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Jamaica journal

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Digital Library of the Caribbean National Library of Jamaica Institute of Jamaica
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00090030/00032

Material Information

Title: Jamaica journal
Series Title: Jamaica journal.
Abbreviated Title: Jam. j.
Physical Description: v. : ill. (part col.) ; 31 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Institute of Jamaica
Publisher: Institute of Jamaica.
Place of Publication: Kingston
Publication Date: March 1978
Frequency: semiannual


Subjects / Keywords: Periodicals -- Jamaica   ( lcsh )
Genre: serial   ( sobekcm )
periodical   ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage: Jamaica


Dates or Sequential Designation: Began with Dec. 1967 issue.
General Note: Olive Senior, "The Colon People: Part I, Jamaica the Neglected Garden," Jamaica Journal 11, nos. 3 and 4 (1977): 62-70 included in the "Panama Silver, Asian Gold" course to be taught at three institutions starting in Fall 2013.

Record Information

Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 01797964
lccn - 75027862
issn - 0021-4124
System ID: UF00090030:00032

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00090030/00032

Material Information

Title: Jamaica journal
Series Title: Jamaica journal.
Abbreviated Title: Jam. j.
Physical Description: v. : ill. (part col.) ; 31 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Institute of Jamaica
Publisher: Institute of Jamaica.
Place of Publication: Kingston
Publication Date: March 1978
Frequency: semiannual


Subjects / Keywords: Periodicals -- Jamaica   ( lcsh )
Genre: serial   ( sobekcm )
periodical   ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage: Jamaica


Dates or Sequential Designation: Began with Dec. 1967 issue.
General Note: Olive Senior, "The Colon People: Part I, Jamaica the Neglected Garden," Jamaica Journal 11, nos. 3 and 4 (1977): 62-70 included in the "Panama Silver, Asian Gold" course to be taught at three institutions starting in Fall 2013.

Record Information

Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 01797964
lccn - 75027862
issn - 0021-4124
System ID: UF00090030:00032

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover 1
        Front Cover 2
    Table of Contents
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    Back Cover
        Page 85
        Page 86
Full Text

VOL. 11 NOS. 3 & 4



- L ,
'i,- ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

SVOL. 11 NOS. 3, 4


Tradition and Innovation in African Music . . J.H. Kwabema Nketia P. 2
Traditional African Instruments .......................... P. 10
Pan and Caribbean Drum Rhythms ............ Mackie Burnette P. 14
Transcriptions ................... ........ Gus Brathwaite P. 19
The Musical Instruments of The Arawaks . . . . . .Astley Clerk P. 21
The 'Bird Man' a Jamaican Arawak Wooden 'Idol'- Jerome S. Handler P. 25
The Self and Each Other (National Gallery Exhibition) . . . . P. 30
Gran (Short Story) .......................... Velma Pollard P. 35
Poetry ................. .Basil McFarlane and Pamela Mordecai P. 43
Information Management In Progressive Jamaica.. Rosemary Kavanagh P. 44
The High Cost of Non- Information ............... C. P. Fray P. 50
Information and Technology ................. .A. K. Ventura P. 54
'The Invasion of the White Cattle Egret ..........................
.......................Ajai Mansingh and Laurie Hammond P. 57
Sorrell A Truly Jamaican Tradition ........ . . Myrtle Marcelle P. 60
The Colon People ................... ........Olive Senior P. 62
The Revolt of the B.W.I.R. Regiment. .............. W. F. Elkins P. 72
The Trinidad Longshoremen's Strike. ............... W. F. Elkins P. 76
The Life of Captain Arthur Cipriani (Extracts) ... ... C.L.R. James .P. 80

JAMAICA: Payable in all currencies to the equivalent of
the following as expressed in US (or Canadian)
1 year................. J$ 5.00) $ to facilitate conversion.
3 years................... J$12.50) postage free
5 years.................. J$22.50) 1 year.................... $15.00)
3 years................... $40.00) including all postage
CARIBBEAN AREA 5 years................... $65.00) and handling charges.
1 year................. EC$20.00)
3 years................. EC$50.00) including postage
5 years................... EC$90.00)

A'Kete drums, Asante (Akan) from Ghana. These drums provide music
when the Asantehene (Asante leader) dances. The black and red checker-
ed cloth is the symbol of the Asantehene. The use of the drums is for-
bidden to all others. This is believed to be the origin of the Kete
drums originally played by Maroons, Rastafarians, Brukin' Party and
similar traditional Jamaican groups.
African Caribbean Institute of
Jamaica Collection
(Photo Carl Griffiths)



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Gambian musician playing harp guitar. Visit to Jamaica 1977.

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Professor J. Kwabema Nketia is Director of the
institute of African Studies of the University of
Ghana at Legon. He first visited Jamaica in 1974 to
conduct a workshop in musical education at the
Creative Arts Centre, and later returned as a
consultant to the African Caribbean Institute of
Jamaica, and was again present for the
CARIFESTA celebrations in 1976, and the African
Studies Workshop conducted by the A.C.I.J. at the
Cultural Training Centre in 1977.
Professor Nketia has published extensively:
African Music in Ghana (Evanston 1962),
Drumming in Akan Communities of Ghana
(Edinburgh 1963), Folk Songs of Ghana (Legon
1963) Funeral Dirges of the Akan People
(Achimota. 1955), Music Dance & Drama (Accra
1965). Our Drums & Drummers (Ghana 1968), he
has authored many studies appearing in Essays on
Music and History in Africa, Journal of the
International Folk Music Council, Current Trends
in Linguistics, Insight & Opinion, Black Orpheus,

The processes that shape and control
creative activities may operate in the
direction of stability and continuity, or
in the direction of growth and
development. Continuity and stability
depend to a large extent on the
effectiveness of the processes of
cultural transmission and the opportuni-
ties and challenges they offer, as well as
on the ability and eagerness of
successive generations to use the
creative models passed on to them by
their predecessors. Growth and de-
velopment on the other hand, imply
extensions of tradition either in the area
of resources, structure and form, or in
the medium of music communication.
Change in music is thus likely to occur
(a) when the processes of cultural
transmission are halted or
impeded by social change
(b) when conscious extensions of
musical usage become established
innovations, and
(c) when creative models, ideas,
values and resources based on
different usages outside a culture
are adopted by a new generation
of musicians as alternatives to
Thus musical change can be regres-
sive, leading to the weakening or loss of
tradition, or it may be accommodating,
introducing innovations which become
generally established as welcome
extensions of tradition. It may also be
'syncretic', combining elements of two
cultures as an alternative mode of
expression, or it may be developmental
when it establishes new directions for

The Nature of Tradition
For the purpose of identification and

evaluation of the creative effect of these
processes of change on style and related
problems, it seems best to think of
tradition in pluralistic rather than
monistic terms. As stated elsewhere,
any aspect of music or music-making
passed on from generation to
generation can be regarded as
constituting a specific tradition. It may
be an aspect of vocal music such as
vocal technique, repertoire of songs and
song texts. It may be an instrumental
tradition such as drumming, xylophone
technique or harp playing. It may be a
formal aspect of musical organisation
such as the breaking of a time
continuum into cycles which can be
externalised through the use of a time
maker such as a bell or wood block or
some such idiophone. Or it may be the
use of a rhythm section in a piece of
music. It may be oral scores and
methods of creating these, or it may be
a conceptual aspect of musical practice
such as an artistic, social or philosophi-
cal value that guides music making, or
the institutional life that supports it.
The totality of traditions cultivated by
a society constitutes its musical culture.
Such a culture may embody traditions
associated with social groups within the
society or specific institutions within it.
It will reflect the specific traditions
associated with different spheres of life:
domestic life, economic life, political
life, court life, ceremonial life, cult life
and recreational life. It may embody
traditions of recent origin as well as
older traditions, for it is not the whole of





a musical culture that changes at any
given time but specific traditions within
it. Some traditions are thus more
enduring, more characteristic of a
musical culture, more expressive of its
identity in a given period than others.
Such enduring traditions are those that
make for continuity. But they are also
those that limit the freedom of the artist
in the type and direction of innovation
that his creative imagination might
focus on.
In the light of the foregoing, any
music that embodies a large measure of
significant aspects of style passed on
from generation to generation at
different points in time can be described
as traditional. Any music which exists
alongside it within the same community
and which embodies changes in
significant aspects of style not carried
over from the past, may mark the
beginning of a new tradition a
contemporary idiom when these
become established in the practice of
composers and performers. An innova-
tion in any aspect of music thus carries
within it the potential seed of change
which may replace a tradition or subsist
alongside it as an alternative mode of
The value of any innovation can be
seen not only in terms of its intention or
what it accomplishes, but also in the
light of the tradition which it expands,
modifies or replaces, or the idiom it
establishes. Where it is an expansion or
an accretion, it may be evaluated in
terms of the role it performs in the

wider context of the music or musical
culture, or in terms of its communica-
tive value. Musical change can thus be
identified, analysed and evaluated in
terms of the interaction of two
cross-currents: the current of tradition
which makes for continuity or stability,
and the current of innovation whose
creation and diffusion may be
precipitated or held back by a wide
variety of factors discussed sub-

Stylistic Change
Changes of a stylistic nature are
always the most evident indication of
music change changes in traditional
sounds and sound combinations,
changes in or additions to instrumental
resources, or changes in structural
organisation. Evidence of such changes
abound in the oral traditions of African
societies.? They arise not only through
creative innovations but also through
culture contact. They may be the result
of simple processes of incorporation -
the process whereby new elements are
adopted without any fundamental
change in the basic structures of the
existing music. In the precolonial era
this was the most common type of
change. The changes resulting from the
contact of the Dagomba, Gonja
Adangme and Anlo-Ewe with the Akan
of Ghana took this form.
When incorporation becomes exten-
sive, it may lead to syncretisim or
greater fusion of elements of style. The
contact of the Ga with the Akan led for
the most part to the development of a
new Ga musical style that has continued
to be used in recreational music. This
style exists side by side with the older
style preserved mainly in ritual music.4
The development of a syncretic style
can lead also to assimilation whereby
the original style of a culture becomes
less and less dominant as it is pulled in
the direction of total identification with
the norms of the external culture. This
appears to be the case with the music of
the Ewe of Ho district of Ghana and
linguistic groups in the Volta Region of
Ghana who use Akan as their second
The particular aspects of style
affected by such changes differ from
society to society, partly because of
differences in the nature and intensity
of interaction, and partly because
elements of style are not given equal
primacy in a musical culture. Nor do
they provide the same scope for
innovations that would be generally
acceptable. Thus although African
societies were in the past not averse to
borrowing from one another, they
rarely adopted the vocal techniques of
their neighbours where these were
markedly different, or abandoned their
procedures for making music. Even in
the contemporary situation where one
finds a wide range of innovations, some
people borrow some western melodic
instruments in order to make music in
their own essentially African way.

Aesthetic Basis of Style
Problems of value are thus associated

with the operation of style in African
Music and the exercise of choices that
lead to innovation and change. This is
because music making and related
activities are guided by a 'reference
system' of values that control the
selection and use of musical materials as
well as their organisation in formal
structures and their modes of
interpretation. Although these values
constitute a single cultural system, one
could categorise them for convenience
of analysis and reference as artistic,
social or philosophical according to
whether they relate to musical
processes, behaviour, attitudes or
beliefs associated with or generated by
specific forms or features of music.
Artistic values guide the orderly
arrangement of the elements of music in
structure and their qualitative realisa-
tions in performance. That is to say,
they determine the artistic framework
of the communication process, the
choice of modes of expression and
presentation which ensure effective
communication, and the basis of critical
evaluation. Not only do they stimulate
involvement in music making or the
enjoyment of it, but also they guide the
choices that are made by the performers
and how they interpret the music on
specific occasions. In other words, they
act in some measure as stylistic
Because of the dominant role that
music making plays in social life in
African communities, social values also
inspire music making and determine
certain details of what is selected and
presented. They influence or guide the
content of music and the use of music in
relation to events in the life of the
individual or his group. They ensure
that formal distinctions of some sort are
maintained between categories of music
identified with social groups or social
occasions, or those identified with one
set of situations and another.
Sometimes they may determine not only
the source of communication, but also
the medium, and define who the
message is intended for. Certain
responses that lead to social interaction,
or the use of music for the expression of
individual and group sentiments are
related to this conceptual level.
When the social basis of behaviour in
musical situations changes, this may
leed to corresponding changes in the
presentation of music, or changes in the
emphasis given to interaction through
music, verbal communication and the
dance. On the other hand, when this
basis remains, it may be affirmed even
in new contexts of performance and
may reinforce aspects of music
communication or the kind of
performer-audience relationship that
characterises a musical culture.
In addition to social values, note
should be taken of the place given to
philosophical values in the 'reference
systems' of African musical cultures,
Philosophical values inspire the
symbolic use of forms and resources
and their interpretation in relation to
the belief system or how a society sees
order and structural relations in the

universe of man and the unseen. Certain
choices that are made in respect of
sound sources or in the visual correlates
of music making, and the exercise of
social control through the application of
religious sanctions may relate to this
conceptual level. It is philosophical
values that inspire the use of music for
the expression of consciousness or
being. Hence when the world view of a
society is replaced by another, it can
lead to the rejection of certain musical
traditions or to the gradual secularisa-
tion of the sacred.
Aesthetics as Reference System
When artistic, social and philosophi-
cal values relate to the materials of
music and provide criteria for the
selection and use of musical resources
as well as a basis of their interpretation,
they provide different dimensions of the
aesthetics of African music. They serve
as a guide to the meaning of music as
well as how meaning in music may be
ordered and communicated. According-
ly their exponents are embodied in the
materials and structure of music. Hence
in African traditions, 'the beautiful in
music', to use Hanslick's famous phrase,
is whatever exemplifies these values in
music. In this connection, I am in
agreement with the views of scholars
like Schwadron, Kauffman, Kaeppler
and others who have advocated a
broader definition of aesthetics that
recognizes the validity of the criteria of
different cultural traditions.5
Like the semantic system of a
language, aesthetics of 'the reference
system' of artistic, social and
philosophical values in music is held
and applied or expressed by those who
make or listen to music. Hence as a
system it is independent of or external
to musical structure, even though its
exponents are embodied in the
materials and structure of music. One
cannot understand, far less appreciate
African Music in its own terms without
some knowledge of this system or the
particular ways in which the musical
resources on the one hand and 'the
reference system' on the other are
linked by performers and listeners or by
those who criticise or are in a position
to exercise or influence the exercise of
social control. This nexus is subject to
In some non-African cultures, it is
philosophers, theologians and states-
men as well as critics who have sought
over the years to provide the guidelines
for such 'reference systems'. As
Portnoy's 'Philosophers and Music'6
clearly demonstrates, aesthetics has
tended to be regarded largely in terms
of the body of opinions expressed by
such thinkers. In African cultures the
opinions of leaders of thought and the
approbation of those in authority
constitute only a component of
aesthetic 'guidance'. For aesthetic
values are operational: they are evolved
out of practice and response to
creativity and are established largely as
non-verbalised traditions.
It must be noted also that African
aesthetic traditions are learned through

socialisation and participation in music.
A person learns to produce the desired
quality of voice used in his culture from
childhood, to recognize the demands of
different categories of songs and styles
of chanting. Similarly he learns to
distinguish between different kinds of
drums in terms of their tone qualities
and to recognize what constitutes
acceptable tuning for particular
instruments, just as he learns to
distinguish formal units, different
procedures of music making and their
aesthetic basis. He learns what is
appropriate or improper for particular
situations and how best to communicate
within the limits of the musical types
available to him on particular
Since theory is not\ separate from
practice, one. could deduce African
aesthetic values from \performance
practice and the verbal statements that
are made about specific musical events
or aspects of such events. One could
make certain statements from group
music making, since group music
making presumes the acceptance of
norms and common concepts of
performance which have a binding
force on the performers. These in turn
may be confirmed or extended through
observation of the choices that are
made in specific contexts, for music
making involves not only the continued
use of knowledge of repertoire, but also
the creative use of musical materials
and procedures.
Because aesthetic concepts are
non-verbalised and only observable in
practice or through comments, con-
tinuity of aesthetic traditions can be
affected by the same kind of processes
that give rise to stylistic changes. Thus
changes in aesthetic values may occur
when social change interrupts the trans-
mission of traditional cultural values
through the normal process of socialisa-
Similarly when change of circum-
stances or change in outlook leads to
the adoption of new materials and ideas
for music making, there could be a
corresponding change of values. For
example, when a society adopts a new
scale in addition to its own or replaces
the old with the new, or when it adopts
new melodic instruments that have
different timbres or tuning systems, the
outcome could be not only a change in
the sound materials but also a shift or
modification of the concept of this
aspect of music. Similarly when a
society adopts a new form of choral
music which separates voices into
soprano, alto, tenor, bass and .at the
same time abandons its traditional use
of a supporting drum ensemble, it would
have changed its concept of choral
organisation. Such a conceptual change
would establish new criteria, new
musical preferences which might lead
those involved in the change not only to
reject the traditional form, but even to
believe that the new form is
The idea that musical change may be
for the better often looms large in the
minds of those involved in it just as

those outside it might consider it
retrogressive. When some members of
an African society adopt the guitar or
replace their traditional lute with it, or
when they use nylon strings instead of
fibre or gut, they are probably being
guided by the 'idea of progress'. The loss
of quality which those outside the
movement or those who view the
musical culture from without lament,
might seem quite irrelevant and
unimportant to them compared with the
pleasure or satisfaction they get out of
the innovation. For it is their right and
privilege to make such choices
wherever the exercise of this freedom is
not limited by traditional sanctions.
Effect of Institutional Change
Changes in style or aesthetic values
may also be related to changes in the
institutional basis of musical organisa-
tion or changes in musical life. In
traditional African societies, the
institutional arrangement for music
making is one that integrates music with
recreational activities or with the
institutional life of a society with its
economic, social, political and religious
activities. Hence changes in the
traditional way of life affect the
institutional basis of musical life and the
patronage of certain types of music. The
breakdown of institutions with which
particular musical pieces or musical
types are associated naturally leads to a
break in continuity of tradition. When
indigenous political institutions or
chiefdoms are abolished, they may go
along with their musical organisation.
When social institutions are modified or
changed, they may lead to correspond-
ing changes in the support given to the
music associated with them. Patronage
and arrangements for the recruitment
and training of musicians through
households or opportunities formerly
provided for music and dance education
through initiation schools and similar
arrangements may cease when these
lose their significance or validity as
mechanisms of support for continuity of
the cultural heritage.
On the same basis the adoption of
new institutions such as those of leisure,
or new political, religious and
educational institutions create new
problems in the ordering of musical life.
If the traditional approach to musical
life is followed, the need for music for
such institutions becomes greatly felt,
leading inevitably to the adoption of the
music associated with them in their
countries of origin and later to
adaptations and syncretic forms.
There are instances of all these in the
pre-European history of African
societies, instances where some
societies adopted the religious cults,
military organisation and other political
institutions of their neighbours along
with their music and other artistic
expressions. The examples in the
Islamic period, and in the recent history
of Africa are more glaring and
widespread. The presence of Emirs and
Sultans and Arabic derived royal and
martial music, the existence of western
military bands and their music; Chris-

tian churches and western hymns and
anthems; educational institutions and
school music; night clubs, cafes and
other places of entertainment and pop
music all these are extensions of
familiar responses to institutional
changes which are now stimulating the
creation of syncretic forms for use in
these contexts as alternatives. Whereas
other changes affect aspects of style and
aesthetic traditions, institutional
changes tend to affect performances
and the cultivation of musical types or
categories of music.
Viewed in the light of institutional
changes, stylistic changes and changes
in values, musical change does reflect
how an African musical culture
responds to or adapts itself to changes
in social structure, necessitating
corresponding changes in the expres-
sion of group relations and identity
through music: or changes brought
about by political upheavals, wars and
migrations, symbiotic relations arising
from political, social and economic
relations, and cultural alienation arising
from foreign domination and religious
proselytising which "creates new social
groups or communities of taste.
Mechanism for Control, Integration and
In pre-colonial Africa, there were a
number of ways in which African
societies cultivating their own varieties
of traditional music controlled or
accommodated institutional and other
changes. First, tradition was kept alive
through the way in which music was
linked to social organisation, and which
enabled the members of a community to
participate in the music of the social
groups to which they belonged. Any
innovation which began a new tradition
was sustained when it was associated
with a social group, an institution or a
clearly defined social context.
Secondly, although musical know-
ledge was acquired largely through
social experience, additional provision
was made for the passing on of technical
skills and knowledge of repertoire
where specialisation was required.
Thirdly, where fidelity to tradition
was required for religious or political
reasons, particularly in musical types
outside the public domain, this was
enforced by sanctions. The texts of
certain types of historical songs that
gave legitimacy to the reign of kings, for
example, could not be changed
arbitrarily by performers. So was music
identified with particular divinities.
Fourthly, wherever possible creativity
was encouraged performances were
generally in the nature of creative
performances. Hence the structure of
the musical pieces allowed for the
interplay of fixed and free forms.
Moreover, additions to repertoire as
well as creative re-arrangements of
known materials were encouraged as far
as possible. Individual performers were
held in high esteem if their repertoire
included their own compositions.
Fifthly, borrowed elements were
treated as additions to resources or as
alternative expressions in specific

contexts. They were used in musical
types associated with particular
institutions or events. Thus a particular
type of cult music adopted from a
neighboring society would be used in
the worship of the particular god of the
cult and not for other unrelated gods. It
was from this context that knowledge of
the style diffused into the community.
Similarly, borrowed musical instru-
ments such as drums and trumpet sets
were cultivated at the court or
developed for use in specific
community events. Although such
instruments were also learnt by local
musicians, sometimes musicians who
performed such types of music at: the
royal court were recruited from
neighboring ethnic groups, as it was
the case with Soga musicians in
Buganda. In some areas musicians
captured in a battle were attached to
the royal court for a similar reason, as it
happened in Ashanti. But trade and
other pursuits also brought migrant
musicians who, in some cases, were
incorporated into existing bands when
their contribution to the local musical
culture was appreciated. Malinke
virtuoso drummers still team up happily
with Dan musicians in the Ivory Coast.
Where such incorporation did not take
place, the music of such musicians
remained unassimilated and little
patronised by the local community.
It will be evident from the foregoing
that the general tendency was to
integrate innovation into the musical
culture wherever possible by making it a
functional part of an area of musical
activity which formed an integral part of
the musical life of the society. The
elements that were accepted from
Arabic musical culture by African
societies that came into contact with it
in the Islamic period appear to have
been integrated in this manner into the
general culture. That is why those who
practise them regard them as their
varieties of traditional African music no
matter how 'Arab-influenced' they may
appear to the observer. In some cases
the borrowed elements were cultivated
by specialists or professional musicians
rather than the general public, but they
were nevertheless made an essential
part of the institutional arrangements
for music making. Such professional
musicians naturally exerted influence
on aesthetic preferences, and con-
sequently, on certain aspects of the
general style.
New Direction of Change and
A different picture presents itself
when we turn to the colonial era, for the
traditional mechanisms for control and
integration were weakened by the
processes of cultural alienation which
set in with active colonisation,
evangelisation and commerce. The
homogeneous musical community of
the past ceased to exist. New
communities of taste with different
spheres of musical life outside those of
traditional institutions emerged. Con-
sequently instead of a single musical
culture which integrated new musical

Jamaican Folk Singers in concert. Even in a stylised stage setting, the movement to music, the 'call and response' songs, reflect a strong West African influence.
Photo API (Ted Cunningham)

The Dancing Circle, the dancers responding to the language of the drums. This West African scene will
appear very familiar to Jamaicans. Mumlque de 'Afrique.

A state funeral procession accompanied by drums fantbmfrom and one atumpan, being carried on the
head. The m leic of Afrlm. Nktiha.

elements coming from outside, a
subculture emerged which made use of
such elements as the basis of its creative
output. The institutional outlets it used
were alien institutions transplanted to
Africa: the church, the school, the
ballroom, the cafe, the night club, the
military and the police. As it did not
practise African music, its take-off point
in music had to relate to what the
colonial experience provided through
the hymn, the anthem, school music,
military band music, light music, light
operas, ballroom music and pop music.
Musical change had to proceed from
this kind of western institutional music
to modifications based on such African
concepts and values as they could
readily fall on in order to create
alternative modes of expression. .
Since members of the new
community lived in the African
environment and were exposed in some
measure to indigenous music which
they did not practise themselves, and
since some of them were active
participants in this music at some stage
in their lives before they became
members of the new society, they could
not but carry residual elements of
traditional music even though they
remained dormant and unexplored.
These seemed to have provided a basis
for the initial incorporation of African
materials into basically western music
models as well as a basis for the search
for musical identity.
With the rise of the new political
consciousness which preceded political
independence and its intensification
thereafter, greater identification with
the African heritage has now become
the ideal for some musicians.
Nevertheless one cannot but notice the
ambivalence that continues to charac-
terise their musical thinking, for their
music continues to reflect the alienation
of the past which generates interest in
creative models from outside, and the
need for the assertion of cultural
identity which encourages the search
for sources of musical identity from
traditional African music.
Mechanisms for controlling change in
the new music hardly exist apart from
audience reaction and response
(including those of people in the media
who have vested interest in it), for
change is virtually what makes this
music live. Musicians must constantly
create new pieces and search for
distinctive modes of expression, for one
of the important features of this new
music is that it is becoming less and less
music for the conscious expression of
group identity on a deep level and more
and more the expression of the personal
identity of the musician the
composer, the performer, the leader of
a band who has a personal style. Outlets
for the diffusion of innovation in this
music are provided not only by night
clubs, cafes and theatres which put up
musical plays embodying this music, but
also to a large extent by the media.

Enduring Traditions
There are quite a number of features

which make it necessary to recognize
this new music which contemporary
African society regards as its own, as an
integral part of African musical cultures
in, much the same way as modern
African sculpture, painting, and writing
are regarded as African art, literature
and drama. Both the old and the new
now share some common stylistic
features including a common approach
to linear rhythms, a common concept of
'beat' and energy flow, use of common
rhythmic motifs, cross rhythms, certain
types of melodic progression, emphasis
on polyphonic parallelism, concepts of
ensemble music, use of rhythm section,
modes of verbal communication, vocal
techniques and the use of sectional
structures and devices. These constitute
the enduring traditions that exemplify
the African approach to music even
where the sound materials to which
these are applied are derived from
elsewhere. Even in traditional music, it
is these that unify the different varieties,
for the musical expressions cultivated
by African societies are differentiated
largely in their selection and use of
sound materials.8
As would be expected, it is in the use
of scales, harmony, form and
instrumentation that the new music is
sharply differentiated from traditional
music, since it leans towards western
usages in these particulars. It appears,
however, that what sustains it as a
popular idiom of music alongside
traditional music is its instrumentation
and more especially the emphasis it lays
on forms that express the inner vitality
of African music.
Because of the syncretic nature of
this music, there is a tendency to judge
it from the standpoint of both African
and western music.9 The traditionalist
may miss the nuances of traditional
music and its modes of communication,
while the western trained critic may
look askance at it, not only because the
western components seem incongruous
to him, but also because he regards
them as vestiges of the colonial past.
This is not surprising, since it is
fashionable nowadays even in the west
to see western influence on African
cultural expression as degenerative.
Naturally it is not easy for music that
straddles two traditions to be able to
satisfy the ideals of either of them
without becoming assimilated in certain
respects. But it is important to bear in
mind that as an idiom, syncretic music
has its own frame of reference and must
be viewed first and foremost in its own
terms as well as in terms of the role it
plays in the total culture of which it is a

It will be evident from the foregoing
discussion that the study of musical
change has many dimensions, for
change can be generated by many
factors originating internally through
the functioning of a musical culture in
its social context, or externally through
culture contact. The study of musical
change, therefore, need not be confined

to change caused by culture contact or
dominated by the search for historicla
origins, for ideas for change need not
always come from sources outside a
culture or culture complex.
In present day Africa for example,
any aspect of a musical culture
unknown to the present generation
because of lack of exposure or
experience, or because it has long been
abandoned may provide ideas for
innovation when it is re-discovered.
Innovative ideas for composition may
come to a composer from the traditions
of other ethnic groups. A highlife
musician may be influenced not only
by the models of rock and soul or the
electronic organ and synthesiser, but
also by the resources of the traditions
around him that he has ignored and with
which he now wishes to be identified.
When the stimulus for change comes
from outside, it needs not always result
in sheer imitation. An African
composer inspired by western concepts
of orchestration may turn his energies
to the recreation of a traditional
ensemble rather than to a western
orchestra. Similarly the musician
exposed to traditional polyrhythms may
be inspired to create polyrhythms and
cross rhythms which are not simply
copies of the existing patterns, but his
own creative interpretation of the
principles underlying them. For him the
role of traditional music may be a
contemporary rather than a historical
one in that it can inspire him to explore
alternative modes of expression and
techniques that fit his own concept of
It seems clear also that one could
profitably make a distinction between
linear studies of musical change the
task of music history and synchronic
studies which identify and evaluate
change in terms of contemporary
development or creative issues: in
(a) how a culture shapes or transforms
new musical experiences and ideas into
innovative forms which diffuse through
the culture and become established
(b) the modes of diffusion of
innovation and the mechanism for
controlling change, and
(c) how changes or transformations
relate to (i) the values of society, (ii)
institutional life, and (iii) the creative
needs of the individual.
Whether musical change is approach-
ed historically or principally as a
creative problem which can be
examined in relation to the present, it is
of course the interaction between the
two cross-currents of tradition and
innovation that must be the primary
focus of attention. But there can be no
doubt of the insights that can be gained
when these are viewed against the
contexts of society and culture, since
the social and political conditions under
which music is cultivated do exert
influence on the direction of its
development. Music cultivated under
conditions of alienation may not carry
the same message or draw on the same
sources of expression as music

cultivated under conditions of freedom
and independence.
It should be noted also that although
musical change is a continuous process,
there are always critical points in the
chain of events: points of inertia or of
indeterminacy as well as turning points
when innovations which appear initially
as fads become firmly established. Such
a critical point seems to have been
reached in Africa today where the
issues are not only those of art and
culture but also those of ideology. That
is why music and the arts have become
the focus of cultural development
policies in Africa.10 The study of
musical change is of particular interest
to planners and others, because it can
contribute not only to understanding of
the past, but also to the critical
assessment of the present in relation to
the future. That is why such studies
should identify and evaluate not only
what has survived and what has been
adapted or abandoned, but also trends
in the present that indicate potential
directions of change and which can pro
vide the dimensions urgently needed for
educational planning and curriculum
development, for guiding those involved
in the organisation of musical life in
urban and rural communities, and
above all, for stimulating the thinking of
creative artists and performers, both in
terms of their orientation and their
relation to their society and wider
audiences of the future.

1. See J. H. Kwabena Nketia: 'The Place of Tradi-
tional Music and Dance in contemporary
Africa' World of Music' Vol. XVIII, No. 4,
1976. pp. 5-15.
2. See Essays on Music and History in Africa ed.
K. P. Wachsman North-Western University
Press, 1971.
3. See J. H. Kwabena Nketia: 'History and the
Organisation of Music in West Africa' Essays
on Music and History in Africa, pp. 3-25.
4. See J.H. Kwabena Nketia: 'Historical Evidence
in Ga. Religious Music' The Historian in
Tropical Africa (ed. Vansina) pp. 265-283,
Oxford University Press., 1964.
5. See A. Schwadron: 'Comparative Music Aes-'
thetics: Towards a Universality of Musicality'
Music and Man 1. 1 Dec. 1973, pp. 17-31.
Also: 'Research Directions in Comparative
Music Aesthetics and Music Education' lour-
nal of Aesthetic Education 9, 1 January 1975,
pp. 99-109. 'Music Education and Non-
Western Traditions' World of Music, Vol.
XVIII No. 3. 1976. pp. 25-30.
ii) R. Kauffman: 'Some Aspects of Aesthetics
in the Shona Music of Rhodesia' Ethnomu-
sicology, XII, No. 3. Sept. 1969, pp. 507-
iii) Adrienne L. Kaeppler: 'Aesthetics of Ton-
gan Dance' Ethnomusicology, XV 2 May,
1971, pp. 175-185.
6. J. Portnoy: The Philosopher and Music: A His-
torical Review New York, Humanities Press.
7. See John Storm Roberts: Black Music of Two
World, pp. 239-260. New York. Praeger
Publishers, 1972.
8. See A. P. Merriam: 'African Music' Continuity
and Change in African Cultures, ed. Bascom
and Herskovits University of Chicago Press,
1958. pp. 49-86.
J. H. Kwabena Nketia: The Music of Africa,
New York. W.W. Norton. 1974.
9. See Akin Euba: 'Criteria for the Evaluation of
New African Art Music'. Transition 49. 1975.
10. Inter-Governmental Conference on Cultural
Policies in Africa, UNESCO. 1975.



Kakaki from Cameroons. Made of long tubes of bamboo, capped with copper
bell-shaped ends, they are played like a bugle. United Nations Photo

L-R An aatee rattle (called shekere in Nigeria); beo
called atoke and another dundon. Ghana Inform

Stringed harp from Central Africa [Mulque de I'Aflque]
od drum; dundun or hourglass drum, 2 large conga drums, a double-headed iron goi

Gambian musicians playing at a performance during their visit to Jamaica in 1977.
balaphon, and a zither or balam.
Photo API [Errol Harvey]

About our African Collections:

The instruments shown here come from the
various collections of African artifacts of the
Museums Section of the Institute of Jamaica,
and the Indian, African and Chinese collection
of Dr. Aston Taylor, held in trust for Mico
College by the Museums section. The musical
instruments shown on these pages can be seen
at the African Caribbean Institute of Jamaica

Cultural patterns on the vast continent of Africa,
are not tightly compartmentalised, and there
are powerful cross-cultural influences. Therefore
when an artifact is identified as coming from a
certain region of Africa, this does not exclude
the possibility that the same, or a similar musical
instrument, exists in other parts of Africa.

The Museums Section and the A.C.I.J. have
embarked on a programme of detailed research
into the technology and societal aspects of their
African artifacts, the information given in
caption form here, is of a general nature, inten-
ded to acquaint readers with some basic forms
of African musical instruments. Detailed
research continues and will be published from
time to time.

JAMAICA JOURNAL is indebted to Miss
Beverley Hall, Mrs. Esther Barrett and Mr.
Roderick Ebanks of the A.C.I.J., and the
Museums Section, for assistance and research.
Also to Miss Marjorie Whylie of the Jamaica
School of Music.

This rattle is called the Sheker it is made of a calabash and covered with
cowrie shells. It is held in the hand and shaken, or may be thrown into the air
in time with the music, or beaten like a drum.
[A.C.IJ. Collecton]

Photos ACIJ & Vin McKay

This is the harp guitar known as the Corh or Koa
in Senegal, and also called Soron or Bolon in other
West African countries. The instrument is made by
stretching a wet hide across the open side of a
calabash; this is laced with pegs, and one stick is set
crosswise to support the central beidge over which
the strings pass. The hide dries and becomes very
tight. In playing the instrument the end peg should
rest against the body, and the thumb and four
fingers used to pluck the strings.
[Taylor Collection] Right photo

This drum, the KIhembe Ngoma is peculiar to
eastern Africa, versions may be found in Ethiopia,
Kenya and Burundi. The sizes vary but the shape is
usually cylindrical; each has two drumheads of
zebra skin fastened by means of tightly stretched
strings made of gut or fibre. The larger drumhead
produces the low tones and the smaller one the high
tones; the drummer may lay the drum on its side
and play both ends, or may strap three small
Kihembe Ngoma together, holding them on his
knee and playing these alternately with larger
[Malnde Colleeton] Left photo

This Yoruba drum has human figures carved in wood, encircling the drum.
Da Silva Collection





The Xylophone (Belaphone) is associated
with the Mandingo (Mandinka) tribe. The
instrument pictured here is over one
hundred and fifty years old. The keyboard is
made from the bitter tree, otherwise known
as bitterwood, the sounds varying by the
convex and concave forms. The calabashes
of several sizes and shapes serve as
resonance boxes.
[Taylor Colection]


This instrument is known as the Sana or Zanza in West Africa and Equatorial
Africa; it is known by several other names throughout the continent. In
Nigeria it is called the Agidlbo. The Thumb Piano is made of a sounding
board or box with metal strips for the tongues, an additional resonator may be
used to increase volume. It is plucked in much the same way as the traditional
lamaican Rhumba Box.
[Taylor Collection]

The Dun-Dun [Don Na] is found in
other countries of West Africa. The
drum may be suspended from a
wide strap across the shoulder,
tucked under the left arm, and
played by alternately squeezing and
relaxing the arm pressure on the
strings to raise or lower the pitch.
With the right arm the drummer
strikes the upper drumhead with a
stick shaped like a curved bill. The
embroidered strap and the Kete
Dawuro, bells may be added for
ornament and special effects.
A Dun-Dun choir consists of five
drums, four of which are hour-glass
shaped, and one a shallow
hemispherical drum.
[Dun-Don A.C.LJ. Collection]
[With Kete Dawuro, DaSilva
Collection] photos Vin McKay

This talking drum of the Baluba tribe, is unique in that it does not use a skin; it is
made from wood, thinly carved at the point which shows the opening.
Many African drums are called "talking drums", and may be placed at a strategic
place in a village to ensure prompt response, they may continue on a relay system
from area to area. There are many drum languages, and these drums may also be
played at ceremonies.
[Taylor Collection]


Pan and Caribbean

Drum Rhythms

BY MACKIE BURNETTE (as told to the editor)

Mackie Burnette "Gratitude", born Trinidad,
emigrated to Jamaica 1962 where he has established
himself on the musical scene as a percussionist,
steel pan player, tutor and researcher. As a leading
drummer-percussionist he has been the recipient of
awards in Festival Drumming 1965, and a Gold
Medal in 1975. He has been associated with a
number of dance studios and singing groups, and
has provided drumming accompaniment for
dramatic productions, e.g., "The Emperor Jones",
"Jezebel" "Dream on Monkey Mountain" and
Ibsen's "Doll's House".
In 1962 he founded the Jamaica All-Stars, and
has been instrumental in the formation of the
Bueno Vista Steel Band, Y DeLima Steel Band, and
most recently the U.W.I. Steelband. As an
exponent of this unique musical form, he has been
on a number of promotional tours to: Mexico,
Guantanamo, and more recently, was a member
of the contingent of musical ambassadors to
FESTAC in Nigeria.

It is generally believed that the steel
pan as an instrument came about
because of the oil industry or that the oil
industry in Trinidad merely provided a
convenient vehicle for a traditional
musical instrument. Legend has it
however that the steel drums evolved
from tamboo-bamboo and croix-croix
(pronounced "qua-qua") by happen-
stance (Figures A & B). Tamboo
bamboo are long pieces of bamboo with
holes cut in them these are of varying

lengths, and they hit them on the
ground to obtain varying sounds; this is
similar to what traditional Jamaican
Kumina groups call a "stamping tube".
And then in Bongo (when somebody
dies) the dry bamboo is set horizontally
and played with two pieces of sticks -
this was the croix-croix, played when
there is a wake (nine night or forty night
At one wake the bamboo burst, and
somebody got an old gas tank and that
person got a few tones from the pan.
After this man had a little musical
improvisation such as they would have
when there is a party or a fete or
anything .... you only need five or six
people and that is a band everybody
has a basic thing and everybody does
their own thing, within the rhythm -
and they are on to a musical
performance..... And this man that I am
telling you about, he had a garbage can
cover that had some convex rims (Fig C)
he could get tones from the different
part of rims he got this bright idea
that if he were to get a pan and get out
certain sections, he would be able to
produce different notes from different
sections. So he did just that and he got
'Mary Had A Little Lamb' and this

man was the pioneer Winston 'Spree'
So that was it. That was 'Pan'. And
from there somebody else got a few
more notes and somebody else got the
bright idea too instead of turning it out
(convex) this man turned it in (concave)
- and somebody else at that time
started to play with bare sticks, one
stick then somebody else would play
with two sticks, and over the years
somebody else say 'well put rubber on
the end of it' somebody else may say
'look if this is a tenor, try playing the
bass'. And we used to play these 'biscuit'
drums with our hands they didn't
reach that point where they could play
it with sponge-tipped sticks but they
developed and every three or six
months would make an improvement.
Until the mid 1960s pans (particularly
tenors) were carried around the neck;
nowadays most are set on stands.
The hitting with sticks is not only
related to the croix-croix (which is
played like a marimba). Up to a point
the beating with the sticks really came
from the burst bamboo of the
croix-croix but it is true that the Shango
drummers use a stick, and Shango has a
very strong influence on the steel pans,

Trinidad serenaders aboard M.V. freeport operating between Miami and Freeport... Grand Bahamas.




