Right Steps & Poui Trees


2 Comments

350 Words or Less: Hurricane Gilbert, September 12, 1988

It’s 28 years since Hurricane Gilbert made its way from east to west across Jamaica, a direct hit if there ever was one.

noaa-map-of-gilbert-track

I remember it well. As a child, I longed to experience a “proper” hurricane. Gilbert fulfilled that childhood wish and though I retain a fascination with weather phenomena, I have no desire to experience anything like it ever again.

Each year on September 12, there is some acknowledgement of Hurricane Gilbert’s landfall in Jamaica. This morning I heard Lloyd Lovindeer’s hit song from that time, “Wild Gilbert”, a welcome comic take on events, generating much-needed laughter at the time.wild-gilbert-lovindeer

This evening, NOAA tweeted about Gilbert, which remains one of the strongest Atlantic hurricanes on record.noaa-hurricane-gilbert-tweet-12-9-16I have very clear memories from that time. I remember the first tree to fall in our garden, the massive guinep tree that was completely uprooted very early in the storm:gilbert-1gilbert-2

I remember letting the dogs out during the eye of the storm, and walking around in the garden, seeing the damage already done. It was quite still and the sky was blue. And then the incredible intensity of the winds when they returned, from the opposite direction. By nightfall, the sustained winds had passed, but every so often there was a strong gust and I remember lying in bed, unable to sleep, with a terrible headache, worrying about how some family members had fared.

I don’t have many pictures from that time. This one shows the house next door with much of its roof gone. The massive metal beams that held that roof had been bent back like plasticine, a mental image that forever represents for me the power of the winds during the hurricane.gilbert-3

After Hurricane Gilbert, we were without water for some time and without electricity for many weeks. We, like so many others, refined the art of cooking bully beef and savoured the pleasure of occasional cold drinks.

It’s a generation ago now and there are probably many Jamaican children wishing to experience a “proper” hurricane. And there are those of us who’ve experienced one, saying “No, thank you!”hurricane-gilbert-eye-over-jamaica-12-9-88

 

 

 


6 Comments

.#AToZChallengeJamaica: X is for X Marks the Spot!

X marks the spot! Right here on the map. Jamaica. 18.1096° N, 77.2975° W. I don’t know what terminology our island’s first inhabitants, the Tainos, used to locate us on the map. The winds, sea currents and stars that would have been part of the guiding elements.

And then, with the arrival of Europeans, Jamaica became located on their maps. A Wikipedia page has pictures of a few of those early maps:

Map of Jamaica - Benedetto Bordone 1528

Benedetto Bordone, 1528

 

Map of Jamaica - Porcacchi 1572

Tomaso Porcacchi, 1572

Old Maps Online also has links to pictures of a variety of maps of Jamaica, such as this one:

Map of Jamaica -  Colin Liddell 1895

Colin Liddell, 1895

By the way, CaribbeanExams.com has a nice, simple series of maps showing how the parishes of Jamaica have changed over the centuries:

Map of Jamaica - CaribbeanExams.com - 21 parishes

And every school child in Jamaica has had the task of learning the names of the parishes and their capitals…

Maps of the World  - Jamaica political map

These days, we can also access Jamaica via satellite maps online, as I did this morning:

NOAA Atlantic vis-animated (1)

And on Google Maps as well:

Google Maps Jamaica

Finally, while you should have no difficulty locating Jamaica on this blank map of the Caribbean, how many other countries could you correctly identify? Click here  to see how well you did.

caribbean_blank


2 Comments

.#AToZChallengeJamaica – O is for Out of Many, One People

The Jamaican national motto is ‘Out of Many, One People’, and is based on the population’s multiracial roots.

Jamaica - Coat of Arms

The motto is inscribed in the scroll of the Jamaica Coat of Arms, and was adopted at the time of Independence in 1962. Prior to that, the motto in the Coat of Arms was in Latin –  Indus Uterque Serviet Uni. (The Indians twain shall serve one Lord). It was felt that this motto had no relevance to modern independent Jamaica, and I would have to agree.

Ministry Paper No. 20, dealing with proposed National Emblems, indicates that the decision to change the motto had been made, but a replacement hadn’t yet been selected.

Ministry Paper No 20  - motto

The Ministry Paper was tabled in the House early in 1962.

Ministry Paper No 20 - end

 

Is our motto an existing reality, a guiding principle, an ideal to be aimed for?

