Saturday, 20 January 2018

The Archipelagaic Kingdom of Jamaica

The Archipelagaic Kingdom of Jamaica

Jamaica creates 21st century dynasty

Kingdom of Jamaica on Biteable.

Friday, 12 January 2018

Stories inspired by Jamaica 1655 - 1661

These videos are for my personal, non commercial use and intended to amplify a storyline inspired by  the history of Jamaica. I do not own the photos used and did not get permission to use them.

Creating the Coat of Arms of Jamaica 1 on Biteable.

The administrator and the entrepreneur on Biteable.

They were brothers on Biteable.

Esquivel and Bartolomo on Biteable.

Slideshow 1 on Biteable.

Never Broken Down - 2 on Biteable.

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Fight or Make Do?

Fight or Make Do?

The administrator and the entrepreneur on Biteable.

Having read extended first account dispatches and commentary of the period of history of Jamaica 1509 to 1692, I ask of myself what I should make of it and if the times call for me to take any action.
The most hurtful part of the new information, for me, is the acceptance of a 7% agent commission by governors of the island to handle business on behalf of the company that had a licensed monopoly on the trade of enslaved persons. With that structure in place, the society could not possibly have matured from rampant adventurism to civilization. Indeed, the enslaved persons had no choice but to fight it out or adapt and make the system work for them. I am grateful, and humbled, that many chose the more honourable route of fighting. 

For those who did not fight, but chose to use other means to survive and thrive within the context that they found themselves in, they helped to build society that somehow, progressed and has made a positive contribution to the progress of humanity. I hesitate to apply judgement on them

Slideshow 1 on Biteable.

Characters with their birth years and nationalities
From circa 600AD to 1662 The Tainos living on Jamaica for more than 1,000 years
1470 Juan de Esquivel, Spanish conquistador
1484 Bartolome de las Casas, Spanish haciaenda owner
William Jackson, English, pirate
Cristobal Arnaldo de Ysassi, Spanish Jamaican administrator
Juan Lobolo, African Jamaican maroon chief
1617 Edward D'Oyley, English naval officer and administrator
Richard Guy, English naval officer, planter, politician
1633 Thomas Lynch, English naval officer, administrator, planter
1629 Charles Howard, English military officer and politician and landowner
1635 Henry Morgan, Welsh buccaneer, privateer, planter, politician, administrator
1636 William Beeston, English planter, mercantilist and administrator
1639 John Vaughn, English landowner, peer, administrator
1639 Hender Molesworth, English administrator, planter, mercantilist

In 1509, Juan de Esquivel, a 39 year-old Spanish man living in Hispaniola was assigned administrative responsibility for the island of Santiago. The authorities wanted Esquivel off the island of Hispaniola, as the influential 28-year-old, Bartolome de las Casas, an owner of a hacienda worked by enslaved Taino people, reported him for his abominable cruelty against the Taino community.
Esquivel had arrived as crew on the second voyage of Columbus and had readily engaged in atrocities against the Taino people that was encouraged by his boss Columbus.
Esquivel had successfully established two settlements in Hispaniola, but the reports against him by Bartolome could not be ignored. Esquivel lasted four years as governor of Santiago, before he was again removed from office, but those four years left a long legacy.
He founded the town of New Seville which was a stable and growing settlement for another 150 years; and a harbour on the south coast of the island bears his name. Through poetic justice, the island of Santiago reverted to a modernised version of its original Taino name and became Jamaica.
Esquivel was removed from office in 1513, but remained on Jamaica for the rest of his life.

Spain did little better than ignore the island for another 130 years. It was therefore ripe as a target, and William Jackson - who had a license from his government to pillage Spanish possessions in the Caribbean - scored easily on March 25, 1643.
Jackson anchored in Kingston Harbour and his party of 500 men captured the south coast town of St Jago de la Vega. After the conflict was resolved, more than two score of Jackson's men decided to stay on, as they said Jamaica was a terrestrial paradise.