Tamboo Bamboo and Bottle + Spoon
From: The Winston Spree Simon Story

Croix Croix

From: Authentic Facts on the Origin of the Stelband



EARLY 40's
Very Early Steelband

because it is believed that it was from
Shango that they got the first, the very
first basic rhythm, that all the steel pans
depended upon.
The Shango drum is made of wood,
skin and hoops, much the same as the
principle of the Jamaican Poco
(pukkimina) drums. In playing they will
heat these drums over a fire to stretch
the skins this will last from 15 to 20
minutes, and they will go back and heat
them again, and so on .... this is for the
cutter (cotta?) or lead drums, not the
Just as in Jamaica, one cannot rule
out the church influence in popular
music in Trinidad. "Play Mas" is really
"Play masque" but there is in fact the
influence of the Catholic Mass; and the
Shango and Baptist-Shango is close to
Pocco and Revival, although the
Shango form of itself is actually closer
to Kumina. (Shango music transcription
in Appendix).
And then you have the Umele
(Oumele) (See Appendix.
And then you have the lead drum -
the cutter, that the people really dance
to. (See Appendix).
And then there is a drum called a doo
doop (pronounced du dup) which was
one of the first drums around the period
of the beginning of pan this emerged
as a basic thing this is a drum with
just two notes and carried the basic four
beat (Fig. D). Everything depended
upon that somebody could have one
doo doop, and one doo doop alone
could carry a band of about thirty or
forty people any place with one
bottle and spoon you could be
hearing this doo doop for quite some
distance, and the rhythm would get to
you, but it's only when you would be by
say the Life of Jamaica building (one
city block away from the Institute of
Jamaica) that you would begin to hear
the other instruments, but would hear
the doo doop further down, for this
instrument (this is my personal finding,
this is how I see it) strengthened the
basic rhythm for pan well the doo
doop is obsolete now. It was not a large
drum, something that anyone could
carry around easily this type of drum
(small drum). You may wonder how
such a small pan could give out such a
powerful music; in fact it was like a
Kumina drum the kumina drum as
compared with the kete or even the
Cuban drums, is very vocal; the full
force of the rhythm comes right out to
you, it is not muffled in any way -
when they hit it they get the full tone
from it nothing is muted or contained
within the drum it all goes outwards;
the same is true of the biscuit drums.
This type of metal is very thin, they used
to import biscuits in those days in round
tins, this was the biscuit drum, and we
used to play it with our hands it was
so thin that when you hit it, it almost
reverberated to get a 'thud thud thud'
sound, but after tuning it you would get
power and tone.
Then we have a 'back beat'Jab Jab -
it was a mass that they played at
carnival, they used the same kerosene
pans it was a very cheap mass. You

get a pan and a cow horn and you paint
up yourself with indigo blue and
vaseline you get these red nails and
maybe a cow tail, and five or six little
boys with cans and you will come
around with a big spear, and looking for
cash much like the Jonkonnu here.
This is one of the basic rhythms that is
very dominant in Trinidad Jab-Jab, and
is one of the rhythms that is done along
with the Shango, this is the basic
foundation of the emergence of four
beat rhythm and the calypso beat.
Jab-Jab, or Jab-Malasy (Malasy is
something bad bad devil, and Jab-Jab
combined) the beat. (See Appendix)
Calypso is essentially for a road
march; a lavwe or a parang can be used
for a road march; 'rhythm': pang pay a
pang pay. A lavwe is a chant (Atilla the
Hun, Growler and, Executor were early
singers). Everyone takes up the chant.
This is a very African "call and reply"
type of song. There was also strong
Spanish influence, the use of strings,
the quatro (primarily a Spanish instru-
ment with four strings) and then a
bongo would back that up. (See
The old time calypso was four beat
(four verses and four chorus). Lord Laro
sang this all the time. Birdie (Sparrow)
was the first singing melody to bring in
the eight beat into popularity.
Parang was mostly at Christmas, a
group would go from house to house
singing Spanish songs about the Nativity
later they became lampoon gongs, all
cultures melded into one. In the early
days it was more for the Spanish people
in Maraval and Santa Cruz, the Black
man then brought in Caiso and mixed it
up with the Spanish now it involves
the masses, Indians, everyone.
Many Jamaicans do not fully
understand the question of tuning the
drums "pan". What one would hear
in Laventille for example would be very
strange to the Jamaican ear. (Fig. E)
shows bass drums and lead tenor and
double guitar. A full set comprises bass,
triple guitars, double-seconds, double-
tenor, tenors, rhythm section, compris-
ing tenor-bass. The clave (sticks) was
once traditional but almost obsolete-
now, and the scratcher (which is like a
grater). The Cow Bell was also very
important, the rhythm part of the steel
is the foundation it must not move off
the beat.
A different quality metal is needed
for making the lead drum the same
quality may not be used in making a
double-second or double-guitar. A
drum whose surface is not etched, (i.e.
without writing) must be chosen, this is
because the writing interferes with the
tone when you sink the metal the
writing makes a 'sleeve' which interferes
with the tuning, and clarity is impaired;
the perfectness of the tone is affected.
Thickness of the metal is an important
consideration when one wishes to make
a bass or double-guitar. The type or
brand name of the drum is important.
Different grades of metal are found in
different brands; the choice is usually
made from Shell, double-ream drums,
Esso, Castrol, Texaco. For making a

lead pan one would choose a drum with
little or no writing not too hard or too
soft, to tell the difference you simply hit
the drum with your hand to get the tone
- an expert can tell simply by hitting.
The type of bass depends on the tuner,
or the type of sound the band wants.
Some people want a heavy sound but it
is an infinite process in getting a band
The heating, tuning, and structural
divisions of the pan is a skill passed from
one person to person by ear. One
develops in stages the essential
qualities. Before a man can be a tuner,
he must have been able to sink, and
before he could sink, he must be able to
groove. Once a tuner is established, he
gets sinkers and groovers and the whole
process starts again. The tuner is the
master musician he is the key man,
the top man. The pan man is the bottom
rung of the ladder, and there is a
heirarchy in between.
When a pan man leaves Trinidad, or a
pan tuner migrates to Europe or Canada
or U.S.A., they go into a different
medium musically; they adapt, and after
a few years they are out of touch -
badly. They are advanced in certain
areas, yet down in others; because every
year a tune changes and every year you
hear someone else with a newer sound-
and they (the migrants) are away from
that, they don't know what is going on
in Trinidad they don't care what is
going on because they are making a few
shillings things are nice; but to be in
real contact with the real happening
they are off completely off. The
greatest pan man if he is in America or
Europe, even if he comes to Trinidad he
might regain the touch to a point but
you lose the real thing. It is net only
hearing the sound, it is the climate, it is
the colours, it is the pace of the people
and one adapts to one's environment.
On my way to Lagos I went to
Trinidad courtesy of B.W.I.A. by
fortunate accident, because the plane
left me and I went to about six or
seven pan tuners' places; and I stayed
around for hours watching the
development and watching what they
did, and I think they are so far away
from what people understand on the
outside of Trinidad. .... Take this band
the Desperadoes, if you saw a picture of
them you would see six or twelve basses
being played at one time; they have
these lower pitched pans called rocket
pans everything is just uniform and
But to come back to the heating and
tuning of the pan .... after you sink the
drum this is how the face of the drum
would look (Fig. E) this is a tenor. After
you sink you groove you start sinking
from the centre this is a groover (Fig.
F) which is used to make the structural
divisions of the pan. The process is very
intricate, but it is not a secret thing; you
may watch, and you even read books,
but in order to gain the skill you must
associate with the people who know the
art. Otherwise you could be sinking for
the rest of your life and you could not
tune one note. To be a tuner you have
to have a love for the art and a desire to

master it the essentials are a good ear
and great patience.
See the white lines on the diagram,
there is no standard pattern for marking
out pans, it is infinite. One might put a
'B' anywhere, any size, it is up to the
individual. A man might choose to mark
out any number of notes. For example
in picture No. 2, you see a low tenor
with 32 notes. Nowadays tenors are
made with 36 notes or more. After
marking and sinking sometimes eight
to nine inches the metal becomes
very thin. For the experienced tuner it is
then so easy, and the process does not
take a long time one to two days to
make a tenor. After sinking to the
required depth (maybe as much as 9")
you have got to groove again carefully,
in two or three days a good tenor can be
made. A man could sink and "saddle"
(sloping while sinking) a drum in two or
three days, so that it is concave. (Fig.
G) shows saddling, and diagram B
shows how you sink the pan.
Instruments used include a punch and a
sledge hammer. Accurate measure-
ments, that is the important thing;
because when you get down into the
metal to get something from nothing -
it's there, but it's not there .... to get a
note that you want here, and nothing
else but a perfect A in a particular
place, or a C.*
There is a big thing going on as to
whether the pans are tuned to the
classical scale or not you can test
these notes and get perfect notes that
you could get from a concert piano -
but nevertheless there is always the
'phantom zone' between a C and a C#
when you are not sure of what you are
getting. It may well be true that
Africans have several sounds in what
Europeans call a 'tone'. But you must
remember that early bands played
classics, when they started out they had
to prove themselves in order to be
They started playing simple classics,
light classics, from as early as the
forties, and later they progressed to the
heavy classics to meet the challenge.
There isn't any composer Mozart,
Sibelius, Bach, Beethoven, Chopin -
they played every known composer.
There were successful classical albums
played by Pan Am North Stars, Gay
Desperadoes, Esso Tripoli, to name a
few. Now-a-days they tend to tune by
chart rather than by the individual ear,
and everybody is the same "sweet".
Sometimes you think a note is there but
cannot be sure. The tuners get so
involved that they may have to double
check with someone else. Many times I
have said "but the man move off the
note! That was something like a C to
me!" But you go on tuning and after
a while the ear gets so full up with the
sound that you can't hear it any more -
the same can happen to an artist who
gets so close to the thing his eyes are
filled up with it, and he has to move off
and come back before he can see it
If you sink a drum, tune it, and
groove it yourself, it is harder because,

after taking that amount of noise for a
number of years, after a while you could
tell a C wrong from down the corner,
in one band. You could hear one note
and come right to it and say "That's
wrong that's wrong".
Now some people say that the
Trinidadians had nothing but contempt
for some of the other Island bands
because they tuned their pans to the
classical scale, they tuned it exactly like
a piano and they lost some of the very
delicate, very subtle, very skilful tone
that the Trinidadians have. I think it
might have been a superiority complex
.... if you have it you laugh at other
people trying to imitate .... but over the
years these other islands developed
because tuners came to Trinidad and
got a thing .... and Trinidadian tuners
filtered out. I have heard some bands in
Antigua, just as good as in Trinidad, and
Trinidadian tuners go there every year.
People often wonder what distin-
guishes one band from another it is
the sound, it is the combination, the
melding, the production, the arrange-
ment. It is a complex thing; you could
have a band that does not have 'sweet
pans, but they have a good arranger,
and they can beat you with
arrangement; because they can arrange
the tune in such a way, that even if you
had twenty tenors, fifteen double-
seconds, and everybody is 'sweet' but
it is how you put the thing together. The
sweet pan is really the overall tone of
the band; but the man with the pans that
are not so sweet, by arrangement, he
could bring out a sound that could beat
the 'sweet' pans he could bring out a
sound that people have to listen to.
To go back to traditional Jamaican
music: Mento has a Spanish influence
and an African influence; on the second
beat Trinidadians dance a one-step,
Jamaicans tend to dance a two-step.
Older Jamaicans with the mento
tradition, have little difficulty dancing
the Calypso, but the younger Jamaicans
accustomed to the heavy Ska and
Reggae beat, seem to have made an
adaptation of the Calypso.
I would like to make a comparison
between the Mento beat and the
Calypso beat not the reggae beat. My
experience was, when I first heard
mento at Hotel Marrakesh in 1962, I
played the lead tenor (Fig. H) on the
floor show, I was in charge of the group,
and there was a calypso band. Their
drummer called 'Calypso' had two
beats and he would play them from
morning to night; it would seem very
monotonous, but it was very good; we
called it 'tango'. It was only when we got
into the mento beat that I began to hear
this thing which was so much like
calypso. There is a difference, but they
both come off the same four beat
timing: it is the same common beat but
with a different syncopation, in mento
they use the clave (sticks).
With the calypso we have as the basic
beat. (See Appendix).
So you see I could count within that
same mento and be right there every
four beats, I would fall back on the beat

every four beats.
A number of comparisons come to
mind, for example between the
European influenced Mento tunes and
the Trinidadian Spanish waltz. In mento
I seem to hear a very strong influence of
Latin music,, where the clave is the
dominant instrument; the home-made
instruments that the Latins use, the
maracas and the grater, are similar. But
in the Castian (Spanish waltz) the timing
is different, it tends to go into a sort of
three beat timing, it is a true waltz; but
there may be in certain Jamaican music
a mutation between the four beat and
the waltz.
And there is a similarity in the
treatment of those waltzes to the
Castian; from my own experience, and
from what I have read the roots seem to
come off the same six eight, the basic
Afro-Latin influence. The Latin
influence brought it all together, and in
Trinidad there was a very strong Latin
influence from Venezuela, Brazil etc.
I would like to say something about
how I came to Jamaica in the first place.
I left Trinidad in 1961 to go to Barbados
for two weeks. Some entertainers were
fortunate enough to be sponsored, but
my small group went at our own
expense. The experience extended a
month .... and then another month ....
until 1962 when we went to Antigua,
and after two months some wanted to
go back home, some wanted to go to
Puerto Rico, but eventually we ended
up in Jamaica. My choosing Jamaica
was because I could not handle the
French in Guadeloupe or Martinique,
and did not have a U.S. visa for St.
Thomas, Virgin Islands.
In Barbados I found that the
Barbadians did not dance at the same
pace, their attitude towards calypso was
different, slightly more staid, it would
flourish more along the tourist beaches
of St. James and Bonny Dundee, it was
not as uninhibited nor had it the
Trinidadian lascivious humour. The
Barbadian pace of speech is different
and people's music, and even their
whole thinking, may be related to the
pace at which they speak. The
Trinidadian approach is much more
free and easy for everyone than even
the Antiguans where the masses were
very much involved in the music.
Going through the Islands I found
other music forms. In St. Lucia and
Dominica there is a heavy French bele,
in Dominica there is another type of
strictly Afro-rhythm, there is more
concentrated African influence there
untouched with any Latin or colonial
influence. Between there and Carriacou
in the Grenadines there is an extremely
strong African influence. Carriacou I
want to go to that place .... I have
always heard for years that from the
West Coast of Africa there is a stream in
the ocean where these Africans would
go with the boats and it is like a river
that would take them along, and there
were Africans there long before
Columbus. There is a book that has
been recently written on the subject
called They Came Before Columbus.

Arrows point to
approximate position
of holes in rim
to suspend it.
Note: C as given
here, the next-
to-lowest note,
is Middle C on
the piano (look
at diagram on
page ).
C' is one octave
higher. C" would
be two octaves
higher (B" is the
highest note).

The Ping Pong takes longer to make than the other pans because there are so many grooves to
make, and so many notes to tune. Also, some of the higher notes are hardest to tune. However,
it is a good one to start making. Without a ping pong to play the melody, it is impossible to
have any sort of steel band.
From: Steel Drums How to Play Them & Make Them

"Saddling" refers to the
sunken shape e of the pan
(cross section shown).
"Sinking" refers to the
tuning of the individual

We have been hearing this for many
years that this is how the African
influence is so strong in all those places,
like Bahia in Brazil but there is this
thing called Coramantee (see Appendix)
rhythm in Grenada and Bequia this is
one song that I remember from about
fifteen years ago.
That is how I learned it from one of
the drummers that went there. I am not
very much with it. Andrew Beddoe is
one of the few people who passed
through there. He is one of the leading
drummers in the West Indies. He played
with Beryl McBurnie's group for years,
he is now with Deryck Walcott's
productions, like the Joker of Seville.
There is a dominant Catta thing in
Haiti, the Haitians run a different set of
rhythms again. I have been a fan of Ti
Roro for years I did not hear him on
his last visit, but he is a fantastic
exponent of the Haitian drumming art.
There is a Catta tradition in Jamaica
too, and the Haitians seem to have some
dance movements rather similar to the
Kumina flat footed inching steps. There
is quite a difference between the
Merenge of the Dominican Republic,
and the Merenge of Haiti. Haiti having
far stronger African influence in the
Naggo, Petro, Juba, Yavaloo, Kongo,
and Ibo the Ibo is very strong in
Steel band in Jamaica has gone
through phases during the last fifteen
years, from very popular, exclusively for
the North Coast isolated from the
common people except like when the
Pan Am group would come out, or the
University would have their carnival
(Fig. I) .... now and then you may see it
on TV, but I know that quite a lot of
Jamaicans like it it is not so popular
because it has not been nourished -
and it needs sponsors for continuity.
Otherwise it will eventually die out in
Jamaica. It could be re-encouraged now
that there is an oil refinery in Jamaica
and pans are available.
The discipline is very good, and band
discipline is extremely essential in Steel
band music you could call it a
therapy, because in order to learn or
reach any stage, you must retain, and
this type of retaining tends to help in
other areas as well; it is a mental
exercise. .... I can remember tunes that I
played ten, fifteen years ago but now
I could play them the minute I see
the pan I say "yes" I can adapt that
tune to any different pan.
Over a period of time there has been
a tendency to call any West Indian
music calypso, and in Jamaica
sometimes the music has been mutated
as 'calypso' but not as true calypso. You
may find Jamaicans sometimes singing
calypso style, with a bit of the calypso
beat, and not recognizing that that is
something they have really taken from
somewhere else which is not indigenous
to Jamaica. This again is part of the
problem of "tourist" manipulation of
music, for the tourists don't know the
difference between mento and calypso.
What I do know is that every place has
its own High Life music that is

equivalent to the West African High
Life. However they try, it will still
remain in their own form to suit them,
and they don't really want anything else
- in any other form, in any strict or
better form.
In Jamaica the skilful drum players
nowadays tend to concentrate on skin
drums, goat skin or any other kind of
skin, the bass is the foundation for the
sound, they have to have that, because
from low to high, the overlapping from
very very low to very very high, and the
rhythm section that keeps the whole
trend going while everyone operates
between; that is the basic approach that
some bands use not all bands.
In Jamaica substantially a skin drum
is used, the metal sound that we have
tended to use traditionally is the high
flat tone of the kerosene pan, like the
Ettu people and this is hardly heard
any more. There is very little of what in
the Eastern Caribbean is called the
'sweet' tone the tuned metal drum.
Most groups do not place emphasis on a
singing tone. Frying pans and bottle and
spoon are the early traditional
instruments in Trinidad. Jamaicans are
more interested in the nuances of a skin
tone, whether you rim it, whether you
put your foot on the bottom to mutate
the sound .... but we don't seem to have
a tradition in Jamaica of the 'sweet'
drum. Each people have their musical
emphasis on their own area of interest.
What I find as a drummer playing in
Jamaica, is that even if I play beautiful
complex rhythms to some audiences they
don't care for it, but if I play a simple
basic rhythm I can get a whole set of
children or adults moving with it, and
the whole thing would just 'go'. I have
found that time and time again, as long
as I have the basic rhythm everything is
right. The tendency now particularly in
Jamaica is for people to appreciate that
strong basic rhythm, and they are not
listening to the subtle polyrhythms
which characterise African music. I
have repeatedly failed to get complex
rhythms across to an audience, you
have to make it as basic as possible or
they get bored, very bored and restless.
More than once I have had to just cut a
beat and done the basic rhythm. (see
A Jamaican audience will give some
applause when you go through about
fifteen minutes of hard Afro-Cuban or
West African drumming, and you will
get a light ripple, and a little calypso
here, and you get a little more
acceptance, even kumina would not be
so much accepted as a stage
performance except you have dancers
and singers and the audience is also
looking at something .... and the drums
just come as an additional thing. But for
listening it is the heavy basic rhythm -
that is what they want me to do
although they have several other groups
that can do the same thing.
Another thing is the electronic
amplification of sound which may have
reached a pitch beyond that which is
normal to the human ear, and the ears
are being deafened this is not only
true of Jamaica. When everything is

pitched high they have to hear the deep
bass and high whining and high organ,
they just like it so. Everybody has to
play high; and I have found that when I
get there with my congos, and the organ
is turned up and tuned up, I have to play
hard, and even in a small night club
where a person in the front row would
be about three or four yards away. .... I
don't know how they stand it, I on the
stage am having a hard time, and yet
they are speaking while it is going on. I
don't know how they stand it, I have to
hand it to them.
I would like to say a brief word about
my experience at FESTAC last year -
space will not allow me to tell you about
this in detail there was so much to
choose from, such a richness of music,
and so much similarity in the drumming
from all the countries. Outstanding
were however the drummers from
Guinea, I heard them twice, but one
night at Tafewa Balewa Square it was
unbelievable their discipline was
superb. There you found six or seven
drummers playing together like a solo,
everybody like at maximum crisis, and
everybody dead on the same beat -
and they held the same beat throughout.
Like many other people I went to




HIGH-pitched (Bottle and spoon, triangle)

rrt r WT T I Q V r fr

Cutting patterns

I mele (Oumele)

Lagos with a tremendous feeling of
having come home, and in all the
FESTAC celebrations I heard over and
over again rhythms which sounded like
our familiar Caribbean sounds I
heard something like Jab-Jab, I heard
something like Shango, and I heard
something just like Kumina at a place
called Keduna and everywhere
Congo, Congo, Congo. (See Appendix).
At Keduna it was not strictly part of
FESTAC, but a little Durbar there
you see a cross-section of African
peoples, I could not imagine all these
different peoples were from Africa -
let alone from one nation of Nigeria;
there was a strong Fulani influence,
people on horseback with big drums, all
different forms of dress but even
though some of the rhythms were
strange in themselves, if you listen
carefully they could be related to West
Indian music. At one point one felt that
a Shango basic with a Funde and a
Cuban Huahuanco could cut and play
with the music it may be strange to
our ears, but the overlapping would
work. It is one family of music as
strange and diverse as the peoples
themselves, but it is one family of music.



tr itj LUT Ernlm

When there is a small percussion group, a player is often required to
combine two or more of the above patterns. The strong, basic
throbbing rhythm must be maintained especially when dancers are

DO-DOOP etc.
Jab-Malasy is a masquerade with performers chanting:
(a) Ku-ru-ma Ku-ru Ven-jy Sdy Ku-ru-ma'

ul u l- l -

(b) I come from hell

I know you well

(Sp) Pay de devil

PL? Ui '


cr) LrL t~ i




The penny-whistle is used to give prominence to the 'jab-jab' figure.

A repeated pattern in the rhythm of this dance.

The following hand-drum rhythms may be used for Mento

(h)i L J
Note: Mento traditionally uses stick drums, with snares removed,
together with claves and maracas. Typically, the banjo
strums to this rhythm: -7 7


L>tj~- Li r L 7 t r
The basic pattern is derived from Do-doop
This comes from a remote recollection. The only intelligible word is
Coromantee, repeated wherever J J occurs.

Co-ro-mantee Ay

BASIC RHYTHM pattern, with variations

(a) r 7 r

bass drum, lead tenor, and double guitar.

(b) t

(a) and (b) in combination

(c) T t| cLF
(d r r)' L r -r
(d)l rJ LJ U l L r r

CONGO (Rhythms heard at FESTAC)

Lf Lr 1 [t t
This is a cowbell pattern used in Cuba for the
appears in the following jingle (Trinidad)
When the king died he died last night
Did 'e leave any money? Two pounds ten
We-va we-va donkey shake e tail (repeat)

rU ~LU 7
LIr u ,LJW'LB'

Congo rhythm. It also

*--- -l-'l
NOTE: For photographs and information on Pukkumina, Revival.
bell, maracas, etc., see JAMAICA JOURNAL Vol. 10 1 and Vol. 11 1 &2.

Mackie playing lead tenor on a floor show

Elder. J.D., "From Congo Drum to Steelband" -
Borde, P.. "The Sounds of Trinidad" Roul
A.E.. "Authentic Facts on the Origin of the Ste(
band" Jones. A.M.. "Winston 'Spree' Simon
Story" Rohlehr, G. "Forty years of Calyps(
Tapla Vol. 2 Nos. 1, 2 & 3 Sept., 1972. Sil
monds, W.A.. "The Story of the Steelband".





BY ASTLEY CLERK (extract from a lecture given in 1913)

Exhibit from the White Marl Arawak Museum of the Institute of Jamaica, shows the route of Arawak migration (dark arrows). Caption headed "The Religious
.rawaks" reads:

When on the 4th May, 1494,
Christopher Columbus discovered
Xamayca, as he was told by the Indians
of Cuba our island was named, he found
on our shores a people opposite in
disposition to the warlike, man-eating
Carib tribes who had greeted him and
his (to them) strange looking,
lateened-rigged, caravals, among the
Windward Islands. The Arawaks, as the
aborigines of Jamaica are called, were
in comparison to the Caribs, a quiet,
peaceable people, and, although history
tells us that they did greet Columbus
with a fleet of at least 70 canoes;
advancing in warlike array; painted and
adorned with feathers; uttering loud
yells; brandishing their lances of
pointed wood, and using their bows and
arrows, they meant no more than that
opposition which you and I would make
if we were to see a strange man entering
bur homes without our permission. In
fact, I doubt not but that this hostile
demonstration was made because of the
bewildered uncertainty of the Arawaks
who but a short while before this had
seen the white sails of the "Santa Maria"

The Relgious Aawaku
Around the year A.D.I. Arawaks began to move
into the lesser Antilles from South America. During
the next two centuries, they followed the lesser
Antillean chain of islands to the Greater Antilles.
About 200 A.D. they arrived in Puerto Rico.
Hispaniola was next populated followed by Cuba.
The Arawaks did not arrive in Jamaica until about
A.D. 700.
The Arawaks made pottery and lived by collecting
shellfish, hunting and cultivating. At the time
Columbus arrived, almost all the Greater Antilles
were inhabited by peaceful Arawaks living in
permanent villages. They hadhereditarychiefs and
worshipped many gods called Zemis.

(slide 2. plate 1, No. 2), and her consorts
appear on the horizon. Trembling with
excitement, they watched these
never-before-seen craft approaching
their shores nearer and nearer they
saw them come, and then, when not far
off, suddenly there broke on their ears,
sung by a chorus of male voices, the
sounds of the "Salve Regina" and other
Christian hymns of thanksgiving which

the grateful Admiral (Slide 3) would
command his mariners to sing whenever
they neared his latest discovery.
Should we wonder, if thinking, as we
know the Indians of Trinidad actually
thought and acted on, on a later
occasion, that such songs were meant as
a battle cry, they, too, acted on the
Our Arawaks were, as the story of the
Kitchen-middens tells us, just partially
emerged from the Stone Age; we would
therefore, scarcely expect to find
among them anything pertaining to
either music or musical instruments,
and yet, when Columbus, some four
months after, interviewed the Cacique
of the Harbour "de las Vacas," now
known as Old Harbour Bay, this
chieftain, (Lord of numerous villages,
who resided in Cabaritta now called
Goat's Island, (slide 4. Plate 2, No. 4)
the largest and most elevated of the
seven islands found in this bay,) came in
state, not only with the ordinary
attendants and his standard bearer but
even with a band of musicians as well.
One of the earliest historians thus

You will note that the trumpets made
of this fine black wood were ingeniously
carved, showing that our aborigines
'--- were artistic not only musically but
/ I. otherwise. It is possible that these
trumpets were made from the leaf-stalks
of the trumpet tree, a tree indigenous to
SJamaica and which, you will see,
^ X n-(Trumpet Stem shown) has a stalk
S; divided, like the bamboo, into hollow
S. sections. Even to-day, in the country
S-- parts, these trumpet tree sections are
/ used, on the spur of the moment, to take
the place of the posthorn. Browne the
botanist, tells us that he saw some of the
smaller branches of this tree cut and
She was very pleased with their tone
Production. I am persuaded that our
Aborigines must also have made use of
S" the Wild Cane, (Wild Cane Stem shown)
to make flutes of. They had it growing
all around them; they knew that, like
the trumpet tree, its stem was hollow,
for they were accustomed to employ it
in the construction of their houses, and,
The Trumpet Tree note hollow stalk. (From .Te Floweing Treem of Perto RIco consequently, it is not difficult to
describes his retinue: "In the prow of Wild Cane. (From The Gramu of the Wst Indla)
the canoe stood the standard-bearer of
the Cacique clad in a mantle of
variegated feathers, with a tuft of gay A, -
plumes on his head, and bearing in his "
hand a fluttering white banner. Two
Indians with caps or helmets of feathers
of uniform shape and colour, and their *
faces painted in a similar manner beat
upon tabors; two others with hats
curiously wrought of green feathers, :
held trumpets of a fine black wood, -,. .
ingeniously carved. There were six
others, in large hats of white feathers,
who appeared to be guards to the
Cacique." It is worth while emphasising
the fact that this is the only known
instance, not only in Jamaican but in all
West Indian history, where an organised
and uniformed band of musicians has
been described by our discoverers.
Here, then, in the harbour "de las
Vacas," after the evening shadows had
fallen, as we know how quickly they can
fall in our tropic home, Columbus and
his crew lay at anchor, and far into the
night they heard the faint taps of what
the hearers rightly conjectured was a
drum and to their attentive ears was
borne, on the cool fragrant North Wind,
the sound of distant song, chronicling, I
have no doubt, the sudden appearance,
from "turey" or Heaven, of these
strange white beings and equally strange
looking craft. And so, thus early in our N
history, we find a band of regularly ~
organised musicians, of at least, four
men proving that the inhabitants of
this "land of wood and water" have
always been, if not a musical at least a
music loving people. The historian 4-
unhesitatingly names two of the
instruments used by this band Tabors
and Trumpets. Tabors, of course, in the
then strict sense of the word, they could
not have been, but they must have,
undoubtedly, suggested the instruments :, 1.
he knew by that name in his own sunny .
Spain, and so he not only names them -.
but does not think it necessary to
describe them. .: _. T .

suppose that they used it as well to
fashion their flutes out of.
The Arawaks also had a drum, which,
we are told, was heard at a "vast" and
"immense" distance. This drum was
evidently large, or very deep, and was
made either out of the ever useful
trumpet tree (Slide 5) (the trunk of
which is found even to-day to exceed 5
feet in circumference, and the middle of
which is easily cleared of its sap,) or a
log of some hardwood the interior of
which was hollowed out by fire and the
stone chisels, hatchets, or axes which
the aborigines were accustomed to use
in the making of their famous Ceiba
Canoes. The skin to cover these large
drums, was undoubtedly taken from the
Manatee, or Sea Cow. (slide 6. Plate 2,
No. 6), the only animal from which our
Arawaks also obtained a beef supply. I
am inclined to believe, further, that our
first known inhabitants had a drum
made of earthenware, and to illustrate
my surmise I turn to Duerden's
"Aboriginal Indian Remains in Jamaica"
and opposite page 46, on plate 5, fig. 6
and fig. 7 (slides 7 and 8) you see two
pieces of pottery which, with their
curled over rims, would appear to have
been specially prepared to receive a
skin stretched across it and tied around,
and thus do the work of a drum.
It is authoritatively acknowledged
that clay was utilized, among certain
peoples and nations, in the manufacture
of musical instruments. We know, for
example, that baked clay was used by
the Chinese, 2,000 odd years ago, to
make one of their eight kinds of musical
instruments, forming a whistle, with
finger holes, known as the Hiuen, the
oldest Chinese wind instrument. I go
further and suggest that several of the
highly polished perforated flint stones
which are to-day classed as Arawak
"implements," "weapons" and "orna-
ments," were also used similarly to the
Chinese "King" (slide 9. Plate 3, No. 9)
i.e. a certain number of these so called
"implements," etc., were graded and
hung in a row and struck to produce
different musical tones. Even those of
our writers who support the "imple-
ment theory entertain some doubt as to
its genuineness, one remarking, that, "it
is not unreasonable to suppose that
some of these stones may have had
ceremonial function," and among our
aborigines there were no functions so


ceremonial as their Sacred Festivals at
which Music, Song and Dance formed
the most prominent features. It was for
these sacred dances that our Indians
were so intensely eager to obtain in
barter the "Hawks-bells" brought over
by the discoverers. A look at the next
Slide (slide 10) will impress you that the
hole, shown at the top part of the stone,
might have been intended to receive the
string by which the stone was hung. One
of our later day writers, after stating
that this very illustration was generally
regarded, and I would emphasise this
latter word, as a "sinker" for fishing,
asserts that the perforation enabled it to
be suspended.
We learn also that the Arawaks
possessed a flute made of bone.
Unfortunately our historians go no
further they might have said what
kind of bone was used to make this
flute, and the only bone I can think of,
for Jamaica had no indigenous animal
large enough, the alco and coney being
small quadrupeds, is the human bone,
and the aborigines were, we are told,
too careful and respectful of their own
dead to trifle with their bones for any,
much less such a purpose. It is,
however, very possible, that they might
have used the bones of their enemies,
the Caribs, who had been killed in
battle. The smaller sections or stems of
the trumpet tree were, as they still are
to-day, utilized to make flutes; I do not
think that hard wood was ever


Research,Dr. S.C. Sinha of the Institute of Jamaica.,

employed for this purpose, for even
granting that the Arawaks had the
intelligence, and when you examine
their beautifully grounded and polished
and symmetrically proportioned tools
and implements which time has not
destroyed, a few samples of which I now
show you (tools shown) you will grant
that the people who could do such work
were gifted with no mean order of
intelligence; I say, then, that granting
that our Arawaks had the intelligence,
to bore through a sufficiently long
enough piece of solid wood, they were
not able to have done it with the stone
(Slide 11) and only tools which we know
they were accustomed to use.
It is likewise almost certain that this
martyred people must also have
employed the stems of the papaw tree, a
native of this Island, to make flutes and
small trumpets of.
There was, moreover, an Aeolian
Harp made from the Aeta Palm how
that Harp was constructed we are
unfortunately, not told But I would
suggest that it was made similarly to the
Aeolian Harp still used by the Arawaks
of British Guiana and thus described by
Im Thurn: "a sort of Aeolian Harp,
formed from the leaf stalk of the Aeta
Palm, (Slide 12. Plate 4, No. 12) by
picking and separating, without
severing, four or five of several of the
parallel fibres of which the skin of the
stalk consists; a bridge like that of a
fiddle is then placed under each end of
these fibres so as to raise them from the
level of the stalk (Slide 13. Plate 3,
No. 13). The leaf stalk thus prepared is
fastened upright in some exposed place,
and the wind passing through the strings
causes a soft musical sound which rises
and falls as the strength of the breeze
varies." Strings for other stringed
instruments were also made from the
same palm, or from the silk-grass plant
"furcraea tuberosa (slide 14) a doubtful
native of Jamaica which, nevertheless,
was well known to the aborigines of this
land. Twine was also made from the
ordinary cotton shrub which grew then
as it does now in this island. Those of
you who were present at the Jamaica
Exhibition of 1891 will remember the
Caribs of St. Vincent demonstrating

their method,which was also that of our
Arawaks, of makingstring and twine. I
will describe this method- the fibres of
the Aeta Palm, or the silk grass plant
were placed on the right thigh, held with
the left hand, then twisted into a strand,
thin or thick, with the palm of the right
hand, "the twisting being rendered easy
by the fact that the skin of the Indian is
smooth and hairless." It is possible that
the Arawaks might have extracted the
fibre of the F. Tuberosa (Fibre shown)
in the same way as our country people
do to-day, that is, by beating the leaves
(F. Tuberosa leaves shown) on a stone
and washing them in water.
The Indian of Jamaica also possessed
a kind of timbrel or tambourine, called
a Maguey or Maguei, made from the
trumpet tree and covered with certain
shells. This instrument, however, the
ordinary subject was never permitted to
play, it was strictly confined to the
Cacique, or next chief person of the
village they, and they only, were
authorised and permitted to touch it,
and only when accompanying the
Sacred Areytos, or Songs, which were
taught, by the Butios (or religious
priests), to the children of the Caciques
and sung by them and their fathers.
As far as the absolutely restricted use
of this instrument is concerned, it is
indeed interesting to note that an almost
similar custom existed in Africa as late
as 1890, where the Emir of Nupe
possessed a war-trumpet which no one,
but his own personal guards, could dare
sound, nor could any of his subjects
make or possess a similar instrument on
pain of instant death. Like the Maguey
of our Arawak Caciques, the Emir's
trumpet was strictly confined to Royal
The Tabor which I have already
referred to was evidently a small drum,
and, I am inclined to believe more after
the tambourine species and yet without
shells. It must have put the Spaniards in
mind of their own Atabal, hence they
designated this Arawak drum, which
was probably not made round like the
tambourine, "Tabor."
And so we find that the aborigines of
Jamaica possessed at least six musical
instruments, viz:
Tabors or small drums.
Timbrels or Tambourines.
Large Drums.
Aeolian Harps.

One would have thought that amid
the refuse of the "kitchen-middens" and
shell mounds scattered about on the
north and south sides of the island,
among the limestone caves in which
relics of these martyred people were
found, on the rocks of St. Catherine, St.
Mary, Trelawny, etc., bearing rock
carvings and pictures made by our
aborigines, one would have thought and
wished that some clue could have been
found which would have shown, at least,
what their flute and maguey were like.
On page 46 of Duerden's book, already
referred to, plate 5, fig. 5, is to be seen a

piece of pottery (slide 15) which appeals
strongly to me as made, not alone to
hold the flattened skull of the Arawak
Cacique, but to have strings strung
across, and thus produce sounds.
About the ordinary songs of the Ara-
waks our Spanish historians, from
whom only information can be
obtained, are silent. They have,
however, told us, spasmodically it is
true, of the sacred and traditional songs
of these people, who, in a few short
years, they, in their vain and grasping
greed for gold, and oft-times in mere
wanton cruel sport, wiped completely
off the face of their native land. And
having such songs we cannot doubt but
that they had their home songs as well.
How interesting it would be, if, for
instance, I could demonstrate, vocally
or instrumentally, the lullaby with
which the Arawak mother hushed her
baby to sleep, or the soft tune the
Cacique's wife hummed when, over-
come by the pain caused by the process
used to compress the forehead of her
sons, (slide 16) the babe became fretful
and restless but none of such are
mentioned. We must therefore speak of
that about which we have some little
Their songs were historical and
traditional, although the majority of my
references insist that there was no
method of preserving them for any
length of time. Historical songs were
confined to the events of the reigning
Cacique. Our Arawaks had t9 do their
share of fighting for home and native
land their natural enemies, the Caribs
were continually swooping down on and
ravaging their shores, devastating their
cultivations of tobacco, cassava, maize,
etc.; destroying their circularly built
houses covered with wild canes, or palm
leaves; and sometimes even capturing
and taking away their wives and
daughters. These had to be protected,
and it was the Cacique who had to
general the forces, and his victory or
death was told in song, his bravery and
valiant deeds eulogized, and the man
himself extolled, to the accompaniment
of music and dancing.
Says Bryan Edwards, "These hymns,
reciting the great actions of the
departed Cacique; his fame in war and
his gentleness in peace, formed a
national history which was at once a
tribute of gratitude to the deceased
monarch and a lesson to the living. Nor
could anything have been more
instructive to the rising generation than
this institution, since it comprehended
also the antiquities of their country, and
the traditions of their ancestors.
Expressions of national triumph for
victory in war, lamentations in time of
public calamity, the voice of festivity,
and the language of love were likewise
the subjects of these exhibitions, the
dances, so essential a part of them,
being grave or gay as the occasion
required. It is pretended that among the
traditions thus publicly recited, there
was one of a piophetic nature
denouncing ruin and desolation by the
arrival of strangers completely clad, and

armed with the lightning of heaven."
But such songs, as I have already
stated, others affirm, were never
handed down to more than one
generation, for at the death of a
Cacique, and after his body had been
burnt and dried, as well as at all festivals
of his successor, these laudatory songs,
commemorating the principal happen-
ings during the reign of, and extolling
the departed Cacique, were composed
and sung. And as these songs were
confined to this very limited period you
will understand how quickly the
traditions of the past were lost to the
present and consequently future.
Other songs were sung by female
voices only, no male taking part.
Alas, that the day had to be recorded
when the songs of these trustful and
quiet people, songs full of natural joy
and happiness, gave place to the
mournful tune and saddened voice
caused by the untold misery (of which
the half has never been told) brought
upon these simple folk by the devilish
dealings of their inhuman Spanish
discoverers. Little did the Cacique of
"de las Vacas" realize that he spoke
prophetically when, on that memorable
interview, he addressed Columbus in
these words:- "I have heard from these
Indians, who are with thee, of the
irresistible power of thy sovereigns, and
of the many nations thou hast subdued.
Whoever refuses obedience to thee is
sure to suffer. Thou hast destroyed the
canoes and dwellings of the Caribs,
slaying their warriors, and carrying into
captivity their wives and children. All
the islands are in dread of thee; for who
can withstand thee now that thou
knowest the secrets of the land and the
weakness of the people" but so it
It is a grave pity that our Spanish
discoverers did not do as discoverers of
to-day would, record the facts of the
musical condition of the people among
whom they had come. And yet who is to
say that Columbus, the all observant, or.
Las Casas, an intimate of the admiral,
has not left fuller but unpublished
accounts of the subject which claims
our attention tonight, accounts which, if
proper search were permitted to be
made, would to-day likely be found
forgotten, it may be intentionally so,
and covered with centuries of dust, in
the Vatican Library or some old
monastery of Spain. Columbus, we
know, positively took away among the
many W.I. curiosities he presented to
their Majesties (Slide 17) Isabella and
Ferdinand, (and I name the Queen first
because but for her keen desire and
determination, after the King (slide 18)
had refused to assist Columbus, as far as
Spain is concerned Jamaica would still
be undiscovered,) various musical
instruments found in the different
islands he discovered. If the ordinary
Spanish colonist of those far days had
any antiquarian curiosity before he
came to the West Indies it was, after he
reached these waters, quickly supplant-
ed by the over-powering greed for gold
which characterized his stay in our
beautiful land.




