As COVID requires physical distancing, wearing a mask, staying home with curfews, lockdowns, and vaccination drives it has had some positive impacts.
What you may ask are some of these positive COVID impacts? It may be hard to find anything positive, but there is always a silver lining. The 3 positive impacts that readily come to mind are being more home based, creativity and yearning for a get-to-gather.
Home based is being where we live, work or operate from. A place where there is no policing of following COVID restrictions. Thus no need at home for physical distancing and mask wearing. Effectively being home based, we are in curfew and lockdown.
Our home network, with connected home entertainment, office equipment and smart appliances, for many makes being home based tolerable and possibly desirable. Who would have thought we could be video conferencing with our relatives and friends overseas or our neighbour next door from home? Or that our manager is happy to join us from home on the Zoom meeting?
My friend reported she now watches a lot more TV and movies. Although over the years she had been paying for streaming services, she never had the time to fully utilise the service. Now she can tell the channel and time of day for her favourite shows. Not to mention the exercise and pet grooming programmes.
As much as I love the outdoors, now I think about family activities that are home based. Pre-COVID, just 2 years ago, we would have been heading for a day out with the grandsons, at a park, a museum or on the water. 3 weeks ago we were playing Snakes and Ladders, a home based indoor sport. After the game my grandson kept telling everyone that he won the game. With all my experience, why did I keep falling for the snake, sliding back almost to the start. Seems I never learn!
We must spare a thought for the vulnerable and disenfranchised in society who may not have access to some of the basics we take for granted. This is in part because they are more likely to live in unstable and crowded conditions in under-resourced areas, earn less, and have lower savings. Not surprising, many jobs deemed essential, such as home health aides, nursing assistants, delivery workers, farm workers, grocery and food processing workers, have low wages and few benefits. To think of it, anyone who has to put food on the table and pay a mortgage/rent is an essential worker.
Creativity is sometimes seen as the nice to do when we have the time. Curfew and lockdown restrictions give us the time, creating the space for us to play with exercising our brilliant brain, and realise new ways of thinking and doing.
My husband gave me a Prada mask, in my sort of colours, red and pink. But the mask was not a good fit. My creative juices started flowing and out came the sewing machine and an inspection of the materials in my sewing basket. I researched the number of layers of material to make an effective mask and created a pattern based on the Prada mask. Before you knew it I made 7 masks. Three of these home-made masks, along with the Prada mask are shown in the photo. I gave my daughter 3 masks, as she has a similar facial profile to me, and kept 4. This creativity allows me to match my masks to my outfits.
Another friend reports she has been reordering her garden. Plants that to her were an eyesore are now gone. In their place are almost half the plants from her local nursery. Let us all hope the rains come in time to give these new plants a good start in life.
I experienced the calming impact Jean Kropper’s Meditative Drawing Workshop had on me last week. A creative approach to time at home with pen and paper during COVID. I drew small shapes, dots or lines over and over and over to create a pattern. Then had to agree with Jean, that slow drawing is more about the enjoying the process of making a drawing than the end result. Listen to Jean tell her paper creativity story.
Now is the time to declutter the house and create a better living space. You can contribute those toiletries and new clothes being decluttered by bringing them with you to our Sydney Caribbean Festival. Your contribution will be donated to the Will2Live charity. Remember “one man’s trash another man’s treasure”.
Details of the Sydney Caribbean Festival are:
Venue: North Ryde School of the Arts, 201 Coxs Road, North Ryde NSW 2113
Date: Saturday 26 February 2022
Time: Opens at 1pm and closes at 8pm
You can attend in person or online. For more information and to purchase tickets, view here.
Share with us “What are some of the positive COVID impacts for you?” Send us an email: [email protected]
The story of Jamaica’s road to Independence concludes with Part 4. If you have not already done so, please read Parts 1, 2 and 3 in previous blogs.
“Where ever you travel there is a Jamaican”. For example I was in the upper reaches of the Austrian Alps when one of my fellow students ran excitedly to tell me “The Chalet owner’s daughter is married to a Jamaican”. Who would have thought I would be talking to another Jamaican while studying dams high up in those mountains!
So why do Jamaicans have such a migratory spirit?
The Caribbean has long been a migration hub, with many of its inhabitants seeking employment opportunities by moving either within the region or to a number of larger countries. These countries include Columbia, Panama, Costa Rica, Cuba, the United States of America (USA), Canada, and former colonial powers such as the United Kingdom (UK) and France.
Although many of these destination countries have limited labour migration, particularly in the context of the global economic downturn, migration remains important in Jamaican society. For despite its political stability, Jamaica is a poor country dependent on services, tourism, and remittances, with generally high unemployment levels. Many of us remember hearing of family connections in Panama and Cuba.
After success in building the Suez Canal, French investors commenced work on the Panama Canal in 1881, but by 1894 experienced construction problems, delays, bankruptcy, and legal troubles. This left many Jamaicans and other Caribbean labourers recruited by the French stranded in Panama, having to be repatriated at their governments’ expense.
After the French experience, Jamaica placed a tax of one pound sterling on anyone recruited by the USA to work on the Panama Canal. Thus mostly skilled Jamaican workers were recruited as only they could afford the tax. Thousands of Afro-Caribbean women also travelled to the zone to work as domestic servants, laundresses, or cooks.
By February 23, 1904 Panama gave control to the USA, who completed the Panama Canal in 1914. Working conditions were harsh with possible jail time or deportation if they failed to show up for work. Construction of the canal exacted a high human toll, with high rates of disease and workplace accidents, and a pervasive system of racial segregation.
United Fruit Company
Banana and sugar cane plantations in the region offered other migration opportunities for Jamaicans. The United Fruit Company (UFC), a USA company, was a major banana and sugar multinational player in Latin America and the Caribbean. UFC was far bigger than most national governments in the region. It offered large numbers of Jamaicans the opportunity to travel to Panama, as well as to other Central American countries, to work on its banana and sugar plantations.
Between 1900 and 1913 some 20,000 Jamaicans migrated to Costa Rica to work on the newly established UFC banana plantations. In 1899 UFC hired some 300 Jamaican with experience in the area of sugar production, construction of railroads, aqueducts and other facilities to work in Cuba and so guarantee the transportation of the final product to the USA. These skilled workers were recruited with the condition “as soon as the Jamaicans should fulfill their commitments in the future sugar production crop and its requirements, they were to be sent back to their country”.
This requirement was never accomplished by UFC, on the contrary, that agreement was violated time and time again. Using the UFC´s fleet of ships, there was a constant movement of Jamaican workers (illegally) between Jamaica and Cuba, due to the proximity of both islands.
More than 10,000 Jamaicans, a mix of skilled and unskilled laborers, were recruited along with other Caribbean soldiers for the British West Indies Regiment. This was a strategy adopted by the USA and the UK when both countries needed labour during World Wars I and II.
Post-World War II reconstruction in the UK also required labour, much of which came from Jamaica and Barbados. Large numbers of skilled, semiskilled, and unskilled workers were recruited for hospital services, while others gained employment in industry and transport. The 1961 census in Great Britain recorded some 100,000 Jamaicans in England.
The changing migration policies of traditional receiving countries in the 1960s altered the direction of Jamaican emigration. Restrictive immigration laws in the UK coincided with the passage of legislation in the USA and Canada that made education and skills more important determinants than nationality and race. From the late 1960s onwards, the USA became the chief destination for skilled migrants from Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean.