Eleven years later, in 1655, a poorly organised military force of the revolutionary Commonwealth of England Scotland and Ireland, made a last ditch attempt to redeem their disastrous campaign to capture Hispaniola by going after the weakly defended Jamaica. They followed Jackson's game plan and captured St Jago de la Vega, then a town of 400 houses, some were armed. Boosted by the victory, the island was then quickly militarized by them.
Combatants of that period whose exploits have had a lasting impact on Jamaica were: soldier Thomas Lynch who was in his early 20s; Edward D'Oyley, a naval officer in his 40s; Richard Guy, a military official; the maroon leader John Lobolo and the Spanish administrator Cristobal Arnaldo Ysassi (Isasi).

Soldier Thomas Lynch and buccaneer Henry Morgan were also involved in power struggles that caused them to face down each other over the ensuing 20 years.

Some historians say that Cristobal Arnaldo de Ysassi's family held the rights to the entire island of Jamaica, and he was determined not to lose his birthright. Largely through his personal efforts, over the course of three years he fixed himself the target of bringing the island back under Spanish control.
Important to his plans was the support of the maroon people who lived across three pelincos in the hinterlands of Jamaica. The maroons were Africans who had, through their own efforts, self liberated themselves from bondage, but Ysassi somehow believed that they were still sympathetic to the Spanish cause. Unknown to him, his ally - and a man who he described as key to his plans - Juan Lubolo, had been courted by a British military officer, Richard Guy, and had switched allegiances.
After losing three pitched battles, and being attacked by both maroons and British, Ysassi last saw Jamaica in 1658 as he departed the north coast by canoe for Cuba. This born Jamaican then disappears from the public record. D'Oyley had met Ysassi's forces and defeated him at Ocho Rios 1657 and again at Rio Bueno in 1658.

Of the other combatants of that time, Guy went on to become a moderately wealthy planter using enslaved labour, and was also a member of the House of Assembly. He married, and his grave can be seen in Guanaboa Vale.
Lubolo's influence and leadership saw him being recognised as a Colonel by the authorities. A peace treaty was signed in 1660 between Lubolo and the governor, granting his palenco peace and privileges for ever. In 1664, however, he was ambushed and killed by another maroon group, but his leadership has been immortalised by the naming of the Juan de Bolas Mountains, the Juan de Bolas River and other place names in central Jamaica.

D'Oyley advanced professionally, and made the transition from being a fighting man to administrator. Between between 1657 and 1662, he was officially in charge of Jamaica. His actions defined the development of the society. He:
-Dispossessed the remaining groups of Taino people by transporting them to Central America;
-Invited the pirates in Tortuga to relocate their headquarters to Port Royal as a strategy to prevent other nations from taking Jamaica as a prize;
-Selected and appointed eleven military officers and one civilian to make up the first House of Assembly. At the end of his commission, he left Jamaica.

Thomas Lynch, the solder who was a part of the invading force of 1655, was chief of staff to D'Oyley. At about age 30, Lynch was appointed Deputy Governor from 1663 for one year. He was also Chief Justice and Provost (Chief Sheriff) of the island. In other words, he was the police and the judge.
Lynch appointed a 24 year old Englishman, William Beeston, as his deputy and sent him on official negotiations with the Spanish for the return of British prisoners.

The politics of Britain changed. In 1660, the United Kingdom was formed and crown favourites were given appointments in colonies. Lynch gave way to a politician Edward Morgan who was Deputy Governor in 1664. Lynch did not have a good relationship with Morgan and he was charged with slander. At least one writer wonders if it was because Lynch wanted to marry a black woman. Morgan's daughter later married fellow Welshman, and the most powerful man in the Caribbean, Henry Morgan, and he left Jamaica, for a while.

The first push to exploit the economic agricultural potential of Jamaica, using a system of enslaved labour, came with Thomas Modyford who, at age 42, was appointed Deputy Governor, arriving in 1664 with 700 planters and enslaved persons. This influx propelled the sugar cane plantation economy into exponential growth mode. Modyford was all about the money and granted privateering licenses, giving 1/10 to the crown and notoriously keeping 1/15th for himself. Lynch did not have a good working relationship with this boss and was relieved of his appointments. Not being a planter or merchant but a mere public employee, Lynch returned for a desk job in Britain.

