BY INGRID BROWN Associate editor — special assignment firstname.lastname@example.org
WHAT Nathan Lynch does is really a job for the State. But patching potholes all across the island is how the 66-year-old has supported his 19 children over the years, and he believes he should be lauded for his ingenuity in creating employment for himself.
It's the only job this ex-soldier has done for the last two decades, and given the state of the nation's roads there is never any shortage of work.
Dubbed 'Jack the pothole expert', this Heartease, St Thomas resident is known to travel all over the country ferreting out the most troublesome potholes, which he readily repairs at a cost to grateful motorists.
"I have been doing this for 26 years," Lynch said proudly, as he invited residents of his community to show the Jamaica Observer North East some of the major potholes he has repaired over the years.
According to Lynch, he started patching potholes after he dreamt one night that this was what he was doing for a living.
"When I just started to patch potholes me used to use white marl and clay to patch them until a very old man tell me that it is better to use cement," he said.
Explaining how he has established his business, Lynch said he would visit pothole-riddled communities and solicit marl and sand from persons who had these building materials stocked in their yard. His only out-of-pocket expense, he said, comes from the purchase of cement.
Once he has acquired the relevant items, Lynch said he prominently displays road signs he created before setting about to repair the potholes. It takes up to two hours to repair 10 potholes and 30 minutes to do two.
Grateful motorists, he said, give him a donation for his good deed.
In the early days, Lynch said he would earn as much as $3,000 to $4,000 on a very good day, however, the recession has severely affected his business.
"Things get so tough now that sometimes me nuh make no more than $1,000 profit fi the day," he said, explaining that this is after he has deducted the cost for the cement.
The number of days he now works has also scaled down from six to three, not because there are not enough potholes to repair, but because motorists are not contributing as much as they used to.
Now, the grandfather of 17 is appealing for donations of cement as there are numerous dangerous potholes which he could be patching, if only he had the resources.
According to Lynch, his repairs last up to three years because of how good a job he does.
"I don't just put little stuff in the hole and leave it. First I clean out the pothole with a shovel then I put water in there and wash out any debris and then I fill it up with the material," he said.
Pro-patch, he said, is a better solution to use to repair the potholes but it is more costly. However, on the days he can afford it, Lynch said he buys pro-patch to use in some potholes.
He said that what he does is so well appreciated that people from all over the island call on him to visit their community to repair potholes.
"When I leave St Thomas and go to these communities, all in a Trelawny and all over, di people dem give me place fi stay and give me wheel barrow and material fi work with and some people will come even help me fi mix the mortar," he stated.
He often rides around on his bicycle in search of the potholes in dire need of repair and uses certain criteria to determine which ones he will tackle.
Top of that criteria are potholes on main roads. This, Lynch insists, is not only because he is able to collect more money on a busy thoroughfare, but because he is providing a service which will benefit a greater number of persons.
"Mi focus mainly on those big holes in the middle of the road and the ones where motorists have to slow down when dem reach dem," he said.
Having worked as a soldier and a prison warder, Lynch said he has great love for what he now does and sees it more as an act of volunteerism.
"I really do enjoy doing what I do and I continue to do it over all these years, all when rain fall just as me done and wash out the material and me no get nutten fi even cover back di cost of what me buy de cement for," he told the Observer North East. "Sometimes me hide and cry when me suffer such a loss, but me just go right back and do it."
A resident who recently provided sand and cement for Lynch to repair a pothole in front of his business place at Poorman's Corner in Yallahs, lauded Lynch for the work he does.
"Him fix the pothole from September and with all the rain weh fall it no wash out because him do a good job," said the resident who opted to remain anonymous.