A Call for Change
Between 1900 and the outbreak of World War 1 the most interesting political developments in Jamaica were not within the traditional political arenas but in the area of voluntary, non-official organisations. One such organisation, formed in 1894, was the Jamaica Union of Teachers (JUT), with strong links with the National Union of Teachers in Britain. Although its prime concern was the field of education, problems in that area frequently involved it in political events.
The Universal Negro Improvement Association, founded in 1914 by Jamaican Marcus Garvey, advocated black nationalism and Pan-Africanism in Jamaica and among the African diaspora. From the 1920s the growing professional classes and people of mixed African and European ancestry agitated for more-representative government. The 1930s saw Jamaica heading towards another crisis. The contributing factors included discontent at the slow pace of political advance, the distress caused by a world-wide economic depression, the ruin of the banana industry by the Panama industry Disease, falling sugar prices, growing unemployment aggravated by the curtailment of migration opportunities and a steeply rising population growth rate.
In 1938 things came to a head with widespread violence and rioting. Jamaicans responded to the crisis by establishing their first labour unions, linking them to political parties, and increasingly demanding self-determination.
The Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU), named after the founder Sir Alexander Bustamante, was established in 1938. In 1943 Bustamante founded and lead the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), the political party affiliated with the BITU. The People’s National Party (PNP), founded in 1938 by the Honourable Osmond Theodore Fairclough, is the oldest political party in Jamaica. Fairclough recruited the PNP’s first leader Norman Manley, Bustamante’s cousin. In 1952 Norman Manley founded the National Workers’ Union, which is aligned with the PNP.
In six decades, Jamaica had moved from the derelict political conditions of 1866 to1884, to the threshold of her modern political system. During the latter decades of this period much that is characteristic of modern Jamaican politics had begun to develop. Political campaigning involved big public meetings, songs, banners and processions in support of candidates in both local and national elections.
Jamaica was little affected by World Wars I and II, though many of its people served overseas in the British armed forces. After World War II the island profited greatly from the Colonial Development and Welfare Act and from outside investment.
The Jamaican branch of the University of the West Indies was established in 1948 from Colonial Development grants. This institution became an important factor in the preparation for independence.
A sugar refinery, citrus-processing plants, a cement factory, and other industrial projects were started. The severe August 1951 hurricane temporarily stalled development by devastating crops and killing about 150 people. Development of the tourist trade and bauxite (aluminum ore) mining helped increase employment opportunities in Jamaica.
Both Sir Alexander Bustamante and Norman Manley were instrumental in Jamaica’s move towards self-government. The first general elections under Universal Adult Suffrage was held in December 1944.
The constitution of 1944 established a House of Representatives, whose members were elected by universal adult suffrage; it also called for a nominated Legislative Council as an upper house (with limited powers) and an Executive Council. A two-party pattern soon emerged, and the constitution was modified in 1953 to allow for elected government ministers. In 1957 the Executive Council was transformed into a cabinet under the chairmanship of a Premier. Jamaica obtained full internal self-government two years later.
In 1958 Jamaica became a founding member of the West Indies Federation, a group of 11 Caribbean islands that formed a unit within the Commonwealth. Norman Manley, leader of the PNP, became Premier after the elections of July 1959. In 1960 the JLP under Bustamante pressed for secession from the federation. A referendum in 1961 supported their views. The JLP was the overall winner of elections in April 1962, and Bustamante became Premier. In May 1962 the Federation was dissolved.
On August 6, 1962, Jamaica became independent with full dominion status within the British Commonwealth. Under the constitution the British monarch was retained as Head of State and Bustamante assumed the title of Prime Minister.
The ceremony, witnessed by Britain’s Princess Margaret and USA Vice President Lyndon Johnson, observed lowering of the British Union Jack and raising the black, gold and green Jamaican flag.
We hope you enjoyed this brief history of Jamaica’s Road to Independence.
Leave us a comment on suggestions for the next series.
Emancipation Day is a national public holiday in Jamaica, celebrated on August 1.
Emancipation is the process of giving people social or political freedom and rights. For the British Colonies in the 1800’s emancipation related to the abolishment of slavery, with the government granting of freedom to slaves. It is said that slavery as an institution has affected every country in the world. Do you remember stories that the Israelites got a bad time from their Egyptian masters and that the ancient Greeks did not treat their slaves well?
Slavery in Jamaica started with the island’s “discovery” on May 5, 1494 by Columbus on behalf of Spain. The Spanish enslaved many of the Tainos, the Jamaican natives, some escaped, but most died from European diseases and overwork. The Spaniards then introduced African slaves to Jamaica, first arriving in 1513 to cultivate the newly introduced sugar cane plantations.
The sugar industry grew so rapidly that the 57 Jamaican sugar cane estates in 1673 grew to nearly 430 by 1739. This growth was supported by the ongoing slave trade and transport route called the ‘Middle Passage’. This 3-sided voyage started with England trading goods (especially ammunition) with Africa where these were exchanged for slaves. Then the journey continued to the Caribbean where the slaves were landed and sugar, rum and molasses taken aboard for the final leg of the journey back to England.
The Royal African Company was re-formed in 1672 creating an English slave trade monopoly that branded its initials on the slaves’ chests. Jamaica became one of the world’s busiest slave markets with a thriving smuggling trade to Spanish America. Jamaica’s sugar production peaked in the 18th century, dominating the local economy and depending increasingly on the slave trade as a cheap labour source.
A slave’s life was brutal and short, because of high incidences of tropical and imported diseases and harsh working conditions. This brutality meant the number of slave deaths was consistently larger than the number of births. Europeans fared much better but were also susceptible to tropical diseases, such as yellow fever and malaria.
Slaves rebelled whenever they could, with many successful in running away from the plantations to join the Maroons in the almost inaccessible mountains. Maroons intermittently used guerrilla tactics against the Jamaican militia and English troops, who had destroyed many Maroon settlements in 1686.
There were many slave rebellions of note in Jamaica, including the Easter Rebellion of 1760 led by Tacky. Jamaica’s slave population swelled to 300,000, despite mounting civil unrest and unstable food supplies. During the period 1780–87 about 15,000 slaves starved to death.
The abolition of the slave trade and slavery was not only achieved by frequent slave uprisings and rebellions in the Caribbean but also by the work of humanitarians who were concerned about the slaves’ well-being. Humanitarian groups such as the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) publicly protested against slavery and the slave trade. Quaker colonists began questioning slavery in Barbados in the 1670s, but first openly denounced it in 1688. William Wilberforce, an Evangelical Christian and parliamentarian, spear headed the campaign against the British slave trade for 18 years, finally witnessing passage of the Slave Trade Act in 1807.
The Slave Trade Act of 1807 made the purchase or ownership of slaves illegal within the British Empire, with the exception of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and Saint Helena. The legislation imposed fines that did little to deter slave trade participants, so it acted to outlaw the slave trade but not slavery itself. In 1811 the British Parliament introduced the Slave Trade Felony Act, making slavery a felony act through the British Empire. The Royal Navy established the West Africa Squadron to suppress the Atlantic slave trade by patrolling the coast of West Africa.