Modyford's granting of a lucrative privateering license to Henry Morgan in January 1671, led to diplomatic grief for his country and the downfall of his career. Unknown to him, England and Spain had signed a peace treaty in June 1670, and Morgan's pillaging of Panama some months later was an affront to that agreement. Modyford lost his job and was imprisoned for a year.

Thomas Lynch was then knighted in 1670, married Vere Herbert, and appointed as the first Lt Governor of Jamaica. On his return, he continued the policy of issuing licenses to privateers for three years, 1671 to 1674. Henry Morgan was in Britain from 1672 to 1674, was never arrested, and his explanations for his actions were accepted.

In 1674, 36-year-old John Vaughn, a friend of the court, was appointed Lt Governor with the mandate to eradicate the business of privateerism. Concurrent with this, Henry Morgan received a knighthood and accompanied Vaughn to Jamaica where they were joined by former Deputy Governor and friend of Morgan, Modyford. The planters and merchants in Jamaica celebrated the return of Morgan, and Vaughn soon realised that that his authority was curtailed by the former outlaw's great influence across the Caribbean.
Administration of the island over the next four years can be described as untidy, at best. Vaughn was corrupt and debauched; Henry Morgan was a drunkard and was secretly collaborating with the French to attack his old enemies - and now allies of his government - the Spanish.
In 1678, Vaughn was recalled and 49-year old military veteran and shrewd politician Charles Howard was sent out as Lt Governor. Howard had been a supporter of the revolution, but with the restoration of the crown, easily reverted to being a royalist. He openly flaunted the ban on privateering and was eased out of the system, departing Jamaica after two years in 1680, leaving Henry Morgan again in the position of Lt Governor (Acting). Morgan personally undertook to increase the number of big guns around Jamaica from 60 to 100. In addition, he declared martial law twice in response to perceived threat of the French.

In 1681, a new constitution was adopted in the UK for the governance of Jamaica. It was said to be "royally responsive" but insisted on the value of a local assembly to pass laws. It also depressed privateerism by strengthening the local militia and making the planters dependent on the crown for security. Both Vaughn and Lynch entreated the crown to appoint another governor, which was done on acceptance of 50,000 pounds raised from the planter class in Jamaica. These "negotiations" resulted in Morgan being removed as Lt Governor and also his commission as Captain General being revoked. Morgan's arch nemesis, Thomas Lynch, was appointed Lt Governor and Captain General, in 1682. A few months later Lynch's wife and son died on an island in the Atlantic on their way to rejoin him in Jamaica.
As governor, Lynch immediately implemented the new order. He also removed Morgan, his brother and other associates from the Jamaica House of Assembly.

Lynch carefully mentored two other men who went on to get the governorship of Jamaica, Hender Molesworth, a merchant 30 years his junior, and administrator William Beeston, who was two years younger than Molesworth. These two men were to become extremely powerful and wealthy. They were each in turn, chief military officials, slaveholding planters, and agents earning 7% from handling transactions on behalf of the Royal African Company, which had a monopoly on the trade in enslaved people.

Lynch married the 17 year old Mary Temple from in 1684 and died a few months later. He was buried the day after he died in St Catherine. His grave can still be seen. His daughter by Vere, Philadelphia, went on to marry a wealthy planter/enslaver in Barbados.

Molesworth became acting Lt Governor in 1685, and the same year had to contend with a yearlong war waged by Africans in Jamaica who had gained freedom by their own efforts. In addition to this, he pursued other policies that included annihilating the fledgling settlement of Scotsmen on Golden Island off the shore of Guyana.

A profligate member of the nobility, Christopher Monck, was appointed governor in 1687, and one of the notorious actions of his tenure was to oversee the heroic funeral arrangements of Henry Morgan in 1688.
Morgan was given full military and state honours, including a 22 gun salute - one more than is given to royalty - and was buried in Port Royal. His grave disappeared four years later with the earthquake of 1692. He died without issue leaving his wife, who was also a relation, Mary Elizabeth age 48.

