QUARTERLY OF THE INSTITUTE OF JAMAICA
JUNE '70 VOL. 4 NO. 2
Jamaica Journal is published Quarterly
(by the Institute of Jamaica, 12-16 East
Street, Kingston. Jamaica, West Indies.
Frank Hill, Chairman
Rex Nettleford, Vice Chairman
C. Bernard Lewis, Director
Assistant to Editor
Design and Production
HISTORY and the Institute .. ...
The Port Royal Project . . ....
Statement of National Trust about Sevilla Nueva
Sevilla Nueva . . . . . .
Our Architectural Heritage . . .
SCIENCE for the Layman ..
Mason River . . ..
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ART LITERATURE MUSIC
Jonkonnu in Jamaica . .
Talking about Art with H. & E. Thubron . .
Poetry . . . .
Shoe Black Caper . . .
Folk Tales..... . . . .
Kingston & Port Royal. . .
Bog Walk . . .
Port M aria . . . . . .
Jamaican Folk Music . .
. .. Sylvia Wynter
.. Alex Gradussov
. . Dennis Scott
. . Vic Reid
. . Ranny Williams
. .. James Hakewill
. .. James Hakewill
. . J.B. Kidd
. . Olive Lewin
Editor's Note: The publication of this issue of Jamaica Journal co-incides
with the Cultural and Conservation Conference of which the Government of
Jamaica is host and which is sponsored by UNESCO; it is therefore no
co-incidence that the contents of the journal is devoted to the themes of that
conference. It is, however, a pleasing co-incidence that the aims of Jamaica
Journal are very similar to those of the Cultural and Conservation Conference;
we try to preserve and elucidate Jamaica's past, offer comments of scientific
themes to lay readers and, perhaps most important of all, are a depository for
all creative efforts in this island.
Front Cover: "Counting House at Good Hope, Trelawny" by Errol Harvey.
Back Cover & Inside Covers,drawings by Osmond Watson.
Figures side Back Cover: Photographed by Patrick Harty,
Courtesy Jamaica Tourist Board.
. . C.S. Cotter
. . T.A.L. Concannon
George R. Proctor
Aerial View of Port Royal.
1. Mrs. Dorothy Hewitt
Miss Teresa Wilmot
Mr. Ashner Campbell
Mr. Levan Forest
Mr. Anthony Lawrenc
Mr. Michael Pessoa
Mr. Richard Mclure
Mr. Philip Mayes
assigned by the British
Ministry of Overseas Development
to the Jamaica National Trust Commission
by -sPePo^raiP jctctafWl)
Port Royal undoubtedly represents, archaeologically, the most productive seventeenth-
century site of the New World. Its destruction in 1692 fossilized for posterity a complete
town environment and its very existence represents to generations of future archaeologists
an unrivalled opportunity and a unique challenge. Our project is concerned with the
archaeology of the whole man and the placing of that man, by a series of carefully con-
trolled and executed archaeological exercises, into as complete a sociological, economic
and physical environment as present day techniques will allow.
For many years Port Royal has been the subject of archaeological excavation. It has
already been pointed out, in an earlier volume of the Jamaica Journal, that salvage began
immediately after the catastrophe struck. Looters and organised expeditions worked
assiduously over the dry and underwater sections of Port Royal. Eighteenth century
antiquarians, no doubt motivated by a combination of inquisitiveness and the lure of
treasure, have excavated here. Excavations conducted for basically archaeological motives
began in the late nineteenth century.
The first organised twentieth century work at Port Royal, a major excavation of part
of the underwater area, was conducted in 1959 by Mr. Edwin Link, under the joint
sponsorship of the National Geographic Society, the Smithsonian Institution and the
Institute of Jamaica. A subsequent excavation, conducted by Mr. Robert Marx, under the
auspices of the Institute of Jamaica and the National Trust Commission, was again
concerned with the underwater area of Port Royal. Conditions in Kingston Harbour are
far from ideal for meaningful underwater work the destroyed town is covered by silts
which, when disturbed, create considerable visibility problems. Underwater excavation in
the harbour was terminated early in 1968.
In the same year the Port Royal Project was launched, with land archaeology forming
the basis of the programme. This project comes under the portfolio of the Minister of
Finance and Planning, the Hon. Edward Seaga, and is under the control of the Jamaica
National Trust Commission, a statutory board of the Jamaican government. All the
previous excavations have provided evidence of fantastic wealth at Port Royal at the time
of its destruction. Quantities of material from the seventeenth century to the present day
~4 r' I L II
have been found and the land work is, in part, aimed at the establishment of a long strati-
fied series of material so that the previously recovered artifacts may be placed in their
correct historical context.
In the autumn of 1968 at the beginning of this project the areas of known historic
interest were, for the first time, given a priority grading. Basically, the western end of the
town was reserved for archaeological excavation, planned to extend over many years.
This area includes St. Peter's church, Fort Charles, the Hanover Line, the old Naval
Hospital, the Giddy House and the Victoria Battery. In this western area the work will
proceed as research excavation, freed from the pressure imposed on rescue archaeology
(defined as archaeological work done in response to a threat of development on an area of
archaeological significance). The present township will remains it is and, where develop-
ment within this area is proposed, this will be preceded by rescue excavation. -The eastern
end of the town, with the exception of the newly discovered site of Fort Rupert and the
structures adjacent to it, has been made available for commercial development.
The earliest recorded occupation of Port Royal was in the sixteenth century when the
Spanish conquerors of Jamaica used Port Royal as a careening base. Of this occupation
little is known historically and, as yet, nothing is known archaeologically. A derisory
reference in a seventeenth century English manuscript (2) refers to the existence of
'Spanish barns' on the point. It must be remembered that, at this stage Port Royal
was effectively an island with no permanent link with the mainland, other than a tenuous
sandspit frequently cut by the sea.
After the successful English invasion of 1655, the English government gave letters of
marque to the buccaneers, who swarmed here from Tortuga, and actively encouraged their
assaults on the shipping and colonies of England's old enemy, Spain. The gold, silver and
precious stones thus obtained added more wealth to the already blossoming port. However,
piracy flourished for only a relatively short period of time, from about 1660-1671. The
Treaty of Madrid, in 1670, ended the war between England and Spain, with England
promising that she would no longer sanction privateering. Henry Morgan -was called to
England and, ironically, knighted and appointed Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica, whence
he returned in 1675 and immediately began a vigorous suppression of pirate activity. The
importance of Port Royal was, however, maintained and as a legitimate trade centre she
was unsurpassed in the Caribbean.
By 1692, Dr. Buisseret estimates, the town contained 2,000 houses and about 8,000
inhabitants. It was effectively ringed by forts: Charles, Carlisle, James, Rupert, Walker
and Morgan. We know that many of the richly furnished houses commanded rents as high
as, if not higher, than those in contemporary London. There was free toleration of all
sects and religions. The merchants were diverted by the taverns and brothels, gaming
houses, billiard rooms, cockfighting and target shooting. English smiths, carpenters, brick-
layers, cabinet makers, tailors, wigmakers, doctors, quacks and pharmacists plied their
trades and professions under the protection of the regiment of 2,500 men.
This prosperity was based on its fine harbour into which European ships brought wine,
linen, silks, ironwork, pitch and ropes. Others from North America brought fresh food.
These goods were exchanged against the products of Jamaica: sugar, indigo, cocoa, ginger,
logwood and similar goods imported from South America. It should be remembered that
Port Royal was a thriving centre for the African slave trade.
All of this came to a sudden and terrifying end on June 7th, 1692 when the limestone
underlying the sands and silts, on which the town was built, shook, causing a submarine
slump. It is estimated that 90% of the town sank beneath the sea and probably 2,000 of
the inhabitants died as a result of the earthquake and the ensuing tidal wave.
Although rebuilding began immediately after the disaster and trade slowly revived,
Port Royal never regained its previous prosperity. A crushing series of fires and hurricanes
in the early part of the eighteenth century finally shifted the centre of trade across the
harbour to Kingston.
The establishment of the base for the British West Indies Squadron, in 1735, retained
for the town some marginal degree of prosperity. The closure of the dockyards in 1905
caused Port Royal to decline into the depression in which it still exists as a fishing
The terms of reference of the Port Royal Project involve three spheres of activity -
excavation, conservation and presentation. Briefly interpreted the Project is concerned
with the archaeological investigation of all periods of Port Royal's history from the
Spanish occupation through to the present day; with the total recording of the available
archaeological data; with the preservation for posterity of the recovered materials; with
the selection of significant pieces to be restored and, finally, with the placing of those
pieces in their historical perspective in a display location.
The first activity of the Port Royal Project was to prepare the backing facilities for the
projected excavation and conservation programme. To this purpose the old Naval Hospital,
2. John Taylor, "Second part of the historic of a magnificent iron-framed building of the early nineteenth century, was designated as
his life and Travels in America." p.494. Project Centre and the ground floor of this building now houses the Project staff, stored
Institute of Jamaica. material, photographic studio and darkroom, research and practical laboratories and the
administrative and drawing offices. The hospital overlooks the entrance to Kingston
Harbour and it is hoped to establish here a visitor centre and museum. Examples of
previously recovered material can now be seen at the Institute of Jamaica and Devon
Approximately three quarters of the area of seventeenth century Port Royal which was
submerged in the 1692 earthquake is now available for land archaeology. This circum-
stance requires some explanation. Seventeenth century Port Royal was built on sand,
solid rock occurring at a depth of approximately one hundred and forty feet. The earth-
quake shock which affected the underlying rock caused the sands to literally flow from
underneath the town. After the earthquake a small land area remained, centred around
the present site of St. Peter's church. Natural waterborne deposits of silt and sand rapidly
began to enlarge this very restricted area and the urgency of commercial and naval require-
ments competing for space caused a more rapid expansion by deliberate dumping of
material in shoal water. The floor levels of the old town lay beneath the water, but, in
some instances, as much as twenty feet of material was deposited over them.
The statement of the problem which this situation poses is quite simple; let us imagine
a building standing in 1692 with its floor, say, two feet above sea level, the earthquake
shock causes the sand beneath that building to flow away and the house floor settles, say,
ten feet below sea level. Various agencies deposit twelve feet of material over that floor
so that the area of land covering the building is again two feet above sea level. It can be
seen that, if it is required that excavation take place on this sunken house, twelve feet of
material must be removed. However, at a depth of two feet below the present land
surface the permanent water table is reached. Obviously the water problem must be
solved before the archaeological excavation can proceed.
Well Pointing Stage II
Here the 'inner ring'of equipment is
being added to lower the water table a
further six feet.
3. A wellpoint is a perforated stainless steel
tube, three feet long and two inches in diameter,
which is fitted into a length of two inch iia-
meter steel tube (the 'riser'): the required
length for our purpose being ten to sixteen feet.
The perforated tube acts as a strainer allowing
water to pass through it but, because of the fine-
ness of the perforations, no solids are drawn in.
A large casing is punched eighteen feet into the
ground and the material within the casing is
washed out by means of a high pressure water -
jet. The punch is withdrawn from the casing
and the wellpoint inserted to the required
depth. Sand is then poured in at the top of the
casing to surround the actual wellpoint with a
secondary filter. The casing is then withdrawn.
The two inch hollow steel 'riser' is then linked,
by a flexible rubber 'swing joint', onto the
'header' (a steel tube ten inches in diameter)
which in turn joins on to one of the two pumps,
each one of which will draw up to three thou-
sand gallons of water per minute from the
We were fortunate that the companies in-
volved in the wellpointing operation, Jamaica
Engineering and Research Company Ltd., Wal-
lace Evans and Partners, Foundation Wellpoint
Corporation of Florida and Kingston Industrial
Agencies Ltd., all showed a particular interest in
the unique circumstances of the Port Royal
problem and we would like to take this oppor-
tunity of tfihnking them.
4. Calendar of State Papers, Colonial Series,
America and West Indies. 1701. art. 486.
An experimental hole was dug and an attempt made, using conventional pumping
techniques, to excavate into the water table. The result was, predictably, disastrous. The
advice of consulting engineers was sought and tests were conducted to establish the rate
of water flow in the proposed area of the first excavation, the site of the old naval dock-
.yard, between Morgan's Harbour Beach Club and the Marina. The flow rates proved to be
extremely high, the coarse granular structure of the sands and gravels overlying the
seventeenth century town allowed a very rapid percolation of water into the test holes.
These prevailing circumstances dictated the use of a wellpoint de-watering system (3).
This technique, frequently used in civil engineering, physically lowers the water table and
allows deep dry excavation to take place under heavily waterlogged soil conditions.
As a necessary preliminary to our excavations of the seventeenth century town a large
hole, three hundred feet long by eighty feet wide, was laid out. Within this area horizontal
stripping of the post 1692 levels of occupation was carried out to a depth of two feet. It
was found that there were, in all, six main occupations, showing as-superimposed surfaces,
between 1735, the date of the first naval occupation in this area, and the present day. A
number of features, as diverse in form as the dockyard will and blacksmith's shop (1735),
the sea defence wall (circa 1740), a wide paved area circa1 760) the base of a watchtower
of the same date and a ceremonial flagpole base dating to circa 1840, were revealed.
As sea level was reached, two features of interest became apparent, the first a series of
large mixed brick and stone walls lying in a collapsed state. These walls were curved and
appeared to have been part of a circular building with an internal diameter of approximately
sixty feet. By reference to the available documentation we find Governor Beeston, in May
1701, writing to the Council of Trade and Plantations (4) "We are now building and will
soon be finished a round tower of 60 feet diameter at the east end of Port Royal, which
will carry 12 or 16 gunns, which we build in that figure to hinder a surprise, there being
no dore nor ascent but by a ladder .... "
This fort was designed both to protect the eastern end of Port Royal from attack by
land and to prevent aggressive use of the channel which had opened up through Palisadoes
between Port Royal and the mainland. By 1713, however, this channel had silted up and,
with the decline in importance of Port Royal, the fort was dismantled the archaeological
evidence suggests a collapse. If we are correct in our identification these walls are part of
this fort, known as Fort William.
The second, more substantial feature, visible immediately below these walls, was part
A plant view of the church showing one of the seven levels of timber excavated
of the rectangular outline of a substantial brick structure, the walls of which projected to
a maximum height of six inches above sea level. Probing along the inside of the wall
showed that plaster still adhered to them and that they stood, vertically, to a depth of
more than six feet below sea level. Here for the first time on 'dry'land we had proof posi-
tive of the existence of standing structures of the seventeenth century. Using the available
walls as a guide, the wellpoint equipment was installed. Unfortunately, our first trial of
the equipment was less than successful; the existing floor levels and the overlay of rubble
caused acute pumping problems. The result of our first application of the technique was
that the water table was lowered a mere three feet six inches. However, this allowed us to
conjecture the shape and use of the building with which we were concerned.
Plan of the floor showing the wide planks and the ceramic A plan of the floor joists which supported the floor.
tiles in the south and centre aisles.
Further wellpoint equipment was installed and, using a closer spacing of the wellpoints
and restricting our activities to a hole thirty feet by forty feet in extent, we successfully
lowered the water table to a depth greater than ten feet, that is to about two feet below
the floor level of our building. To this end we have now inserted two hundred wellpoints
and two pumps. During work these pumps extract, through the wellpoints, six thousand
gallons of water per minute from the area under excavation. In effect water is pumped
out faster than it can flow in.
Two problems were then apparent firstly, the identification of the building and, sec-
ondly, the technique to be employed in its excavation. Certain plans of the pre-earthquake
seventeenth century town are already known; others, expected to be more definitive, are
known by name only and, as yet, researchers, particularly Dr. David Buisseret of the
An interpretation of St. Paul's (?)
Church. (After the Taylor M.S. map.)
University of the West Indies and Mr. Michael Pawson, have been unable to locate them.
In consequence, whilst we have a working knowledge of the shape and size of most of the
plots of land in Port Royal and a reasonably firm knowledge of the seventeenth century
street lines, in many cases we are unable to locate a house onto a specific plot or, even, to
be in a position to know whether or not a house existed in any particular location. Some
of the major public buildings remain, as yet, unlocated and, because of our current lack of
knowledge of the full effects of the lateral shifts during the 1692 earthquake, the precise
location of even well documented structures is extremely difficult.
However, in this case we were fortunate; reasonably conclusive identification was
possible for this building which is sixty by ninety six feet in extent. The evidence from
the Taylor manuscript map (5) and an early eighteenth century copy of a seventeenth
century plan indicates that we were in fact dealing with a church. Although the archaeol-
ogist can provide a great deal of information about the shape, style and fittings of this
building, the documented history can often be either ,confused or provide directly con-
trary evidence. To illustrate this, let us examine that section of the Taylor manuscript
dealing with the church.
"First Saint Paules Church is a small well built Brick Structure, built cross wise;
having a dore to the North and another to ye South &c: This church is built High with
batlements of stone, being paved with Marbell, well adorned with cedar pues, and good
marbel-steps, & curious carved work: at the North side of this church is a paved Walk,
built for an Exchange for merchants to meet on, over the Exchange or Walk is built a good
Stonen Gallery, supported with large Cedar Pillars of ye Dorick order, this gallery is
railed round with curious twisted Ballisters. The tower of this church is raised square
about twenty foot at the base, and sixty foot high, built on ye topp with batlements of
Stone in this tower as yet is but one small bell, but they are in preparation to have a seet
of good sizeable bells."
Taylor describes only one church, which he called 'Saint Paules'; on the map which
accompanies the manuscript he draws only one church, which he does not name. Unfort-
unately his written and drawn descriptions do not entirely tally. We have established that
we are dealing with a well built brick structure, we have found north and south doorways
but the building with which we are concerned is not built cross wise: but, what is meant
by crosswise? We have no evidence, as yet, of the stonebattlements; the paving so far
seen is not of marble but we do have evidence of the cedar pews and curious carved work.
The shape and position of the building referred to on. the eighteenth century copy of the
seventeenth century plan as 'the old church' and the shape and position of the church
shown in Taylor's map both accord with the shape and position of the building under
5. Taylor, op cit. p. 509.
THE CHURCHES OF PORT ROYAL
The documentary research currently
being undertaken by Mr. Michael Pawson
throws further light an the churches of
Parn-Royal but, at the time of writing, the
reJerces are still scarce.
The first known reference to a church
occurs in a patent granted to Mr. John
loving in 1661 (1) for "... land at Point
Cagway North to the High St. 74'. West 66'
on land now or late of Henry Tyron and
bastward to the Church 60' .' Point
Iawaxy being, of course, Port Royal, this
iesumably refers to the original church
which would appear from this to front
o High St.
The second occurs in 1672 (2): ".. Ja-
maica. To the Hon. Sr. Thomas Lynch Lt.
Govnr. and by virtue of your Hnbl Order
dated May 9th 1672 I have measured
surveyd and layd out a Certaine Piece of
Lnd on Pt. Cagway for a Church which
lyeth in form and manner here described
by this Plat and containeth 82 feet square.
performedd June 10th 1672'. North on
H#B St. 80' South by Church Lane 92',
wat on Mr. John Loving and east on
Church Lane 70'."
It seems reasonable to assume that this
record refers to the piece of land on which
wrs to be built a new church. But the
streets to the south and east are already
caled Church Lane, therefore, it seems
equally reasonable to assume that some
other church had been built there pre-
viously, but, in this case, why was this not
mentioned? Comparing this reference
with the previous one we see that this
plot of land, being surveyed in 1672, is
immediately to the east of a plot belonging
to John Loving. Was this the same plot
referred to in the 1661 patent? If so it is
possible that the original church was
knocked down, at.some stage, in order to
make way for the new.
The third reference to a church occurs
in a letter written in 1679 by Carlisle to
Coventry (3): ". at the.poynt we have
made a good Platt Forme in Fort James
with the freestone the King was pleased to
send when I came over, and now they are
at work on a Breaste Worke behind the
old church, where a battery is to be put
lor 8 demicannon an 4 hole culverin
whose situation being directly opposite
to the nearest Caye (a small rock in the
As Morgan's Line was built between
1678 and 1680 it seems likely that this is
the 'Breaste Worke'referred to. Although
the precise extent of Morgan's Line is not
known, it is not anticipated that it ex-
tended as far east as High St., the position
we have for the site of the new church
which was to occupy a plot which is
thought to have contained at some time an
old church. The old church referred to in
this letter seems to be in a location accord-
ing better with a position approximating
that of the present St. Peter's church.
This would lead us to assume that the
church referred to in this letter was the
second church of Port Royal, in which
case we should be forced to assume that
the church to occupy the land surveyed
for Sir Thomas on High St. would be the
third church. Added to this, the use of
the term 'old church' surely indicates that
there was a new church; it does not seem
likely that there were two churches stand-
ing on the same plot of land at the same
In 1680 (4) we read that ". .Port
Royal now contains about 300 houses,
has a mean house belonging to the King
and a worse church. But in Sir Thomas
Lynches time divers gentlemen contributed
towards building a good one and they are
now at. it."
Again there are two churches referred
to, one not yet finished, which again
seems to bear out the theory that there
had been three churches; that is, the
church being built on the site of the first
church and the second church standing on
the site adjacent to the 'Breaste Worke'.
Again in 1680 (5) we read that ".. the
church is finished to ye steeple outwards"
and in the same year, on 23rd October,
Sir Thomas Lynch wrote to the Bishop of
London [(6 ". . Coll. Beeston can best
gyve yr. Lp (Lordship) of this and what
encouragement ye French can have here,
as likewise ye ptycular state of ye Churches
and Ministry that is not altered since he
went off. Yr. Lp. may be pleased to
credit him as Dr. Beeston Bro., he is a
very- ingenious Man to whose skill and
zeale we ow ye building ye church at Port
Royal. The Handsomnest in America....
The church was first designed in my Tyme
and is not yet quite finished."
The Project is much indebted to Mr.
Michael Pawson for his assiduous research
into seventeenth century Port Royal and,
particularly, for his generosity in allowing
a portion of this research to be published
1. Patent for Mr. John Loving 16th Oct. 1661.
John Loving. Liber I. Fol.38. Merchant.
2. Plat records No. 368 10th June 1672.
3. Coventry Papers Vol. LXXV. 20th July 1679.
4. 'The State of Jamaica under Vaughan'.
Compiled for William Blathwayt and corrected
by him circa 1680. Folio 51.
5. British Museum. Sloane Manuscripts No.
2724. Folio 239.
6. Calendar of State Papers, Colonial Series.
The wall tops which had been seen were buried in a relatively clean grey sand and the
removal of this material proceeded rapidly to a depth of six feet below sea level. At this
depth quantities of timber began to appear. These timbers, as was to be expected, were
totally waterlogged. To protect them from the sun and prevent rapid deterioration the
corner of the church was roofed with black polythene. Beneath this roof a system of
atomized sprays was used to create a fine water mist to further protect the timbers. (6)
6. We are grateful to Thermoplastics (Ja.) Ltd.,
for their donation of the piping required for this
Rodents Skull found below the
floor of the Church.
A A carpenter's Wooden Mallet found in
its discarded position with a broken
handle, beneath the wooden floor of
B A negative print of a Radiograph of a
solid metallic concretion. The X-ray
shows details of a lock, probably of the
17th century. Many of the base metal
objects, found at Port Royal, exist in a
decayed state within an encrustation.
C An example of the 'curious carved
work'- excavated in the church. It is
probably one half of a gouged decorative
roof boss. It was held in position by four
four nails. Actual width ten inches.
D Decorated wood from the church roof.
A cedar strip with a guilloche pattern.
As the timber was very soft, hung scaffolding and planking was arranged so that undue
pressure on the unexcavated levels was avoided. Again because of the softness of the
wood, adjustable water sprays were arranged to allow the archaeologists to gently wash
away the sand and silt around the surviving woodwork; the use of metal tools was pre-
cluded and hands alone were considered to be sufficiently delicate to handle the extremely
fragile material. Over a period of three weeks, six hundred pieces of timber were excavated
each piece being drawn and photographed in situ before removal.
Fragments of four pews were found and examples of the 'curious carved work' can
be seen at the beginning of this article. A carpenter's mallet with a broken handle,
discarded during construction, and, somewhat pathetically, a rat's skull were found
beneath the floor boards. Parts of five leather buckets, one bearing very clear red
painted letters three inches high: 'P.R. 1685', were found in the south west corner
of the church. Rarely is an archaeological site both named and dated on an artifact!
A series of layer and isometric plans was produced so that the tremendous jig-saw
created by the earth-quake, tidal wave and three hundred years of compression could be
understood. Planking, the sections of upright pews, a pile of seventeenth century roof
tiles, the ceramic tiles of the aisle, the timber flooring and the sloping windowbases can be
clearly seen. The walls stand over seven feet high and the wooden floor boards are nine
feet below sea level. Work is now in hand on the production of detailed drawings of the
Future work on the site is planned to encompass the total area of the church and to
preserve it as a public monument. Adjacent to the church and awaiting excavation is a
long boat, with a beam of twelve feet and a length of forty feet, presumably dating to the
The material evidence of a culture must be placed correctly on the historical time
scale. Archaeologists dealing with late historic periods use two basic dating criteria; the
first of these and obviously, in a well documented site, the most crucial, is an examination
of written records of past activities on the site under consideration. These records are
rarely available in printed form and require original research. The second technique.
one in many respects rather easier to use than the documented history, is an examination
of the 'things' found by the archaeologist in known stratified context, i.e. where the
'thing' found can be precisely located to a structure and/or level of occupation. Over the
years a great volume of work has been done on the material evidences ('things', 'finds',
'artifacts') of cultures. These cultures, from prehistory to the present day, almost invari-
ably exhibit characteristic assemblages of finds. In dealing with this late historic period at
Port Royal the material finds are normally dated as a result of a combination of previous
archaeological research, art history and, in the case of the more exotic materials, connois-
seurship. The grouping of materials found on, in or below a floor level will normally allow
the archaeologist to append, somewhat cautiously, a construction, occupation and desert-
ion or in the case of Port Royal, destruction date on that same floor level.
M English white salt-glazed Plate; Dot. Diaper and Basket
Pattern circa 1740. Typical of the English tableware of the
N Pseudo-Chinese Motif on an English Delftware Bowl
probably of the late 17th century. The Bowl is painted in
shades of blue.
SV A late 18th century example of
the attractive and practical
Pearlware. The Blue transfer
printed rural scene has obvious
R Yabba wares of Jamaica manufacture. These
examples illustrate two possible publication
techniques. Of all recovered ceramic
materials this class for the moment is the
Most difficult to date.
Scale ca 1:3
Examples of lead glazed Staffordshire
Slipwares brown on yellow, combed
decoration on the dish and bat moulded
decoration on the fragments.
(All circa 1725 1750) Scale ca 1:3
Examples of Clay Pipes from the early
19th century (top) to the 17th century
The darker pipe at the bottom is a
Jamaican Red Clay Pipe, circa 1680.
A grey Stoneware Beer Mug with
incised and Cobalt-painted
decoration from the
Westerwald District of the
Rhineland (mid 18th century).
The G.R. stamp characteristic
of this type of ware was not
available to the restorer.
A wine bottle which was found
lying on the 1692 ground surface
outside the wall of the church.
Note the calcareous concretions.
Spanish Jar An unglazed oil
container. It is not possible to
date this form closer than 1580
- 1780 but it serves as an
illustration of the wide ranging
trade contacts of Port Royal.
A late 17th Century Bellarmine Stoneware Bottle,
decorated with a stylised face mask; armorial device and
rosette. These Bottles were produced in the Rhineland in
and around Frechen. Scale ca 1:2Y
An example of a brown
stoneware Beer Mug capacity
one pint. The Mug shows the A.R.
excise stamp beneath the rim and
an enlarged photograph of that
stamp is published here. A.R., W.R.
and G.R. are stamps current in the
18th century. Anne Regina, William
Rex, Georguis Rex.
Scale ca 1:2
Wine glass stems have been found in
many locations at Port Royal, dating
from the seventeenth century to the
present day. This group exhibits a
variety of early characteristics and is
used to illustrate how careful
photography can accentuate the
detail which allows us to date these
stems with a fair degree of accuracy.
The results of our investigations at Port Royal will ultimately be published as a series
of comprehensively illustrated monographs in which the excavated structures, the material
evidences obtained and the history of those structures will be combined in a substantial
report. The discipline of archaeology is often referred to as destruction in the presence of
the archaeologist. Publication should be the record of this destruction.
The Port Royal Project is now poised for a substantial, planned expansion. The rate of
this expansion is entirely dependent on the inflow of capital, equipment and personnel.
The Project is already in a position to accept bona fide students to join the Project staff
in both learning and research capacities. Port Royal, in fact, represents, for a variety of
organizations an opportunity for active long term participation. The development of the
museum in the old Naval Hospital and the incorporation of a teaching workshop and
lecture theatre into that structure has a high priority in the planning.
The excavation of the seventeenth century church which may well be the St. Paul's
Church can be regarded as a major breakthrough in mapping the various historical sites of
the old city, for we can now pinpoint with fair accuracy the location of such'sunken
buildings as the King's House, Bridewell Prison and the Merchants Exchange.
But in our forward planning, the single most difficult decision has yet to be made as to
the type of presentation: whether it should be a 'wet'presentation -that is an underwater
display or a 'dry' presentation that is with all the water pumped out. We estimate
that the difference in cost between the two types of presentation may be high and studies
are now being undertaken to determine the relative costs.
The conservation department is not yet fully developed but preparation is being made
for the bulk preservation of glass, metal and wood. The processes involved necessitate
both capital equipment costs and recurring expenditure on the essential chemicals.
At our present level of organisation, much research remains untouched for lack of
staff. The work on the reserve collections will take many years and it is to be hoped that
academic institutions which have already shown an interest in the potential of Port Royal
will ultimately become involved with us and make a positive contribution to the stimulat-
ing work of the Project. Port Royal offers many exciting possibilities; Fort Rupert,
planned as an underwater display site, lies untouched and available for archaeological
research beneath the waters of a quiet lagoon. The undersea area of the town has hardly
been touched by excavators to the present date; we hope to attract commercial and aca-
demic organizations, willing to co-operate with government, onto this aspect of our work.
With their help it may prove possible, for the first time in the history of the underwater
work, to create ideal conditionsfor the recovery of the wealth of historical and artifactual
information which has been shown on more than one occasion, to be almost without
limit. A similar combination of interests will be necessary to ensure the fruition of our
plans for the restoration of exciting buildings and the possible limited reconstruction of
excavated ones. The visitor facility is slowly being developed; the evocative nature of the
past history of Port Royal will allow us to present the town as a monument without
embellishment. It will ulitmately form a major addition to the already considerable
appeal of Jamaica to visitors from overseas and will help to create a greater awareness of
one stage of the country's cultural history.
The total excavation, preservation and presentation of the land and underwater areas
provide a foreseeable future for many generations of archaeologists. Undoubtedly,
archaeological techniques will develop apace during these years and Port Royal, because
of the richness and diversity of the archaeological circumstances, should prove to be of
key importance in this development.
A STATEMENT BY THE JAMAICA NATIONAL TRUST COMMI/S/ON
spent a fui year-
GovOamqnt. and tb
has been fbOnipl
used as a base of s~pe)as
esseintiaty ie perso-nal ah
Webelievsthfl thett~ Bpplanned .a.tt
placepiosed'tebe u-oiea V d difftcui t
when the capitql di ie i arPns coKisy was- t
thirty-five yebr, M'r. Cser teas oearully reonited t l' r1 f
other artifacts whieh niay i t turned up in the eoui oaua
land has been puta ita it i fortupte that there has Iten iraiog i:
subsequent building-strcafiiMlt Et:; 's., 7
Realizing that the Spanisk ite -s r~oVably rAthe.,
considerable deposition over the ,ie; the assistbce Pfuv
Brandeis University was obtained-during 1969. -G*ve-a .4ii f l
Hammond, two assistants from his University pndF rfi1ir-%% eoi
the Jamaica Historical Society, conducted. straP alJ oawa
magnetometer survey over a portion of the site? wtictwit-afts t
known finds, with a view to ascertaining arohaeololIieatefite RA
level was about three to four feet below- the s tace. -T-ils wPM
ation indicating that:
The site has been subjected to .a variety of pesiqb.f a
agricultural and flooding. The complexity noted predlud maas"
burden above the Spanish level.
Test excavations suggest that the building, nft'. aterlt, o-IS
settlement were not necessarily the same uatos ef of e i
and, therefore, the detection of the settlement pattern nabey S ,
originally anticipated requiring -exploratory excaiation ove aS
Commendations resulting from the survey were:
1. The magnometer survey should be carried out overt -av xteti~ilerean;wtI~ W .
Spanish remains have been detected.
2. A complete aerial mapping should e-done, prqeerablyrh4* tSi~barptepblack/.
white, colour and infrared film, is recommended asa posl b eowaCg fitiErfnsti m.