The British were, by the late eighteenth century, the biggest proponents of the abolition of slavery worldwide, having previously been the world’s largest slave dealers. Britain used its influence to coerce other countries to agree to treaties to end their slave trade and allow the Royal Navy to seize their slave ships. The West Africa Squadron did suppress the slave trade but did not stop it entirely. Between 1808 and 1860 the West Africa Squadron captured 1,600 slave ships and freed 150,000 Africans. Many of these freed captives were resettled in Jamaica and the Bahamas.
During the Christmas holiday of 1831 a large-scale slave revolt in Jamaica, known as the Baptist War, broke out. What was organised originally as a peaceful strike by the educated Baptist minister Samuel Sharpe ended up mobilising some 60,000 enslaved persons throughout the island. The colonial government used the armed Jamaican military forces and Maroon warriors to put down the rebellion by early 1832.
Because of the loss of property and life in the 1831 rebellion, the British Parliament held two inquiries. The results of these inquiries and the declining British economy contributed greatly to the abolition of slavery with the Slavery Abolition Act 1833. This Act had two major parts: (1) the emancipation of all slaves throughout the British colonial empire except those held on the islands of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and Saint Helena; and (2) compensating slave owners for the loss of the slaves.
On 1 August 1834 the Emancipation Declaration was read from the steps of the Old Kings House in Spanish Town, St Catherine, Jamaica’s then capital. Emancipation was decreed in stages, first with the freeing of all children under six. The other stage required that slaves work a period of six years as unpaid apprentices for their former masters. Continuing peaceful protests resulted in full emancipation for all being legally granted ahead of schedule on 1 August 1838. Needless to say the masters continued to ill-treat and exploit the enslaved people in the British Caribbean until they finally gained their freedom at midnight on 31 July 1838.
In 1893 Jamaica officially introduced celebration of Emancipation Day with a public holiday on August 1. In 1962 Emancipation Day was replaced by Independence Day, then observed on the first Monday in August. However, in 1997 Emancipation Day was re-instituted as a national holiday celebrated on August 1 while the Independence Day public holiday was celebrated on August 6.
“Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery … none but ourselves can free our minds!” Marcus Garvey.
A Jamaican patty is a golden coloured flaky pastry that contains a spicy filling, the most popular of which is ground beef. Other fillings which may be offered include: chicken; goat; pork; lobster; shrimp; vegetable and even Jamaica’s national fruit, ackee.
Originating in Jamaica, it is the most popular convenience food in Jamaica. Served hot from the patty shop oven in a paper bag, Jamaican patties are usually eaten on the go straight from the paper bag. For most busy Jamaicans the patty is most popular at lunch time, eaten one or two for lunch while in school or at work. Being affordable and available everywhere in Jamaica, the patty is more than a snack: it’s a filling breakfast or lunch and can even be eaten for dinner. This Jamaican staple can also be made as bite-sized portions called cocktail patties.
The patty is a product of colonialism and migration developed after the introduction of the Cornish pasty, mixed with cumin and curry seasonings from Indian indentured labourers and the Scotch bonnet, a hot pepper indigenous to Jamaica. From these multicultural roots, Jamaicans made the patty their own.
Almost every nationality has a form of patty. South Asians have the samosa, Puerto Ricans the pastelillos, the Greeks the spanakopita, and the English the Cornish pasty. What they all have in common is that they’re filling, compact and easy to eat, a sort of traditional fast food. Across the Caribbean, patties are considered the ultimate street food.
In the 1960s and 1970s Jamaicans brought recipes for the patties with them when many went to the United States of America, Canada and the United Kingdom (UK) as hospital orderlies, home health aides and nurses. This led to patties being offered at restaurants in areas of the New York Metropolitan Area with high Caribbean populations. Patties are equally popular in UK cities with large Caribbean populations, such as Birmingham, Manchester and London. Their popularity is spreading in the UK and they are becoming available in many mainstream outlets.
The humble patty was forever introduced to the world and can now be found wherever there is a Caribbean community. In Australia patties with beef, chicken or vegetable fillings are offered frozen by Jamaican Products.
In this unprecedented time in our history Jamaican Products is aware of challenges faced by many households. It can be difficult working from home as well as having to home school the kids. For others they may be tired of seeing the same 4 walls, or cooking and eating what is the pantry.
Why not try something different? Crank up Bob Marley or your favourite Jamaican music artist to accompany your meal. Get into the Caribbean grove while cooking and eating our delicious Take & Bake range of jerk seasoned chicken wings and patties. These Jamaican Party Food are suitable for any occasion, snack, lunch or dinner.
We offer a Special on patties and discounted no contact weekly home delivery to our Sydney customers, so place your order. To view the delivery fee and Sydney postcodes to which the offer applies, read the Take & Bake Special.
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Can you remember how Jamaican Easter buns were packaged?
For some of you those memories may be fading while for others it is still current. Most times it was in a box.
Wanting to relive this memory I decided that the Jamaican Products Easter buns should be packaged in a box. Fortunately I brought a few Easter bun boxes from Jamaica, so I could well use those boxes. But wait, I have to buy the bun tins in the shape of a bread loaf.
So off I went looking at the hospitality equipment shops. Asking for bun tins got me a quizzical look, so I quickly asked for bread loaf tins instead. Something I thought would be easy was turning into a challenge. Back to the large department stores and I found a loaf tin that I was happy with. It boasted a heavy duty seamless loaf tin with a double non-stick coating, ideal for making bread, meat/fruit loaf and pate. Above all it could easily be used to make a 1.2kg loaf.
I bought 16 tins and went home pleased with myself. But I only bought 10 bun boxes in Jamaica! Are they large enough? Alas the tins were about twice as wide as the boxes.
Now I need some 20 bun boxes. I measured the newly purchased tins and started my Google search. I was looking for food grade boxes to store buns baked in the tins. I saw many square boxes but no rectangular boxes the shape I was interested in. After over 3 hours searching, I started calling companies in Sydney that sold boxes.
They were interested in making these boxes for me until I told them I only needed 20. Do you mean 20,000 they asked? No, I replied, I only need 20. I know I could not afford a one off order when they quoted me the price while others said they could not do such a small run.
After spending the day searching and talking to various packaging firms I decided to produce a custom made box myself. Now the search was on to find material to make this customised bun box.
Again I was googling and calling various shops, asking if they had necessary material or could advise where to obtain the material. My search led me to Arts and Craft stores. I needed material sturdy enough to hold the bun, a box design and glue to hold everything together.
By the third day I was going home with cardboard sheets and glue to start the building process. I was in my element as an engineer designing and later constructing bun boxes.
It was out with my ruler, set square and drafting pens to draw my box to scale. I did my measurements and drew up the box shape for cutting out as the pro forma. Now it was time to consult my business cohort, Jean Kropper, on how to fold the cardboard. Jean owns Paper and Pixel, making ingenious promotions in paper that excite the senses and inspire response.
Using the pro forma created as a guide I soon had 20 box frames marked and cut from the cardboard sheets. Then it was folding and pasting to make each box. To add that business touch I added the Jamaican Products logo. After many hours the 20 Jamaican Products bun boxes were complete.
Next job, to make the Easter buns for packing in these custom made bun boxes. So wish me luck.
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The architect Gordon Gill FAIA was born in Jamaica. At age 11 he moved to Canada with his family. He completed his undergraduate studies in Canada and gained 2 Master degrees in the United States of America. In 2019 he was awarded a Doctorate of Technology from the University Of Technology, Jamaica.