Monck died in office at age 35 and Molesworth was again acting Lt Governor. Molesworth married Thomas Lynch's widow Mary in 1688/9, and he also died in the post in 1689. Mary then returned to England.

In 1689, Major General Francis Watson was commissioned as Lt Governor of Jamaica, a year later enslaved persons on the Sutton plantation in Clarendon staged a war which resulted in an enlargement of the maroons in central Jamaica. Watson was the last of the Lt Governors with his term ending in 1692.


Sunday, 19 November 2017

Whole and Undivided 2

Whole and Undivided 2

In Marine's family, there was no change in the household business and operations unless her mother was comfortable with it, and she was a traditionalist on every matter except fashion where she was respected for being able to step up to higher levels.

Marine and her siblings enjoyed the admiration of their peers on her clothes that were usually up-to-season and not just name brand, but on the matter of anything else, change was a no-go. At this time they were a family of five. The three children were: Marine the youngest at age 14, her brother age 16, and half-sister age 17 and six months older than her brother; the children shared the same father.

Sundays were her mother's simmer down time. After dinner was cleared, Marine's mother would go out on the back patio and care for her orchids while taking part in two to three consecutive social media conversations by voice and text with her sisters and cousins. If she was not doing this, she was at a social event with her husband, Marine's stepfather. Today was a stay-at-home day and Marine decided to broach the changing her paediatrician. She was the youngest and had been able to learn from her siblings' very different approaches to their mother.

Their brother, for the past year, had simply been doing what he wanted without asking. It started when he decided that he was not going on to Grade 12 but wanted to open a body art business. The matter settled with him being sent to a college overseas for a year to pursue certification as a physical therapist. Her half-sister usually capitulated to everything and went along with the plans that were set for her, as the unspoken suggestion of being returned to her mother easily crept into the aura of a room like smoke when there was a fire raging outside the door.
    "Mum, I want to change my doctor."
    "What? Why would you want to do that? Everything is perfectly fine. A doctor! Where did you even get the idea?"
Her mother did not look up from sending a text, then giggled softly at something that she was reading on screen.
    "I don't think that I should still be going to a baby doctor."
    "Your doctor is quite capable for you right now, it's not like you need a gynecologist."
    "Fine, I'll ask Dad."

It was a card that Marine, or any of the children, rarely played as it sent her mother into a dark mood when they even remembered that they had a natural father.
    "Is there a problem that you want to tell me about Marine? Just come out and say it. I am always open with you children, you are always free to contact your father. We have joint custody even though Leon and I are look about everything for you children. But, if you wish to call your father, go right ahead. Why do you want to leave your doctor Marine?"
    "I need someone who is not going to look at me like a small child, and I do not feel comfortable being the only teenager in an office of babies and toddlers."

Her answer had allowed her mother to quickly think through the matter, and she seemed to have settled it in her mind as a suggestion that had worth. Her composure returned, she smiled and opened her hands.
    "OK baby girl. I understand, I should have suggested it before, so I will make an appointment with my doctor and we will go. She might be able to recommend a more powerful acne medicine."
    "I don't want to go to your doctor Mum. I want my own doctor and I want it to be someone who also knows about neurosurgery."
Marine's sister and brother both went to their mother's GP.
    "What is really going on here Marine? We have a family doctor. If you are moving from your pediatrician, and it is too early for a gynae then ...."
    "I have my own needs."
Marine's mother went into fortress mode. Her eyes scanned the balcony to make sure that no one else, not the servants, not the other children, not her husband was hearing. She needed to lock this discussion down for the sake of her child, and for some reason, winning this conversation seemed to be important to Marine.

    "I seemed to have been forgetting that you are growing up my daughter. If you want your own doctor, I will allow it. A woman doctor, mind you, I am not letting you go to any male doctor as a 14-year old."

Marine's hand shook, just a little, as she held out a business card. Her mother took it quickly and scanned the name.

    "Where did you get this Marine?"
    "I went to the office?"
    "I googled neurosurgeon Jamaica and saw that this office was in the plaza where I do Math tutorials, so went walked across the corridor and got it."