This device has been most successfully used in tempera et ctinaW Rd may- 4;
helpful on the Seville site especially if ft isdone during adry time ~lf~~-year wh'iL
the vegetation is less lush.
3. Stratigraphic excavation is recommended for the-Slle ritite "'i-odartose1t '
the broadest possible picture of the life of that settlement hose historical im_ t.-'
ance is of some consequence, not only for Jamaica but forsarly Spanish settlements
study in general... It is specifically urged that stratigraphic excavation be conducted
at the Castle site to resolve the questions of building method employed..." and other
questions which remain unclear.
Stratigraphically controlled linear excavations will be required to.check magneto-
meter indications and to verify the presence or absence of structure lines.
4. "A detailed study of Ceramic materials from the site should be undertaken to
assess the intercultural effect upon local (Asaa ak,) cerarpios ot the 4idal. oentact-
with the Spanish (Columbus' enforced yeSWatt ).s-. S"is theSev l ettlemt rW
proper was only about fifteen years later s-Ritobri y narrow. ctwhrotai gia t span is
involved and could furnish significant data in regard to accelerfatle. of contact
induced ceramic changes. These, in turn, might suggest other cultural modification
and provide an index of the strength of contact influence itself."
It is hoped that arrangements can be-made wittProPfessor Hammond, who has new
. .. . .
twqnepew. his, alIiaFWons fda-gpln 4 iq~ i W i ta ;m-o resume his studies at SeOile
Professor C. Tunnard, of Yale University,~nd Mr. J.C. Pollaco, Chairman of the Malta
Government Tourist Board, visited Jamainca under UNfESCO auspices during 1968/69 to
make recommendation for the-conseratien-tfriteimdoenumenrts in-Jamaica especiaHy
in relation to Wllrism. The Seville site, of --sese, V plO.miptly reegnized as eaw of
tremandoeqpsiintial. 7These experts, in assaiaatl~etwi al authl4ties, urged that
tie areh-a:iges wrey initiated by. Messws. 4i:Har-Ammond be continued to
eiiabli b ie~.l'maedtes of the town as wevtlas-~ ispsible sites of the plaza mayer and
atih. npO ai tstruetues of he:town.~Tlhrbpt MfaieRdof-the assistance of a Spanish
Galadbietbri rianWvas noted.
Thhe comna i dationsof the consultants) whichcoincide closely with the views of the
JlmaicA.NationalerutCQmmission and are-futly supported by the Commission, continue:
, I .fiesurveyr#lffderent archaselegital evidence for a museum interpretation
l. Ns~te, the~RlWuib d form an archaeological park, retaining much of the
ey ..iis largely aes-dverq d open coconut.grove. The site
_*.V*** fwneedafdhMugtht.ear~be-aiciipated that only the portion
tof the rain road will need .thn pro~ection, since St. Peter Martyr's Church is
l tegrqunds Of..the Roman Catholic Shrine. The main road may have to be
,d several hundred yards if it covers any critical part of the town. Some
of thii conemu trees may have to be removed as the work proceeds and the founda-.,
tions o the- buildings are exposed. The lines of the Spanish streets will have to be
marked; semie a them will have to be stripped and resurfaced, for the convenience
of vist aos. If th-plaze (s) reveal evidence of surrounding buildings, these may have.
their w;r":patflry. restored, any additional work being clearly indicated by embed'
S.seremmamend that replicas of any original buildings should be
;blui[ ,'ifapt-tltat a prototype.design for the Governor's house or
"catf i'tr wig fes a similar building on another Caribbean Island. This
T-shapdkisructrAr may wvilfturn out to be the most important of all the buildings,
and itwould certbainh have been one of the earliest, but a replica on another site
would add little to our knowledge-and could be incorrect in its details, especially as
both Spanish and locally-made bricks were used. Much more satisfactory would be
a diorama or model treatment in a museum on the site where the visitors could look
and listen to a recorded presentation of the history of the town.
"The museum should be located near the entrance to the archaeological park, so that
the visitor can receive a briefing before inspecting the site. Since it will concern it-
self with the town's history it need not be large; possibly 3500 square feet of floor
space will be sufficient. It should contain an entrance hall, staff quarters, display
gallery and a small auditorium. Undoubtedly, one of the prize exhibits will be the'
early sixteenth century stone friezes carved with floral designs and representations
of Arawak Indians which were found near the well of the Governor's house and are
now in the Jamaica Institute."
It is felt that the sugar mill is a structure which might be restored. This was constructed
of sun-dried bricks and, buried in heavy poorly drained soil for centuries, tended to dete-
riorate rapidly after excavation. In the circumstances, the structure was carefully measur-
ed and photographed and then re-buried with sand to await the availability of appropriate
personnel when the necessary decisions could be taken on the best methods of preservation.
The Arawak village site to the west of the Seville Great House is probably of the Indian
village called Maima. This also provides important potential for exploration and present-
ation in relation to the Spanish settlement.
Perhaps the greatest potential of all, from the standpoint of worldwise interest, is the
possible location of Columbus' caravels. The search for them up to the present time has
not been productive but this has been essentially in the water of.St. Ann's Bay. The-best
consensus of opinion is that any remains now lie under the beach, A study of the maps
and the examination of the ground itself clearly reveal that the shoreline has moved out-
ward substantially since the days when they were beached. It is believed that a methodical
search of the shoreline with probes and possibly with magnetometer equipment may locate
the ships. Then the archeological programme to follow might be somewhat similar to that
which is now in progress below the water-table on St. Paul's Church at Port Royal.
*Members of the Jamaica National Trust Commiss ion
Mr. Frank Hill, Chairman
Mr. C. Bernard Lewis
Mr. M.J. Stoppi
Mr. Cecil Langford
Mr. D.W. McLaren
Ar. J. Sibley
Mr. M. Pawson
Fr. F. Osbourne, S.J.
Mr. Lucian Rattray
Mr. T.A.L. Concannon (Technical Adviser)
Mrs. Pansy Hart, Secretary
The pre-Columbian natives of Jamai-
ca were tribes of Arawak Indians origin-
ating in the northern parts of South
America, having migrated north in pre-
vious centuries through the south eastern
islands of the West Indies, through
Puerto Rico and Haiti, and finally to
Jamaica. They were simple, peaceful
people and showed practically no oppo-
sition to the arrival of the white man.
This race has long since disappeared from
Jamaica but archaeologists find ample
remains of their primitive culture.
St. Ann's Bay is a small port about
midway on the north coast of Jamaica,
eight miles west of Ocho Rios and four-
teen miles east of Discovery Bay. It is
protected by a coral reef through the
eastern end of which a deep channel
permits entry of vessels. The country
behind it is hilly rising from a level
coastal plain. Several Arawak village
sites have been located overlooking the
harbour which is supplied with streams
of good water. In 1494,on his second
voyage to the New World, Columbus put
into a port which he named Santa Gloria
and which is the St. Ann's Bay of today.
Ferdinand, one of his sons who sailed
with him, mentions "Santa Gloria, where
after the Christians built the city of
Seville". After anchoring for the night,
being timid of his first encounter with
the Indians, he sailed westward spending
several days in either Discovery Bay (Dry
Harbour) or Rio Bueno, where he took
Aerial view of St. Ann's Bav
possession of the Island for King Ferdi-
nand of Spain.
In 1503, on his fourth and last voyage,
forced by heavy weather and leaky ships
to take cover in Santa Gloria, he beached
his two vessels, the Santiago and Capi-
tana, and having lashed them together
about one hundred yards from shore,
built huts on the decks and lived in them
for twelve months. After facing mutinies
of his men and ill-health, he would have
been left to die by rivals in Santo
Domingo and Cuba but, through the
heroic efforts of his trusted man, Diego
Mendez, he was finally rescued and taken
to Spain where he died two years later.
Jamaica then came under the owner-
ship of the Columbus family. His son,
Diego, who took up residence in Haiti,
sent a group of settlers, many of whom
had sailed with his father to found the
city of Sevilla Nueva on the site of
Columbus' detainment in 1503/4. These
men arrived in 1509, eighty citizens
with their families, and established one
of the earliest settlements in the new
world, predating St. Augustine, Florida,
the earliest in the United States, by fifty-
five years, and Jamestown, Virginia, the
first English settlement, by ninety-seven
Hundreds of caravels immediately ar-
rived bringing cows, pigs, horses, sheep,
fowl, fruit, plants and seeds. Roads were
outlined through the island and the
settlements of Melilla (Port Maria) and
Cristana (Bluefields) begun.
The city and island was administered
by a Governor, Treasurer, Alderman,
Controller, Crown Agent and Royal
Chaplain. Seville was, however, doomed
to failure for within seven years the
colonists complained of swamp fever
added to this was the fact that life in St.
Jago de la Vega (now Spanish Town)
was thought to be healthy as well as the
fact that the Spaniards were in touch
with ships at the south side. The real
reason, of course, was their desire to get
to the Spanish Main where gold and pre-
cious stones, none of which had been
found in Jamaica, were plentiful. Due to
this evacuation the Jamaican Spanish
population never rose above one thous-
Courtesv Government Survey Denartment
and* and was less when the English ar-
rived in 1655. Up to the middle of the
present century information about Se-
villa has been very small.
The following quotations are from
letters between the Jamaican Governors
and the King, and they comprise the
literary evidence of the condition of the
On June 11, 1515, Governor Garay
"He (Mazuelo, the treasurer) could
order everything he required from the
former Lieut. Governor who gave him a
house that is here and which has the name
of Fortress with two dwellings behind
which Juan de Esquival, a former Gover-
nor, had made and which the Lieut.
Governors who governed the island had
used. The abovementioned Lieut. Gover-
nor (the one previous to Garay), fleeing
from Jamaica, tormented by his enemy,
gave the above-mentioned to the Mayors
to take care for him. And when Garay
arrived in Jamaica with his wife and know-
ing nothing of what had happened, went
straight. to the house, Mazuelo told him
that he, Mazuelo, was in possession of
that fortress which the Mayors had given
to him. Seeing the long time that it took
Garay to come to Jamaica and that all the
Lieut. Governors had lived in that house,
it seemed to Garay that it was right that he
(Garay)should have it. Mazuelo promised
he would give it to him in a few days and
in the meantime he went to a neighbour's
house and speaking later to Mazuelo
about it, Mazuelo did not want to give
him the said fortress and acted very badly
Letter from the King, June 19, 1519:
"Appointing him, Francisco Garay,
Warden and Keeper of the Fort Esquivel,
built in the town of Seville with a salary
of 20,000 maravedies a year. "
From the King, July 19, 1534:
"That as Francisco de Garay built in
the town a stone house in the style of a
Abbot Villalobos to the King, Novem-
ber 8, 1582:
"At Santa Anna where on a hill above
the port is situated the stone fortress of
good old workmanship which through
age has lost its woodwork, the small
tower and the rest being strong and firm."
In 1533 the Queen complained of the
fort being out of repair.
Seville was officially abandoned in
1534 but it is certain that by that time
most of the citizens had left for either
Spanish Town or the Mainland.
The city possibly never contained more
that twenty-five small houses covering
about fifteen acres with six or seven to a
*Balbuena, Abbot ofJamaica,
in a letter to the King of Spain.
SEVILLE IN RUINS, 1688-1774
The Spanish abandonment of New
Seville was followed by their expulsion
from the Island, 1655-60. In the early
years of English settlement the town site
was discovered for the first time, though
it was to disappear more completely,
Thus it is that our next report of New
Seville comes from Sir Hans Sloane in
"I observed the ruins of the town
called Sevilla, among which a church built
by Peter Martyr of Angheria, of a sort of
freestone . . and bricks .... it had a
fortified castle, the walls of pebbles and
bricks four feet thick . . this town is
now Captain Hammings'plantation. The
church was not finished .... there were
two Coats of Arms lay by, not set up a
ducal one and that of a Count. I suppose
belonging to Columbus and his family, the
proprietors of the island. There had been
raised a tower, part brick and part hewn
stone, as also several battlements on it...
I saw a mammee tree growwithin the walls
of the tower... a great many wells are on
the ground, over the gates of this church
under a Coat of Arms is this inscription
which is rendered as follows from the
"Peter Martyr, of Anghiera, an Italian
citizen of Milan, Chief Missionary and
Abbot of this Island, Member of the
Council of the Indies, first raised from its
foundation, with brick and square stone,
this edifice, which formerly was built of
wood, and twice destroyed by fire."
Our next report on the ruins of Seville
came from the Duke of Portland in 1723:
"St. Ann's, here was, in the time of the
Spaniards, a fine Church and an Abbey,
built by Peter Martyr, who was Abbot
here, the same Peter Martyr who writ the
Decads. A great part of the Church
remains, and is in a little time to be rebuilt
Colonel Drakes, of that Parish having left
by Will a Legacy to that purpose, together
with a free school for thirty scholars, to
be maintained and educated out of the
produce of his Estate, the School Master
to live upon his Estate and have 30 per
"There are still some Inscriptions upon
the Church (tho' the weather has erased
some words, which may be easily sup-
ply'd,). Peter Martyr in these Inscriptions
styles himself "Proto notarius Apostolicus,
totius insulae Abbas & Senatus Indici
Consiliarius He says he was sent there
during the time of the Council of Trent,
and that the Church there was twice burnt
with lightning and a third time rebuilt
with stones. The town itself, where the
Abbey and Church were built, was called
Sevilla, which continued to the year 1590,
when the Spaniards deserted it, and went
to the south side of the Island, and built
St. Jago de la Vega, St. James in the plain
now called St. Catherine or most com-
monly Spanish Town. The Minister is Mr.
Roger Price, who lately came from Cape
Coast in Guinea, and was perfer'd to it by
the D. of Portland, without any recom-
mendation from the Bp. of London. "
Edward Long, the Historian, wrote
"It is not to be doubted, that under
the genius of Peter Martyr, who was
Abbot of the Collegiate Church founded
here, the public buildings would have
risen with an elegance unusual in the new
world. Several fragments of carved work
in stone, such as mouldings, festoons,
cherubs, etc.. are still to be seen here, that
would be thought no mean ornaments in
an European Church. The ruins of two
edifices, one said to have been a castle,
the other dedicated to religious use (pro-
bably the Collegiate Church) are still
remaining; the walls of which are several
feet in thickness, and compacted with an
exceedingly hard cement It is the proper-
ty of the lime made from the shell marble
so common in this Island to contact with
age all the closeness and solidity of stone;
and I have seen some plaster taken from
an old Spanish tank, or cistern, which
could scarcely be broken with a hammer.
The battery which defends the port is
constructed with materials taken from
these venerable fabrics, and stands in the
place of an ecclesiastical sanctuary. The
castle and church, being almost half a mile
asunder may give us some idea of the in-
tended extent and grandeur of this place:
but, the old walls before mentioned being
every day diminished, for the sake of the
material which are used in repairing the
buildings on the estate, it is probable that
in a few years more there will be scarcely
any vestige left of this celebrated city ...
As for the ruins of the castle, they are not
only leveled to, but considerably sunk
below, the present surface of the earth.
In theyear 1764 were dug up two pilasters
ofabout seven feet length, of no particular
order, but somewhat resembling the Ionic.
They appear to have belonged to the por-
tal, or vestibule, of some large building, as
there were several concave stones proper
for an arched roof Upon these pilasters
were some rude carvings in alto relievo.
Four or five coarse images were likewise
found; one of which resembled a sphynx,
another an alligator; and the rest were
creatures of the mason's fancy. The
Spanish habitations have long been de-
molished, and the ground where they
stood converted into canefields".
THE REDISCOVERY AND INITIAL EX-
CAVATION -- 1937-38
Inspired by this historic evidence, I
made various attempts to locate the site:
in particular, I tried to locate the well re-
ported by Sir Hans Sloane in a particular
banana field which had always carried the
name of "Castle" and I asked my friend,
Mr. Geraint Casserly, the manager of Se-
ville Estate, if he had ever known of a well.
He questioned one or two of the very old
labourers but no one had any knowledge
of such in existence, although one old man
told us that he had heard of a well which
had been filled but he did not know where
it was. I kept worrying Mr. Casserly on the
subject until September when he sent to
tell me that he had discovered a well in
It turned out that while inspecting the
field his horse had stumbled and thrown
him and upon examination of the cause of
his fall found that the animal had put his
foot in a hole which appeared to be a
bricked over well at the bottom of a two
foot irrigation ditch. I was early on the
scene as well as an eccentric gentleman,
Mr. Wm. Goodwin, who had been search-
ing in vain in Don Christopher's Cove
about two miles away, for the remains of
Christopher Columbus' ships which had
been abandoned in 1504. Mr. Goodwin
produced a windlass and bucket and we
proceeded to remove the fill from the well.
The well was 12' deep and 5' square. The
sides were faced with 10" x 5%" bricks
and they culminated in a circular manhole
which rested on two brick arches placed
at right angles to each other. The manhole
stood 5" above the floor which had a
waterway to catch the spilled water and
drain it back into the well. The fill con-
sisted of old lime mortar, pieces of lime-
stone, several dozen pieces of Indian
pottery and Spanish majolica, 2 pieces of
Renaissance entablature* and 1 piece of
stone decorated with egg and dart and a
flowered design, apparently portions of a
cornice, some hog tusks and 4" iron spikes.
Mrs. Blanche Blackwell and her
husband arrived on the site and-had made
some arrangement with the Trustee of Se-
ville Estate to permit her to dig and I went
abroad for four months during which time
I heard nothing of the results. On arriving
back in Jamaica, I found that Mrs.Blackwell
had left after digging several test holes of
small size and excavating an area 30' x 30'
at the north western corner of the Castle
building. Mr. Casserly had cleared the earth
from the vicinity south of the well and
discovered 2 Renaissance carved stone
door jambs; 2 friezes bearing 2 shields; 1
frieze bearing armour and weapons; 1
carved half column; 1 carved'arch key-
stone; and several pieces of Spanish majol-
ica and Arawak pottery. The carvings were
lying face downwards and had no sign of
mortar on them. He moved these to the
works yard building and there they re-
S mained until removed some months after-
wards to the Institute of Jamaica for safe
It is doubtful if these carvings were
ever a part of the fabric of the building;
the right support of one of the shields is
missing and was either never completed or
taken away by vandals later. The two
Coats of Arms have been traced to belong
to families which are long extinct in Spain
and as far as is known, were never in Ja-
maica but it is possible that these families
had been given grants in Jamaica which
they did not pursue when lack of interest
was shown by possible settlers on account
of the absence of gold and precious stones
in the Island. On the other hand, they
*A kind of plate.
may have been a part of the fabric and
were removed for possible transfer to
Spanish Town and forgotten for lack of
transport which was a major problem in
those days. It is my opinion that the
Spaniards rendered the buildings unusable
to possible enemies when they transferred
to Spanish Town as they had abandoned
the north coast and had sufficient man-
power to protect it.
in anticipation of French or English oc-
The six sites are as follows:
1. The Governors Fortified House -ori-
ginally intended to be the beginning
of a Castle. I removed one thousand
tons of overburden and many Indian
and Spanish Sherds.
2. A gun emplacement fifty feet to the
Excavation at Seville Castle Site
During the past fifteen years I have
discovered six sites in the area of the
town of Sevilla Nueva, founded by the
Spaniards in 1509, and abandoned a few
Due to my yearly absence from the
island, and weather conditions, I have
made slow progress, having spent only
two hundred and sixty days of actual
digging, an average of seventeen days
1953 13 days
1954 45 days
1955 29 days
1956 21 days
1957 25 days
1958 13 days
1959- 9 days
1960 10 days
1961- 9 days
1962- 7 days
1963 -15 days
1964- 9 days
1965- 7 days
1966- 7 days
1967 20 days
1968 21 days
Financial aid from the Institute of
Jamaica has amounted to a few hundred
pounds. Volunteer workers have not
been many as the operation has never
been publicised. It is expected that an
organised archaeological programme to
excavate the whole town site will soon
be under way. The Spaniards destroyed
Seville before moving to Spanish Town
west connected to the fort by a six
foot defensive trench. The main
armament appears to have been on
the top of the building which was
terraced twenty four feet above
ground level. Between this fort and
the sea lay a mangrove swamp through
which ran a road four hundred feet in
length. The defences were directed
towards the vulnerable southern ap-
3. Remains of a small Sugar Mill, opera-
ted by a revolving beam driven by
man or mule.
4. The Stone Church: (The first two
churches constructed of wood were
destroyed by fire). The foundations
were removed to place in the fabric
of a new church constructed thirty
5. Spanish Road to a wharf building on
6. Brick traces of about twenty-five
small dwellings which comprised the
I have no record of Mrs. Blackwell's
operation but do know that many floor
and foundation bricks (possibly 100) were
removed to Mr. Casserly's house and used
as borders to flower beds. From an
archaeologist's point of view, this is a sad
picture, so sad that I refused, at that time,
to have anything further to do with the
Seville Castle site.
S-.-.- -- -
THE EXCAVATION: 1953 1965
Sixteen years later when the site had
become overgrown again and was hardly
distinguishable, my friend, the late Dr-
John Goggin,* of the University of Florida,
happened to be staying with me and asked
to see the site. Knowing the archaeologi-
cal history he said that in spite of it the
site should be properly dug and if I did
not do it, he was going to do so. On the
strength of this I made arrangements with
the Trustee of the Seville Estate. Mr.
Lewis of the Institute of Jamaica, under-
took to support the work and to give me
a little financial help to employ a workman;
so on September 26th 1953, I removed
the first shovel full. John Goggin wrote
to congratulate me on the start, saying
that this site was one of the most important
Spanish sites in North and South America
outside of the fact that Columbus had
spent twelve months nearby, it was impor-
tant as one of the first settlements in the
West Indies. Moreover, luckily, no other
building had been erected over it as had
been the case in all the other Spanish
To begin with, I cleared the vegetation
and found that during the past sixteen
years, 3" of humus had already accumu-
lated over Mrs. Blackwell's work which
had a depth of 12". A few weeks later I
discovered that another would-be archae-
ologist had visited the scene and had dug
two 2' 6" holes on the north and south
sides of the well, apparently searching for
The Spanish Castle Site is located on
Seville Estate and is owned by the Estate
of H. S. Hoskins which is administered by
the Administrator-General of Jamaica. It
is a mile west of St. Ann's Bay and 400
yards south of the seacoast and 15' above
sea level. The original level upon which
the Spaniards built, was of a sandy soil
covered with forest, and there is evidence
of their having burned the land to clear
for their buildings. After 1534 at least
two great floods occurred which silted
over the site, and between and after these
floods, nature begun the laying down of
humus as new growth re-established itself.
As the rivers nearby reached their base
levels of erosion, the flooding ceased, and
the soil profile now presents an upper
strata of a foot depth of decomposing
organic debris, with its upper horizon of
of leaf litter. The settlers picked this site
which was a hillock surrounded on three
by a mangrove swamp which spread to the
seashore making a safe protection from
invaders. The fourth side sloped toward
the hills and on this they laid out their
town, the square of which was probably
three to four hundred yards south of the
fort. It would appear that the two pre-
vious churches were in the square and after
destruction by fire the church was moved
four hundred yards further south and
Goggin was the best authority on Spanish
archaeology in tne United States and the West
was built with stone, the foundations of
which were still visable fifty years ago. As
mentioned before the walls were intact
more or less in 1723 but a few years later
were pulled down to build a fort on the
west arm of St. Ann's Bay. The fourth
and southern quarter was vulnerable and
the defences of the fort were employed
chiefly in this direction.
I decided to use a ten foot grid with
an east axis which ran at right angles to
the foundation which had been excavated
by Mrs. Blackwell and 20' to the south of
the flooring of the well manhole and I
took as datum plane the top of the well
curb. My stakes north of the axis were
lettered L1, L2, L3, etc., and south R1,
R2, R3, etc. The axis west of zero was
numbered /-10, /-20, /-30, etc. A stake
10' east and 10' north on the Ll line
would be numbered 10L1 and so on.
The area had been planted out in coconut
trees 33' apart and the management of the
estate refused to allow me to cut down
these trees so my work was not only
hampered by these obstructions but I was
constantly bombarded by dropping coco-
nuts and branches. Strangely enough I
was never hit and put my luck down to
my war experience of dodging mortar
shells in the trenches of France. Towards
the end of the dig I cut down these trees
after fixing a price with the management
and was pleased to see that very little
damage had been done to the foundations
although the roots had just begun to creep
into the lining of the well, another 5 years
and it would have been destroyed.
I decided to start my work in the well
area which was covered with humus 2"
thick. The well pavement had never been
cleared and there was a pile of spoil from
the well 10' southwest in square -10Ll.
I exposed the well pavement and found
that it had been set 5' square around the
the well-curb which was 3' in outer dia-
meter and sloped in such a way that all
water which might spill in drawing would
run back into the well through a 2" hole.
I think this was a precaution to keep the
well area free from spilled water rather
than to allow the water to return to the
well as an economy. The east coping of
the well was broken for about 10" and
some earth was heaped on it and had been
untouched by the 1937 excavation. In
this I found a carved capital for a half
column, Plate 2, Figure 5, and three small
fragments of carved stone. On the well
floor were 7 pieces of iron hoop 1" x /"
which apparently belonged to a water
bucket long since collapsed, 4 Spanish
sherds and one roof tile sherd.
WEST OF THE WELL:
I decided to sink an exploratory trench
at right angles to the foundation wall to
the west of the well 3'6" wide and 12"
deep which passed through the heap of
well spoil, and found: one piece of carved
window jamb, one fragment egg and dart
carving, twelve Spanish olive jar sherds,
2/4" spikes and one hog tusk, all of which
were overlooked in the 1937 dig. I dug
3' through this spoil and pre-existing soil
which brought my exploratory trench to
one foot below the plastered floor of the
building which is sterile soil composed of
river sand. I continued this trench for 15'
and found no further sign of foundations
in that direction. Five feet from the
castle wall I found an Indian cooking site
which appeared along the trench for 10'
and consisted of a flat cooking stone
around which were charcoal and food
bones 28" below the floor of the building.
At this level were found green and yellow
majolica sherds, 4" x 4" spikes, one hog
tusk, animal bones and a burned Indian
pot. This was a cooking spot not far from
the well used by the Indian workers help-
ing with the construction.
CIRCUIT OF THE WALL:
The north wall, beginning from the
well, showed a door space which led to
two dumps 20' and 10' away. Here many
sherds, charcoal and food remains were
found. This was undoubtedly the back
door of the building. To the east of the
door was found the base of a brick loop
hole and east of this a brick corner 7' x 7'.
.Outside the north western corner I
found a vertical cellar 5' x 5' and fifteen
feet deep in the bottom of which was a
well containing about two feet of water.
The cellar was completely filled with stone,
brick fragments, brick mouldings and
mortar plaster from the destroyed fabric.
At the bottom lay majolica sherds, Indian
sherds, food bones, shells, charcoal and a
portion of a large green majolica plate.
Joist holes every three feet down would
have supported storage floors. Wine
bottles probably were cooled in the water
below. At the top there appears to have
been a windless, only the foundation still
remaining. On the S.E. corner was a step
or base, the support of a possible arch
covering the entrance from the tower.
In the centre of the north wall or the
tower was a door and at the N.E. corner a
fallout of brick which shows that the cor-
ners of the buildings were brick. Another
fallout there proved to me the height of
the tower, 19', and showed a window or
loop-hole on the second floor facing north
and portions of the battlements mentioned
by Sir Hans Sloane. The two floors were
9' high. In this area was also found the
charcoal remains of a large burnt tree
which corresponded to the tree described
by Sloane as growing in the tower. 'A
dump of sherds and food refuse was found
outside the door opening. Near the dump
was a stone gargoyle dog which took the
waste water from the terrace on the top
floor. It was lying east and west. On the
east wall of the tower I could find no door
but near the southern end a fallout which
appears to be the arch or lintel of a
window 7' x 8" above ground level. At
this I also found chips of stone and bricks
suggesting a mason's work shop. Spanish
'and Indian sherds were found as though
Torre Del Homenate Vice-Regal Castle in Santo Domingo, built in 1504 conjectured
to be similar to Castle at Sevilla Nueva From Dominican Government Publication
thrown through the window from the
dining hall, no food remains were here.
No sign of a door was found on the south
side but the brick foundation of what
appeared to be a loop-hole near the S.E.
corner of the Block House.
A 6' 6" door space opened on the
north side and an 8' one into the long
side of the T which was built probably
when Governor Garay decided to live here
in the Fort that Esquivel had built. In the
southwest corner of the square apartment
I found the remains of a timber 15" x 15"
x 14" which had apparently been the
bottom member of a partition which had
enclosed the corner to form a lockup
store for food or weapons. The plastered
floor inside this area was well-preserved
showing that it had not been subjected to
much trampling. There was no evidence
that this lime plastered floor was ever
tiled: this points to the fact that the
building was never finished although the
inner and outer walls were plastered,
possibly to preserve the fabric. The ques-
tion arises as to the stairway means of
gaining the first floor, which must have
been sleeping quarters, and the fortified
terrace above. Wooden steps or ladders
must have been used, probably located in
the south west corner.
DEVELOPMENT OF THE STRUCTURE:
The well and cellar belonged to the
original tower and the well in the patio
or outer building was built in the general
expansion of the structure. It is certain
that the rear of the building was on the
north where rubbish was dumped towards
the swamp. The south approach was the
entrance to the building facing the tower.
No exits in this direction have been found
due to the English having built a road
across it to demolish the building and
from that direction moved the robbed
I then excavated south of the Fort and
in line with the western wall. I found the
original Spanish level 2" below the floor
of the building and 3" below the present
ground level. Sixteen feet south of the
wall I met an intrusion which at 18" pro-
duced the remains of a brick arch. This
arch was the same one mentioned in
Angulo's El Gotico en las Antilles. Mr.
Casserly had made a slight excavation at
the spot and they concluded this to be
the entrance of a tunnel. I was able to
prove that this arch fell from the walls of
the building. The intrusion turned out to
be a six foot trench, a defence to protect
the south and southwest exposure, it
being the most vulnerable. Before aban-
doning the north side the Spaniards more
or less destroyed the building filling the
well and this trench with rubble from the
walls. The first 34' of the trench fill con-
sisted of stone, brick and mortar topped
by ordinary soil. Five Ferdinand and
Isabella coins were found near the arch
and were apparently thrown in by accident
with the rubble. At 50' the trench merged
into the lower floor of a secondary para-
peted fort defence 12' x 14' x 14' which
probably housed two breech loading guns
with a possible three hundred yard range.
The plastered floor below it contained a
small brick magazine 4' x 6' x 2' deep.
This platform battery although now be-
low the present terrain level was 2' x 6"
above it in Spanish days and controlled
a slope to west and south. This site had
also been filled in with mortar and brick
rubble and in this I found one Ferdinand
and Isabella copper coin which had prob-
ably been swept up from the main ruin or
even the ground outside the building.
There is no evidence to give an idea of
the structure of the building beyond the
foundation. Sir Hans Sloane describes the
ruin as a small tower with battlements on
it and lower unfinished building. The
tower would be the' square area and the
unfinished buildings would be in the ob-
long which includes the well. An old
print of the first dwelling of the Viceroy,
Don Diego Colon and Dona Maria of
Toledo, in 1504, in Hispanola, shows the
same plan as the Seville structure support-
ing a square two storey tower, with battle-
ments on the roof, backed by a lower
building, confirming the T shaped found-
ations uncovered. It is almost certain that
Columbus' son, Diego, ordered a similar
home for the first Governor of Jamaica,
five years later.
There are many ornamental bricks
which decorated the upper edge of the
tower. The beautiful carved stone columns
had never been placed in the fabric, every-
thing pointing to an unfinished job al-
though all walls had been plastered inside
and outside. The battlements on the
tower noticed by Sir Hans Sloane were
verified by me in a section of the wall on
the north east corner as well as the height
of the tower from floor terrace.
THE SUGAR MILL 1515
Site No. 3
Location 320' west and 80' north of
main road and road to east to
dig No. 1. Self and two work-
ers began an east to west ex-
ploratory trench 5'north of 0
line recovering one hundred
and twenty five pieces of sugar
May mould vessels. One piece green
majolica, one piece white ma-
jolica from surface to 1 'below.
Above trench filled. Started
new trench at 0 found brick
pavement 12" below surface
apparently floor of house.
Collected about three hundred
June more pieces of mould on sur-
face, one piece of brick, (4
bricks thick mortared toge-
ther). Dug new trench at OR1
from surface to 12"-15" be-
low surface. Found an estima-
ted one thousand five hundred
pieces of mould noses and
moulds. Found two pieces of
July yellow majolica. Unearthed
over one thousand mould pie-
ces lying on old Spanish level
consisting of decayed bricks
with now and then brick pie-
ces, one piece iron pot, one
hatchet, two pieces yellow
majolica, one piece green ma-
jolica, one piece white majolica
and one spike total three
thousand pieces. Began this
dig by 10'grids and with two
,u ewhaft -is ,to- be
carbon ditnp or leak.ge.
