Since
returning home in 1997, he has worked
as a freelance training and development
consultant and has lectured at the
University of the West Indies, Mona. He
has also been a Gleaner columnist.

psychiatrist with wide international
experience in the Caribbean,
North America, the UK and New
Zealand. Creator of the process of
psychohistoriographic analysis and

cultural therapy in Jamaica, he is
presently professor and head of section of
the Department of Psychiatry, University
of the West Indies, Mona.

HEATHER A. HORST is a postdoctoral
scholar at the Institute for the Study of
Social Change, University of California,

LINToN KWESI JOHNSON is a reggae poet
and recording artist. He has published
five volumes of poetry and released over
fifteen albums. He also runs his own
record label, LKJ Records Ltd, and is a
trustee of the George Padmore Institute in

ALERIC JOSEPHS is a member of the
Department of History and Archaeology,
University of the West Indies, Mona.
She is a graduate of the department,
where she also did her graduate work in
women's history.

ANDREA LEVY, born in London in 1956 to
Jamaican parents, is the author of Every
Light in the House Burnin' (1994), Never
Far from Nowhere (1996), Fruit of the Lemon
(1999) and Small Island (2004) which was
the unique winner of the Orange Prize for
Fiction, the Whitbread Book of the Year
2004, the Commonwealth Writer's Prize
2005, and the Orange Prize "Best of the
Best" in Britain. She lives and works in

MERVYN MORRIS is the author of Is English
We Speaking and other Essays (1999) and
Making West Indian Literature (2005).
His poetry collections include The
Pond (1973/1997), Shadowboxing (1979),
Examination Centre (1992), On Holy Week
(1993) and, most recently, I been there, sort
of: New and Selected Poems (2006).

HELEN RAPPAPORT is a nineteenth-century
and women's historian, with a specialist
interest in black cultural figures Mary
Seacole, Ira Aldridge and George
Bridgetower. Her book No Place for Ladies:
The Untold Story of Women in
the Crimean War will be published in
February 2007.

the University of the West Indies, Mona,
and has research interests in migration
and mental health. She completed her
PhD at the University of Birmingham
on "The Quest for Healing in the Black

British Community: A Reflective Study
on Mental Healthcare in Birmingham,

LAURA TANNA holds a doctorate in African
languages and literature, and writes on art,
culture and travel for the Gleaner, Jamaica
Journal, SkyWritings and The Jamaican. She
is the author of Baugh: Jamaica's Master
Potter (1986/1999) and Jamaican Folk
Tales and Oral Histories (1984/2000), and
produced the Jamaican Folk Tales and Oral
Histories video (1987) and audiocassette
(1997) as well as the audiocassette Maroon
Storyteller (1992).

KIM ROBINSON-WALCOTT is editor of books
and monographs at the Sir Arthur Lewis
Institute of Social and Economic Studies,
University of the West Indies, Mona. Her
publications include Out of Order! Anthony
Winkler and White West Indian Writing (Uni-
versity of the West Indies Press, 2006) and
the children's book Dale's Mango Tree (Kings-
ton Publishers, 1992) which she also illus-
trated. She was the regional winner (Ameri-
cas) of the 2005 Commonwealth Short Story

11.I L' td ,d ok, u h r r

From the foreword to
Jamaica Journal 1, no. 1
(December 1967)

The Jamaica Journal sets out to act as a
magnet as well as a directional device. It
sets out to provide a 'home' in its pages to
all Jamaicans (and some non-Jamaicans)
who create whether in literature, art,
literary criticism or historical and scientific
thought. Merit, in the areas where such
merit is relevant to our Jamaican scene, is
the basic criterion for inclusion.
The Journal will address itself primarily
to Jamaicans .... And we hope that while,
on the one hand, our readers] shall not
feel that [they] are being fed esoteric and
incomprehensible stuff, [they] should not,
on the other, feel able to dismiss us for not
having aimed high enough.
Yet we must make cear that this
journal will not set out to 'impose high
standards' borrowed from other peoples'
achievements. Instead, we hope to explore
new directions of our own, new lines of
thought, to help in the essential task of
groping towards the creation of 'standards'
valid to our own experience.
Last, but by no means least, the
Journal sets out to publicise the work
of the Institute, and through articles,
reproductions and photographs to make
widely available to the Jamaican people
one of the few valuable legacies from our
past- the wealth of historical and scientific
material collected and preserved at the
Institute of Jamaica.
In a lighter vem, the journal promises
never to take itself too seriously. Human
values are important but not immovable.
We hope that all those who feel excluded
will realise that exclusion is part of the
editor's unfortunate task, that his [or her]
judgement is fallible but all that he [or she]
has to go by, that the rejected manuscript
or drawing forms as much a part of the
process of creation as the accepted one, and
that it is the process of creation as much as
the achieved result that this journal sets out
to encourage.
Finally, we set out to achieve simplicity,
vigour, clarity, relevance, whether through
words or pictures. No one can give the
absolute answer to these demands, but
we hope that all those who contribute and
all those who read will use these criteria
as a rough rule of thumb in accepting or
rejecting what we have to offer.
-Alex Gradussov, editor, 1967

INSTITUTION was founded in 1879. Its
main function is to foster and encourage the
development of literature, science and art, in
the national interest. It operates as a statutory
body under the Institute of Jamaica Act 1978
and falls under the portfolio of the Ministry of

Professor Alston "Barry" Chevannes

Executive Director
Vivian Crawford

Central Administration
10-16 East Street, Kingston
Tel: (876) 922-0620-6
Fax: (876)922-1147
Email: ioj.jam@mail.infochan.com
or info@instituteofjamaica.org.jm

Junior Centre
19 East St, Kingston
Tel: (876) 922-0620-6
Email: jcentre@instituteofjamaica.org.jm

Museums of History & Ethnography
Head Office: 10 East Street
Tel: (876) 922-0620-6
Email: mus.ioj@n5.com.jm or

* Fort Charles Museum, Port Royal
Tel: (876) 967-8438

* Forces Military Museum
(temporarily closed)
Tel: (876) 922-0620-6

* People's Museum of Craft & Technol-
ogy, Spanish Town
Tel: (876) 907-9322

* Museum of St James, Montego Bay
Tel: (876) 971-9417

Education, Youth and Culture. The Institute's
central decision-making body is the Council
which is appointed by the Minister.
The Institute of Jamaica consists of a central
administration and a number of divisions and
associate bodies operating with varying de-
grees of autonomy.

Natural History Museum
10-16 East Street
Field stations: Mason River Reserve &
Green Hills
Tel: (876) 922-0620-6
Email: nhd.ioj@cwjamaica.com
or nhd@instituteofjamaica.org.jm

Jamaica Clearing Mechanism
Biodiversity Website
Email: chm.nhd@cwjamaica.com

African Caribbean Institute of Jamaica/
Jamaica Memory Bank
12 Ocean Boulevard, Kingston Mall
Tel: (876) 922-7415/4793
Fax: (876) 924-9361
Email: acij@angel.com.jm
or acij@instituteofjamaica.org.jm

National Gallery of Jamaica
Roy West Building
12 Ocean Boulevard
Tel: (876) 922-1561/8540
Fax: (876) 922-8544
Email: ngalleryja@cwjamaica.com

National Library of Jamaica
12 East Street
P.O. Box 823
Tel: (876) 967-1526 / 2516 / 2494
Fax: (876) 922-5567
Email: nlj@infochan.com
Website: www.nlj.org.jm

The Institute of Jamaica

: '


Ci ~ ;' '


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