Dr. Jerome S. Handler was born in New York City
and received his B.A. and M.A. degrees from the
University of California at Los Angeles and the
Ph.D. degree from Brandeis University. He is
currently a professor of anthropology at Southern
Illinois University. In 1969-1970 he was an
honorary research associate in the Department of
History at Mona, University of the West Indies,

In 1803, the following brief report
appeared in Archaeologia, the journal
of the Society of Antiquaries of
London: "April, 11, 1799. Isaac Alves
Rebello, Esq. F.A.S. exhibited to the
Society Three Figures, supposed to be
of Indian Deities, in wood, found in
June 1792, in a natural cave near the
summit of a mountain, called Spots, in
Carpenter's Mountain, in the parish of
Vere, in the island of Jamaica, by a
surveyor in measuring the land. They
were discovered placed with their faces
(one of which is that of a bird) towards
the east."
My attention was first drawn to these
figures when the Association of
Caribbean Historians adopted one of
them, "that of a bird" the so-called
"Bird Man" as its emblem at a
meeting of the Association in
Martinique in 1976. The president of the
Association at that time, Dr. Woodville
Marshall, asked me to research the
figure in order to ascertain its
authenticity as an Arawak artifact and
to determine its possible cultural
significance. It occurred to me that
readers of this journal might be
interested in some of the results of this
research and various questions it has
Reasonably clear photographs of the
"Bird Man" have been published on a
coloured post card, printed and
distributed by the British Museum,
which owns the original, and as black
and white plates, showing frontal and
side views, in an early article by T.A.
Joyce. From these photographs, as well
as written descriptions by Joyce, who
examined the original, and Robert
Howard, who examined a cast owned by
the Institute of Jamaica, an excellent
idea can be gained of the figure's most
salient physical characteristics. Joyce's
description and photographs also
permit a comparison between the "Bird
Man" and the other two figures. 2
Although the "Bird Man" shares
several general and specific features
with the others, which have human
heads, its most distinctive feature is its
head of a long-billed bird; moreover, in
their details and overall appearance
each figure differs considerably from

the other. All were carved from single
pieces of solid, heavy, and dark wood,
perhaps mahogany, and all appear to be
in a relatively excellent state of
preservation with well finished surfaces
and a high polish. Each has ears, eyes,
teeth, and a mouth, and the cavities of
some contain or contained shell inlay;
on the "Bird Man," the inlay on the bill
represents teeth, but only the resinous
matrix of the once inlaid eyes remains.
All the bodies are of human males
(although one is only "human to [the]
hips"), and genitals are depicted to
varying degrees of clarity. One figure is
shown with a navel, but the "Bird Man"
lacks this feature. Each figure has
fingers, hands, and arms; in two cases,
however, arms are bent at the elbows
and are pressed against the sides, while
the "Bird Man's" arms and hands are
outstretched from the body, forming the
rough shape of a cross.
In photographs, the figures are
standing upright, but each is different in
leg position: in one the legs are
stretched apart, in another they are
incised into the sides (and seem to
represent the legs of some animal); the
legs of the "Bird Man" are cojoined as
the "body tapers to a single stem." Feet
are depicted in all cases. In total height,
the "Bird Man" is close to ninety-five
inches. Although it is about six inches
shorter than the figure with outstretch-
ed legs, it is close to twice as high as the
third figure.
Both human-headed figures have
disc-shaped ear plugs and "tear lines"
(incised grooves running vertically
along the cheeks from the eye cavities)
the "Bird Man" lacks these features.
An oval, discoid umbrella-like canopy
protrudes from the back and above the
shoulders of one of the figures. A
canopy is an "almost constant feature"
of Arawak wooden idols in general.
Although it can assume different
shapes, Fewkes conjectures that it was a
sort of "table .... on which were placed
offerings for the idol beneath it"; Rouse
suspects that the canopy was used for
snuff that was employed in the
ceremony of zemi worship.3 In either
case, the "Bird Man" lacks this canopy.
The canopied figure does not have
bands carved around the arms and
knees, but bands are present on the
"Bird Man" and the third figure; writers
generally agree that these represent the
cotton bandages which the Arawaks
characteristically wore on their arms
and legs. The two human-headed
figures have incised lines on the top of

their heads which apparently represent
hair, but the "Bird Man" has what
appears to be a flat headdress, with an
ornament represented by incised lines;
Loven considers this "a frontal fillet, an
ornament reserved .... for caziques" or
chiefs. 4
Taken as a whole, the "Bird Man"
"differs completely from [the] others" 5
and is unique. As far as I am aware,
nothing similar has been reported for
Jamaica or other islands that were
inhabited by Arawaks.
In an effort to determine the cultural
significance of the "Bird Man," I wrote
the Ethnography Department of the
British Museum, inquiring about
catalog information on the figure. The
Assistant Keeper for North American
collections replied that "the only
information known about it" was
published in the above-mentioned
article by Joyce; this article provides no
specific cultural information. Because
catalog information on the "Bird Man"
is lacking, I assume the British Museum
acquired the object many years ago,
probably not long after its 1799
exhibition before the Society of
Antiquaries of London, or around the
time that the three figures received their
first publication in Archaeologia.
The Archaeologia report was
reprinted in 1896, without interpretive
comment, by the Journal of the Institute
of Jamaica (vol. 2, pp. 303-304). A year
later, J.E. Duerden, then curator of the
Museum of the Institute of Jamaica,
published what appears to have been
the first comprehensive attempt to
describe the archaeology of Jamaica.
Duerden quoted the Archaeologia
report in its entirety. Although he found
parallels between the figures and some
others known from elsewhere in the
Greater Antilles, he did not ascribe a
specific cultural meaning to the objects;
he did, however, suggest they were
zemis. 6
Over subsequent years, a number of
writers on West Indian and Jamaican
archaeology and ethnography have
mentioned or briefly discussed the "Bird
Man" or have alluded to some or all of
the three figures in general. All writers
accept that the figures are authentically
Island Arawak, and there is a consensus
that they "are examples of the idols or
zemes which played such an important
role in Arawak religion." 7 Arrom has
recently made a plausible case that the
two human-headed figures are different
representations of the same rain god or
mythical being; thus, according to


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Arawak magical beliefs, these figures
had rain making powers. Arrom,
however, does not-even mention the
"Bird Man" and no writer has offered a
specific cultural explanation for the
Although a general cultural role in
the Arawak religious system can be
ascribed to the "Bird Man," a specific
cultural interpretation is entirely a
speculative matter; unfortunately,
however, the published literature on the
Greater Antillean Arawaks provides
virtually no information that would
yield an interpretation of the particular
significance and meaning of the figure.
Ethnographic or historical data on
the Jamaican Arawak are very limited,
and the paucity of these "data result in
large gaps in any attempted reconstruc-
tion of the aboriginal culture."
Although archaeology has shown that
stone, shell, and bone work were
relatively poorly developed, "there is
good evidence from the historical
accounts that [the Jamaican Arawak]
were skilled woodworkers," and "in
many cases" wood supplanted media
used by other Arawak groups in their
artistic and technological system.
However, "the only clues we have to
religious practices" of the Jamaican
Arawak "are the few zemi images of
wood, stone, and clay that have been
found in shrine caves and midden
deposits and the series of petroglyphs
scattered about the island"; a variety of
other cultural practices "can be guessed
at only by a comparative study of the
more advanced and better document-
ed" cultures of Hispaniola and Puerto
Rico. In fact, much of what is known
about religious beliefs and customs and
the role of zemis derives from a small
number of accounts that primarily
relate to the Indians of Hispaniola;
discussions of the religious beliefs and
customs of the Jamaican Arawak have
been largely based on these accounts by
interpolating Jamaican patterns from
what is known about Hispaniola.
There were, however, cultural
differences among the Arawaks of the
various islands, and archaeologists and
ethnologists have expressed these
differences by classifying the Arawaks
of Hispaniola and Puerto Rico as Taino,
and those elsewhere, such as in Cuba
and Jamaica, as sub-Taino. In general,
the Taino had a relatively more
complex socioreligious organization
and ceremonial development than
sub-Taino groups. Distinctions also
existed among sub-Taino groups in
Cuba and Jamaica. Despite "over-
whelming similarities of basic" patterns
in these two islands, "each culture
exhibits certain peculiar characteristics
which are not to be found in the
Howard has cautioned: "that a fairly
complete picture of any side of native
life in a given island may be taken as
more or less typical of all the other
islands is true only in the broadest
sense"; although the Jamaican Arawak
"were in no sense isolated from their
neighbours" in the other islands before
the arrival of the Spaniards, "the fact

remains that Jamaican culture appears
to have been a somewhat unique and
indigenous configuration." 1 In all,
then, one must be wary of interpolations
of unknown Jamaican cultural features,
especially on a specific cultural level,
from ones known among the Taino; it is
important to keep this in mind when
attempting to ascribe a specific cultural
meaning to the "Bird Man" or
attempting to ascertain what it was
intended to represent.
Briefly, according to Rouse, the
Taino believed that spirits or souls
existed in their own bodies as well as in
some trees, rocks, and other natural
phenomena"; on the other hand, de
Hostos maintained that "every object,
being, process and phenomenon was
supposed to possess a 'spirit' "12 Men
could acquire supernatural power by
controlling "the spirits of nature and of
their ancestors"; they did so by
symbolizing the spirits in various forms,
and by constructing "idols .... as places
for the spirits to reside." 13 These
symbols and idols were called zemis.
The zemis represented a wide range
of phenomena: "the spirits of men,
animals, rain, wind, vegetable growth,
water, and plants." 14' The name was
also "apparently applied to gods,
symbols of the deities, idols, bones or
skulls of the dead, or anything supposed
to have magic power;" major gods were
called zemis as were "the dead, or the
spirits of the dead," and a secondary
[group of] supernatural beings" who
represented "ancestors of the clans" and
who were propitiated by particular
family groups. 1 Fewkes has suggested
that most Taino ritual was devoted to
the zemis who represented clan or
family ancestors. Each person "had at
least one and often as many as ten
zemis." 16
Zemis were "highly regarded because
of the powers they were thought to give
to their owners,"17. and because of the
powers they held over the universe and
its various dimensions. However, the
nature of their powers varied. "Being
agriculturalists," Fewkes stressed that
"the most powerful gods .... were ....
earth deities and sky deities that
watered their fields and made their
crops grow"; 18 thus, the zemis
representing these gods controlled the
food supply and agricultural practices
and needs. Particular zemis may have
been responsible for the fertility of
specific plants; others controlled the
rain and other aspects of the weather;
still others brought luck in hunting and
fishing, controlled human fertility,
facilitated childbirth, and were able to
cure the sick. Zemis were consulted in
order to fortell the future as well as for
aid in war or to achieve peace. The
Arawaks attempted to absorb and use
the powers of the zemis by
communicating with them through
ritual, prayer, and food offerings; they
believed that zemis required food "in
the same way as humans,"19 and that if
a zemi did not receive food, "it would
cause its owner to become ill."20
Each zemi had an associated story
which related its origin and accounted

for its personality and powers; each had
its own name, but some had several
names. The names and histories
surrounding some of the more
important zemis are known through the
account of Father Ramon Pane' who
accompanied Columbus on his second
voyage. Pane's descriptions of the
Hispaniola Taino religion and myth-
ology form the cornerstone for
reconstructions of Arawak religion in
general. As far as I am aware, however,
among modern scholars only Arrom has
been able to convincingly identify some
of the stone or wooden idols found in
the Greater Antilles with particular
zemis reported by Pane' or others who
reported on the early historic period; in
particular, Arrom argues that the two
human-headed Jamaican figures re-
present Boinayel, a rain god who also
figured prominently in an origin myth in
"Most zemis were represented in
some kind of human form, but they
often took the shape of .... a grotesque
anthropomorphic being, usually with
the arms and legs flexed and with
prominent male or female genitals."21
Zemis were also represented in plant
and animal forms; the latter included
turtles, frogs, snakes, crocodiles, and
Discussing Taino stone carvings and
zemis, de Hostos emphasizes that the
animals represented usually bear a
"direct or an indirect relation to the
economy of plant life." Animals
beneficial to plants are represented by
birds or reptiles which feed on the
insects, larvae, and worms that are
injurious to plants which were
cultivated by the Indians. "Therefore,"
de Hostos conjectures, "these animals
may be considered the farmer's friends
or benefactors." He cites a contem-
porary illustration of a type of cricket
found in the Caribbean which is
especially destructive of young tobacco
and corn plants: in Puerto Rico "the
most efficient enemies" of this cricket
include such birds as a type of green
heron, the white heron, the sparrow
hawk, and a particular owl. In the stone
carvings, de Hostos found that bird
designs included the "owl and certain
species of long-billed birds," but the
"majority" of designs represented
"wading or aquatic species having long,
curved bills." Most of the bird-shaped
specimens had "human or human-like
limbs" from which de Hostos concludes
that the carvings were not intended to
be "realistic representations of the
animals themselves, but imaginary
semblances of the animal bene-
factors." 22
Although suggestive, one cannot be
sure if de Hostos's observations can be
applied to the "Bird Man"; indeed, aside
from its head being that of a long-billed
bird, the type of bird represented is
Birds, of course, were common in the
Greater Antilles. The Arawaks used
their feathers in dress and body
ornamentation and birds played a role
in mythology, artistic motifs, and as
zemi representations.


In mythology, Joyce, quoting Fewkes,
records the Puerto Rican belief that
women "were created for men from
four eagle-like beings possessed of feet
and hands"; he finds this myth
"interesting to note" in relation to the
"Bird Man," but offers no evidence that
the figure can be related to this myth.23
Woodpeckers had a prominent role in
an origin myth of Hispaniola, and, as
noted above, "long-billed" birds are
found as design motifs in stone carvings.
"Parrots seem to have been special
favourites with the Indians" in Jamaica
and elsewhere; they were kept as pets
and given or traded to the Spaniards.
What appear to be parrots, or parrot
heads, are occasionally represented on
Jamaican aboriginal pottery; however,
in zoomorphic representations on
Jamaican pottery in general, bird motifs
or bird-like decorations appear to have
been relatively uncommon, and birds
were apparently not regular features of
Jamaican art or zemi representations.24
Seventy years ago, Fewkes observed
that "many" of the wooden idols "are
now partially eaten away by white ants
or other insects, rendering their
surfaces rough, [but] the indications are
that they were once smooth and
covered with a superficial varnish or
paint." 25 Judging from the observations

of Fewkes and later specialists who
compared various wood idols, and by
comparing published photographs of
the "Bird Man" (and the other two
Jamaican figures) with photographs of
other Arawak wooden figures, the "Bird
Man" is among the "better preserved
specimens" of wooden images known
from the Greater Antilles. 26
Only a small number of wooden idols
have survived. However, as far as I am
aware, the three found in the cave are
the only ones known from Jamaica,
although a few other examples of
aboriginal woodwork have also been
discovered on the island. In each case
where a wood item has been relatively
well preserved and the context of its
discovery known, the item has been
found in a cave. This falls into the
general archaeological pattern for the
recovery of wooden objects in the
Greater Antilles; as Loven has noted,
"where the circumstances of their
finding are known, they all prove to
have been recovered from caves."27
A diversity of archaeological
evidence indicates that the Arawaks
used caves for various purposes,
including burials. Although zemi idols
were commonly kept in the houses of
their owners or of priests devoted to the
cult group of a particular zemi (and

Front and side views of figure showing oval, discoid
umbrella-like canopy protruding from the back and
over the shoulders.

L '~~

The 'Bird Man' side view

I 1 Ii J
Figure with outstretched legs, head shows 'tear lines' and
disc shaped ear plug

The 'Bird Man' front view


early accounts suggest that most
wooden images were kept in houses),
zemi idols were also sometimes placed
in caves which were considered sacred
and "were probably used as shrines" or
ceremonial chambers. 28'
The fact that Jamaica's aborigines
used caves is consistent with general
Arawak practices. The erosion of the
island's limestone has resulted in the
formation of many caves, and several
parishes contain caves in which
aboriginal remains of one kind or
another have been found. The evidence
indicates that although caves were
occasionally used for occupational
purposes, they were primarily employed
for secondary burials of persons of high
rank. Jamaican caves were also used as
"ceremonial chambers," but, according
to Howard, the evidence for this use
"can be inferred only" from the
provenance of the three figures
discovered in the Carpenter Hills. 29
Taino use of caves for religious-
ceremonial purposes was also inad-
vertently encouraged by the Spanish
occupation. That this may also have
happened in Jamaica is suggested by
what occurred in Hispaniola: Girolamo
Benzoni, who was in Hispaniola during
the 1540s, reported that because
Spanish priests destroyed Arawak
"idols, the natives hide them in caves
and sacrifice 'to them occultly' "30; in
effect, the caves became clandestine
meeting places for the performance of
ceremonies which otherwise would
have been repressed by the Spaniards.
By the late seventeenth century, if not
earlier, and throughout the eighteenth
century, whites in Jamaica were aware
that the island's caves had been used by
the aboriginal population; from an early
period, blacks were also cognizant of
these caves and sometimes entered
them to collect pottery for their own
domestic uses.31 Writing in 1897, with
full awareness of the "Bird Man" and
the other two images, Duerden noted:
"It is to be regretted that in no instance
have we an account of any cave which
can be undoubtedly regarded as being
in the original condition in which it was
left by the Indians .... Probably nearly
all have been visited and so disturbed by
the later inhabitants Europeans and
Negro at one time and another, that
in no case can much reliance be placed
upon the present position or
arrangements of the objects." 32
Although Duerden does not specifi-
cally mention the "Bird Man" cave, his
observations can be applied to it. From
the Archaeologia report, we know that
the cave was a "natural" one, located
"near the summit of a mountain," and
that the three objects were discovered
with their "faces .... towards the east."
Aside from these sparse facts, nothing is
really known about the cave and the
location and positioning of the objects.
It can be assumed that the cave was dry
enough to permit the relatively
excellent state of preservation of the
items, but we do not know the condition
of the cave in 1792 and whether there
was any indication of prior disturbance.
Although Loven maintains that there is

"every reason for the supposition that
the cave was still intact at the time of
discovery," 33 there is no direct
evidence for this supposition. We do not
know if the cave contained any other
evidence of aboriginal or post-
aboriginal activity, and there is no
record of even the most elemental
physical details of the cave, such as its'
dimensions or the directional orienta-
tion of its entrance.
Although the figures were discovered
with their faces "towards the east," I
have found no clue in the literature on
Taino beliefs that would account for the
significance, if any, of an eastern
orientation. We do not know where the
objects were located in the cave and
their physical distance from each other.
It is assumed that the figures were
standing upright when found, but the
Archaeologia report does not make this
certain. Moreover, one cannot be
certain that the objects were placed in
the cave at the same time or were even
placed there by the aboriginals. The
cave may have been used by the
Arawaks for traditional ceremonial
purposes, but the objects could have
been only hidden there as a response to
the repressive conditions of the Spanish
In general, then, the lack of detailed
information on the cave and the
positioning and relationships of the
objects, together with the paucity of
ethnographic-historical information on
Arawak practices, are additional factors
which preclude a satisfactory cultural
explanation of what the "Bird Man"
figure was and the specific role that it
played in Jamaican Arawak culture.
In concluding, what can be said about
the "Bird Man," its authenticity as an
Arawak artifact and its cultural
significance? The figure is unique and
has its own distinctive appearance, but
its general style, manner of construc-
tion, and certain design elements and
other features are consistent with
Arawak wood carving and cultural
practices. Various long-billed birds
played a role in Arawak culture, but the
type of bird represented is uncertain.
Bird designs on Taino stone carvings
may suggest that the "Bird Man" was a
type of agricultural zemi, perhaps
responsible for plant protection and
growth; this supposition would be
further supported if, indeed, the other
two figures were rain making zemis.
However, there are no concrete data
which satisfactorily explain the parti-
cular significance of the "Bird Man" in
Jamaican culture. As a zemi, it can be
assigned a general place in the Island
Arawak magicoreligious system, al-
though no authority has ventured an
explanation of what type of zemi it is,
the powers it may have had, or the area
of life that it presumably controlled.

1. Archaeologia, vol. 14 (1803), p. 269.
2. T. A. Joyce, Pre-historic Antiquities from the
Antilles, in the British Museum, Journal of the
Royal Anthropological Institute of Great
Britain and Ireland, vol. 37 (1907), pp. 404-407,
plates XLVII, XLIX, L, LI; R. R. Howard, The
Archaeology of Jamaica and its Position in

Relation to Circum-Caribbean Culture, Ph.D.
Dissertation, Department of Anthropology,
Yale University (1950), pp. 131-132.
3. J. W. Fewkes, An Antillean Statuette, with
Notes on West Indian Religious Beliefs, Ameri-
can Anthropologist, vol. II (1909), p. 351;
I. Rouse, personal communication.
4. S. Loven, Origins of the Tainan Culture (Gote-
berg, 1935), p. 601.
5. J. W. Fewkes, The Aborigines of Porto Rico
and Neighboring Islands, Twenty-Fifth Annual
Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology
(Washington, D.C. 1907), p. 199.
6. J. E. Duerden, Aboriginal Indian Remains in
Jamaica, Journal of the Institute of Jamaica,
vol. 2 (1897), p. 43.
7. Howard, p. 133; see also Fewkes 1907,
pp. 198-199; Joyce 1907, pp. 402-406; Loven,
pp. 126-127, 600-601; I. Rouse, The Arawak, in
J. H. Steward, ed., Handbook of South
American Indians, vol. 4 (Washington, D.C.,
1948), p. 544. J. J. Arrom, Mitologia y Artes
Prehispanicas de las Antillas (Mexico, D.F.,
1975), pp. 60-62.
8. Arrom, pp. 55-62. Cf. T. A. Joyce, Central
American and West Indian Archaeology
(London, 1916), p. 184.
9. Howard. pp. 130, 161, 166-167.
10. Howard, pp. 163-164.
11. Howard. p. 167.
12. Rouse, p. 535; A. de Hostos, Anthropological
Papers (San Juan, Puerto Rico, 1941), p. 64.
13. Rouse, p. 535.
14. de Hostos, p. 64.
15. Fewkes 1907, pp. 53-54.
16. Rouse, p. 535.
17. Rouse, p. 536.
18. Fewkes 1909, p. 354.
19. Loven, p. 587.
20. Rouse, p. 537.
21. Rouse, pp. 533, 535.
22. de Hostos, pp. 104-105, 120-121, 146; see also
de Hostos, Plant Fertilization by Magic in the
Taino Area of the Greater Antilles, Caribbean
Studies, vol. 5 (1965), pp. 3-5.
23. Joyce 1907, p. 403.
24. Howard, pp. 22, 253-254; Rouse, pp. 538-539;
Duerden, pp. 38, 40; H. L. Roth, The Abori-
gines of Hispaniola, Journal of the Anthro-
pological Institute of Great Britain and Ire-
land, vol. 16 (1887), p. 269; F. Cundall, Historic
Jamaica (London, 1915), pp. 267-269.
25. Fewkes 1907, pp. 197-198.
26. Joyce 1916, p. 242.
27. Loven, p. 598.
28. Rouse, pp. 507-508, 535; Joyce 1916, p. 183;
Loven, p. 598; Roth, p. 260; Fewkes 1907,
pp. 53-54, 198.
29. Howard, pp. 89-107; Cundall, pp. 343, 368,
371, 397.
30. Roth, p. 263.
31. Duerden, p. 28.
32. Duerden, p. 21.
33. Loven. p. 127.

I am grateful to Dr. David Buisseret for having
encouraged me to write this article, and to Profes-
sors George Gumerman and Irving Rouse for their
comments on an earlier draft of the manuscript.


Exhibition at the National Gallery of

June to August 1977

91 Exhibits Mounted.

This exhibition was dedicated to the memory of Henry Daley,
the summit of whose art was reached in the remarkable series of
Self Portraits done between 1942 and 1949, the year of his
An attempt was made to gather all available self-portraits, four
in all. Of these we show here "The Petitioner" (1945), also a
portrait and a detail from a Huie portrait of 1944.
Daley was the key to the whole exhibition, leading to the idea
behind the artist-portraits of "The Self and Each Other"; to
what extent one artist sees himself or the other objectively
or interpretively.
Daley was the first true expressionist in Jamaica; note the
dislocation of form, the changing of reality to arrive at some
expressionistic truth about himself. This is seen particularly in
the eyes, always cast upwards. In "The Petitioner' the eyes are
looking, searching for a spiritual self rather than making any
attempt at contact with the person looking at the picture. There
is a hand at his ear, almost as if listening for something from
above. This is the key to the Daley self-portraits. Daley as a
prophet, a petitioner, as a thinker, as an artist he is seeing
and casting himself in different roles and he titled the
portraits this way.
The Vera Alabaser portrait depicts a handsome man, and is a
clear straightforward academic work as compared with the Huie
portrait and with the artist's view of himself searching and
upward seeking.
The tragedy of Daley's death still moves us. While still in his
early thirties he died of privation, away from his friends, after
Petitioner (Self Portrait) Henry Daley 1945 one of his periods of self -imposed isolation. The National
Gallery catalogue quoted a verse from Phillip Sherlock's poem
"Hungry Belly".
Hungry Belly restless talked
When he saw his Daley buy
Paint and canvas for a picture
For a picture when a plumber had to live
But the painter was a-seeking
For the something that he couldn't tell about
That he knew inside himself he must search
and search and find.
Knock and knock until he find
Past the questions and divisions
Past the doubtings and the troubles
Past the doors and rows of doors...

The entire poem is set out in an article on Daley by Edna
Manley in an early issue, JAMAICA JOURNAL.

Shown here are three of our more mature artists. Of these Albert Huie and Ralph
Campbell were part of Edna Manley's early group at the Institute of Jamaica.
Huie's self-portrait (detail here) of the early 70's appears in JAMAICA
JOURNAL Vol. 8 # 1 illustrating Basil McFarlane's "Interview with a Jamaican
Master". And to many Huie is an acknowledged Master. Less has been written of
Ralph Campbell. He like Daley is also an expressionist, not metaphorical, but an
expressionist. This comes perhaps from contact with Edna Manley and her early
teachings at the Institute of Jamaica. Ralph Campbell sees the use of paint itself,
the splashing on of the paint, as a means of releasing emotion, painting very
quickly. He is not a retrospective artist, he does not study nor analyse, he just gets
it out: but it seems apparent that in periods of emotional stress he turns to
himself... perhaps he uses a mirror. Self portrait 1977 shown here is Ralph right
after his wife's death; the paint is fluid, it runs...
There are four self-portraits done at roughly ten years periods, 1944-77, one can
see the physical changes as well as the intrinsic value of each work for comparison.
One of the most revealing is called "Self Portrait with Friend"; two.male heads,
two very different heads; yet if you ask Ralph who is the "friend" the answer is

that a friend is himself-a double portrait, but two very different Ralph Campbells.
A Freudian might go to town on (his; the concept of the self-and the alter ego h
not unique-the two sides coming together in one-you find such expression in as
artist like Francis Bacon, but one did not expect this of Ralph Campbell.
Carl Abrahams is the senior of this group-perhaps the most intensely original,
often limning with the cartoonist's satirical barb. Six of his works were exhibited,
among the most interesting are the ones that one would not call self-portraits ir
the traditional sense: there is Red Horse 1 and Red Horse 2, which have to be seer
together. Red Horse 1 shows a man, obviously Carl Abrahams, with thi
characteristic moustache etc., on a red horse, holding a sword; he is dressed in i
sort of ganzi (jersey) shirt with a Lion on the chest. Not a Rastafarian Lion o
Judah, more a British lion rampant no longer a current imperial image; thi
second one shows the horse galloping and the rider falling off, and it is really i
statement dealing with his early pretensions and how they came to naught. Hi
1975 self portrait is invested with the symbolic markings seen particularly in hi
later work.

v- --E
Large Gauze Head (self) David Boxer, 1977

There is a progression of self-portraits of
Osmond Watson, many of whose paintings are
characterized by the use of clearly defined
shapes and planes of colour indeed his
"Carnival 6" (cover picture JAMAICA
JOURNAL Vol. 5. 1971) has been described as
almost Picasso-like. Nevertheless he often
imbues his portraits with a degree of realism
found in his religious sculpture. An element of
the cubist style is still retained here in the
defined planes of the face and checker-pattern
halo. Though vastly different in technique, his
"Peace and Love", cast in the more current
-often euphoric- Rastafarian image, has an
empathy with the Daley self-portraits.
In contrast David Boxer's "Large Gauze Head"
1977 is composed of gauze and surgical steel on
canvas. Boxer employs unusual materials in his
highly original collages; here he imparts tension
by the deliberate tautness of the fabric;
hardness and permanence by the glimmer of
non-corroding steel. The grief-filled eyes reveal
and inward agony; there is no "Peace and Love"
here, rather there is an imploded violence the
self concept of a man who cannot separate
himself from the society. To Boxer, this like
"Self Image Assault" 1973, is what it means to
be a human being in the 1970's.

Peace & Love Osmond Watson, 1969

Self Portrait Everald Brown, 1975

Kapo (Malachi Reynolds) who is the dean of these three Self-taught
artists, primarily as a sculptor, whose original and often very African
figures identify deeply with the group among which he moves nor
has metropolitan acceptance affected the spirit or mood of his work.
His restropective self-portrait of 1968 "When I Was Young", (detail)
seems to have prophesied the fact that he is today the Bishop of his
own church.

Gaston Tabois, unlike his fellow self-taught artists, is not a religious
artist; in his. 1972 self-portrait he sees himself essentially as an artist,

his features composed partly of the tools of his trade. Tabois is
noteworthy for charming unspolit landscapes and genre scenes,
depicted with keen observation and insight.
Everald Brown, who has more recently entered the Jamaican art scene,
brings to his 1975 self portrait the unaffected freshness, clear colours
and carefully drawn shapes which mark all his paintings. He is
essentially rural, his colours and moods imparting nothing of the ghetto
image often associated with his faith. His work has a deep spiritual
content, reflected in the religious commitment radiating from his

Self Portrait Karl


i *

"On My Mother's Knee I sit: Homeward Bound" Seva Parboosingh, 1976

The Parboosinghs: The progression of Karl Parboosingh is
illustrated through an early and a late self-portrait and later
through portraits by his wife Seya. The 1958 portrait tight,
linear shows a young man fairly self-confident: in contrast the 1972
portrait (not shown) depicts the fragmenting of paint, seeming to
imply a new person, not at ease with himself; something about the
flickering paint is very suggestive of conflict. In his later days his
choice and treatment of subjects-especially religious subjects varied
greatly from his earlier work.
In the case of Seya Parboosingh, her portraits deal-not only with

herself but also with her husband. These differing dimensions were
shown in portraits such as "In Prayer", 1975 (the year of Parboo's
death) which depicits a young girl kneeling at a bed; the bed is
black, almost a tomb it is a superb work; the childlike image is
Seya herself; shown here "On my Mother's Knee Homeward
Bound" reveals the same child on the knee of a large matriarch.
Seya Parboosingh often depicts herself as a child. She did two
portraits of Karl after his death, "Parboosingh My Lips are
Sealed" and (lower left) "Parboosingh through the Passage Time".
Christopher Gonzales is an artist who
frequently portrays his own image, even
when not painting himself an awareness of
self seems to enter most of the figures he
creates. There is a Spanish as well as a
Nordic suggestion mingling with the
consciousness of the Jamaican reality, in his
painting and often in his scuplture.
First there is an early self portrait in 1964
shortly after he left Art School; very
Bryonesque, romantic, in a cape; the next
self portrait "He and She" incorporates a
female figure. The most self-confident is
probably the latest one (1976) shown here.
This is the assurance of one who has now
become a distinguished sculptor.
Maurice Chin's 1961 self portrait on the
other hand, communicates a youthful
intensity, but not self-assurance. It is
interesting to contemplate the possible
development of Chin's self portrayals in
latter years.

Self Portrait "Night Spirit" Chrmtopher Gonzales, 1976 Self Portrait Maurice Chin, 1961


"Parboosingh Through the Passage


Man with Keys Colin Garland, 1968

Barrington Watson in 1974 sees himself with
pipe almost Jovian, in an academically
excellent work of a realistic turn. It is
interesting to compare the artists who are
essentially visionaries, to the interpretive
realists and the gifted portraitists who record
features as they see them. Barrington
Sqik Watson's portrait of Valerie Bloomfield is
deliberately interpretive, though realistic;
her own self-protrait of 1975 (upper left) is
more an exact reproduction of a likeness.
Valerie Bloomfield and Judy MacMillan
excel at this latter form of painting,
Self Portrait Barington Watson, 1974 MacMillan is represented here by a portrait
of artists Winston and Els Patrick (1977).
Kay Sullivan, a sculptress, also falls into
the category of a gifted portraitist; however
she is primarily interested in capturing the
spontaneity of the subject by working as
quickly as possible, which also reflects a
degree of interpretation. The fiberglass
self-portrait (lower right) was done in 1977.

Self Portrait (Fiberglas) Kay Sullivan, 1977

Many viewers were taken aback by the exhibition of three Maria
Layacona photographs with the paintings. The idea was to get the
dimension of the camera, because since the late nineteenth century
it has become very much the camera's role to document features.
The photographs used as best examples were Edna Manley, Kapo,
and Colin Garland, in all of which the photographer incorporates a
bit of the environment of each artist in such a way that it amplifies
what was already felt from the personality of the sitter.
The finest is that of Colin Garland, seated on the floor of his
studio, surrounded by small objects and accoutrements of the type
of portrays so well.

In Garland's painting of himself he floats in a fantasy world
surrounded by symbolic objects, balanced as always into a
polished, elegant, and artistic whole.

Agency for Public Information
S. [Ted Cunningham]



When we were little, remember, the
world was full of pastures and pastures
were full of cow-dung. Everybody's
farm had its own little pasture which
everybody else used as a short-cut to get
from one field to another, or from one
yard to another or from either to the
main road. And every morning each
pasture seemed to have as many hot
new loads of dung as it had cows; and
every morning flies crowded anxiously
around each hot new load. Everyone
knew that if you were ill-mannered and
tried to pass the flies unnoticed, they all
rose up at you and pitched mercilessly
in your eyes, on your nose and even on
your lips; but if you greeted them as you
passed they left you alone. And so we
went our way through pasture to school,
or shop or neighbour's house and
slowed down near each load murmuring
"good morning, good morning, good

The oven-house was no longer empty.
Swarthy old women each with her long
hair in a single braid, squatted near the
ground each with her long skirt
completely shrouding the legs and
emphasizing tiny hillocks that were
withered knees. There was a look at
once vacuous and resigned on each face
and each slack mouth drooped as if all
elasticity had left it. The white marl
floor had somehow disappeared or was
completely covered with cane-trash
obviously brought from the boiling
house in that dim, all-but-forgotten past
and since traversed a thousand times by
hurried feet; now no more than black
powder more suitable for plant manure
than floor. There were flies all over the
floor, merging with the blackened cane
dust or rising a mere three inches from
the ground in swarms, to get an aerial
view of their comrades. I knew that
saying good morning to these flies
couldn't achieve anything; for they were
not really rising up at me; it was only
that when in the normal run of their
business they rose for the routine aerial
view, they brushed endlessly about my
feet never breaking off for a moment
their cruel unending zing zong.
I don't know how I had passed it all to
reach the far side of this dingy little
plaza, but I must have, for soon I was
leaning on the old oven itself. The brick
I was resting on shook with my every
breath and yielded patches of yellow
dust from its little volcano. I felt an
urgent desire to get back to the
entrance, to find some retreat from the

rotting place so I started to cross the
courtyard. I looked down to choose my
steps and noticed only then that my
feet were bare. And the powdered
cane-trash became dried filth, and my
toes felt as if they would unhinge
themselves and I knew that no amount
of washing could ever make my feet
clean again. But I walked on through
the inexorable filth and while each step
was still incomplete, a swarm of flies,
anticipating the next foothold, would
rise with their buzzing; and a new panic
would seize me, a new urgency to
hasten the painfully slow journey. The
women were all creasing their
foreheads, flat like dingy squares of
off-white sugar paper; they were all
gazing at the ground and moaning
"craab, craab, craab". And I couldn't
figure out then whether crab meant filth
or flies or whether it was some ancient
expression of pity.
In an eternity I had reached the
entrance and heard a solemn voice "...
but I had warned you not to come" and
I felt that there was wonder on my face
and terror; wonder that couldn't fathom
how the scene that I had longed for all
these years had come with time to this.
Change, yes, I had heard of it; and
understood in terms on cold paper what
had taken place but face to face with
truth .... fiction could never be a patch
upon fact. "Craab, craab, craab," the
old women continued to whine; and
suddenly it all made sense. Back there
in the time of good morning to flies,
Landcrab had been a symbol of
cleanliness. His legs would fall off if he
ever touched filth, they said. So it was
my feet. They were mocking the scorn
they could sense on my feet for their
floor; the floor on which their
circumstance forced them to squat day
in day out. It wasn't pity then, or
anything like it. It was their particular
brand of sarcasm. Then the scorn and
the terror fell at once from me; and in
their place another kind of scorn; for
myself, for the monster of insensitivity
who couldn't control my response; who
couldn't find out how in one automatic
reaction to protect my psyche and their
sensitivity. Reality makes such a mess of
things; one man's meat is another man's
poison; Gopaul luck a noh Seepaul
luck. Even neutral things like germs
take sides. I would surely get sick if I
stuck around there, there in the place
that for these shrivelled old women was

* *

Beyond the entrance, there was the
space the house used to occupy. But
there was nothing there to remind me
even dimly of a house. Not even the
usual tell-tale patch of extra greeness on
the brown-green earth. The whole
structure had long crumbled and I could
see with my mind's eye people passing
through the yard in either of four
directions along the paths which,
running parallel to certain main roads,
always proved to be shorter and more
private, and removing one or two at a
time, any boards that still had use in
My aunt had hoped for a hospital
here; she couldn't ever picture this ....
but the money she sent .... a fortune to
her, was a mere pittance; and while the
government made up its red-tape mind
these poor souls must have moved in
one by one .... but from where? which
place could have been poor enough to
have anybody move from there to this?
Perhaps the hquse had been here when
they came .... but old and falling apart;
and when the kitchen survived it, they
moved there .... and sleep now on any
number of rags .... old rags .... and
lounge in the day-time in this
oven-house, cooking in the old oven
zally or sometimes on a naked fire
outside where I could see the three
stones, blackened, and the ashes ....
cooking always bananas from the trees
behind the kitchen; always small now,
stunted and diseased as succeeding
generations of bananas will always get
without fertilizer, without agricultural
instructor's advice and without care.
Some fruit trees were O.K. though; like
the naseberries; so they eat those when
they bear .... and besides, I hear they
take turns at begging in the district
come Sunday morning ....
The kitchen used to be large,
remember. Breakfast there, was sitting
on a long bench on the far side of the
fire. Granny never trusted us near. And
Gran herself passing the chocolate
piping hot in the tin cans with handles
akimbo, be careful, and the ruuti and
saltfish fried and floating in oil, fresh
home-made coconut oil with skellion
and black-pepper inside. Sounds so
large now, more like lunch; but we
would be hungry again in an hour or two
.... all play and no work ....

* *
I set the tin of biscuits down and tried
not to stare for they were smiling now,
creasing not only foreheads but cheeks
as well, and started down the hill. But I

looked back as lot's wife did and froze
into my mind a new last picture of
Comfort Hall. It was no longer Gran,
clean, beautiful, but senile and lonely,
but five pale old women, risen from
their dust, inching their way at their
maximum speed towards the biscuit tin
I had left. The youngest of them and
tallest too, or perhaps merely less bent,
while the others smiled and waved their
bony hands, was opening the tin with
clawlike fingers her body arching over it
like a parson John Crow saying his
"shwaa, shwaa", before a bone cleaning
ceremony ....
-Wat kill im?-
-Fat kill im-
-Whose iz dih baddy?-
Half way down the pass I sat on the
bank covered with silence. The grass
was still damp with last night's dew. I
looked out in a straight line and saw the
silent sun rising on to the hill and on to
the church with its brown steeple
growing out of the hill. The school was
there too no longer new as it was when
we sat on bamboo benches and shivered
as teacher traced our line of knees with
the guava whip .... I lit a cigarette and
immediately remembered how Gran
would have objected. She didn't like
shaved armpits in a woman either, or
whistling, or any number of actions she
considered unnatural. You had to keep
the list open for minor additions as each
situation revealed a new one. I was
staring at the steeple and thinking that I
shouldn't have come. I should have kept
my images right down to the last
guilt-ridden encounter that would never
now be last again. These shrivelled old
women, ugly in all their dirt and
deprivation, the lack-luster leaves and
dying vegetation, could never be
Comfort Hall. Memory knew lush
landscape, healthy fruit and Gran in all
her different faces.
The old women there on the hill were
only good to prove to all those
half-baked philosophers shouting op-
timism that there is nothing so great
about tomorrow or about today for that
matter. Comfort Hall had somehow
joined Greece and Rome and
Ozymandias' works. After this it would
be difficult to see the past with any
honesty or truth. Everything would
wear a halo now for it had to be
compared with those old women and
their vomit-pulling filth.
The sun competing against itself had
risen steadily and blazed now on the
bank and through the leaves of the
tangerine tree. The leaves looked
smaller than I remembered them; like
the bananas; perhaps like most things
there on the land if you took the trouble
to look; all suffering the same kraurosis,
the same menopausal atrophy; suffering
and exposed to the merciless eye of this
microscoping morning.
Children, children
Yes Mumaah
Where have you been to?
What did she give you?
Bread and Pear ........

If you thought of yourself in relation
to the "V" in the tangerine tree, you
could see time rushing past your eyes
like the landscape through a speeding
bus window. It wasn't so long ago, or
was it? You could stand in that very "V"
and rest, and then ascend with two vast
lunges forward, to a point from which
you could pull in the laden branch and
sit and quietly gorge yourself on as
many yellow, soft-skinned fruit as you
could take. Tangerines were endlessly
fascinating. Some of them had babies,
not all; and you couldn't really tell from
the outside whether they had; if there
was a navel at the base you thought yes
but this test failed so often, it was like a
rule of grammar; or of course, it was the
rule of life; not all women have babies.
The baby was exactly like the mother,
whenever you found one; same shape,
same colour, but sweeter when you
tasted it, and of course, much smaller.
After the baby, you attacked the
mother, and after six tangerines or so,
when the edge of hunger was off and it
was no longer necessary to shove four
pegs into your mouth at a time, you
started to enjoy the aesthetics of the
tangerine. So now you stripped each
peg of its white, anti-macassar
decoration patiently; (you even
remembered that if you swallowed that
you would get appendicitis) you looked
at the occasional peg in detail, always
on the point of bursting but always
managing to control that, as each
beautiful turgid cell inside, pressed
against the transparent womb-wall. No
matter how carefully you bit it then, it
would spill, spraying yellow juice all
over your play clothes or your good
clothes, depending on your luck; as if in
one bite you had decapitated not one
but at least a dozen juice-filled cells. A
tangerine, a sort of triple womb: juice
living in hundreds of tiny cells protected
by their own cell walls; sitting together
in a fruit-tissue womb; pegs sitting side
by side in a heavy yellow rind womb.
Nature is birth repeated a hundred
times over.

* *
The tangerine tree sent a slim but
sturdy smooth limb to hang out over the
pass. It was smooth with the smoothness
of many hands; no one could resist it.
As you came up the pass you felt
compelled to swing with your right hand
on that over-hanging bough; and now
after so many years it was still smooth; a
human hand would have become
gnarled by now .... how many people
still used that pass? How many people
now swing with their right hand on that
bough? Perhaps the smoothness of the
limb did not depend on today's or
yesterday's hands. Perhaps nothing
could undo what years of palm sweat
and pressure had done so long ago. For
the limb had always been an important
point on the journey uphill .... hanging
there at right angles to the garden and a
few steps from the concrete barbecue.
It was from there that you announced
yourself after the long trek up the hill. It
was close enough for anyone in the

house or even in the kitchen to hear you
.... just barely .... If you were a child
hoping for a fruit or some bake-bake, a
toto or a gizada or a bullah cake, then
you started your "Mawnin Madda" right
there, being careful to let your voice
rise steadily to a crescendo on the
second syllable of the "Madda". But you
never picked a tangerine, if you were a
stranger. Miss Eva had given the world
strict orders not to touch her fruit; the
world that is, excluding her precious
grand-children who, whenever they
were around, had all kinds of
unreasonable rights. You would resist
the temptation to pick a tangerine and
chance your fortune on whatever your
greeting gave her time to find.
-morning little chicken- that after
your second or third signal from the
tangerine tree all the time swinging your
palm on the overhanging branch.
-Who is that?-
-Meery mam-
-Come Meery, take this for your
That was always a good sign for it
would be impossible for Miss Eva to
send something for your mother without
giving you something for yourself so you
anticipated the next sentence:
-and this for you and the others-
This, may be more tangerines than
you could possibly have stolen had you
tried, or a bag of star-apples, or of
course some baked things ready to eat.
Miss Eva never gave any indication of
the ratio in which you should divide it
between yourself and the others but
anyone with a grain of sense and a drop
of self-love knew exactly how to share
it, and what is more, knew how to start
unwrapping the parcel and eat a few
first helpings when the last shingle of
Miss Eva's kitchen disappeared.
It was here at the same tangerine tree
that we the precious grand-children
would rest our suitcase on the ground,
take one swing and shout:
-Graneeeeeeeeeeee!- And if she
failed to hear that first cry we would
parody a district child and sing:
-Evenin Madaaaaaah- but she would
invariably catch the voice and banter
-Don't call mi Madda, Madda walk
wid stick-
And with that she would dash from
the kitchen as agile as a rabbit, through
the oven house and across the gravel,
making music as she grazed it with her
heavy coarse boots. She would hug you
welcome and wipe her hands in her
apron so that you were never sure
where one action stopped and the other
began. In those days she was ageless.
She said sixty but we couldn't believe so
many years behind that face. The smell
of tomorrow's buns enveloped you with
that hug; a smell that perfumed her
calico apron permanently. The apron
itself was quite extraordinary. It was
bound twice round her slim waist and
was more like a wrap skirt than an
apron. Of course there was a skirt under
it, though only the texture of the
material labelled one skirt and the other
alron. Under that was a petticoat. All
this meant that Gran's hug was

extremely soft. You felt however that
there was definitely some superfluity of
garments there. Why petticoat when she
wore a slip? but that was like asking why
flannel when there was slip-bodice? and
the answer to that was that young
people like your mother would all die of
pneumonia because they didn't wear
enough clothes.
We heard that Gran had been tough
in her time. Heard that from our
parents, that generation. But none of
the toughness belonged to our time. We
were phase two, always more gentle
than phase one (second wives and
grandchildren are the envy of first wives
and children). To us she was indulgent,
loving and lyrical; and in complete
command of all baked food, all fruits of
the earth and even of God.
Cold Comfort Hall mornings; bleary
eyed ten year old indolence; Gran up
with the first crow of morning:
-Get up little chickens
Rise up betimes
Go forth alone
Because thy God is near! ....
And so in a rush, small feet down the
hill for buckets of water; watch or the
slope sends bucket and owner cascading
dizzy down to the yam fields below.
Don't forget to stop where the coco
leaves grow thickest and wash those dull
eyes with chilly dew water good for your
eyes you won't need glasses later. Single
file up the hill, bare black legs making
everlasting angles with the red hillside
slope. Buckets carefully balanced; put a
big coco leaf on top so the water keeps
steady or your head or your dress will be
wet without mercy. Finish your four
trips by the time the sun lifts the mist
from the valley displacing it inch by
inch and reaching the hilltop.
Bath; breakfast; work.
Gran baking thousands of buns and
totos and grattos (supermarkets now
stock this as a piece of exotica labelled
"grotto") that superb triangular
bread-flap. Involving me totally in the
business of baking; offering me apron
and portion of bun dough; then her face
gleaming with pleasure as my miniscule
replicas of her own buns took their
places neat near her elegant buns in
their "laatas"; my biscuit-tin-top
containers like lowly third cousins. Out
in the sun as her large buns rose, so the
third cousins rose in their midget
containers. But here the democracy
ended; the equality stopped. Gran's
laatas ascended on long stately sticks
they call "Ps" into the curved mouth of
the heated brick oven. Mine descended
to the zally at the back of the oven
where the heat of the ashes gave them
their slow browning.