July 1966 Site fenced after tiwe yers
delayon part of Sevile ian-
ag iet. Started lI m ie
how-'sL Wom SewO-h
Aid-- mack s S pW -
' e s top softi k eafe
S.-'i~t R is eafra dea of
here anm there pieces of brick
waf sigas of brick and- mortar.
T maa. wat ploughed from
tierto-time and this accounts
for the destroyed bricks.
Cleared off all vegetation.
Smith -ad Whi4ea- .a fo ad
that these were A wo Ag .h:
brigastdo diteasS dug acras
theetop.Iffitte-to ffood, it
being, jor sJ'i for banoas.
This Waer soaking must have
helped-to rot the bricks. Have
cleared 10" of overburden
Aug. 1966 fivm the whole area squared.
OL1 Fawn 4wo pieces of white
mnpolla at OL1 making six
p ueee -nd one piece early
60L1 Started excavating at 60L1
finding more pieces of Spanish
brick and very few pieces of
OR2 Carbon found at OR2. Estab-
lished datum plane, Spanish
sherds being fund at 60 line.
Sept. 1966 Before on 0 line Stripping
north of 0 line. Sugar mould
piece anda few Spanish sherds;
one piece olive jar handle, one
piece La Vega Blue. Stripped
south of 0 line.
+10-OR2 +10-OR2. one nail, twoglass,
seven Spanish, four Indian,
one iron hoop.
Feb. 1967 Took levels. High spot along
Apr. 1967 Worked on square with two
helpers, much brick dust mnd
two pieces ofArawak potAery
(one -b)J. Excaratinaveay
eo~iusld due to casatieai
uo da y *
May Dog -Aree d-ar*nd fOb d
some signs of wbe -lacks.
WWs y Nansiy tMe la. ed
030 level by 4". iqm*tevnd
-tbwbt!' s 'a 1fa 000oA-A -
to idout -4" fuersn inai
strata finding beads forty
more found, three hundred
were found inside this -aea).
A carbon deposit.just' outside
of the sauh appears to be a
bumdpost below tW aunface.
June Foeer Jdei seems -to aetefd
beyodt-4/s sque wS, g
S to the-esiot EXOMaO saegM
at same area. -Beads hve a
golden appearance. as if gold
washed. The area has now
been leveled as far as point of
reference level. Area at 040
has tamped floor.
050 Five Indian sherds, two Span-
ish spikes and five roof tile
010 Began reducing square 10.
Two areas of charcoal, one
showing scorched sand. Paral-
lel stone foundation 2'4" a-
part in between the charcoal
OR Another charcoal area at lower
edge of square.
OR2 A charcoal area at upper right
corner. One piece roof tile.
020 Checked plan with site. Two
more beads found same site.
Sept. 1967 It appears that in this area
there was the mill passing the
juice to 010.
010 After boiling going into a
coolinghouse north of it when
the broken moulds were dump-
ed at OR Cane came in at
040; 050; 20-15-15. Com-
menced.a trench through cen-
ht arfeftebrokennh &sipek-
ing it.3' beWow the peseunt
':. -~~ ~e~i%~g~*II~OYlr~i~B~JIP~~'fi~'?
betksu .ad, nd Aftabse
ti~~,. covered -with
A. brick wallMfa1- l
n 4-0 W. Dug treheh
t. 4bi6ut 6' below original
ia A.awss of bicksh pef
020 At ~hnorh and south endtof
tlg efIhr was found the re-
000 mains of-w arched brick vault
which had apparently collps-
ed in the centre. The northern
end verges on what was des-
cribedas two plasterand brick
bases for two uprights Area
fll of dislodged bricks and
plaster. Bricks here-are larger
than those at Castle Site 12"
x 6" as against 10%"x 5%":
After a heavy rain the area of
carbon (ashes) was greatly in-
creased showing two definite
patches 5' apart. Excavated
what has been reported before
as brick bases for uprights,
these have only three sides and
are really 15" spaces between
three low level brick arches.
There is a smell of molasses
and a sticky surface on the
many bricks which have col-
lapsed from the original build-
ings. Further excavation
shows that there are two brick
spaces in the south arches
making four in all. All arches
have collapsed at the crown
making about 5' missing, the
bricks of which lie as rubble
in the bottom of the excava-
tion which is about 7' below
the present ground level. The
arches rise 5' 6" with a span
of 10'-0 and apparently sup-
ported and Egyptian type mill
with two vertical gear wheels,
turned by a horizontal gear a-
bove, which was powered by
man, mule or cow. The two
vertical wheels fitted into two
( spaces in the arches. These
0 10 IS
GROUND TMPED CLAY AREA
( 12. 1/2' ,WALK ROUNOD
Majolica lid for jar, found at
Seville; Spanish copper coin -
maravedi one of seven found
the same site .
Left, Top view of Mill
elow, Side View of Mill
arches were built below the
surface to insure strong lateral
support which the earth sup-
plied as an abutment reinforc-
ed by tamped clay behind.
Unfortunately the Spaniards
employed above ground a poor
type of local brick most of
which has now become brick
dust giving no information as
to the original fabric. It is
doubtful if a superincumbent
weight caused the collapse of
the arches. The Spaniards may
have destroyed the arches as
they did the rest of the town
to avoid reoccupation by an
: enemy. A coconut tree ne
has contributed to the d
tion. Excavated two trem
one west of the arch ce
and one east of the arch
tre. Erected coconut
over work; 2' south cei
arch has collapsed due
coconut roots. Two coc
trees, one guango tree
down. Apparently mill 1
12' was roofed over and
have been worked by h
Reduce the level around
and believe the area was I
up with clay soil to pro
it from inflow of water. (-
theyears flooded sand peb
exce~ated for passible:.-
-q, .~ ede .u aure 30 and atm
w- V-'., '_-W., sp tce .f
er4oere o. s ar 0 de. ady -i
-, oitf heoi F th.atka se mm
"ped wup arche,. ? ..
M -.Nieid of s-in
,ole or de o -we bUi~
eDug a-trensh .at 130 nea
: brick papement. No trme-dr
-- faatlo.bt There aears
pd u iere post hole
complete which seems a tremendous time,
but the actual days of digging amount to
s 1957, 1958, 1960 involved only 52da
work was at a standstill. I was away from
EVEL one realses that only three of s moved
ntwho after orwith decomposed trowel.
Dug a- tenh- -at R130 ne&
brick pavement. No trace of
foundations. There appears
to hwi e been a building whf
brick floor covering square
uR130 hre post hatoti
The Sevilla dig had taken 12 years to
complete which seems a tremendous time,
but the actual days of digging amount to
Ity only 261; the most unproductive years;
W 1957, 1958, 1960 involved only 52 days;
v S work was at a standstill. I was away from
"re the Island three months every year. When
cen one realises that only three of us moved
les nearly 1,000 tons of earth by wheelbarrow
Otrl after excavation with shovel and trowel,
to the years will not seem so out ofpropor-
2'x After these many years it has taken
may quite an effort to write up the story of
snr the dig; Professor Max Mallowan in his
mffI recent book 'Nimrud and It's Remains'
nft expresses my feelings when he says: "I
Wt1e had the interesting and instructive exper-
setr ience of reading my half-written Syrian
Wdes findings as though they were the work of
a complete stranger. It took about six
months of painful work to get into it all
It was easy to spot prejudices and pre-
conceptions." ... "But I like to
emphasize, that it resulted from teamwork
which has involved I can't remember how
many people.". .... "the hard task of
writing it out, which is by far the most
painful part of any excavation. Every
time you dig in the field for three months
you lay up at least a year's work, and
putting it all together is a real headache"
"All digs need a period of reflection
during which we can sit back and evaluate
In all, 21,500 square feet were un-
covered and 53,750 cubic feet removed.
5,538 specimens were recovered as fol-
(chiefly majolica ware)
Indian pottery sherds
Food, bones and shells
Wrought iron spikes
Other metal fragments
Five Ferdinand and Isabella
The Majolica Ware consisted of:-
Plates and Bowls)- (Escudilla) La Vega
Blue, Caparra Blue and Ichtuknee Blue.
It is noted that there is a great lack of
metal objects and this can be due to the
scarcity of metal and the fact that any
articles left behind by the Spaniards
would immediately be pounced on by the
Indians who had no metal and would use
what they could salvage for articles or
souvenirs. The spikes which must have
come from the framework could have been
useful to the English 150 years later as
some that I found could still be used.
There was a great scarcity of roof tiles,
only one hundred and seventy fragments
have been found, and I am certain that the
English made use of them as I have found
similar fragments at several of the nearby
plantations as well as the Seville sugar
works. These tiles can be traced today at
all the house sites which I have located
in the former town.
In the course of excavation the follow-
ing gave me some assistance in digging, if
even for a day or so: John and Rita Goggin,
J. Tyndal Biscoe, John and Joyce Parry,
Joy Hairs, Bernard Lewis, Nancy Schikler,
Jeremy and Jeanne Sibley, Stanley Taylor,
Eve Taylor, Margaret Maughn, Jean Math-
er, Robert Howard and Grace Rodgers.
My hired crew, Teman Linton and Hilda
Smith worked hard and conscientiously.
Unfortunately Teman Linton died in March
1959 of pneumonia. His place was taken
by Percy White.
St. Ann's Bay and Seville Old map ca. 1690 1722
same site as shown in aerial
photograph at the beginning of the
vtI F~ DRL1 TIr M iu 2r
I U1 J.4.I N, Nn
c----I- ---~ -;-;, ----
-. At, V, Mk. -4 .
OUR ARCHITECTURAL HERITAGE
Houses of the 18th and 19th Century
with Special Reference to
by T.A.L. Concannon
Jamaica's earliest known inhabitants, the Arawak Indians,
lived in the Island from about 750 A.D. to the coming of the
Spaniards in the 16th century. They were primitive people,
living in simple round huts of pole and thatch with earth floors
in settlements usually placed on a hill not far from the sea.
Their conquerors from Spain held possession of Jamaica
until the English came in 1655, when most of the Spanish
buildings were destroyed by the invading forces with the result
that today nothing remains above ground to indicate what type
of structures the Spaniards built; apart from foundations of
the Governor's Castle at Sevilla Nueva, the first Spanish settle-
ment near St. Ann's Bay on the north coast, there is little now
to be glimpsed of Spanish building in Jamaica.
Spanish Town, built by the Spaniards after Sevilla Nueva
was abandoned, dates from circa. 1523 when Diego Columbus
founded the Villa de la Vega, later to be known as St. Jago de
la Vega, and then Spanish Town. As a city and a capital it
dates from 1534, when Charles V moved the seat of government
from Seville. It is recorded that the Spanish Treasurer, Mazuelo,
had a sugar mill at Spanish Town in 1534; an account of the
town written by Captain William Jackson in 1643 remarks:-
"This place is called by ye inhabitants Saint Jago de la Vega,
being a faire Town, consisting of four or five hundred houses,
built for ye most part with canes, overcast with morter and lime,
and covered with Tyle. It is beautiful with five or six stately
churches and chapples, and one Monastery of Frdnciscan Fryers
.. the houses, unless it bee in ye Markitt Place, stand somewhat
separated one from another, by which means it taketh up farr
more roome than thrice ye number of our compared building
The English Period from 1655.
Most of the buildings erected during the first part of this
period in Jamaica's history have disappeared. Of these Fort
Charles at Port Royal (reconstructed in 1700), Stokes Hall
great house in St. Thomas (circa. 1710), Seville great house
(1745) and Stewart Castle in Trelawny, an unusual early forti-
fled house now a ruin, are reminders of the sturdy and impres-
sive structures built in those days. Colbeck Castle, a vast pile
of brick and stone near Old Harbour is usually ascribed to this
early period (1680), but there must exist some considerable
doubt regarding its date, which is possibly mid 18th rather than
late 17th century. Rose Hall Great House near Montego Bay in
St.James is a later building (circa. 1760); it ranks with Colbeck
Castle as one of the largest great houses of the first hundred
years during the English occupation of Jamaica-
The 18th century; sugar and coffee estate works, town
With extensive planting of sugar and, later, coffee in the 18th
century by the English the economy prospered, and much more
interest was taken by the planters in design and construction
of buildings than hitherto had been the case. Writing in 1739
Charles Leslie comments: "One is not to look for the beauties
of architecture here . The gentlemen's houses are generally
built low, of one storey, consisting of five or six handsome
apartments, beautifully lined and floored with mahogany ...
In the towns there are several houses which are two storeys, but
that way of building is disapproved of because they seldom are
known to stand the shock of an earthquake or the fury of a
The historian Edward Long wrote some thirty years later:
"It is but of late that the planters have paid much attention to
elegance in their habitations, their general rule was to build what
they called a make-shift; so that it was not unusual to see a
plantation adorned with a very expensive set of works, of brick
or stone, well executed, and the owner residing in a miserable
thatched hovel, hastily put together with wattles and plaster,
damp, unwholesome, and infested with every species of vermin,
But the houses in general, as well in the country parts as in the
towns, have been greatly improved within these last twenty
From the beginning of the 18th century the English settlers
built large and imposing works for the production of sugar with
aqueducts, water and wind-mills, boiling and curing houses and
impressive homes for the owner, the 'great houses' of the estates,
with less pretentious but often pleasing smaller houses for
overseers. These estate great houses were well furnished, with
pieces either made in England or more often fashioned by
workmen on the estates from pattern books or copied from
originals from the mother country.
Enthusiasm for good building spread to merchants in the
towns, owners competing with each other to decide who could
build the finest house. The result of one such competition,
Headquarters House in Duke Street, Kingston (now a part of
the Parliament Buildings) still stands as a monument to the
good qualities of design and construction in Jamaica of the mid
18th century, despite some doubtful architectural 'surgery' in
In 1762 a new official residence for the Governor, King's
House, was erected in Spanish Town on the.site of the old Hall
of Audience, which was demolished in 1761 to make room for
the new mansion. This building formed the first unit of a civic
square designed in the then fashionable Georgian style, to be
followed over the next forty or so years by the House of
Assembly (east), Rodney Memorial and Island Record Office
A Built in 1762 as the official residence of the Governor of
Jamaica. The structure was destroyed by fire in 1925 leaving
only the main eastern facade and the stables.
The picture is of a model (scale 1 = 6') which was constructed
for the Institute of Jamaica by the late G.T. Pratley and Gene
Martinez to drawings prepared by the author.
The reconstruction has been based on literary sources and on
prints showing the facade at various times, on plans of the
building as it stood in 1871 and on examination of the remains
standing today (7.2.68).
B Civic Square: House of Assembly (east side) Brickwork has
recently been cleaned and painted, but the iron ('zinc') roofing
is a poor substitute for shingles.
C Civic Square: Rodney Memorial and Island Record Office,
finished in stucco much in need of maintenance.
D Civic Square: Court House on south side, the last unit built to
complete this handsome town centre (early 19th century).
Lack of maintenance is sadly in evidence, and once again the
iron roof adds a discordant note. Entrance porch of Old
King's House is visible at right.
Photo DereK Jones
1~1111 ~C _
E The art of architectural surgery at its best (or worst). This
house on Wellington and King Street is a striking illustration of
what is happening on a continuing and ever-widening front in
Spanish Town posts and panels of the 18th/19th century
building have been covered in plaster, leaving a characterless
facade, windows will be changed to glass louvres, and shingles
replaced by zinc, thus effectively destroying the traditional
appearance of the structure, which basically remains behind its
modern cloak of 'socially acceptable' materials.
F This charming house in Wellington Street has typical louvres
and sash windows, and window 'coolers'. Iron roofing has
replaced shingles, with the inevitable disastrous result.
G White Church Street, looking south at south east approach to
the civic square. The overhanging first floor is to be seen in a
number of old buildings in Jamaica, but was not a common
H Wellington Street; a superb example of the shingler's art- alas,
on a roof rapidly falling apart for lack of maintenance. This
beautiful and characteristic small building is threatened with-
demolition, and will disappear unless something is done to
save it soon.
(north), and lastly the Court House (south), completed in the
early part of the 19th century. This splendid square is generally
acclaimed as the most impressive of its kind in the West Indies;
all its buildings are in use, except King's House, destroyed by
fire in 1925, leaving only the main facade standing. In a report
titled 'Conservation and Develppment of Sites and Monuments'
in Jamaica prepared by a Mission team of consultants for the
UNESCO (Serial No. 1529/BMS.RD./CLT., Paris, September
1969) it is stated "the central square with its fine Georgian
public buildings is amongst the most gracious of its type to be
found anywhere in the western hemisphere." The report con-
tains recommendations for permanent preservation of the
Square, to form part of what is described as "a Historic Trail
with markers .. including the Town Square and several of the
residential streets . This would identify historic structures
and sites offormer events, and bring history closer to the onlook-
er. On certain dates selected houses could be opened to the
public under the auspices of the (National Trust) Commission
or the Georgian Society . thus setting a standard of appear-
ance and furnishings."
A vernacular style.
From beginnings inspired by the Georgian period in England
(circa. 1702 to 1810) architecture in Jamaica as exemplified
by country and town houses developed in a distinct manner of
its own, based on classic forms and.elements.
By this time in England domestic architecture had become
Altenheim House (left) on King Street, a striking mid-18th
century brick house, and adjoining (right) a delightful small
house in brick and timber of a later period. Observe the brick
parapet, rainwater pipes, and window 'coolers' on Altenheim,
and the intriguing fretwork to the verandahs and bargeboards of
the later residence.
somewhat standardised; the spirit of rest, essential in home
building, had been captured in the design of houses and furni-
ture, and this found expression in the architecture of the colonies
where it was carried by owners and craftsmen using accepted
plan forms, and details of doors, windows, staircases, cornices
and other features taken from pattern books produced by
architects and craftsmen in England.
The 18th century house plan followed two main types; the
simple block, employed in town and country, with hall and
staircase usually in the centre and rooms on either side, and the
central block with wings. Good examples of these can be seen
in Jamaica in a number of old houses such as New Hope,near
Brown's Town in St-Ann,and Annandale, also in St. Ann two
charming country houses from the mid-eighteenth century of
the block plan type with a central hall (at Annandale the stairs
A strong and emphatic, if somewhat austere, facade presents
this 18th century house to the onlooker of White Church
Street. Note the contrasting glazed sliding sashes and timber
louvres, stone plinth and brick panels.
House on Monk Street. The lower storey has been filled in,
with not a particularly happy effect. Hoods to first floor
window 'coolers' were originally covered in shingles. Cor-
rugated iron has replaced shingles for roof covering, partly
because of fire hazard and cost of insurance.
are on one side). Rose Hall has a central block with wings, and
a handsome staircase at one end of an entrance hall in the main
block. It is fortunate that this fine mansion has found a new
owner with sufficient interest (and funds!) to restore such an
important 18th century great house to its former splendour,
and to put the place on show to visitors complete with furniture
and fittings; the result is striking and impressive.
Marlborough, in the Manchester hills (circa. 1797) is
another example of the central block, with wing pavilions
connected by open walkways in line with the main house. At
Rose Hall the wings are connected by curved covered ways,
running to the rear of the central block.
Altenheim House, immediately south of Old King's House
in Spanish Town, dating from mid-eighteenth century, is a
White Church Street, south-east entry to civic square. Here
metal louvres on the lower floor have replaced traditional
sliding sashes and timber louvres, and iron roofing in place of
shingles has altered the appearance of this prominent small
dignified town house built In brick, with a parapet and pitched
roof, reminiscent of the Queen Ante or early Georgian style.
This is one of the best specimens of town building in the
Island, standing in fair condition 'in contrast to the rapid
deterioration of brickwork in Old King's House, of about the
same date. The house is of the rectangular block type, with
outbuildings at the rear and a small garden within a brick wall
at the front. It displays the window 'cooler' typical of 18th
and 19th century houses in Jamaica, an arrangement of louvres
set in a frame projecting from the wall, thus allowing the main
sash to be opened to give: light and air, with privacy
Durham House, a pri'ater-tsidence in White Church Street,
Spanish Town is another 18th century brick building of
character and distinction, still in use. The entrance front has
has been filled-in with a trellis pattern, probably not part of
the original design butt which in no way detracts from the
charm of this old structure. Similar examples are to be found
along this street, in the adjoining Red Church Street and Monk
Street, and dotted here and there in parts of Spanish Town -
all of them, alas, under threat of the demolition gang unless
something can be done, soon, to save them for future genera-
tions to see and enjoy.
The Jamaican vernacular, what has been called 'Jamaican
Georgian', evolved from massive structures typified by Colbeck
Castle and Stokes Hall, with their thick stone walls set solidly
M Typical small house of one floor at the front, rising higher at
the rear, White Church Street. Note the traditional brick
boundary wall on the opposite side of the road, and the old
brick kitchen chimney stack in the middle distance.
N Martin Street. Note the delicate fretwork pattern of balcony
rail and at eaves. Observe also, with sorrow, the corrugated
iron roof, and plaster coating over ground floor panelling.
0 White Church Street, south-east approach to civic square. One
of the best old houses in Spanish Town, its charm has been
wrecked by thoughtless changes in materials; corrugated iron
disfigures part of the shingled roof, and plaster covers original
timber panels under windows, which are now glass blades
instead of the traditional timber louvres and sliding sashes. It
would however be comparatively simple to restore these original
P Durham House, White Church Street. A simple, dignified mid-
18th century house, still in use as a private residence. Some
changes have been made to the verandah on upper floor, with
out detriment to the elevational pattern. The ubiquitous
modern iron roof succeeds in destroying some of the charm of
this fine structure.
upon the ground, fortified (as at Stokes Hall) to resist attack,
into a lighter and more graceful brick or brick and timber
building, usually on two floors with a verandah on the frbnt,
sometimes carried around the sides. Roofs were shingled, and
ingeniously contrived in ground plan to present attractive
elevational patterns. The town house, large and small, was
built with an honest directness in construction, either entirely
in timber or a combination of stone or brick for substructure
with timber posts,beams, panels, cornice and louvred windows,
otten with the 'cooler' earlier mentioned A favoured device,
and a distinctive feature of town houses, was to alternate
sliding sash glazed windows in a pattern with fixed or movable
louvres, of which many examples remain in Spanish Town,
Falmouth, St. Ann's Bay, parts of Kingston and throughout
the country. Devon House, St. Andrew, (1881), recently re-
stored by the Jamaica National Trust Commission, is an out-
standing mansion exhibiting these characteristic details.
The use of hand-hewn shingles of native cedar became
customary for roofing, and great skill was displayed in decora-
tive fretwork to timber eaves and barge-boards. Verandah
railings in timber were cut and fixed with intricate fret
arrangements, and graceful wrought ironwork was also used
for balconies and external stairways. Floors were boarded and
highly polished, and many of the superb Jamaican timbers
were used for panelled doors, window reveals, and dadoes,
and for furniture in beds, sideboards, tables and chairs.
Life in a Town House
In the houses cooking was usually done in a kitchen de-
tached from the main block connected by a covered way (cf.
Altenheim House)- Sanitary arrangements were primitive, and
it was often wise to be on the alert to avoid possible damage
from water thrown out of upper windows! According to one
writer there was still to be seen in Falmouth in 1937 "a house
where washing water from the upstairs bedrooms is disposed
of by the simple method of pouring it into an open hopper
beneath the windows". Pit latrines were commonly 'up the
garden path', and it was necessary to carry a light when using
this important part of the house at night.
Carpets appear not to have been used very much, the
timber floors being polished by scrubbing with wax and
brushes made of coconut husks. Larger houses occasionally
had crystal or brass chandeliers, and lighting generally was by
candles on sconces or tables- A beautiful brass chandelier
from King's House at Spanish Town is now over the staircase
in the museum building of the Institute of Jamaica, Kingston,
and another, dated 1723, hangs in St. Peter's Church at Port
Privacy does not seem to have been a major consideration,
as partitions between bedrooms were not invariably carried
up to ceilings, no doubt for improved ventilation. Four-poster
beds were high and broad, with mosquito nets where desirable
for comfortable sleeping. Bed-posts,like most other furniture,
were made from Jamaican mahogany, often turned and elabor-
ated with simple carved motifs (such as a pineapple).
Furniture generally, whether from England or made locally
by indentured craftsmen, was large and well constructed,
especially in the houses of more important citizens. Plate and
china were put on display, and the larger town and country
homes had an air of distinguished well-being. In two-floored
houses, what in Jamaica is called an 'upstairs house', living
and bed rooms were often on the first floor, using the ground
floor rooms for stores and servants. Where servants quarters
were not on the lower house floor, they were usually in a
detached block adjacent to or part of the kitchen.
Houses in Spanish Town a plea for preservation.
Enthusiasm in the colonies for buildings in the Georgian
manner was popular in the 18th and early 19th centuries.
Prints by artists such as Hakewill, Kidd, and Duperl y picture
for us the outward appearance of this handsome, dignified yet
simple architecture, at the same time reminding us how much
fine work has been lost.
Spanish Town, with Falmouth and St. Ann's Bay in
particular retain some of this true traditional building which
can, and should, be saved before it is too late. It is imperative
that positive action be taken now, otherwise the danger of
continuing 'surgery' by inconsiderate owners, hazards of
nature and the march of 'progress'will render the task difficult,
if not impossible. The time will come when nothing effective
can be done, and Jamaica will have lost much of historic
interest and value, not only to its people but to visitors con-
cerned with knowing and understanding something of Jamaica's
The Jamaica National Trust Commission, established in
1959, has made a noteworthy start in its formidable responsi-
bility to preserve national monuments for the benefit of the
people. Restoration and putting to social use of late 18th and
19th century buildings at Port Henderson, a village group on
the south coast seven miles from Spanish Town, completed in
1964 has provided a striking illustration of the valuable con-
tribution a preservationist body can make to the public welfare
in restoring a place of historic interest for recreation and
enjoyment of residents and visitors. Another restoration
recently completed, Devon House in St. Andrew, mentioned
earlier, has already become a centre of cultural interest for
Jamaicans and visitors, one place in the capital that has quickly
established itself as an important tourist attraction.
It should be realized, however, that the Jamaica National
Trust Commission is not limited in its task to any particular
part of the Island, and that its future programme for conserva-
tion and restoration is country-wide. In the special case of
Spanish Town, the Commission has endorsed the recommend-
ations made by UNESCO consultants in the report of Septem-
ber, 1969 referred to in this article, particularly in regard to
the establishing of historic areas for preservation, which would
include the Cathedral, Civic Square, areas adjacent to the
square embracing 18th and 19th century houses, and the
graceful cast-iron bridge over the Rio Cobre close to the
cathedral, an early 19th century structure believed to be the
oldest in the hemisphere.
The time has not yet come when we must sigh alas, too
late to save for future generations something of value from
what is left of the rich storehouse of Jamaica's architectural
heritage. Let us act now!
All photographs unless otherwise credited are by Patrick Harty,
and are printed by courtesy of the Jamaica Tourist Board.
by George R. Proctor
If you look at a map of the region between the two American
continents, you will see that Jamaica occupies a nearly central
position with over-all respect to the West Indies and Central
America. Because of its position, as well as its resources,
development and potential, Jamaica can expect to play an
expanding role on the Caribbean stage. Among other things,
this means that the example we set will in all sorts of ways have
an influence beyond our own shores. In the field of conservation,
which really means protection of our natural environment from
destruction, we are not yet providing the leadership or example
that we could. In many ways, from the wanton cutting of
roadside trees to the destruction of mountain woodland, we are
The Sundew (Drosera) doing our best (worst?) to provide a bad example! However,
n i natural haba a small start is now being made to try and save some of what is
in its natural habitat. left of our environmental heritage.
If you look at a map of Jamaica, and allow your eyes to
wander from towns and well-known localities to the remote but
central border region between the parishes of Clarendon and
St. Ann, you may perhaps detect the name 'Mason River' in
very small print. More likely, it will not be marked at all. Yet
this tiny site, obscure though it is now, may prove to occupy a
central position in the current struggle to.conserve some of
Jamaica's unique but fast-disappearing natural resources.
Mason River is a little district lying about four miles by road
northwest of the town of Kellits. At a height of a little over
2200 feet above sea-level, it occupies a short segment of a
gently-undulating strip of country that separates the rough
limestone hills of St. Ann from the deeply-eroded valleys of
upper Clarendon. Some old maps of the region call the district
'Pedro Morass' because it was erroneously supposed to be
drained by the Pedro River to the east; in fact, the drainage
(though sluggish) mostly seeps northward to form a meandering
stream called the Blue or Mason River, which disappears under-
ground beneath the St. Ann hills. This whole strip of country,
extending west to the Cave Valley area, is tilted slightly to the
S north, and the line of Jamaica's main watershed follows along
its rather devious southern edge. Until a time still within the
memory of the oldest inhabitants, much of the Mason River
S "* area remained chiefly in natural forest, interrupted here and
there by swampy glades and bogs, but during the past 20 years
it has rapidly become denuded. This process has been greatly
accelerated by the penetration of new roads, however rough.
fToday, Mason River and surrounding districts are almost entirely
under cultivation. Fields of sugar-cane, yams, dasheen, lettuce,
cabbages, and beets, with an occasional patch of ginger or
Bananas, form a rich mosaic, accented by occasional fruit-trees
and the small houses of a numerous population.
A visitor to the Mason River area can easily admire the
appearance of fruitfulness as he breathes the crisp, clean air.
Here is a place where maximum use of the land is apparently
being made! Perhaps he can ignore the absence of paved roads,
electricity, and other amenities; possibly he won't notice here
and there (but more especially farther west) the terrible gully
Erosion that the Forest Department is trying to check; and al-
most certainly he will have no inkling of the fascinating natural
vegetation (now nearly extinct) that once flourished on this
spot. The same visitor will surely feel happy seeing the friendly
smiles of the farmers and their numerous children, not knowing
that most of them can't read or write, and that nearly all must
/ walk long distances to catch a little water from a spring or pipe.
View west from Staff House at Mason River, showing plumes of Andropogon, a tall grass.
Nevertheless, development and improvement not necessarily
the same thing are surely coming to Mason River. I have
found it an interesting experience to be somewhat involved in
My notice was first attracted to Mason River about the
middle of November, 1956. One day, Dr. Ray Loveless then
a Lecturer in Botany at the University came rather excitedly
into my office to show me some plants he had found the day
before. These included examples of an insect-catching plant
called the Sundew and a strange fern called Schizaea, both
representing species never before found in Jamaica. He wanted
their identity confirmed, and told me how they had been
found. It seems that he and Prof. A.D. Skelding had, with some
difficulty, penetrated the Mason River district in search of a
mysterious bog that appeared on an aerial photograph. They
had found the bog after a rough and circuitous ride over un-
paved roads to the village of McNie, followed by a hike of more
than a mile over a meandering, muddy track. After hearing
Dr. Loveless' account, naturally I was eager to visit the same
place, for it was evident that this was an important discovery
Soon (on November 22, 1956) my botanical study of the
locality began. Little did I guess then how many hundreds of
times I would eventually make that trip!
It would take more space than Jamaica Journal can allow to
tell in detail the story of botanical exploration in the Mason
River area. One of the first problems was to find a place to stay
overnight, for it was too long a trip to travel from Kingston and
back in one day, and still leave enough time to accomplish
much. In those days, one had to walk in from McNie, and
hiking took up a good deal of time. Then I found that a family
in the district was related to an employee in my office, and so
it came about that Mr. Cyril Moody and his family provided
hospitality on many occasions. Through the Moodys I gradually
became acquainted with numerous people in the district, and
was constantly amazed at their cheerfulness and fortitude in
the face of serious problems.
During this period, which lasted several years one incident
is still vividly recalled. Not far from Mr. Moody's farm was a
patch, a mere remnant, of the original forest covering in all not
more than an acre or two. It was surrounded by more or less
cultivated open land and was obviously in danger. Many ex-
tremely rare and interesting plants (including Jamaica's smallest
orchid)l grew in this woodland, and I got the idea that if I
could acquire control of it by lease or purchase, it might be
possible to save it from destruction. I located the owner, who
told me she had promised to lease it to a farmer whose land
adjoined, but I could have it if he was willing to give it up. So
I went to the farmer, and got a real shock. Not only would he
not give it up, but he boasted that he was going to cut down
every stick of that woodland! And he did, too. There is no
trace of that lovely thicket today; its site is now just another
open piece of ground.
It was probably about that time that I began to notice how
fast all of the natural vegetation was being nibbled away, a patch
here, a plot there, and it was clear that in a few more years
there would be nothing left except a few dried herbarium
specimens. Meanwhile, the list of botanical discoveries had
become rather impressive. Several species of shrub new to
science had been found, and at least a dozen plants otherwise
unknown in Jamaica had been revealed. Prof. Skelding and I
had begun a detailed study of the largest remaining tract, and
in the summer of 1959 we presented a joint paper on our find-
ings at the International Botanical Congress held at Montreal.
Later, in the winter of 1962, I had the privilege of describing
the Mason River vegetation to a meeting of the Linnaean
Society of London.