It was a blow to her mother to realise that her daughter can walk from the tutorial classroom to a doctor's office in the same business centre. She thought that she had her daughter's every second mapped out and under supervision. She touched her forehead, it was wet, probably sweat from the afternoon heat, but she felt cold.
    "I'll check it out."
    "That's the one that I want Mum."
    "Leave the matter there for now Marine. Let's talk about this later. You don't have a health crisis, so let it rest for now."   

Marine assented.

Whole and Undivided

Whole and Undivided

Marine checked her shared bedroom door, it was locked, no one in the family could barge in. Then she closed the curtains, even though their condominium was on the 10th floor, and no other buildings were close enough for peering eyes.

Her menstrual cramps would ease in another ten or so minutes because she took her pain tablets after breakfast, the acne breakout on her cheeks made her aware that pus was building up in the pores, and it would get worse as the temperature rose during the day, but it was the headaches that were the most concerning of her ongoing discomforts. 

Cramps and acne she shared with her friends, complaining and consoling each other's adolescent maladies and engaging in a morbid past time of discussing remedies and palliatives.

It was the third pain, the headaches, that were frightful to Marine, because she could not share those beyond the secret circle of her mother, her father, Auntie Lips the hairdresser, and her pediatrician. At 14 years of age she still went to a baby doctor as her parents did not want to expand the small circle of people who knew.

Her vanity mirror was wide and had a built in tubular lamp that had the luminescence of natural tropical daylight. Although it was a clear ten o' clock morning, Marine turned the lamp on, and sat down before the mirror. She pushed aside Auntie Lips' carefully sewn in hair piece that covered the last area where the human skull fused into one casing - the area that we call the mole - and looked at the dome of growing bone that was causing her pain.

The tests that were done years ago were conclusive. Marina's bare skull in the centre of her head would grow into a horn during adolescence, and over the past year, it had started. Auntie Lips had been filing down the horn as it emerged, in addition to stitching down a hair piece that lay flat over the extruded bone.

From she started kindergarten, Marine had learned how to keep her bare skull bone as a secret. Her mother would have hidden it from her father as well, had the doctor not insisted that he had a right to know. The year that she started her period, her doctor and her mother made her aware about the coming growth and she had accepted that as well without thinking about it. But now that it was here, and Marine was sure it was responsible for the intense headaches, she had been thinking about it a lot.

    "Live with Integrity"

Her class had had this phrase drilled into them from the first day of secondary school. It was an attempt to encourage the students to have an internal regulator that would stop them from being cheats and sociopaths. It reminded them that their online activities and their unique national identifier would find out deception, and that mistakes will follow them through life. It was a voluntary call to action, a word to the wise.

Marina accepted the code and followed it, she did not practice cheating and she simply told the truth on any matter that would come up and face the consequences. But concealing the growing horn on her head was a different matter, that was a secret outside of the integrity code.

"What if I made it a semi-secret?" Marine wondered.
A "semi-secret" would mean expanding the knowledge to her big brother and sister, her grandparents, her aunts and uncles and cousins. What were the consequences if they knew?
"Semi-secret" could also be her best friends at school and club, she had three to four really close ones.
Wouldn't they understand and defend her? She also felt sure they would, they were decent people.

"But is that what living with integrity means?"

Marine used her cell phone to take a selfie photo of the bone. She had to snap quite a few times until she captured one that was in focus and bright enough to examine how it really looked.

It was not pretty.

She wished that, at least, the bone would have been a noble ivory or a shiny enamel like a tooth, but it was a grey, brown, tough horn. It seemed better after all to keep it covered up.

Marine fixed back her hairpiece and thought again about the word integrity. From she was a young girl she had had a lot of exposure about self-pride, racial pride, national pride, they repeated that everyone was special in their own unique way. Her family treated her, and each other, with respect and gave care and attention - love.