Sunday morning Gran was stiff, regal
and happy; hailing with loud good
mornings every householder whose
kitchen gave the fireside signal of being
at home and awake. Long hurried steps
me running my short steps behind then
beside her, holding her hand keeping
pace with great effort; ribbon and
streamers shaking then flying with the

too hurried movements. Then in church
loud praying, lusty singing; nods and
smiles, sunshine of goodwill; this more
like a fair than a church service man!
Mt. Nebo was a Baptist Church and I
owe all my sankies to those long
interludes at Gran. At home, in our
Anglican softness, we mostly kept quiet,
or gave brief responses to prayers and
chants from the mouth of the priest.
Baptist parsons were strong and black
and fat to me then, their voices firm and
protective and sweet. Our 'fathers' at
home were white and thin and weak
with pale children playing in the church
yard in long socks. And sometimes the
chants strained father a little and he
rendered strange, pitiable billy-goat
tones. At Mt. Nebo there was no
chanting just bible reading and honest,
lusty singing. Now I think about it that's
the only church I have known where the
regular service included a little speech
from parson to the children and at least
one hymn per Sunday specifically for
Of course the content was the same;
and the intent was the same in both
churches no matter how each priest
stage-managed his affair. For where in
the Anglican mode, as the men walked
round with the collection plate the
priest would say:
"Rend your heart and not your garment
...." or
"According as the Lord has prospered
thee ...."
the Baptist hymn for the collection
would include lines like:
We work by our prayers
By the pennies we bring
By small self-denials
The least little thing
Can work for the Lord
In his Harvest ....
But in my scheme of things, the
Baptist mode definitely had the edge.
Listen to this now. I am not too sure at
what point of the service this most
important ritual took place. Perhaps
while the adults were drinking wine
from individual cups (an amazing sight
to me bred in a one-holy-chalice
system), I was allowed to walk towards
the front and join some other children
who were stretching their hands for
things to eat from a white clothed tray
supervised by Goddy, an old lady who
was a friend of my Grandmother, the
god-mother of my mother and perhaps
of every other young woman of her age
for miles around. There were totos and
fine gizadas, coconut drops and
Bustamante-back-bone (alias Stagger-
back) and I believe the finances were
pre-arranged with mothers and grand-
mothers of the children around because
I can't remember any money passing.
Money in the house of the Lord is only
allowed, in any case, to pass, to the
Lord. All in all there was a lot more
obvious joy in the piety in my
grand-mother's church than I ever
found in ours.
And after church, endless talking in
the church yard, every body wanting to
know which grandchild this 'fuu
pickny?" and a nice round face man

laughing and saying:
"Miss Eva a wudda wear jackit fih dis
You see at home there was the hand
shaking and everything but the smiles
from father were purse-lipped embar-
rased smiles while he shook your hand.
And afterall you were nothing special
there, certainly no visiting grandchild
and what is more you were hungry.
Anglicans downright believed in
starvation; even just think about the
rule that says you mustn't eat breakfast
if you are going to take communion. At
Baptist you could smile all day for all
the children were laughing and your
belly was full.
Besides, Gran was so important
looking that you felt good to be there
and to be hanging around her. The bulk
of her garments gave a kind of style, a
kind of grandeur to Gran's step. One
heavy tread with the black laced-up
boots would cause the four layers of
clothes to swing from one side to the
next touching the left then the right leg
at mid-calf in a kind of rhythmic swing.
(When you looked at Gran's laundry
you thought she was washing clothes for
a female contingent in some obscure
army) Her Sunday clothes, a white
broadcloth skirt and either of several
fancy white blouses with frills and tucks
and all supported of course by her
famous foundations. The house of the
Lord deserved nothing but the best.
You hardly noticed then the gnarled
hands and bursting veins that ages of
baking and ages of doing man's labour
on the farm marked her with. You
noticed the elegant sombre ensemble
the eloquent eyes and mobile face, and
perhaps most outstanding of all the
straight back and squared shoulders.
There was beauty and strength and very
obvious pride in her carriage. When you
own what you live on as far as eye can
see, you owe no man, you trust and fear
your God, you exude a kind of
confidence that country people call
pride and that town people only hear

Gran was close to us with a closeness
that parents can't really feel. A whole
generation has to pass before blood
links take on this passion. Parents with
their concerns that are practical, that
allow us to be all the things that make
grandparents proud, can't afford it. Our
school successes were Gran's personal
victories. She expected them. Didn't her
father leave her a blessing better than
anything money could buy? Just as Isaac
before his death blessed his Essau (or so
he thought), so Isaac, her father, had
blessed her: "Your blessings shall flow
like a river
Not unto your children, but to your
children's children ...."
She had neglected her seven when his
death was approaching and with her
young strength had nourished his
weakness. She had brewed his favourite
broths, read his favourite words from
the Bible, sung him sankies and kept
him company to the end .... she the

eldest most loving most faithful. And to
his blessing we owed all our successes;
and everytime we went to tell her we
had passed something, or everytime she
read our names in the papers, she would
hold her hands up to God and thank
him for honouring her father's
promissory note.
By the time I had read the bible
myself enough times I found that Isaac
of old ended up with goat spup not
venison and blessed his younger son
dressed up as his elder son so it was
quite alright that Gran who supplied
beef soup to her father and who was a
daughter dressed in a man's job,
minding her children single-handed,
should receive the blessing usually
reserved for the elder son. Though of
course in this case there was no
conniving wife and mother.
Where is my share?
Up in the air!

In the district there was a kind of
awesome regard for Gran. She had a
reputation for christian morality that
was more like a special telephone
arrangement with God, than like
anything else. Her conversations with
him were impromptu, informal and
evidently received immediate response.
She could brow-beat people on the
strength of this, into action they didn't
even contemplate. I can still see Miss
Mamma short, thin and with a resigned
smile on her face climbing the hill with a
basket on her cotta and Mass Nate,
bringing up the rear with his slow,
barefooted one two one two, a bunch of
bananas on his shoulder and a cloth cap
on his head. And the two little girls
behind them now and then, beside them
now and then, racing now and then to
see who would reach Miss Eva yard
first. They could have the two rooms
yes; Miss Eva had decided to rent them;
but they had to stop living in sin.
Hard-working, faithful, concubinal bliss
was not enough for my grandmother.
They took the rooms.
I remember the plain gold band on
the cotton wool in the little white box.
Gran showed it to me. She had dressed
herself in all her finery and gone up to
Tavern Hill to Mr. Matthew the jeweller
and had taken the ring on credit. Of
course she made the downpayment, and
these two people who had never
quarelled with their state, were forced
to conform and to dress themselves one
righteous Wednesday morning for a
quiet little thing at Parson's mission.
And Sunday, poor Mass Nate squirming
in shoes and a suit he must have had
since he was seventeen, took Miss
Mamma to "turn thanks" in front of
So maybe you understand now how
come Gran had to go and ask the young
green Parson Jones, younger than any of
her sons, to strike her name off the
church register years later when her
own daughter moved into a state of
faithful concubinage. You understand
too why she started sitting at the back of
the church and refused to take

communion. Now of course you may
say her daughter was forty and a free
agent, you may even say that's no new
big thing especially in this country but
that is because you don't know better?
-Gran- I said to her
-yes my daughter-
-your daughter's daughter-
-yes my daughter's daughter-
-Wasn't Israel divided equally between
the tribes that were descended from
Jacob's children by his wives Leah and
Rachel and the tribes descended from
the children of his concubines who were
the handmaids of these women?
-so what's the difference between
concubines in the bible and concubines
now that you have to get so vex about
-younglady, don't you realize that that
was the result of God's, orders, the
almighty's orders?-
-then how you know that this is not
part of the almighty's plan?- silence ....
-it isn't; you just believe me that it
isn't. -
-but Gran, anybody hear you would
think Aunt Pin invent this kind of living;
you understand how many people
would stop take communion if they was
like you? Parson would get drunk every
Sunday having to drink off the wine him
-Every man to his own order. I am not
them. Clearly God had omitted to tell
my Grandmother that the rules were
changing. His telephone connection
with her had been silent on that matter.
Some people used to say she too
much like a man and like take things in
her own hands. You see they didn't
know she had been given special
instructions through her telephone to
heaven. When they said she was
masculine, they couldn't mean her face
though, for that was soft and mobile
with a charm that was inescapably
feminine. But the figure she cut if you
got into an argument with her, or what
she looked like from behind if you
happened to catch her pose cutting a
bunch of bananas or showing a young
man how to handle a sharp cutlass with
power against the unfortunate cane, or
merely hurrying through deep grass on a
damp morning each foot shrouded in
heavy coarse boots, connecting with the
ground with a frightening thud and half
sinking in the stiff yellow clay ....
perhaps they had a point then.

I am not quite sure what a matriarch
is; some kind of founder of a line, some
large female inspire marking off a
cross-roads on some time map in a
family or tribe. But for me even with
such an imprecise definition, Gran was
a matriarch. I don't know whether it had
to do with how she saw herself or with
how others saw her or with some kind of
interaction of the one with the other. In
our house for instance, whenever she
visited, I think she saw herself as a kind
of final word .... rex et legifer,
self-chosen arbitrator in family disputes.
Witness her, while we at the junior table

giggled, telling my father closer fifty
than forty: "you keep quiet, you just
come out of egg-shell!" as if
comparative youth bestowed an obvious
and shameful inferiority that only time
could remove.
Gran wasn't a leaning and dependent
kind of woman. It isn't easy to be
leaning and dependent though when
you have no one to lean on in that very
special sense. For no matter how kind
and well-meaning other people are, the
relief of leaning can only come if the
pole is the right one, the recognized
support whose priorities are the same as
yours; not my business first then yours if
I have the time. And when a big strong
man gives you seven children and
quietly moves across to St. Peter's gate,
you simply have to learn to 'take care o'
business' and that sometimes precludes
the stance of coy, fairlady .... for who on
a farm would listen to that and take it
seriously? And I can't find anyone to tell
me yet how you can be father and
mother to a family of seven and still
emerge the whimpering female.
Besides, who says there is anything
so grand about being able to
whimper? My Ghanaian friend told
me, years after the end of Gran and
all that, that a matrilineal family
structure allows woman the luxury of
having a sense of self not merely a sense
of being her husband's rib. Perhaps it
was a sense of self that Gran had; that
showed in her every look or step; and
since the body of her rib had so long
been gone anyway .... at least they
couldn't make it a curse on her.

We had heard tales from Gran's
children, young aunts and uncles, of
their unrelenting mother fighting
constant battles with them against all
the devil's pursuits; against dominoes
and dancing and against all strong drink
.... "for he who is deceived thereby is
not wise." She was in complete control
and enforced her rules with a leather
strap even after these young people had
reached the long pants and the
stockings stage!! Life was supposed to
run within certain well-defined lines:
school, church, work on the land or at
the mill for a living. But can't a generous
eye discern in the sternness a strong,
simple, determination to keep the
ambition banner flying no matter what?
How else could you afford the training
to earn yourself a living if you didn't
help earn the money? Who else was
there to transport the bananas from
bush to roadside so Mass Bredda cart
could take them to siding? Who else to
deliver the buns and the bullas to all the
ginger-beer and sorrel restaurants
between Benbow and Tavern Hill? I
suppose I can talk because I didn't feel;
but those sufferers, all they seem to
remember is rush, rush, rush; help with
the baking, rush! deliver the bread,
rush! cut the canes, rush! carry bananas
in a one two hip-swinging rush move-
ment down the hill then wash your face,
drink your tea, wrap up your chaklata
and run, run, run, and look straight in
teacher Green eye while you try to

explain why you reach after roll call
again; that you mother is a man and that
she pushing she one to make sure that
you carve your name with pride one day
and that neither you nor you brothers
join the pile of ole nyaga who can't
make a living because they parents
didn't make sure they come to
something. And that you mother
working on a promise she make to you
father her Corpie who shut his eye and
gone to St. Peter but who sitting there
like a dove on the top of that tomb to
urge her to make everything go alright.

** *
Corpie was a high rectangular tomb
two chains or so from the oven-house
and two chains or so from the pass that
led up to the front door. But he was also
everything else .... How do you keep a
man in your heart and in the general
heart of your family years and years
after his death? Ask Gran. For her
eldest child had been nine when he
died; in fact all that Lue remembered of
him as a tangible memory was that he
taught her to spell VEGETABLES and
that since she could spell the TABLES
part before, she thought that the whole
that the teacher didn't appreciate that
word in her homework and made her
know it in a very practical fashion. Lue
always said that she felt cheated though,
when he died, for they had a great
father-daughter love thing going, which
we all understand, whether we have
been fathers or daughters.
Corpie had never really died, at least
as far as Gran was concerned. He had
been put in that tomb. But everytime
she had to make a big decision, she
waited for him to put the solution in her
mind or to send a sign. Sometimes I
wondered how she knew when God and
when Corpie was telephoning, but
perhaps they were bound up, those two,
her great lovers, in some kind of
oneness; I don't know. I didn't ask her
because that would automatically come
under the heading of blasphemy and she
was not encouraging the young
generation in that. Corpie, in my mind
picture, had been a strapping, black,
six-footer with large, shine shoes. And I
was not a little put out by the squatness
of his figure when Gran unearthed and
hung on the wall, a picture of his
contingent in their khaki uniforms and
unattractive braces. He had fought in
the Boer wars. Gran had relayed to us
his tales of beautiful African women
with complicated coiffeurs that could
last for weeks on end. And that was long
before black women were allowed to be
beautiful in our part of the world. I
always wondered though, how he felt,
child of the empire, sent by his boss
brother, to kill blood brother! or isn't
that what the war was about? After that
war he turned to farming and
butchering and asked Gran's father for
her hand though he was several years
older, a full man. He got consent and a
blessing and the usual oration: "You
have plucked a lily from my garden ...."
"Lily?" I asked Gran "such a black

lily?" but she didn't take me on for I
was flighty and foolish and supposed to
be full of nonsense.
They rode together, she told me, from
the house of her father, six miles uphill
to the new land this man provided. He
straddling the horse, she riding
side-saddle; and reached it, Comfort
Hall, one historical morning. The bright
sun was forcing the mist from the valley.
The hillsides were already green with
the gold flame hovering over. She wore
her hair in "puffs", she said, each braid
plaited half-way, loose half-way. That
coiffeur had no aesthetic appeal for me
but from all she said, he liked it, for him
yes so for her yes. And that's where they
toiled and bore fruit and children for
ten years; ten years and seven children,
and then .... Amen so let it be; The Lord
God in heaven knows best; we musn't
fly in his face. But I felt it took all her
faith not to fly in his face and all her
control not to cry as she told me ....
Corpie was there with Gran raising
her children seven and fatherless; seven
for school books, seven for plates at
meal-time seven for illnesses. And in a
real crisis he would appear in a vision.
Gran never tired of telling of the
fateful dark night that was like ten
nights together when Enid, no more
than a toddler lay writing in pain almost
gasping for breath; of her slough of
despair, without adult companion; no
one to turn to; no doctor for twelve
miles and even Dispenser who cured
almost anything, sleeping and snug in
the dark rainy night, in any case how to
reach him? how to desert all the others
this dark lonely night? She dozed, she
recalled, ever so briefly, and dreamt in
that slight sleep she saw the dear Corpie
who wordlessly led her where the large
copper (retired from its role in the
sugar-boiling business) sat waiting the
roof gutter's blessing. The rain had been
light, persistent and light-white rain we
call it, so the copper half-empty; he
showed her the water, its dull yellow
surface sprinkled with manna-the seeds
of the white coriander. She awoke,
mixed coriander and water; her sick
child was healed with two spoons of the
substance. Call it magic, if you want,
coincidence if you are cynical but for
Gran, God bless you Corpie, God's in
his heaven.
Visions from Corpie always had
water, in some shape or form. To Gran
it all made sense when years after his
death she kept her cool as she listened,
facing with cloudless eye a penitent
woman in tearful confession that she in
her anger had caused Corpie's death, by
poisoning one evening the bottle of
water she knew he would drink in the
heat of the next day .... water sitting
there clear in the corner, leaning against
the bamboo in his hut. She had suffered.
She was weeping. She had paid over and
over for the sin she had committed. Sin
triply cursed since the victim was
innocent and totally ignorant of how he
had offended. (A strange woman really.
Usually people wait till their death bed
and confess through their pain right up
to the last breath) For Corpie had been
a stranger in those parts and trusting the

truth of the documents had bought land
without knowing its history of quarrels;
how many sisters and brothers and
cousins all equally claimed it. She
frustrated, her rights overlooked, took
the fates in her own hands and ended his
ownership. And all in vain plus the
weight on her conscience. She was
sorry, she wept for the innocent widow
and wept for the children seven and
fatherless; But the fates had exacted
their punishment from her, and after
confessing, still sobbing and weeping,
she was begging Miss Eva to give her an
old frock to wear down to Linstead so
with some of the others she could take a
last look at the face of her Captain. For
she had turned to God, through the
Salvation Army and Captain, the chief
of her army division, had suddenly died.
A truckload of sisters was due for the
funeral .... "You want to see Captain
Face?" asked Miss Eva "You better
prepare yourself for God face." ....
My grandmother's deep deep kind-
ness didn't stretch to people like them.
That woman, whom I never saw
except through my grandmother's eyes
haunted me, though. And everytime I
think about making a road through life
and not looking to right nor left to see
who you chopping down like high grass
on the side of your road pass, I
remember her. And I know that people
weren't meant to live so. And
sometimes I get blind and racial and
blame whiteness and machines and say
black people never born living so and
that no amount of bulldozer and
milkpowder should make them live so.
But I remember her, and remember that
time was, long before bulldozer, long
before milk powder, when some part of
us has been hard, and grudgeful and
naked evil; that if you search black
people's experience you will find a lot of
love, but you will also find a lot of
dreadful deeds. For some people didn't
get the message about love; perhaps
they didn't get the message about
retribution either ....
How shall I reach it?
Climb on a broken chair!
Suppose I fall?
I do not care!!!

Some say that growing old is slow;
that grey hairs creep upon us one then
two and then eventually too many for us
to pay our grandchildren pennies to pull
out. Others say it is a quick-a thief at
night, and imperceptible. Perhaps they
are both right. Perhaps the body feels
itself slipping away part by part;
perhaps the effort to conceal the
weakness and the novel frailty gets
greater and greater week by week. But
for those who look on it, it isn't a
process at all; it is one day a sudden
shock, a sudden realization that sixty
has gone and eighty has come.
So I remember me doubting Gran's
sixty. A handsome old woman, an
excited and doting grand-child; she
depending on me for fulfillment; I
depending on her for an ego inflation I
didn't earn but was heir to first child

of her eldest child with her face written
on me; each feeding the other in a
re-enactment of the creation pattern
again. She denying her youthfulness;
refusing new teeth on the grounds of a
grave too near to forget .... "teeth?" she
had frowned, "give me the money and I
will plant you an acre of yam-head."
Then I remember an old lady
dependent and leaning; more hungry
for my company than I for hers now. I
hadn't noticed the timing of the change
of the need; time had been thief here,
and subtle indeed. And the signs now
clearer than ever; like arrows on a girl
guide trail; you only see them when you
start looking and then you wonder how
you didn't notice them before. A
demand for the same teeth refused ten
years earlier on the grounds of age; a
sudden need for a black and white wig
and frightening embarrassment at the
loss of hair:
"If anybody ask you Pet, 'who is that?'
say your grandfather, not your
grandmother." The touching conni-
vance to help us miss the bus and stay to
quench the thirsty loneliness .... the not
too subtle ruses to demand our presence
there; the walk no longer jaunty; fingers
now not only gnarled but sometimes
arthritic and useless .... And for those
who wished to see it, the irony of
minding seven or seventeen, as if
children were a safety device against old

By the last rise of breathless hill I
could hardly maintain the long stride so
I leaned on the tangerine tree to catch
my breath. I didn't swing on the limb or
rest there and call; all that belonged to
another time. One final burst and I
could hear my soles grazing the cobbles
and silence. I looked in at the back door
and couldn't tell in that split second
whether relief or disappointment was
what I felt. Seven miles of composing
and recomposing myself for the first
real adult test. Here I was, representing
my mother in fact this time. The
message had been urgent; my departure
so hurried; transport unusual and
haphazard; five miles in the front of a
truck, one on the cross-bar of a bicycle
and the rest on my fast feet. ....
And all the time that nagging worry;
the almost certainty with all its horror;
that Gran would die that night; there,
next to me on her bed, with the deep
and fearful darkness all around us ....
But there she was; sitting on a low
wooden bench one foot immersed in a
wooden tub half full of water; the other
barely slipped in old broken down
slippers. She lifted her eyes from the
page of the bible while her hand still
held the round magnifying glass over
the letters and straining forward to
make sure:
"My light has come" she said. And I
trying to hide all emotion: "How is it
She had planned it she said .... She
knew she couldn't have my mother then
but knew by the calendar I was at home
.... afterall the University holidays are

that much longer than my mother's
holidays ....
So the rush, and the anxiety and the
fear ....
After that Gran's telegrams to our
house were many. No longer were fond
feet rushing downhill to meet an
unexpected old lady climbing uphill
with a tray full of bake bake. Nobody
now watched her quick fingers lessen
the baskets of mending my busy mother
always left for her; or sat around to earn
the farthings she paid everytime you
had to thread the needle for her with
your young eyes ....
My father used to take the telegrams,
after a while, and rest them on the organ
in the drawing room till Mamma came
from school; they were no longer urgent
enough to disturb her work day,
according to his judgement at least. A
telegram was now no-better than a letter
marked URGENT; ignored by him as
the mail man ignores such a signal. But
my father used to joke that he hoped at
least one of his sons would have an
outside child and bring it home for them
to mind. Or sometimes he would say
they would adopt an Indian child .... a
little girl (Perhaps since Indians were so
scarce in our area, the whole thing was
improbable enough for my mother to
allow him his dream). Clearly though,
while we were loud and many crowding
round him; he saw the fearful bogey in
the distance; the inevitable desertion
and old age with loneliness.
And when my mother died, he made
it clear that he felt he had lost more
loosing a wife than we ever could
loosing a mother .... "You can't
understand," he said "how much I will
miss .... especially the talk ...." and we
did indeed remember them talking
through the night and going over all
sorts of old sharing ....
Perhaps Gran had seen the Bogey
too. Perhaps that is why she had tried
with Abijah. Abijah was a legend from
before my time. A legend without a
handle on his name. I knew his old
Gramaphone. That was still there within
my memory times. You sort of turned a
handle; like cranking an old time Ford;
then you stuck the needle on and the
thing gave the same sound you get if you.
squeeze your nostrils with your fingers
and then try to sing. I had actually seen
Abijah .... one day when they sent us to
collect Gran's coarse boots at Josephus
the shoemaker and somebody had the
bright idea to take me to show me
Abijah. There he was; standing at his
door that faced the road; a sallow faced
old man with a slight paunch giving a,
rigidity to his braces .... there he was;
right there where he belonged; back in
his own house half a mile from Gran's.
He had gone back there after Gran
discharged him and started forcing
people to change back from her new
married name to her old married name
and getting offended if they didn't;
though I feel sure she didn't ask the
courts to do a thing about it .... a
completely informal arrangement. My
father always said it was Gran's children
who drove away Bijah and then they
didn't want to deal with the vacuum he

And my own view of Abijah was
completely biased. It had nothing at all
to do with my personal judgement for I
did not know the man. But I accepted
completely the view I got from the
remnants of the Abijah jokes my
mother's younger brothers kept alive.
He was a green-verb man; and of course
that couldn't be tolerated in a house
where young men were offered books to
read if they came to court the daughters
of the house who were busy studying for
exams: "I have givd this shop a
kitchen!" was one of the favourite
quotes. And Abijah was a lazy man ....
"Miss V wants her tea and I wants
mines too" .... (Miss V being a baby
staying at the house that time). How
could he survive in a book-struck
household on a work-struck farm?
While he read the bible and witnessed
for Jehovah, everybody else was cutting
bananas or boiling sugar, or baking ....
or of course studying for some exam or
But perhaps Gran could have dealt
with that. It was the bible that attracted
them and that hadn't changed. But
when eyes look on critically, even the
best alliances weaken .... far more a
weak one .... So Abijah took his Bible
and left and left his gramaphone for me
to laugh about ....

And Gran became a neglected child
playing out all the attention getting
tactics in the book and some not yet in
the book. Seven children and umpteen
grandchildren all playing out their own
lives single-mindedly; after all her
effort, after all her sacrifice. But the
sacrifice had been love and duty; she
wasn't giving tit to ensure tat. Thank
God. Her sons write and send money; as
if money is what matters .... she wants
more words. She can't accept the
excuses that hide the admission that
there is nothing to say. Last letter at
Christmas or Easter traced as many life
trends as they are willing to share now.
The rest for their privacy earned at long
Her daughters write but visit only
rarely. Everyone lives far away and
everyone is busy. A trip home takes
planning and the leave and the money
to bring the family too so she can see
the grandchildren. Except Lue; well she
lives quite near and has two big
daughters. So she can get the urgent
letters and telegrams for it isn't so
difficult for somebody to rush up and
provide company for at least a night;
until they get her to the doctor if they
insist; until he says its no grave illness
only pressure again and gives her more
pills. And they make the ususal offer to
take her home with them. .... Isn't it a
little like crying wolf: Isn't she afraid
they won't react after a time? No. They
will come. Perhaps not right away but
they will.... for suppose this was the last
call .... what a life-sore on their
No, she can't live with them. It isn't
the same you know, being cock of your

own roost and being cockerel in
somebody else's. All such attempts have
been short-lived and each one worse
than the last at that. And the life-styles
are different. Lots and lots of little
habits O.K. in your own house just don't
make it in somebody else's too strict,
too lax, too sad, too gay ....
And old age is eccentric just as youth
is intolerant ....
Well somebody should live with her
then .... who? .... so everyone looks at
the least prosperous of the children; the
only self-employed one and all
rationalize that she could manage as
well in the country as she does in town.
Why me, she asks. And everyone
pretends to forget that she in her youth
ran away to the city to the bright lights
.... to escape the dull sameness of the
district she knew ....

When my mother died, it seemed that
everyone was trying to prove that
everyone else was more responsible for
her working so hard and dying so early.
Not Gran. I remember her terrible
quietness through the whole day. Then I
remember her falling completely apart
at the funeral; not crying or anything,
just hanging about the coffin and asking
that they open it one more time so she
could put a flower on Lucy's breast
before they moved from the Community
Hall to the church. And I remember me,
loosing patience with her, being short
with her for obstructing the men in their
business. I didn't want any delay. I was
embarrassed to watch her act out her
unshed tears while I fumbled with my
grief and frustration. I was angry at her
forgetting the side down; for doing what
I so badly wanted to do. I should instead
have praised her control, control that
prevented the wild thrashing about that
dder people allow themselves at
funerals sometimes. And I of all people
should have understood. For I had been
io near to her all the years. ....
"What will happen to me now?" she
had whispered in anguish .... "I should
hlve died before her." And a look of
despair, of wild frustration gathered in
vate wateriness about her eyes ....
She moved in with us. It was clear
thaf there was a crisis and some woman
was needed in the house. And she was
tie obvious volunteer. She would stay
nd fill Lue's place. And she couldn't
see her age and her frailty so she
couldn't sense the irony we saw in the
She had moved in with us before, on
earlier occasions. But it never worked
over protracted periods. The time gap
and the orientation gap had made it
difficult. We were the devil's children
sometimes, with too much self
possession. My brothers were free to eat
things when they liked without asking.
Gran never understood that the home
of a working mother evolves its own
rules that look like license to other eyes.
We played the devil's music on God's
day .... and if she fell asleep with her
mouth slightly open, the young ones
would put grass straws in. And they

resented all attempts at control:
"Vel you think that old lady hate
me?" .... she must have heard; they
didn't understand ....
This time was different and far worse.
Her habits were now very old and
single. When you live alone you can mix
a long drink and taste with the mixing
spoon if you like for you are always the
drinker now and tomorrow. The
wandering brain of old age doesn't allow
you to change to accommodate
community living. So you taste with
your spoon and the children, suddenly
silent, don't drink. See how stupid it all
is though. You kiss a man you hardly
know and you swear he is germ-free; but
you are sure you can't drmk what your
Granny's spoon tasted ....
But worse, her attempts to replace
Mamma in planning and running the
house! She couldn't do it and you
couldn't correct her .... so our nerves
and Papa's nerves couldn't stand it ....
She got the message, somehow, and
returned to her lonely, solitary nest, to
her large and now comfortless hall now
that Corpie and Naomi and Lue were
dead and she could see no sense in it at
all ....

Time is one distance; space is
another; and how you see things, yet
another. And every new year of our
lives, every new stage of our lives and
our experience, lengthened and
stretched out each of these distances
between Gran and ourselves. We took
all this for granted, as we took so much
else for granted. She felt it. Add to this
her own mind distancing itself from
itself .... you didn't have to be there to
hear her hissing her teeth in annoyance
at her own acts of petty forgetfulness ....
you could feel it equally in the
disconnected phrases her letters
became .... I remember her last letter to
me. Couldn't have been long before her
mind sealed itself away. I was miles in
distance. But she wrote, and enclosed as
if in token of a last clarity, the last fruits
she said, of my favourite aniseed tree
behind the house .... "the last of the
crop" I read; and a great fear filled me
that another last was near .... But that
worry was not to be yet ....
My final guilt-ridden visit to that great
old lady dogged me through young
womanhood to maturity, years after she
had taken up residence in heaven
running errands for her God. My
mother was perhaps four years buried;
and I was visiting; a fleeting visit; all I
could manage from my exile then -
Comfort Hall a mere dot on my busy
Gran was beautiful, as always, her
face smooth and unlined; a cloth hiding
her short grey hair except at the edges.
She wore a pleated shirt-waister,
American cut, sent by my aunt no
doubt. She was lying on her side, alone
in her room .... I stared and stared and
kept marvelling at her skin, still
glowing, no ashen overlay as you learn
to expect on the very old. .... She
babbled something incomprehensible;
not the slightest gleam of recognition in

her vague eyes .... an old male cousin
was in charge; the only other person
there that evening. She had been kind to
him, as she had been to many others, in
her own stern fashion. Besides, he
needed the house to live in and the land
to farm. But he didn't like looking after
her .... and he complained that she was
old and miserable, yes far older than he,
and that her children should take her to
live with them .... though he knew that
whole, long story ....
I wanted to stay; and I felt I should
stay at least the night and put things in
order the way she liked me to in the old
days when I loved the calmness of the
holidays there; tidy her drawing room,
put new flowers in the vases; change her
pieces of old crotchet work for other
pieces of old crotchet work smelling of
Khus Khus root from her special chest
in the corner .... and straighten the
chairs, dry-rotting now from lack of use
.... I knew I should stay at least until a
glimmer flashed in her mind and she
recognized me .... But I couldn't for my
sins. I had to hurry to catch the bus
back to my own life my own children
waiting in the city this brief holiday. I,
like her children before me, was
pursuing single-mindedly my own life
my own family. ....
Children and grand-children are lent
to us to do for them in their need; but
the frightening isolation of the human
being and the cruel distances we can't
help making, are the truths that belie
such sacrosanct platitudes as "age is
honour." For honour is very cold. ....
And when I knew all that, I wanted to
indulge my own children with myself
while their need was there; for their
need would be short-lived with no
clockwork to decide how short .... and
then the need would diminish just as
mine for her had, and the pain would be
so much less, if each moment had been
fulfilled ....
Children children
Yes Mummah
Where have you been to
What did she give you
Bread and Pear ....
My bustling grandmother and my
lonely grandmother had both gone.
There was now not even the little ruse
now and then to find company. There
was no company to find anyway .... all
the little chickens who had risen up
betimes had gone forth .... had become
fowls and had hatched their own
chickens but foreign chickens, indus-
trial chickens who couldn't sit on a hot
stone and wrap their skirts around their
knees; couldn't sing sankies and drink
mint tea from tin cups; who had no
individual names but were just the
children!!!!!!! And if you offered them
your sweet Larena cane from the house
side, you bet they would ask for a knife!
Now the plotting was mostly on the
other side. How to get Gran away from
home if her mind was working? how to
persuade her to stay in the city? and
when she did stay, how not to grow
conscience-stricken at the restless, near
terrified look on her face because she

longed for hills that were grass not
asphalt and for water that was tangy
with the taste of the roof. They tell me
she was restless too with worry,
whenever they kept her in town lest she
draw her last breath anywhere but on
the land that had known the joy and the
sorrow that had made her in fifty years
or more. So her dreams were harsh and
terrified nightmares there in the city,
where the best doctors were found ....
unless of course you know that doctor
and medicine are, most of the time, in
the mind ....
The face on her in the city was
agonized; not the smooth face and brow
I had seen; the face that wrinkled only
when the vague eyes searched my face
for a sign to help them pick me out in
the confused file of images three
generations deep. .... Her home face
was at peace and would be so till she
made the almost imperceptible transi-
tion from this life to that ....

I was doing my penance out in the
land of whiteness and success where
they were asking me for the black
opinion when the news of Gran's death
came to me. But I heard it as if a voice
from a hollow tree spoke nonsense
words to me. For I knew there was no
truth in it. My grandmother had died
years before; quietly, without telling
anybody, she had taken her spirit, while
she still possessed it, up into the clouds
to her God and let them take the body
where they would. I knew that from the
time I heard that she had been taken to
live in a place her spirit couldn't
possibly inhabit, her daughter's house in
the city, filled with strange and Godless
people, a house full of the music of old
John the devil, her arch-enemy; a house
where there were children born without
the benefit of the church .... And other
spirits had taken over her vacant body;
and the discord of the union made
sounds. So when they wrote to say the
pressure gone up in the old lady head, I
knew what they were misinterpreting ....
So they took her to hospital and there
the unresisting body ceased to be ....
At the funeral, I hear, her sons sang
loud and deep laments swinging the
coffin back up the hill with their great
strength; bringing her back with solemn
noises to a place she had never left, for
she had outsmarted them at the last and
with the help of God had gone up to him
closing her eyes on green grass, the cane
patch and Corpie's tomb and with angel
voices singing softly in her ears ....
Little children little children
Who love their redeemer
All the bright ones
All the gay ones
His loved ones his own ....

They shall shine in their beauty
Bright gems for his crown ....

* *
The fog had risen completely from
the valley and the new sun had turned
the fallow field inch by inch into a lush,

light-green carpet. Beyond that, on the
right, the land descended into a circle
which marked the end of one the
beginning of another holding. On the
left, the metal trunk of the cane mill,
like a work of art from an early
civilization sat silent with its wooden
arms ill-fitting and unsuitable, far too
long for such a stubby trunk, dangling in
the dust of the very last seasons dead
and juiceless cane.
If you were quiet, as I was, and let the
morning sounds come to you. The last
of the birds would pick up the echo of
the years and quickly yoke a cow or a
horse to these long and useless wooden
limbs; would show the bulging muscles
of the smooth-skinned black strong man
in his flour-bag vest, feeding the cane
between the black and heavy metal
gums confident that barrel on barrel of
yellow liquid frothing white would pour
from the bamboo gutter set there to
receive it. You would hear the
occasional crack of the whip as the
same patient man suddenly felt an
urgency from some unpredictable
source and forced the animal to trot
more quickly; and force the gums to
press more firmly and the liquor to flow
more freely, cascading in tiny torrents
over each hump of the bamboo joint
and threaten to spill but never quite
keep the threat.
Or you could look at the silent
broken-down top of a forgotten
thatched hut and see rockets of smoke
shoot upward from a white-marl
chimney while the smell of boiling sugar
sweetened miles and miles of air. You
can't go too near the huge copper
bubbling with the thick rich brown of
liquid sugar for everyone knows there is
one kind of burn you don't ever
survive-the boiling-house burn. So you
wait till the large, well-dressed,
bare-footed, right-hand-man with the
little crocus hand-bag over his shoulder,
stretches up tall and unhooks long,
half-tunnels of bamboo filled with sweet
sticky butter-scotch candy that you
can't quite connect with everything else
there. Wait till he smiles his large shy
half-smile and curls what looks like
miles of the stuff on your private
bamboo spoon.
I always wondered about this
sugar-boiling right-hand man. I never
saw any money pass from Gran to him,
though there is no rule that says that
even my inquisitive eyes see everything.
But every morning, whether there was
sugar-boiling or not, he passed through
the yard in clothes, unusually clean for
a labouring man, stained perhaps, but
clean; with his little crocus shoulder-bag
carefully slung and a short cutlass
peeping out through the top right, under
his arm. And his ten toes on the ground
as if to deny the rhythm of his clothes:
-How is the morning Miss Eve?-
-Fine thanks Brother Jack .... and how
-Thank God Miss Eve-
-And Miss Clemmie, how she feeling
this morning?-
-Not bad thanks Miss Eve-
I never saw Miss Clemmie. But I have
a picture of a woman, half an invalid,

shuffling about enough to wash and
cook and mend but not enough to ever
leave her house; the other half of a
relationship that left just enough space
for what he shared with Gran, too flimsy
to harm a soul .... If there is anything
like a platonic relationship, a caring
relationship between two old people
who never thought of Eros, Gran and
Brother Jack had it. I'm sure he never
knew Corpie but I'm equally sure he
sort of felt that Corpie had given him a
sacred mandate to look after Miss Eva
in a kind of way and supply a kind of
man presence around the house ....
especially after the Abijah fiasco.
And when bun-making time came, his
bun was always special; and if she had a
morning-work, he would be there
helping with the action and cheering on
the other men. There are all sorts of
farm jobs that even a strong woman
can't do. She can't raise a new
boiling-house; she can't patch the new
mortar on an oven; she can't move a
latrine .... sometimes she needs a man.

A little ridge overlooks the circle that
is the boiling-house circle. It is a ridge
so near to it that surely it must have
been designed as a part of it; or built
itself by chance when the dirt piled up
as they dug for the boiling-house. Soft
grass grows there and little children sit
and lick their bamboo spoons or early
women sit there and talk the day's
weariness away. And children who are
inquisitive sit near them and hear whole
heaps about life they won't be able to
piece together till a long time after....
Nobody knows how the women know
exactly when the huge boiler stops
bubbling and brother right-hand-nan
starts distributing new sugar. But they
know. Perhaps the smell of sugar boiling
near its end is very different from tie
smell of cane liquor boiling early or of
light syrup forming half-way through.
And they come. The women, empty
handed; their pans have been there
from the day before. When you order a
can of sugar, you ask what day the skp
will draw. So now the pans are standhg
there in different lines according to
rank or size. First row, zinc pans which
various dealers will come today or
tomorrow to take away on donkeys for
the market; second row butter pans
each with its little initial or secret marl
so Miss Angie won't take Miss Beatrice
pan. Then the Ovaltine tins, as if that is
the sort of maximum a single man can
drink in tea and 'bebridge' for a week or
so. Last but not least the gift pans
including yours, you visiting grandchild;
yours and those of a host of Gran's little
god-children in the district; the row of
personalized condensed tins .... A bout
of sugar, always to me like Christmas ....
so much work, so much excitement and
the whole thing finished in a breath
almost. By the time the pans cool, the
sun has long gone down and the women
have lit their bottle lamps to light the
impossible paths to their homes. The
cow, moving like a moon-struck zombie
in the cane-trash circle, has become this

morning's business; the sweet smell has
become fainter and fainter and will
eventually disappear .... and all that is
left of the reaping of the cane and all
that subsequent activity, is the row of
stark tins with the liquid hardening in

them .... unless you stretched your mind
and thought about each private thrill as
the beverage that only wet sugar can
make caresses each throat and drives
away the mid-day thirst of tomorrow ....
The mill-yard had bustled with

people, had bustled with business once,
but that too had sunk, like Gran, into a
deep and endless coma. The metal
trunk now looked like something struck
in bronze ....

from INTERIORS, an


Sun-child: from her high window, fields and hills,
in a turquoise-gold pleasure, did Father's
high bidding. Terror came with the dark. Pa-
rents' faces were lamps over a stricken
goodnight. Faces, low-hung: goodnight ma, pa
goodnight. Goodnight.

Two worlds there were, then. Day
waited in doorways: the lowing house, ghost-
ridden with furniture, odd knobs and knells,
sudden nooks, was where night could batten; aye,
and did. And did not vision, from her high
window, twenty years from that nursery
horizon, a son, her own, himself lost
in the night-haunted dream day wanderer
from the bright threshold to where stars quicken.


for eddie b.
It grows inside you
like a child
its meanings secret
like the peal of bells
and their music
long after

The rubric scratches
on the retina
the drums sound
but no spirit starts

the fingers of the blood
assort the images
the wind remembers
sifting the long grass
the womb impulses
the beast

a new testament
the Word

p mordecai

zu ^
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Q:wa W
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Cecil Phillips (Pippa) Pray was born in Scotland,
educated in several countries and qualified as a
veterinary doctor in Ireland and Canada. While
working in a remote area of Northern Ontario she
became interested in the communication proc
From 1958-61 she was Assistant Professor in the
Department of Microbiology, Ontario Veterinary
College a Guelph and edited the Canadian
Veterindary loaurnal.
In 1961 Pippa Pray married a Jamaican and
came here on contract to the Department of
Microbiology at U.W.I. In 1964 she qualified as
Master of Science in Library Science (M.S. in L.S.)
at the University of Illinois. She has served as
Librarian at the Scientific Research Council and
the Jamaica School of Agriculture. She is at present
Secretary to the Commonwealth Library
Association (COMLA).

"Information, like the oxygen in.
the air, is a universal resource.
However, whilst everyone is born
with apparatus to use oxygen, we
are not born with the ability to use
information. Moreover, whilst it is
obvious when men suffer for lack
of oxygen it is generally not at all
obvious when there is a failure due
to the non-use of information. So
the first requirement of any NATIS
plan is to present the concept that
information is an important re-
source and that, like the oil under
the earth, we have to provide
apparatus to extract it and learn
how to use it"'
Here in Jamaica
Do we have this "oil"? Yes, quite a lot
Do we have apparatus? Yes, some
Is the oil of information flowing through
the apparatus of communication?
Only a trickle
Why is this? The main reason is lack of
awareness on the part of the users (and
that means all of us) of the significance
of information as a commodity, a tool
with which to tackle our development
Secondly there are "dry wells", pockets
of ignorance where needed information
is lacking.
Thirdly the apparatus for collection,
storage and dissemination is in-
adequate. We need to improve our
network of pipelines and depots.
There are far too many sludge tanks
crammed with unorganized unidentified
documents in ministries and offices that
need sorting, filtering, identifying.
In Trinidad and Tobago there are 141
recognized library collections"7. We
believe we have at least 120 in Jamaica,
but few are organized for effective
Recently, a large, mixed group of
concerned Jamaicans, helped to
formulate a NATIS Plan for Jamaica 2.

This plan outlines the apparatus
necessary to extract the oil of
information; information we need for
our spiritual development and our
economic survival food for belly and
food for thought. "In all countries it is
necessary for social progress to make
the fullest use of the available
information. International co-operation
to facilitate the supply of information is
available but, to be successful,
international co-operation depends
upon adequate national arrangements"I
(author's emphases). However, merely
setting up the necessary apparatus will
not provide the answers it must be
used and there must be the WILL to use
it. There is also the danger that
"because information is of interest to
everybody it is the responsibility of
none." Fortunately, 'in Jamaica, the
National Council on Libraries, Arclives
and Documentation Service (NAT-
COLADS), an advisory body to the
Prime Minister, is anxious to see that
this advisory responsibility is trans-
mitted into executive action and that
the Plan is implemented for the benefit
of the country as a whole.
According to the Unesco NATIS
document quoted above,1 achievement
of a successful national information
system is faced with three main
1. The continuous growth in the
volume, complexity and importance of
information means that the rate of
increase of expenditure on information
services should be greater than the rate
which applies to most other items.
Because of its very nature, it is not
possible to compare the "value" of
information services with the cost of the
resources necessary to provide them. It
is possible, by improving internal
efficiency and by co-ordinating
complementary services to rediee the
overall resources demand that would
occur if this were not done.
2. The nature of information is such
that the cost of providing it cannot as a
rule be recovered from the users. (In
practice, charges may be made for
certain specific services, though these
charges may be more nominal than
"real" in that they seldom cover the
total cost of the service provided)
How many business firms and
government departments waste staff
time at $ per hour, filing cabinets at
$100 each, air-conditioned floor space
at $6.00 per square foot because they
are unaware that they can subscribe to
The Gleaner Indexing Service available

from Institute of Jamaica for $160 (four
bound quarterlies) per year? Don't be
put off by the price: "Using external
services costs real money, while the cost
of employing staff inefficiently is not so
3. Failure of the information supply
arrangements, unlike those concerned
with, say, electricity, telephones,
transport, housing, are not obvious.
They may nevertheless be as important.
'There now exists a considerable
body of empirical evidence which
indicates a positive relationship
between good and efficient com-
munication and successful indus-
trial innovation. However, in spite
of this, many firms still do not take
communication seriously and
hence fail to take positive steps to
promote the flow of information,
both throughout the organization
and between the organization and
its. environment. On the contrary
even those firms which do possess
established information depart-
ments tend to treat the information
function as an ancillary operation.
As a consequence, in times of eco-
nomic stringency, the information
department is among the first to
feel the axe"4

In an attempt to convince
management of the folly of ignoring this
aspect of good management practice
the authors present 9 short case
histories to show the contribution that
poor, and inefficient information flow
made to expensive innovative failure in
the textile industry. One case in
patcular highlights the dangers of the
secrecy syndrome".
The problem of confidentiality
loomed very large at a recent Workshop
on Research and Documentation for the
Development Sciences in the English-
speaking Caribbean held at the
University of the West Indies 1977 May
3-5. This was a regional affair, attended
by social science research workers,
government officials, librarians, docu-
mentalists, planners policy-makers and
others. The policy-makers plaint was
that when they asked the planners for
information it was not forthcoming.
According to the social scientists
undoubtedly a mass of information of
value to planners and policy makers
existedbut this was inaccessible for two
main reasons:-
1. -It was unidentified and undocument-
edand couldn't be found when needed.
2. The "secrecy syndrome" or Con-
*: 51

fidentiality Disease, which was rampant
in government departments.
What was very noticeable to the
librarians present was the failure of the
people wanting information to seek help
from those who were trained to find it
and pass it on. Confidential information
is much safer in the hands of a trained
librarian who can control access to it,
than in somebody's desk or file.
Deliberate secrecy is not the only cause
for inaccessibility. Probably a much
commoner cause is ignorance of
services that do exist.
The Workshop was a good illustration
of the need for the education of users.
Under West Indian conditions it is
probable that few of the participants
had ever been exposed to the facilities
of a good working library, and the
outgoing attitudes of modern librarians.
One delegate, from a small island, had
never thought of asking the profes-
sionally qualified public librarian in his
country to obtain for him some West
Indian publications he badly needed.