After my return from England in June, 1962, I resumed
my visits to Mason River, continuing to build up our collection
of dried plant specimens, striving in this way to preserve a
permanent and accurate record of this unique but apparently
doomed habitat. Some time during the following year, I heard
a rumor that the very same tract being studied by Prof. Skelding
and myself ws up for sale! Investigations proved the rumor true,
and as soon as possible I began to have discussions with the
owner, Mr. Harry Atkinson (now M.P. for Northeastern
Clarendon), and with my own superiors at the Institute. A
strong case for purchase was presented, and eventually, on
November 5, 1963, the land was acquired by the National Trust
Commission and later turned over to the custody of the Institute.
The prelude was over, and the main work could begin.
photo by the Author
The parcel of land which is now Mason River Field Station
in all comprises about 202 acres. The southern half is in
Clarendon, while the northern portion is in St. Ann, although
no two survey maps show the boundary in the same place.
(For purposes of our botanical records, all specimens from the
Station, for the sake of simplicity, are attributed to Clarendon;
outside the Station a more rigorous attention to parish bound-
aries is normally observed.) A public road now crosses the
property approximately where the former muddy track used to
meander, so that cars can now drive where botanists and donkeys
used to flounder. The Station lands are divided, like Gaul, into
three parts. The main division, which is fenced (but not as well
as it should be!) for better protection, consists of 118 acres of
of more or less natural vegetation, including the original bog
that led to the locality's discovery in 1956. This is the heart
of the Station, its raison d'etre.
A much smaller division of 36 acres, which lies wholly south
of the public road, has been left unfenced and unprotected as a
"control", so that we can better measure and compare any
ecologic changes taking place in the nearby protected area. I
should probably mention that there is considerable local mis-
understanding about this piece of land, and it has not been easy
to explain to people who want and need land for cultivation
that it is precisely its unused and unprotected condition that gives
it value as part of the Station. We have had to turn down many
applications for the rental or sale of parts of this tract; however
much of it has very poor, marly soil and would not support
productive cultivation in any case. Near its northwestern corner
flows a lovely clear spring, and most of the families in the
neighborhood send their children here for buckets of drinking-
water. On the other side, beside the lower eastern boundary,
the same spring gushes forth again (after following a hidden
course underground through a series of small caverns), and there
forms a deepish pool much frequented for the taking of baths.
I suppose this must be counted as one of the joys of country
The third division of the Station consists of several pieces of
quite good agricultural land, around 48 acres in all. This part
is of no botanical interest, all the natural vegetation having long
since been destroyed, and up to this writing we have been
leasing it out to a local farmer. This is supposed to provide a
little income for upkeep of the Station.
Strawberry Guava (Psidium), a Brizilian shrub, long
naturalized in Mason River thickets. Gleaner Photo
When we had decided on the above subdivision of the land,
a proper survey was carried out; the next step was to build a
house to shelter staff and official visitors to the Station. With
help from the Ministry of Housing, a small concrete house was
erected and simply but adequately furnished; this was eventually
completed during the early months of 1966. In July of the
same year a weather station was established with the assistance
of the Meteorological Office, and since that time daily observa-
tions have been made, so that at last we are getting accurate data
on rainfall and temperatures from this locality. Finally, a
caretaker or 'headman' was appointed to help supervise and
protect the property, and a headman's house was built adjacent
to the other one early in 1967. The post of 'headman', more
recently upgraded to that of 'warden', has been filled since
June, 1967, by Mr. Prince Gilzene.
photo by the Author Ouratea, a yellow-flowered shrub occurring at Mason River.
stretching away nearly a mile to the wooded rocky hills of St.
Ann, the monotony only slightly relieved here and there by
taller bushes of different sorts. It is only by examining the
details at close range that the true rich variety of the vegetation
becomes evident. So far, we have catalogued some 380 species
of flowering plants and ferns from this small area! Many of
these are not terribly exciting to look at, and I suppose it is
necessary to confess that there are numerous plants so outward-
ly drab that only a botanist or perhaps an insect could love them.
There are others, though, which through beauty of flower or
leaf-texture must surely excite the admiration of anyone who
sees them. One of the most bizarre plants at the Station is, of
course, the insectivorous Sundew,l and perhaps it would be
worthwhile to say a little more about it.
Carnivorous plants, of which there are a fair number of
species scattered about the world, are in many cases inhabitants
of acid soils deficient in nitrogen, an element necessary to life.
Unlike other plants, they havd apparently solved their nitrogen
problem by getting it from the bodies of insects which they
catch. A wide variety of insect-catching devices have been
developed in different plants. Our Sundew (which belongs to a
species also occurring in Florida, Cuba, Trinidad, and a few other
places)2has small roundish leaf-blades covered with relatively
long hairs, each hair tipped by a glistening sticky droplet secret-
ed from within the hair. A small, weakish insect like a gnat or
midge has only to touch one or two of these droplets to become
entrapped as if by glue. When this happens, the leaf gradually
curls to a certain extent, so that many of the droplet-tipped
hairs come in contact with the insect, which soon dies. The
droplets contain digestive enzymes which help to dissolve the
nutritious parts of the insect, and the enriched fluid is then re-
absorbed back into the plant, a feast fit for a Sundew. These
plants are really quite small, for all their dangerous habits, and
non-botanists are often disappointed when first seeing them.
The legend of gigantic man-eating plants dies hard!
A wild Evening Primrose (Ludwigia), spreads showy yellow
Wet boggy thickets often have a dense growth of Lycopodium, flowers above the Mason River bog. Gleaner Photo
a primitive spore-bearing plant. photo by the Author .,
Meanwhile, during all this period, a network of trails was
gradually cut in order to provide easy access to all Station
habitats, and at the same time eliminate random trampling of
the plants by visitors. The total length of the trails, if laid end
to end (perish the thought), is about two miles. They have to be
thoroughly cleaned once or twice a year.
A detailed botanical description of Mason River Field
Station is, of course, beyond the scope of this article. A visitor
to the Station, however, must not expect to see anything so
dramatic as a stately forest, for such has long since disappeared,
destroyed by random cutting and careless burning over a period
of many years. Even as recently as ten years ago, fire swept
across the bog area during a time of drought. One of our chief
concerns today is to keep fire out of the protected -reserve;
visitors are even requested not to smoke, because one careless
match could destroy the growth of years. We knoiv that the
original forest here contained many large trees, riot only because
the oldest inhabitants still remember them, but also because we
still occasionally find old logs or stumps of considerable size.
The roots of a few of these trees are still alive, and are even
now sending up new shoots. In fact, as far as we can tell, all
the species which made up the original forest still grow here,
and one of the longterm projects of the Station is to study the
process of forest regeneration under these conditions. When I
first saw this tract, the tallest tree was an isolated Roystonea
palm about 60 or 70 feet tall, but even this relict had'been
destroyed by the time the Station was established. However,
Roystonea is a forest palm, and the height of that one example
probably gives a good indication of where the forest canopy
If you stand on an elevated spot near the Staff House and
look out to the northward,, the impression gained is of a flattish
but somewhat undulating expanse of low, scrubby vegetation
1. Lepanthopsis microlepanthes
2. Drosera capillaris
Gleaner Photo The Soapwood Tree (Clethra), bears fragrant spikes of bell- shaped white flowers.
The soil of the Station is so obviously well-suited to the
Sundew that it soon occurred to us that other types of insecti-
vorous plants might also flourish there if given a chance. Last
November we were given an opportunity to-find out, when an
American botanist sent us living examples of the famous Venus
The Staff House at Mason River with Dr. Robert Read, a
specialist in the study of palms; weather screen in foreground.
Flytrap3 and one of the species of Pitcher-plant4 from North
Carolina. These were planted out in a suitable place, and I am
glad to report that they are flourishing I predict that a good
many visitors will be coming to Mason River to see these plants!
I could ramble on at considerable length about some of the
other interesting plants or events at Mason River Field Station,
but if I use up all the anecdotes now, they might not be so useful
for another occasion! The main object of the present article is
not to give a course in nature-study, but to illustrate some of
the problems facing the would-be conservationist in Jamaica. In
this one example, we have had some very lucky breaks, and now
have the opportunity to learn how to develop and administer
a protected habitat under Jamaican conditions. Little points
like not using wooden fence-posts (people steal them for fire-
wood) are often learned only the hard way. Good relations
with the local community are naturally essential, and in fact we
find a sort of two-way educational process developing, with
benefits to all concerned. I know that at Mason River I have
been learning that true conservation involves people as well as
plants. It is my hope that we can apply this lesson in the future
development of a National Park system for Jamaica. We may
yet begin to set a good example for the other Caribbean
Towards the Interpretation of
Folk Dance as a Cultural Process B syvia wynter
"We have for a long time cherished the desire to bring to
the eyes of the Haitian people the value of their folklore ...
By a disconcerting paradox, these people who had ... the
most moving history in the world ... that of the transplanta-
tion of a human race unto a stranger soil, in the worst pos-
sible biological conditions, now display a badly concealed
embarrassment, even shame, to hear speak of their distant
J. PRICE MARS of Haiti writing in 1927.
To touch on any aspect of folklore in Caribbean societies is to
touch on a complex subject; and one that has been, until now,
relatively little researched. The Englishspeaking Caribbean, even more
than the other islands, has ignored to a large extent the need for any
such study It is part of the complexity of the subject that the tacit
avoidance of serious investigations itself posits certain fundamental
assumptions with regard to folklore assumptions which are them-
selves part and parcel of the tragic ambivalence of our societies. The
very act of considering Jamaican folklore to be in need of specialist
research in related fields, is itself an approach both to the awareness
of, and possible resolution of this ambivalence.
The magnitude and importance of our theme forces us to delimit
the areas to be examined in this article:
We propose to:
a) Offer a thesis with regards to, and attempt an interpretation of, the
Jonkonnu folkdance as agent and product of a cultural process
which we shall identify and explore as a process of indigenization.
b) Tabulate the survivals of folkdance in Jamaica, briefly relating
them to the cultural process.
But before we examine these areas, we propose by way of intro-
duction to place our subject in a general context of cultural change.
Professor R. Coulthard, in several books and articles, has explored
the cultural movements known as 'negritude'and indigenismo'. In
his book Race and Colour in Caribbean Literature (1958) he identifies
Price Mars, the Haitian ethnologist, as the source and fount of the
movement which would be known as Inegritude' He writes:
"In 1927, there appeared a book which was to leave a profound
and lasting imprint on Haitian culture. I refer to 'Ainsi parla 'Oncle'
of Jean Price Mars. Price Mars'purpose in this book was to rehabili-
tate and revalue the African elements of Haitian life. To this end he
first analyses the civilizations of Africa, correcting the idea that the
Africans were savages, and afterwards explored popular beliefs, folk-
dances, folk tales and Haitian superstitions all of African origin. "
The book was a cultural breakthrough of great significance. For the
first time young Haitian writers tore their eyes from France and, in
looking at their own folklore, saw with surprise the roots of their
being. It was in examining their Haitian roots that they crossed time
and space, breaking through the curtain of silence and shame behind
which their African heritage had been concealed. The most fiery
prophet of the new movement negritude Aime' Cesaire of
Martinique, in his famous Discourse on Colonialism, related the degra-
dation and destruction of cultures to the European process of coloniza-
tion. Africans, of French Africa, led by the Sengalese writer-
politician, Leopold Sedar Senghor, saw, too, that the same process of
destruction through contempt had taken place on that continent. As
Cesaire was to put it, the Europeans had used culture and the idea of
culture as part of the technique which they employed to exploit the
non-Europeans of the world. 'The idea of the savage black", Cesaire
said, "is a European idea."
What Cesaire was in the intellectual and cultural field, Marcus
Garvey of Jamaica was in the political-agitational field. His great
organization based in the United States and his massive plans for a
physical return to Africa comprised the corollary of the spiritual and
intellectual return of the negritudee' movement. While his movement
failed, it had shaken up the fantasy and stirred the imagination of
millions of black 'folk' in the United States and the Caribbean. His
movement awakened an awareness of Africa, a revaluation of Africa,
and a sense of pride in the past, whose myth had been used to keep
black people in servitude and self-contempt. This started the process
which has led in a direct line to the present Black Power movement.
But negritudee' was a movement of artists and intellectuals. It has sur-
vived in the present Black Power movement in those aspects which lay
stress on black studies; the need for a revaluation and renaissance of
It is this aspect that ties up with the paradox that lies at the heart of
the Price Mars thesis the paradox that concerns us most nearly. For
Price Mars' thesis implies that the study of the African heritage in
Haiti does not make a Haitian an African, but paradoxically returns
him to his Haitian roots. And he singles out with amazement a cul-
tural process which has been taken for granted, or largely ignored.
How can Haitians, he asked, not glory in such a history, a unique his-
tory "the transplantation of a human race unto a stranger soil, in the
worst possible biological conditions"? That this transplantation had
taken root and grown was the clearest testimony to the strength and
creativity of African cultures. Yet it was this very creativity and
strength on which young Haitians, in fief to the values of the Western
world, turned their backs.
After Haiti's successful war of Independence against the French,
she was faced with the problem of founding a new state based on free
labour, of creating a new nation. The easiest way out was to copy the
model of her former masters. She succeeded.
Haitians became magnificent coloured Frenchmen, says Price Mars,
but by an implacable logic "to the same degree we unlearnt how to be
Haitians, that is t to say, how to be men born in determined historical
conditions, having garnered in their souls, a complex psychology,
which gives to the Haitian community its specific physiognomy." In
unlearning how to be Haitians, Haitians came to regard themselves
with European eyes. And, in these eyes, according to Price Mars, "the
Negroes were the refuse of humanity, without history, without morals,
without religion ... in whom it was necessary to infuse. .. new moral
values, a new human investiture. With this premise, the conclusion
was inevitable: "From then on, says Price Mars, "all that is authenti-
cally indigenous language, customs, feelings, beliefs, became suspect
stained with bad taste in the eyes of the elite....
The official culture of free and independent Haiti excluded, with
contempt, Haitian folklore. To revalue Haitian folklore was to strike
at the heart of the official and elite ideology. Price Mars was aware of
the danger. The reader, he said, would see clearly how dangerous it
was to discuss Haitian folklore with a Haitian audience; nor was he
sanguine that a creative and thorough revaluation would ever take
place. He saw his book as a beginning, rather than a solution. And he
argued that the study of Haitian folklore had its importance for Man-
kind as a whole. The Haitians are a handful of people, he says, "but
our presence on a spot of that American archipelago which we have
'humanized' the breach which we made in the process of historical
events to snatch our place among men "was worthy of study, in order
that it could be situated "within the common life of man on the planet."
Folklore was the record, the living testimony of the roots that the
Haitian people had put down in a 'stranger soil' which, by reason of
these roots, was now theirs.
Price Mars' book "opened the floodgates of the Africanization of
Haitian art", as Professor Coulthard puts it. Which was, far more fun-
damentally, the 'Haitianization' of Haitian art. The Haitian version of
African religions voodoo, was revalued by writers like Lorimer Denis
and Franqois Duvalier, Christianity with its sole claim to revelation,
was attacked. But, because of the peculiar conditions of Caribbean
history, a cultural revaluation trapped by past racial definitions of
Europe, now itself became trapped in racial -and ultimately reaction-
ary categories of thought and language, and entered a blind alley.
The cultural revolution bogged down.
The cultural problem of folklore, and its revaluation, extends far
wider than the Caribbean.
"The words negritudee' and 'indigenismo' ... do not lend them-
selves to an easy one word translation into English. They are in fact
convenient labels used to summarize complex racial cultural pheno-
mena which have emerged from non-English speaking societies. 1
Both.movements spring from "colonialization. and the assumption
of racial and cultural superiority of the colonizers'" The main func-
tion of both, Coulthard suggests, is the "loosening of the strangle hold
of European or 'Western '(and this includes the United States) culture,
weakening the prestige of European civilization with its claims to
exclusive cultural tutelage, and the affirmation ofa new and distinc-
tive cultural perspective based on native and often racial foundations. '2
Coulthard traces the conquest by Spain of the main indigenous
Amerindian civilizations of the American continent. He examines the
imposition of the Roman Catholic religion, and the total condemna-
tion of all other 'native religions' as works of the Devil. And he quotes
an early Spanish theorist Gines de Sepulveda who argued that the
Spaniards had a right to enslave the Indians because the latter were
culturally inferior. The quotation from Sepulveda is paradigmatic of
the whole complex line of justification which the followers of Christ
would use in order to deny his teachings. Above all, for our purposes,
it illustrates the use of 'culture' as a weapon of domination; and de-
fines the posture of European civilization in relation to all oral cul-
tures. Above all it foreshadows that total dismissal of folklore as
'culture'; a dismissal which is still widespread, and which indeed is
part of the ambivalence of Jamaicans towards their folklore. The
assumptions of Sepulveda are still widely acceptable.
"Now compare," he writes, "those gifts of prudence, sharpness of
wit,magnanimity temperance, humanity and religion (of the Spaniards)
with those of those little men (homunculi) in whom you will hardly
find a trace of humanity. They have no culture, no system of writing
(nor do they) preserve monuments of their history; they have the
vaguest obscure memory of facts recorded in certain pictures, they
lack written laws and have barbarous institutions and customs. "
Culture and humanity resided in writing. Without writing there was
a void. The oral culture of the indigenous civilizations was 'barbarous'
i.e. Non-European. By a process of repetition 'humanity' came to be
synonymous with Europeans, and European culture.
The Spaniards did to the Amerindians in their own continent, what
many European nations did to the Africans in theirs. In both countries
then, an approach to independence was at once linked with the re-
yaluation ot their indigenous cultures. Senghor, ardent exponent of
negritudee', which began in the Caribbean, was at the same time part of
the indigenist movement of Africa. Both peoples had been alienated
from their cultures, their roots and their being in their own lands. Both
movements, in Latin America and in Africa, would begin with a re-
habilitation of ancient Amerindian and African cultures.
Caribbean men and the American Negro represented a more complex
phenomenon. Alienated from Africa, their movement of negritudee'
was a spiritual return to Africa, a gathering together of all the peoples
of the black diaspora whether alienated in space, time or degree. This
is the movement which Cesaire spearheaded; and in which he was
joined by Senghor and many others. But Price Mars represented more
clearly, with his study of folklore, a negritude which was indigenist.
For the more total alienation of the New World Negro had occasioned
a cultural response, which had transformed that New World Negro into
the indigenous inhabitant of his new land. His cultural resistance to
colonialism in this new land was an indigenous resistance. The history
of the Caribbean islands is, in large part, the history of the indigenization
of the black man. And this history is a cultural history not in
'writing', but of those 'homunculi' who humanize the landscape by
peopling it with gods and spirits, with demons and duppies, with all the
rich panoply of man's imagination.
"Folksongs tell the human story in a way which the historian
never learns. "3
But then even history has been partly trapped in the conflict be-
tween the official culture of the Caribbean, and the unofficial and
excluded culture. To a large extent, history has dealt with the official
culture in official categories of thought. History has mainly been about
the European super structure of civilization. Yet, in the interstices of
history, we see, in glimpses, evidences of a powerful and pervasive
cultural process which has largely determined the unconscious springs
of our beings; a process which we shall identify and explore as the
process of 'idigenization"' a process whose agent and product was
Jamaican folklore, folksong, folk-tales, folk-dance.
"Ohonam mu nni nhanoa"
The spirit of Man is without boundaries.
"First of all get a house and a woman and an oxe for the
HESIOD, Works and Days.
"When a planter hath purchased some 20, 30-or more Negro
slaves, he first gives to each man a wife without which they
will not be content or work. Then he gives to each man and
his wife an half acre of land for them to plant for themselves
S. maize, potatoes, yam etc.; which land they clear (in
their Leisure hours) and build them a wigwam on it, and then
plant it as fast as thLy can ..."
(JOHN TAYLOR, Writing from Port Royal, Jamaica in 1685)
From John Taylor's seventeenth century description of the slave
pattern in Jamaica, it is clear that the process of adaptation from one
peasant society in Africa to another, part similar, part different, was
already established. To persuade the African to fulfill his purpose of
growing cane and making sugar, the Planter was being forced to make
certain vital concessions to the former cultural pattern of the latter.
True, the observant Taylor goes on to point out that the Planter was
dominated by an economic motive.
The development of this pattern, where the slave became part-slave
in relation to the European plantation, and part-peasant in relation to
the plot of land on which he fed himself and his family, was, in
Jamaica, the crucial factors in the indigenization process.
If we examine the circumstances of this process we shall understand
something of the complexity and contradiction that still remain at its
heart. What Elder calls the "Negro struggle to sing and dance" was
central to this process of adaptation. Why was this so?
"The indigenous race is a race of agriculturalists."
"But what is Culture? In effect it is the result of a double
effort of the integration of Man with Nature and Nature
(Leopold Sedar Senghor)
Senghor, in his Essay on the Problem of Culture, argues that Man
adapts himself to his physical milieu, and this milieu helps to inform
not only his social and economic structures, but even his art and
philosophy. But, by an inverse movement, Man also transforms
Nature by adapting it to his own exigencies. It is this double, dual
relation that lies or rather lay at the heart of the creation of all
cultures, until the unique Western experience. For, Senghor seems to
imply, the great expansion of Western civilization, "an economic and
instrumental civilization, could make us believe that one part of the
process, the transformation of Nature by Man is the very essence of
We propose that this break in thought, attitude and relation, by
which a dual and oscillatory process was replaced by the singleminded
conquest of Nature by Western Man, began with the discovery of the
New World. Or, if it did not begin, a quantitative change brought a
qualitative change in emphasis. For it is with the discovery of the
New World and its vast exploitable lands that the process which has
been termed "The reduction of Man to Labour and of Nature to Land
under the impulsion of the market economy .. "4 really had its
large-scale beginning. For the European, alien to the New World,
Nature became land; and land, if it were to be exploited, needed not
men essentially, but so many units of labour power.
Slavery was not new. What was new was a relation. In the ancient
world, the Mediterranean, Asia, Africa, America itself, slavery was a
long established fact. But there, "Even when defined as chattels and
cruelly treated, slaves were looked upon as a normal class within the
body politic.'5 They were part of the social order.- And the social
order took precedence over all else,including the'economic motive. In
America, and even more especially in British America, the economic
motive became the impulse of the. society.
This 'new economics', which reached its peak with the Industrial
Revolution, was created on the blank palimpsest of the New World,
especially on the islands of the English Caribbean. The societies
created in Jamaica by the planters and merchants were societies
created only as 'an adjunct to the market' The relation of the planters
and merchants to Nature in the Caribbean was a relation only of
dominance. It was not white man, black man, or Indian man, but
labour that mattered. Taylor tells us of the brutal treatment meted
out by planters in seventeenth century Jamaica to white indentured
servants. Every ounce of labour was dragged out of them. Since they
would be free after four years they were cared for worse, and fed
worse than the Negro slaves. They were deprived of all customs that
could have social significance; of traditions that had given them signi-
ficance as men.
If the European presence in the New World represented the tech-
niques of civilization by which Nature J utilised; by which Nature.
becomes 'an instrument of the will to power, by which man enters
into a relation of land-labour-capital, the African presence represented
a paradox and contradiction. For in the scheme of the European
relation he represented both labour and capital. His labour would
make the European civilization a reality. In the three things which
Hesoid points out as necessary to the peasant a house, a woman and
an oxe for the plough, we see that, as Taylor told us, the house, the
plot and the woman were provided. In this sense the African slave was
peasant. His relation with Nature would remain that of peasant from
It would be the double relation in which he adapted himself to
Nature and transformed Nature. Out of this relation, in which the
land was always the Earth, the centre of a core of beliefs and attitudes,
would come the central pattern which held together the social order.
In this aspect of the relation, the African slave represented an opposing
process to that of the European,who achieved great technical progress
based on the primary accumulation of capital which came from the
dehumanization of Man and Nature. In general, he remained a tran-
sient, a frequent absentee, his society without roots in the new soil.
The African presence, on the other hand, dehumanized Nature, and
helped to save his own humanity against the constant onslaught of the
plantation system by the creation of a folklore and folk-culture. On
the other hand, he himself served as the ox for the plough of the
plantation system which brought about the technical conquest of
Nature. He was, therefore, involved in a dual role, ambivalent between
two contradictory processes.
The history of folk-culture in Jamaica is the history of this ambi-
valent relation. Folklore represents the attempt to prolong and re-
create a system in which the community and the society and the
social order is primary; folklore is not only the relation of Man to
Nature but of Man to himself. Folklore was the cultural guerilla
resistance against the Market economy.
The folklore of the Jamaican sprang out of the slave's attempts to
grapple with a new Nature, in a new and complex relation "on a
stranger soil . under the worst possible biological conditions.'
What he retained from his African experience, and what he transformed,
and what he recreated, was determined by this attempt and struggle.
Africans came with the earliest Spanish settlers of the island. As in
the other islands, they became hunters, worked for the Spaniards, yet
also planting their plots and keeping their stock, following the old
African pattern of life, as one Spanish Abbot of the island lamented,
without the Christian sacrament of marriage "bringing up their
children and their chickens as if they were man and wife". But whilst
some Africans, coming, as Herskovitz has pointed out, 'from a social
order (in Africa) whose economy was sufficiently complex to permit
him to meet the disciplinary demands of the plantation system without
any great violation of earlier habit patterns", that is, from relatively
complex agricultural societies, adapted to the transplanted pattern,
others, and especially the Kromanti, i.e. the Ashanti, Fanti many
coming from a highly specialized military caste, began that pattern of
guerilla warfare, of resistance, which is part of the dual pattern of
adaptation-resistance, central to our history.
The escape into the mountainous interior of the island by those
slaves especially the Kromanti who were to become famous as the
Maroons, began early under the Spaniards.
Indians, too, ran away to avoid forced labour, and there, in the
mountainous interior as the two peoples mingled in a common resist-
ance, it is more than possible that the process that Herskovitz defines
as acculturation took place i.e. where two peoples of different cultures
find culture contact points at which fusion and transformation of the
one by the other is achieved.
But increasingly as the Arawak Indians died out, the Maroons
humanized their mountainous interior with adaptations of their own
culture. It is difficult then to speak of acculturation since it was
largely the response of one culture to new conditions. The use of
the word by some Western anthropologists has given a secondary
meaning to the term which we must discard in the early stages of the
Jamaican cultural process. As Redfield points out, to many of these
scholars the term acculturation was seen as a label for
"the modifications of the indigenous life under influences from the
white man's world."
And whilst in the later stages such a term can be used, it is our conten-
tion that the early stages of the process involved the rooting of the
African in the New World; and therefore the process of indigenization.
The English attack and capture of the island in 1655, and the joint
Spanish-African resistance over several years, solidified the Maroon
reality as the indigenous people, now waging a war against the English
invaders. And from details of English clashes with the Maroons, we see
that the latter were organized in settlements which were almost exact
replicas of the pattern of their lives in Africa. The land was tilled,
crops cultivated, religious feasts celebrated with song and dance. There,
they retained African religion, customs, folklore; later, their settle-
ments served as a place of escape for slaves from the plantations.
Linking them together, across space and distance, was the Drum from
Africa, and- the Abeng or Horn, both of which were the media of
communication. The Drum, central to African religion and belief,
became a focal point of physical and cultural resistance. Already in
the seventeenth century Sloane tells us of:
"Drums made of a piece of hollow tree covered on one end with any
green skin and stretched with Thols andPinns-an instrument forbidden
on the Plantation because used for war in Africa ...
The meaning of the Drum was tied up with song and dance; with
African religion and African philosophy and an African world view.
"All art is born from religion. .. And . without a previous and
clear idea of the consubstantially religious and magical character
which verse, song, music and dance has... among Negro-Africans,
their art cannot be understood, neither in its multiple manifestations,
nor in its instruments, nor in its history." 6
"The Negroes have no manner of religion by what I could
observe of them. It is true that they have several ceremonies,
as dances, playing etc., but these for the most part are so far
from being acts of adoration of a God that they are for the
most part mixed with a great deal of bawdy and lewdness..."
(Sir Hans Sloane)
The Europeans used writing. Their observations of the religious
practices of the slaves are the only written records that we have. The
slaves passed on their religion through the cultural media of communi-
cation which they brought with them from Africa -through the
complex drum script, which was the African equivalent of the alpha-
betical script. The alphabet preserves information longer; the drum
spreads it more quickly and across physical space. The proscription of
the drum came about when it was realized that the drum rhythms were
part of the unifying force of revolts.
The dance is a central cultural medium of the African religious
pattern. It was this pattern that Sloane saw. But to observe the dance
and the customs through the eyes of Sloane, who denies the Africans
any religion at all, is to begin with one of the causes of the paradox and
conflict which we shall explore. Here we see the clash that always
takes place between monotheists and polytheists. The African religion
has what has been called a 'monotheistic superstructure', that is to say,
a basic belief in one Absolute Creator who is over all. Yet under him
are many lesser gods. Because of this the Africans were prepared to
accept Christianity, and the concept of the Trinity seeing its three
heads as new and leviathan gods with a powerful place in their world
view. The Christian missionaries, like all monotheists who conceive
God as a jealous God, saw the African world view as a dangerous and
pagan heresy. Whilst the African religious view could accept Christian-
ity, Christianity rejected the beliefs of Africa. Subtly. a Manichean
accommodation would evolve through contact; to the Christian world
view the African Gods would become identified with the Devil.
This confrontation and accommodation has endured up until today.
"Their songs when they dance on feast days are all bawdy,
or tending that way ..."
(SIR HANS SLOANE)
'They have Saturdays in the afternoons and Sundays, with
Christmas holidays, Easter called little, or Pickanniny, Christ-
mas, and some other great feasts allowed them for the culture
of their own plantations to feed themselves from potatoes,
yams and plantains etc. which they plant on ground allowed
them by their masters .."
(SIR HANS SLOANE)
"These negroes have a great veneration for the Earth ..."
The earliest descriptions of folk dances are related to religion, and
the feasts and festivals connected with this religion. The pattern of
duality between the plantation and plot, is seen in the fact that holidays
are conditioned by the seasonal demands of the sugar crop; so the
slaves transfer African festivals and African meanings to Christmas and
Easter and crop-over. But side by side with this process of adaptation
was one of continuity. Feasts related to the culture of their own
grounds were also celebrated. They lend themselves to myth and
legend. It is the provision ground on which the cultural pattern was
established. The plantation was the property of the master: mere land;
as the slave was the property of the master: mere labour. The relation
of the slave to the provision ground was a relation of a man to the
Earth. While the Plantation ideology, the official ideology, would
develop as an ideology of property, and the rights of property, the
provision ground ideology would remain based on a man's relation to
the Earth, which linked a man to his community. The first would give
rise to the superstructure of civilization in the Caribbean; the second
to the roots of culture.
The dance was an expression of, and a strengthening of Man's relation
with the Earth. John Taylor tells us of a series of slave revolts in the
last part of the seventeenth century and points out that the binding
oath among the conspirators was affirmed by their kissing the Eirth.
This came from their "great Veneration for the Earth "
It has been widely recognized that although slaves came from many
parts of Africa to the New World, the majority came from the areas of
West Africa with interrelationships of cultural attitudes. The concept
of the Earth was general. To the African the Earth is not property or
land. The Earth is the base of the community, and is concerned with
the common good. Cultivation plots of individuals are but parcels of
land cut from the limitless earth. The technical power of the Earth is
universal and all men show this in the ritual observances by which they
show their respect. The dance plays a central part in these ritual obser-
vances. The aim of all ritual measures is to preserve the benevolence of
the Earth to the community. The forces of the Earth are part of the
vital universal force, the concept of which is central to African philo-
Man receives life from the Earth, in the crops which he reaps. The
feasts and festivals acknowledge and strengthen the tie between the
life of Man and that of the Earth. The elaborate funeral ceremonies
which the African transplanted to the New World are also part of this
relation. Taylor and Sloane describe the funeral ceremonies about the
grave. The significance of these ceremonies cannot be overestimated
both in the African and the Jamaican cultural patterns:
'This is not only because the dead are laid to rest inside the earth, but
also because interring the dead is an act of crucial social and personal
importance, charged with ritual meanings of great intensity. It is one
of the points at which Man's life and the mystical powers of the Earth
come into contact in a way that is fraught with the deepest.affective
and social meaning for the individual and wide consequences for the
organization of the society. Thereafter one who was human becomes
a spirit. .."7
As a spirit, he does not cease to play his part in the life of the others.
The relation of Man to his ancestral spirits is a historical and an actual
living relation. The ancestral spirits are numerous and extended aspects,
of the life force. Dance in the Caribbean will focus on two main
a) the strengthening of the forces of the Earth, the fertility of
Earth and Man.
b) the reaffirming of the ties with the ancestral spirits and the
community, and the Earth, through possession in the dance.