Gordon held positions of Associate Partner at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) and Director of Design at VOA Associates. In 2006 three senior SOM Chicago practice members, namely Adrian Smith, Gordon Gill and Robert Forest formed Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture (AS+GG).
architectural works include:
of the world’s first net zero-energy skyscraper, the Pearl River Tower, Guangzhou,
China (designed at SOM Chicago),
first large-scale positive energy building, Masdar Headquarters, Abu Dhabi
tallest tower, Kingdom Tower in Jeddah Saudi Arabia
of Astana Expo 2017 and its sustainable legacy community for Astana, Kazakhstan
arts centres, museums, strategic carbon planning and urban master plans across
His landmark projects pursue energy independence by harnessing the power of natural forces on site and striking a balance with their environmental contexts.
Gordon is one of the world’s foremost exponents of performance based architecture. His approach is based on an ecologically conscious philosophy that sets new standards for the relationships between the built and natural environment. His buildings and urban projects have transformed cityscapes and defined as well as restored city centers around the world.
Gordon explains that his firm will work on almost any scale project if it has a challenge and a quality to it. They look for the intellectual challenge behind the design.
Gordon says that AS+GG has won bids simply by saying that a site should remain empty. He comments that clients have a preconception that as architects, if they touch something they are going to put a building there. AS+GG are problem-solvers who are architects, so they approach problems a little differently from most. They reason that if the solution is physical, they express themselves through architecture. Sometimes the solution is not physical, or if it is physical it’s not a building. So the solution can be a park.
Gordon views a commission as an invitation to a dialogue. Just as the client has a brief, so does he, with a set of expectations for his own work. He feels that his job is to take the client to a place they never expected, within the context of the brief.
AS+GG tell people all the time, they are not sales people. They are not trying to sell or convince the client of anything. What they try to do is present the client a set of rational analyses, that speak to problems or issues that the client has as it relates to their brief. Then they tell the client how they think the problem could be solved within the context of the client’s needs. With this approach they offer the client something that is hopefully superior to what the client expected from the brief. If there is agree, then they have a project.
On the other hand if the client does not agree as they go through the analyses, then AS+GG can adjust how they think about the client’s problem. But in the end it is a conversation about the client’s expectations.
With this approach, no wonder Gordon was selected by Jamaica as the competition patron for the Jamaica Houses of Parliament design submissions.
Jamaica launched the competition in May 2018 to find a firm of architects to design the 160,000-square-foot building that will house both the legislative and executive branches of government. Described as the most significant structure to be built in the history of Jamaica, the new Houses of Parliament building will occupy a place of prominence at National Heroes Park in Kingston.
To be eligible for consideration to design the structure, applying firms had to:
Be led by a citizen of Jamaica, residing locally or abroad, who is also a registered and licensed Jamaican architect and capable of being the project’s architect of record;
Comprise of at least 50 percent Jamaican citizens or persons of Jamaican heritage.
In March 2019 the winning design for the structure, aptly named ‘Out of Many, One People,’ was announced. Construction is expected to start in 2021.
A bit of nostalgia for those of you who can remember, while for others a chance to learn, about some of our Jamaican Christmas traditions.
“Grand Market” and “Jamaican Sorrel” are two
important elements of a Jamaican Christmas.
Christmas is the most celebrated holiday season
in Jamaica. Children especially look
forward to this time of the year. Not all
because of Santa Claus. It is the season
when most Jamaican parents treat their kids to new clothes. Thus the kids usually get to dress up in these
new clothes and attend Grand Market and other events throughout the season.
Grand Market is held on Christmas Eve in all
major towns across Jamaica. It is considered
by many Jamaicans as the highlight of the Christmas season. It is also the
liveliest day of the year; as vendors and stores usually operate for the entire
day and night. From as early as 6 am on
Christmas Eve most businesses are open.
The streets are lined with vendors selling clothing, household items,
decorations, ground provisions and items not available all year round.
Grand Market provides an opportunity for parents
and their smartly dressed children to complete their last minute Christmas
shopping. Festivities and music go hand
in hand in Jamaica. So sound boxes
playing music are set up to entertain. After
a certain time of the night, a lot Jamaicans usually gather in a “street dance
fashion” to dance, drink and enjoy themselves until Christmas morning.
Christmas Day usually begins with the playing of Christmas Carols. However Christmas dinner is what most Jamaicans look forward to. It is a Jamaican tradition to have Jamaican Sorrel with Christmas dinner.
Jamaican Sorrel is a drink made from the Hibiscus Sabdariffa flower (Sorrel). In Mexico this Christmas drink is called ‘Agua de Jamaica’ (Jamaican water). The Hibiscus Sabdariffa plant is harvested and the dried flowers pods are boiled and used to make this famous and refreshing drink. Ginger is added for flavor and it is sweetened with sugar and a splash of white over proof rum is usually added to give it a kick.
Jamaica Sorrel is not only tasty but has
numerous nutritional benefits you may not be aware of. Sorrel is an excellent source of Vitamin C. It is also rich in iron, calcium, copper,
magnesium and phosphorus. It helps to lower blood pressure, high cholesterol
and it enhances liver function.
If you want to have a taste of Jamaica this Christmas just head to our website to purchase a bottle of Christmas Sorrel cordial or Contact Us for one of our delectable Christmas Cakes.
Thanks Jhana Dunbar for this informative post.
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Who comes to mind when you hear the word entrepreneur?
Any women you can think of? What about Lady Gaga or my favourite Oprah Winfrey?
Some of the common characteristics of an entrepreneur are passion, perseverance and learning. Can you see these features in your favourite entrepreneur?
As I sit updating my resume I contemplate writing Entrepreneur as my current role. But do I display these features in my Jamaican Products business?
My vision is to bring you an authentic Jamaican Patty through a marriage of local Australian beef and imported Jamaican products. A patty contains various fillings and spices baked inside a golden yellow flaky pastry shell. As the name suggests Jamaican Patties are commonly found in Jamaica and often eaten as a full meal.
With my superannuation to fund the scheme I established a bakery at home. Now that is passion!
Initially I made the pastry by hand, but was faced with sore arms and uneven pastry thickness. The Rondo benchtop dough sheeter in my bakery put an end to these problems.
Manning the dough sheeter with a hit of the knobs I control dough movement from left belt to right belt and back, as the dough got thinner and longer. Before you knew it the dough was falling off the sheeter arm onto the bench and then handing in the air. I moved away from the controls and tried rolling the dough onto a rolling pin. The machine was too quick for me and in this position my arms could not reach the stop button.
The weight of the dough hanging off the machine caused the sheet of dough to break as I tried moving it to the other side. There was dough everywhere, on the floor, ceiling, all over me and it was 1am. I sat looked at the mess and wondered how seasoned bakers do it. The photos show a rolling pin, which I had acquired, as there is no rolling pin attached to my machine. Probably I can leave the rolling pin on the machine and use its speed to my advantage. Two containers storing ingredients should do the trick.
By 2am I had cleaned up and with new dough and the pair of containers I was ready to start again. I watched with joy as the dough rolled onto the rolling pin with the containers on either side to hold the rolling pin in place. But that was the left side and the dough needs to be thinner. 3am I had the strips of dough in the freezer. Surely that shows perseverance.