Time is Money

Three Jamaican examples of wasted
effort due to ignorance of resources are
given below.
1. Between December 1970 and July
1974 there were 16 meetings of the
Advisory Council to the West Indies
School of Public Health' a body
made up of 8 highly qualified pro-
One can assume an average of 2 hours
per meeting, plus half-an-hour's
travelling time at each end i.e. 3
man-hours per person per meeting. The
average number present was 7 or 8. This
comes to about 350 man-hours. If one
considers the cost of professional time
at $20.00 per hour (a low estimate), the
cost of 16 meetings alone (without any
homework or peripheral secretarial
work) was $7,000.
During the period under considera-
tion a great deal of the Council's time
was spent on reviewing the type of
training in water technology and
sanitary engineering that was needed in
Jamaica. A major topic was the
identification of specific training needs.
A great deal of time was spent
discussing this until, in casual conversa-
tion at another meeting, a member of
the Council learned that a thorough
evaluation, commissioned by the
Ministry of Local Government, had
already been published by Stanford
Research Institute9 A Study of the
West Indies School of Public Health by
Eric Landauer and Eleanor F. Voorlies
had been prepared by PAHO-WHO in
2. Professor Kundu, of the Institute of
Economic and Social Research of the
University of the West Indies, collected
detailed information for a comparative
study and economic analysis of the
trade, balance of payments, loans,
foreign aid, for the entire Caribbean for
the period 1948 1966. In the event he
himself published only the data relating
to Guyana. The rest of the material was
stored in a filing cabinet in his office.

In 1966(?) Professor Kundu left at
short notice for Australia. The filing
cabinet, (locked) remained in Jamaica,
where nobody had a key.
Between 1968 and 1974 the University
employed 4 Research Fellows at an
annual salary scale of Ja.$4,200 plus
20% emoluments, plus clerical support
at an average salary of Ja.$2,500, to
compile data for a comparative
economic study of the Caribbean
region, except Guyana, for the period
1948-1966. These researchers were
totally unaware of what lay in the
locked filing cabinet in the very office in
which they worked.
Then came moving day. The room
had become so cluttered with
researchers and their papers that a
re-assignment of space could be
deferred no longer. In the process the
Kundu Cabinet fell and burst its lock.
Out spewed the assembled data and
in much more detail than that so
painstakingly compiled in 6 years by his
4 successors.'
3. In 1975 an employee of one of the
bauxite companies, in his private
capacity, was seeking information on
African Star Grass. The gentleman did
not think of asking his company
librarian, one of the most efficient in the
island. He was also unaware that a
library has existed at the Ministry- of
Agriculture for 100 years. Instead he
asked some friend of his in some other
department of the Ministry and drew
blank (said friend must have been
equally ignorant of the facilities of his
own Ministry).
The original inquirer, based in
Kingston, drove to Bodies 3 times (2
hours driving time X3'/6 hours), 2 trips
to the Ministry of Agriculture, but not
the Library (2 hours), drove to Grove
Place and back (4 hours) and made
about 30 phone calls over a three week
period, all in vain. Estimated cost $326.
At this stage a friend of the enquirer
asked the author for a specific name to
which they could direct an enquiry at
the Botany Dept., UWI. This drew
blank, as did a similar enquiry at the
Institute of Jamaica it was summer
vacation and the relevant people were
off the island. The author, while walking
out of the door, expressed surprise at
the failure to get information from the
Ministry of Agriculture "as they have an
excellent librarian". To satisfy her own
curiosity the author decided to try the
Reference Section of the Kingston and
St. Andrew Parish Library. Without
revealing her identity to the young
assistant on duty, she said she was
seeking information on African Star
Grass and was referred to the Africana
Collection! On explaining that it was a
botanical question she was told to ."try
the Technical Section over there".
Fortunately the author has been trained
to use an index, and was able to find and
list several texts which gave the
botanical name and some information.
Armed with this she returned to the
enquirer's friend to be greeted as
"Until you mentioned it we didn't
know they had a library at the Ministry

of Agriculture. We went up there and
the librarian handed us the information
we needed all together in one box.
Thank you so much for letting us know
where to look".
Counting the part played by the
author and trip to Hope, the actual
finding time probably cost about $25,
instead of at least $326 already wasted.
These cases illustrate several
important factors contributing to poor
i. The user is unaware of available
2. The user is unaware of existing in-
3. The user may not know where to
4. The need for adequately trained staff
(African Star Grass is unlikely to
feature in the Africana Collection.
The library assistant should have
listened more carefully the perti-
nent feature was "grass").
To revert to the UNESCO document
quoted earlier:-
"The educational requirements of
the potential user are:-
a) literacy;
b) subject knowledge and under-
c) that curiosity of the mind which
makes him want information;
d) the ability to use information
services and the confidence that
they can provide useful in-
"To this end an initial objective
should be to educate the educators so
that they aim to make students
information conscious and to provide
them with the know-how to use
information services."'
At what point do you start training
the user to use? We should begin in
Primary School. In an overcrowded,
understaffed, ill-equipped school the
child has little encouragement to learn
to think for himself, to establish his own
intellectual independence, to become
"his own man. Instead, what the
teacher says becomes the Word of God,
and the one available textbook on any
subject is the bible, which the pupil
spouts back parrot fashion. On the
other hand, provision of a wide range of
reading material, books, magazines,
newspapers, pictures, models, record-
ings, enables the teacher to set assign-
ments in such a way that the child has to
look in a variety of sources to satisfy his
curiosity. Once he has learned how to
look things up for himself he is truly a
free man for the rest of his life, he
knows how to find out what he needs to
know. He is not stuck with a bunch of
facts he learned in school but which
have become obsolete by the time he is
due for a job promotion. He is also
receptive to the concept of communica-
tion of information as well as the search
for it.
One of the commonest problems
encountered by librarians and informa-
tion officers is "to discover what the
user needs not what he thinks he
wants. His wants are conditioned by his
experience and' how he thinks he

operates". How do you get the user to
formulate his real problem? One of the
biggest stumbling blocks to successful
management is poor communication.
In the Plan for a National Information
System (NATIS) for Jamaica,2 the
needs are listed and the method for
satisfying those needs is described.
Thanks to the very broad spectrum of
the community that was actively
involved in the preparation of the Plan
we are not guilty of creating "the
artificial distinction (largely an inven-
tion of the "communicators") between
Information, Education, and Communi-
cation ...."8
At this stage in Jamaica's social and
economic development we need to use
all the tools we can get to produce the
necessary jobs. Information is a
commodity with a real value. In the
truest sense it is priceless, it cannot be
priced. The most realistic way to get
Jamaica's information systems function-
ing is to implement the National Plan as
soon as possible. It is up to all of us to
facilitate and expedite the free flow of
information in every way we can. Every
individual can help by his own attitude
as a communicator, and as a supporter,
developer and active user of our
information services.

I. Unesco. NATIS National information-
policy. COM.76-NATIS-6 Paris, Unesoo, 1976.

2. National Council on Libraries, Archieves and
Documentation Services. Plan for a National
Information System (NATIS) for Jamaica.
Kingston, 1977.

3. Vickers, Peter, "Oround rules for cost effective-
ness" Adlb Premedhtgs 28 (7) iJu-July, 1976
pp. 224-229.
4. Rothwel, R and Robertson. A.B. "The con-
tribution of poor communication to innovative
failure". Adib Procedings 27 (10) Oct. 1975,
pp. 393-400.

5. Based on information supplied by Dr. A.W.
Sangater. Principal, CAST.

6. Information supplied by Dr. J.E. Green. Insti-
tute of Social and Economic Research, UWI,
7. Hutchinson, Lynette C. "The state of library
and documentation networks in Trinidad and
Tobago". Paper pressed at UnescaLS
Workshop in the Planning of NATIS Library
and Documentation Networks, held in Kings-
ton, Jamaica 1975 November 10-14.
8. Coombs, Philip H. and others. "Integrated
rural development and communication some
views". AMIC Occasional papers 6. (1977).
Obtainable, price, in Singapore dollars, SS6.00,
from Asian Mass Communication Research
and Information Centre, 39 Newton Road,
Singapore 11, Republic of Singapore.
9. Picering, Ellis E. A training programme for
water & sewerage systems personnel in
Jamaica. Final report & Summary Report.
Prepared for Ministry of Local Govrnment,
Government of Jamaica, Kingston, Jamaica.
Menlo Park California, Stanford Research
Institute, 1969.

apace Tie Mudden Cost


Dr. Arnaldo K. Vtuab' ti i
Jamaica, Novembx, 19P.Bd.. UtMifd -i t ii as deWic ttietd "n
Road Government ScUl. Kingston Co par, t of economic,- .
University College t ofte Wa India.,ss andl part f economic, educational,
University. He has held academic positions at the cultural and political systems and as
University of the West Indie Cornell University such has an enormous'effect on society
Medical College, Cedeara eanon o .an and often times dictates itical
the Univerttye iami choof Meadi ,s e tn.o aod ,. t..
he.is at present Vik~y~ aprofessur to p.st-db'rue r -; .' decisei ,lo.weraa
st d&ats. i- .a

n be r oI several intH w vraM nala s '*
scientists sad mierobiologqsts. and is caaInsii i galo hical location a sin i*thei
othe Working Gropo Experts onthe Deat vasness: or diversity of its natural
of Technology (OAS). He has also oo-auth tr& adB < .. .. ....
authored a number of scientific al l fo rsureesman and otheawis, nor its
ait its
interaac fioPi' .set i-:.i;dbut" rather on its attitude
Director,. of te'...c:.lear Jamaica.. ... .

twpa-" to, meeta .
developmaent- ty of the wrld. Usually techniques aretaerred fro
Throughout recorded history teoh; highly consumer oriented systems
nology or technical know-how has bee i where the demand for certain goods is

, '^ '.'.1,... ,

created by advertisement rather than by
social necessity.
A major obstacle to the transfer of
technologies which could conceivably
benefit the poor, is the scarcity of
published information. This is true of
the 98% of research and development
generated in developed countries under
relative secrecy by private companies,
and the 2% from developing countries
that might be of more relevance to third
world development. Workers in the
latter countries have no incentive to
publish except exotic basic material in
prestigious journals of" metropolitan
countries. Furthermore there is a lack
of adequate vehicles for publications in
developing countries, which restricts
dissemination of information.
One outcome of this lack of
publications dealing with scientific and
technological matters in the developing
countries is that there is little exchange
between countries at the same levels of
development. India, for example, uses
productively many tropical plants which
are commonly discarded in Jamaica.
The post colonial pattern places each
developing country into what has been
called a "client relationship" with
certain metropolitan countries from
which there is a centralised information
outflow to the client country.
Information flows mainly in a
longitudinal manner from the develop-
ed temperate countries to the
developing tropical countries. But there
is very little interchange of information
and ideas between the developing
This problem of workers in
developing countries having little
propensity to publish, and the lack of
publication facilities, creates a vicious
circle. This problem has to be tackled as
-one of priority by technological
i.institutions working to assist the poor.
.' The Scientific Research Council is
-seriously contemplating the use of our
printing facilities to publish a Journal
for Third World Technology.
Technical information includes a
wide variety of knowledge, and in
general small enterprises do not have
the capacity to successfully interpret
and apply the data they need. Such
knowledge includes the information
which is necessary to train individuals,
and plan effectively along economic
lines to select methods and equip them
to prepare projects, to construct and
manage plants and to distribute goods
and services. Technical information
constitutes probably the most important

primary resource component in
economic development, and deficien-
cies in this resource often lead to long-
term inefficiencies. Users of informa-
tion must be prepared to incorporate
novelty into their operations to suit
special conditions, and for small scale
ventures; this often requires technologi-
cal assistance along with technological
The vast sums of money which have
been spent by companies in internation-
al espionage networks to obtain
technological information, and the
lengths to which some countries would
go to find out new technological
developments, is testimony to the
importance of science and technology
in our daily lives.
For the producers or disseminators of
technological information to remain
relevant they must rely on feedback
from users who will ultimately have to
measure the suitability of the
information received. As a corollary the
limits of technological flexibility are
often set by the technological,
reciprocity between users and pro-
Technical information also has the
power of pointing to relevant
alternatives. Consequently, the techni-
cal information made available can,
over a period of time condition
technological choices. Since most of the
technical information being utilized in
developing countries comes from
developed countries, a strong desire to
mimic these countries has been
Thus the transfers, instead of easing
economic conditions, often create
irrelevant consumer appetites without
the where-with-all to satisfy their
cravings. Short range objectives -

increasing production capacity especial-
ly in certain critical sectors (such as
food production in the case of Jamaica)
which are necessary to meet economic
and social demands, often obscure
long-range fundamental objectives of
achieving technological competence.
Aid is often given in forms which
perpetuate trade, technology, and
information dependence. Such aid is
neither designed nor intended to
strengthen de facto independence of the
developing country.
No country can make significant
strides to rid itself of economic
dependence unless it can instill in the
populace the spirit of enquiry,
encourage deductive reasoning and the
willingness to apply local;know*how to.

solve its problems. Thespirit of enquiry
has to be inserted early in the educa-
tional system by the provision and in-
dependent student use of properly'
organized school libraries for maximum
effect. Deductive reasoning and the
ability to apply know-bow will come to
productive fruition only with the avail-
abilityof adequate information systems.
Although attempts are being made to
generate and use more appropriate
technology in developing countries,.
these data are often stored and re-
trieved by companies and affiliates
of transnational corporations, still
emitting a strong bias in the system
or the application of so-called ad-
vanced technology to local third world
type problems. It is now clear that
natural geographic regions such,as the
Caribbean and Latin America, must
develop their own data hbank- for
technology. Accessibility to the poolof
technological data already available,
and stimulus for the generation of more
relevant data as regional demands are
expressed as regional imperatives.
The contribution of educational
institutions to Science and Technology
still reflects the dependence of develop-
ing countries on. the developed 0coun-
tries. In the Caribbean colonialism
allowed for the training of the.elite in
certain areas of Britain and other
European countries. Those who wished
to pursue the classics and the .toble
professions (law, medicine) were en-
couraged as these were necessary to
produce acculturized colonials.. The
educational institutions which were
later erected had the same goal in mind.
Very little attempt was made to educate
technologists for the development of
indigenous technology as this activity
was being adequately dealt with by the
mother countries for their own
economic development. When techno-
logical institutions were permitted they
were not established in industry but
rather in agriculture and only in
agriculture for export.
Technology for domestic uses and
production was ignored, and the
peasantry was forced into the expansion
of traditional technology based
primarily on empirical knowledge. The
masses were essentially locked out of
education of any sort except. a*.few
exposed to Secondary educatic.. The
educational emphasis was plated on
expensive metropolitan style :uiwsi-
ties which were able to absorb only he
privileged minority of the population.
Only recently has some attention

.* ... ., .; .. ar

been paid to tertiary type technical
education, and even here the
curriculum bore little relationship to
technological needs. The spirit of
enquiry is relegated to basic sciences
which in most developing countries
mirror the exotic research projects of
the various countries in which the
scientist was trained. These projects e.g.
study of DNA, high energy physics or
intermediate metabolism, are often left
unfulfilled because of paucity of
modern equipment, money and scienti-
fic exchanges with contemporaries in
advanced centres. Needless to say even
the most successful basic scientific pro-
jects are so far removed from local
application that they could well have
not been done except for the gratifica-
tion of the investigator and for esoteric,
professionally desirable kudos. The con-
sequence of this is that science is often
regarded at lower levels of education
and society at large as a wasteful exer-
cise without practical application. This
is reflected in the lack of political
and social support for basic science and
ultimately all its extensions, including
Developing countries must therefore
present science as a useful instrument
which provides tremendous technologi-
cal leverage and consequently indispen-
sible to national development, in order
to change the current attitude to
science and technology.
Scientists have an obligation to
educate society regarding the limits and
potential of the sciences. Because of its
power to bring more amenities to the
vast majority of mankind, technology
has the potential to transcend economic
and social barriers. The marvel of radio
and television, the telephone, electric
light, fertilizers, single cell protein,
modern biomedical engineering,
modern drugs, to mention a few
technological developments, attest to
the fact that with a little more social
resolve and political will, most of
mankind can benefit from the
technological achievements of a
collective past.
It is true that the metropolitan
countries do place a strangle-hold on
the developing countries because these
countries possess most of the world's
technologies. In the capitalist system
most of the technologies, except those
of a global type (e.g. those concerned
with weather control and prediction),
are in the hands of private enterprise.
Skilfully manipulating their patents,
royalties, trademarks and licences and
sale of equipment, they subvert the
development intentions of weaker
economies. Many multinational cor-
porations create an illusion of progress
by creating jobs and short-term econo-
mic activity in poor countries, but
in essence they perpetuate technology
dependence and consequent economic
control. Needless to say the unscrupul-
ous can use advantageous arguments to
skim off profits and transfer them
outside of developing countries,
avoiding taxation and other balance of
payment controls. The ideal conditions
for these practices are created by

ignorance of the pivotal role of
technological information in national
development. Governments must there-
fore intervene to monitor and screen
the exchange between local users and
foreign suppliers of technology to force
closer links between the development of
local technology and the productive
The primary motivation for techno-
logical development in most metropoli-
tan countries has been the accumula-
tion of larger profits and the generation
of capital. The drive to maximize ex-
ploitation of the natural environment
with little regard to maintaining ecologi-
cal stability has led to massive disrup-
tions of natural ecosystems especially in
urban centres.
Man has evolved over millions of
years in an intricately balanced
ecosystem. The sudden environmental
changes brought on by industrial
technological societies in an effort to
produce the comforts of civilization, has
disturbed the environment to such an
extent that the question of man's ability
to adapt to the sudden changes has to be
raised. This question is even more
relevant in small islands such as
It is commonly assumed that
expansive urbanization has lead to most
of the environmental problems we
experience today. Although it is being
argued that there may be a certain
critical level that will determine proper
city management and certain minimum
space requirements that are compatible
with human existence, (1) it is now clear
that in cities or in the rural areas, the
products and stresses of modern
technology are at fault, (2) rapid
depletion of natural resources such as
water upon which modern technology
- and indeed life depend; are
rapidly being depleted because of the
consumer approach to life.
Pollution, another consequence of
consumerism and maximum profits are
appearing all over the world in sea, air
and water. Even organisms at the seat of
all life, at the base of the food chain
have already begun to accumulate toxic
contaminants inimical to human life.
Plants too are now concentrating
pollutants. If this continues, the whole
ecology of the oceans and probably the
world supply of atmospheric oxygen will
be distorted. Reports from health
institutions in the United States are
suggesting that in certain areas, human
milk is not fit for human consumption
because of the residues of insecticides,
herbicides and other substances, all
pollutants of modern technology.
Technologists therefore have a moral
obligation to monitor the use to which
their discoveries are put, and no
technological development should be
assessed without the human and
environmental components being given
full cognizance. Scientists must show
social concern and the courage to
challenge decisions which are purely
economic in motivation. We should
recall that resistance to the pasteuriza-
tion of milk on grounds that it was
impractical and expensive, was just half

a century ago.
To maintain a high consumption
economy, technologies have been
devised to produce oddities and project
them by advertisement as essential
needs of man. These oddities are
manufactured to have short life spans to
maintain constant demand (planned
obsolescence). The result of these
tendencies is that natural resources are
being exploited and used in commodi-
ties that are soon discarded. The drain
on precious natural resources is
tremendous, as can be seen from the
fact that one-fifth of the population of
the world residing in the metropolitan
countries now use approximately
two-thirds of the world's natural
Immediate and up-to-date informa-
tion is critical to monitor pollutants in
society, and to understand the wasteful
tendencies of consumer oriented
technological patterns.
A report of our local working party
on Information Services for Science
and Technology issued earlier this year,
has described the present situation as
one of patchy collections and services
inadequately staffed and in which there
are widespread gaps, duplication and
lack of co-ordination. The report also
indicates that valuable collections are
lying idle occupying space to no
purpose; because they lack organiza-
tion, their potential users are often
unaware of their existence which results
in duplication and a great waste of time.
The NATIS (National Information
System) plan for information services
for science and technology does not
envisage a new Science and Technology
Information Institution, but rather a
co-ordination of the existing ones to
form a network. The Scientific Re-
search Council will act as the focal point
and there will be decentralized adminis-
tration of the individual collections,
while each unit will retain autonomous
administration and staffing. Approxi-
mately 53 collections of Science and
Technology have been identified with a
distribution of 8 statutory bodies, 16
Government, 31 private sector.
As the focal point for science and
technology information in Jamaica the
SRC will develop and maintain a union
catalogue of the total scientific and
technological information on the island.
It will therefore be able to act as a
switching system by procuring materials
located elsewhere, by carefully drafted
selections, policy gaps and unnecessary
overlaps will be eliminated.

Girvan N. White Magi The Caribbean mad
Moden Teceology. Presented at the Seminar an
Caribbean Issues related to UNCTAD. University
of the West Indies 1976.
Moravcsik M.J. SdaneDevelopment The'buldlag
of Seace In leas developed Oountas. A Publica-
tion of PASTITAM? Bloomington Indiana.
Herrera A.O. Memo. Scientific and Traditional
Technologies in Developing Countries.
Commoner B. Sdeace and Survival 1966, New
York, Viking.
Dubos R. Man Adapting 1965, New Haven. Yale
University Press.
Girvan N. Tedmnolgy ad Caibbean Devdapsnt
1917. Institute of Social and Economic Research,
University of the West Indies.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: Assistance in the preparation of this paper Mrs. Barbara Nelson


Dr. Ajal Mansingh is an entamologist attached to
the University of the West Indies. Laurie Hammond
is a Commonwealth Scholar from Australia doing
Marine Research at the U.W.I. Marine Laboratory
at Discovery Bay in Jamaica. They were assisted in
field work by Akshai Mansingh, student.

Centuries of contemplation and
investigation by scientists have provided
us with some insight into the pattern of
distribution of fauna on this planet. The
fascinating phenomenon of seasonal
migration in birds inhabiting areas of
climatic extremes is now fairly well
understood; but the puzzling "when,
why and how" questions on the recent
colonization of almost all tropical -and
some temperate countries by the cattle
egret Bubulcuslibis have yet to be
answered satisfactorily. The marvellous-
ly successful, continued and indepen-
dent conquest of the world by the small
snow-white herons can probably be
surpassed only by the human
populations which have migrated
around the world since the last ice age.
Even before people were aware of the
avian cohabitants in their environs, this
native of Southeast Asia' had already
annexed the coastline along the Indian
Ocean (except Arabia) and the entire
African continent except Southern
Africa and the Sahara Desert. In fact,
some naturalists suggest that the egrets
originated in tropical Asia and Africa .
Since the early 1940s, the egrets have
expanded their empire in every
direction. The northward migration of
some southeast Asian colonies along the
Chinese coastline to Japan is
coincidental with the retreat of the
Japenese army in 1946.' Some expedi-
tionary forces also flew southwards and
since 1948, have colonized the entire
-Australian coastline.2 It may not be too
long before these birds take over New
Zealand and the Fiji islands.
On the western front, while the
Europeans were fighting fierce battles
in-North Africa, some of the egrets from
there occupied Portugal and Spain.2 If
these colonies move eastwards along
French and Italian coasts, they will have
conquered more European territories
than their Moorish compatriots over
1000 years ago.
The intensification of war on the
African theatre is also related to the
migration of the egrets to the New
World. probably from North western
Africa. First sighted in Florida in 1942',
they reached Guyana and 'Surinam in
1948 and have since spread all over
northern and north-eastern South
America and the Caribbean Islands.



~bM ~P I~PF~l~le BGne~9

The northward migration of the birds
has been rather slow, reaching up to
New Jersey in 1959. Bird watchers in
Jamaica claim that the egret colonies
were first established here around
1953 apparently moving from north
coast to south and east.
Earlier reports (Audubon Magazine,
Sept.-Oct. 1953, p. 202) claim that the
egrets were first sighted in Guyana in
1930, and the first specimen collected
on May 27, 1937. Whether the present
North American colonies of egrets
originated in South America and moved
northw'ards through the Caribbean
islands, or originated in West Africa and
moved across the Atlantic, is only a
matter of conjecture. The dates of first
sightings of the birds in Jamaica,
Venezuela and Colombia, suggest
trans-Atlantic and trans-Caribbean
migration of egrets to North America.
Why did these seemingly docile birds
embark upon -the adventurous and
hazardous crossing of the huge Atlantic
Ocean? We can only speculate on the
role of natural and human factors in the
recent migration of egrets. Whether
their population in Africa exploded
suddenly, necessitating migration of the
excess population to new feeding and
roosting sites, or perhaps the hazards of
war on the doorstep of several colonies
forced them to seek safer and more
peaceful homes.
How did these egrets, which are not
known to be long .fliers, cross the
Atlantic? Did they fly all the way,
resting on .islands enroute, such as
Azores and 'Bermuda? Maybe the
increased transatlantic shipping activity
during and since the second world war
provided temporary and intermittent
but essential perching space for small
flocks of egrets until they reached the
iatever. the.easons and whichever
,t*i neans of migration, the egret,
*belogitig to the family of Ardeidae, is
Snow well established in the New World.
It has several genera and many species,
particularly in India, where they are
numerous.' Besides the cattle egrets,
there are 3 other species common in this
hemisphere: these are the common
American egret Casmerodius albus
egretta, the snowy egret Leucophoyx
thulla and the reddish egret Dichro-
manassa rufescens',*,
In Jamaica, cattle egrets are in the
great majority, followed by the snowy
egret and the American egret; the
reddish egret is rarely or occasionally
seen.3 The cattle egret adult is about 20
inches high with white plumes, pink
eyes and yellow bill.3.4 In mating season,
the male grows an orange "Cap" on his
head. The snowy egret is slightly bigger
(24 inches) and has black bill and black
legs with yellow feet.4,6,3 The feathers
are white and it has many beautiful
plumes (aigrettes) on its back in the
breeding season. The 40-inch-long
American egret the biggest white
bird in Jamaica, has bright orange
yellow bill and black legs and feet.
Populationsof egrets have often been
threatened by pldme-seeking hunters.

Mangrove Clump Roosting Site In St. Ann
For thousands of years, Indian
Maharajas and other oriental noblemen
have used these aigrettes, in their
crowns, turbans, caps and hats, as a
distinguishing feature. The system was
later adopted by other countries where
the plumes, particularly of the snowy
egrets, became an integral part of the
headwear of army officers and
fashionable women. Indeed, the hunting
of egrets for the graceful plumes, which
grow between the shoulder blades
extending over and beyond the tail; had
threatened the very existence of the
egrets in U.S.A! Had it not been for the
Audubon Society and state govern-
ments which enacted laws against
hunting, and opened sanctuaries in
several places, some species of egrets
may not have survived.
The biology of the egrets in Jamaica is
not well known. The cattle egrets roost
in mangrove swamps and big trees near
rivers and dams. In one roosting site at
Pear Tree Bottom, St. Ann, up to 2,000
or more cattle egrets can be seen
roosting on a huge clump of red
mangroves (Rhizophora mangle), along
with a few otherherons. The birdsmake
nests of small twigs, criss-crossed
loosely, for laying eggs. In the breeding
season, a female lays 2 to 5 pale
blue-green eggs which are slightly
smaller than a chicken egg. The
breeding season in Jamaica probably
lasts from May to September. or
perhaps all the year round in different
localities with regular monthly rainfall.
Mr. Robert Sutton5 has observed about
125 nests with eggs and chicks in a roost
at the shallow lake, Parottee, St.
Elizabeth, in early October 1976. We
have observed breeding activity at the
St. Ann roost in late May 1977 (after the
rainfall). The eggs hatch in about 3
weeks and the chicks become almost as
grown as adults in about 4-5 weeks?' The
chicks are easily distinguishable by the
pale greenish colour of the beak, and
around the eyes and the legs.
The cattle egrets, which feed on a
variety of small animals and fish, are
almost always found in the vicinity of
large mammals with whom they have
established a symbiotic relationship.
When the large animals walk and graze
in pastures, they disturb a variety of
insects, frogs, slugs etc., which take
fright and move away..The egrets which

follow just behind the cattle's feet
simply swoop down.upon their victims,
With the speed-o-an -arrow the; 4W
darts its headefewa$t aasd snaps up t
food in its be twhep,.atthe great hast .
pick several: mta ,in: quiek succeslo
before beianAtbio shallow the py
The feeding lma~viour of the cattle
egret has been a subject of our
investigation for over 2 years. The bilds
appear to have-great ability to assessitb
availability of food in a particular area
and fan out in different directions
accordingly. One would seldom see
more than 2-4 egrets per acre of dry ad.
poor grassland .or 0-2 birds per hirsea
cow, donkey .e mile, scattered -araoM 0',
in villages. ,
At the JYbesT Dalry Farnt,
Thomas, the egrets start arri i' i
groups of 6-20, just after sunrise .a
wait in that section of the pasture whee
the cattle had grazed the previous day.
While waiting for the cows to come,
most egrets stand still and pick only the
passing prey. As soon as the cows eante~
the pasture, -the:.flock which ,usui
consists of 70(:0 birds, fans out -a m:.
orderly fasldii follows ithe '
There is at lea one nd. never n
than two egretsbehind or arounasli.
of the 65 cows. The cattle aE '
vigorously for a couple of hoursn
the egrets pick their prey out of Ae
Later in the morning, when the grass
fauna has apparently declined, in
number, one can notice some.dominant
individuals chasing out others for their
obviously more rewarding psitiens.
The egrets now start showing .
the-ectoparasiteson the cattle. We4 :.
observed.on several occasions.tBi
of the 65 cows in the herd was seari 'I]
for and cleared of ticks wiathi. 0
egrets' reach. At noon when the cowite'
and ruminate, the egrets pick tickse4om
their ears, around the teats and iasideof
the hind legs, and. under the tail, Th,
egrets would also pick the. live ticksAif
left on a wooden tray in the pasture.
The feeding activity resumes again in
the afternoon when the cattle graze
leisurely. At this time, some egrets (4-6)
move out to the adjoining pasture, walk
around to disturb their own preyand :I
pick them. Just before sunset, thei~ts
start flyinaback to their roosti
groups 6-20. ,

-Ifit r.s USi w aj e~ tdi~na '1

Besides the control of ectoparasites
S'from the cattle, the egrets also act as
sentries to the big mammals while they
: are busy grazing or resting. 1Even the
S distant approach of a dangerous
intruder-hunterr or predator, :s sihted
S-by egrets who give a hari eiy and fly
away, warning the cattle (or. in other
Continents, buffalo, bison, rhinoceros or
.antelopes) of potential danger.2
.:. tike every other bird, the egrets too
h iwave to protect their eggs and chicks
'from predators which vary in different
.:localities. We have often noticed the
L .;Jo.hn Crow (although not a predsir -in
tei vicinity.of the St. An t,
4lingchased away froinhtdsrta the
_-adult egrets.
.,P : The egrets' have cet.'
*- avian fauna of Ja b
..;.* -oiding some degree of tot a
Scointrl of cattle ticks and 4-,ip ..
1..'-,. w much .they may threaten the
.i -i vat l of other birds in a certainarea,
i 'isyet.to be investigated. It is obvious
that the normal symbiotic relationship
.',tbeween the cattle and "thae'-igng
SCackle or Cling Cling -(ootwe'a a
,-Y4Q^i ^or. the parrot hdld r
"dy ther atle M t 3
.as. facultative e
cattle ticks.
^.. 6s was. not un
'iP wivO blackbirds perahedoathwiae
the grass beinea
'outti cks from the animal We e
$ ,0S observed small flpcks of.about
4l Ing cling with thei'dahi* betd at
S t i ~J"ones' Farm. Howevr, tb
*ith cattle was:
"',:.::" or eveniag
Ae brought to' Ateb
Thq blackbirds
edinthe c

t'spraying of. ctOm
WBtacflcdes 4has '
t of the otherwise rich tik
Son, forcing them to fi .thQ er
5 Occasionally the birdicft be
d pr-on, the resting o.m0 bit
,i tare no, or vety
I-We: have never
and egretst
S t afternoon
nd cattle rest."'
.. ,. .... 4 A.. .,fl

S,:I:" ;i *.AM. 1970. The World BooktBaoope-
S Vl.Y6. p. 81.
An.hous, 1976 Cattle egret. Safari, anas,
O I', Scarborough. Ontario, Canada.
-.^S)a 4 1. 1974. Birds of the Wpft ledle,
g, :;CoUp, St. Jdtes Place, Laonda;..33 .
I L. 1955. Birds Do Jr
Company Ltd., Toronto, .p,6.
.o, 28, p. 15" LIM .
9+. ,;1s Pt 0 '," ', .. "P

S':* staaead, t. 1910. Ticks and admt
.Artlropods of lamaica.'B;SID '
S mca 1, 145-175.
":.9r I ^it1 -M. 1972. Bird Watching. in
SBolintr Press, Jamalia. ppi 784 nd :
S:A,, A,
^^1 i~gB~164..,^,^,'-,;..,1^^SS-^...



So says Anancy whose marvellous
Christmas find has excited the
imagination of both himself and his
onlookers. With the addition of sugar
and spices, the formerly tasteless liquid
extracted from the "red sinting" he met
on Grand Market morning has now
acquired a taste "like real-real wine ....
so real, so real". Soon the excited
customers he has gained have adopted
the name, "so-real' later corrupted
by the crowd "in true Jamaican fashion"
to form the word, "sorrel". Of course,
from that day, the tale goes on, sorrel
became a "famous Christmas drink".
We may not accept this amusing
explanation of the origin of the name of
this "red sinting" as narrated by Louise
Bennett, but few of us would disagree
that in Jamaica, sorrel has come to form
an indispensable part of our Christmas
celebrations. Indeed, so Jamaican has
sorrel become that one of the common
names adopted for this popular member
of the Hibiscus family is "Jamaica(n)
For many Jamaicans, "sorrel" is a
drink a red Christmas drink. We take
Anancy's reference to the "red sinting"
for granted. In fact, all but one of the
persons to whom I have spoken were,
like me, unaware of the existence of
another variety. For many people,
therefore, it will be interesting to note
that apart from the familiar red variety
with red stems and calyces, there is also
a green variety with green stems and
calyces. It is, really, the calyces which
remain after the flower has faded that
are used to make the drink. The calyces
are used either fresh or dried.
The word, "sorrel" is "adopted from
Old French surele (12th century),
sorele, surelle (modern French surelle),
formed on Old French sur .... an
adoption of the Germanic sur meaning
sour".2 The word seems to have been
applied originally to "one or other of
certain small perennial plants belonging
to the genus Rumex, characterized by a
sour taste, and to some extent cultivated
for culinary purposes; especially the
common wild species Rumex acetosa"'
According to this source, the word has
also been applied to "one or other of
various plants of other genera in some
way resembling sorrel"4 and examples
given include Hibiscus sabdariffa, the
variety with which we are concerned in
this paper. Its acid taste would seem to
account for the adoption of this name,
and Sloane's reference to "the whole
Plant having a sower taste like Sorrel,
whence the name",5 confirms this.
In addition to the name, "Jamaica(n)

sorrel" mentioned above, the plant has
also been known by a number of other
common names. These include: French
sorrel, Indian sorrel, red sorrel, and
rozelle (sometimes spelt roselle), Jelly
Okra and Florida Cranberry. Today it is
popularly known in the Caribbean
simply as "sorrel".
The plant originated in the tropical
countries of the Old World. It is an
annual and is ready for cutting five to
six months after being planted. The
crop is available in markets between
December and January, and is reported
to be a traditional Christmas drink in
the English-speaking islands of the
Uses of the plant have varied,
although the drink (formerly known as
sorrel cool drink) seems to have been
traditionally the most popular of all.
Sloane (1707) reports that it was planted
in most gardens of the island then; and
he lists sorrel among a number oftcool
drinks "all accounted unwholesom,
they turning sower in twelve or twenty
four hours and owing their strength to
the Sugar, and Fermentation they are
put into". However, he points out,
"some people drink nothing ebe and yet
have their Health very well".
He also reports that the "Capsular
Leaves were made use of for making
Tarts, Gellies, and Wine, to be used in
Fevers, and hot Distemper, to allay
Heat, and quench Thirst". He further
quotes Hernandez in indicating that
"the Root given to two Drams, purges
easily the Stomach and Guts".8 The
leaves either alone or boiled with other
herbs are reported to have been eaten
by Indians while the stalks were spun
into ropes and yarn.
Williams (1750) writes of its use in the
treatment of yellow fever:
Jamaica Sorrel or the Jelly of it
dissolved in Barley Water, and all
our fine vegetable Acids are not
only most agreeable to the Sick,
but are also the most serviceable,
as they abate the Inflammation,
allay Thirst, resist that general
putrifaction of the Juices, correct
the Bile, promote its discharge by
Urine, and gently open the Body.
So Manna also dissolved in 'Barley
Water and acidulated with Lime or
Lemon Juice is a very pretty
Draught; and might be frequently
taken to keep the Belly soluble;
and by that Means ease the Anxiety
Heat and Pain.10

Browne (1756) reports:
"The flowercup'randm: apsulae,

freed from the seeds, are the only
parts of this plant that are used :
they make very agreeable tarts; and
the decoction of them, sweetened
and fermented, is what people
commonly call. Sorrel Cool-drink,
in America: it is a small diluting
liquor, that is much used in all our
sugar-colonies, and reckoned very
refreshing in those sultry climates.
There is a variation of this
species, that is thoroughly green;
which is used, in all respects, like
the other.""
Lunan (1814) writes:
".... red-sorrel, is most generally
cultivated, as its acid is the sharpest
of the two .... the flowers and cups
make very agreeable tarts, and
excellent vinegar. A syrup is also
made by taking the most juicy
capsules, and adding twice or
thrice their quantity of double-
refined sugar. Put this mixture,
without any water, into a glass
vessel, and place it into a sand heat,
the digestion may be carried on
with a moderate heat, till the leaves
are all dissolved. A drink may be
made of the preserved sorrel of a
diuretic nature, to which a little
nitre should be added. .... The
stalks afford a kind of hemp, which
makes good lines."12
Watt (1890) makes some interesting
observations about its use in India and
alludes to its use in the West Indies:
"The fleshy calyx and capsule are
largely made into jam and other
preserves, and in the fresh state are
very acid but very refreshing. A
decoction of them, sweetened and
fermented is commonly called in
the West Indies 'Sorrel drink'. The
leaves are used in salads, and by
natives in their curries ...."'
He further records the use of the
seeds as "an excellent food for cattle",
and the stems for "a good, strong, silky
fibre ...."1
Most interesting are the medicinal
functions Watt records:
'The seeds of the Rozelle are
used medicinally, and have demul-
cent, diuretic, and tonic properties.
A decoction of them is recom-
mended by Modern Sheriff as a
draught, in doses of from one to
two drachms, three or four times a
day, in cases of dysuria and
strangury, and also in some mild
forms of dyspepsia and debility ....
From the fruit (or rather suc-
culent calyx) a drink may be made,

which is useful in biliousness, by
boiling it with water and adding a
little salt, pepper, assafoetida, and
molasses, and for convalescence,
or in mild cases of fever, an acid
refreshing drink may be prepared
from it ....
A general consensus of opinion
also appears to exist regarding the
valuable antiscorbutic properties of
the fruit, either fresh or dried."'5
More recently, Asprey and Thornton
(1953) also note the diuretic and anti-
scorbutic properties of sorrel:
"Sorrel is used in Jamaica to
make a drink which is reputed to be
cooling and diuretic .... The calyces
are said to be antiscorbutic .... The
roots are said to be laxative, con-
tain tartaric acid and may also
contain a saponin."'
To note other culinary uses not
familiar to most Jamaicans, the sorrel
with sugar added may be stewed to a
sauce similar to cranberry sauce. It may
then be used as a relish with meat or
poultry. Writing of its use in Nassau,
Kendal and Julia Morton (1946) further
noted that "it may be used as a filling for
tarts, topped with whipped cream, or it
may be preserved as a jam. Cooked
roselle may also be strained and
prepared with gelatin as a dessert, or for
jellied salad. The juice of cooked
roselle also makes an excellent ade and
a fine jelly, and it is sometimes
fermented and bottled as wine".17
Of interest is a news report appearing
in the Jamaica Daily News of April 15,
1976. According to this report, with the
ban by the United States Government
on Red Dye No. 2, widely used as
colouring in food, drugs and cosmetics,
sorrel was recently identified as a
possible substitute. This is reported to
have resulted from the demand for the
return to the use of natural colourings
and foods in the United States.'8
The sorrel drink, therefore, has been,
and continues to be the most familiar to
Jamaicans, and, it would appear, the
people of the Caribbean generally.
Indeed, so much more has the word
come to be identified with the drink
than with any other form, that most of
the cookery books consulted indexed
the drink simply as "sorrel", a
distinction being made only when
another recipe was included such as
sorrel jelly. Different combinations of
the following ingredients have been
used with quantities varying according
to taste : sugar, ginger, wine, rum,
chewstick, cloves and other spices.
Phyllis Clark's recipe is fairly
representative. She notes: "There are
two kinds red and white.19 The drink
prepared from the white sorrel is more
acid, therefore more water should be
3 cups sorrel (heaped)
without seeds
3 pt. (6 glasses) boiling
A few grains rice or
Piece of ginger
( %inch square)
Piece of dried orange peel

(izin. by % in.)
6 cloves
1 lb. (2 cups) sugar 20

The drinking of sorrel at Christmas
has become a truly distinctive Jamaican
tradition. It is offered in many Jamaican
homes as families extend hospitality
during the Christmas season. As
Christmas approaches it may be found
in abundance in the markets, and the
red calyces lend delightful colour to
sidewalks as vendors offer them,
sometimes already packed in one-pound
packages. "Yuh what ginger, too,
ma'am", is often the next question,
because, of course, ginger is an essential
ingredient in the sorrel drink prepared
by Jamaicans today; and any vendor
who sells sorrel inevitably has ginger
alongside her sorrel.
Whether or nut we give Anancy the
credit for discovering and exploiting its
properties, few of us should disagree
that Christmas would not be the same
without sorrel .... SO-REAL!