It is these aspects that will be emphasized. The 'bawdy' and lewd'
quality that Sloane noted, was related to the fertility concept to the
religious veneration of the Earth. The circumstances of the trans-
plantation to the New World cause these 'bawdy' rites to take on a
central significance of resistance and response.
"The dancer is possessed when he depicts an event, and
he is possessed when he disguises himself. Among the ancient
Germans the ecstacy began at the moment when the dancer
put on an animal skin. The skin was sufficient to blot out
the self and to admit the animal spirit. This ecstacy of
mummery accompanies religious life through all the stages of
its development to the belief in gods. Osiris, Dionysius, Siva
and the deities of old Mexico God has decended upon the
earth and becomes flesh in his dancer. And out of the deified
dancer is formed retrogressively the beautiful conception of
the dancing god who creates the world and keeps it in
The Jonkonnu or John Canoe festival had its beginning in a
cultural process that Sloane witnessed and described in the seventeenth
century. Today the Jonkonnu is still celebrated in the country parts
of Jamaica. The celebrations steadily decrease in effectiveness and
meaning, but attempts are being made to revive the dance through the
National Festival. Also, the externals of Jonkonnu have been utilized
by formal dance groups. The Jonkonnu is, therefore, useful as a
central focus towards an interpretation of the origins and meaning of
"They have likewise in their dances Rattles ty 'd to their legs and
wrists and in their hands with which they make a noise, keeping time
with one who makes a sound answering it on the mouth of an empty
Gourd or Jar with his Hand. Their dances consist in great activity and
strength of Body and keeping time, if it can be. They very often tie
Cows' Tails to their Rumps and add such others to their bodies in
several places as gives them a very extraordinary appearance."
Already in this description the basic elements of what is to become
the Jonkonnu festival are apparent. The array of musical instruments,
in particular the use of Rattles, and the emphasis on rhythm and per-
cussion; the acrobatic quality of the dances and 'the Cow Tails on
Orlando Patterson, in his Sociology of Slavery, has pointed out the
close connection of the Jonkonnu festival with the Yam Festivals of
Africa. The Yam Festival was an important festival of the Ashanti,
who came to Jamaica in great numbers. These 'feasts, as Sloane refers
to them, were continued in relation to the provision grounds of the
slaves. 'Monk' Lewis, writing in the early nineteenth century, men-
tioned the general harvest of yams each year by the slaves, and Patter-
son quotes sources who in 1824 referred to September as 'the time of
yams' Patterson also traces the Jonkonnu back to culture areas of
West Africa, and in particular to the institution of the secret society,
whose functions was to take "a central part in the seasonal festivals
and recreations of the tribes, to which they belong". The rites for the
yam harvest, which usually took place between September and Octo-
ber, involved the invoking of the gods and the ancestral spirits, all of
whom were connected with the strengthening of the life force.
Patterson suggests three clusters of origins for the Jonkonnu:
"These were: the yam festival activities of the Mno secret societies
of the Ibo peoples; the recreational activities of the Egungun secret
society of the Yorubas; and the Homowa harvest festival of the Ga
All three have to do with the impersonation of ancestral spirits by
masked dancers at festivals, usually connected with agricultural activi-
ties. The primary annual festival of the Egungun of the Yoruba is "a
masquerade performed by male members of the Egungun cult in order
to make visible the ancestral spirits and to command their power." .8
The Homowa festival of the Ga links elaborate yams feasts with
"drinking and dancing in lament and remembrance of the dead The
focal point is the relation to the earth. The dead, although not living
human beings, although lessened life forces, still retain "their higher
strengthening, fathering life force': The dead are not the negation of
life, but part of the life force. The festival which celebrates the earth
and its fertility the harvest festival is, therefore, intimately linked
to the evocation of the ancestral spirits; and of the gods or forces of
Nature. The folkdance of the living is made more alive by the presence
of the spirit of the dead.
Here we come to the central importance of the masks in the
Jonkonnu procession; of the "Cow tails tied on their Rumps", as
Sloane saw it. It must be clear that the mask here, as in Africa, is not
just the face and headdress, but the entire costume. And the mask
itself in African religious thought is of incalculable significance. As
Franco Monti explains:
"The mask is the medium. It is the link between the supernatural
and the human; it speaks a complex and symbolic language which can
only be interpreted by the initiates who are in a position to translate
the messages which it emits into humanly comprehensible terms...
But above all,
"The mask is almost always closely connected with the fundamental
element of African life, the dance so much so that it seems diffi-
cult to talk about them both as separate entities. Rhythm, according
to many African myths, existed at the beginning of time and was often
thought to have been the absolute Creator of the worlds and their
RHYTHM is the universal life force. On donning the mask the
dancer enters into this force, the god possesses him, and in a modern
Jamaican cult term informed with the same meaning, the dancer
'delivers'himself by patterning the steps of the god, or ancestral spirit.
Rhythm is part of the dance, and the dance is a part of rhythm.
The theme is set by the drum controlled by the sacred rattle which
determines the different beats. The music and dances Sloane saw and
describes, the rattles, the percussion, was 'creating', therefore, what
Monti terms "the very essence of the universe, the hidden fluid that
runs through all beings human, animal and vegetable the magical
point of contact of participation of men with nature".
What kind of mask does the "Cow tail on the Rump represent? It
is only when we ask this, that we can ask What kind of dance?
As Patterson points out, Jonkonnu dances initially played their
central role in the Yam Festivals in Jamaica. Yams were connected
with the provision grounds. Even today a variety of yam called
afu yam traces its etymology to TwiAfuw- a plantation cultivation
ground. The mask that Sloane saw was an animal mask; and the dance
designed to increase the fertility of the earth and to pay ritual respect,
was the seventeenth century version of today's Jonkonnu.
Cassidy and Le Pa ge, in their Dictionary of Jamaican English, give
a definition of Jonkonnu as
"The festival or celebration centering about John Canoe. Originally
that was African, but elements of the English Morris dances and
especially of the French carnival 'sets'. .. were absorbed into it, and
certain stock characters from all these sources became established..."
Long is the first to mention the term Jonkonnu. As Cassidy and
Le Pa ge point out, the pronunciation and spelling of the name is
varied. They suggest a possible derivation:
"By folk-etym from some such form as Ewe dzono sorcerer and
Kuno i.e. something deadly, a cause of death ".
The quality of fear which was always attached to this original
Jonkonnu points to the basic significance of the masked dancer who
lends' himself to the spirit who dances through him. Beckwith, in her
investigations into Jamaican folk life, speaks of the survival of the
Jonkonnu mummings in remote districts of Jamaica in the 1920's. She
'The ox-head has been forbidden because of the fear it inspired ..."
A Jamaican informant speaking of what Jonkonnu meant to him as
a child, shows how in the later Afro-Christian cultural pattern the
'spirits' of the African ancestral cult became the 'devils' of Afro-
Christian Jamaica. Among the participants of the Jonkonnu includes:
"Satanic hosts, some with tusks, some with the heads of donkeys
and horses but with the feet of men." 9
An Ashanti charm, suman, which is described by Rattray is cited by
Simpson for the interesting paralellisms to be found with Jamaican
folk religion. We see here many implications for the fear inspired by
the oxheadmask. The charm was a priest's headgear, with a foundation
of 'woven grass' matting:
"At the back and the front were ram's horns. At the front and
between the horns was a wooden afona (sword) at the back a sepow
(knife). On the outside of the horns, on each side were small knives
representing the instruments used by executioners to cut off heads
. The horn means, 'I shall butt you', the knives, 'I shall cut off
But if the oxhead. inspired terror, horsehead, another Jonkonnu
character, inspired only contempt in twentieth century Jamaica.
Cassidy quotes a Gleaner Letter to the Editor in 1951 which refers
to Jonkonnu as commonly called 'Horsehead'; and objects to reviving
the festival because the dances were demoralisingg and... vulgar"' The
police had managed to succeed in suppressing it in his district, "and
many people were taken to court for it".
The Horsehead, so strenuously objected to, represents the earliest
acculturation between the original African Jonkonnu described by
Sloane and elements from English Morns dancing. Since the English
Morris dance celebrated a pagan rite, its culture contact points with the
African Jonkonnu were numerous; the English Morris dance elements,
therefore, entered both the religious aspects of the Jonkonnu; and its
parallel secularization process which developed in the nineteenth
century, as we shall see. How did this acculturation come about?
In the eighty or ninety years after Sloane wrote, and by the time of
Long's description, the plantation system had established itself in
Jamaica. The rise of sugar on the world market made Jamaica a sugar
society. Each estate was an enclosed world and although the refusal
of the Jamaican planters to Christianize their slaves (for economic
motives) prevented the later acculturation that would take place, there
were points of contact between the English, Scotch and Irish indentured
servants, and particularly the bookkeeper class. It was through this
class, poor, cut off from much contact with their fellow-whites, living
in concubinage with African, creole, and mulatto women, that some
sort of cultural fusion must have occurred.
The Morris dance is part of the Spring festival, where young men
dance for the renewal and continuance of life. It is, in effect, a
'medicine dance' handed down through the European counterpart of
the secret societies "which practised the medicine religions that condi-
tioned life in Europe before Christendom 10 Among its customs was
a hunt, the flesh of the prey being eaten, or a lamb which after leading
the procession all day was killed and eaten by the dancers. Each
Morris group had a leader. There were several characters who made up
the group. The hobbyhorse, which became the Jamaican horsehead,
was only one of several animal men. In some groups .the horse is the
central character or Mask. In others, the fools wearing animal masks
divert and distract while the dancers carry on their vital task of "distill-
ing the medicine and spilling it out over the people and places they
The dance distils the medicine "in rhythmic waves which reach the
trees and animals and houses and people, quickening to life, washing
them clean and making them whole ". 12 Another type of Morris dance,
the horn dance, was a fertility medicine dance.
Apart from the Spring rites, there were mid-winter rites. It is in
these rites that we find the 'Sword dance-cum-Play' which was to be-
come one aspect of the Jonkonnu. Like the Morris Dancers the
swordsmen are seen as actors "who once disguised themselves, blacking
their faces or covering them with masks". They, too, had the same
retinue of characters: hobbyhorse, clown, the woman, a Dirty Bet, oh
sometimes a king or queen, lord or lady and often a quack doctor,
and his man Jack. There were other characters with smaller roles.
The Egungun secret society of the Yoruba is a cult dedicated to
numerous spirits, designed to foster sentiments of reverence for the
ancestors. An Egungun, which is, in effect, a Jonkonnu as mask,
dancer and leader of the group is seen as the embodiment of the spirit
of a deceased ancestor who returns from heaven to visit his people.
This spirit is called Ara-Orun i.e. a citizen of heaven. The Mask, i.e.
the costume, must entirely cover the dancer. He carries a whip and
speaks in a ventriloquial voice. A Jamaican description of Jonkonnu
in Westmoreland (1925) says:
"There is no talking at all not a word of dialogue. If they have
speak at all reach other they whisper and disguise their voices. "
From Long's description the sword is in his hand, rather than the
whip and the fact that the cancer bellows out as he dances 'John
Connu' may suggest the influence of the English Sword-dance-cum-
Play. The sword is also important in Ashanti rituals, however. The
numerous crowd of drunken women who follow him and refresh him
with aniseed water finds a replica in the band of women who escorts
Le chief masquerader Egungun-Oya. Oya, the river goddess, is here
supposed to assume the form of man and so the women are her escort,
Could the aniseed water be an offering to the river goddess?
Different guilds have different Egunguns. The word Egungun itself
means 'masquerador'; in the Jonkonnu celebration described in 1925
the group referred to themselves as 'masqueradors', rather than
During the Egungun festival in June, a festival, which could be
termed the Yoruba, 'All Souls', is held. It is a mourning for the dead
and yet a joyful festival. Large numbers of Egunguns appear and the
whole town is in fete. There are processions and plays. Each Egungun
guild puts on its own play. (The term 'play' in Africa referred to sing-
ing and dancing as well as to the pantomime and 'drama', and also to
all those included. It came to have the same meaning in Jamaica, as we
There could be much rivalry, even fighting, between the different
Egungun groups. This feature wtas continued in the rivalry between
the different Jonkonnus. Long writes:
"In 1769 several new masks appeared: the Ebos, the Papaw having
their respective Connus, male and female who were dressed in very
The guilds of Africa now became the tribal groups in Jamaica. Later
on they came to represent crafts and trades. The common features are
there. The animal masks, the male and female Connus, respond to the
Egungun claim that in performing the Egungun play they have the
power to metamorphose themselves into animals and to change their
The plays, like the English folk doctor-play had the power of
transformation of reality. Whilst we have as yet found no definite
mention of the 'death and rebirth theme' as part of the Egungun
plays, plays about death and resurrection were a feature of many
other cults taken to the Caribbean. Patterson mentions the 'Resur-
rection' rite of the Mawu-Lisa ceremonies performed on initiates as
the first test for entry into the Sky cult of Dahomey. As we shall see
later the Myal Dance is the Jamaican reinterpretation of the African
and English patterns.
There is a fusion of procession and doctor-or-cucumby's play, which
makes it an interesting parallel with the Jonkonnu, as writers after Long
described it. The death and rebirth 'doctor-play' features as part of
Jonkonnu by 1801 when Lady Nugent described it*.
Two of these writers, Barclay and De La Roche, described part of a
play, Richard III:
"The Joncanoe men . were the two heroes, and fought not for a
Kingdom, but a queen, whom the victor carried off in triumph.
Richard calling out A horse, A horse, etc. was laughable enough. The
piece, however, terminated by Richard killing his antagonist, and then
figuring in a sword dance with him. "
This fight or confrontation is also present in the description that
Lewis gives of the Jonkonnu festivities.
It is obvious from these descriptions that the version of the Sword-
Dance-Play that had become popular in the Jamaican Jonkonnu was
the version with the duel at the end, in which the two protagonists
fight with swords; one is killed, but, revived by the music, gets up and
dances whether a sword dance between the two contenders, or a
general dance. Excerpts from Shakespeare and other plays were then
performed, but according to Belisario whose sketches and descrip-
tions of Jonkonnu are invaluable these excerpts were all fitted into
the pattern of the folk play: their ending kept the same ritual and
Whatever might have been their performance, says Belisario,
"Combat and Death invariably ensued, when a ludicrous contrast
was produced between the smiling Mask and the actions of the dying
man. At this Tragical point there wasalways a general call for music -
and dancing immediately commenced and this proved too great a
provocation usually to be resisted even by the slain, and he accordingly
became resuscitated and joined the merry throng."
What happened to the other version of the doctor-play, in which the
mock doctor with his assistant was called in to revive the dead protago-
nist? We suggest that as the festival continued a dual process was set
up. In the nineteenth century 'acculturation' between African cultural
patterns and European civilization came to a peak. In this develop-
ment Jonkonnu secularized itself, taking on more European elements.
The Combat-to-theDeath version of the doctor play took part in this
process, which we can label as one of 'creolization'. But in another
parallel process -that of indigenization Jonkonnu kept its religious
significance. It was in this other process, we suggest, that the 'Doctor'
version of the English and Scotch doctor-play had its role.
Let us look at the two processes of Jonkonnu.
"Reds and Blues ... sometimes also going by the name of 'Johnny
Canoeing'. On the north side of the island it is a splendid affair, but
on the south side it is just the reverse. In the latter instance, the
negroes dress themselves in bulls' hides, with the horns on into which
they are sewn, and go bellowing about the streets, butting all the people
they meet. This is the remnant, most probably, of some superstitious
African ceremony." 14
The description that 'Monk' Lewis gives of the Jonkonnu festival, in
general shows the high point of European influence. But Lewis' des-
cription of the procession shows that much of the original element of
Jonkonnu is now interpreted in terms of European symbols; and the
procession he saw resembles nothing so much as a modern Victory
From Lewis' account the planters and their families were as invol-
ved as financial backers and spectators as the slaves:
"First marched Britannia; then came a band of music; then a flag;
then the Blue King and Queen the Queen splendidly dressed in white
and silver (in scorn of the opposite party,'her train was borne by a
*On Christmas Day she writes, 'the whole town bore the appearance of a
masquerade". There are many 'Johnny Canoes' and many 'strange pro-
cessions'and groups, made up of 'dancing men and women'. Apart from
the processions, 'there was a party of actors. Then a little child was
introduced .. a King who stabbed all the rest ... some of the children
. .were to represent Tippoo Saib's children and the man was Henry IV
of France. After the tragedy they all began dancing with the greatest
little girl in red); his Majesty wore a full British Admirals'uniform,
with a white satin sash, a huge cocked hat with a gilt paper crown
upon the top of it. These were immediately followed by Nelson's car
being a kind of canoe decorated with blue and silver drapery and with
Trafalga written on the front of it; and the procession was closed by a
long train of Blue grandees ... all Princes,Dukes andDuchesses, every
mother's child of them."
The terms 'Blues and Reds' Lewis explains as springing from the
rivalry for the favours of the Brown Girls the mulattoes and quad-
roons who were the traditional housekeepers i.e. concubines of the
planter, attorney and overseer class between the English and the
Scotch Admirals and other Navy personnel at the Kingston Naval
Station. Both gave balls for the Brown Girls. In the Sets the Brown
Girls declared their allegiance to the English (The Reds) or to the
Scots (The Blues). English and Scots planters and their wives etc.
vied in rivalry, the wives lending jewellery and helping with the finery
of the different sets; and being fiercely partisan.
Belisario tells us that the concept of the competing sets and Set-
Girls was brought to Jamaica from Haiti by the French refugees and
their slaves and servants who accompanied them when the Haitian War
of Independence began. In Haiti, the French Catholic Carnival, itself a
rite similar in some concepts to the Jonkonnu, with pagan elements re-
interpreted in Christian Catholic terms, set the dominant patterns;
but already infiltrated by African elements, such as the use of drums and
The drums are the type of drums that are still called in Jamaica the
Gumbay drums. The characteristic of this drum is that it is always
played with the fingers. The name of the drum has given its name to
one of the surviving dances of African origin which still exist today -
the Gumbay dance. The importance of the drum and drummers, link
the Jonkonnu, for all its European elements, with its African origin.
The drums, for example, play a central part in the Yoruba Egungun pro-
cession, and in the dramatic presentation of the Egungun 'plays'.
Through the French Set-Girls the Creoles (i.e. Negroes born in
Jamaica) began to dominate the Carnival. The Jonkonnus were still
part of what Chambre terms the 'Johny Canoeing' on the north side of
the island, which was a 'splendid affair' but they were a subsidiary part
in Lewis' account; and even the costume of the Jonkonnu chief masked
dancer was 'creolized' in some aspects. 'Monk' Lewis describes the
Jonkonnu chief dancer as "a Merry Andrew dressed up in a striped
doubtlet and bearing on his head a kind of pasteboard houseboat filled
with puppets, representing some sailors, others soldiers, others again
shown at work on a plantation." Lewis was one of the earliest writers
to describe this 'houseboat' mask.
It is this mask which links the 'creolization' process of Jonkonnu
with the second process the 'idigenization' process. Whilst the
'creolization'process represents what Kerr has termed as a more or less
'false assimilation' in which the dominated people adopt elements
from the dominant one in order to obtain prestige or status, the
'indigenization' process represents the more secretive process by which
the dominated culture survives; and resists. Not only do we have
Chambre's account of the south side Jonkonnu, with the horned
African bull mask, the bellowing and butting of people in the streets,
but his statement that it was the survival of some superstitious i.e.
religious African ceremony. A description of 1826 brings out the
religious aspect even more clearly:
"an escort of young girls marching before a man dressed up in a
mask with a grey beard and long, flowing hair who carried the
model of a house on his head. This house is called the Jonkonnu,
and the bearer of it is generally chosen for his superior activity in
dancing ... the girls also danced... All this ceremony is certainly a
commemoration of the deluge... The custom is African and religious
although the purpose is forgotten. Some writers ... says the house
is an emblem of Noah's ark, and that Jonkonnu means the sacred
boat or the sacred dove ... "15
The houseboat 'mask' is linked with religious symbolism. As we saw
before, African religions were used as a binding force in slave revolts.
Conspirators were sworn with an oath which involved kissing the Earth
Asase Afua was the Akan goddess of the Earth; her name survives
in the word for plot, cultivated land, and in the yam called Afoo yam.
African religion then played a central role of resistance. The Jonkonnu
as the cultural manifestation of African religious beliefs was therefore
involved in this resistance. It was also the more 'public', 'secular'
manifestation of a syncretic cult religion which played and was to play
an important part both in the Jamaican religion and folk culture. As
Curtin comments on Jonkonnu:
The 'tragedy'was the 'doctor-play' mock duel at the end. Arthur Ramos
(The Negro in Brazil, 1939) describes the Brazilian equivalent of the
Jonkonnu the Maracat,. as having two Darts The richly clthed nro-
cession and the Cucumbys play, both African inspired. The pattern
of the latter play King/Queen/Prince/Sorcerer/Congo King: Queen
sends ambassadors to Congo King's Court: Conflict occurs: Prince
demands apology. Fight takes place when none is given. Prince killed.
Sorcerer uses incantations, chants which chorus repeats. Prince revives.
All dance and sing is the pattern of the Jonkonnu play.
" . the John Canoe dance was in fact closely associated with
Survivals of African religion and magic. The figures represented in
the houseboat headdress, the phraseology of the songs, the instru-
ments all were very similar to those of African cult groups that
were otherwise driven underground. "
"And whereas it had been found by experience that
rebellions have been often concerted at negro dances and
nightly meetings of the slaves of different plantations ......
be it therefore enacted that if any overseer . or other
white person . . shall knowingly suffer any slaves to
assemble together and beat their military drums, or blow
horns or shells every white person offending shall ... suffer
six months' imprisonment .... "
(Laws for the Government of Negro Slaves, Jamaica, 1787,
Oh amba you! Edooooo oh! Amba you!
You should a bring a fiah to us now
Oh amba you! Edoeeeeeedooodo Amba you!
Should a buried a crossroads, Look
O amba you! Edoeee doo-do! O Amba you!
(Myal/Jonkonnu song, collected in St. Elizabeth by Beckwith).
Let us look first at what Curtin terms the "survival of African
religion and magic" with which the Jonkonnu dance is linked. The
houseboat headdress is important in this connection. From Belisario's
sketches and descriptions of the Jonkonnu band,just before the festival
in its more elaborate form disintegrated, it is obvious that the house-
boat mask was a very special mask for the leader. The mask of the
other characters such as COW HEAD, and HORSEHEAD were animal
masks borrowed from the African and the English folk ritual. The
mask of KOO-KOO or ACTOR BOY, whilst elaborate does not seem
to have any particular symbolism. In fact the mask seems to be a
'secular' mask corresponding to the 'profane masks' that the Egungun
cult used for processions similar to those of the Jonkonnu, when they
satirized groups such as prostitutes, policemen, Europeans, Hausa, etc.
These 'profane masks' were used by the cult when the purpose of their
parades was merely to entertain. Yet the sacred is never quite
separate from the profane in the African context. The name KOO-
KOO which has given rise to a most ingenious explanation recorded by
Belisario, nevertheless seems most likely to derive from the Yoruba
word KU, which means 'aluminious spirit, i.e. that which a good
man becomes after death. The word IKOKO, related to the same root
refers to the food, drink and meat offerings that is put on the graves in
pots. This food is supposed to belong to the Kas or spirits of the dead.
KOO-KOO is most likely related to both these words, since the Egun-
gun cult was an ancestral cult; and in this context ACTOR BOY would
embody the ancestral spirit. His pantomimic gestures in the Jonkonnu
procession which seemed to refer to his hunger, would perhaps be
intended to remind that the 'spirit' must be fed; and perhaps by impli-
cation that the group must be rewarded with good tips.
ACTOR BOY, Belsario also tells us, some ten years before (i.e. be-
fore 1837) played one of the main parts in the COMBAT-till-Death
version of the doctor plays. He most probably played the partof the
younger protagonist who gets killed, is restored to life, and joins in the
dancing. But the 'creolized' version of the Jonkonnu began to lose
much of its original meaning, and by Belisario's time ACTOR BOYS
were "reduced to displaying their finery "and "to the performance of
certain unmeaning pantomimic actions". The significance of most of
the other characters sketched by Belisario had also become confused.
Yet a character like Jack-in-the-Green who stands with the set girls in
one sketch, carried religious connotations in both his English and his
The Jonkonnu houseboat also carried religious connotations, as both
Williams and Chambre indicate. The Horned mask, the Ox head mask
and its symbolism was clear. Why did this mask give way to the house-
boat? Did the Jonkonnu figure sketched by Belisario, in "mask, wig
and military jacket, posing upon his head the house-shaped cap glitter-
ing with mirrors and tinsel and topped by a tufted dome or peak still
carry a religious connotation, in spite of his secular and European type
dress? Was the houseboat an African mask in an original form? Or has
an old artistic form and function the mask been translated to the
New World to create a new mask for a new reality? This calls, as so
many other areas of Jamaican folk life, for detailed research.
There are several suggestions that can be made. One is that the
houseboat mask, however adapted, was made from an original African
mask, or several related masks from similar rituals of different tribes,
rituals which assimilated to each other and.syncretized in the New
World experience. Beckwith points out that in Bermuda a similar pro-
cession to that of Jonkonnu existed. This was called the Gumbay
Parade. The men are masked with heads and horns of animals, but
some carried on their heads "beautifully made imitations of houses
and ships, both lighted by candles. The houses were termed 'gumbay
houses' When the men came near the houses they danced a special
dance and shouted: Gombay relay, Gbmbay relay."
It seems possible that like the Jonkonnu described by Long, the
Bermuda masked dancers are involved in a 'medicinal' purification
ceremony similar to that of English folk rites. The Gumbay dance as
it survives in Jamaica today is danced to exorcise evil spirits.
Beckwith did not succeed in tracing the houseboat mask to an
African original. She cites Mohammedan parallels but admits that
links between those and the Jonkonnu houseboat are improbable.
There is however one possibility which needs to be explored. Monti
tells of a mask which is built on the model of "the house with several
stories which is the perogative of the hogon" the supreme political
and religious chief of the Dogon tribe of Sudan. This mask is called
the sirige mask. It patterns the face of the hogon's traditional house
with its eighty niches corresponding to the number of the original
ancestors. The mask is very tall and, at the top, are two small figures
who represent the mythical ancestral couple. The complex religious
concepts of the Dogon express the relationship of man to his kinship
group, Man to Amma, the God/creator, and to Nommo, the Universe.
It expresses this relation in physical and symbolic terms. The plan of
the village itself replicas this relationship. The big house of each lineage,
of each kin group, with its layout of rooms again patterns this relation-
The house of the Hogon, paramount chief of the Dogon,is also
built so as to present a model of the Universe. The Hogon's mask
which he wears on feast days again patterns this model. The Dogon
then lives physically within their myths; ritually enclosed by their
Does the houseboat copy this mask? Or did some transported
'African' master of the masks, design the houseboat mask taking into
consideration the Great House of the slave masters; placing his ances-
tral toy figures within, still working on the plantation in death as they
did in life? Did the Haitian African or Creole groups introduce this
mask into Jamaica? The first description we have of it, seems to be
'Monk' Lewis' in 1816. What connection is there between the Jon-
konnu house of Jamaica, and the Gumbay house of Bermuda? There
is interesting research to be done here.
The aspect of the Jonkonnu that is most to our purpose is the con-
nection that Beckwith established between the Jonkonnu houseboat
mask, and dance, and Myal ceremonies in St. Elizabeth; between the
Jonkonnu songs, drums, and drum rhythms and the Myal songs, drums
and drum rhythms. In remote districts of St. Elizabeth she claimed
that the Jonkonnu dancers and houseboat were connected with obeah,
i.e. Jamaican religio-magical practises:
"White says that before building the house-shaped structures worn
in the dance, a feast must be given consisting of goat's meat boiled
without salt, together with plenty of rum. As the building of the
Jonkonnu mask progresses other feasts are given. On the night before
it is brought out in public, it is taken to the cemetery, and there the
songs and dances are rehearsed in order to 'catch the spirit of the dead'
which henceforth accompanies.the dancer until after a few weeks
merriment during which performances are given for money at the great
houses and at village crossroads, it is broken up entirely"' For "as long
as it stays in the house the spirit follow it '
We can deduce that the houseboat mask was seen as an ancestral
mask. The Jonkonnu dance and parade in St. Elizabeth still fulfilled
part of its African meaning, by evoking the 'ancestral' spirits, or at
least community spirits. Miss Beckwith notes the "Similarity to andin
some cases their identity" between "a group of avowedly Myal songs
from the Cockpit Country of St. Elizabeth neighboring the Maroon
settlement of Accompong with the John Canoe songs from Lacovia
and Prospect.. "
She notes that the man who lead the group of Lacovia dancers, "an
oldish man named Ewan who wore a houseboat mask headdress similar
to the original was a notorious Myal man in the district, who held
communication with the spirits of the dead." She noted the use of the
special Gumbay drum. She also observed that in the Jonkonnu songs
"a good deal of Jamaica witchcraft is mixed up with the words Infor-
mants also told her that the Jonkonnu/Myal Man of Lacovia took his
houseboat headdress to the graveyard and danced the special dances
with special songs among the dead. From all this she concludes that
there was a close litk between Jonkonnu and Myalism and that in this
part of Jamaica at least, "the John Canoe mask and dance is associated
with the invocation of the spirits of the dead ". Jonkonnu is linked to
Myalism through meaning,song and dance. 'Myalism' was the cult that
"had been driven underground ".
"Not long since, some of these execrable wretches in
Jamaica (sic Obeahman) introduced what they called the
myal dance, and established a kind of society into which
they invited all they could. The lure hung out was that every
negro, initiated into the Myal society, would be invulnerable
by the white men... (Long, 1774).
"When you dance the Myal, if Death love you and you
deal with him, he will give you one . (i.e. an Amber
(Jamaican Myal Man to Beckwith, 1921)
Already by the time Sloane wrote, certain drums had been forbidden
in the plantation, because of the planters' fear of the central part the
drum played in the planning and psychological preparation of the slaves
for revolt. Revolts from the earliest times were a constant feature.
Writing in the 1680's Taylor describes four that had taken place within
the span of a few years. Not only were drums part of the whole ritual
of revolt; so also were dances. We know that war-songs still exist
among the Maroons. Many of the Maroons are of the Ashanti tribe,
for whom the warrior ancestors were of far more significance, than for
example the agricultural gods. Many of them came from a powerful
military caste. In Africa, dancing is the special preserve of warriors
since dancing is a ritual and physical preparation for war.
Whilst the war dances would have remained in their African form
on Maroon territory, on the estates the war dances had to be adapted
or transformed, once the planters suspected their purpose. As the Slave
Laws show, the planters came to learn that 'negro-dances' were the
occasion for the planning of revolt. Any meeting of the slaves from
different plantations was also, at once, suspected. For a long time
therefore the slaves largest area of freedom for assembly was at funerals.
The mortality rate of slaves was high. Funerals, always central to the
African world view, took on an added significance. The very rate of
death, which occasioned the funerals and therefore frequent meetings
at the graves of their dead, would have increased their instinct for revolt.
It was the custom, too, at funerals to dance war dances. Both
Edwards and Phillipo describe the custom of 'martial dancing' by
Negroes at the grave. As late as 1816 Monk Lewis relates that a funeral
ceremony was used as a place and time for plotting rebellion.
In Haiti police decrease forbade funerals and also the water-mumrma
dance in which the leader went into a trance during which he worked
out the revolt plans given to him by his tribal god.
Jamaica too had its water-dance to the water spirit, or river goddess.
This spirit known as 'Ribba Mumma' was supposed to: "Inhabit every
fountainhead of an inexhaustible and considerable stream of water in
Jamaica. "The slaves, in times of drought, used to persuade their master
to sacrifice an ox at the fountainhead of the water turning the mill.
The water spirit was supposed to materialize like a mermaid at noon,
combing her long black hair. Fish from such were held to be her
children and were never eaten. But above all:
"Myal songs and dances were done for her. "16
The dance of the 'Ribba Mumma' seems then, to have been linked
to the Myal cult. Above all it had a common purpose. The trance of
the leader,who comes out of his possessed state with instructions from
his god, these instructions then having the power and force of a god's
backing, helped to make revolt against many times impossible odds,
seem more feasible. But the dance of the Water Mumma had one
drawback with so many different tribal gods, and slaves of different
origins, the god of the leader did not bind all the slaves. But tribal
divisions still continued; each tribe had its own Connu. As revolts
after revolt failed, it became clear, that to face the monolithic power
of the planters and the whites, the slaves would have to evolve a general
Jamaican cult religion as opposed to tribal ones. We suggest then
the Myalism was to pre-Emancipation Jamaica what Voodoo was to
Haiti. Patterson summarizes the Myal dance ceremony:
"The myal dance was meant largely to exhibit the magical powers
of the cult leader usually called 'Doctor' The chosen initiate was
placed within the circle formed by the doctor and his assistants.