I drew a sketch of what I needed for the machine, rolling pin holders for each end. I contacted the local machine distributor but they were neither interested in my suggestion nor shared with me what other bakers do. I contacted the manufacturer in Switzerland. They replied within 2 minutes and organised for the distributor to visit me and discuss the issue. With each interaction I learn more about baking techniques and the machine.
As I reflect on the term entrepreneur I reply, yes I have what it takes to use the term. I showed commitment, passion and faith to fund the scheme from my superannuation. Yes, I persevered moving from rolling the dough by hand to become a novice baker using a dough sheeter. I encountered challenges but enjoyed finding solutions with a desire to learn.
So there on my resume I describe myself as an entrepreneur.
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The story of Jamaica’s Road to Independence – Part 3 continues. If you have not already done so, please read Parts 1 and 2 in previous blogs.
Kingston was founded in July 1692 on then agricultural land for
survivors of the 1692 Port Royal earthquake.
The town did not begin to grow until after the further destruction of
Port Royal by fire in 1703. By 1716 Kingston
had become Jamaica’s largest town and the centre of trade. The government sold land to people with the
regulation that they purchase no more than the amount of the land that they
owned in Port Royal and only land on the sea front. Gradually wealthy merchants
began to move their residences from above their businesses to the farm lands
north on the plains of Liguanea.
Kingston’s boom included establishment in 1729 of the first free school, Wolmers’, my alma mater. By 1755 there was a push by the then governor Sir Charles Knowles to transfer the government offices from Spanish Town to Kingston. Some thought Kingston an unsuitable location for the Assembly due to its proximity to the former decadent Port Royal. Not until 1872 did government pass an act to transfer the government offices from Spanish Town to Kingston.
The 1907 Kingston earthquake, considered by many of that time as one of
the world’s deadliest earthquakes, destroyed much of Kingston. It resulted in the death of over eight
hundred Jamaicans and destroyed the homes of over ten thousand more. This catastrophe provided the opportunity to
redesign and rebuild Kingston.
Kingston Harbour is the seventh-largest natural harbour in the world. It is an almost landlocked area of water
approximately with most of it is deep enough to accommodate large ships, even
close to shore.
From Sugar to Banana
Jamaica’s chief economic
crops are sugarcane, bananas, citrus, cocoa and coconuts, none of which are
Sugar – Byproducts of sugarcane include cane sugar, cane syrup, molasses, wax, rum (for which Jamaica is world famous) and bagasse.
In the 1740s, Jamaica and Haiti became the world’s main sugar producers, replacing piracy as Jamaica’s main source of income. In 1770 sugar and rum made up 87.7% of the value of all exports from Jamaica to Great Britain, Ireland, and North America. Jamaica’s high point of sugar production was from 1801 to 1805, with number of sugar plantations reaching a peak of 859 in 1804, prior to the abolition of slavery.
Sugar production increased in Haiti due to French engineered irrigation
systems as well as cane variety selection.
After the Haitian Revolution from 1791 to 1804, Cuba became the most
substantial sugar plantation colony in the Caribbean, outperforming the British
British sugar planters met with growing competition in United Kingdom (UK)
markets, especially beginning in 1874 when sugar duties were completely
removed. With no cheap labour force and
no preferential tariff protection, the plantation-owners in the British West
Indies could not compete with Cuba and Brazil, where slavery had not been
abolished. To make matters worse, the
European sugar beet was a cheap alternative to sugarcane. These factors caused genuine distress as the
price of sugar declined below the cost of production on many estates. Fortunately sugar prices in the United States
of America (USA) and Canada fell less severely, attracting increased quantities
of sugar and other products from the British Caribbean colonies.
With the declined importance of sugar, the character of landholding in
Jamaica changed substantially between 1865 and 1930. As many former sugar plantations went
bankrupt, some land was sold to Jamaican peasants under the Crown Lands
Settlement while other cane fields were consolidated by dominant British
producers such as Tate and Lyle, a sugar refining business. Small scale agriculture in Jamaica survived
the consolidation of land by sugar powers with the number of small holdings
tripling between 1865 and 1930.
Banana – In 1804 bananas brought from Cuba were the first to be marketed in the United States of America (USA). For many years bananas were regarded as a novelty. Then in 1870 Captain Lorenzo Dow Baker made an experimental import of bananas he bought in Jamaica for a shilling and sold them in Jersey City for $2 a bunch. After this success, Baker joined Bostonian entrepreneur Andrew Preston and created the Boston Fruit Company. This company owned a large fleet of steamships that, with time, became the largest private fleet in the world.
By 1890 bananas had replaced sugar as Jamaica’s principal export for
small farmers as well as for large estates.
This shift was influenced by the British demand for Jamaican bananas rather
than the country’s sugar. Expansion of
banana production was hampered by serious labour shortages, with the general
exodus of up to 11,000 Jamaicans a year.
Interestingly sugar is ideally suited to the climatic conditions of the
Caribbean, being far less vulnerable to the high winds from hurricanes that
readily devastate banana plantations.
In 1899, the Boston Fruit Company merged with other companies to become the United Fruit Company (UFC). UFC first experimented with refrigerated cargo holds in 1903, a technology that along with steam propulsion made the traffic in highly perishable bananas possible and profitable.
In 1924, the Rev. A.A. Barclay of Lucky Hill in St. Mary espoused ideas
that resulted in formation of the Jamaica Producers Association (JPA). By 1929 the Jamaica Banana Producers
Association (JBPA) was established as an independent cooperative under the JPA. Soon the JBPA owned a steamship line
consisting of four refrigerated ships, the first shipping line ever to be 100%
Jamaican owned. By 1937 the JBPA relentless
marketing with government support resulted in banana representing 50% of the
value of Jamaica’s total exports.
In 1939 the Second World War had a devastating effect on the banana
industry as commercial banana sales to the UK ceased. In 1940 the JBPA shipping fleet were pressed
into war service. By the end of the war
in 1945, only one of the JBPA’s four ships survived the war, earning notoriety
of having shot down a German Stuka Bomber in the English Channel while under
attack. In 1953 commercial banana exports
to the UK resumed.
Citrus – Citrus fruits
consists of oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, limes, and lemons. Citrus production is not a large industry in
Jamaica, but yields enough for local consumption and export.
Coconut – Records indicate
that in 1681 coconut plants flourished near harbours and coastal settlements,
then later with the expansion of plantation agriculture, the crop was grown
inland. By 1869 coconut oil became the
cheap raw material used worldwide for the manufacture of soap, explosives and
margarine. In 1930 the Jamaica Coconut
Producers Association Ltd was manufacturing oil and by 1937 soaps.
With the end of the Second World War in 1945, the demand for coconuts decreased
with advent of synthetic detergents and fibres. The export of dry coconuts declined and ceased
when the 1944 and 1951 hurricanes destroyed over 40% of all bearing palms. Formerly coconuts constituted a major part of
Jamaica’s export produce but with development of the edible oil and soap
industry most of the annual crop is used in local factories.
Coffee – In 1723 King Louis
XV sent three coffee plants to the French colony of Martinique. Five years later in 1728 the Governor of
Jamaica, Sir Nicholas Lawes, received a gift of one coffee plant from the
Governor of Martinique. From that one
Arabica coffee plant, an exquisite coffee was introduced to the world.