In the media, society was at pains to tell young people about the dangers of bleaching and that at school, bleached students would suffer consequences. The schools could not force students who bleached to stay at home until their skins regained their natural colour, but they found creative ways to discourage the practice. Students who wore weaves and extensions suffered the emotional distress of having it cut off and confiscated at the nurse's station, so no one wasted time and effort or bravado to style themselves for life in institutions in that way. The same applied for the age old breach of nail polish and makeup.

But here she was, with a cosmetic solution for a natural condition that was not contagious and not dangerous.

If I was born to grow a horn, then perhaps I should have my horn if I wish, Marine thought.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Red Hills Road

Red Hills Road


In the years when Movado reigned as the richest voice in the dance, because Banton had not yet been returned, an angel appeared unto a youth, who they called Day, who was the only child left one afternoon in the schoolyard.
His Principal walked to him and said,
    "Youth, your father will not come for you because the Red Hills Road has been split in two and no vehicles can come across. It will be safer to be with the people in a group rather than here alone."
With that, Day left and walked through the Dale until he came to the terminus where indeed a multitude was gathered in distress and dismay.
The major road called Red Hills Road had been split in two from the parish boundary near Sligoville to – Eastwood (called so because it had few trees), a distance of 16 kilometres. Along the entire length of the road, was a chasm 10 metres deep with jagged edges and a rushing stream of filth flowed through the gape.
Day saw his father on the other side and waited for some instruction, for something to happen. He saw his cat Manchester standing by his father, and then, Day realised that the cat was rubbing up against his own Day's leg.
    "How did you cross the road Manchester?" he asked as he bent down to pick up the cat which only loped a few steps away and stopped again. Day walked away from the crowd for his cat and was amazed to see it change into the shape of an angel with rough skin like a ginger root. He was sore afraid at the sight of the apparition.
The angel reached out and anointed the boy on his head with flavourful pimento butter and told him that his mission was to repair the huge breakage in Red Hills Road. The angel, with a silent cry, reshaped into a Barble Dove and flew away.
There was no one to ask how or why, so the boy kneeled and prayed, asking for guidance and strength. He prayed saying:
    "You called me from my humble place of ignorance to do your will and show goodness to the world. Guide me now in a performance, and show that through you, all things are possible."
When he rose, his foot hit a smooth pebble, grey and tough, that had been forged in the centre of the earth and extruded by the force of an ancient volcano from mountains of the East. Day gave thanks for the one stone and threw it hard into the roaring water of the chasm. The earth shook, the people exclaimed and fled away, but Day focused on finding a second hard stone. He saw one kotching a door open and he flung it in. The earth rumbled more. With each stone, a kilometre of roadway was filled in with tightly packed, smooth, grey or white river stones.
In an hour, the rumbling stopped and the chasm, 16 Km long and 10 metres deep, was solidly filled. The flow of filth had ceased, and the road was whole and the infrastructure was more solid than it had ever been.
The people came back, and their throats were filled with praises, then they asked "How will we drive along this road as it is not paved?" They worried for their front end parts, and became angry because of the state of the bad road.
Day had walked over to his father and held his hand, but this time he kneeled again and prayed saying:
    "Do not be angry with us for not appreciating this solid road which is already being used, it is our sustenance. I ask you now to grant us comfort, show me how to make the way smooth."
As he completed his prayer with an Amen, a flock of grackles with shining black feathers flew from the North West and descended in droves. As each alighted, it gave a shriek and crumbled into asphaltic concrete and became Barber Greene. Flock after flock of grackles, and a few John Crows, so did give up their lives.
By night, the road was complete.
    "Give heed to this mighty work", said Day. "Our unsustainable lifestyles put us in danger. We have been taken from this and given firm support, and now comfort. Let us set aside time for fervent thanksgiving before we find another reason to celebrate the joys of life."