The Doctor then sprinkled him with several powders then blew upon
him and danced around him frantically. He was then whirled rapid-
ly around until he fell into a deathlike trance ... When, sometime
later, the initiate dramatically recovered, a miraculous resurrection
was proclaimed ... The Doctor then departed with loud shrieks to
the woods from which he returned a few hours later with different
kinds of herbs, the juices from a part of which was squeezed into the
mouth of the entranced initiate, and the remainder rubbed on his
eyes and finger tips. At the same time pieces of glass, bottles,
snakes, reptiles and other particles were produced under the guise
of coming from under the skin of the initiate. This was accompanied
by-a chant to which the assistants, holding hands, danced in a circle
around both Doctor and initiate, stamping their feet in time to the
rhythm. of the chant. "
Long recognized above all that the purpose of the cult was directly
political; and that it set out to serve as a unifying forces. A Myal man
he recounts, tried to persuade a fellow slave to "be of their party "and
to do this in a rebellion "gave him a wonderful account of the powerful
affects produced by the Myal infusion, and particularly that it rendered
the body impenetrable to bullets."
The Kromanti rebellion of 1760, Long also tells us, was fomented
by men who sold medicine to make the rebels invulnerable.
The concept of medicine, the fact that the Myal cult leader was
known as 'Doctor', that Martha Beckwith was able to collect Jamaican
versions of old English and Scots Folk Doctor-Plays from informants
in St. Elizabeth and in the Cockpit Country that is territory near to
the Maroons, suggests that one version of the Sword-Dance play the
version in which the quack doctor comes in, provides comic relief,
charges a lot of money, but revives his dead patient who has been killed
in a duel survived in the more secret process we call indigenization.
folstoy has pointed out that folk art is the only universal art. Certain-
ly it seems clear that the pagan folk rites of England and Scotland,
remnants of a pagan folk religion that had been banished by Christianity
had survived to influence the syncretic Myal cult; itself centered about
the medicine dance common to all folk rite influenced by different folk
rituals, resisted the purely economic impulse of the Plantation system,
an impulse which attacked the very concept of religion itself. Resist.
ance to slavery would draw its strength from a folk rite of considerable
power. Later, Myalism, was to strike up alliance with the Baptist
religion. This alliance was a natural one. It was through this alliance
and fusion that elements of Christianity would become an indigenous-
rather than a merely creole part of Jamaican folklore.
The survival of both the Doctor Play and Myalism in the environs
of the Cockpit Country would suggest that the Myalist cult got its first
powerful impulse from theKromantitribe the majority of the Maroons.
The Maroons, although having a base of interrelated tribes, still had to
face the problem of welding different tribal grouping into a whole.
From the description of a Kromanti memorial anniversary dance held
for the dead that Edwards gives, it is clear that they solved this problem
by extending their ancestral kin to include deified heroes of their
guerilla warfare. The Spanish-Jamaican guerilla leader Ysassi who
fought with the Maroons against the English invaders, for example,
became a deified ancestor and tutelary saint, side by side with African
Maroon heroes like Accompong and Ikboa.
This flexible and pattern then spread out. Although the Maroon
impulse was most likely the strongest, the widespread quality of the
Myal cult suggest a process of assimilation between different tribal
rituals. The frequency of funerals served its purpose; fusion would
begin there. Fetish specialists who came from Africa, especially the
more adaptable ones, became guiding forces in the cult. The Creole
Negroes, in their ambivalence between acceptance and rebellion, when
they chose rebellion had to create a cult that was no longer tribal;
since they themselves were detribalized. Former rituals like the Ribba
Mumma dance would have been absorbed into the Myal ceremony.
The Dahomey sky cult with its Death and Resurrection rite and other
similar death, rebirth motifs would have reinforced the central con-
cept of the Myal dance as the 'good medicine'which gives life.
We suggest that as the purpose of the Myal 'medicine' dance was to
bind together, people not now of the same family but of the same
belief, conviction, cause, its ritual of death and resurrection was in
effect a war dance, a war ritual, an extension of the 'martial dances'
danced at funerals, of the binding force of ancestors worship. Now it
was not only the dead ancestors that would rise up. It was their
descendants, who through the power and courage of their leader who
'dealt with Death' would be enabled to rise up, like the sword dancers
at the end of the English folk play or the initiate in the Dahomean
resurrection rites. Bullets had no power against them; reality was
transformed by the dance.
We suggest also that the Myal cult was 'driven underground' because
the planters realized the danger of such a unifying dance, ritual and
religion- The laws of 1774 prescribed the death sentence for anyone
attending the Myal ceremonies. Jonkonnu on the other hand, was
tolerated, and its more creolized versions even encouraged by the
planters who looked upon it as 'harmless fun'. But we suggest also
that since the separation between the sacred and the secular, is a
matter of emphasis rather than of opposition in the African world view,
both Myalism and Jonkonnu contained elements of each other. We
suggest too, that both passed on elements of their rituals, beliefs and
dances to the surviving dances and version of folk religion that
exist today. On the more African side of the Afro-Christian continuum,
Convince, Kumina; in the middle of the Continuum, Pukkummna, and
on the more Christian end,Zion Revival. Gumbay which survives in St.
Elizabeth is itself the lineal descendant of Myalism, but a Myalism
which had undergone transformation through the Great Myal Procession
in the 1840's. We suggest, then, that Jamaican folkdance has been a
continual cultural process, which both in Jonkonnu and Myalism
transformed mainly African and some English elements into the first
Jamaican cult religion; and in the first and only Jamaican folk festival.
Last year me turn out
I hope you well.
You went a war, edo edo
You went a war,
Me no gone 'way yet
I hope you well,
Till we meet a Canoe-lean-a-hill
Kia-money dead, I hope you well.
(JONKONNU SONG: COLLECTED BECKWITH)
What of the descriptions of the actual dancing of the Jonkonnu
festival? The Jonkonnu, as we have seen, had its beginning in the yam
festival rites of Africa. Since all African dance has a "meaning and a
sense", the dances were closely related to the purpose of the Jonkonnu
festivity at the beginning of the cultural process. The "great activity
and strength of Body", to which Sloane referred, was a central feature
of Jonkonnu dancing. The chief Jonkonnu the central dancer who
"wore" or carried the houseboat "mask" '%as generally chosen for
his superiority in dancing".
The Jonkonnu 'saluted his master and mistress and then capered
about with an astonishing agility and violence". The girls who ac-
companied him "also danced, without changing their position, moving
their elbows and knees, and keeping time with calabashes filled with
Long's description shows the Jonkonnu masquerader with a wood-
en sword in his hand, "Whilst he dances at every door bellowing out
John Connu with great vehemence". Lady Nugent noted that all the
"Johnny Canoe" figures "dance, leap and play a thousand anticks".
'Monk' Lewis, writing about 1818, shows the process by which in
the 'creolization' of the Jonkonnu, the Set-Girls dominate the pro-
cession whilst Jonkonnu figures are subsidiary. In Lewis' version these
once central figures no longer "make part of the procession i.e. of
set-girls ". They go about from house to house "tumbling and playing
antics to pick up money for themselves".
Another account of 1826 shows two 'Joncanoe-men' who now are a
part but a mere accessory part of the Set-Girls.They accompany the
girls from house to house giving "a display of buffoonery "after which
they collect money.
Two years later Jonkonnu has a wife and the two "dance without
intermission, often wheeling violently round, and all the while singing. "
Chambre shows the Jonkonnu oxhead mask "bellowing about the
street butting all the people they meet '
In the account of the Bermuda Jonkonnu (i.e. Gumbay Parade),
the group of Gumbay men, as they come to each house, "dance a
breakdown and shout: 'Gumbay ra-lay' ".
'The emphasis is on agility, powerful leaps, acrobatic dancing on the
part of the men dancers.
CURT SACHS has pointed out that the leap dance is the mimetic
dance in all cultures in which the dancer identifies with the planted.
The taller the leap, the taller the yams, the more flourishing. Long
strides, vigorous dancing is involved in the same process of fertility
and growth. The stilt dance also "aims at ... fertility". In Belize,
British Honduras, the stilt-dancer who appears in a parade at Christmas
is called 'John Canoe'. And in Barbados a central figure of the Christmas
'masquerade' used to be a stilt-dancer who controlled the dance with
a tin rattle. The quality of the dance of the Jonkonnu figures shows,
its origins as fertility dances connected with the yam festival.
As we have seen, however, the rites were also a memorial for the
dead: the ancient spirits possessed the Jonkonnu aqd through him
the spirits danced, strengthening the life forces -danced 'good medicine'
to increase the fertility of the Earth and his descendants, to renew the
Sachs has pointed out that side by side with this serious sacred pur-
pose, as an antidote,,there is also "a roistering troop of clowns". And
beside "the divinely inspired dancer walks the jester a child of the
Some descriptions, especially those when the Jonkonnu's original
purpose had been overlaid by the 'creolization' involved in the intro-
duction of the Set-Girls,stressed the antics, tumbling and buffoonery
of the Jonkonnus. To Lady Nugent the Jonkonnus'dancing and leap-
ing took its place among the "thousand antics" that they played.
But there is no doubt that by the 1820's and 1830's the more
secularized festival had increased the role of Jonkonnus asjesters and
reduced their role as 'divinely-inspired' medicine men. The intro-
duction of the Set-Girls le d to this reduction. As Cassidy points out,
the Sets had absorbed the Jonkonnus by 1833; worse, it had set up a
new relation in which the more African element of the festival was now
". .. his part was no longer separate but had become merely the
grotesque element of the whole."
The distinction between the Set-Girls and the Jonkonnus was mark-
ed by the fact that the former:
"sought elegance in costume, dancing, singing, and general behaviour,
whereas the Jonkonnu was grotesque, wild, farcical and often dis-
The Creoles have triumphed over the Africans, imposing their Creole
standards; and interpretation. And creole standards approximated as
closely as possible to the dominant European 'high standards' of
On his own ground, the folk festival, Jonkonnu in both his
African and pagan English connotations had been disinherited.
Emancipation, the new social order, the break-up of many of the
large estates, and with their breaking-up the end of 'civilization', as
many a planter reluctant to give up slavery, lamented saved the
Jonkonnu and converted it into a peasant festival. With the settling of
the ex-slaves on the land, the creation of 'free'villages, a peasantry in
the full sense of the word now existed. Jonkonnu ceased to exist in
the creolized form and became the preserve of the peasant. The dancers
of LacoviawhomBeckwith saw, who leapt and danced, retained the
dance in it original form even though they may have forgotten much
of its true meaning.
Later descriptions of the Jonkonnu Christmas parade, however,
prove that the Jonkonnu, during the 'creolization' process, had drawn
into its original form influences from the creole class in a description
given in 1951, "two men in women's clothing did a Quadrille "
How did the Quadrille a European folkdance adapted into high
society, become a part of the indigenous folkdance of Jamaica, enter-
ing the folk pattern of the Jonkonnu?
"Is nuttin I lub as de square katreel,
I out fe dance till me two-foot peel.
(R.M. Murray, Poem on the Quadrille, 1961).
"There is another Set, denominated 'Housekeepers' who
never dance in their progress through the streets."
(Belisario: Plate 2 L837).
The 'creolized' Jonkonnu of the Set-Girls patterned thf power
structure' of the society. Slave society was hierarchical. The hier-
archy was based on the biological concept of race. The room at the
top was spacious and white: that at the bottom, cramped and black. In
between, on the middle rungs of the ladder, one was graded according
to one's shade. Culture, too, was reduced to a racial concept. Euro-
pean culture was white: African culture was black. In this concept the
Jonkonnu dance became mere 'antics'; and grotesque.
On the other hand, Belisario depicts the Set-Girls, splendid in their
finery, matched in the colours of their dresses, shoes etc., arranged in
order with "four Grand Masters to protect the Set. Adjutant bearing
flag. Hand-drum. Singer. Tambourine (... etc. etc.) Commodore -"
with their queen and their maam at their head, danced through the
streets, to the rhythm of their rattles (i.e. maracas).
But the Set-Girls were graded not only according to the colour of
their costumes, but also to that of their skins. Black girls did not
dance with brown girls:
". blacks and browns never mingled in the same Sets. The creole
distinction of brown lady, black woman was in those days of slavery
of social distinctions strictly observed... "17
Creole black Sets, in their turn, did not mingle with African (i.e.
slaves born in Africa) Sets; and for a while tribal divisions, as Long in-
forms us, resulted in each tribe having its own 'Set' or Connu.
But Jonkonnu also satirized the power structure. One Set poked
fun at the 'housekeeper class', which, although it accommodated
courtesans, regarded itself as superior.
Dancing also played its part in the distinction. The more African
Sets danced more vigorously the more European in a more restrained
and elegant.manner. The housekeepers would not condescend to dance
in the streets at all. They only danced in the houses of the whites.
This satire brings out another aspect of the Jonkonnu: not only did
it pattern the power structure, but at least as far as blacks and whites
were concerned, it served to ritually reverse the usual order of things,
and behaviour. Especially on the estates, where the browns did not
exist as a class (they belonged to the towns), the Jonkonnu, very much
in the manner of the European Carnival with its mock king, broke
down -again ritually -some of the barriers between black and white.
Stewart tells us that during the Jonkonnu festival,
"the slaves appeared an altered race of beings". Thev showed them-
selves off in "fine clothes", trinkets; in a "more polished mode
of speech'" they spoke to their masters "with greater familiarity "
they entered the Great House and "drank with their masters" and
altogether .. the distance between them appeared) to be annihilated
for a moment, like the familiar footing on which the Roman slaves
were with their master at the feast of the Saturnalia ... They seem a
people without the consciousness of inferiority or suffering. "
They changed their names for that day, and took on ones of power
and authority, that of prominent whites Admiral Rowe, General
Campbell. They called these 'gala-day' names'. They sang satirical
phillipics against their masters -i.e. calypso and in general took over
Patterson has elaborated on the function of the Jonkonnu in slave
society as an example of "license of ritual" which helps the society to
a certain level of functional integration.
Although the influence of the Haitian-Catholic Carnival might have
reinforced this aspect of the Jonkonnu, this original reversal-of-
authority-function was part of the Yoruba tradition. Both the Egun-
gun cults-with which Jonkonnu has many parallel and, in particular,
the Adimu festival, reveal this pattern and social function. In this
festival a masked dancer is escorted by a group of followers all wearing
a distinctive hat with an appropriate badge. Adimu, the chief masker,
is escorted by a strong force which clears the way before him and pre-
vents others from coming too close. A figure of respect, all must pay
obeisance, even the Chief. After the festival, the costume was burned
"and the relic of power is over". The Adimu possessed by a god, is
paid respect by all during the day of his reign; but, afterwards, he
becomes once more an ordinary person. The Jonkonnu figure, there-
fore, incorporated both the Egungun and the Adimu Cult characteristics.
The society with its numerous and bitter divisions found a pre-
carious integration in a festival whose framework and function was
African in origin. This framework and function was able to fuse with
the Haitian-Catholic Carnival influences, since, in spite of its overlay of
civilization and Christianity, the European Catholic Carnival was itself
a reinterpretation of pagan folk rite. It was with this ritual remnant
that the Jonkonnu, in its indigenous aspect, found culture contact
points; thereby absorbing elements into its own structure. Both folk
elements provided the only cultural release in a society where culture
One other festival' also provided the opportunity for cultural
assimilation. The crop-over festival on many estates was a time when
whites and blacks came close together. We have pointed out previously
that the bookkeeper class, mainly Scots, with little prospect of a return
to Scotland, and very close in custom to the folk patterns of Scotland
(and some of England) were the transmitters of the British folk
cultural patterns in so far as they became a part of Jamaican life.
Celebrations took place at different times on different estates. They
were, in effect, Harvest festivals; and, whatever the economic motive
of the planter-ownersand merchants in London, there would have been
a feeling of satisfaction among men who had worked in a common
"As soon as the crop was over the Negroes assembled in and around
the boiling house, dancing and roaring for joy to the sound of the
Provisions were given to the slaves for a feast, and the overseer and
the whites had one by themselves. In the evening the fiddlers from the
Negro village were summoned. The rest of the slaves assembled at the
Great House. The fiddlers began to play; the "whites left the table,
and on choosing their stable partners, the reels commenced". They
danced together and, later in the evening, "the whites resumed their
place in the room when country dances commenced, in which the
Negro girls performed their parts extremely well".19
The Scotch-reel was to become part and parcel of the Jamaican
folkdance. Like many other European folkdances, it would play its
part in that ambivalence and duality which is at the heart of the dance
as a cultural process.
European folkdances were not only passed on through 'crop-over'
celebrations, but were very much a part of high, or planter, society.
And if the planters had no other form of cultural life, they certainly
had balls. Lady Nugent, in her diary, tells of her disastrous attempt to
hold a conversazione, only to find that the planters and their ladies
had one lack in common: "the sad want of... any subject of conver-
sation with them So she sent for the fiddlers and "we had a merry
dance'" She decides, from then on, to settle for 'Friday dances'. From
that point, balls fill the pages of her diary during her few years stay as
the Jamaican Governor's wife; Grand Balls, Little Balls, House of
Assembly Balls and Colt's Balls, balls in honour of her first son and
daughter, of Christmas and Easter, for the Kings Birthdays etc. etc.
Amongst the dances performed by Lady Nugent was the Scotch-reel,
which has entered Jamaican dialect as the "Katreel". This word is, also,
and more often, used to refer to the quadrille.
Planter Jamaica observed the dances that England danced, and, in
the nineteenth century, the metropolitan high society adopted, besides
the Scotch-reel, the quick waltz, the polka, the Mazurka and the Alpine
country waltz. But the quadrille, formally identified as such in the
nineteenth century,was in origin anEnglish-country dance which the
French transformed into the cotillon at the beginning of the eighteenth
century. This dance spread to England, and, one would imagine, to
planter society (such as it was) in Jamaica.
Out of the cotillon came the "firmly fixed series of six figures",
which became known as the quadrille. As early as 1817 there was
another variant the quadrille a la cour or The Lancers with its five sets.
Towards the end of the first two decades of the nineteenth century, it
was being danced by high society.
Lady Nugent's reference to "fiddlers" makes it clear that slaves,
from early, were taught the use of more European type instruments,
and could play at planter balls. This was to be one of the few genuine
culture contact points between the planter class and the slaves. So
balls became, also, the custom and tradition of the brown and creole-
black elements among the slaves. Many of these were houseslaves, who,
approximating to the dominant pattern of the whites, tried to imitate
them in all they did. We call this process creolization, rather than
indigenization. (Nor can we properly call it acculturation since it was
not a culture that was responded to, but its techniques its status
power; whilst the other culture that was necessary to the culture
fusion was avoided.)
The majority of the browns and the creole-blacks in the 19th cen-
tury Jamaica accepted the value system, which meant that the closer
they came to the whites in customs and habits, the closer they came to
the top. This implied, and meant, a turning back upon as many 'African
customs' as possible. The brown class and the creole blacks,'fatthen
from representing a mixture of cultures as is generally assumed, repre-
sented and represent still rather the attempt to shed one culture
and achieve the other. They were and are in fact 'cultural half-
castes', and have been, as a result, an uncreative and frustrated class.
Or, rather, they have been uncreative to the extent to which they
succeeded in their conscious desire.
In the first half of the nineteenth century, there was a clear indication
of the triumph of European dances. Patterson notes:
"In 1825 De la Beche spoke of the 'old school'among the Negroes,
stating that the former still clung to the 'goombay and African
dances' but that the latter much preferred the fiddles, reels and
other music and dances of the whites. A year later Barclay wrote
that African dances were being replaced by Scottish ones and the
gumbay by the fiddle. This tendency had of course been long pre-
valent among the mulatto slaves and the free people of colour.
But whilst the tendency of 'creolization' tended to abandon the
more African type dances for the European ones, and the conservative
slaves still hung on to their "goombay and African dances", the pro-
cess of indigenization drew in from the European type dances and in-
struments any elements that would function in the original established
Already by 1720 the banjo was being used by the slaves in their
dances, and by 1818 it featured with the drum in the Jonkonnu. By
1826 a fiddler, also, played with the band. In 1951 the fife blended
with the drum as two men dressed as women danced the quadrille in
the Jonkonnu masquerade. For the quadrille had been originally a
folkdance. In Jamaica, it suffered a sea-change to become a folkdance
But there was another dance in 1951 one performed by a Sailor
and a Whore Girl "who danced) vulgar all the time"' This was the
same one danced in the Jonkonnu Parade at Portland as late as 1969 -
and termed by the citizens who watched it with shocked delight: "a
real dirty dance'" Apart from the Whore Girl, there was another
character called the Wild Indian. In this dance, both these principals
are men, but Whore Girl is dressed as a woman. He/she lifts his/her
dress, holding it at both sides to show the underwear, bends back with
knees open and bent before, and does a dance which is an exaggerated
form of the hipsway and pelvic roll. The Wild Indian straddles his/her
hip, and, lifting one leg and changing the other, does a backward-and-
forward movement of the pelvis, known in Portland as 'the forward
jam' This dance, openly sexual, lasts for only a short while.
In this dance, we suggest that the Whore Girl satirizes the prostitute -
as the Egungun cult satirized prostitutes and policement. One character
in the Portland masquerade is a policeman who arrests both dancers. If
the crowd pays pennies to bail them out, they are set free and the dance
continues the parody of the couple dance, a fertility dance intended
to "promote growth in the tribe and in Nature "
"Hipsaw my dear! You no shake like a me
You no wind like a me
Hipsaw my dear you no do like a me
You no jig like a me you no twist like a me
Hipsaw my dear ... !
(A Slave in the Eighteenth Century Explaining her Dance in
Song and Dance)
Me wi dance de shay shay
Me will dance the kachrill ...
Me wi dance till the whole
a mi foot-bottom peel.
As we pointed out before, the leap dances of the central Jonkonnu
were performed to increase the fertility of the Earth. But the fertility
of Nature and that of Man were interlinked. Fertility rites involving
phallic symbols and simulated intercourse form a part of all pagan
religions. Among the Indians of north-western Brazil, a special phallic
dance is seen almost as a medicine dance which carries fertility into
every house, field, to the woods etc. 'They jump among the women,
young and who disperse shrieking and laughing... The butting of
the women still performed by the Cowhead character in the Jon-
konnu is a mimetic extension of this fertility rite: horns symbolize
We suggest that the dance performed by the Wild Indian and Whore
Girl, with its obvious sexual connotations, is the remnant of the ferti-
lity dance which has lost its meaning and one very closely connected
to the dance which Beckwith describes as an "erotic dance to jazz
music": and which she calls the Shay-shav.
The shay-shay is described by Delisser as a dance derived from the
Cuban chica. His description of it as a dance "which consists of slow
movement of the body ... the dancer never allows the upper part of
the body to move as she writhes or suffers over the ground", and a
couple dance always performed to song shows that whilst it is similar
to the chica, it is a courtship dance that has long existed in Jamaica.
Long's 1760 descriptions of this courtship dance the music both
grave and gay, the male dancer "all action, fire and gesture "his body
"vigorously turned and writhed every movement" and "his limbs agi-
tated with . lively exertions'; the female dancer coy, retreating,
keeping the "upper part of her person steady "as she moves her hips -
is repeated again and again by other writers.
Stewart tells what a central part this dance played in the lives of the
slaves. (This dance, and the others, they called plays, since all the
dances in the African context have a context and a sense). His des.
cription of the circle around the couple, and of the female singing
leader and chorus songs links this dance to the calinda described by
Moreau de Saint Mery. The calinda and the chica,like other Afro-Cuban
and Caribbean dances, spread out to Europe from the sixteenth cen-
tury, giving rise to dances like the sarabande, chaconne, pasacalle,
folia and cumbe. The fandango had its origin, too, in an Afro-Cuban
dance, even though it was further stylized. From the fandango a suc-
cession of other dances were derived, including the bolero.
The next description that we have of the dance which DeLisser
called the shay-shay, and Long described in 1760, Stewart in 1823 is
from Williams. The dance is performed as part of the Christmas cele-
brations, although not as a part of the Jonkonnu festival. The dance is
the same, but Williams compares it to a bolero and tells us that the
slaves call it "the love dance': The dance has obviously been 'creolized.
the gentleman-dancer wipes his lady's face with a hankerchief and she
The European influence is obvious. The original love-dance was of
African origin; and, dancing in couples in Africa, as Jahnheinz Jahn
points out,is "conceivable only as the fulfillment of the fertility dance "
This fertility dance was related not only to the couple who performed
but to the fertility of the earth as a whole. Each couple represent a
strengthening of these forces, a paradigmatic representation. They are
not in the individual couples of the European dance. But when Europe
took over dances such as the chica and the calinda, since "Europe....
because of its tradition as well as its social structure, adopts foreign
dances only in the form of dances for couples ...20 the African dances
were assimilated as much as possible to the "norms of European moral-
ity". In a moment of extension and return, the slaves now take over
the 'personal relationship' of the couple, a feature, as mentioned
before, of the European dance.
The movement of the Whore Girl, as she leans backward with legs
open and the upper portion of her body steady as she "hipsaws and
winds and twists", is a parodied and more explicit motion of the
original African courtship dance. (Jahnheinz Jahn prints a photograph
of a similar dance in the Lake Chad area.) But, at the same time, the
fusion of the original African pattern and the European individual
couple context,causes the dance to seem indecent both in its Christian/
European context, and in its African religious context.
Common to all these African courtship dances was a movement of
mimed climax which, in its original context, is supposed to last but a
brief moment if the meaning is to be retained.
To both the spectators and the dancers Wild Indian and Whore
Girl the meaning has been lost. Because of this, what should, or was
originally, a brief moment is prolonged, as in the cabaret type danc-
ing performed to achieve sexual excitement for sexual excitement's
sake. The bamboula, too, danced by the older people in the Virgin
Islands to the sound of the Ka drum the drum used in Jamaica both
for Kumina and the Tambu dance.
Yet, because dance and song can pass on meanings independently
of conscious thought the dirty dance of the Jonkonnu Wild Indian
and Whore Girl still retains echoes of its original significance. Its sym-
bolic character is inherent in the fact that a man dresses up as a woman,
puts on the mask or costume of a woman. He therefore represents the
female Wild Indian, also costumed, the male. The forward jam
movement is the explicit prolonged version of the vacunao or climax.
The prolongation is due to the European couple idea where the dancers
perform personal motions, relating to their own stimulation.
But even here, the moment is kept relatively brief by the invention
of the policeman who arrests them until they are bailed out by the
crowd. And the fact that the dance is performed by Whore Girl, paro-
dies its own obscenity as the members of the Egungun cult did when
they, too, wore profane masks. But as it parodies obscenity, it cele-
brates the life fofce; and vice versa; the Jester and the god-possessed
dancer always side by side. As Jahnheinz Jahn points out: in the inte-
grated African world "there can be no strict separation between the
sacred and the profane.. .Everything sacred has a secular component,
and everything secular a relevance to religion"' The Dance, as the
cultural medium par excellence which expressed and transmitted this
religion, was not easily divided into these categories. In African
philosophy, all dance, all art "is the embodiment of a singular universal
life force" and the only difference between dances would depend, in
the original African context, as to whether or not each dance "symbol-
izes more or less of the universal life force': The 'Doctor Play' of the
Jonkonnu, for example, symbolized a lesser amount of the life force
than the myal doctor ceremony. In this sense the Jonkonnu 'Doctor
Play' was more secular, the myal dance and ceremony were 'religious'.
But the religion was African, and pagan and black. Increasingly, as
Jamaica became more Christianized and monotheistic, the African gods
were exiled along with the culture in which they were involved. By
1825 we are told the practice of Jonkonnu had begun to fall off very
much as "many of those who had become Christians were ashamed to
join in it". Transformed "indigenized folkdances became the more
respectable" dances. Shame and extreme reticence was displayed
towards dances of African origin. Jonkonnu and the courtship
dance which formed a part of the same cultural complex was exiled to
the remoter country areas. To rise on the social scale, one danced the
quadrille but turned one's back on the shay-shay. One claimed all
that was Europe and denied Africa. Africa would not be denied.
The African gods were too pervasive, too tangled with the uncon-
scious roots of our being- They were the roots.
"The question is: are we prepared to accept what is origin-
ally ours, and not be afraid because it is simple and given to
Cottons and no silk? Or are we afraid because most of the
vital expression of our folk material is of African origin?"
(Beryl McBurnie, on West Indian Dance, 1955).
"The Christian middle-class widely holds particular views
of revivalists; pagan, superstitious, comical in ritual behaviour,
tolerant of dishonesty . The ambivalent attitude of the
middle-class towards their African heritage contributes to
(Edward Seaga, writing on Rivivalists Cults in Jamaica, 1969)
Both Martha Beckwith in the 1920's and Earl Leaf in the 1940's
found the Maroons willing to dance Polkas and quadrilles, but reluc-
tant to dance dances of African origin. Colonel Rowe, head of the
Maroons, spoke of 'obeah' to Leaf as part of the 'African arts and
sciences'; but in front of the Presbyterian parson, referred to 'obeah'
as 'witchcraft and paganism'. The Presbyterian parson, according to
"disapproved of Maroon dancing, because of its affinity to Africa
and Afro.Jamaican folklore ".
The problem is not a simple one nor the opposition either/or
Christianity has become inextricably mingled with Jamaican folklore
and Jamaican folk religion. As Cassidy points out, both doctrinal and
ritual elements of Christianity are fused with the remains of African
religions in the Revivalist cults of today. How and why did this come
Redfield discusses the theory that all religions and cultures have
a'high or learned' tradition as well as a little' or Yolk' tradition. The
first is carried on by the learned or reflective few, whether in oral or in
written cultures. The second, the little tradition, is carried on by the
people through song, dance, legends, stories, myths, plays, ritual.
There is a constant interaction between the two. Sacred epics, for
example, can arise as stories among the people, be taken up by the
high tradition, refashioned and returned to the people. The Bible is a
perfect expression of this. The ethics of the Old Testament, for exam-
"out of the tribal peoples and returned to peasant communities
after they had been the subject of thought by philosophers and
Redfield describes the process by which the high traditions adopts
variants created by the people and fits them into the framework of
orthodoxy as a process of universalization. The opposite process by
which the people take fragments of the high tradition, and adapt it to
new and local purposes, forgetting its original framework of interpreta-
tion, he calls parochialization. The kind of civilizations where the high
and the little tradition are related to one another as in China is
called a 'primary' civilization. The second type where an invading
civilization displaces the high tradition of another culture and people,
and replaces it, is called a 'secondary 'civilization.
The civilization of Islam, for example, although an invading civiliza-
tion, was able to re-root itself in the folk tradition of the invaded coun-
tries by allowing them local variants of the Mohammedan religion.
In Jamaica, the African religions suffered a discontinuity. The folk
and little traditions, carried on through the drum, song and dance, per-
sisted and remained creative. But the high tradition carried on by
priests in Africa who had to undergo years of initiation and reflection,
could not survive under conditions of disruption and forced labour.
Whilst, therefore, religious myths survived, they suffered a distortion.
Anancy, for instance, is known only as Anancy the trickster, and not
as Anansi, the God Creator.
The Christianity of the plantation system functioned as a branch
plant extension of the Anglican Church in England. The Non-
Conformist religions, on the other hand, and in particular the Baptist
religion, was adopted by the Christianized slaves asa their high tradi-
tion'. The Bible became the Book, the high tradition into which they
could feed the living roots of their religious impulse. The culture con-
tact points with the Baptist and the former African religions were
numerous. In particular the symbolism of total immersion in water;
and the leader system by which former Myalist cult leaders were able
to be responsible for classes. After Emancipation, with the psychologi-
cal pressures of the new order, with the rigidity of the orthodox
Baptists who put a ban on dancing, for example, numerous Myalist
cults with Christin n an elements and Native Baptist cults with Myalist
elements, began to attract converts from Orthodox Baptist sects. The
high tradition was now only the Bible; and numerous leaders were free
to interpret it as they wished.
In these re-interpretations the powerful African survival infused
themselves. The African gods came back as angels, and some as emis-
saries of the devil. For the Christian Manichaeism, the division into
absolute good and absolute evil, God and Satan, was one of the most
powerful borrowings. The African world view in which good and evil
are not separate but are twin aspects of th e same reality, had to fight
a hard battle for survival. But, as Herskovitz points out, the African
concept in which conquering African peoples had absorbed the gods of
the conquered and vice versa,made possible the fusion and trans-
The official Baptists were unable to accept tne transformation. A
new separation and discontinuity occurred. After Emancipation the
strain and pressure of adaptation lead to an outbreak of 'obeah'. The
newly freed men, in a society where no preparation had been made to
adapt them to the new order or vice versa, attributed their problems to
enemy 'obeah'. They retaliated. Enemies retaliated. The Myalist cult
became 'obeah pullers' of the society.It was believed that an obeahman
stole the shadow or personality of his victim for evil purposes and nailed
it to a cotton tree. The Myalist evolved an elaborate sacrificial ritual
in which dancing by members of the cult around a cotton tree, made
it possible to retrieve and restore the stolen shadow to the victim. As
once the Myal dance had returned life to the dead, so the new dance
now returned the lost personality. This concept responded to the
complex African belief in the different souls that each man possesses.