I. Bennett, Louise. "Anancy and Sorrel", p. 219.
(from: Hndriks, A.L. and Lindo, Cedri. The
Independence Anthology of Jamaica Literature.
Kingston: Arts Celebration Committee of The
Ministry of Development and Welfare.
Jamaica, 1962).
2. Murray, James A. H. et. al. A New English
Dictionary on Historical Principles (Oxford,
Clarendon Press, 1919), vol. 9, pt. 1, p. 447.
3. Ibid., p. 447.
4. Ibid., p. 447.
5. Sloane, Hans. A Voyage to the Islands Madera,
Barbados, Nieves, S. Christophers and Jamaica,
with the Natural History of the Herbs and
Trees. Pour-looted Beasts, Fishes, Birds,
Insects, Reptiles. etc. of the last of those islands
.... (London: Printed by B.M. for the Author,
1707), vol. I, p. 224.
Whit. nrml

6. Ibid., p. xxix of The Introduction.
7. Ibid., p. 224.
8. Ibid.. p. 224.
9. Ibid., p. 224.
10. Williams, John. An Essay on the Bilious, or
Yellow Fever of Jamaica (Kingston: Printed by
William Daniell, 1750). p. 48.
1I. Browne, Patrick. The Civil and Natural History
of Jamaica (London: Printed for the Author by
T. Osborne and J. Shipton, 1756). p. 285.
12. Lunan, John. Hortus Jamaicensis, or a Botani-
cal Desciprion .... and an Account of its In-
digenous Plants Hitherto Known .... (Printed at
the Office of the St. Jago de la Vega Gazette.
1814), p. 419.
13. Watt, George. A Dictionary of the Economic
Products of India (London: W.H. Alien and
Co.,; Calcutta, The Superintendent of Govern-
ment Printing. India. 1889-96). Vol. 4, p. 246.
14. Ibid.. p. 245-46.
15. Ibid., p. 245-46.
16. Asprey, G.P. and Thornton, Phyllis. "Medici-
nal Plants of Jamaica", West Indian Medical
Journal, Vol. 2, No. 4. Dec. 1953, p. 250-52.
17. Morton, Kendal and Julia. Fifty Tropical Fruits
of Nassau (Coral Gables. Plarida: Text House,
1946). p. 85-86. The last use noted is of course
the most familiar.
18. Jamaica Daily News, April 15, 1976, p. 2.
19. The "white" sorrel to which she refers would be
the green variety.
20. Clark, Phyllis. West Indian Cookery (London:
Published for the Government of Trinidad and
Tobago by Nelson, 1945), p. 211. Method:
"Wash sorrel, cut away seeds. Place in jar with
ginger, orange peel, and doves. Pour on boilin
water, and alow to remain for 24 hr. Strain and
sweeten. Pour into bottles, adding a few grains
of barley or rice (this helps fermentation), and
allow to remain for at least another day. Serve
with ice." Many of us would probably use much
more ginger than she recommends.

"When we look at the historical
experience of Caribbean society, the
most striking feature about it is the
high degree of labour mobility. Of all
societies in the world today perhaps
of all societies in the history of
mankind, the mobility of Caribbean
labour is most pronounced."
-George Beckford


In January 1889 a French company
which for nine years had struggled to
cut a canal across the Isthmus of
Panama'suddenly folded. Instantly the
entire economy of the Isthmus
collapsed. Shops closed, merchants
pulled down their shutters and
relocated, the prostitutes and gamblers
lit out for more inviting pastures, the
railway closed down stations, and the
thousands of labourers suddenly thrown
out of work scrambled to get on to ships
leaving for other Latin American ports
or, in the case of the West Indians, for
By March many of those who still
remained on the Isthmus had been
unable to raise the fare home and were
starving.2 It took three months for the
island governments to mobilise assis-
tance to thousands of stranded West
Indians.3 The Jamaican government
repatriated 7,244 under various
conditions When repatriation ceased, it
was estimated that some 6,000
Jamaicans had been left behind on the
They were the remnants of what had
constituted for the Jamaican society
movement on a large scale when it is
realized that the population at the time
was only 580,000.bDuring the nine years
of construction, 84,000 persons left the
island, 62,000 of whom returne-d.7Most
headed for the Isthmus though a few
thousands sought out other work
opportunities that were then opening up
in Costa Rica and Mexico.
The peak migration was between
1882-1884 when 32,958 left and 14,962
returned. After 1884 the numbers
returning exceeded the numbers leaving
and by 1888-9 when the crash came,
only 1,861 left for Colon while 10,985
The French Canal effort marked the
second large-scale migration of
Jamaicans in search of work abroad.





The first, which attracted an estimated
4-5,000 workers was for the construc-
tion of the Panama Railroad in 1850-55?
Like the first migration in the 1850s,
this second wave in the eighties was a
movement not just of labourers but of
all classes of people. Jamaicans of all
colours and walks of life flocked into
Colon in search of opportunities, as did
adventurers from all over the world.
The establishment of a large
English-speaking community on the
Isthmus in itself served to attract those
- such as Protestant Ministers or
teachers who came strictly in
response to serving the needs of the
community. It also attracted others -
such as medical men and entertainers -
who found it profitable to divide their
time between Jamaicans at home and
those in exile and who commuted
between the two societies. Because of
the traditional linkages between
Jamaican merchant houses and the
Isthmus, enhanced by increased
demand by the migrants for Jamaican
products such as rum, folk medication,
livestock and ground provisions, traders
or 'travelling representatives' from
Jamaica were also an ubiquitous
The proximity and ease of
communication between Jamaica and
the Isthmus meant that the Jamaicans
could continue to participate, even
vicariously, in the life of home. For
instance when a fire destroyed most of
Kingston in 1882, the first overseas
subscriptions to the fire fund came from
Colon and Panama.1 Jamaican enter-
tainers frequently came to the Isthmus."
The Panama newspapers regularly
carried Jamaican news including the
results of the Kingston races and there
was even talk of providing a Colon purse
for these races.1z Calabar College in
Kingston was advertising for boarders
from Central America the start of
what would later become a regular
connection between Jamaican educa-
tional institutions and Latin America.13
Obituary notices carried the note

"Jamaica papers please copy". Some of
the services between the two countries
verged on the ludicrous as when
Jamaican washerwomen regularly
travelled back and forth taking dirty
clothes from the Isthmus to be
laundered in Jamaica.14
For most of the French construction
period, the Jamaicans were ly far the
largest national group on the Isthmus,
larger than even the native population.
Jamaica provided the majority of
labourers for the canal; many of the
professionals and self-employed also
came from that country. Thus the
Jamaican influence was felt on the
Isthmus in virtually every way. There
were Jamaican doctors, druggists,
veterinary surgeons, pastors, teachers,
photographers, translators, news stand
dealers, newspaper compositors, proof-
readers, and editors as well as a
well-established merchant class consist-
ing mainly of Jews. Together with the
railway workers, the clerks, the
domestic servants, they presented on
the Isthmus a wide cross-section of the
Jamaican population and combined to
give an essentially alien society the feel
of a Jamaican outpost and all that this
Yet it is important to recognize that
as in later migrations the majority of
the Jamaicans who flocked into Colon
in search of work were unquestionably
people who could simply be described
as black and poor.
Travelling crowded together on the
open decks of sailing vessels and
steamers they conjured up to more than
one observer the image of the slave
ships which had brought their ancestors
to the New World from Africa.'6
While the relatively high wages
undoubtedly served to pull many to
Colon, the majority of these emigrants
were also being pushed out of their
homeland by various adverse factors.
For these people, to go to Colon was
to play a game with death in one form or
another, a game which thousands of
labourers lost. In addition, high taxes, a
usurious exchange rate and exhorbitant
prices of goods and services often
cancelled out whatever surplus they
could manage to accumulate.
While the white and near-white
Jamaican merchant, professional or
'white collar' classes could identify with
and share in the life of an Isthmus 'elite'
of other nationalities, the labouring
class frequently met with antagonism
and hostility and was without anyone on
the Isthmus to promote or defend its

Early Duperley photograph entitled "A Negro Hut" indicates ty

Yet despite the discouragement from
hostile planter interests at home;
despite the occasional official warnings
about going to the Isthmus; despite
frequently bloody confrontations with
the native propulations and the visible
evidence of the life-sapping qualities of
Colon which came off every boat
returning to Jamaica, for many years the
flow of humanity continued to stream
almost unchecked into the Caribbean
This paper is concerned with looking
at who went to Colon and why;
examines the nature of their
experiences on the Isthmus, and
analyses the impact of the 'Colon
people' on the development of the
Jamaican society in the late 19th
It is argued that while the horrors of
Colon may have exposed the majority of
Jamaicans to experiences of a new and
different character, in its particulars the
quality of life in Colon differed little
from what the masses of the people
migrating had been accustomed to in
their homeland. For those who asked,
why run the risk of dying in Colon, 'the
mythical El Dorado',7 the migrant's
answer could well have been that the
risk of dying also carried with it the
possibility of living and succeeding, and
that this was preferable to the futility of
struggling which was for many all that
the home environment offered.


In asking who went to Colon and why,
we may for convenience identify six
main categories of immigrants: (1) the
urban unemployed, (2) praedial

labourers, (3) peasant farmers, (4)
artisans, (5) merchants, professionals,
speculators, own-account employees,
(6) families of the above.
Of course these categories are not
mutually exclusive. For instance, some
artisans were also small farmers or were
among the urban unemployed. Some
women were independently farmers,
higglers, speculators, who may have
gone on their own.
For some of these people, the 'pull' of
Colon would have been immediate;
others would wait until 'pushed' out of
their homeland by adverse factors.
We can to only a limited extent
identify the movement of people from
the various parts of Jamaica. Since
Reports from the Collectors of Taxes in
the parishes are heavily relied on18it is
not easy to discover where migration
was heaviest for note is usually taken of
this migration only as it affected the
labour supply on the estates. As a result,
'perceived' or 'reported' migration and
the actual migration from an area could
be quite different things. Thus, for
example, while there is other evidence
that the migration was heavy from the
Parish of Westmoreland, it did not
affect the labour supply so little note
was taken of the phenomenon.
Similarly, migration from Manchester
seems to have been heavy but there
were no plantations in that parish and
the reports therefore hardly treat with
the question of migration at all.
Nevertheless some attempt will be made
to try and identify the areas of heaviest
migration and advance some explana-
tions for these.
Urban Migrants
The first 'wave' of migration seems to

have affected Kingston in particular,
probably because the urban population
would have been the first to receive
information about Colon. Kingston and
Spanish Town also had large numbers of
unemployed.!9Between 1871 and 1881
the number of persons employed fell by
over 20,000?oMany of the unemployed
drifted into the towns, a process which
had begun before Emancipation. From
the urban areas, the next step was
probably overseas if there was
opportunity. The exodus from Kingston
was also no doubt given impetus by a
disastrous fire there 11 December 1882.
Over 570 buildings were destroyed and
6,000 persons, mainly tenement
dwellers, left homeless.21
We are told in 1883 that so many
persons have left Kingston that
shopkeeping has become a 'precarious
business'22 suggesting that those leaving
were iff tact not the poorest m the
society who would have had little
purchasing power and contributed little
to merchandising. Still, it seems to have
been at the time largely a lower class
movement. The Medical Report for
18843 noted that the death rate in
Kingston had dropped, not from any
improvement in health standards but
from the fact that most of that section of
the population in which the deaths
would have occurred, had migrated.
By 1883 the "unbroken stream of
migrants" was contributing to a labour
shortage and rising prices in Kingston4
In 1883 there were strikes on the docks
and on the railway extension then under
construction from Spanish Town to
Porus. The dock labourers struck for
three shillings a day and received the
increase while the railway which
probably had access to a larger pool of

poor at the end of the nineteenth century. [W.LR.L]

labour in the countryside refused to
yield to a similar request from their
labourers who were then earning one
shilling and eightpence a day.26
The shortage of dock workers in the
city seems to have become particularly
acute. Five months before the strike,
ships were being held up because of a
labour shortage26 Where there were
workers, they displayed what was an
independent attitude. In December
1885 the Mozelle had to leave back a
portion of her cargo in Jamaica because
of a shortage of labour. The coal women
and male labourers refused to work on
the grounds that "they wanted to enjoy
themselves at the races".7We do not
have the precise date of the ship's
sailing but it could have been Christmas
or Boxing Day.28
But Colon attracted not only the
working class. Opportunities in Jamaica
were scarce for everyone. For the young
women who had been thrown out of
work as seamstresses with the
introduction of the sewing machine,
prostitution seemingly offered the only
alternative means of livelihood29And for
many young men between 16-18 there
was no intermediate employment
between that of labourers and clerks in
The class of young men that are not
fit for labourers are about the most
difficult to deal with. Some become
book-keepers and others clerks; but
there is not enough room for all of
them. If they once lose their situation
in the store it is very difficult for them
to get another, and they are obliged
to hang on for a long time before they
can find employment.
When the young men are driven to
starvation point they leave the island,
and it is gratifying to know that we
often hear of their succeeding and
doing well in other countries.3
It should be remembered that the canal
works generated a great deal of
secondary activity which would have
provided employment to clerical and
other workers. Since much of the
business activity on the Isthmus was in
the hands of Jamaicans32 nationals of
that country, who had the added
advantage of being English-speakers,"
might well have been given preference
for jobs. The railways and shipping
activities, under U.S. and English
ownership, also provided employment
for English-speaking persons.

The Migration from Rural Parishes
In rural Jamaica it seems that climatic
factors exerted a strong 'push' in various
areas and that whole villages (e.g. Gol-
den Grove in St. Thomas)34 or estates
(e.g. Constant Spring in St. Andrew)35
would become virtually depopulated at
the same time. Of course the 'push'
factors such as lack of jobs or adverse
weather would affect all the people in
an area and could elicit the same
response; groups of relatives and friends
would also decide to seek opportunity
together, or could be contracted by the
Panama Canal Company recruiters for
the same sailing. There is also no doubt

that the migration had a 'snowball'
effect causing even those who seemed
stable and settled to join in the rush to
One well-to-do man who had
continual employment as a
Headman supervising labourers on
the roads, and other employment of
trust giving him good wages, who has
his house and land, owns a good
horse, and with a wife and family,
goes along. The infatuation to go
seems to have taken hold on the
whole of them who are able to go.37
As more and more persons left an area
they would send information back to
their families and friends and no doubt
help with the financing of those left
behind. An added factor in the case of
Panama was the proximity which
allowed for a great deal of travelling
back and foith.
By the end of the first year of
migration it was estimated that about
one-third of the migrants had already
come back to Jamaica, "bringing with
them money with which they arrange
their affairs and aid their families. Many
of them return to the Canal works
taking others with them".38By 1884 it
seemed "a regular course for the men
after earning a fair amount to return to
Jamaica to visit their families and
friends and after a short time to return
to the Isthmus to work again".9
Returning to Jamaica to celebrate
holidays such as Christmas, Easter, and
the Victoria Jubilee was a popular
practice, interfering, incidentally, with
the progress of the canal works0Many
workers also deserted the works during
the rainy season, presumably for home41
A report from St. Thomas from which it
was claimed that all the able-bodied
men had left for Colon was even more
explicit about the activities of these
They return periodically with coin,
pay their taxes, and spend their
earnings on their families, who with
themselves go about seeking pleasure
until their cash is nearly exhausted,
then return to Colon to work for
more, but during their stay here will
work for no one.42
Thus the image of Colon and the
symbols of life there money, flashy
clothes, a worldly air were highly
visible, and the mythical 'Colon man'
image was frequently reinforced by
visits from the Colon men themselves,43
acting as a spur to ambitions and
dreams of those left behind:
Men are to be seen in the different
parishes who never wore a whole pair
of breeches or knew a pair of boots,
strolling full dressed, with an um-
brella, a gold, brass, or plated chain, a
brass or silver watch, rings to give
away, and a nucleus of cash in five
dollar gold pieces in their possession,
and at sight of these irresistible
inducements, away flock cane hole
diggers, wood cutters, trenchmen,
wainmen, and all able hands to the El
Or as a newspaper commented, "No
repressive measure will prevent men

leaving the island so long as the
returning toilers continue to land in
Kingston dressed in black cloth suits,
brilliant with jewellery and proud of the
possession of a watch and a revolver".4
Certainly if later generations of
Jamaicans mocked the image:
One, two, three, four
Colon Man a come
with him watch chain
a knock him belly
Bam Bam Bam
Ask him what's the time
and he look upon the sun
with him watch chain
a knock him belly
Bam Bam Bam
it was the mockery of those who had
never been caught up in the fever and
excitement of Colon. The promise of
one dollar a day and free passage,
medical care and other such
inducements by Canal Company
recruiters was enough lure for many.
For others, the fact that no documents
or papers were required, that deck
passage was relatively cheap (twenty-
five shilling one way) and could be
purchased at dock-side; that the ships
were accessible some steamers as
well as smaller craft sailed from the
outports,4 only made Colon more
inviting. Indeed, with the almost
universal absence of roads and bridges
in Jamaica, the longest and hardest part
of the journey to Colon would
frequently be the trip from the
mountain village to the port.
For those who did not travel there
was a remarkable number of letters and
parcels between Jamaica and Colom-
bia,47 remarkable for a people who were
largely illiterate.48 The mail generated
by the 'Colon people' undoubtedly
spurred the expansion of post office
facilities throughout the island during
the next decade,49 and the expansion of
communications facilities such as the
institution of a mail coach service
linking Kingston and the north coast.50

Plantation Labour
It should be borne in mind that there
were at the time at least three classes of
rural folk: (1) independent established
peasant proprietors who had settled
themselves in the hills after emancipa-
tion; (2) estate workers some of
whom lived on the estates under the
same conditions and even in the same
houses that their fathers had occupied
during slavery, others lived in the hills
where they did some cultivation and
went down to the estates to work during
week-days or croptime; (3) roving gangs
consisting mainly of youth who settled
themselves in the bush, did some
cultivation and at other times moved
from place to place working for a week
or two on an estate and then moving on51
From the beginning, actual or
potential workers were drawn from the
sugar estates62 and the greatest official
concern was with the impact that the
migration would have on estate labour,
though the potential of the remittances
eventually outweighed these considera-
tions.3 Among local and expatriate

planters the emigration merely added
new fuel to a prolonged debate which
had been going on since Emancipation
on the Labour Question' in the West
Indian colonies. It engendered a deeper
hostility of the planter class to the
Jamaican workers,54 even though it was
estimated that the estates had the
potential to employ only five per cent of
the labouring population of 500,000.55
Demand for estate labour was also
contracting rapidly as more and more
estates went out of production during
the decade of the eighties. It is a fact
that the workers did desert the
plantations and that lack of labour
possibly exacerbated an already
difficult situation. But even in the face
of such labour difficulties, the planters
made no attempt at conciliation, and in
fact by various activities further served
to alienate the workers.6s
It is also important to remember that
the period coincided with the
importation of labour for the sugar
plantations, even though through lack
of funds such importation was curtailed
in 1885. The phenomenon of a large
pool of surplus labour co-existing with a
shortage on the plantations had
prevailed since Emancipation and had
been attributed by many commentators
to the inherent laziness of Jamaicans.
But aside from the fact that the
ex-slave's preference was for freedom
on his own plot of land rather than wage
labour on the estate, or a combination
of the two, factors contributing to the
labour shortage were undeniably
related both to low wages offered and to
the social attitudes of the planters. As a
visiting American journalist noted some
decades earlier, the Jamaican planter
refuses to co-operate in any way with
a people who will admit no more his
patriarchical authority and will recog-
nise no longer hi right to command
their services whenever he pleases
and at disadvantages to themselves.57
and this condition still held true.
But it was not simply a question of
attitudes; the planters' unreliability in
the matter of wages further helped to
alienate the workers. Froude (in a book
that is notoriously unsympathetic to
blacks)58 quotes a missionary that
would work well enough if they had
fair wages, and if the wages were paid
regularly; but what could be expected
when women servants had but three
shillings a week and 'found them-
selves', when the men had but a
shilling a day and the pay was kept in
arrears, in order that if they came to
work, or if they came irregularly, it
might be kept back or cut down to
what the employer chose to give?
Wages in the 1880s ranged from 6d -
2/6 for field labour; 6d 1/- for women
in the fields; and 4 d 6d for children.
Female domestics earned from 2/-to 5/-
a week; male domestics from 4/-
upwards. Artisans were paid from 2/- to
6/- daily. Even at these low rates there
were regional variations. Thus wages in
Kingston were consistently higher than
the national average.59
As a contemporary writer pointed

out, the labour is the hardest, in
proportion, of any wage-earners in
the world. In every country during
the century remuneration for both
skilled and unskilled labour has risen,
but in Jamaica the high-water mark
has receded.60
In some cases it seemed that estate
labour could be attracted where houses
were provided, but this was not a
privilege usually extended to native
labour while it was only one of the
perquisities available to imported
labour. Thus an East Indian imported
labourer to undertake the same work
for which a Jamaican was offered
nothing but a shilling would be provided
under the terms of his contract not only
with the shilling (or more) but with
clothing and blanket issued aboard
ship; a suit of clothes and cooking
utensils on landing; on the estates a free
cottage, kept in repair and periodically
white-washed at the expense of the
estate and free maintenance, medical
attention and hospital treatment when
sick.62 He had only to clothe and feed
himself when in health and a large part
of his diet consisted of food gathered
free from the estates?3 The same
conditions applied to the Chinese
indentured labourers. Small wonder
that the thrifty ones could begin to save
money soon after arrival; that not
many years after expiry of their
indenture imported labourers could
purchase estates out of their sayings"
and that some of those who chose to
return home did so as comparatively
wealthy people. Of course this should
not obscure the fact that indenture was
regarded as a form of semi-slavery and
that many of the indentured workers
were, like the vast majority of the native
population, ill-treated and neglected.
The attention which the local planters
were forced to pay to the social welfare
of their imported labourers also
contrasted forcibly with the total failure
by the British Colonial authorities to
negotiate favourable conditions on
behalf of British West Indian labourers
being recruited for Latin America.
There seems little doubt that many of
the Jamaicans who migrated in the
eighties would also have been content
to stay at home if they could have
obtained a livelihood. As a Jamaican
Governor, Sir Anthony Musgrave,
expressed it, ".... the true difficulty to be
dealt with by any administration is not
so much to find the labour for any
industry as it is to find the industries for
the labour".6 For many of the
thousands who went to Colon, the single
pull factor was definitely higher wages.
Before the migration of the eighties
began (to be followed by heavy internal
migration in the 1890s) it was difficult
sometimes impossible, for ordinary
employers to coax him (the labourer)
to leave his own district in the island
for praedial labour elsewhere. During
a recent drought when many in an
isolated part of the country were
suffering severe privation, they refus-
ed to proceed to estates and fruit
fields in other parishes. They were
suspicious and afraid. Yet when the

railway extensions were being execut-
ed by an American syndicate, thou-
sands left their holdings and worked
happily and well on the Line for good
wages; and the present manager on
the Line speaks highly of them as
labourers. They were equally eager to
be engaged on the sewerage works in
Kingston, a government undertaking;
and the officials of public works
departments throughout the island
have never found any difficulty in
securing their services. In all these
cases, the remuneration is satisfac-
tory, and they are sure of receiving
every penny that they earn.67
The development during the period of
coastal steamer service' and the
opening up of the interior by railway
were also contributing to the greater
mobility of Jamaican labour.

In regional terms, migration seems to
have been heaviest from the eastern
parishes of the island, especially St.
Thomas where the exodus coincided
with a shortage of labour on the estates.
We say coincided since there was not
necessarily a cause and effect
relationship. For instance, for two years
in succession, cane in the Plantain Gar-
den River Valley District remained un-
reaped for want of labour "whilst there
is a superabundance in the Blue Moun-
tain Valley District' "nearby. It was
claimed that the system of management
had a great deal to do with this anoma-
ly.70 Wages were also lowest in this
parish and remained so for the decade,
thus the labour shortage did not force
up the price of labour: planters relied
on imported labour instead. Small won-
der that by 1883 "the parish has already
been drained of over two-thirds of the
labouring population, and the exodus is
still continuing, not only of the men but
of the women".7
That people should leave St. Thomas
is not surprising, given the physical
features, history and social structure of
the parish. St. Thomas was and still is
today one of the most physically
isolated parishes, its mountainous
character and many rapid mountain
torrentscontributing to its undeveloped
communications. In the 19th century its
isolation was nearly complete since
there were no roads as such and the
rivers were still unbridged. Plantation
agriculture engrossed the best, most
accessible lands and the land hunger
which had contributed to the Morant
Bay outburst of 1865 was still a feature
of the profile of the parish. For one
thing, the 'rebellion' had done nothing
to alter the basic social structure of the
parish. In fact, the events of Morant Bay
"impaired the economic vitality and
social conditions of St. Thomas which
for many years afterwards was reputed
backward and poor".72 The migration to
Colon started only 16 years after the
"rebellion";78 the strained social
relations were not eased by the events
of 1865, as was reflected in the manner
in which the people turned their backs

on the plantation system:
.... the people are rapidly retreating
beyond the reach of the school-
master, the tax collector and the
constable. That process has been
going on for the last seven or eight
years. Formerly they seemed to like
to cling round the outskirts of civiliza-
tion, but now they seem anxious to
get away from it74
Portland and St. Mary were also areas
of high migration to Colon and were
also parishes where the remaining sugar
estates were going out of production at
this time. By the end of the eighties,
only one estate remained in operation in
The coastal areas of St. Thomas and
East Portland especially rapidly took on
the appearance of total desertion.
Visitors in the 1880s reported that
"Eastern Portland gives the appearance
of desolation. Mile after mile of unused,
unredeemed acres, once flourishing
with cane, but now given over to wild
growths, saddens even the most
optimistic observer. Here there has
been dreadful loss".76
Even where there was still estate
activity, this was sometimes severely
curtailed. On one estate.
.... only 2 or 3 cane cutters on a field
where 30 or 40 are required, and the
same in all other departments of the
property, where quietness, almost
equal to Sunday, prevails about the
work yards and works in place of the
usual bustle of wains carrying canes,
and all other departments active.77
On this part of the coast the air of decay
was omnipresent. There was no one to
repair fences, clean pastures, cut
logwood, or even load the boats which
called at the outports.7 In St. Mary,
even the professional fishermen
beached their boats and joined the
The emigration coincided with the
rapid expansion of banana cultivation in
St. Thomas, St. Mary and Portland
especially. But for the 'small man',
prosperity from bananas would only
begin at the end of the eighties. While
the pattern of cultivation and
participation by the small settler
differed from parish to parish, it seemed
that at the beginning of the trade a
variety of factors favoured the big
While fruit was in great demand and
ready sale apparently within reach "of
any man who could procure land to
plant a few suckers",80 the unavailability
of land in areas that were accessible to
shipping points proved a deterrent since
rapid transit from field to dock and
thence to market was essential to the
marketing of the perishable fruit. The
rich coastal lands were still under the
control of the sugar estates; one or two
of the more progressive estate
proprietors were switching to bananas
but in most cases their land was being
bought or leased by the local mercantile
class or by American syndicates
interested in banana plantations.81 In
Portland, and no doubt elsewhere, the
expansion of fruit growing was inflating
the price of land and placing much of it

even more beyond the reach of small
settlers.82 Still, in that parish, small
settlers had already begun to abandon
their cultivation of other crops for
bananas.8' But communications in this
parish were also difficult, and the
peasants' lands were mainly in the
mountainous interior. It was not until
the 1890s that a programme of road and
bridge building was undertaken to open
up the lands of the small banana
growers, and thus facilitate their full
participation in the trade.
Adverse physical conditions also
prevailed in St. Mary. Here, the
peasantry at this time seemed to have
participated little in the banana
industry. For one thing, ihey were 'shut
out' of the market for fruit. Steamers
were calling only irregularly at Port
Maria and Annotto Bay and the regular
traders were supplied by contract from
the banana plantations, leaving no room
for the small settlers' fruit. The settlers
it seems simply abandoned their
cultivation when it proved unrewarding,
just as they had turned their backs on
the sugar estates some time before. The
estates rapidly went out of production,
thus throwing out of work those still
dependent on them. For those estates
which still remained in operation
women and children were the only
labour available in St. Mary by 1883.84
The declining estates here as elsewhere
further affected the livelihood of the
peasant farmers since it reduced sales of
their crops to estate workers.
Climate and physical features also
contributed to the under-development
of St. Mary. Olivier points out that
unlike the white limestone areas of the
island which provided the best
environment for the settlement of the
ex-slaves "In the heavy clays of St. Mary
with great rainfall, the conditions for
small landowners' settlements have
been less favourable in health and
comfort, though the great fertility of the
soil has, especially since the develop-
ment of the banana trade, rendered
them prosperous". But unlike those in
the white limestone areas, the people of
St. Mary had no material at hand for
building houses or tanks (e.g. plaster
and marl); no handy road metal, no easy
cart roads. Transport over the heavy
clay soils and frequent streams proved
extremely difficult, and the less free
drainage was not as healthy."5
Thus even in a situation of global
under-development there were regional
disparities which, from the little
evidence available, contributed to the
large-scale migration from certain
areas, particularly from the eastern
The situation seems to have been
quite different in St. Ann which at the
time was the centre of fruit shipment. In
1883 when we are told that there is no
fruit trade and no estate labour in
neighboring St. Mary, this parish
reported no large-scale migration and
labour lucrativelyy employed in the fruit
trade',86 conditions which seem to have
prevailed for the entire period. Despite
seasonal fluctuation the peasantry
seemed to have enjoyed some measure

of stability in this parish.87 Apart from
its endowments of comparatively gentle
terrain, healthy climate and relatively
good communications, it is perhaps not
incidental that this was a parish where a
large number of the post-emancipation
church-sponsored free villages had been
established, providing perhaps a strong
element of stability, and where in an era
when the record of the sugar estates was
dismal, the coastal plantation still
While more or less heavy migration
occurred in other parishes, the process
seems simply to have siphoned off
surplus population from areas of
depression. This may have occurred
especially in St. Elizabeth which was
drought-stricken throughout the period:
in 1883 ground provisions were so
scarce they had to be 'imported' from
In Trelawny only one estate seems to
have suffered from a lack of labour; the
decade coincided with one of general
decay and recession throughout the
parish partly attributable to the general
decline of sugar production but also to
the decline of Falmouth as a major
shipping port as steam superceded
sail.89 In the interior mountainous
districts where the peasantry had
settled, production of 'wet sugar' on
simple 'John Crow Mills' was a lucrative
In Hanover, the estates seem to have
been little affected. At the start, many
able-bodied young men left for Colon,
but the parish was a traditional supplier
of yams and other ground provisions to
neighboring parishes, and soon many
people turned to growing these
provisions for shipment to Colon.
The drier southern parts of the
parishes of Clarendon and St.
Catherine, especially Vere, seem to
have been drained of able-bodied men
although until 1885 the tide of
emigration from these parishes and
from Manchester was partly stemmed
by the employment provided on the
extensions of the railway from Spanish
Town to Porus and to Ewarton.91
Paradoxically, however, the opening up
of the new areas by the railway served
to further draw people into Kingston
and thence, probably, to Colon. In other
parishes the drain on wage labour seems
to have contributed to some small rise
in wages but generally the effect on
employment appears to have been


But while the exodus at first consisted
of wage labour and artisans, the
peasants for various reasons were also
abandoning their cultivations for Colon
- as we have seen in the case of the
frustrated banana growers of Portland
and St. Mary. It was at this level that
seasonal effects were most observable,
for as crops failed from drought or other
reasons, people from the affected areas
would join the trek to Colon.
In a positive light the migration of the
peasant class can be seen as the desire

to earn enough cash abroad either to
maintain an acceptable standard of
living or to better their conditions at
In another sense, the migration of the
peasantry can be seen as the widespread
failure of the post-emancipation dream
of the ex-slaves and their missionary
supporters to establish a self-sufficient
peasantry?2 This is not to suggest that
the peasantry was not playing and did
not continue to play a most significant
role in the economic life of the country,
particularly in the production of food
crops for both the domestic market and
for export?3 By 1890, ground
provisions, produced exclusively by the
peasantry, accounted for 55 per cent of
total agricultural output?94 But the full
flowering of such efforts was being
increasingly frustrated by a number of
factors, mostly of an economic nature.
One of the reasons contributing to the
migration of the peasant class was the
shortage of land. The original freeholds
on which the former slaves had settled
were too small (under 5 acres)95 to
afford a livelihood for even their sons
and daughters, much less their
grand-children.96 Because of the
continual contraction of the sugar
estates the younger generations also had
fewer opportunities for either earning
wages or accumulating money by selling
produce with which they could
purchase land.7 Although by 1865,
nearly a million acres or two-fifths of
the whole island had gone out of
cultivation, the amount of land for sale
remained minimal, partly because of an
unwillingness to sell to the blacks, partly
because of the confusion surrounding
valid titles, partly because of the 'myth'
among Jamaican landowners of what an
economic unit of land should be?8 Thus
over the years the number of renters
and squatters increased. The renters
had no security of tenure and therefore
no incentive to improve their living
standards, and the squatters would have
found it expedient to turn their backs on
a society in which the only visible
representative of government was the
tax collector.
In 1867 had started a campaign of
repossessing land from squatters,99 a
process which threw more people out of
a livelihood. For it was not only the
government which was at the time
dispossessing squatters. In the face of
the new Land Titles Act, the big estate
owners also began to concern
themselves with asserting legal tenure
over unused acreage.
When in 1880 the overseer of Worthy
Park estate ordered a survey of
Thetford Crawle (part of the estate
the map showed that the narrow
pockets, amounting to no more than a
quarter of the Crawle's 667 acres,
were being farmed by at least forty
squatters. These 'settlers', three of
whom were women, mostly lived in
huts close to the main Ewarton road,
and some of them even grew coffee
and coconuts as well as ground provi-
sions on their one or two acres of
land. The neighboring areas belong-

ing wholly to Worthy Park were also
found to be heavily infiltrated and
some of these were cleared.100
A 'ruthless campaign' of clearing later
took place between the 1890s and 1914.
Some of the dispossessed were
pushed even further into the
unworkable hills, some leased govern-
ment lands elsewhere, "but many
crowded down into Shady Grove-Lluidas
Vale village to swell the hopeless, and
often sullen, force of 'free wage
labourers' working, if at all, for only four
or five months of the year'.'10 Given
these alternatives it could be that those
evicted from Worthy Park and other
estates all over Jamaica in the interests
of legality in the 1880s joined the trek to
Colon to at least obtain the means to
start life anew.
But land hunger must be seen as only
one of a host of factors which pressured
the peasant class to leave. Crop failures,
inadequate transport and marketing
arrangements for export crops and\pr
low prices for such crops; the inability
to maintain a spirit of independence in
the face of economic uncertainties were
among the other factors. Finally, there
was the high system of taxation which
pressed heaviest on the peasant and
which both absorbed whatever cash
surplus he could accumulate as it
worked against any effort aimed at
improving his condition.
In a sense, the 'pull' of Colon, if pull it
were, underscored the fragile economic
base of the peasantry. For the lives of
these people "were liable to be affected
by the slightest disturbance of
established arrangements. Low prices,
falling markets, droughts, hurricanes,
epidemics, any one of them was
sufficient to weaken or remove
altogether their normal means of
subsistence".102 These describe precise-
ly the varying conditions of the 1880s.
The 19th century Jamaican lived a
hand-to-mouth existence most of the
mulattoes and whites were poor too.s03
Virtually no institutions existed to
provide relief or assistance in times of
distress.'04 The low prevailing price of
sugar affected not only the large land
owners but small proprietors in the
interior. Of course, those with the least
were affected most by hard times. If
weather conditions were favourable, the
farmer and his family could provide for
both the domestic and foreign market
and have enough to eat. When the
weather was poor, many lived on the
edge of starvation, for there was no
surplus to carry them over from one
crop to the next.'s0 Under such
-conditions the promise of wages even in
a foreign land would have been a
tempting prospect.
The opening of the canal works and
the call for labourers coincided with the
end of a period of food scarcity and
extreme poverty largely attributable to
drought (1880-1). Although conditions
improved afterwards such improvement
must have been fostered by remittances
from abroad, for adverse weather
conditions continued for most of the
Drought and its consequences

continued for another four years over
most of the island but particularly the
south. The years 1885-6 were
particularly bad ones for the eastern
end. Drought was followed by severe
hurricanes, floods, and a smallpox
epidemic which quarantined the port of
Kingston, stopping traffic with Colon
and consequently reducing severely the
amount of money in circulation. Export
of food crops to Colon also stopped.06
The period coincided with the
temporary cessation of work on the
Canal which further contributed to the
hardships of those there.
In the east there were floods
December 1-5 and December 22-24,
1884 and June 1885, followed by a
hurricane on 20 August. St. Thomas had
almost continuous floods for two
months which carried away livestock
and destroyed provision grounds and
caused loss of life. St. Thomas was also
one of the parishes (with Kingston and
St. Andrew) hit by the smallpox
epidemic which affected 7,272 people
and clained 799 lives. In Portland,
rainfall in December 1885 was 230
inches and for the entire island was
three times the average, representing
the highest on record.'-7 In St. Mary
there was such destruction of the
banana plantations that it resulted in
"sudden and entire suspension of the
fruit trade".'08
Such times were only the low points
of general bad times. While there were
variations from parish to parish,
throughout the decade the prevailing
conditions were general depression in
trade, decline in sugar production (the
price of sugar reached a low point in
1884) and other export crops. The
upturn attributable to the development
of the fruit trade and migration to Latin
America was not felt until the end of the
The growers of coffee which was
once a plantation crop but by this
period was cultivated almost exclusively
by small settlers were affected both
by drought and prevailing low prices.
The same conditions affected pimento
which was grown in roughly the same
area the central region embracing
the mountainous backbone of the
parishes of Manchester, Clarendon, St.
Catherine and St. Ann. Coffee was also
still grown extensively in the mountains
of St. Andrew. The coffee growers more
and more abandoned their plantings
and migrated.109 The migration not only
reduced output but affected the entire
coffee culture since the new plantings
and care of existing cultivation was
neglected, thus further reducing the
yield from the crop. In 1886-7 coffee
prices started to rise but there was
smaller acreage in cultivation.o1
While coffee culture was failing in
Manchester and Upper Clarendon
especially, efforts were being made in
these areas to cultivate oranges for
export to the United States. By the end
of the eighties such efforts had failed,
largely it seems through lack of steamer
facilities but also probably because the
growers had no knowledge of grading or
quality control and the Jamaican fruit

which actually reached the market was
often of a very poor quality which
helped further to depress the trade."1
For a while employment was
available on the railway extension for
workers from St. Catherine, Clarendon
and Manchester, but this work was
completed in 1885. A great many people
employed on the project did not return
to cultivation but migrated to Colon.112
Even at the best of times the
ambitious peasant farmer was finding
that he needed to produce more than
could satisfy his immediate needs. If for
nothing else he needed cash to satisfy
the tax collector either in the form of
direct taxes or indirectly through his
purchase of imported goods which were
heavily taxed. In a sense, he had no
choice in feeding his aspirations and
ambition but migration.
If he used what little cash he
accumulated to improve his house it
immediately attracted a higher rate of
tax (a house tax levied for poor relief).
A, floored house attracted a higher rate
and some who could not afford the tax
or refused to pay it would pull out the
flooring and go back to sleeping on the
earthen floor.113 If he did not own land,
and this was frequently the case near to
the towns where little land was available
for sale, he would erect a flimsy
structure with no incentive for
improving it. Many such structures were
left abandoned on the way to Colon -
as the tax collector found out."1
Taxes were also demanded for land,
for any wheeled vehicle, for horses,
mules; licences had to be paid by
pedlars and hawkers; there were spirits
A view of Culebra cut from Harper' Weekly of July 4,
difficult work."

licences and market fees. Sir Anthony
Musgrave, Colonial Governor from
1877-83 saw the need to point out to an
English audience that "The great mass
of consumers who furnish the revenue,
raised almost entirely by duties on
imports and excise, are not labourers on
sugar estates. ...."". Nor were they the
estate owners:
As the sources of revenue now stand
it may be seen that property is
scarcely taxed at all; the revenue for
general purposes of government
being raised entirely from indirect
taxation on the consumption of the
mass of the residents, and chiefly of
the Negro population the absent
proprietors of sugar estates or other
property escaping altogether; of the
228 sugar properties now under
cultivation, 114 are owned by persons
who make no pretence at residence in
the Colony and except in the small
amounts collected for parochial
purposes, such as poor relief and
parochial roads, are subject to no
direct tax whatsoever.
It is obvious .... that the mass of the
negro population of which, as I
have said, no more than five per cent
are employed by the sugar estates -
are the real suppliers of the public
revenue, and supporters of the public
institutions of the colony.11
The highest rates proportionately of
import duties were levied on precisely
those items most consumed by the
masses flour, cornmeal, rice, salt fish,
kerosene oil, soap and cotton dress
goods. Thus the developing tastes of
the people were discouraged; so was

any variety in diet. The peasant ate
mostly the food he produced,
supplemented by imported starches
when ground provisions were short. In
normal times consumption of imported
food was low: in 1878 Jamaicans spent
one pound two shillings and three pence
per head on imported food per annum,
compared to over four pounds in
Trinidad.112 It was ironic that it was
precisely during hard times, when food
was scarce, that the people had to
depend on imported food and were thus
liable to indirect taxes.
The actual sums payable in taxes
represented a large proportion of the
cash income of any individual, and if
times were hard, a man's indebtedness
to the government could accumulate.
This government was not averse to
seizing and selling at auction the scanty
possessions of even the poorest in the
land as payment for taxes.120 Thus many
were no doubt driven to Colon in order
to pay (or evade) taxes.
Social factors
Still others may merely have wished
to escape the confines of a society in
which the rigidities of class and colour
were all-pervading, where fifty years
after Emancipation the black had failed
to gain from the rest of the society
recognition of his freedom, his
autonomy, or his humanness; and where
to all accounts race prejudice was
rapidly intensifying.121 For "the slave
regime was dead but its spirit haunted
the land. The planters maintained their
old proud attitude, refusing to
acknowledge the higher status of the

1885 bears out de Lessep's statement to an American Naval Intelligence officer that "it is a great and

negro, and treating him in a manner
which began to be keenly resented".149
Racial antagonism and hostility were
greatest at the point where the races
intersected and this was on the sugar
estates or in the domestic environment.
In this latter sphere "the lash of the
tongue has been substituted for the lash
of the whip"'12 but its effects were the
The late 19th century world of the
average Jamaican was narrowly
circumscribed. For the more stable
elements of the population the
boundaries of this world were church, a
few books such as the Bible and a
Sankey hymnal for the literate. But
transportation between even adjoining
towns was sometimes so difficult,
communications so impossible124 that
each settlement lived in a world broken
only by church-going and market-day
when news and gossip could be
exchanged in the nearest town. For the
vast majority of the people there were
no roads, no bridges, no water supplies,
no shops, no lights, no medical care, no
drugs, no schools, no books, no
newspapers. In late-Victorian Jamaica,
bread was still considered a luxury:
many had never seen it. The dietary of
the people consisted of food they grew
themselves and imported starches and
pickled meat and fish. The consumption
of fresh meat had begun to grow in the
eighties but would still have been a
luxury beyond the means of most
One of the most degrading aspects of
19th century life was the lack of medical
care. Nine out of ten persons in rural
Jamaica died without medical attention;
in Kingston the proportion was slightly
less. At around the time that national
hero Alexander Bustamante was born
for every 100 children born, 26 would
die before reaching the age of five, 16 of
them before reaching one year.127
Nearly one-third of all registered deaths
in Kingston were of children under one
year:128 the unregistered rate must have
been much higher. Medical expenditure
per head of population per annum was
one shilling and sixpence (compared to
three shillings and two pence in
Trinidad and two shillings and
eight pence in British Guiana). In some
parishes the rate was much lower in
the parishes of Westmoreland and St.
Ann in 1884 it was eightpence.129 Each
parish had a hospital but these were
structures and facilities of the most
rudimentary kind; epidemics were
treated on an ad hoc basis. When the
smallpox epidemic broke out in 1886-7,
where a case was reported the District
Medical Officer went to the spot and
"arranged an hospital hut which was of
a simple inexpensive nature of thatch,
wattles, native stick, and floored
generally to contain from six to eight
persons divided into male and female
divisions". These "field hospitals" were
destroyed when finished with.'30
Most parishes had only one
government medical officer. In St.
Elizabeth for instance, this meant a
ratio of 1:18,000 people; in some dis-
tricts a doctor was never seen. The

diseases treated in the hospitals in order
of frequency fevers, ulcers, rheu-
matism, and syphillis indicated a high
degree of environmental and prevent-
able diseases. Ulcers requiring hospitali-
sation frequently originated from simple
wounds and scratches which degenerat-
ed from lack of proper attention. In the
rainy season, malaria was endemic in
low-lying areas.
The conditions under which the
people lived contributed to the high
incidence of disease.
The dwellings were ordinarily of the
most primitive character. The majori-
ty of the peasant class lived in one-
room huts, constructed of bamboo
wattles, interlaced, and smeared with
mud, and roofed with grass or palm
leaves or the trash of the sugar cane.
The inhabitants of the towns huddled
together in small rooms in common
yards, or in rude hovels on the out-
The tenements of Kingston were des-
cribed as "With very few exceptions ....
unfit for anything but to breed disease.
They are often mere walls with a roof,
an earthen floor, and sometimes a piece
of cloth for a door. It is not uncommon
for four, five, and even six persons to
occupy a room nine feet square".132
Since Emancipation the city had
begun to attract people from the rest of
the country but employment opportuni-
ties were not only few but were
contracting. The children of the poor
foraged for food. Bven the simplest
attempts at sanitation were lacking.
Kingston was described as a "populated

sewer". 133
The poor peasants or more usually
their womenfolk would walk 20-30
miles over rough trails to the city
markets. There they would sleep in the
filthy yards and open piazzas, before
beginning the long trek home again.
The people of Jamaica knew that
there were worlds outside their island
home but what type of world was
beyond the comprehension of many.
Without schools, without books,
without tutelage, without information of
even the most rudimentary kind their
lives remained curtained by darkness.
Such knowledge as they had was often
imparted by the church and more than
likely the 19th century Jamaican knew
far more about the precise contours of
Heaven than about the earth which he
shared with the rest of humanity.
The state of ignorance described not
only the poorer classes but reflected the
bankrupt state of the whole society. The
former slave entered a 'free' society but
that society was unwilling or unable to
teach him anything by precept or
example. Jamaica's intellectual or
technological 'enlightenment' did not
begin until the 1890s with the expansion
of communications, the holding of the
Jamaican Exhibition, the formation of
the Jamaica Agricultural Society and so
on. The Exhibition itself introduced to
Jamaicans many wonders, stimulated
the tourist trade and brought in new
segments of the population which,
finding a society which must have given
the appearance of dynamism, elected to

"ANative Hut on the Windward Road past Rockfort" by Duperley, (c 1899) illustrates the harshness of
life, particularly in the dry southern areas of the island.
This posed picture was first published in 'i Reeek f the Wet Indls, unwittingly illustrates the hard life
of the Jamaican peasant.