Some 85% of Jamaica’s Blue Mountain coffee is purchased by Japan. This
has driven up the price of Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee to a level that many
people consider excessive in comparison to other premium gourmet coffees on the
Prior to 1891 there was no such thing as a hotel industry. Visitor numbers were small and the
accommodations were, large, squalid, consisting primarily of taverns in the
towns and inns in the rural areas. The
only decent accommodation available was the hospitality freely offered by the
country gentleman to those who were fortunate enough to obtain introductions. The 100 room Constant Spring Hotel was built in
1888, but the real spur to development was the Jamaica International Exhibition
planned for 1891. In order to house the
visitors who were expected to come to the Exhibition, the Jamaica Hotels Law
was passed in 1890 to encourage hotel construction.
With its vertical integration approach including plantations, railway, shipping
and telecommunications assets UFC became a major economic and political force
in the region, influencing the rise and fall of governments in the ‘banana
republics’. By 1902 UFC controlled Jamaica’s
entire banana trade.
The UFC used their banana transport ships for passenger traffic and for
a long time were the only form of travel between Jamaica and other countries. In addition guesthouses built for UFC workers
and officers were also used to house their early Portland visitors. The Titchfield Hotel, initially built by UFC
in 1895 was demolished and rebuilt in 1905.
When in 1910 the Titchfield was destroyed by fire, UFC again rebuilt, expanding
that hotel’s capacity and gaining reputation as one of the grandest hotels in
the Western Hemisphere.
The Jamaican Government purchased the Myrtle Bank Hotel in 1889/90 and
totally rebuilt it as a first class hotel in time for the 1891 World’s Fair in
Kingston. Before 1920 UFC purchased
controlling interest in Myrtle Bank, Kingston and with Titchfield both hotels provided
a reliable revenue stream until the 1930s.
During its peak year of 1927, UFC moved nearly 70,000 tourists on its
steamships to various banana enclaves. The
shipping safety legislation of 1936 eliminated many company vessels from
passenger service. The temporary
nationalisation of the fleet during the Second World War and the rise of
affordable air travel after the war further distanced the UFC from tourist
The Jamaica Tourist Association was established in 1910 to enhance the
claims of the Jamaica as a health and pleasure resort at home and abroad and to
give “reliable” information to both prospective visitors and those already
holidaying in the island. Undoubtedly the
World Wars affected tourism, but Jamaica was increasingly viewing tourism as a
tool of economic development and one way of diversifying a predominantly
The mid 1950s saw Jamaica being serviced by eight international airlines
with unprecedented growth in international tourist arrivals. The Jamaica Tourist Board was established in
1955 with sales offices in the USA and London.
Jamaica gained some reputation as an exclusive resort attracting mainly
a wealthy and famous clientele. Between
1961 and 1963 however, the industry declined and the Government of newly
independent Jamaica realised the necessity to revive and expand what had become
an important sector of the economy.
The Crown Colony
The Jamaican assembly had effectively voted its own extinction by
yielding power to the Governor, Edward
John Eyre and in 1866 the British Parliament declared Jamaica a crown colony. Its newly appointed governor, Sir John Peter
Grant, wielded the only real executive or legislative power. He completely reorganised the colony,
establishing a police force, reformed judicial system, medical service, public
works department, and government savings bank. He also appointed local magistrates, improved
the schools and irrigated the fertile but drought-stricken plain between
Spanish Town and Kingston.
Transport and communication became essential for economic
development. The railways became
government owned in 1845 and cable communication with Europe was established in
Out of Many
So who are Jamaicans?
In 1494 Columbus and his Spanish crew invaded Jamaica with its Arawakan-speaking
Tainos, bringing European domesticated animals such as pigs, horses, and cattle. Few Spaniards settled here, with Jamaica serving
mainly as a supply base to help in conquering the American mainland.
The first Jews came to Jamaica from Spain and Portugal during the
Spanish occupation from 1494 to 1655. Fleeing
the Spanish inquisition they concealed their identity, referring to themselves
as ‘Portuguese’ while secretly practicing their religion. With the British conquest in 1655, General
Venables recorded the presence of many ‘Portuguese’ in Jamaica. They were allowed to remain and began to
practice their religion openly.
The Jews were granted
British citizenship by Cromwell, which was confirmed in 1660 by King Charles, enabling
ownership of property. The Jews attained
full political rights in 1831.
population was never large. However,
their contribution to the economic and commercial life of the nation
outstripped that of any other group of comparable size in Jamaica.
The first enslaved Africans to Jamaica arrived in 1513 from the Iberian
Peninsula. The 1833 Slavery Abolition
Act did not mean that people of African origin no longer came to Jamaica. In fact during the apprenticeship period (1834
– 1838) and in 1839 a number of persons of African descent came to Jamaica as
free labourers. In the following 25
years about 10, 000 free labourers of African origin came to Jamaica. Jamaicans of African ancestry form the
largest ethnic group.
With the British conquest Cromwell increased Jamaica’s white population
by sending indentured servants and prisoners captured in battles with the Irish
and Scots, as well as some common criminals. This practice was continued under Charles II,
and the white population was also augmented by immigrants from the North
American mainland and other islands such as Barbados.
The Irish were accustomed to hard work, but they were unacquainted with
the hot Caribbean climate. Though their
bondage was often a death sentence, enough of the Irish survived that by 1670
they already accounted for a significant part of Jamaica’s population. The Irish is Jamaica’s second-most
The Germans came as indentured labourers with the hope they would create
a thriving settlement and act as a model for the ex-slaves. In 1835, Lord Seaford gave 500 acres of his
10, 000 acre estate in Westmoreland for the Seaford Town German settlement of 200
Germans. Needless to say the programme
was never a success.
Between 1834 and 1838 about 1, 210 German immigrants arrived in Jamaica.
They were small-trades people, a few
farmers and disbanded soldiers of light Calvary regiment. Their previous occupation meant they had to
learn how to plant ground provisions and speak patois.
East Indians are the largest ethnic minority in Jamaica. They arrived as indentured labourers between
1845 and 1917 to work on sugar estates. The
intention was to earn a ‘fortune’ for starting a better life back in India, but
for many that did not materialise. At
the end of the indentureship contract, many Indians reverted to their ancestral
occupations, some became farmers or fishermen, while others returned to the
trades of barber, goldsmith or ironsmith. Others became money lenders.
The Indians introduced several plants and trees in Jamaica, the most
common being betel leaves, betel nut, coolie plum, mango, jackfruit, and
The Chinese started arriving in 1849, brought as indentured labourers to
work on the sugar estates. However they
disliked the nature of the work and soon left the estates to set up small
grocery shops all across the island. Eventually they were able to develop their
businesses until the small grocery shops grew into large enterprises embracing
not only retailing, but also wholesaling and other types of activities.
A few hundred Chinese who worked on the Panama Canal ended up settling
in Jamaica. Establishing a migration
corridor from China, by 1930 there were some 6,000 Chinese settlers in Jamaica. In 1931 the Jamaican government issued a
decree limiting the inflow of Chinese to students under the age of 14. The restriction was in response to the demands
of the Jamaican business community, which feared the rapid expansion of Chinese
retail trade on the island.
Although some Chinese went back home to marry Chinese wives who they
brought back to Jamaica, others inter-married with non-Chinese Jamaicans
contributing to the island’s racial mixture.
The popularity of Chinese food among Jamaicans is their lasting contribution
to the island.