In the 1840's, in response to severe problems and difficult conditions,
the Myalists, now fused with Christian elements and phraseology, began
and carried out the Great Myal Procession. The Myalists saw themselves
as 'medicine men' sent to 'pull all the obeah' and cleanse and purify
the earth in preparation for Christ's second coming. Many Native
Baptists, and even Orthodox Baptists, joined in the Procession. They
went from estate to estate, church to church, held meetings, danced,
became possessed, whirled, with additional rites of self-flagellation and
prolonged fasting. The Procession had aspects reminiscent of the
English medicinal folkdance rites, which had already become part of
Myalism. Many Myal leaders had worked in the hospitals on the
estates and afterward setup as 'medicine men'. They saw themselves
as 'angel men' dancing the medicine of Christ, in much the same way as
Jonkonnu danced fertility medicine, and as the English folk rite danced
'medicine' with dancing men, disguised as animal men and Jacks-
in-the-Green, who danced dispensing medicine by the touch of green
boughs, or handkerchiefs, with broom dancers, sweepers, sword-bearers,
clearing and purifying the way. In the Great Myal Procession,
Christianity, Indo-European and African paganism fused at the moment
in a cultural contact that created a new entity, neither Christian, Indo-
European, nor African a new reality. This was the moment when
the 'culture' of Europe as distinct from the mere techniques of its
civilization became an integral part of the Jamaican reality. The fusion
took place on the unofficial excluded level the creative level, the
level of the people.
The Great Revival of 1860-61 began by Orthodox Christian Mission-
aries following the example of the Revival movement in the United
States and Britain, was soon tn taken over by Native Baptists and Myal
groups. The example of Pentecost and the missionaries' appeal to 'get
the spirit' and be 'reborn' again was a culture contact point which lead
to the transformation of Myal and Native Baptist groups into the
Revivalist cults of today. The devotees became possessed by angels
through deep trances, visions and above ad ae ll through the power and
force of the dance. They prayed as they danced, read the Bible, purified
themselves by flagellation. The Great Revival became more 'African as
it progressed' and
". .. the attitudes of present day cultists reflect this situation,
Talented and experienced cultists can work 'the '61 order of revival
whilst lesser figures can get up only to the '60 order!" 21
The religion of an invading civilization Christianity had come
into a relation of cultural continuity with the invaded culture. Revival-
ism which sprang out of orthodox Christianity and Myalism, became
heir to all the accumulated traditions of dance and song and healing
ritual seen in the proliferation of Revival "balmyards where Mothers
heal with herbs and psalms". The Myal took on a new life in the
Revival cults, while its more 'secular' partner, the Jonkonnu, would
contribute its pattern, as we shall see. Out of this comes the paradox
that it is Revivalism,whose cultists,whilst mostly racially unmixedptre
the true syncretizers of the Jamaican cultural tradition, the culturally
mixed, accepting all influences within the basically AfroJamaican
One other folk rite was to become a part of Joononu; and later of
the Pukkumina Revivalist cult, and the more African Kumina. After
emancipation Indians were brought as indentured labourers to work on
the sugar estates. Many came from Bombay, and a substantial portion
of them were of the Shiite sect of the Mohammedan religion. They
brought with them the annual festival of the commemoration of the
death of Hosein and Hassein, the sons of Ali- In Jamaica this festival
became known as the Hussay Festival although variants: Assay,
Hossay Wuse, are also used. There were many culture contact points.
A pattern of near ancestral worship, sacrifice to the Tajeh or Hussay
- the model of a temple in which the two martyrs are supposed to
reincarnate themselves, the model made like a Jonkonnu mask, all
glitter and splendour; and above all the processions of each group with
its Hussay; the fighting between them, the music, the dancing, the
stick and sword fighting ; the concept, also, that those who followed
the Hussay and took part would receive atonement for their sins and
be purified. In the Hussay, to, tthe spirits of Ali's son reincarnated
themselves as the ancestral gods did behind the Jonkonnu mask.
The Jonkonnu drew in elements of the Hussay Festival. In a des-
cription of Jonkonnu in 1925, we read:
'They have several tricks this year, as for instance a 'woman with a
broom who swept the path ahead of them. She was quite new as
also were the two 'habbres' or 'coolies'. . East Indians .. 22
The little traditions of Africa, England, Scotland and India fused.
The influence of Indian folksongs are evident in some Jamaican folk
songs. The Indian order plays an essential role in the Pukkumina cult.
But after the Great Revival, the little tradition whilst remaining cease-
lessly creative, and provided with a high tradition in the Bible, was
once more devoid of a learned interpreter caste related to its roots, able
to provide it with a universal meaning. The little tradition remained
The learned have been taught to look with contempt on all practices
that are non-Christian and ipso facto non-European. Even those who
carry on the little tradition are ambivalent towards it.
In the Revivalists cults, the dance is still used as a cultural means by
which cultists experience through possession that creative life force
whose names are many, but which remains the same. Yet, in the value-
system of Jamaica, these dance religions are despised; or looked upon
with mocking contempt,rather like a more ridiculous form of Jonkonnu.
The upper classes base their claim to being upper on the continued
retention of European values; and the denigration of African ones. To
the middle classes and the aspiring middle classes, both the dance
religions and the Jonkonnu are seen as frontal assaults on their pain-
fully acquired Western' and, ipso facto, Christian status.
To a very broad cross-section of the Jamaican people, including many
Zion revivalists, all the African heritage, including Jonkonnu and
Pukkumina must be avoided since the African heritage belongs 'to
the days of darkness: Yet Africa exists powerfully in Jamaica today' -
in the Revival cults, Kumina, Convince, the funeral-going even of the
middle class, the fervour of orthodox Christians' singing and hand-
clapping, the easy rhythmical movements of all Jamaicans, in the
Jonkonnu but it exists without interpretation of meaning.
And without its framework of meaning it repels the more Christian
element who see it only as one more example of the 'sexual licence'
and immoral lack of restraint of the lower classes'. "Meaningless-it
reinforces their attitude of rejection and contempt which is, since this
is a part of their cultural being, self-rejection and self-contempt. This
attitude extends to the dances which have become 'parochialized', a
means of interpretation of a religion whose wider meaning is lost.
Whilst the religion is constantly experienced and expressed through
the dance, its universal elements and significance are obscured.
The 'gods' remain in the revivalist cults the 'parochial gods' of the
little tradition. Christian Jamaica sees them as pagan and idolatrous;
progressive Jamaica sees them as a drawback to 'progress'and 'modern-
ization, those new absolute and unquestioned gods. By both, the little
tradition is spurned and denied.
Folklore and folkdance belong to the little tradition of Jamaica.
Hence the danger which Price Mars spoke about that one faces in
dealing honestly with the problem. Colonel Rowe of Acompong, caught
between the official tradition of Christianity and the powerful tradi-
tions of his history, had to deny the latter. This conflict and ambi-
valence is at the heart of cultural creativity in Jamaica; or rather of its
TABLE OF FOLK DANCE SURVIVALS
(1) MORE PURELY AFRICAN SURVIVALS
(2) MORE AFRO-CHRISTIAN SURVIVALS
a) ZION REVIVAL
(1) MORE SOCIO-RELIGIOUS
a) NINE-NIGHT DANCES
b) RASTAFARIAN DANCING
(2) MORE SECULAR
a) MORE RURAL
b) MORE URBAN
(3) PRESENT DAY REMNANTS OF JONKONNU
(i) Kumina, Convince and Gumbay, more purely African survivals,all
descended from original Myal cult. First two reinforced in African
elements by contact and involvement with Maroons preserved the
more African Myal after absorption in the Great Revival. Elements
strengthened by the arrival of African immigrants after Emancipation
to work sugar estates, particularly St. Thomas, where both cults found.
Gumbay a remnant of Myalism of the great Myal Procession.
Found only in remote area of St. Elizabeth, uses drumming and
dancing to exorcise evil spirits or to 'tame them' when one moves
into new house. Among drums, special one-headed square goatskin
drum played with the fingers as shown in Belisario's sketch of the
Jonkonnu, roughly same drum sketched by Miss Roberts in the 1920's.
Drum used both by Jonkonnu dancers and Myal practitioners; usually
same people. Myal and Jonkonnu rhythms and songs similar.
Kumina ancestral cult uses gomba (i.e. gumbay) drums a set of
three drums, two bandas or bass drums and a playing drum, to evoke
ancestral spirits and gods. Gods are termed 'African gods'and two
types 'earthbound gods and 'sky gods'.
Myal term used to refer to "the possession dance of a dancing
Zombie". Zombie is either an African god or ancestor once possessed
by a god.
Kumina worship a religious dance ceremony held on occasion of
birth, betrothal, and Nine-Nights.
At Nine-Nights the KUMINA QUEEN in a special dance invokes
spirit of deceased, and speeds it to its rest. Most important Kumina
dancing cakes place at the Memorial for deceased about a year after
death. Dance ceremonies help member of cult engaged in lawsuit.
Dance invokes the gods and spirits -'power' to ensure other party in
court case withdraws or disappears. Cultist dance around in circle
whilst dancers in the Myal dance inside circle. Among dances -
(a) courtship dance between Queen and two men (b) possessed dance
of Queen alone, dancing with glass of water on head, lighted candle in
hand- at times climbs fence or rolls on ground, entranced. (c) Posses-
sed dance of men climb trees, hang from feet, head downwards, still
dancing. (d) Mimed weapon dance between cult leader and another
man. (e) 'Coolie-man' dance, possessed by an East Indian spirit. (f)
Mimetic fertility dances 'distinctly sexual'
Convince cultists believe in Christian deities, but these remote.
Convince deals instead with ghosts of relatives, ancestors; and by
extension, those of the ex-members of cult; also ghosts remembered
from oral history. Dance invokes power of ghosts, behaviour amoral.
Ghosts not Christians, cultists argue; outside Christian concept of sin.
Each ghost with prescribed dance and dance step, prescribed costume.
Songs, special for different spirits. Only handclapping used. Hymns
sung to call ghosts. Ghost uses body of cultist violently, driving him
to climb trees etc. Through body of the cultist, it drinks, smokes, uses
special and rather blasphemous language, attempts sexual intercourse.
Lends power to cultists to 'pull obeah', or set obeah'.
A.(ii) Afro-Christian Survival
Two Revivalist cults, heir to all elements that entered Jamaican
folklore: Zion Revival belongs to more Christian side of Afro-Christian
continuum; Pukkumina, influenced by Kumina, more African oriented
Jonkonnu parade with its different 'Characters' influenced cults -
principal 'Spiritual Dancers' dance roles called'posts'in Zion Revival,
and 'portions' in Pukkumina. Myal Procession and Great Revival in-
fluenced by concept of 'dancing in circle, labouring in the spirit' and
'groaning' in order to attain deeper order of possession deepest '61
order (the Great Revival year).
The concept of 'spiritual journey' on which dancers travel, central
to Pukkumina same origin. Both cults exist in all parts of Jamaica -
Zion Revival tends to replace Pukkumina in rural areas. In Kingston
Pukkumina holds its own in more poverty-stricken areas. Pukkumina
and Zion cults increase in response to rural influence changes in
social order advent of technology increasing modernization and
subsequent feeling of disruption from kindlier rural pattern. Both
cults offer refuge of-communal urban framework. Both cults 'danced
religion' to both possession and possessed dancing sign of the saved.
For both the spirit world in three categories:
a). Heavenly spirits
b). Earthbound spirits
c). Ground spirits
Zion Revival deals only with first two, Pukkumina excludes none -
particularly fond of 'ground spirits' ie. ghosts. Nearer ancestral cults
like Kumina both cults God remote. Jesus for Zion Revival nearer
to man. His death and Resurrection fuses with original Myal ritual.
He comes to be seen as "a 'curing' spirit, the ultimate source of all
Zion Revival, with proliferation of 'balm-yards' where they heal
with herbs and psalms true heir to Myal in healing aspect. Jesus
pours out healing spirit through Holy Ghost as at Pentecost. The Holy
Ghost passes on these gifts through messenger angels, who 'teach' them
through spirit possession and spiritual dancing. One of these gifts -
'unknown tongues'. Pukkumina tend to use African and Hindustani
words in songs. Angels in Zion, ghosts in Pukkumina allot to their
converts both 'posts' and 'portions' i.e. roles they must dance in
spiritual dancing; and costumes they must wear. Both angels and
ghosts give their converts moral advice Cults function as source of
morality Cults also function as mutual aid, through partner-insurance,
loan and burial societies, spiritual dancing and religious concept pro-
MAIN CHARACTERISTICS OF DANCING
1. Both cults adhere to main pattern of choral circle, dancing around
the 'SEAL' or consecrated ground.
2. Zion Revival use drums which play especially before procession.
Both cults use rhythmic 'groaning' to achieve varying depth of inten-
sity of possession. 'Groaning' "a series of deep guttural sounds, made by
rapid inhalation and exhalation of breath through the mouth. "
Zion Revival breathing polyrhythmic the cultists use side step
movement, body lifts on one foot, then lowered with a stamping sound
on other which at same time travels ground with small hop. Contin-
ues movement and sound coalesce in unified whole. Circle labours'
i.e. dances in unison to achieve harmony through similar depth of
possession. When this attained, angels send messages which leader
interprets by singing this called "rich area of folk-music '.
3. Whilst for Zion Revival 'spiritual dancing' used to summon spirits,
in Pukkumina 'ground' spirits possess devotees violently knocking
them to ground. Pukkumina breathing pattern in 'groaning' one-two
beat, marked by the movement. This a "genuflecting or bowing
motion in which the upper half of the body bends forward, while at
the same time, the knees are bent, resuming an erect position ... with
this movement dancers travel sideways towards 'the light of the spirit' ".
Each special 'portion' of each cultist devised to be danced to cope
with hazards and dangers of 'journey'. Spectacular dance of 'River
Maid' to take 'bands' across river. Colorful dance of the Indian order
leads 'bands' through India. Technological terminology noteworthy:
locomotive', leads 'train' assisted by 'engineer', 'brakemen', coalmann'
etc. Shows urban emphasis of cult.
4. Both cults use 'Tables' spiritual ceremonies combining religious
service and feast as in 'thanks-giving', 'uplifting', mourning, 'sacrifice'
and 'destruction' (particularly secret, as connected with popular dread
of obeah). New 'tables' devised for new needs. ('Destruction Tables'
movement reversed from normal counter-clockwise to clock-wise;
foot-stamping also reversed, left foot being used first.)
Revivalists through spiritual labour' and 'work' deny brute facts of
everyday existence by their transcendence in per -reality. They
establish in dance 'a putative society'. In which they are the elect,
the elete. Dance turns world upside-down, liberating participants.
Challenge and response syndrome leads to fact that dance as a vital
and meaningful reality found mainly among dispossessed.
NINE NIGHT DANCES:
Ritual connected with death plays special part in Jamaican folklore.
Kumina dance, like original Tambu Buru, Etu, Dinkieminie dance
associated with speeding the dead. All counterparts of the Haitian
Banda. Both Buro and Dinkieminie became associated with wild ero-
ticism reference to fact that fertility dances, in all folk cultures
performed at wakes etc. to reduce power of Death, by opposing life
force. Description of Dinkieminie danced in Eastern Portland, shows
this. "A peculiar jumping dance to drums... involving vertical heights
in the jumps ... the dancer bends on one leg at the knee and makes a
long series of high leaps all on the other foot." Parallels leap/ fertility
aspect of Jonkonnu.
Nine Night dances spread out their purpose and meaning to purely
social functions. Meanings changed. Dinkie minie now associated with
ring plays at Nine Nights. Buru kept an association of violence and
eroticism. Both war dances and fertility dances originally danced at
wakes etc. Name, dance and association of Buru taken over by
Rastafarians. Calimbe and Combolo terms which survived regular per-
formance of their dances. Calimbe a dance in which two men hold
pair of sticks while third dances upon it. Dance represents death of
third dancer as vegetation spirit-lifted up and then lowered, life restor-
ed to him. Combolo an alternative term for similar dance with erotic
Tambu Etu in isolated areas still danced at social functions in
particular those connected with funerals and weddings.
RING PLA Y and the dances accompany song and action.
Games played in circle to pass time at wakes and Nine nights. Dance
actions accompany songs and game, among them:
a) A shuffle step, one flat foot,one toe; feet always on ground
in a slow turn called 'riding'.
b) Wheel by which player selects his partner.
c) Bows and curtseys and hopping steps to imitate animals.
d) Exhibition dancing steps in which player shows his motions.
Many ring-plays influenced by English children's games and some
songs adapted from English folk tunes. But African antiphonal form
also dominant. The Ringplay with its integrated song, dance, words
and mime,the indigenous form -only one in which dance as conscious
art form can meaningfully develop.
b} RASTAFARIAN DANCING
A millenarian movement, which sees Ethiopia as both Heaven and
Fatherland on earth; the Emperor the black Christ. Bible, interpreted
in 'black' terms is 'high' tradition of sect. Called 'Black Israelites'.
Nostalgia for lost and distant Africa reject prevalent value-system of
society. Assimilate instead, all 'despised' African elements of folkcul-
ture. Nyabingi Order, or Locksmen, more fanatic members of sect,
vow not to cut either hair or beard. This Order adopted Buru and
Kumina dances and drumming from semireligious cult. Both used to
welebme fellow cultists from prison. Nyabingi dances, with Niabingi
drumming on a set of three drums called akete i.e. Maroon war-horn-
dances of fire and power, with emphatic footwork, jerky taut arm move-
ments, stamping and abrupt turns, sudden stops and starts, fierce mime.
Both dancing and drumming impressive. Through their longing for
Africa, Rastafarians stumbled on their Jamaican roots.
(ii) MORE SECULAR
a) More Rural
European folk-dances, after they died out in Europe, took on own
life in Jamaica, Quadrille, like mazurka, polka, jog, schottische etc.
became widespread and indigenous. In quadrille slight but pervasive hip
movements introduced. Quadrille, in remote European past, danced
as fertility charm.
Mento very much a dance of African origins, featuring hip-sway
and pelvic roll and connected with original courtship-fertilitydances.
Influenced by stateliness and suaver quality of quadrille, especially as
danced by older rural folk. In midst of quadrille figures, mento move-
ments will be introduced and folk tunes played both as Mento and
quadrille. In towns and especially in cabaret dancing, more erotic
aspects of Mento degenerated into belly dance. Even here not alto-
gether lost vitality of original meaning. Mento, perhaps the national
folkdance. Gentler than Trinidad calypso,somewhat like Cuban rhumba
but without fast footwork, Mento, danced with shuffle step over small
space, ripples w~ble body in up-and-down, side to side movement.
b). More Urban
More urtan and modern dances: Ska and the Reggae, response of
rural folk, alienated from ancient folkways, confronted with rapid
urban and technological change. Source of both dance and song heavy
marked beat of Pukkumina and Zion Revival, Part of dance movement
of Ska taken from 'portion' of Pukkumina cultist's train'. Body bent
forward, back almost horizontal,one leg placed forwards, slanting out-
wards. Arms held straight out, loosely doubled in fists, move back-
wards and forwards in pumping movement which jerks head and
shoulders forward Changeover to other leg takes place by straighten-
ing back and putting other leg forward. Second part of dance owes
origin to Jockey's dance in today's Jonkonnu riding and whipping
part. Arms bent from elbow, and fists held in front holding 'reins'.
Whole body moves forward and back in jogging motion. Knees bent,
'riding' motion controlled from pelvis. One hand goes backwards to
'whip'horse, swings forward to crack whip, with a sudden and dramatic
Then the 'riding' resumed.
Reggae, more honed down, energy more reined-in also,in essence,
the Jockey's dance. Only, body held straight, and arms, one on belly,
other stretched out to side, alternates as head and body keep up a muted
tight rocking back and forth, from taut pelvis rather than from knees.
Feet move, going forward change slant of rocking body. Dance of city
streets, all excess rural energy stripped away. Movement used in Revival
cults by those cultists who "rocking themselves into getting the spirit "
Reggae secular purpose, only enjoyment. Young urban dispossessed
known as 'Rudies'associated with these song and dances. Rudie at
once macho (very masculine) and violent assertion of manhood by
circumstances deprived. Walk weapon dance weapon rachet knife.
When society affords him manhood, both transformed into art; into
the dance. Dance expresses new tension of new transitional social order.
PRESENTDA Y REMNANTS OFJONKONNU. *
Bruckins survives in Portland originally celebrates Abolition of
slavery 1838. Many 'play' patterns of Jonkonnu contained in Bruckins
as shown in songs dealing with abolition; songs with dance use swords.
Dancers wear constumes to match songs and dances, sometimes,words
used. Similiarity with Brazilian 'quilombo'celebrating important Negro
events and with Trinidadian 'Cannes Brules 'which celebrated Emanci-
pation. Sword dance in Bruckins represents fusion of African and
English folk elements as seen in Jonkonnu.
Bruckins movements today dancer steps forward on alternate
feet, bending over from the waist with movement forward of head and
arms arms jerked back as body straightens. '(Similar step in Portland
Jonkonnu -'rhythmn different by 'masquerade queen'). Queen
strides forward, arms held regally, stiffly byside. Step called 'bruckins'
queen said to 'bruk' when performing movement. In Abolition
'Bruckins' dancers use shoulders, arms and head for thebruckins' -
faster tempo used.
Now only Queen performs 'bruckins' step. Jockey does riding step;
Pitchie-Patchie in multi coloured rags, shakes rags and body telling
crowd to 'dress' i.e. makeway. 'Masquerade Queen 'wears crown and
veils face; also John Crow feathers and Jamaica beads. Warrior wears
tallest head-dress and carries hatchet sames as Yoruba Shango -and
sword. Dance consists of great leaps crossing sword and hatchet over
head. Then bringing hatchet down on hop of one leg onto ground
telling crowd to 'dress'. Devilman prances and capers, dressed all in
black (tight-fitting) pants and shirt, mesh wire mask of tarred black
mask with cow-tail beard and moustache. Wears bell in place of tail
moving constantly with pelvic motion making bell ring. Carries two
pronged fork. 'Belly-Woman; a man dressed as pregnant woman with
out-size stomach which slips as she/he dances, in jigging step fertility
symbol: makes crowd laugh. 'Policeman'costumed as real policemen.
Whore Girl' (man representing her) dressed with strings of beads and
feathers, wire-mesh face mask and silk panties and stockings. 'Wild
Indian head-dress of feathers and beads. All head-dresses decorated
with small mirrors. All dances satirical (Whore Girl', Wild Indian'
and 'Policeman' dance previously discussed). No central Jonkonnu.
Band headed by fife player in charge. Tourism induces weekly perform-
ances for cruise ships. Jonkonnu at nadir. Whore Girl'and Wild Indian'
now similar to belly dancer. Vestige of original meaning lost.
WHEN FOLK BECOMES CONSCIOUSLY FOLK, 'ITS INSOLUBLE
CORE'DISAPPEARS. IT BECOMES 'FOLKSY'AND PARODIES IT-
THE JESTER DANCES ON. BUT THE GODS ARE GONE.
* Revival of Jonkonnu as a folk dance entry in National Festival gives it
both new lease of life and 'official' acceptance. Whole Festival itself
needs to take reinterpreted shape and format of Jonkonnu, the original
'Carnival'form of Jamaica.
I. Coulthard, Parallelisms etc.
2. Coulthard ibid.
4. Polanyi, K., The Great Transformation, Bostonr 1944
5. Davis, D.B. The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture. Ithaca, 1966.
7. Fortes, M., Web of Kinship among the Tallensi (in Wolfson, Ghana,
9. Cassidy/Jamaica Talk.
MAIN REFERENCE WORKS.
CASSIDY, F.G., & LE PAGE, R.B., Dictionary of Jamaican
English, Cambridge; 1967.
CASSIDY, F.G., Jamaica Talk: Three Hundred Years of the
English Language in Jamaia. London, 1961.
PATTERSON, O., The Sociology of Slavery. London, 1967.
COULTHARD, G.R., Race and Colour in Caribbean Literature,
COULTHARD, G.R., "Parallelisms and Divergencies between
"Negritude" and "Indigenismo" Caribbean Studies, Vol. 8,
No. 1, April 1968.
SACHS, Curt, World History of the Dance, Trans. Schonberg,
New York 1937.
HOGG, D.W., Jamaican Religions. A Study in Variations.
Unpublished PhD thesis, Yale University, 1964.
SEAGA, E.P.G., Revival Cults in Jamaic:. Notes Towards a
Sociology of Religion. Jamaica Journal, Vol. 3 No. 2, 1969.
SIMPSON, G.E., Jamaican Revival Cults. Social and Economic
Studies I.S.E.R. Vol. 5 No. 4, 1956.
REDFIELD, R., Peasant Society and Culture
BECKWITH, M., Black Roadways: A Study of Jamaican Folk
Life. N. Carolina, 1929.
BECKWITH, M., Christmas Mummings in Jamaica.
BECKWITH, M., The Hussay Festival in Jamaica.
ROBERTS, H., Some Drums and Drum Rhythmns in Jamaica.
SENGHOR, LS., Negritude and Humanism. Paris, 1964.
MONTI, F., African Masks, London, 1969
KENNEDY, D., English Folk Dancing, Today and Yesterday.
LEAF, E., Isles of Rhythmn. New York 1948.
GRIAULE, M, & DIETERLIN, G., THE DOGON, in African
Worlds, ed. Daryll Forde, Oxford, U.P. 1954.
RAMOS, A., The Negro in Brazil, Trans. Pattee, Washington
ORTIZ, F., The African-ness of the Folkloric Music of Cuba.
JAHN, J., MUNTU, New York, 1961.
HERSKOVITZ, The Myth of the Negro Past, Boston, 1958.
ELDER, J.D., Evolution of the Traditional Calypso of Trinidad
and Tobago. A Socio-historical Analysis of Song Change.
Unpublished Ph.D. Thesis, 1966.
EDITOR S.NOTE: Sylvia Wynter's article is a shorter version of a much
fuller treatment of the theme. For reasons of space parts have been left
our and foot-notes have been kept to a bare minimum.
13.Beckwith, Christmas Mummings ... etc.
14.Chambre in Cassidy and Le Page
15.Williams in Cassidy and Le Page.
16.Bunbury in Cassidy and Le Page.
17.Gardner, quoted by Beckwith, Christmas etc.
18.Quoted by Patterson
19.Quoted by Patterson
22. Beckwith, Christmas etc.
A.G. What were you doing before you came to the Jamaica
School of Art?
H.T. I was in Spain working for myself.
A.G. What kind of work did you do?
H.T. My own painting: woods, painting, drawing, collage.
'A.G. Where were you in Spain?
H.T. In Andalusia, up in the mountains about 70 miles
from Malaga and fifty to sixty miles from Algeciras:
Ronda; it's rather like a listening post for the world.
A.G. You were in America, too. How long were you there?
E.T. In 1965, Harry was visiting professor at the University
A.G. What attracted you to this particular position?
H.T. Since we went to Mexico we have much liked the more
Southern light: this is essential to us. Mexico finished
us, we could have stayed there. But not the art, not at
A.G. Not the Pre-historic?
H.T. Oh that, of course. They have the finest museums in
the world. We went there for a re-affirmation of what
we call 'language'.
But you don't care much for the murals?
They're not awfully good.
Isn't Siqueiros doing interesting work?
Man in a Foreign Land -
Fox and Donkey
by Donald Gilzene
Harry and Elma Thubron.
H.T. It's not without its interest. What I like is his ferocity,
somewhere born of terror. The Mexican 'thing' is the
terror the terror of power. Sd to some measure was
African art. Siqueiros is a wild man.
A.G. How do you interpret this springing of African art from
terror? Picasso was influenced by African art.
H.T. Oh, yes, I think that this is the big problem of the
twentieth century somehow. I think that we are begin-
ning to recognize that there are two aspects of man: I
don't think that one has to be overly selfconscious
about one's primordial tail, but I think that this is
something that the twentieth century recognized, and
gave form to in different ways.
A.G. You think that the anonymous African artist was a
pioneer in realising this aspect of terror?
H.T. I think no more a pioneer than many other peoples in
different places at differing times, but I think its form
the form in which it appears made it critical for
Picasso, certainly. D.H. Lawrence thought that the
instinctive side of man was a dead duck in the
Anglo-Saxon Protestant set up I think at one level
this may be true, but somewhere the century has real-
ised that man can really do, when he is working from
himself, in a way as never before, without reference.
This is the significant thing, and I think the method-
ology is the same, but what's interesting, Alexis this:
out of communication, ideas, concepts concepts
somehow are very much of the twentieth century
All Photos including colour Derek Jones
Oil on board -Neville Graham
'thing'. But we are still stuck with this primordial
tail. I think it is the purity of this centre in the African,
that is how we see some inter-relation. Barnett
Newman writes very well on this.
A.G. You used the term International Art sometime ago.
Now you have just talked about Africa and Mexico.
Do you feel that they are part of International Art?
H.T. Everything is in one way or other directly or in-
directly. You just have to be. It's an age that throws
up the telephone comes up in Russia, in America, in
Britain or somewhere else: there is no directly known
Chevanne Milton Harley
Jamaica School of Art Collection
link or there was none. These things happen; just
to breathe the oxygen of given time. These things
that you know are literally in the air. International
Art this really works at the level of aspects of
technology that have given the artist new freedoms.
It's a wide open situation. It is better to think of doing,
and then perhaps enquire, and from enquiry, perhaps
one does it may or may not be art of course. Every-
thing is so wide open at this time. Nevertheless, I think
there are, out of late nineteenth century twentieth
century painters, still problems that one devises and
plays games with. This, I think is very important;
these do relate to concept and possibility.
Collection of the Artist
Man! by Donald Gilzene
A.G. Should Jamaicans artists be aware ....
H.T. On this point, since you asked the question, I really
don't like much that goes on with your more senior
and popular painters. I'm quite sure that theirs is not
really the emerging Jamaica. The spade-work in one
way has been from Edna Manley to all the boys now.
But there is something which is jelling it shows itself
at two levels, Alex. One is at the level of the indigo.
nous, centrally Jamaican concern, which I think is
very important, that's your Rastafarians ....
A.G. Yes .... and Kapo.
H.T. Kapo is at the moment a rather more sophisticated
person from much the same roots, but I put him a cut
He has a sort of genius of his own?
I think it's the same indigenous 'thing' which is
beginning to emerge. But then you get the Manley -
the English, American and French influences, which,
of course, are right. I am really talking more at the
Windsor Castle by Mallica Reynolds, Kapo
Mrs. E. Thubron's Collection
"22" Howard Parchment
Collection of the Artist
VJ. g 1
Squares 1 Elma Askham-Thubron
Collection of the artist
Jamaica School of Art Collection
Morant Bay Street by Sidney McLaren
level of ideas and concepts, but these more popular
painters have taken aspects of style, which I am less
interested in, because style these days is of no conse-
quence. So the first move has been to plant a seed,
and perhaps, in Jamaica, it's very ambivalent. But
you've got something going which is very real where
it counts. You've got to have a basis of this kind,
before any art grows or indeed any culture grows.
A.G. When does the real indigenous Jamaican art school
H.T. I think it exists. That unrecognized Rastafarian wood,
I intend to show in this article, is so good. It cuts
away from the African and yet it owes much to the
fact that the carver's forbears, artwise, probably were
African. It owes a hell of a lot to a dream world -
which they would say is a real world of Ethiopia, as
stimuli; but really it's quite new and real.
A.G. As you said before, things float in the ether, and are
part of a racial consciousness, that must come through
a filter; is this filter the Jamaican experience?
H.T. Whatever it is, and I don't know enough to make it
more precise these people have lifted the sculptural
'thing' away from the masks, and the too-obviously
African. Certainly it is not Ethiopian art. This un-
known Rastafarian work is very splendid. We also had
this young boy from the country with a carved head
in exactly the same vein: they didn't know each
other. It's quite remarkable.
A.G. What good would it do for these people the more
primitive Rastafarians, let us say, and the more sophis-
ticated Kapo to be exposed to what you would call
H.T. It depends how they got it. In the way of people, in
Ethiopian Apple by Ras. E. Brown
fall down along the line, unless their understanding is
developed. And so it isn't a question of copying, it
isn't a question of working like, it is a question of
knowing what is being done, so that if they should
choose to look into another field, or move into an-
other medium, it's possible for them to do so. One
has got to be informed about everything this day and
age. You've got to know what other people are doing,
not in order to work like them but to strengthen your
A.G. Quite. So you are not too concerned with what you
call instilling a consciousness of International Art,in
order to see that they are people doing something
important,but in the interchange of ideas?