Until that time, the society offered
neither intellectual stimulation nor
resources or skills of even the most
elementary kind. Even the knowledge
that Jamaicans had of tilling the soil
came out of their collective racial
unconscious of African peasant habits.
On the whole they practised slash and
burn agriculture, the machete, hoe, and
fire their only implements. A tool as
simple as the garden fork was not
introduced until the turn of the century
through the efforts of the Jamaica
Agriculture Society.35
In the' final analysis, if the Colon
experience did nothing else, it enabled
the Jamaican of the 19th century to
open up yet another window on to the
wider world.

1. In this article Colon is used in referring to the
goal of the migrants. It was so used in con-
temporary accounts and is retained for con-
venience. At the time of the Republic of Pana-
ma did not exist. 'Panama' thus refers only to
the City of Panama. 'The Isthmus' is used to
refer to the strip of land running from Colon
on the Atlantic to Panama on the Pacific.
2. Star and Herald, (Panama) 6 April, 1889.
3. While this article deals only with Jamaicans,
the 19th century 'Colon experience' was shar-
ed by thousands of other British West Indians
as well as labourers from the French West
Indies, as was the case during the U.S. Canal
construction. However, little information was
available at the time of research on these other
nationalities. Jamaicans were by far the
largest national group on the French canal. It
seems that the second largest group of British
West Indians there was the St. Lucians.
4. Star and Herald, various issues March-May
1889; Governor's Report on the Blue Book
and Departmental Reports (hereafter cited as
GRBB) 1888-9: 2,197 were repatriated
apparently without conditions; 3,632 had
luggage retained until they repaid the passage
money; 1.417 were repatriated under bond to
repay the cost of passage after arrival in
5. GRBB 1888-9.
6. George Roberts, The Population of Jamaica,
Cambridge University Press, 1957.
7. Gisella Eisner, Jamaica 1830-1930, A Study in
... Economic Growth, Manchester University
Press, 1961, Press, 1961, p. 147.
8. GRBB, various years.
9. See Olive'Senior, "Jamaicans and the Panama
Railroad 1850-55", unpublished manuscript,
10. Star and Herald, 18 December, 1882.
11. For example, H.G. "Funny Murray", a
popular entertainer whose repertoire seems to
have consisted of skits and verses in Jamaican
dialect. He performed frequently on the Isth-
mus and at the same time gathered material
there for new skits such as "Uncle Dober in
Colon" which he performed in Jamaica. Daily
Gleaner and DeCordova's Advertising Sheet
(hereafter cited as Gleaner) various issues,
1883. He died suddenly in Colon on 13 March
1886. Star and Herald.
12. Star and Herald, 15 December 1883.
13. Star and Herald, 15 December 1883.
14. This practice was prohibited by the City
Council of Kingston in 1883. Star and Herald,
17 November 1883.
15. Migration reached a peak in 1911-21 when
77,000 Jamaicans left their homeland (See
Eisner. Jamaica 1830-1930, p. 147). Between
the late 19th and early 20th centuries,
Jamaican workers could be found on the
Isthmus (canal construction), Bocas del Toro,
Costa Rica, Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala
(banana and cocoa plantations), most other
states in Latin America for railway buildings,
chicle, logwood and other plantation enter-
prises; Cuba (sugar); Aruba (construction of
the oil refinery) and, of course, the United
16. Colon Starlet (Panama), 27 September, 1906.
17. Colonial Standard (Jamaica) quoted in Star
and Herald, 17 May 1887.
18. Report on Trade and Agriculture and Report

of Collector of Taxes, bound together with
Governors Report on the Blue Book (GRBB)
and cited as such.
19. Douglas Hall, Free Jamaia; 1838-1865, An
Economic History, Yale University Press,
1959; Report of the Commissioners of Inquiry
upon the conditions of the Juvenile Population
of Jamaica. Jamaica Government Printer
20. G. Roberts, Population of Jamaica, p. 87.
21. GRBB 1883; Gleaner, various issues 1883.
22. GRBB 1883, p. 83.
23. Bound with GRBB 1884.
24. GRBB 1883, p. xviii.
25. Star and Herald, 27 November, 1883.
26. Star and Herald, 4 May 1883.
27. Star and Herald, 28 December 1885.
28. It could be that the women' 'independence'
came from remittances from their men
abroad. In any event, the coal women had the
most back-breaking work in Jamaica: they
were the ones who carried the coal on to the
ships which were fuelled manually at the time.
The loads of coal carried on their heads -
weighed 80-100 lbs. The coal women were
still operating in the 20th century.
29. Report on the Juvenile Population, especially
Notes of Evidence, p. 5.
30. Report on the Juvenile Population, Appendix
B, p. 41.
31. Report on the Juvenile Population, Appendix
B, p. 9.
32. The Colon Starlet (3 October 1907) quoted
Dun's International Review that at Colon the
wholesale business was controlled by 19
importing firms selling wholesale and retail.
Of this number, 7 were Chinese, 1 or two from
the United States, the rest were from Jamaica
largely of Jewish or Spanish descent. Small
retail trade was controlled by the Chinese,
many of whom came during the French con-
struction. In Panama City commercial
interests were controlled by 30 importing
houses doing wholesale and retail business.
Some of the largest commercial houses were
conducted by Jamaicans, many of whom had
been on the Isthmus for years. The business
connections with Jamaica seem also to have
been solidified through marriage among the
Panama and Jamaican families.
33. A British Vice Consul in Panama claimed that
nearly all male inhabitants were more or less
conversant with English which was acquired
first from the frequent communication
formerly carried on with Jamaica, later with
the Americans. Charles Toll Bidwell, The
Isthmus of Panama, 1865, p. 233.
34. Gleaner, 22 June, 1883.
35. GRBB, 1883.
36. This was certainly the case with many
migrants in the 20th century. Interviews by
author with migrants, Republic of Panama,
37. Gleaner, 7 May 1883.
38. GRBB 1881-2, p. xvi.
39. GRBB 1884, p. xi.
40. Lieut. W.W. Kimball, USN, Special Intlli-
gence Report on Progress of the Work on the
Panama Canal During the Year 1885, 49th
Congress, House of Representatives, First
Session, Misc. Doc. No. 395, Wash.: Govern-
meni Printing Office, 1886, pp. 22-25.
Kimball noted the workers' habit of returning
home to spend what they accumulated and
claimed that the constant changes of men
employed were encouraged by many reasons:
improvident nature of some of the men, by
forethought of others who decide to leave
before they are killed by the climate; by the
profit of transporting them to and fro by the
steamship companies; by the poor quality and
high price of provisions; by the exorbitant
rates charged for small drafts by the bankers;
by the lack of sufficient guarantee for hospital
attendance; and by fear arising from political
disturbances (pp. 25-6).
"The Eastern holidays", the French Bulletin
complained in 1887 .... "have stripped the
canal works of a great many labourers, almost
all from the Antilles, who have goneahomelor
a vacation. For a long time the company has
been calling the contractors' attention to the
evils resulting from .... the ease with which
workmen can return to their own countries in
i few days." Quoted in G. Mach, The Land
Divided, N.Y., 1944, pp. 339-40.
41. Star and Herald, 5 May 1884.
42. GRBB, 1884, p. 107.
43. It should be noted that there was a constant

though small stream of migrants to Latin
America from the time of the building of the
Panama Railroad in the 1850s, after which
some Jamaicans had settled on the Isthmus.
Jamaicans had started to migrate to Costa
Rica in increasing numbers from 1872 for
work on the Costa Rican railway, many lured
off by extravagant promises of recruiters.
They too helped to reinforce the 'flashy' Latin
American image:
The people who go to Honduras, Port
Limon &c leave children behind ...
They seldom come back; most of them
die there. Still some of them do come
back with money. Now and again you see
a great swell with a watch and gold
chain, a revolver pistol, red sash, big
boots up to his knees, who swaggers
about for a week or two then disappears.
Of course that has the effect of making
others go there.
evidence before the Commission of
Inquiry on the Condition of the Juvenile
Population of Jamaica, p. 96.
44. Gleaner, 27 March, 1883.
45. Galls News Letter quoted in Star and Herald,
23 March, 1885.
46. There were 13 outports at the time but
steamers seemed to have called erratically at
all but the Port of Kingston.
47. No. of letters dispatched to Colombia:
1881-2 21,141
1882-3 41,919
1883-4 82,088
Source: GRBB, 1884
48. In 1881 the proportion of the population able
to read and write was 22.8 per cent and in
some parishes it was much less, e.g. for St.
Thomas and St. Mary it was little over 14 per
cent. Roberts, Population of Jamaica, p. 78,
Table 20.
49. GRBB
50. GRBB 1887-8.
51. For example, Report on the Juvenile Popula-
tion, Appendix B, p. 16; Lord Olivier, Jamaica
the Blessed Island, London: Faber and Faber,
52. It is interesting to speculate that because the
road network in Jamaica at the time serviced
the sugar estates almost exclusively, estate
workers were the rural folk most accessible to
recruiters and therefore were among the first
and easiest to be attracted away.
53. For example, GRBB 1881-2, p. xvii; 1884,
p. xi.
54. In 1883 it was reported that Jamaican proprie-
tors in England planned to bring the matter of
the emigration to the attention of the Secre-
tary of State for the Colonies (Star and
Herald, 10 June 1883). Meetings were fre-
quently held in Jamaica by the planters at
which resolutions on the labour question were
passed (e.g. Star and Herald 27 November,
1883. A prolonged discussion on the labour
question took place in 1883 at the Royal
Colonial Institute Club in London. The pro-
ceedings were reported in the Gleaner 21-26
July, 1883.
55. Sir Anthony Musgrave to the Royal Colonial
Institute Club in London. See footnote above.
56. Gleaner, 22 June, 1883: In St. Thomas "some
managers .... are pursuing a course to drive
them away, turning them out of their homes
and giving them notice to give up their provi-
sion grounds."
57. W. Sewell, The Ordeal of Free Labour in the
West Indles, New York: Harper and Brothers,
1861, p. 278.
58. James Anthony Froude, The English in the
West Indies, New York: Charles Scribner
and Sons, 1906, p. 250.
59. GRBB, 1881-9. These rates prevailed until
60. W.P. Livingstone, Black Jamaica, London:
Sampson, Low, Marston and Co., 1900, p.
61. GRBB, 1888-9.
62. GRBB 1883. Because of the requirement of
providing hospital services for indentured
immigrants, those parishes with such workers
were better provided with medical facilities
than elsewhere.
63. GRBB 1884. This is in comparison with the
post-Emancipation policy of chopping down
fruit trees or frequently shifting villages on
estates to deny native labourers the yield of
these trees. This was part of a deliberate
policy to prevent labourers becoming self-
sufficient and forcing them into dependency

on wage labour on the estates. See for
example, Olivier, Blessed Island.
64. See Report of Immigration Department
GRBB 1887-8 for report of arrival of in-
dentured immigrants in Calcutta. e.g. Dover
Estate in St. Mary purchased by a former
indentured East Indian immigrant in the
1880s fork 2,700. (GRBB 1888-9, p. 191). See
also K.O. Laurence, Immigration Into the
West Indles, In the 19th Century, Caribbean
Universities Press, 1971, p. 58.
65. For example Laurence, Immigration into the
West Indies, p. 54.
66. Gleaner, 23 July 1883.
67. Livingstone, Black Jamaica, p. 178.
68. Gleaner, 21 July 1, 1883.
69. GRBB 1883. This letter area was about eight
miles from Bath. In 1879 there were four
estates there. It is interesting to note that the
Plantain Garden River Valley was an area of
settlement by the Free African migrants who
came in the post-emancipation period. (See
Monica Schuler, "The Experience of African
Immigrants in 19th century Jamaica", Fourth
Conference of Caribbean Historians, UWI,
Mona, April 9-14, 1972.) It would be interest-
ing to discover whether those of direct African
ongn were among the emigrants, or whether
the natural fertility of the area supported
adequate peasant activity so that no labour
was available for the estates. This latter view
would be supported by Olivier who argued
that this was one of the post-emancipation
areas of settlement where conditions were
relatively good for the labourers because of
natural fertility of the soil and the close proxi-
mity of mountain lands for settlement. See
Olivier, Blessed Island, p. 136.
70. GRBB, 1883.
71. GRBB, 1883.
72. Olivier, Blessed Island, p. 183.
73. The last prisoners taken during the Morant
Bay event were released from prison 18 March
74. Report ou the Juvenile Population, Evidence
App. Cp. 15.
75. GRBB, 1888-9.
76. E.M. Bacon and E.M. Aaron, The New
Jamalea, New York: Walbridge and Co., 1890
77. Gleaner, 11 July 1883.
78. Gleaner, 10 March, 1883.
79. Gleaner, 21 August, 1883.
80. GRBB, 1884.
81. For example, Ansell Hart, "The Banana in
Jamaica Export Trade", Social and Economic
Studies, Vol. 3, No. 2, 1954; Douglas Hall,
Ideas and Illustrations in Economic History,
N.Y.; Holt Rinehart Inc., 1964; Bacon and
Aaron, The New Jamaica (p. 158) gave the
following as Boston Fruit Company holdings
in 1888 (acreage in brackets is estimated):
Bowden (400); Phillipsfield, Williamsfield,
Unity Vale, Elysium (1,000); Seaman's Valley
(1,000); Hermitage (560); Wyant, Upper Lay-
ton, Red Hassell (2,000); Wentworth, Look-
out, Fellowship, Prospect, Hermitage, Wind-
sor, Paradise, Wheelersfield, Plantai Garden
(450-900); Fairy Hill, Boundbrook (1,800);
Golden Vale (3,500). The company also leased
Spring Gardens and four other estates, in
addition to their shipping places where they
also owned properties.
82. Hart, "The Banana in Jamaica Export
Trade"; Bacon and Aaron, The New Jamaica,
p. 163; GRBB, 1883.
83. GRBB, 1883. Prices to the settler were low. He
had to accept whatever price was offered since
Boston Fruit Company had started cultivation
of fruit on an extensive scale and were also
exporters. (GRBB, 1888-9).
84. GRBB, 1883.
85. Olivier, Blessed Island, pp. 47-8.
86. GRBB, 1883.
87. GRBB, various years; Report on the Juvenile
88. GRBB 1883 tells us "The parish has not
suffered much from the exodus to Colon on
account of there being so few estates." See
also C.S. Salmon,; The Crown Colonies of
Great Britainl An Inquiry Into their Social
Conditions and Methods of Administration,
London: Cassell and Co., 1880.
89. In the 1880s Falmbuth ceased to be the lead-
ing commercial port on the northside. St.
Ann's Bay then became the chief depot for
goods imported into the northside by
steamers. GRBB, 1881-2.
90. GRBB, 1883. The production of 'head' or
'wet' sugar on primitive mills was a major

activity of the hill settlers. In 1873, there were
5,415 small mills of which 5,174 were operated
by horse power and 340 depended on manual
labour (Charles Rampini, Letters from
Jamaica the Land of Streams and Wood,
Edinburgh; Edmonson and Douglas, 1873,
p.69). The early wooden mills were called
"John Crow Mills" from the fact that so many
mules died from them, thus attracting John
Crows. Anew improved model was introduced
at the Exhibition of 1891, known thereafter as
"Exhibition" mills. Department of Statistics:
A Fact a Day about Jamaica No. 147 (1946).
Many small children sent to operate these
primitive mills frequently lost one or both
upper limbs through accidents with them.
(Report on the Juvenile Population.)
91. An average of 5,000 was employed on the rail-
way extensions.
92. Though the missionaries did not see the free
villages as an alternative to wage labour. See
S. Mintz, "Historical Sociology of the Jamai-
can Church Founded Free Village System",
De Nueve West Indische Glds, 38, 1958, p. 48.
93. See for example G. Eisner, Jamaica 1830-
1930; Livingstone, Black Jamaica; Oliver,
Blessed Island, for the contribution of peasant
agriculture to the economy.
94. Eisner, Jamaica 1830-1930, p. 170.
95. For Example Eisner, Jamaica 1830-1930
p. 217. In Hanover the average was 2 acres.
96. Report on the Juvenile Population.
97. Olivier, Blessed Island, p. 196.
98. Olivier, Blessed Island, p. 141.
99. G. Eisner, Jamaica 1830-1930, pp. 221-223.
100. Michael Craton and James Walvin, A Jamai-
can Plantation, A History of Worthy Park
1670-1970, London: W.H. Allen, p. 251.
101. Craton and Walvin, A Jamaican Plantation,
p. 254.
102. Livingstone, Black Jamaica, p. 56.
'103. For Example, Craton and Walvin, A amalcan
Plantation, p. 225. George Eaton, Alexander
Bustamante and Modern amaica, Kingston
Publishers, 1975, pp. 4-9; Report on the
Juvenile Population.
104. The Poor Relief Department from all accounts
provided only the most minimal relief. See
e.g., Beryl Brown, "The History of Portland,
1723-1917", Jamaica Journal, Vol. 9, No. 4,
for the operations of poor relief in that parish.
105. At a public enquiry held at Lititz Moravian
Mission, St. Elizabeth in 1886 it came out that
the area had suffered drought for 6-7 years
and that for seven months of the year the
people were entirely dependent on imported
food. Salmon, Crown Colonies, pp. 93-99.
106. GRBB, 1885-6.
107. Handbook of Jamaica, 1890-91.
108. GRBB, 1885-6.
109. For instance, in 1884 the migration from St.
Andrew was greatest from districts where
drought had been most severe, e.g. the lower
part of the parish where coffee cultivation had
been most affected. (GRBB 1884.) In St.
Catherine in 1883 "On account of the low
prices prevailing for settlers coffee, for some
time past, a great many of the small planters
have abandoned their cultivation and
emigrated". (GRBB 1883.) In 1884 it was not-
ed that settlers were abandoning their cultiva-
tion and migrating because of the drought of
the last four years. (GRBB). The GRBB
(1881-2) noted that diminished consumption
and lessened revenue from import duties
may in some degree be traced to part failure of
coffee "as it is known that the comfortable or
straitened circumstances of a very large pro-
portion of the peasantry and better sort
among them depend upon the coffee crop
more than that of sugar." (p. vvx). In 1884 the
decrease in parochial road taxes collected in
Manchester aid Clarendon was attributed to
the less prosperous condition of the peasantry
consequent on the low prices of coffee and
pimento. (GRBB).
110. Coffee production in 1882 was 22,842 but in
1887 was only 17,462. Handbook of Jamaica
111. Livingstone, Black Jamaica.
112. GRBB, 1886-7.
113. For example. Report on the Juvenile Popula-
tion; Livingstone, Black Jamaica, p. 106.
114. GRBB, 1885-6.
115. GRBB, 1883, According to the Report on the
Juvenile Population, high market fees were
contributing to vagrancy as a class of people
who were otherwise unemployed could not
take up vending because of the fees. Taxation

included property tax on cultivated land (3d
an acre) parochial road taxes: on horsekind,
horned stock, livery, asses, wheels, waggons
and carts, hackney carriages. There were
taxes on firearms, poor rates, spirits, hawkers
and trades licences. Kingston also had fire,
water and gas rates to be paid. It should also
not be forgotten that poor people were often
subject to fines in petty sessions and district
courts (GRBB 1883). There were also anoma-
lies in the law: "If a man has two houses, with
only one acre of land attached to both, he
would have to pay six shillings on each house,
although neither would be taxed beyond two
shillings without the acre of land". Evidence
from public servant to the Commission on the
Juvenile Population, p. 57 appendix C.
116. Quoted in Olivier, Blessed Island; p. 216.
117. Quoted in Olivier. Blessed Island, p. 217.
118. Olivier, Blessed Island, p. 249.
119. Olivier, Blessed Island. By the end of the
period the tastes of the people were being
transformed through both the Panama
experience and the American influence via the
banana industry. GRBB, 1888-9.
120. At an enquiry held at Lititz, Manchester in
January 1886 by J.T. Palache, member of the
Legislative Council it came out that while the
poor of the area were being denied relief they
were "held liable for taxes, though suffering
greatly from extreme destitution. In one case,
that of Robert Dennys, a very old blind man,
unable to work and very poor, his table and
chairs were sold for surcharge of taxes." Sal-
mon, Crown Colonies, p. 99.
121. Eisner, Jamaia 1830-1930, p. 154. Living-
stone, Black Jamaica, p. 56.
122. Livingstone, Black Jamaica, p. 56.
123. Livingstone, Black Jamaica, p. 167.
124. R.F. Williams in his autobiography, R.F.
Looks Back (1972) tells us that when his father
brought his mother back to Jamaica (in the
1880s) "it took three days in a buggy, with
three spells of horses to get from Porus (where
the railway stopped) first to Mandeville, where
they spent the night, then to Gilnock to St.
Elizabeth, where the Kew Park carriage met
them for the final journey to Kew Park" (in
the hills of Westmoreland).
125. The influence on diet of the exposure to Colon
and the banana trade was apparently quite
obvious from the eighties. See GRBB, 1888-9.
126. GRBB, 1883. The Registrar of Deaths at
Lititz. St. Elizabeth,said in 1886 that during
his stay of nine years there, only one case was
attended in the 'last illness' by the District
Medical Officer. Salmon, Crown Colonies,
p. 98. In the census of 1891, there were 93
doctors and 12 dentists in Jamaica. Eisner,
Jamaica 1830-1930. Lack of European medi-
cal care contributed to a resurgence of African
healing methods, e.g. myalism and obeah.
The 1880s were the heyday of such luminaries
as "The Prophet of Haddo", the most im-
portant obeahman in the west. (Gleaner, 25
August 1882.) It was also the time of vision-
aries, healers and prophets such as Shake-
speare who handed over his mantle to one who
would become greater than he, the prophet
Bedward of August Town. Bedward was in
fact among those who had migrated to Colon
in search of work but returned home to his
true mission after a vision there in 1885.
A. Brooks, History of Bedwardism In Jamaica,
Kingston, 1917, p. 6.
127. GRBB. 1884: 1887-8.
128. GRBB, 1887-8.
129. GRBB, 1884.
130. GRBB, 1887-8, p. 125.
131. Livingstone, Black Jamaica, p. 51.
132. Report on the Juvenile Population, p. 27.
133. Star and Herald, 19 July 1882 quoting from a
correspondent in the Gleaner.
134. For example, the Syrians are supposed to have
first come to Jamaica for this Exhibition.
Colin G. Clarke, Kingston, Jamaica, Urban
Growth and Social Change, 1692-1962,
Berkeley, University of California Press, 1975.
p. 34.
135. R.F. Williams: R.F. Looks Back, p. 22.
The Lambs River Branch of the Agricultural
Society, a mile from Kew Park, was one of the
earliest branches formed, and my father
brought to the district and demonstrated the
use of the first agricultural fork in the district.
Up till then a machete and a stronger and
heavier type of hoe locally made and called a
"Jammer" were the only kinds of agricultural
tools and machinery.

Captured German material from World War 1 on display at the Military Museum.

-i-- ----~-

Revolt of the

British West India



Black soldiers of the British West Indies
Regiment, while stationed at Taranto,
Italy, in December of 1918, revolted in
protest of racist restrictions which had
been foisted upon them by the War
Office. From 50 to 60 of the men were
arrested, charged with mutiny, and
sentenced. Eight battalions-some eight
thousand men-were disarmed. The
uprising prefigured insurrections that
took place the. following year in British
Honduras and Trinidad. It stimulated
the development of black nationalism in
the British Caribbean.
In its division of ranks between black
enlisted men and white officers, the
British West Indies Regiment duplicat-
ed the antagonistic relationship of
colonial society between black labour
and white capital. When recruited, the
black men were told by colonial
officials that they would receive the
same pay, training, and equipment as
other British troops, and that they
would have the possibility of promotion.
But as the War Office would not accept
blacks as officers in the Regiment, black
advancement could not extend beyond
the rank of sergeant.
The enlisted men were hemmed in
not only in relation to their officers but
also in relation to many of their
fellow-British soldiers. For example,
one tired group of men, on
disembarking in Egypt, marched to a
Y.M.C.A. hut, singing Rule Britannia.
There other British soldiers quickly
dispelled their patriotic spirit: "Who
gave you niggers authority to sing that?"
they were asked. "Clear out of this
building-only British troops admitted
The relations of the British West
Indies Regiment with other troops were
"just as strained as those between white
and black in the U.S.A.," according to a
sergeant in Egypt, "with this difference,
that over there wrongs can be redressed
while with us there is no redress, for we
have no rights or privileges." The men
were treated "neither as Christians nor
British Citizens, but as West Indian
'Niggers.' ... 2
A racist stricture delimited even the
scope of opportunity for the black
soldiers to meet the enemy in combat.
After repeated requests for a transfer to
the battlefields, a contingent of the
British West Indies Regiment learned,
apparently from official sources, that it
was "against British tradition to employ
aboriginal troops against a European
During the last year of the war the

soldiers of the Regiment found that they
were not eligible for pay increases
granted to other Imperial troops. By
Army Order No. 1 of 1918, the British
soldier received one shilling, six pence a
day, a gain of six pence over the
previous wage. The West Indians could
not get the additional pay, the War
Office ruled, because they were
"Natives."4 This discriminatory policy
was "not only an insult to us who have
volunteered to fight for the Empire,"
some black soldiers wrote to the
governor of Barbados, "but alto an
insult to the whole West Indies.
Military records show that the War
Office employed battalions of the
British West Indies Regiment on tasks
that should have been assigned to
labour units. After most of the West
Indian battalions in Taranto, Italy, were
ordered to France early in 1918, a
labour director of the British Army
wrote to Italian authorities, requesting
7,500 civilian workers to replace the
black soldiers.6 Enough civilians could
not be found, and a serious labour
shortage developed. At the war's end
the battalions in France were moved
back to Taranto and again expected to
perform labour duties.
Beginning December 6, 1918, the
West Indians in Taranto violently
reacted to the racist fetters imposed
upon them by the War Office. The
revolt started when members of the 9th
Battalion attacked their officers and
severely assaulted their unit com-
mander. On the same day 180 sergeants
sent a petition to the Secretary of State
for the Colonies, protesting regulations
that prevented black West Indians from
deriving the benefits of Army Order No.
1 of 1918, from receiving increased
separation allowances like other troops,
and from being promoted to any rank in
the Army.7
The outbreak continued for several
days: men refused to work, a shooting
and a bombing occurred, a "generally
insubordinate spirit prevailed.' The 9th
Battalion was disbanded, its personnel
distributed among other units. All
battalions of the British West Indies
Regiment in Taranto were disarmed 8
But the base commander reported the
situation "still unsettled." He wired the
War Office that a battalion of white
troops was "absolutely essential." A
machine-gun company and a battalion
of the Worcestershire Regiment were
sent to Taranto. These troops travelled
"in fighting order with ammunition in
their pouches."9

The War Office and the Colonial
Office considered whether demobiliza-
tion would be the best way to deal with
the insurgent soldiers. G. E. A. Grindle,
Assistant Secretary of State for the
Colonies, suggested that the men might
be punished with a further term of
service: they were "cheap compared
with white troops." He indicated that
the War Office could do anything it
wanted to with them, unless the
colonies "were to press for their return
to supply labour for local industries."10'
The War Office decided on repatria-
Little by little the racist constraints of
the War Office had driven the black
soldiers away from their connections to
the British Empire. After the uprising at
Taranto had been suppressed, 50 to 60
sergeants of the British West Indies
Regiment formed the "Caribbean
League,", an association which ex-
pressed black aspirations for self-
determination. The black man "should
have freedom and govern himself in the
West Indies," a sergeant told his
comrades at the second meeting of the
League, "and ... force must be used, and
if necessary bloodshed to obtain that
object."" The men agreed upon a
general strike for higher wages after
repatriation. Officers of the Regiment
found out about the League and broke it
Most of the soldiers who led the
resistance movement at Taranto were
convicted of mutiny and received
sentences of either 3 years or 5 years in
prison. One man got 20 years; another,
who led a subsequent struggle, was
executed by a firing squad of the
Worcestershire Regiment.
Three battalions of the British West
Indies Regiment had not been stationed
in Taranto at the time of the revolt; two
of these (the 1st and 2nd Battalions) in
1918 had been engaged as front line
troops against the Turkish Army in
Palestine. After the men of these
battalions arrived in Taranto in 1919,
awaiting demobilization, they lost a
number of privileges. All cinemas and
Y.M.C.A. huts open to British troops
were off limits to West Indians, official
documents referred to them as
"Coloured Natives," and they were
required to perform fatigue duties for
other units. Their treatment created
lasting grievances.
Largely as a result of the revolt at
Taranto, the Colonial Office sought to
secure the benefits of Army Order No. 1
of 1918 for the British West Indies

Regiment. Continued discrimination in
the question of pay would seriously
affect the attachment of the Negro to
the Empire, a draft memorandum to the / /
War Office warned, "and in addition to
racial riots in the near future we shall
incur a sensible weakening of our hold
on the West Indian Islands."12In
February of 1919, the War Office
retro-actively applied the full terms of
Army Order No. 1 to the Regiment.
In Jamaica legislative efforts to allay 44- 0
the bitter resentment of the British West
Indies Regiment produced an act in
1919 which allowed each soldier to vote
in the next election only.':The
Legislative Council also passed a trade
umon law and an employers' liability '4
law. Local authorities and the Colonial
Office were especially apprehensive
about the return of the black soldiers to
Jamaica because most of the men who
took part in the revolt at Taranto and
the leaders of the Caribbean League .
were from the island.
For many of the black soldiers the
experience at Taranto-and the
unequal treatment in general during the -
war--created a desire for affirmative
action in the colonies against class and
racial oppressors. Thins desire was
translated into practice in July of 1919
in Belize, British Honduras, when
demobilized soldiers of the British West
Indies Regiment deliberately started an
insurrection in which they systematical-
ly attacked the businesses and homes of
the dominating class. In the opinion of
the governor of the colony, the uprising
had been planned at Taranto and on the
voyage home.1 Similarly, ex-soldiers of
the British West Indies Regiment gave
their energy to a militant strike in
Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, in December of
1919. The "mutinous spirit" behind the
strike began in Taranto, according to an The sailing of the Jamaica Contingent Cemry & Ellot Photo [W.LRL]

official report, and "eventually reached
the population of Trinidad generally." 1
The rebellions in British Honduras
and Trinidad were early effusions of
j* 2' black nationalism in the British West
Indies. The men who led the
insurrection in Belize believed that
British Honduras should be "the black
man's country. ... le Likewise, the
41 leaders of the strike in Port-of-Spain
were "imbued with the idea that there
must be a black world controlled and
[ governed by the black people of their
own race." Thus, the experiences of
the black soldiers during the imperialist
war contributed to the rise of national
sentiments in 1919. Furthermore, these
same experiences later influenced the
West Indian political awakening of
The revolt at Taranto was the modern
advent of mass resistance by West
Indians to British rule. The soldiers of
the British West Indies Regiment began
the national liberation struggle that
eventually led to the demise of open
colonial rule in most of the British
Group photograph showing officers and men of the West India Regiment, World War 1. [W.LRL] Caribbean.

1. Testimony of Corporal Samuel Alfred Haynes
in a report on the origin of the riot in Belize,
British Honduras, on July 22, 1919, Public
Record Office (London), C.O. 123/296.

2. Letter of an anonymous sergeant to Roland
Green, Bucks., England, June 27, 1918, Public
Record Office (London), C.O. 3181347.

3. Quoted by the British Honduras Contingent
Committee in a letter in the Belize Indepen-
dent, August 13, 1919.

4. See enclosure in despatch No. 27 of February
13, 1919, Public Record Office (London), C.O.

5. Ibid.

6. A.D.L., L. of C., War Diary, Public Record
Office (London), W.O. 95-4253. On October
23, 1917, the War Office was informed that
"the Italian Government will not at present
sanction the despatch of men of the British
West Indies Regiment to Taranto except in
relief of the Egyptian Labour Companies
already there." In the following two months,
according to an official British history of the
War, six battalions of the Regiment were
stationed in Taranto. It is unclear whether the
West Indians did replace the Egyptian
companies or whether the Italian government
rescinded its ruling. See Creedy, War Office, to

Batterbee, Colonial Office, February 1, 1918,
Public Record Office (London), C.O. 318-347;
J. E. Edmonds and H. R. Davies, History of-
The Great War, Military Operations Italy,
1915-1919 (London, 1949). p. 397.

7. Public Record Office (London), C.O. 28-294-

8. Base Commander, Taranto, to War Office,
December 10, 1918, Public Record Office
(London), C.O. 318-347. The battalions were
the 3rd, 4th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, and 11th.
Edmonds and Davies, op. cit., p. 386, state that
the base commander disarmed two of the
battalions. The records indicate that all were

9. H. Fitz M. Stacke, The Worcestershire Regi-
ment in The Great War (Kidderminster, 1928),
p. 498.

10. Note by G. E. A. Grindle, December 13, 1918,
Public Record Office (London), C.O. 318-347-

11. Qt oted by Major Maxwell Smith, Command-
ing Officer of the 8th Battalion of the British
West Indies Regiment, in a letter to Major
General H. F. Thuillier, Commanding Troops,
Taranto, December 27, 1918, Public Record
Office (London), C.O. 318-350.

12. Public Record Office (London), C.O. 318-351.

13. Leslie Probyn, Governor of Jamaica, to Vis-
count Milner, Secretary of State for the
Colonies, June 9, 1919, Public Record Office
(London), C.O. 318-348.

14. See R. Johnston, Officer Administrating the
Government, Jamaica, to Viscount Milner,
Secretary of State for the Colonies, August 14,
1919, Public Record Office (London), C.O.
137/733. The men from British Honduras were
among those who did not arrive in Taranto
until 1919.

15. "Disturbances in Port-of-Spain, Reports by the
Commissioners on the Conduct of the Con-
stabulary," September, 1920, Public Record
Office (London), C.O. 884/13.

16. Report on the origin of the riot in Belize,
British Honduras, on July 22, 1919, Public
Record Office (London), C.O. 123-296.

17. Report of the Inspector of the Constabulary,
Enclosure III, John Chancellor, Governor of
Trinidad, to Viscount Milner, March 12, 1920,
Public Record Office (London), C.O. 2951527.

18. Gordon K. Lewis, The Growth of The Modern
West Indies (New York, 1968) p. 88.





Militant New World Africans began a
general struggle after the First World
War for racial and social emancipation,
their efforts infused with a nationalistic
spirit resembling the race-consciousness
present in recent manifestations of
negritude-such as the Black Power
movement, part of the world revolution
for realization of potentialities denied
by capitalism.
One of the earliest effusions of black
nationalism occurred in Port-of-Spain,
Trinidad, where on the first day of
December, 1919, strike demonstrations
by black dock-workers sparked a wave
of uprisings throughout the island
against the common oppressors-white
racists, principally merchants, planters,
and officials. The stevedores, led by the
Trinidad Workingmen's Association,
forced business to close down, secured
a 25 per cent wage increase, and, more
important, learned the lesson of
solidarity. "It was the shutters and doors
of Capital," observed the Catholic
News, "which, as it were, saluted as the
army of strikers passed on its way
through the streets of the city." 2
The European war, a conflict
between colonial governments in which
over ten million human beings perished,
stimulated Afro-Americans to reject the
traditional ideological rationalizations
for white domination and to demand
black self-determination. The war
particularly shaped a major source oi
the black nationalist movement in
Trinidad: the members of the British
West Indies Regiment. These soldiers
understood and had experienced the
anomaly of fighting for democratic
slogans; they came home with a critical
spirit, unwilling to resume service as
economic tools for merchants and
planters. "If we can die for the white
man against his German brother,"
James Brathwaite, Secretary of the
Workingmen's Association, told his
comrades, "we can die better for
Bitterness over discriminatory treat-
ment of black soldiers by military
authorities in Europe and Egypt
inflamed not only the dark-skinned
veterans themselves, but also part of the
more general Afro-American popula-
tion; sometimes it elicited symbolic
retaliatory gestures, as on July 20, 1919,
when after the arrival of the ship Oriana
with forty military prisoners from the
ranks of the British West Indies
Regiment, "black and coloured men of
some standing" threatened "that the
whites should be killed." 4Similarly,

when a large number of returned
soldiers refused a proffered invitation to
march in a victory parade, a rumour had
it that so few took part "because they
were disappointed at not being armed,
as some .... intended to .... shoot down
all the-officers." 5'Such threats of vio-
lence, according to Abiola Irele, are
understood best as "an indirect form of
defence, a verbal means of projecting
violent reaction which cannot be
realized physically."6
Racial consciousness, activated by
the returned Afro-American soldiers,
found ideological justification-and so
added strength-in the adrenal ideas of
Marcus Garvey, President of the
Universal Negro Improvement Associa-
tion, a man who devoted his life to
educating "the black man to see beauty
in himself." Garvey's most important
disciples on the island were the leaders
of the Trinidad Workingmen's Associa-
tion; through them his teachings
indirectly inspired the strike demonstra-
tions of December. His newspaper, The
Negro World, published in New York
City, circulated throughout the Carib-
bean. Although extra-legally banned
from Trinidad in early 1919, copies were
smuggled into the colony from North
American steamers.8
Economic grievances likewise pro-
vided a rationale for the black
awakening. During the war prices
doubled in many cases, while wages for
the most part remained stable. In
addition, after 1918 workers faced a
scheme to rationalize their exploitation:
the Habitual Idlers' Ordinance. This
statute, a glaring piece of class
legislation, provided that any male
habitually abstaining from work might
be committed to a government-run
agricultural settlement to be taught
"habits of industry"-and, when
feasible, farmed out to private
employers Thus, the white planters and
businessmen probably hoped that the
law would thwart one of the most
widespread techniques for obstructing
the.colonial machinery: "laziness," i.e.
wilful inclination to minimize exploita-
tion by oppressors.
By insuring a continuous supply of
workers at low cost (the basis of the
colonial economy), the Idlers' Ordi-
nance aimed to supplant the system of
indentured East Indian labour, abolish-
ed in 1917. Abrogation of the indenture
system, besides ending a source of
cheap labour, made more difficult the
white ruling-class strategy of promoting
hostility between the African and East

Indian population of Trinidad. A
committee headed by the president of
the Chamber of Commerce in effect
admitted this to Viscount Milner,
Secretary of State for the Colonies, in a
petition which requested that a body of
white troops be stationed in Trinidad
and which warned that the East Indians,
free from control of plantation
managers, could no longer be looked
upon "as a substantial safe-guard against
trouble with the negroes (sic) and vice
The upward thrust for racial dignity
in Trinidad reached a new level on
December 1: longshoremen, who had
been on strike since November 15,
invaded shipping warehouses, forced
scabs off the premises, then marched
through Port-of-Spain, causing commer-
cial establishments to close down.
"Zaffaire Sho!" (things are hot!),
exclaimed.an old woman at the onset of
violence, "zaffaire Sho asso Che la"
(things are hot on the wharf)."1The
stevedores wanted shipping companies
to raise wages from two dollars a day to
three dollars and to reduce the shifts
from nine hours to eight. Their demands
were promoted by the Trinidad
Workingmen's Association, established
in 1897, dormant during the war years,
but revived in 1919.
The same pattern of militant
demonstrations occurred the next day.
On the docks, while a group of strike
sympathizers out-fought scabs, a crowd
of onlookers shouted in unison a
redemptive theme: "Washed in the
blood of the New Jerusalem.'2 In
outlying districts and on neighboring
islands, members of the Workingmen's
Association spread word of the strike
action, urging others to join the fight.
The governor of the colony, John
Chancellor, advised that the situation
could become uncontrollable, sought to
abort the uprising by forming a
conciliation board composed of
representatives.of the dock-workers, the
shipping companies, and the govern-
On the morning of December 3 the
stevedores' strike ended. The shipping
agents granted a 25 per cent increase in
wages, a compromise worked out by the
conciliation board. About 11 a.m. a
warship, the H.M.S. Calcutta, arrived in
the harbour at Port-of-Spain. In the
afternoon a deputation from the
Chamber of Commerce informed
Governor Chancellor that throughout
the disturbances the predominantly
black police force had observed acts of


violence, such as the beating of
strike-breakers, without attempting to
arrest anyone. Partly because of this
information, the next day Chancellor
wired Viscount Milner requesting that a
company of white troops be assigned to
Trinidad; he reported that "unrest is ....
general throughout the Colony" and
that it seemed doubtful "if constabulary
could be relied on in a racial riot."s3
The stevedores' demonstrations pro-
duced many reverberations, the
strongest of which took place on
December 6 at Scarborough, Tobago.
There, when a crowd attacked the
government wireless station with stones
and bottles, police killed one person
and wounded six others, among them
some women. A detachment of marines
from the Calcutta landed to suppress
the rebellion. In Trinidad less violent
after-effects occurred in the form of
sporadic strikes and several instances of
incendiarism. Police even reported one
returned soldier "to be engaged upon
the making of bombs with condensed
milk tins and pieces of iron piping...." 4
Because of their militant strike
action, the dock-workers of Trinidad
assumed dignity as men well before

their fellow toilers in other parts of the
Caribbean.:5 The leaders of the
affirmative social action, according to
the Inspector of the Constabulary, were
"imbued with the idea that there must
be a black world controlled and
governed by the black people of their
own race.' 1 The strike demonstrations,
therefore, represent a foretaste of Black
Power in the British West Indies.