"The Wonderful Adventures of Mary Seacole in Many Lands"

I have just completed "The Wonderful Adventures of Mary Seacole in Many Lands" (1850-1857) by reading it in and also listening to the LibriVox audiobook.
Mrs Seacole was an "unprotected" Jamaican woman who followed her passion to serve people through the occupations of restaurateur, shopkeeper and healer. She was particularly attracted to serving the ranks and officers of the British military and their wives. I think that this is an outcome of her personal "Daddy Issues", as she loved to declare that her absent father was a military man from Scotland, and that her industrious traits came from his side of the family...although her Jamaican mother was an accomplished woman.
Mary Seacole became famous during her two years of humanitarian work during the Crimean War in Eastern Europe. Those adventures left her in debt and in poverty for the rest of for life; but she expressed those years as a triumph and had absolutely no regrets. She says, "I am not ashamed to confess—for the gratification is a selfish one—that I love to be of service to those who need a woman’s help."
She responded to the social structures of her time by using to advantageous effect her physical appearance (light skinned black person) and to being a member of a caste of West Indian persons who called themselves Creoles. She defined herself as "I do not know what it is to be indolent", her mother as, "like very many of the Creole women, an admirable doctress; in high repute", and of Creoles "having an affection for English people and an anxiety for their welfare."
Overall, she was attracted to progress, industry, sophistication and development in general. Mary Seacole's orientation, as a West Indian of her generation, gave preference to British culture, but her travels allowed her to appreciate the value of many other cultures.
There was one notable exception. Mary Seacole had an unyielding negativity towards the United States of America, as while she was in the country called the Republic of New Granada from 1851-1854 (the section of it know known as Panama) she lived among men who had escaped slavery in USA, and she heard their stories. Seacole was born during, and would have become an adult during the slave era in Jamaica, but she reserved her ire on this point to the USA, giving the British Empire a complete passover.
Thanks to her account, I have a greater understanding of how it was that - 50 years after her experiences in Central America - Marcus Garvey found fertile ground in Central America to develop his philosophy of black pride and nationalism. He was there from 1910 - 1912. Central America had by that time been peopled with former enslaved persons from the USA and also Central America, and who were instinctively looking for a nation to which they could cleave. Seacole described the persons who held positions of responsibility in the towns she frequented in New Granada as negroes or black people. These were magistrates, soldiers, and other government officials.
    "It was wonderful to see how freedom and equality elevate men," she says of black men in general.
She also said, "Many of the negroes, fugitive from the Southern States, had sought refuge in this and the other States of Central America, where every profession was open to them; and as they were generally superior men—evinced perhaps by their hatred of their old condition and their successful flight—they soon rose to positions of eminence in New Granada. In the priesthood, in the army, in all municipal offices, the self-liberated negroes were invariably found in the foremost rank; and the people, for some reason—perhaps because they recognised in them superior talents for administration—always respected them more than, and preferred them to, their native rulers. So that, influenced naturally by these freed slaves, who bore themselves before their old masters bravely and like men."
Seacole was a hard worker and she seemed to have a knack of building a team who could work with her style, but in her memoir, she afforded only a few words of acknowledgement to them unless they were getting on her nerves. There was one occasion where she described how she whipped a servant. Mrs Seacole employed persons from several ethnicities and races, but the staff members who were longest in her employ were skilled black men and a black girl.
Oftentimes, I found it painful to read her account of plain people, such as the Spanish Indians in New Granada, or the workers on the wharves of Balaclava, or of Greeks in general and French women in particular. On the other hand, Seacole never had a negative word about any titled personage, be that person Turkish, French, British or even Russian. She adored military officers and protected their reputations. Her special love of the military extended to the ranks of young men, who she called her dear sons.
Tenacity and personal contacts were tactics that Mary Seacole used to get around British military bureaucracy, and to secure what she wanted from them. In 1854, after being repeatedly turned down from joining the cadre of nurses to serve the cause of the British in the Crimean War, she simply started a business on a hill in the village of Kadioki in the Crimea, one mile from British military headquarters. She called the place Spring Hill (after Jamaica, island of Springs) and her business, The British Hotel.