To end, a verse from one of Louise Bennett’s poems – “Independence Dignity”, written at the time:

Teet’ an tongue was all united,

Heart an soul was hans an glove,

Fenky-fenky voice gain vigour pon

“Jamaica, land we love”.

 


6 Comments

#AToZChallengeJamaica: C is for Catherine’s Peak

In Jamaica today, when most people hear “Catherine’s Peak”, they probably think of the brand of bottled water by that name. That isn’t unexpected, but there are others – myself included – who think instead of the peak in the Blue Mountains…Catherine’s Peak itself!

IMG_1502

Catherine’s Peak is located in the parish of St Andrew, and is about 4430 feet high. (1350 meters)

Catherine's Peak map 2

It is just above the Jamaica Defence Force Training Depot at Newcastle. A paved road has been cut up to Catherine’s Peak, but when I was a child and we used to spend time at Newcastle in the summers, there was no road, just a path. My brothers and cousins and I looked forward to our obligatory climb to the Peak. We were quite in awe of the fully equipped recruits who would run to the Peak and back as part of their training; they completed their run in the time it took us to go halfway up to the top!

IMG_1492

Catherine’s Peak was reportedly named after Catherine Moore, wife of Lieutenant Governor Henry Moore & sister of historian Edward Long. In 1760, she is supposed to have been the first woman to climb the Peak (though this does discount the fact that a Taino or Maroon woman may have done so before her!) A more mundane origin for the name is suggested in the book “Jamaican Place Names”, however.

Higman & Hudson

Shrouded in mist or shrouded in legend, there she is…Catherine’s Peak!

IMG_1498


From Long Ago: “‘Dandy’, dengne, dengue – or was it really chikungunya?”

My mother is a historian, Dr Joy Lumsden, and she has always shared that passion and perspective with her family throughout her life. Her interest is wide-ranging, though she has a focus on a particular period of Jamaican history. Joy Lumsden from websiteAs she said in her profile on one of her websites:

I finally retired in 2004 after nearly 50 years of teaching, 1956-91 at high school, and 1980-2004 at university level. During all that time, and still today, I have been researching Jamaican history, especially in the period between the Morant Bay ‘Rebellion’ and the 1938 riots. My doctoral thesis, which I worked on from 1975 to 1988, was on the life and political career of Dr J Robert Love, the Black Bahamian who played a significant role in politics and journalism in Jamaica between 1890 and 1914. My work on Robert Love introduced me to a highly significant but little researched period of Jamaican history, when 2-3 generations of tough, courageous and self-confident Jamaicans laid the foundations of the modern nation.

Last week I mentioned to her an article I had seen on a CDC webpage, in which the writer posited that chikungunya (ChikV) had been present in the Americas 200 years ago. Scott B Halstead: Reappearance of Chikungunya, Formerly Called Dengue, in the Americas Soon after, she posted on her Jamaica History website some information she had found about dengue and/or ChikV in the region during that time. I found it fascinating to read, given the heightened focus at the moment on the zika virus. And it was particularly interesting to read these excerpts, remembering that at the time it was still not known that these diseases were vector borne viral diseases, transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito.

The full post can be read on the website at:

‘Dandy’, dengne, dengue – or was it really chikungunya?

Below I have copied one excerpt from a 1828 document:

Jamaican History website 2

Jamaican History website 3

 


What You Can Find on the Internet: Thistlewood’s Diaries

The internet still astounds me. Its range, what it makes possible. And I know only a microscopic part of its uses and possibilities. This morning I had one of those moments which highlights/encapsulates for me this remarkable phenomenon and tool. (Forgive me, but I grew up in a world without the internet…)

I was up early & was on Twitter, when I saw this post by historian Gad Heuman:

Gad Heuman tweet

I followed the link to the Yale University Library Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library page detailing the digitization of the papers of Thomas Thistlewood. (Click here)

Thistlewood diaries library link

And a few clicks later (click here), I was looking at reproductions of actual pages of his notorious diaries…

Thistlewood July 1751

Many people would know of the diaries from Douglas Hall’s book “In Miserable Slavery: Thomas Thistlewood in Jamaica, 1750-86”, sections of which are available on Google Books (click here), for those who don’t have access to a physical copy.

Thistlewood - Hall inside title pageThistlewood - Hall back cover 1

Thistlewood’s diaries are difficult to read – the physical script and some of the disturbing content, but their increased availability illustrates one of the real values of the internet – increased access to information.