1. Marcus Garvey, The Tragedy of White In-
justice (New York, 1927), p. 12.
2. Quoted in the Trinidad Guardian, December 7,
3. Quoted in Enclosure VII, John Chancellor,
Governor of Trinidad, to Viscount Milner,
Secretary of State for the Colonies, March 12,
1920, Public Record Office (London), C.O.
4. W.M. Gordon, Acting Governor of Trinidad,
to Viscount Milner, July 29, 1919, Public
Record Office (London), C.O. 295/621.
5. Ibid., Enclosure m, Report by the Inspector
General of Constabulary.
6. "Negritude-Literature and Ideology," The
Journal of Modern African Studies, m (1965),
7. Adolph Edwards, Marcus Garvey (London,
1967), p. 39.
8. "I have the honour to state that .... the 'Negro

World' has been stopped in this colony under
the authority of Ordinance No. 25 of 1909. .... I
may add that the proclamation required ....
has not been issued and that .... the action
taken by this Government is not strictly covered
by law.' W. M. Gordon to the Governor of
British Guiana, June 10, 1919, Enclosure No. 2
in Trinidad dispatch of June 18, 1919, Public
Record Office (London), C.O. 295/521.
9. Because construction of the settlements had not
been completed, authorities did not enforce this
law in 1919. Nevertheless, over three thousand
people signed a memorial advocating its repeal.
See John Chancellor to Viscount Milner,
December 4, 1919, Public Record Office
(London), C.O. 295/523.
10. Enclosure I, Gordon to Milner, August 7, 1919,
Public Record Office (London), C.O. 295522.
11. Port-of-Spain Gazette, December 2, 1919.
12. Ibid., December 3, 1919.
13. Chancellor to Milner, December 4, 1919,
Public Record Office (London). C.O., 2956523.
14. Enclosure III, Chancellor to Milner, March 12,
1920, Public Record Office (London), C.O.
15. See Daniel Guerin, The West Indies and Their
Future (London, 1961), p. 129.
16. Enclosure III, Chancellor to Milner, March 12,
1920, Public Record Office (London), C.O.-

Captain Arthur Cipriani, a World
War 1 veteran, who along with
the legendary Trade Unionist Uriah
"Buzz" Butler, was influential in
the "Trinidad Longshoreman's
Strike of 1919".

Extracts from

he ii

Captain Cipriani


Arthur Andrew Cipriani was born on
the 31st January, 1875. His father was
Albert Henry Cipriani, a planter of
Santa Cruz. The Ciprianis are a family
of Corsican descent, closely related to
the Bonaparte family. They came to
Trinidad over a hundred years ago, and
have their place in the history of the
Island. One of them, Eugene Cipriani,
made a large fortune, but the most
distinguished member of the family has
been the Captain's uncle, Joseph
Emmanuel Cipriani. He was a solicitor
and Mayor of the city of Port of Spain
for seven years. He played a great part
in the lighting of the city and the laying
out of Tranquility, and it is after him
that the Cipriani Boulevard is named.
He not only spent time on Port-of-Spain,
but also much of his personal fortune,
giving largely to charitable causes.
Captain Cipriani, one of three
brothers, lost both parents early, and at
six years of age was himself very nearly
lost. He, his mother and his two
brothers were all struck down with
typhoid. Old Dr. de. Boissiere passed
through the rooms and examined them.
"The mother is improving," he said,
"but this one (pointing to the future
legislator) will die."
The boys lived and it was the mother
who died. His father was already dead,
and he was brought up by one of his
father's sisters, a Mrs. Dick. He went to
a little school carried on above the
Medical Hall by a Miss Jenkins, and
there he stayed until he was seven, when
he left for St. Mary's College. At College
with him were Gaston Johnston, the
Lassalle brothers (Charlie and John),
Dr. Pollonais, Napoleon Raymond, and
many other good creoles. Young
Cipriani played cricket well and was a
good runner. The boys were not
coddled in any way. They fought
vigorously and often, but Father Brown,
the Principal, gave them a chance, and

though always willing to hear and settle
when disputes did reach him, never
interfered unduly. Sometimes, however,
things used to go far. Where the Holy
Name Convent now is there was a
college for Spanish boys. St. Mary's and
Queen's Royal College boys used to sit
the annual examinations together in the
Princes' Building, and after fighting with
the questions in the hall would seek a
little refreshment by joining together
and making a concerted attack on the
boys of the Spanish College. Some
serious fights used to take place. Fists
first; then stones and bottles; but when
the sons of Venezuela went as far as
knives the Police had to interfere and
bring these inter-school events to a
School-life had its politics, which
after all is nothing else but the art of
people living well together. Now and
then among the priests there were some
hot-headed Irishmen who would be
inclined to take advantage of the boys.
But the boys kept together and stood up
for their rights; and Father Brown was
one who always realized that boys had
rights as well as masters.
Arthur Cipriani left St. Mary's
College at sixteen in the Senior Class.
He had not done badly, but was
handicapped by an atrocious hand-
writing which he preserves unimpaired
to this day.
His father had trained his uncle's
horses and he had grown up in racing.
As soon as he left College, some of his
richer relations offered to send him
away to qualify as a veterinary surgeon.
But his immediate family did not wish
him to accept the offer, and he refused
it. Already he knew horses, and he
started to ride and train. He had his
trainer's license at eighteen, and
regularly made the round of the
different racing centres, Trinidad,
Barbados, British Guiana. In between
he worked on the cocoa estates of his

relations and friends.
He was nearly shot dead one night at
"La Chaguaramas," the cocoa estate of
Mr. Leon Centeno at Caroni. He was
sleeping in the estate-house when he
was awakened by a noise outside. He
got up, opened one half of the window,
and saw a man walking towards the
cocoa-house. He called out to him, and
the man turned and fired a revolver, the
shot going through Cipriani's forearm.
He still wears the scar.
The incident is still a mystery. Many
people thought it was no other than
Centeno himself, who was known to be
a practical joker. It was believed that he
had intended merely to frighten his
friend, but that the shot, as revolver
shots will, had taken an unexpected
course. Centeno, however, originated a
theory that Cipriani was not quite right
in his head, and had shot himself. His
theory did not find acceptance, and
some time after, he left the Island, to
which he never returned.
For years Arthur Cipriani divided his
time between racing and cocoa estates.
Increasing weight made him give up
riding, but he trained regularly, besides
which he had and still has a passion for
horse-racing. He thinks that racing in
those days was of a better class than it is
to-day, and there was more sport.
Although the stakes were smaller,
owners were very keen to win. But there
was more good feeling between them
then than now. They fraternised more,
and successes were celebrated with big
dinners and receptions. There was not
so much gambling, there were no
sweepstakes, but among those who went
to see, much innocent enjoyment on the
merry-go-rounds and swings, while
among the real racing men there was
not so much question of gain, as honour
and distinction for the various colonies.
Vigilant, Mr. Jose de Montbrun's horse,
was one of the best of creoles. Mr. W. S.
Kernahan's Ivanhoe was another great

horse. Dr. Farnum also raced some
splendid horses, but on the whole he
thinks that no better horse than Ella
Snyder ever came here.
So for twenty years he went about his
business, working on estates and
training horses. He became Secretary of
the Breeders' Association, but though
well-known in racing circles, was on the
whole a rather solitary man, going about
in his khaki trousers and khaki tunic
open at the neck, an inconspicuous
figure of no particular importance.
The course of his life seemed settled.
He saw his thirty-ninth birthday, and
was only a few months short of forty
when in 1914 the War broke out.

The earnest appeal just made to
you by the lecturer appeals to me, as
well as to most of you who are in the
hall, with a peculiar force. It is those
of you who, like me,' are British
subjects not of English parentage, but
of alien descent, and owe their pro-
tection to the British flag, that the
appeal comes with greater force. It is
true the Colony has offered 40,000
worth of cocoa, which has been
accepted. Putting it at five cents per
inhabitant, is that all we are going to
offer in return for the protection of
our homes and children which we are
receiving? ..... I think it practi-
cable for us to send one hundred
cavalry horses, and there can be no
doubt about it that having secured a
hundred horses there would soon be
secured a hundred riders to go to the
Front and fight side by side with the
other Colonial troops. ..... The
very best we can do is to try to attain
that end, and if we fail we will still
have the satisfaction of knowing that
we had tried to do our duty.
It was his first public speech. The
occasion was a lecture, "Sayings on the
War," delivered by Mr. Algernon
Burkett, at St. Ann's Hall, Oxford
Street, to help the Trinidad Breeders'
Association in their effort to buy a
hundred cavalry horses for the English
Army. The War was not yet two months
Then followed a long struggle by the
people of Trinidad, led by Mr. Cipriani
and the "Port of Spain Gazette," to be
allowed to play their part in the War as
members of the British Empire. At the
very beginning of the War, many felt
that the services of Trinidadians should
be offered to Britain, but they had not
forgotten the opposition and ridicule of
the official English section in the colony
to a similar proposal during the South
African War, and the curt refusal of the
Home Authorities. As time passed,
however, it seemed to Mr. Cipriani that
unless someone took the initiative, any
chance of raising a local contingent
would disappear, "a condition of things.
I was prepared to frustrate at all costs."
He approached the Governor of the
Colony, Sir George le Hunte, with a
proposal for recruiting a contingent. Sir
George referred him to the Command-
ant of Local Forces, Lieutenant-

Colonel Swain. Mr. Cipriani learnt from
Colonel Swain that the Government
would not be a party to any such
undertaking, that it was pledged to find
a force for local defence which had
already been raised, and would not
consider the raising of any other. The
idea that West Indian troops should be
sent to fight for the Empire was looked
upon as absurd. Mr. Cipriani gave the
Government up for the time being,
placed his views before a couple of
small but representative meetings, and
was guaranteed the necessary financial
aid to raise, equip and ship a contingent.
A Colonel Ducros, through the
medium of "The Times," had invited
colonials who wished to join the colours
to write to him or to apply in person. On
October 24th, 1914, Mr. Cipriani cabled
Colonel Ducros: "Will you accept
contingent from West Indies?" Colonel
Ducros cabled back: "Sorry, contingent
fully recruited." Next day Mr. Cipriani
wrote to the Colonel:
There are many men of good
physique and education in this colony
and throughout the colonies who are
eager and who would be proud to
enlist. ....
We are 4,000 and some odd miles
from the Old Country, and the lowest
fare is 17 10s. A few men have left,
and a few more are leaving on their
own, but the majority cannot afford
it ......
West Indians have realised it is a
fight to a finish, that not only is the
existence of the Mother Country at
stake, but the very Empire of which
we are all proud to be a part. We
should feel not only isolated but
slighted if our services are declined
when men are still wanted to keep the
flag flying ..... we are bottled up here,
but we are eager to get out to assist
the Mother Country. If you would use
your influence in getting our little lot
taken into service, this colony and the
West Indies will be deeply grateful.
But the West Indian contingent
recruited in London had already been
drafted to the London Fusiliers, and
Colonel Ducros had left for the Front. It
was promised, however, that the subject
matter of the letter would be referred to
the proper quarter.
Early in December the first batch of
eleven Trinidadians at their own
expense left for England to enlist. The
local Government contributed nothing
to the enterprise, and the concession in
regard to the passage rates made by the
Mail Steam Packet Company known as
Royal was so small as to be almost
negligible. But the send-off given to
these young men was perhaps the most
remarkable ever witnessed in the
history of the colony, and was a very fair
index of the feeling of the Trinidad
Mr. Cipriani next addressed a letter to
Horatio Bottomley, Editor of "John
Bull," asking him to make representa-
tions in the proper quarter on behalf of
a West Indian contingent. Meanwhile
the excitement in Trinidad was growing.
Articles, extracts from other news-
papers in the "Port-of-Spain Gazette,"

and letter after letter by Mr. Cipriani
kept on asking directly and indirectly
why Trinidad was doing nothing. By the
end of June Trinidad learnt that
contingents from the West Indies would
be accepted by the Home Government,
but the news came through an extract
published in the "Port-of-Spain Gazette"
from another colonial paper. In the
course of a letter to the "Gazette," Mr.
Cipriani wrote:
May I ask why Trinidad was not the
leader in this movement, considering
the fact that she was the first colony
to offer a contingent, an offer which
was repeatedly turned down by the
authorities, and which seemed to call
for their censure rather than for their
approval? The moment has come
when it is up to the Press of the
colony to call upon the local Govern-
ment to do their duty.
But when Mr. Cipriani a week later
interviewed the Commandant of the
Local Forces, the Commandant said
that he could do nothing because he had
had no instructions.
Not long after, however, the
Governor in an address before the
Legislative Council held out the
possibilities of a West Indian contingent
being raised for service at the front.
Meanwhile, patriotic meetings were
called, and resolutions were passed
urging speedier action. Still the
Government did nothing, whereupon
Mr. Cipriani wrote a letter to the
"Gazette," asking it to open a list for
recruits. The "Port of Spain Gazette"
turned its office into an unofficial
recruiting station, and in two days there
were well over a thousand names on its
list, the first of them being Arthur A.
Cipriani. Mr. Cipriani again approached
His Excellency, and His Excellency
again referred him to Colonel Swain. In
a private interview, Colonel Swain,
heartily wishing, we may well suppose,
that this troublesome intruder was at
the bottom of the sea, explained the
attitude of the Government. It would
not take the initiative, thinking it was up
to those who had agitated for this
contingent to do the earlier recruiting.
This interview being granted on
condition that nothing which took place
at it would find its way into the Press,
Mr. Cipriani was not in a position to
make known that and the other peculiar
views held by the chief of the military
forces of the colony. But the thousand
names on the "Gazette" list seemed to
turn the scale, and after a short delay
the Governor in Council named a
recruiting Committee: Mr. George F.
Huggins, Major A. S. Bowen and Mr.
Arthur A. Cipriani, with Mr. Adam
Smith as Chairman. From the very
outset it was obvious that the other
members of this Committee had no real
sympathy with the move. However, Mr.
Cipriani asked permission of the local
Government, and on its being granted,
convened the first public recruiting
meeting in Marine Square, under the
chairmanship of Dr. Prada, the Mayor
of Port of Spain. No government official
took any part in this meeting. But that
could hardly have been expected. It

could hardly have been expected for
many reasons, one of which might well
be indicated here. When the agitation
for the public contingent was at its
height, His Excellency the Governor,
Sir George le Hunte, K.C.M.G.,
Governor and Commander-in-Chief of
the Colony of Trinidad and Tobago,
Vice-Admiral thereof, etc., etc., took
the opportunity at an Agricultural
Society meeting to make a statement of
his position. He said:
When I am asked to go to a patrio-
tic meeting and preside and speak, it
is no part of my official duty. I am
always pleased to do it, as I did at
Sangre Grande the other day, and I
am quite willing to do the same thing
over, unless people keep on holding
me up to public abuse-if they do
that I certainly will not do it. I shall go
on doing my duty, but I shall not
accept invitations to public or patrio-
tic meetings unless I am trusted. I
want that made perfectly clear. It is a
matter for the public. If they wish to
invite me they can, but it is for me to
use my discretion in a matter that is
my official duty, thought it is always
my pleasure to do anything to help
the splendid patriotic spirit which
exists in the colony now. But I must
be trusted and not distrusted.
So that on the whole it was better that
the Governor and his friends stayed
But at his recruiting meeting Arthur
Cipriani spoke to the people:
If the West Indies claims a place in
the sun, we must do our duty as a unit
of the British Empire. It is true that
we here form the weakest link in the
chain. But it is said that the weakest
link is the strength of the chain.
(Cheers). I am one of the people. I
was born and bred in this colony, was
reared in it from childhood to youth,
and from youth to manhood. I have
shared your sorrows and your joys,
and I appeal to you to-day in the
name of the King to enlist, and I do so
irrespective of class, colour or creed.
..... The game has not been played in
many quarters, it is not being played
now. .....
It was not, for Mr. George F.
Huggins, a member of the recruiting
Committee, was the chief mover in
raising and sending to England a
Merchants' Contingent from which
dark-skinned men were rigidly exclud-
ed. In Trinidad, the fairer-skinned, as in
some mixed communities, enjoy greater
advantages and have better opportuni-
ties, and thus the Public Contingent was
deprived of some of the best material
available. Mr. Cipriani protested
without result. But the aim had been
achieved. By ten o'clock on the morning
after the meeting, the first contingent of
men had been recruited. In September
it left for England. Mr. Cipriani helped
to recruit the second contingent, the
third and fourth, but then decided to go
to the Front, refusing the request of Sir
John Chancellor to stay and continue
with recruiting work.
There was some trouble about his
commission, for he was already forty.

The state of his health demanded an
operation. But these difficulties were
successfully overcome, and on the 28th
March, 1917, Lieutenant Cipriani left
Trinidad for Europe in command of the
third contingent.
That is how Trinidad came to send
contingents to the Front, a local man
and a local newspaper playing the
leading parts and having to exercise as
much perseverance to overcome their
English masters as the soldiers had to
overcome the Turks in the field. But
such is a Crown Colony.
As far as Captain Cipriani is
concerned, one thing more remains to
be said. However casually one reads
over the old speeches and the old
letters, certain things leap to the eye:
I fondly hoped that a word from
'our masters in Downing Street' and
the War Office would have had the
effect of getting West Indians into
line. .....
I think both my cable and letter
were submitted to the proper authori-
ties, and I also think (I shall spare the
Censor its excision).
..... when our efficient colonials are
overlooked and preference given to
unhappy European exiles. ..... The
same vigour, the same sentiments, the
very phrases.
It is said that the War made Captain
Cipriani. So in one sense it did, in that it
gave him an opportunity. But the
essential Cipriani was always there.


The Legislative Council of Trinidad is
typical of the West Indian constitutions
in form. We shall have to spend a little
time here in order to appreciate the
difference between what the constitu-
tion is supposed to be and what it
actually is. A constitution on paper is
one thing. How it works is another.
Before we attempt to look at Captain
Cipriani's activities in the Legislative
Council we have first to understand
what that body is like in the flesh. Once
that is grasped, there is no difficulty
about the rest of the story, which takes a
simple and inevitable course.
Trinidad to-day is a well-known type
of Crown Colony. The first point to note
is that the Governor is the absolute
ruler of the Colony, being responsible
only to the Colonial Office in Downing
Street. He acts usually with the advice
of the Executive Council, consisting of
Colonial Secretary, Attorney-General,
Treasurer and a few others appointed
by himself, but nothing can prevent him
doing what he pleases on his own
responsibility. In other words these
Colonies are governed by an autocratic
alien with three or four other aliens and
one or two local men chosen by himself
as representative of the people. To any
unbiased ear it sounds bad and is as bad

as it sounds. The deliberations of the
Executive Council, however, are secret,
and the part of the Constitution on
which public interest most centres is the
Legislative Council, which is an
advisory body. This Legislative Council
consists of three sections. The first is
that of the official members, thirteen in
number, chosen by the Governor from
among the various heads of depart-
ments. The second consists of the
Unofficial members, also thirteen in
number, partly nominated and partly
elected. The third section is not the
least important of the three-the
Governor, who is in the Chair. It will be
seen how potent for misgovernment is
each of these three sections.

The official section, composed
mainly of heads of departments,
comprise a solid block of Englishmen
with a few white creoles generally from
some other colony, because, says the
Government, among other things, local
men do not get that respect from their
colleagues which they ought to have.
Thus these officials are for the most part
strangers to the community which they
govern. While on every occasion one
hears of the necessity of considering
those who have a stake in the colony,
these have none except their salaries.
After the Governor, the Colonial
Secretary and the Attorney-General are
the most important members of the
Government. In Trinidad there have
been five Attorneys-General during the
last twelve years. The position of these
officials is secure, and their promotion
depends not on the people over whom
they rule, but on a Colonial Office
thousands of miles away. It is not
difficult to imagine their general
bureaucratic attitude. Often they are
bored to tears in the Legislature, sitting,
as they do, day after day doing nothing.
Unless a department comes up
specially, most of the Government work
is done by the Colonial Secretary, the
Attorney-General, and to a lesser
degree the Treasurer. Sometimes for a
whole session many members never
speak. There have been official
members of the Trinidad Legislature
who for consecutive meetings over a
period of years have said nothing, but
have sat in the Council, wasting their
own time and the time of the public. Not
only are they bored but do not hesitate
to show it. There is a further unreality,
because the Government can always
win when it wants to. Whenever the
Governor wishes, he can instruct the
officials all to vote in the same way. And
the Council becomes farcical when, as
has been elsewhere noted, two members
of a committee appointed by the
Governor receive instructions to vote
against their own recommendations. It
is merely necessary to think of the great
change which would come over English
politics if the present holders of
administrative positions were them-
selves the judges of their own actions,
assured that they would remain where
they were, getting automatic increases

of salary until pension time or promo-
tion to some other country. Yet that is
exactly the position of the Government
officials in Trinidad to-day. Here to-day
and gone to-morrow, they are always
wholly out of touch and generally partly
out of sympathy with the coloured
people who form the majority of the
population. They are Englishmen as a
general rule, and Colonial Englishmen
at that, so that their opportunities for
social intercourse, in any case small,
become smaller still. These heads of
departments mix almost entirely in
clubs and social gatherings with the
more wealthy element of the white
creoles, whose interests lie with the
maintenance of all the authority and
privileges of the officials against the
political advancement of the coloured
people. Sometimes their children
intermarry with the white creoles; their
sons and daughters get employment in
the big business houses. For all practical
purposes, and indeed by the very nature
of the circumstances, it is impossible
that these officials who form the largest
single group on the Legislature should
do otherwise than support the white
commercial classes and the unofficial
Englishmen. "We represent large
interests," said the Attorney-General in
a recent debate, and every Trinidadian
knows the interests he and the other
officials represent. The local Govern-
ment is the Chamber of Commerce, and
the Chamber of Commerce is the local
Government. It is difficult to state this
without giving the impression of a vast
conspiracy of officials and business men
to oppress, and cheat the legitimate
aspirations of the local people. But it
works out to that. There have been and
are among these heads of departments
men who mean well. But, however well
they mean, the system is against them.
Whatever it may be in theory, in actual
fact these heads of departments on the
Council represent to-day nothing but
the other white people in the Colony,
perhaps about three per cent. Bad as
this is in a colony where the population
is divided into whites and native tribes,
it is intolerable in a West Indian
community, where in language,
education, religion and outlook, the
population is essentially Western.

The unofficial members form the
second group, and have always been
pointed out by supporters of the
constitution as forming a sort of balance
to the official side. Since 1925, they
have consisted of six members
nominated by the Governor and seven
members elected by the people.
Formerly the Governor nearly always
appointed white men representing
business interests. He might as well have
appointed a few more heads of
departments for all the representation
the people got from them.
But it has been the policy of the
Government for some years past to
appoint a few men of colour to these
positions. These have usually been men
of fair, and not of dark skin. And their

position on the Council, and their
behaviour there, give so clear an
indication of certain important aspects
of political life in Trinidad, that it is
necessary to understand them thorough-
ly. For that type of man, whether on the
Council or in the other departments of
government, is often a more dangerous
opponent of the masses of the people
than the Europeans themselves.
In its broader aspect this is no new
thing in politics. There is first of all the
natural gravitation of all men towards
the sources of power and authority. The
English aristocrats of the eighteenth and
early nineteenth centuries helped to
maintain their power by incorporating
into their system all brilliant men
outside of it who were likely to prove
formidable leaders of the people. Even
of Disraeli, Prime Minister and Earl of
Beaconsfield, the Tories could say that
he was a hired professional, "the
gentleman of England and a Player,
given." To-day the Labour Party in
England knows only too well one of its
chief perils is the absorption of its
leaders into the Conservative atmos-
phere, and perhaps-who knows-into
the Conservative Party.
Again, Trinidad is a small island, and
for those who have to make their way in
the community or who have children or
relatives to place, the two easiest
avenues of success are the help of the
Government or the help of the white
people. A lawyer, for instance, who
made himself too conspicuous fighting
for his own people against white
domination would naturally lose the
little chance he had of gaining large fees
from the great business houses which
are for the most part owned by
white-people. Who criticised the
Government too severely could hardly
ask them afterwards to give his son or
his friend an appointment. There is even
the possibility of a nominated member
losing his own place, for the Governor
can appoint whom he likes. It is easy for
him then to take the line of least
resistance, and thus comfort himself by
the reflection that after all in such a
legislature he can achieve nothing that
the Government sets its mind against.
There is yet another consideration no
less powerful than the foregoing. These
West Indian colonies offer especially to
those no longer young little m the way
of organised amusement, and indivi-
duals are thrown back almost entirely
on themselves for recreation. The white
people are the richer people, and
naturally form what for the sake of a
better term may be called the local
aristocracy. This society is on the whole
of no particular value, containing as its
does little of the element of real culture.
Successful grocers, commission agents,
small professional men and the like do
not in any part of the world constitute
the elements of a truly cultured society
which from the days of the Greeks to
our own is of importance only for what
it is and not for what it has.
Mr. Julian Juxley, after four months
extensive travel in Africa, could write:
Of a large and important section of
white people in Africa, officials as

well as settlers, it is not unfair to say
that "The Tatler," "Punch," a few
magazines, detective stories and
second-rate romantic novels re-
present their intellectual and cultural
The case in Trinidad is precisely the
same, and indeed the shallowness, the
self-sufficiency and the provincialism of
English Colonial society has long been a
bye-word among cultivated persons. But
they keep themselves to themselves,
and thereby become exclusive. They are
the wealthiest classes, they live in the
best houses, have the best clubs,
organise the best amusements. For the
fair skinned man who does not seek
much, that society seems a paradise.
But when that is said, though much is
said, all is not said. There is first of all
the Governor. There have been recent
Governors here whom the people
despised, and rightly. Of one and his
entourage in particular it could be said
that he represented the butler, his wife
the housekeeper, and his A.D.C. the
groom. But his Majesty's Representa-
tive is sometimes a man of parts, his
wife sometimes a person of elegance.
And whatever qualities they may have
are naturally enhanced by the
....... power, pre-eminence, and all
the large effects
That troop with majesty.
Now and then among the officials one
finds a really brilliant man, although not
often, because brilliant men would stay
at home, and even if they do come out,
quickly pass on elsewhere to occupy the
highest positions in more important
colonies. Of late, members of the
Consular Body and some of the
professors from the Imperial College of
Tropical Agriculture have contributed
their fair share to local society.
Distinguished visitors often lend both
tone and colour to the social dullness of
local life. Any unusual social talent of
local origin, once it is white, will usually
find its way to the top. Thus around the
Governor centre a few small groups
which, though they will vary in value
from time to time, yet whatever they
are, are by far the best that the island
can show for the coloured people,
though possessing in themselves the
elements of a society of some cultural
value (their range of choice being so
much wider), are so divided among
themselves on questions of colour,
based on varying shades of lightness or
darkness, that they have been unable to
form any truly representative social
group or groups. The result is that many
a man conscious of powers above the
average, and feeling himself entitled to
move in the best society the island
affords, spends most of his leisure time
and a small fortune in trying to get as
near to the magic centre as possible, in
itself a not too mean nor contemptible
ambition. The serious flaw in the
position of the local man of colour is
this, that those to whose society and
good graces he aspires are not only
Englishmen, but Englishmen in the
colonies, and therefore constitutionally
incapable of admitting into their society
on equal terms persons of colour,

however gifted or however highly
placed (unless very rich). The aspirant
usually achieves only a part of his aim.
The utmost sacrifice of money,
influence, and dignity usually gains him
but a precarious position on the outer
fringes of the society which he hopes to
penetrate, and he is reduced to
consorting with those fairer than
himself, whose cupidity is greater than
their pride. Others who feel themselves
above this place at any price policy
stand on their dignity and remain at
home, splendidly isolated. Thus it is
nothing surprising to find on the
Legislative Council three or four
coloured men, each a little different in
colour, who are more widely separated
from one another than any of them is
from a white man, and whose sole bond
of unity is their mutual jealousy in their
efforts to stand well with the governing
These matters would not concern us
here except for their unfortunate
reaction on the political life of the
Nominations to the council and
government appointments are in the
hands of the Government, and the
Government can to-day and does point
to the number of coloured men it has
appointed. But either by accident or
design it rarely appoints black men. The
career of these fair-skinned men, from
their point of view (perhaps also from
the point of view of the Government)
seems to depend to a large extent on the
way, whether openly or covertly, they
dissociate themselves from their own
people. They have been nominated or
selected for high office chiefly because
along with their ability or lack of it they
have shown a willingness and capacity
to please their rulers. But those same
arts a place did gain must it maintain.
The result is that a more or less intelli-
gent and aspiring minority occupy a
position in which they do much harm
and no good, for the Colonial Office and
the ordinary observer, being men of
colour, they represent the coloured
people, while the Government and the
white creole know that when it comes to
a crisis, these their henchmen are more
royalist than the King. Some people
have endeavoured to see in this a fatal
weakness of the coloured people and a
grave reflection on their capacity for
leadership. It is not so. Disinterested
service actuated by nothing more than a
sense of responsibility to one's own best
convictions is a thing rare among all
nations and by necessity of less frequent
occurrence in a small community of
limited opportunities. These men are
not so much inherently weak as
products of the social system in which
they live. Still, whatever the cause of
their conduct, its effect is disastrous.
Particularly as the Government will
appoint a dark man to a position of
importance only when it cannot get a
fair-skinned man.
And it is indeed strange that the
Government has never seen that the
best man to represent the dark people is
a dark man, not from any superior
virtue (heaven forbid that I should talk

such nonsense), but because a
dark-skinned man masquerading as any
sort of European naturally makes
himself ridiculous. There are and always
will be a few who wish to forget their
own people, others who are out only for
what they can get, and a few
evil-minded enough to combine in their
unfortunate selves both these qualities.
But that is inevitable. It remains true
that the darker the man, the more likely
he is to feel the interests he represents
on council or in government. The
Government can give no reason for
their persistent neglect of dark men at
all. It is not because there have not been
dark men of ability. Far from it. But
what dark men have had to put up with
can best be seen from the case of Mr.
Prudhomme David, who has been
quoted in Chapter I. He was, without a
doubt, the most brilliant Trinidadian of
the last fifty years, a distinguished
lawyer, a free and powerful speaker, a
man of wide culture, fearless, and of the
highest personal integrity. The extract
quoted is sufficient evidence of his
quality. Yet when he was appointed
(through the agency of Mr. Hugh
Clifford, then Colonial Secretary),
planter after planter on the Legislative
Council stood up and said that he had
no objection to Mr. David personally,
but that in future the Government
should not make these appointments
without consulting the other members
of the Council. One estate owner
actually said that he had sat with Mr.
David on a Commission and had been
very favourably impressed with him,
this of a man who was so immeasurably
his superior in every quality except the
impervious wall of self-conceit with
which years of Crown Colony
superiority seems to encase the ruling
Though there has been a slight
change recently, yet to-day, as always,
the Government on the whole
deliberately avoids the dark man,
whatever his ability, and by this policy
builds up in the service a group of men
who, however distasteful to Englishmen
themselves, are at one with them in
their common antipathy to the black.
Despising black men, these intermedi-
ates, in the Legislative Council and out
of it, are forever climbing up the
climbing wave, governed by one
dominating motive-acceptance by
white society. It would be unseemly to
lower the tone of this book by detailing
with whom, when and how Colonial
Secretaries and Attorneys-General dis-
tribute the nod distant, the bow cordial,
the shake-hand friendly, or the cut
direct as may seem fitting to their
exalted Highnesses; the transports of
joy into which men, rich, powerful and
able, are thrown by a few words from
the Colonial Secretary's wife or a smile
from the Chief Justice's daughter. These
are legitimate game, yet suit a lighter
hand and less strenuous atmosphere
than this. But political independence
and social aspiration cannot run
between the same shafts; sycophancy
soon learns to call itself moderation;
and invitations to dinner or visions of a

knighthood form the strongest barriers
to the wishes of the people.
All this is and has been common
knowledge in Trinidad for many years.
The situation shows little signs of
changing. The constitution is calculated
to encourage rather than to suppress the
tendency. But the day that all
fair-skinned men realise (as some do
to-day) that they can only command
respect when they respect themselves,
that day the domination of the coloured
people by white men is over. If the
white men are wealthy, they will have
the influence of wealthy men. If they
are able, they will have the influence of
able men. But they will not have the
influence of wealthy or able men, not
because they are wealthy or able, but
simply because they are white.

There remain the elected members.
But Trinidad has had only two elections,
and secondly the constitution is so
weighted against them that they can do
little. It takes a man of the courage and
strength of Captain Cipriani to hurl
himself continuously against the solid
phalanx arrayed against him. But these
elected members have not proved
entirely satisfactory from the point of
view of the people. That highly civilised
old creature Voltaire wrote to
Rousseau, the philosopher of back to
nature, that he had walked upright so
long that it was impossible for him now
to go down on all-fours. Some of these
elected members have gone on all-fours
so long that they are now unable to hold
themselves upright. Trained in the old
nominated school, their aspirations
are the same, and their methods
consequently the same. Some of them
could be translated into nominated
members without the slightest change in
their attitude. For many of the things
Captain Cipriani stands for and for
which one would naturally expect
support from elected members, he
stands alone. But should some English
head of department be put down for an
increase of salary, one sees these
elected members on their feet. "Never
was such an officer, never was one so
deserving. I beg to congratulate the
honourable member." It is clear from
their continual complimentary refer-
ences to every member of the Govern-
ment who happens to come up for
discussion, where their real interests lie.
Some of the heads of departments are
able men and do their work well, but in
no part of the world, even where
ministers come and go by their
achievements, are all men who fill
administrative positions satisfactory. Of
this one it is known in Trinidad that he
is certainly the laziest official who has
ever filled an important position in the
Colony. Of another, that his subordi-
nates are agreed that the first step
towards improving his department
would be to abolish his post and divide
his almost nominal duties among the
other members of the staff. A third
exceeds his votes with a regularity that
would have caused his colleagues in a

Cabinet to drop him overboard long
ago. But of all these things, although
some of these elected members must
know them as well as anybody else, they
take no notice. Government, good or
bad, goes serenely on. Of effective
criticism the Colony gets none from
them. The people are not deceived. The
difficulty lies in the constitution. A man
must be either resident in his
constituency or have property in it
amounting to 5,000. It is particularly
unfair because the Government once
tried this system of nominating
members for constituencies and had to
give it up. To-day, of their six
nominated members, four are from Port
of Spain. But the people who should
have every facility are to a large extent
robbed of real freedom of choice. Still,
on the whole they do their best. In
certain cases they have put persons on
the Legislature who have not the
qualifications in ability and character to
be there. But the people are justified.
They are handicapped by the system,
and prefer to vote for those who will
represent them badly than for those
who will not represent them at all.
That, then, is the unofficial side.
There remains now only the Governor
in the chair.

At first sight it may seem that the
Governor in the Chair occupies a
merely formal position, but on closer
observation it becomes immediately
obvious that his position there is as
potent for misgovernment as the other
two elements of Crown Colony
Legislature. The. Governor of a Crown
Colony is three things. He is the
representative of His Majesty the King,
as the Governor-General of South
Africa or Australia is the representative
of the King; and as such must have all
the homage and respect due to his
exalted position. But the Governor is
also the officer responsible for the
proper administration of the
government. The Governor-General of
South Africa, like the other Governors-
General, is not responsible for the
government of the country. The
responsible person is the Prime Minister
of those countries. In Trinidad the
Governor is Governor-General and
Prime Minister in one. But that makes
only two. The Governor has still
another official position. When he sits
in the Legislative Council he is
Chairman of that body. The unfortunate
result is that when a member of the
Council rises to speak he is addressing
at one and the same time an
incomprehensible personage, three in
one and one in three. A member of the
House of Commons can pay all due
respect to His Majesty the King, submit
himself to the proper authority of the
Speaker of the House, and yet express
himself in uncompromising terms about
any aspect of the Government policy
which appears to him to deserve such
censure. In a Crown Colony Legislature
that is impossible. There is no attempt
here to impugn the good faith of

Governors as a whole or any particular
Governor, and in temper and in outlook
the Governor is usually much the best
type of man. But the Governor, being
responsible for the administration, is
liable for criticism directed against his
subordinates. It is natural that he would,
it is inconceivable that he would do
otherwise than defend those on whom
he depends and who assist him in
carrying on the affairs of the Colony.
Take the case referred to elsewhere in
this book, where the Government had
sent a despatch which undoubtedly gave
the impression to the Colonial Office
that the Port-of-Spain City Council was
insolvent and therefore was not justified
in its attempt to take over the electric
lighting and tramways services of the
city. Captain Cipriani in the course of a
debate challenged the Government on
the point. The Governor immediately
replied, "My opinion was that the City
Council was solvent. Whether the
statement was made before that the City
Council was bankrupt, I have no idea."
Obviously the Governor was protecting
a subordinate or his immediate
predecessor, in other words, the
Government, from a damaging admis-
sion. Port-of-Spain is not a remote
village, nor a sugar estate. Its estimates
come before the Governor every year.
The Government could only escape the
charge of deliberate misrepresentation
by pleading guilty to unpardonable
negligence. Captain Cipriani was not
speaking on that particular point at the
time. But had that been his particular
subject, then he as representative of the
people of Port-of-Spain on the Council,
as Mayor of the City, and as the man
who had seen the malicious despatch in
the Colonial Office, might have had
severe and justifiable criticisms to make
on the action of the Government. But it
is certain that as soon as he had begun,
the Governor who had made his
admission as the head of the
Government would have been immedi-
ately transformed into His Majesty's
representative or the President of the
Chamber. And in the Council as it is
constituted and with the Governor
holding the power that he holds there
are never lacking members always on
the alert to jump to the defence of the
dignity of His Majesty's representative
or the respect due to the President of
the Chamber, quite neglectful of the
responsibility of the head of the
administration. There was in that very
debate a conspicuous example of this.
One nominated member in the course
of his address on the Divorce Bill found
it necessary to refer to the part the
Governor had played in bringing
forward that piece of legislation so
unpopular with a certain section.
-It is a pity that Your Excellency
did not publish these despatches
earlier, so that the public might have
known the part Your Excellency has
played in respect to this matter. I
have no doubt that now the des-
patches have been published and the
atmosphere has been clarified, it will
be realized that Your Excellency's
share of the responsibility for the

presentation of this Bill is absolutely
If I may say so without any offence,
it would appear that you are regarded
by the Colonial Office merely as a
servant of the centurion. I say
"Come" and he cometh; and I say to
another "Go" and he goeth; and I say
to my servant "Do this" and he doeth
it. It must be very humiliating indeed
to any responsible officer to find him-
self in the position in which Your
Excellency must find yourself. It has
come to the people of this Colony as a
great shock that the administration of
this Colony can be treated in the way
it has been treated by the Secretary of
Now that speech erred, if it erred in
any way, on the side of temperance. The
speaker was forcible, but his tone was
moderate, and certainly it was
respectful-in fact, one might have said
without exaggeration, so respectful as to
be almost humble. But not so in the eyes
of one member. No. For him the
Governor had been insulted. Nor did he
wait for a government official to say so.
He began his own address with a flood
of compliments to the Solicitor-General
for the able way in which he had argued
for the Bill, and then turned his hose on
to the Attorney-General and compli-
mented him on the able way he had
argued against the Bill. Then he
switched off to the address of his
brother nominated member.
He referred to the Governor of this
Colony in a way ill befitting any
member of this Council-certainly a
nominated member.
Which gave Captain Cipriani an
opportunity to say "Hear, Hear,"
rejoicing at this open disavowal of the
nonsense about nominated members
representing the people. But the
speaker was not satisfied that enough
sacrifices had been offered on the altar
of the Governor's dignity. Before his
speech was finished he found occasion
to make another reference. How the
Governor had been treated pained him.
I was pained to listen to his state-
ment in almost flippant language that
the Governor of this Colony was the
servant of the centurion; and when
the Secretary of State says to come
hither, he comes, and when he says to
go, he goes!
That was in December, 1931. But a
month before, in Dominica, two
members of Council, dissatisfied with
certain happenings in the Finance
Committee, resigned their posts, and
gave their reason for doing so. Wrote
the Administrator:
Government House,
November 19th, 1931.
The Chairman of the Finance
Committee has informed me that you
have tendered your resignation on the
ground that your endeavours to help
in putting the finances of Dominica
on a sounder footing are "doomed
to be neutralised and defeated," thus
reducing your labours "to an ab-
surdity" and infallibly bringing you

"into contempt with your consti-
You then proceed to state that it is
His Excellency the Governor who
had "stultified" your whole aims and
objects, that he has added "insult to
injury" by the appointment of one of
the Magistrates; and that his "spe-
cious plea for economy" does not
"impress you as genuine."
2. Such statements are not only
incorrect, but are also most unseemly
to use about His Majesty's Represen-
tative and are especially improper
when coming from members of the
Legislative Council; and I should at
once accept your resignations were it
not that I consider that some further
explanation is required from you in
the first instance......
It is not often that this difficulty
comes to the surface. But the influence
is always present. And it is not only
powerful but pernicious. There are,
doubtless, good reasons for the head of
the Government to sit in the Chair, but
on the whole he has no right to be there.
In his triple position he exercises a
disproportionate influence. His pre-
sence is an unfair barrier to free
expression of opinion. And a Legislative
Council in which a man cannot freely
speak his mind, is a place fit for
academic debates and not for the
discussion of the affairs of government.

It is not difficult to imagine the result
of all this in the working of the
constitution. The Government, over-
whelmingly strong as it already is, is
without effective criticism or check,
and being composed of men who are
governing not for the sake of governing,
but because they have to make a living,
it is not strange that things should be as
they are. For the business of
government is of such importance to
mankind that it must be done under the
most vigilant supervision and criticism.
There is no need to argue this principle
which has proved its value in every
modern constitution. "Public life is a
situation of power and energy. He
trespasses upon his duty who sleeps
upon his watch and may as well go over
to the enmy." There, Burke, master of
political statement, sums up a volume in
a phrase. That is the great strength of
the English constitution and the two
party system. His Majesty's Opposition
is an integral part of the British
Constitution. Every English minister
knows that his work has got to stand the
unsparing scrutiny and criticism of a
man who very probably occupied the
same position just before him and is
familiar with the working of the
department. This opposition is not
necessarily a factious opposition. It is
not opposition in the ordinary sense of
the word. Rather it is an Opposition.
And a Government without a serious
Opposition is not the servant of the
public but the directors of a limited
liability company.

It is the lack of this which robs so
much of our politics of any reality. Far
from being alert critics, the favourite
formula of most of these members is: "I
beg to congratulate the Government."
Should an official make a speech of no
more than mediocre ability, each one,
at some time in his own speech, either at
the beginning, in the middle or at the
end, and sometimes in all three places,
"begs to congratulate the honourable
member." Always they seem to be
bowing obsequiously, hat in hand,
always the oily flattery, the ingratiating
smile, and criticism offered on a silver
salver. A person gaining his first
impression of politics from a reading of
some of these debates would conclude
that it was not the sole business of the
Government to govern properly, but a
favour that was being conferred upon
the people. It must not be imagined that
some of these members have been
ciphers of no value on the Legislature.
Sometimes they are men of great ability
and great force of personality. They are
men of the world enough to know that if
to assert themselves too much is a
mistake, it will be equally a mistake to
assert themselves too little. They often
command a sort of respect, but only up
to a point. And they can never have that
full weight in public matters which
comes from a man like Captain Cipriani,
who speaks from his well-known and
settled convictions, or from a respected
Colonial Secretary, who is stating the
case from the Government point of
view. Politicians of all kinds and of all
countries are notorious self seekers, but
as a general rule, whatever their
involutions and evolutions, whatever
devious routes and pliant ways they may
adopt to attain their ends, the majority
of them have as the basis of their
position, a few settled principles, broad,
elastic, strained sometimes almost
unbelievably, but nevertheless at least
recognisable. Few like Mr. Winston
Churchill pass from party to party
seeking always whom they may devour.
But too often the local unofficial
'members, whatever their ability, when
the crisis really comes are less than
nothing. Sometimes they find them-
selves inadvertently on the wrong side,
and it is interesting to see them wriggle
out. Can the Government see its way to
.....? No. Couldn't the Government .....?
No. "I still think I am right, however,
though I beg to congratulate the
honourable member who explained the
Government's position. It is clear that
the Government is quite right, too. I beg
to congratulate the Government. The
Government will hear nothing more of
this from me."
It is a serious thing to make such a
charge against so important a body of
men, but no charges made in this book
will be unsubstantiated, and it is
necessary to give at once a concrete
example of the attitude of these
unofficial legislators.

* .:;:e 2

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