On being turned down from being an army nurse she said, "Tears of grief that any should doubt my motives—I stood still & prayed aloud," and then she went ahead with a new plan to get where she wanted to be.
The Mary Seacole story is a cautionary tale about entrepreneurship. Mrs Seacole left the accounting side of the business to her partner, Mr Day, while she created the real value in providing hospitality and healing. At the end of two years she was left in debt and weakened health, and was only able to keep body and soul together from the kindness of friends who put on a benefit concert in her honour. Today they could also have established a Go Fund Me account.
Seacole could have made a fortune by setting up her services in a safe and established marketplace, such as Constantinople or Balaclava, instead of on the outskirts of a battlefield. She could have - as some enterprising French women did - moved the business to the city of Sevastopol after the allies had captured it, she chose instead to stay on the hill in the village even as the armies were departing. She cherished declaring that she was the first woman to enter Sevastopol after it had fallen.
Mary Seacole was a proud Jamaican who had very fond memories of her childhood in Kingston, of her mother, and of her husband and life in Black River, St Elizabeth. There are no negatives about the Island of Springs in her memoir.
One remarkable matter of Mary Seacole was her Jamaican eye for fashion. Everywhere she went, she travelled with colourful calico to drape walls and to cover tables in order to create a cheerful atmosphere in her establishment. Even in grim places, she had a wardrobe of outfits. She also paid a lot of attention to her attire, and mentions her dresses and how her bonnets were trimmed.
"I had attired myself in a delicate light blue dress, a white bonnet prettily trimmed, and an equally chaste shawl," she says of how she was dressed as she was about to walk up a hill of mud in Central America. In the Crimea, she gives an account of a soldier giving her a war prize of a dress that would have belonged to a Russian woman. Twice in her memoir, washerwomen are mentioned with respect. At another time, an employee who she hired to do laundry made off with a load of her dresses. Among the few war trophies that she took were buttons that she cut off the uniforms of dead Russian soldiers.
This lady was a "big girl" who loved her size as she says in her memoir, "Time and trouble combined have left me with a well-filled-out, portly form, the envy of many an angular Yankee female."
She describes herself of having "taken Constantinople", "Neatly dressed in a red or yellow dress, a plain shawl of some other colour, and a simple straw wide-awake, with bright red streamers."
Mary Seacole made a point of declaring that West Indian cookery was better than French cuisine, and said of a famous chef, "the great high priest of the mysteries of cookery, Mons. Alexis Soyer. He was often at Spring Hill... and never failed to praise my soups and dainties. I always flattered myself that I was his match, and with our West Indian dishes could of course beat him hollow, and more than once I challenged him to a trial of skill; but the gallant Frenchman only shrugged his shoulders, and disclaimed my challenge with many flourishes of his jewelled hands, declaring that Madame proposed a contest where victory would cost him his reputation for gallantry, and be more disastrous than defeat. And all because I was a woman, forsooth. What nonsense to talk like that, when I was doing the work of half a dozen men."
The details near the end of the book serve as a caution against waging physical warfare. She gives her account of the waste of human life recalling the Russian soldier who died biting down on her finger in pain as she was giving him succor, to her beloved Irishmen left in half-filled trenches and the officers who she venerated. She was not untouched by suffering, and she gave selflessly of herself in order to give them the comfort of a woman's caring touch. She says that it was a privilege to stand in the place of mothers and sisters and wives, delivering comfort to their men. They men in turn called her Auntie Seacole, Mother Seacole, Mami.
She was not a religious person and spoke of Providence, not God, but she offered hospitality, not sales on the Lord's day; took an altar painting and altar candles as Russian war prizes and said, "The Christian’s death is the glorious one, as is his life."
Mary Seacole decided to live a life dictated by her passion to be of service to servicemen. She seemed to have enjoyed the rough and tumble of it all, and the challenge of testing her will power against the many and varied troubles that she encountered. As an old lady, she had more well-wishers and true friends than many other elevated persons of her era. In fact, today when the heroic names of 160 years ago are being buffeted by public opinion, her reputation seems to be rising.
With these thoughts, I believe that the memoirs of Mary Seacole should be integrated in the high and tertiary education curricula in Jamaica. It is easy and colourful reading, and her experiences have value in the teaching of subjects such as business, history, literature, civics, feminism and Garveyism. Her outlook and decisions can make for very useful debate topics in sociology and commerce as it relates to self employment and entrepreneurship in general. I am happy that I am now exposed to its contents.