H.T. That's it, that's in essence it.
A.G. Now what about the completely different work that
is produced, say Milton Harley and George Rodney
and Howard Parchment?
H.T. I think those three are good artists. I think they are
probably emerging artists.
A.G. You do think they are doing a different kind of
H.T. Well, they must be. They have been abroad. They
know more, in fact, what goes on, and, perhaps, they
epitomize the next wave, the next development.
They've got to make their peace with themselves, and
perhaps their knowledge, which they have gained from
abroad, and they have a problem which they are
working on, and I find all of them very interesting.
A.G. How would you characterise this problem of the
younger, well more experimental, in the sense of non-
H.T. This is, of course, where they're winning, in my opin-
ion, because I think they see it, not as an academic
problem but as a very formal problem, and I think
they gain much by being aware of this pictorial sur-
face that in a sense is limited, in a sense is more total,
and in a sense allows much more strictly subjective
painting. I find their work more objective as a result.
I think this is important. I really do. But beyond
Painting by Caleine Binns J.S.o.A. Collection
Medal for Auntie by Colin Garland Mrs. E. Thubron's
the way of talking, just the interchange of ideas
would do a great deal. We talked to this,boy, who
went out on air, but we were afraid and still are -
that he will do what so many of them do i.e. set him-
self in the way of being a machine, doing something
only one step removed from 'airport art', which is
pretty horrible. -We know one boy here who sells
everything he does, because he simply has got to: this
is part of the reality. I have no toffee-nosed views on
this, but I think their strength is diffused, because they
have to sell something.
In the All Island Exhibition, had we gone along with
many people on the panel I think one would have
been measuring from the wrong centre and ending up
with rather a selected, nicer few. I think the strength
of that whole thing was to put them all in, and all
together, all in a block. And then it was apparent
that there is this indigenous art, and Ras E. Brown's
were superb. And Kapo's work gained enormously
being all together at one time.1
E.T. But what Alex is asking, you know, is why should
these people why do you think they should know
about, or. touch somewhere International Art? And I
think it is simply to develop their mind. I think they
1. See Jamaica Journal Vol. 4 No. 1
Systens Garth McKenzie Jamaica School ofArt Collection
that, you've got then one layer, Rastafarianism, the
indigenous art. You have Rasta Brown'and others,
obviously, and some sculptors yet to be dug up, found.
They exist, I'm sure, we've seen some. And then you
have Kapo but then you have these other people
who have been abroad, who are essentially Jamaican,
and somewhere they have a wider problem, and I
think, perhaps, a better one.
A.G. What about local critics?
H.T. When I read critics here, they are somewhere building
in the old stylistic, rather limited, rather European
'thing'. I am not knocking Europeans, because I still
think that, despite what the Americans think, Euro-
pean artists can be just as much 'there', and they are
not limited this day and age by being European at all.
I don't see this.
A.G. What about the young people that you have in the art
H.T. I am highly enthusiastic. I find them remarkable. The
games we have played were simplified to open the
greatest number of grids and push it out in a more
lateral sense. We brought no measurement to bear,
having concerned ourselves not with the vertical lift,
other than it does give you a grid with infinitely more
computerized possibilities. And, in playing these
games, the studentshave been able to see or the best
of them see and understand; and seeing and under-
standing is with the best of these kids a very total
thing, and this is what we like very much.
A.G. In this encounter, it is really that you are opening up
the greater opportunities of a wider field to them?
Does it mean that in techniques and form they can
H.T. Yes, But if there's any technique at all, it lies with us,
not with them. I think it's probably not essential that
one deals with technique first, because the students
have a great deal within them in this sense, they are
of the modern world: they are working from within.
But I think that the stimuli that come in at them
surprisingly, out of working individually and collec-
tively make them feed like ravenous animals upon the
whole experience. This is something that I really do
find remarkable with Elma's girls.
A.G. Can it be a roadblock of the mind, to be educated in a
H.T. It can be a basis for some to spring from, but for
others, it perhaps it's a good thing not to have
touched it, as it is dished out.
A.G. Would some of the students you have now, make good
teachers of others in Jamaica?
H.T. I think that some of those who have had the better
schooling probably will. I am not at all sure of those
on other levels.
A.G. I don't know whether this belongs in our talk at all,
but the New Mathematics has a modern art flavour
when taught geometrically, you know. If you do not
visualize, feel it, measure it, there can be no reality of
H.T. Right, this is quite true, so it used to be three times
one, and later you got round to three squares and
later still you got round to the idea of three cubes.
But now they have put out metaphorically, three
blocks, nine blocks, twenty-seven blocks, and they
understand the whole thing.
Is that an aid to the plastic feeling of form?
Of course, you see eighty-five per cent of the public
really learn through some heart-hand-head involve-
ment, and to isolate the head, which schools often
try to do, is doing it all wrong for the Jamaicans.
A.G. Why were people appalled that Kapo should get a
prize at the Annual Exhibition ....
H.T. Oh yes, I was approached by one educationalist who
was furious, and said I can't hold these up in the
schools as an example of design and good drawing. I
couldn't show this. But you see, he was obviously an
A-B-C-D educationalist in that order. Therefore, you'd
think he'd sum up moralistically about things and
think in a very unreal way about art. I mean, the
Kapos are, and they come out of a very total personal-
ity:a very sensitive and imaginative man who is a very
real man. But you Alex, had something very interest-
ing to say the other day what was it again?
A.G. You mean about my man in Miami? The one who did
find it difficult to see how we in Jamaica could create
so novel things.
H.T. These works are very good indeed and reflect a
changing scene. The time has long been overdue. I
see in the work of these young Jamaicans something
of a breakthrough, and it may well put Jamaican art
into a more significant and wider context.
Mixed Language Grace Mclntosh
Jamaica School of Art Collectior
on the possibility of effecting
some kind of change next week
Poems by Dennis Scott
1. Sunday: when the Chairman entered
down, recovering simplicity
at the round table. The grail
lit up, flashing lights,
gave a time signal.
There were many reporters,
their questions shaking like loose leaves,
fluttering. The interview began.
2. Monday: we are all equal,
said the Chairman. But I am
concerned to note how
the commune is betrayed
Some leave early, distributing
silences over our faces.
"What shall we do
when the bread comes to an end?"
3. Tuesday: the cameras circle him slowly.
The Chairman diets and is friendly to his people
The Chairman makes few appearances today
The Chairman is sorely tried
The Chairman is tired
The cameras circle him slowly.
What's the hurry, we ask,
what's the hurry.
Is there some place
is there some special meeting to attend.
4. Wednesday: like a great stem'
the steering rod
bloomed him softly
when the assassins rammed
his large whitehouse National disaster:
5. Thursday: our leader the Chairman is
elegant. He's stopped speaking
the truth, since then he lies
in state. His constitution won't be
amended now; he's gone
out of business. Startlingly,
'a boutonniere bleeds on his morning coat.
6. Friday: LONG LIVE THE CHAIRMAN
7. Saturday: the car has been repaired and
repainted, the house shines every evening, new
flowers in the vases, dancing,
the bakers are working overtime.
8. Sunday: when the Chairman entered,
Illustrations by Howard Parchment
Your clock's tic
toc tic toe, the toreadors
withdraw, the horses of the night
are dragged away.
Brittly, we dance.
Words brush like sand under
the drift, slow pivotings of anger,
the hesitating turn.
My body moves
its casual evasion, cape
in an empty ring where you can't
hear the wind, the questions. They give up
a bitter whisper; sand
on my mouth.
Idly the hollow moon
burs with a circular fire. And
your eyes, in your eyes, I
have placed (what bright flowers
they put out!) faultlessly
as a picador, the pale spears of my silence.
I arrange my feet
in a strict and angularcourtesy,
I approach over the ritual sand
of my sadness. I approach. You
may think it only the red moon's shape
perceived dimly in waiting, perhaps
you will not notice this sharp, paper
sword of my love, nor see, dazzled
by danger, how hard it is," this
kill for my heart.
SOnly I noticed the muscles softening, the flesh
S try creased and ripened,
the young faces pinched
It is forbidden to sleep on guard. off at the base, breaking like shy stalks.
In the dreamshadow you can't see them limping along, Since then I watch against reapers.
covering their baskets like mouths.
Besides that, stone frosts and must be kept dry, or In the stone gardens of my mind
it shivers to sand, there are old men with fingers like scissors,
things have a tendency to liquefy; become old snip, snip. Harvesting heads.
in the darkness of anger, running away into crevices.
Nobody explained this to me when I came. APRIL 1970
Look him. As quiet as a July river -
bed, asleep, an trim' down like a tree.
Jesus! I never know the Lord could
squeeze so dry. When I was four
foot small I used to say
Grampa, how come you t'in so?
and him tell me, is so I stay
me chilo, is so I stay
emptying on me -
laughing? It running from him
like a flood, that old molasses
man. Lord, how I never see?
I never know
a man could sweet so, cool
as rain; same way him laugh,
I cry now. Wash him. Lay him out.
I know the earth going burn
all him limb dem
as smooth as bone,
clean as a tree under the river
skin, an' gather us
beside that distant Shore
white as a river stone.
ANTONIO AND MORALES
F HrC by Vic Reid
*"P Antonio was worried about his integrity.
:t' Here he was hoping to be home for Corpus
Christi and the slowpoke English soldiers
were losing up his plans. They just
S, refused to venture out of the town. He
aimed a pebble at a croaking lizard. It
4. scooted into its hole. He turned once
more to the plains below. One of the
Englishmen -who seemed to be the leader,
seated on a camp stool, was having his
high leather boots polished. The young
foot-soldier slapping the leather was not
being proudly successful. Swamp damp
from the Liguanea, the morass in the east,
was not assisting the buff. Antonio could
hear the boy being bawled out by the
Antonio, on the limestone cliffs above
Spanish Town, grinned to himself. In his
scouting, he had gathered that the morning
hours was the time of the dandy. La
hora del elegant.
"Buttons, badges, belts and boots and
buckles. By the saints, the lower English
soldiers are worse off then we were under
the Spaniards," he said. "I have often
seen them bent over puncheons to receive
a punishment from that English instru-
ment called the cat-o-nine. And they are
even more worse off than the slaves
because they lack the cojones to desert
into the mountains."
Illustrations by Milton Harley
He let the hibiscus shrub fall back into
place before his face and worried some
more about the absence of a plan. The
heat pounded like a thin skull screaming.
He looked into the hollow below his rock
where Morales slept in the shade. Morales
turned and muttered imprecations at some-
thing disturbing his dreams.
"He sins even in his sleep," Antonio
said with a stir of admiration.
A distance below, the Rio Cobre flowed
running heavily at the time of year.
Behind them, the lower escarpments of
L6 i .
the Red Hills made fino ambush country.
The trouble was to pull the bastard-soldiers
out of their safe stockade.
Antonio and Morales were those two
famous Maroon cutthroats scouting for
Ysassi, the Spanish army commander, try-
ing to wrest back Jamaica from the
English. Antonio and Morales had laboured
long and devotedly in the cause of killing
English soldiers. They roamed the high
country, from the Yallahs to the Pedro,
laying ambuscades, burning outposts from
Guanaboa to the Morante. Their feats
were legends. So was their wrenching:
they wahooed up and down the mountain
backbone of the island, posting playmates
in all the black and Spanish camps in the
In their war of attrition, the two able
black guerillas were often content to
scrag a foe or two while they waited for
larger opportunities. Spanish Town was
now in their focus because the English
had commenced to rebuild the town they
had destroyed in the conquest of '55.
The trouble is, Antonio thought, those
lousy nose-talking cabrones would never
be able to fix back St. Jago de la Vega as
they had found it.
Still, understand, it wasn't that Antonio
was possessed of any burning love for the
town, nor for the Spaniards themselves.
They had been rough masters who had
never hesitated to put the chopper to any
black hombre muy pronto. But when the
English came with their man-o-wars and
eight thousand psalm-singing soldiers and
proceeded to level the town, a patriotism
to the island he had never suspected
surged in Antonio's bosom. With hun-
dreds of other surging Afro-Jamaicans and
surging Spanish-Jamaicans, he was now
waging war from the hills.
"A man cannot wage war without a
plan," Antonio said inside his head. "I
have no plan."
Yet, Antonio was a man of strong
intuition, a level-headed assassin who
would search patiently for the proper
places to skewer. He waited for the idea
A grunt from the ground made him
look down. His doughty fellow-scout,
Morales, had returned from his dreams to
the hot puzzling world easily as a baby
takes to tits.
'rompadre, are you ready for Morales?"
Morales was quite sure Antonio would
be ready. As the chief and most successful
scout to the guerillas, or Maroons, Antonio
had become known as the miracle worker.
The skullduggery by which he had wiped
out half a company (see ANTONIO AND
MORALES, Jamaica Journal Vol. 3, No. 4)
was still a source of wild hilarity on story-
telling nights in Maroon camps from
Ocho Rios to Juan de Bolas.
Antonio looked stonily at Morales.
"Go back to your dirty dreams. May
she be the mother of small goats," he said
"With God," Morales murmurmed, slip-
ping off again. Antonio plucked a pair of
delicate pink hibiscus and let them fall on
the eyelids of Morales.
Morales, his face encrusted with the
sweat he called the jewels of the poor,
woke again. With the handle of his throw-
ing knife which stayed in his hand while
,he slept, he indicated the English soldiers
"I remember we were once like those
muchachos, hardworking under the lash,
until our forefathers learnt the great res-
pect the Spaniards have for violence, and
took to the mountains. Do you think if
we spoke to those poor English soldiers
working so hard in the heat, they would
come to join us?"
The skin at Antonio's high cheekbones
glistened suddenly. His face took on edge
as his rage flashed and smouldered.
"We will first drive them back to the
sea, then well turn on the Spaniards.
Juan Lubolo, the one they call Juan de
Bolas, the great guerilla chief, he believes
this too. He was very good on this when
I worked with him on a mission from
Morales grunted. Antonio was not in
the mood for levity. The planning was
getting too much for him. The week's
furlough at Corpus Christi up in Ysassi's
main camp at Rio Nuevo would do them
both good. A few senoritas, a few skin-
fuls of the commanding cane liquor, and
Antonio would be as good as new.
Antonio parted the cover and turned
his attention to the garrison. He noted
the poor camp they made. The Spaniards
had told him that the Seiior Oliver Crom-
well had truly gone to the bottom of the
barrel to scrape up this army. Even from
here, Antonio could see rust on their
lances. Muskets had been stacked so
outrageously that the soldiers must leap
-tent ropes and cook-fires if they needed
their weapons quickly. On the other
hand, their officers were peacocks. They
out-glittered even the dandy Spaniards
Antonio had held in unreduced disrespect.
In the midst of the mud and the heat
damp, the shining of the officers' boots
was required of the lower soldiers. An-
tonio closed the blind and lay in the half-
shade of the hibiscus. Thinking.
Hot sunlight licked the long lithe
thinker, sponged up by the velvety black
coat like liquid light.
"Por favour, Senor," Morales said from
the ground, "think of a plan or we will be
here until Corpus Christi."
"Caramba!" A finger-snapping. And,
"Che!" Antonio ejaculated.
Morales began to smile. His compare
was on the gun once more. He raised him-
self on an elbow.
"Morales, you recall Corpus Christi in
the old days?"
"And why should I remember Corpus
Christi in the old days when there are
English pigs to be slaughtered, Sernor?"
"Nada, Morales. Come on. Do you
remember how the Spanish pigs used to
put on their finest clothes for high mass in
"Si, I recall."
"I am proud that you recall. Do you
also recall how we were required to rub
and polish so the harness shone as the
"Seguro. I am also angry to recall that
I received chastisement when the leather
was not sufficiently like the sun. I do
not care to remember Corpus Christi,
"Up, hombre, arriba. Again, do you
recall that sometimes we were short of
material with which to create the sun-
light in the leather?"
"Never, Antonio, in the valley of the
Minho where I was born, the shrub we
know as the pintura zapatos grows in
Antonio commenced to laugh. He
laughed softly, far in, on Morales and the
world. Morales too, a good round bulk
to it, slowly guffawing it, face buried in
his arms. He turned on his back and held
out his hands to Antonio. Antonio
plucked a handful of blooms and fluttered
them down to him. He held the delicate
pink flowers before his eyes.
"This I will do, amigo. I will take
down a handful of flowers of the hibiscus,
the ones which as children we called
pintura negra para zapatos, shoe-black,
and show our friends the English soldiers
how easily they can bring the sunlight
into the leather. Then I will lead them to
a place where the shoe-black grows in
profusion. And you will be waiting there."
Antonio's eyes crinkled with good
"And I will be waiting there, amigo."
tree foot Amelia
SmIt was crop time in the village. The whole family was in the
kitchen shelling corn and peas. Toota Jup, reclining on a
crocus bag of dried trash, lit his chalk pipe and said, "ah will
never feget T'ree-foot Amelia de mos' terrible ghos' dis district'
Sever hincounter an' Duguman de mos awful obeah man ever
born 'im was in charge of T'ree-foot Amelia. 'Im an' she use
to live way up in the woodlan' on de mountain side cross de
river. In dose days it was all woodland If yo' did want to set
ghos' on anybody, yo' go to Duguman hut an' pay 'im to set
T'ree-foot Amelia on dem t'ee days after dat in de middle
of de darkes' night yo' would see tree white legs of a horse, one
in front and two behind gallopin' full speed on de middle ridge
of de mountain. Jus' de t'ree white legs, de white head and
white tail of de horse, no middle part an' a woman rider in full
white sitting' on de part of de horse where yo' couldn't see no
horse. It gallop alongsidee de ridge of de mountain an' den dis-
appear into de darkness. Six days after dis in de middle of de
darkes' night who ever T'ree-foot Amelia is to kill would
wake up an' hear de t'ree-foot-duppy walking' roun' and roun'
dem house bu-ku-tup, bu-ku-tup, and de duppy screechin' like
screech owl till de person scream out an' run from dem house
wid T'ree-foot Amelia behine dem bu-ku-tup, bu-ku-tup,
bu-ku-tup. De person drop over some precipice or bounce
out 'im life againstt tree or stone.
Well one day a young preacher man name Bredda Tom
move into de village an' rent a little t'atch house in de clearing
on dis side of de river. 'im 'ear bout Duguman an''im preach
out at de square one night an' say,"Duguman an' 'im duppy
T'ree-foot Amelia, is de devil servants an' dem soon get dem
business fix." Duguman hear bout what Bredda Tom say an'
one middle dark night T'ree-foot Amelia gallop across de
mountain ridge an' nine days time one terrible dark night,
twelve o'clock de wind start to howl, screech owl screechin'
man-toad croakin', croakin'-lizzard croakin'. It was just like
every devil of de night come out dat night. All of a sudden
Bredda Tom hear de sound roun' 'im house, bu-ku-tup,
bu-ku-tup, bu-ku-tup ,roun' an' roun' an' a sighin' an' a moanin'
an' a groanin' like somebody in de grip of de devil. Bu-ku-tup,
bu-ku-tup, bu-ku-tup. Deacon Tom drop 'pon 'im knee an'
pray in silence an' denim get up an' put something' under 'im
cloak, push 'im door open an'jump out in de pitch blackness in
'im yard. Same time T'ree-foot Amelia fiah gashing out a 'er
nose an mout' an 'er yeye dem like two ball a fiah rush after
Deacon Tom Deacon draw a little white cross froqr under
'im cloak an' hole it out in front of T'ree-foot Amelia. De
duppy horse leap up in de air, de duppy scream an' dent gallop
like lightenin' through de darkness, cross de river up into de
Nex' morning' Bredda Tom an' D.C. go up de mountain to
by Ranny Williams Duguman hut. Dem fine 'im body spread out cross 'im door-
Illustrations by Colin Garland step trample like six horse gallop over 'im. From dat day
nobody never see T'ree-foot Amelia again an' everybody call
Bredda Tom duppy conqueror."
salt an pepper
fe yo mumma
The circumstances that I am about to relate are out of my
own experience and therefore may be called first-hand.
A broken axle had left my car and me stranded on the
road about five miles from Frankfield in Clarendon. It was in
the middle of an awful night: rain, thunder and lightning, the
sky as black as my boots.' Luckily the spot was by a banana
shed. I managed to get the car under the shed, then set out
to walk back to the railway station at Frankfield. The rain
had stopped, but I can't remember ever before being on such a
lonely stretch of road. Not a soul in sight all around me the
bleak plaintive whistle of toads, the rasping noise of crickets,
the indefinable sounds of night, overtoned by the occasional
screech of an owl. As I heard the screech owl I remembered
what they used to say in my district when I was a boy that
if an owl makes a number of succeeding short sounds as it flies
over a village in the night, it means that some unwed young
girl is soon to have a child. If the screech of the owl is long and
piercing, it is an omen of death. It was said that you could
counter the evil forebodings of the owl's cry if on hearing it
you turned your face up to the sky and shouted out loud, "salt
an' pepper fe yo mumma'
That night the owls were screeching both ways, short and
long. I felt a little sorry for whatever village I was passing
through, the villagers asleep while the ill-omened owls were
peeling out sad news for them. I turned my head up to the
sky and shouted at the top of my lungs, "salt an 'pepperfe yo
It seemed the night was getting darker all the time. I was
coming near to a corner that I knew well, a double corner
under a hill and between large overhanging trees. There it was
dark even during the daytime. As I turned into this corner, I
shivered slightly. It was pitch black. I could not see my own
hand middle. Moving step before step, slowly, I must have
reached about the middle of this dark double corner when it
happened. I suddenly felt a presence in front of me. We were
a hair's breadth from touching. It was a huge;-hulking figure,
tall and towering over me. At any moment I expected it to
clutch and crush me to nothingness. Before I could think of
any action, the thing before me gave out a wild, frightening yell,
"Wai Oi!! Duppy. 'elp, duppy", and continuing to yell "'elp
duppy", the creature leaped from before me, off the road and
ploughed through a nearby canefield. I could hear the cane
Next day my mechanic and I returned to the area in his car.
We stopped in the village square nearby. A giant of a man,
over six feet tall, was standing on the tavern step with a small
crowd before him. He was saying: "ah was in de pitch darkness
in de middle of de double corner when de duppy stan'up
before me, face to face like a man, blowing like a rollin' calf,
de yeye dem shinin'like live fiah coal,ah was 'bout to bawl fe 'elp
jump ovah de wire fence an' fly way t'rou' Maas Alick cane
field to me yard, go rub up wid camphor, guinea 'en weed an'
IT WAS AN OCTOBER EVENING WHEN THE SHADOWS
ARE DEEPER AND FALL EARLIER ... we were sitting
around the long table in the sugar estate recreation room. The
old book-keeper sat in the big old cedar chair at the head of
the table. He lit his pipe and said: "Gentlemen I give it as I
got it from an old overseer who got it from an old overseer.
"You know the ruins of the first Great House on this property,
well the house was built by two women, identical twins alike
as two peas in a7 pod Mary and Martha Wilkins. They loved
each other passionately, never married, never separated from
each other for as long as a day, until one night as Mary was
driving their buggy up the path to the house, some devilment
or other in the canefield made a frightening sound. The horse
shied and bolted, overturning the buggy, breaking Martha's
neck. Mary took to her room for over a year. She kept
Martha's room, which was next to hers, exactly as it was the
day Martha died. The two rooms had been similarly furnished,
from the pink carpet on the floor to a valuable, sentimentally-
precious china statuette standing on each lady's dressing table,
- a gift from their father long ago on their twenty-first birth-
"No servant tidied Martha's room. Mary looked to it herself
everyday until the day Miss Elizabeth Wilkins, a younger
relative, arrived from England. The following day Mary had to
go to the bay to see to Elizabeth's luggage. As she planned to
be away until late afternoon, she asked Elizabeth to tidy
Martha's room. Soon after she left, Elizabeth went into the
room. She couldn't help experiencing a feeling of uneasiness -
alone on the upper floor of the Great House in this large room
which none but Mary had entered since Martha's death, but yet
had the appearance of being occupied. Elizabeth was nervous.
She did not know how it happened, but her hand knocked the
precious china statuette off the dressing table. There it was in
three pieces on the floor.
"She was distressed the whole day. As the time for Mary's
return drew near she became more upset. She went to her
room sobbing. Soon she heard the buggy arriving. From
where she was, on the other wing of the house, she visualized
Mary going into Martha's room as soon as she came upstairs.
Soon after there wasa knock on her door. It was a summons to
Martha's rooms. Elizabeth braced herself and went.
"She entered Martha's room expecting a stern reprimand
from her relative sitting at the dressing table. Instead she was
told in a soft, almost caressing voice: 'Elizabeth, you should be
more careful. That :statuette had great sentimental value.I
like your being here and I hope you will stay. It could be your
little job tidying this room, but you'll need to be more careful.'
Elizabeth said, 'I'm very sorry cousin Mary. I promise nothing
like this will ever happen again.' 'Very well then, you may go.
Elizabeth opened the door and stepped out into the passage.
She saw Mary just coming onto the landing at the top of the
stairs. Mary said, 'What Elizabeth, just finished Martha's room?'
Elizabeth wheeled round back into the room. There was no
one sitting at Martha's dressing table."
I '" -
WE WmtK :t
Kingston and Port Royal James Hakewill WIRL
James Hakewill WIRL
- ~rr. "- *
i 7. PC
7 ":. C~
R L 2r
J.B. Kidd WIRL
by Olive Lewin
(1) Revival: Wide range of subjects, depending on the use for which it is intended e.g.
Baptism, Thanksgiving, Mourning. Hundreds of choruses, mainly adapted from hymns
and choruses of orthodox religions. These are used for street meetings, services and
tables*.Much of the music,however, is improvisatory, both melodically and harmonically.
Short phrases are often repeated for minutes with no feeling of boredom on the part of
the listener, because of the skill with which they are varied, both in pitch and rhythm.
* See Edward Seaga's article "Rivival Cults in Jamaica", Jamaica Journal Vo. 3. No. 2
I 4 L 6' j '1 if if I _
One of the most remarkable musical phenomena in our folklore is group improvisation,
in which music emanates from 20 to 100 people as if from one person. Harmonisation
comes easily to revivalists, whether the tunes are in major or minor modes, and lend
themselves to conventional hymn like harmonies or in older modes, suggesting less con-
ventional treatment. All Pukko tunes are in simple, duple or quadruple time. Zion tunes
are sometimes in triple or compound duple time. Drums and other percussion instruments
are used for street meetings and Zion services, but in Pukko it is chiefly clapping, stamp-
ing and other percussion sounds made by the worshippers that supply the rhythmic
background. When Indian Pukko bands are involved, Indian bells, drums and other similar
instruments are used.
(2) Kumina music is characterized by the use of two types of drum kbandu and
playing cast which the players straddle while they play them with their hands.They heel
the heads on alternate beats, so that the pitch of the drum is altered alternately.
Much of the music is antiphonal, and sung in unison, and many of the melodies are
modal. When harmony is used the texture is rather loose and contrapuntal, with the voices
spanning up to three octaves.
Kumina music resembles in many aspects that of the Bakusu in the Congo, and it is
interesting to note that there are Congolese words in some of the kumina songs collected
(3) Rastafarian: This cult is fairly new and has been developing in Jamaica for less
than forty years.
The cultists profess allegiance to the Coptic Church and to Haile Selassie. The music,
however, bears no resemblance to that of Ethopia, which is Oriental in flavour.
Drums play an important part in both their religious and secular music, and the rhythms
used are now unmistakable. Various percussions help to create poly-rhythmic effects
with the drums, voices and melodic instruments which are occasionally used.
(4) Gumbay is practised in an isolated area of St. Elizabeth in the South Western part
of the island. Drums, singing and dancing combine in exciting ceremonies mainly to
counteract the work of evil spirits. A square goatskin-frame drum is an interesting feature
of their music, and the rhythms used are usually in quick semi-quaner patterns. Other
drums and percussion instruments add to the rhythmic excitement. Many of the melodies
used by the singers are modal and the harmonic texture is loose and polyphonic, in a way
that is reminiscent of the melodic and harmonic styles of some West African traditional
Jamaican work songs sprang from the slaves' need to communicate and lighten their
distressingly hard labour. Talking was prohibited, but the workers discovered that they
could chant what they wished to say without incurring the wrath of their masters. The
chants took on the rhythm of the work which they accompanied, so they are as various
as the tasks the slaves were required to do. Styles also developed accordingly. In digging
songs, for instance, one, man would be required to lead or 'call' the tune, while the work
gang sang in chorus. The leader, apart from being a confident, powerful singer, would
improvise lyrics of topical interest, and mime them in order to keep the work gang happy.
5 W 11 I a I I
Some digging songs are simple two-phrased melodies sung antiphonally solo followed by
chorus in harmony. Others have more extended melodies -usually in the major or minor
House hauling songs on the other hand have long phrases followed by short ones suit-
ing the hauling motions, and often sections for short rests for the workers cleverly inter-
spersed. The songs for women's work are usually designed for solo singing and include
some of our most beautiful music.
House Hauling Song
A f rJ l r_.
Sung to "Ah" for hauling movement
Ah. ........... ..... .... Pull away
The antiphonal style of singing in many of the songs harks back to Africa, but most of
the melodies and harmonies are Western European in style. Only in the rice beating songs
is there a very strong East Indian influence.
Rice Beating Song
I-I M 4. rf-J-f, |
SE4 r i Cy!
I ~i I i I I Ip I I I V !1 t IL k"II ,
.1 T vA-
Music for the traditional celebrations in Jamaica is as varied as the roots from which it
springs. In most cases, though, there are obvious, strong influences from beyond our
shores, which have been moulded into-styles that are now typically Jamaican.
Influences in Secular Music
(1) Ashanti Jonkonnu fife and drum playing, as used in Ghana. Anancy and Canter-
fable songs which are used to comment on situations or as part of the narrative, and are
often associated with magical qualities.
Jonkonnu Fife Song played octave higher
In most of the secular Jamaica folk music the influence of Europe is strong. Melodies
are usually in either the major or minor mode and use the same sort of intervals, phrase
structure and rhythmic patterns that are found in the better-known folk songs of the
the United Kingdom and North America a few are from Italian, French and Polish
sources. The harmony is usually conventional SATB using chiefly the primary chords and
there is little modulation.
Maroon music bears close resemblance melodically to some Ashanti music, and Coro-
mantee words are still used in many of them. Drum rhythms are similar to those used in
(2) Yoruba Maroon songs from Accompong.
Nago music from Westmoreland in which actual Yoruba melodies have been identified
An interesting feature is the use of tin drums.
(3) Ettu, which is practised by small isolated groups in Hanover, also uses tin drums,
quick rhythms like those used by the Maroons and in Gumbay. It is one of the few types
of Jamaican folk forms which uses drum rhythms in compound time similar to rhythms
heard in some Haitian forms. Yoruba melodies have also been identified in this group.
(4) Tambo has not yet been traced up to its source, but indications are that its roots are
Western Nigerian. A large bass drum is the dominant feature of this music, though it is
used only at intervals,towhip up excitement and build up to the dancers' very erotic climax.
Catta ticks (two sticks) beat a continuous quick rhythm on the back of the big one-headed
goat skin drum.
In all these types of music modal melodies are frequently used, antiphonally. Unlike
so much Jamaican folk music most of these melodies are sung in unison and so do not
lend themselves to homophonic harmonization.
(5) European Jonkonnu. The side drum and fife playing at times shows obvious links
with British drum and fife band playing, and it is difficult to decide whether the style
came in this form from Ghana or was influenced here.
Set dance music often uses unmistakably European tunes, but when played by fiddle,
fife and other instruments supported by drum rhythms, the Jamaican rhythmic effects and
constant melodic embellishments completely alter the original style.
Quadrille Tune First figure *
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Song for Anancy Story
Quadrille Tune Mazurka
(6) East Indian In Westmoreland where there is a large East Indian population
oriental melodic lines are evident in some of the wake (gerreh) music, as well as in rice
The most frequently usedinstrumentsare undoubtedly the drum and there are many
types in use side drum, revival bass drum, Rasta bass drum, fundeh, repeater, Kumina
kbandu, playing cast, bruckins drum, tambo drum, bongo and congo drunms.Some are single-
headed, others stopped at both ends. Some played with sticks, others with the hands.
Styles and rhythms vary considerably.
Other instruments used at the elemental level are rhumba box, fiddle, bass fiddle, guitar,
banjo, harmonica, boom pipe, gourd, bamboo fife and many types of percussion. The
country style playing of the fife can be outstandingly florid and virtuoso.
Many of these instruments are handcrafted, but with the easier availability of factory-
made instruments, the craft is dying.
In recent years, songs chiefly of love, social comment and protest have sprung from
urban areas using pop dance rhythms. These rhythms, however, are closely related to the
rhythms of Jamaican cult music, and have led many to consider the forms to be a kind of
urban folk music. Time will tell.
urban folk music. Time will tell.
I I Ar
I I r Va l