Cubans fled to Jamaica as political refugees during their Wars for
Independence, from 1868 to 1878 and 1895 to 1898. Despite the official position of neutrality,
white and brown elites, anxious to increase the number of Europeans, welcomed
the Cubans who were mainly white. Similarities
in the socio-economic structures in both Jamaica and Cuba facilitated the
integration of the newcomers. Although
most refugees left Jamaica after 1898, the long-term economic impact of their
fleeting presence was the establishment of tobacco as a viable export staple
and the modernisation of the island’s sugar industry.
The first Lebanese/Syrian immigrants arrived by their own free will in
the 1860s and 1870s fleeing religious persecution. Britain was seen as the country of freedom and Jamaica under British rule fell into that
category. Then there was ‘chain’
migration as many of the later arrivals were joining relatives and friends
rather than striking out for entirely new territory.
Stories recount that many Lebanese/Syrians first heard of Jamaica as a
result of the Great Exhibition of 1891.
This exhibition drew over 300,000 visitors from around the world
including some from the Middle East. The
opportunities identified in Jamaica soon attracted middle easterners from
Lebanon and Palestine. They decided to
journey to Jamaica and try their luck at selling dry goods. With no Greek Orthodox Church in Jamaica they
adapted and turned to the Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches.
Despite being a small percentage of the Jamaican population, the Lebanese/Syrian
group has played a significant role in the commercial and industrial
development of the economy. Through
their influence as well, Syrian bread has become very popular among Jamaicans.
Christianity was introduced by Spanish settlers who arrived in Jamaica
in 1509, making Roman Catholicism the first Christian denomination to be
established. Later Protestant missions
were very active, especially the Baptists, and played a key role in the
abolition of slavery.
Anglicanism was introduced by the British in 1664. The first church was built on the spot of the
Spanish Church of the Red Cross in Spanish Town. It is the oldest Anglican cathedral outside
of the British Isles and the oldest place of continuous worship in the western
By the early nineteenth century, abolitionism had propelled other
denominations to the forefront, and threatened the established Anglican Church.
Thus, in 1824, the Diocese of Jamaica, which
also included Belize and the Bahamas, was established. In 1861 the Bahamas became a separate diocese,
and in 1891, the same happened to Belize. During the 1960s the Cayman Islands were
The Rastafari movement, an Abrahamic religion, was developed in Jamaica
in the 1930s following the coronation of Haile Selassie I as Emperor of
Ethiopia. Haile Selassie I was crowned
as Emperor of Ethiopia in November 1930.
This was a significant event in that Ethiopia was the only African
country other than Liberia to be independent from colonialism and Haile
Selassie was the only African leader accepted among the kings and queens of
Three Jamaicans who all happened to be overseas at the time of the
coronation each returned home and independently began, as street preachers, to
proclaim the divinity of the newly crowned Emperor as the returned Christ.
In December 1930 Archibald Dunkley, formerly a seaman, landed at Port
Antonio and soon began his ministry. In
1933 he relocated to Kingston where the King of Kings Ethiopian Mission was
founded. Joseph Hibbert returned from
Costa Rica in 1931 and started spreading his own conviction of the Emperor’s
divinity in Benoah district, Saint Andrew Parish. His ministry, called Ethiopian Coptic Faith;
moved to Kingston in 1932 to find Leonard Howell already teaching many of these
same doctrines. Howell had returned to
Jamaica around the same time as Hibbert. With the addition of Robert Hinds, himself a
Garveyite and former Bedwardite, these four preachers soon began to attract a
following among Jamaica’s poor.
Other popular religions in Jamaica include Islam, Bahá’í Faith Buddhism,
Sikhism, Hinduism and Judaism.
Representatives of the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim communities in
Jamaica have described Jamaican as being tolerant of religious diversity, and
identified the high level of interfaith dialogue as evidence to support this
The story continues. So if you have not already done so, please read Part 1.
Maroons intermittently used guerrilla tactics against Jamaican militia
and British troops, who had destroyed many Maroon settlements in 1686. The British tried to capture them because they
occasionally raided plantations, making expansion into the interior more
difficult. An increase in armed
confrontations over decades led to the First Maroon War in the 1730s.
Edward Trelawny was appointed Governor of Jamaica in April 1738, at a
time when the colonial authorities on the island were in the midst of waging an
unsuccessful war against the Maroons. This
was the first of the great Maroon wars.
Trelawny quickly realised that the colonial militia, fighting on two
fronts against the Leeward Maroons in the west and the Windward Maroons in the
east, were unable to defeat the Maroons.
So he offered the Maroons of Cudjoe’s Town a peace agreement in 1739. Cudjoe’s Town was later renamed Trelawny
Once Cudjoe signed this treaty, Trelawny offered a similar treaty to the
Windward Maroons in 1740. This overture
was supported by the British settlers and the treaty officially recognised. The treaty accepted the freedom of the
Maroons and allowed them to have autonomy in their communities in exchange for
agreeing to be called to military service with the colonists if needed. This military service agreement resulted in
the Maroons tracking and returning runaway slaves and assisting with quelling
slave uprisings and rebellions. This
would later cause a rift between the Maroons and other Jamaicans.
Due to tensions and repeated conflicts with Maroons from Trelawny Town,
the Second Maroon War erupted in 1795. Other
Maroon communities did not join in this uprising. Being low in ammunition and with a measles
outbreak they were outgunned and outnumbered by government forces. The Maroons agreed to a truce with the
government who claimed they had not abided by the terms of their Maroon treaty. Thus in 1796 approximately 600 captive Maroons
comprising of men, women and children were deported to Nova Scotia, Canada. Jamaica granted £25,000 to pay their travelling
expenses and those of accompanying administrative and medical personnel.
The story of the Maroons in Nova Scotia is brief as they arrived in 1796
and left in 1800 for Freetown, Sierra Leone, in Western Africa. Oral history maintains that a few Maroons
remained in Nova Scotia while some of the Maroon descendants in Sierra Leone returned
to Jamaica in the mid-1800s.
The only Leeward Maroon settlement retaining formal autonomy on Jamaica
after the Second Maroon War was Accompong, in the parish of Saint Elizabeth. Windward Maroon communities were located in
the parish of Portland and included Charles Town, on Buff Bay River; Moore Town
(formerly Nanny Town); and Scott’s Hall.
In 2005 the music of the Moore Town Maroons was declared by UNESCO as a
‘Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity’.
The abolition of the slave trade and slavery was not only achieved by frequent
slave uprisings and rebellions in the Caribbean but also by the work of
humanitarians who were concerned about the slaves’ well-being. Humanitarian groups such as the Religious
Society of Friends (Quakers) publicly protested against slavery and the slave
trade. Quaker colonists began questioning
slavery in Barbados in the 1670s, but first openly denounced it in 1688.
During the 1740s and 50s the anti-slavery sentiment was taking a firmer global
hold. A new generation of Quakers protested
against slavery, and demanded that Quaker society cut ties with the slave
trade. Beginning in the 1750s
Pennsylvanian Quakers tightened their rules and by 1758 made it effectively an
act of misconduct to engage in slave trading. The London Yearly Meeting soon followed,
issuing a ‘strong minute’ against slave trading in 1761. The Committee for the Abolition of the Slave
Trade was formed in 1787 by a group of Evangelical English Protestants allied
with Quakers, to unite in their shared opposition to slavery and the slave
There were many slave rebellions of note, including the Easter Rebellion
of 1760 led by Tacky. Jamaica’s slave
population swelled to 300,000, despite mounting civil unrest and unstable food
supplies. During the period 1780–87 about
15,000 slaves starved to death.
In addition Jamaica was experiencing external threats. A large French fleet, with Spanish support,
planned to invade Jamaica in 1782.
However the British admirals George Rodney and Samuel Hood thwarted the
plan at the Battle of the Saintes off Dominica. In 1806 Admiral Sir John Duckworth defeated
the last French invasion force to threaten colonising Jamaica.
In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the production of sugar in
Britain’s West Indian colonies saw money pouring into Britain. The sugar
production came to be controlled by a small circle of wealthy planters and
merchants in Britain. They nurtured ties
with members of both houses of British Parliament and eventually a number
became MPs. For example William Beckford,
owner of a 22,000 acre estate in Jamaica, was twice Lord Mayor of London and over
50 MPs in parliament represented the slave plantations. No surprise that an Abolition bill first put
to parliament in 1791 would in 1805 fail to pass for the eleventh time.
The Act of Union 1801 allowed 100 Irish MPs into Parliament, most of
whom supported abolition combined with the general acceptance of the evils of
the slave trade enabled the law to pass both Houses. William Wilberforce, an Evangelical Christian
and parliamentarian who spear headed the campaign against the British slave
trade for 18 years, finally witnessed the passage of the Slave Trade Act in
The Slave Trade Act of 1807 made the purchase or ownership of slaves
illegal within the British Empire, with the exception of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka)
and Saint Helena. The legislation
imposed fines that did little to deter slave trade participants, so it acted to
outlaw the slave trade but not slavery itself. Abolitionist Henry Brougham realised that
trading had continued and as a new British MP successfully introduced the Slave
Trade Felony Act 1811, making slavery a felony act through the British empire. The Royal Navy established the West Africa
Squadron to suppress the Atlantic slave trade by patrolling the coast of West
The British were, by the late eighteenth century, the biggest proponents
of the abolition of slavery worldwide, having previously been the world’s largest
slave dealers. Britain used its
influence to coerce other countries to agree to treaties to end their slave
trade and allow the Royal Navy to seize their slave ships. The West Africa Squadron did suppress the
slave trade but did not stop it entirely. Between 1808 and 1860 the West Africa Squadron
captured 1,600 slave ships and freed 150,000 Africans. Many of these freed captives were resettled in
Jamaica and the Bahamas.
Abolishing the transatlantic slave trade in 1807 increased planters’
costs in Jamaica at a time when the price of sugar was already dropping. It was not until the passage of the Slavery
Abolition Act 1833 that slavery itself was eventually abolished.
During the Christmas holiday of 1831 a large-scale slave revolt in
Jamaica, known as the Baptist War, broke out. What was organised originally as a peaceful
strike by the educated Baptist minister Samuel Sharpe ended up mobilising some
60,000 enslaved persons throughout the island.
The colonial government used the armed Jamaican military forces and Maroon
warriors to put down the rebellion by early 1832.
Some 14 whites were killed by armed slave battalions but more than 200
slaves were killed by troops. Sharpe,
other ringleaders and about 340 slaves were tried, convicted and hanged. Whites generally blamed missionaries, who
were working among the slaves, for inciting the revolt. In the weeks that followed mobs gathered by
the Colonial Church Union, an organization of white planters loyal to the
Anglican church, and burned several Baptist and Methodist chapels.
Because of the loss of property and life in the 1831 rebellion, the
British Parliament held two inquiries. At
that time Britain’s economy was in a flux.
A new system of international commerce had emerged. Britain’s slaveholding Caribbean colonies, which
were largely focused on sugar production, could no longer compete with larger
plantation economies such as those of Cuba and Brazil. So merchants demand an end to the market monopolies
held by their Caribbean colonies and pushed instead for free trade.
Emancipation and Compensation
The results of these inquiries and the British economy contributed
greatly to the abolition of slavery with the Slavery Abolition Act 1833. This Act had two major parts: (1) the
emancipation of all slaves throughout the British colonial empire except those
held on the islands of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and Saint Helena; and (2) compensating
slave owners for the loss of the slaves.
Emancipation would commence in stages on 1 August 1834. The first stage was the freeing of all
children under six. Then the others
would work a period of six years as unpaid apprentices for their former masters. On 1 August 1834 the Governor at Government
House in Port of Spain, Trinidad, on explaining the conditions of emancipation
was drowned out with chants of ‘Pas de six ans. Point de six ans’ (‘Not six
years. No six years’). Continuing
peaceful protests resulted in full emancipation for all being legally granted
ahead of schedule on 1 August 1838.
Needless to say the masters continued to ill-treat and exploit the enslaved
people in the British Caribbean until they finally gained their freedom at
midnight on 31 July 1838.
Compensation to slave owners was paid for by the British government,
funded by a loan not fully paid back until 2015. The British government raised £20 million (equivalent
to £16.5 billion in 2013 pounds) to pay out for the loss of the slaves as
business assets to the registered owners of the freed slaves. Not surprising the slaves themselves received
no such compensation.
Many former slaves left the plantations and moved to the nearby hills,
where their descendants still farm small landholdings. The planters received some compensation (£19
per slave) but generally saw their financial resources and labour forces
dwindle. The British parliament removed
protective tariffs in 1846, further reducing the price of Jamaican sugar.
The immediate post slavery days were very difficult for the poorer
classes. Though most of the English planters had left the islands and new
owners were running the plantations, the old oligarchic system still remained.
The will of the masses was not deemed important and hence ignored. To add fuel
to the already burning flame, the American Civil War resulted in supplies being
cut off from the island. A severe drought was also in progress and most crops
In the economic chaos that followed emancipation the Morant Bay
Rebellion of October 1865 is well remembered.
. The uprising was led by a black Baptist deacon named Paul Bogle and
was supported by a wealthy Kingston businessman, George William Gordon. Gordon was a prominent coloured legislator who
was sympathetic to the problems of the poor people and later was blamed for the
trouble caused by the masses.
Bogle and his men stormed the Morant Bay Courthouse while it was in
session. A number of white people was
killed including the Custos of the parish, St Thomas. Some three decades after slavery ended, the
Maroons assisted the government in putting down the peasant rebellion led by
Paul Bogle. Paul Bogle and George
William Gordon were hanged, more than 430 people were executed or shot,
hundreds more flogged and 1,000 dwellings destroyed. This was the last time the Maroons were to
serve in this military capacity.
With the general emancipation of slaves in 1834, things changed
drastically for the Maroons. Since the
British no longer needed their services as a tracking force, they had little
interest in maintaining distinct, partially autonomous communities in the
interior of their colony. The first
formal attempt to encourage the assimilation of the Maroons into the wider
population was the so-called Maroon Lands Allotment Act of 1842. This piece of legislation aimed to abrogate
the treaties of 1739 and absorb the Maroons into the emergent peasantry by
dividing the communally owned Maroon lands and parceling them out to individual
owners. The Maroons, however, simply
refused to comply and the colonial government did not force the issue. It soon found that its interests were not
necessarily served by dissolving the Maroon communities.
The story continues in Road to Independence – Part 3 of the 4 part series at:
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