Who were Corinaldi, McCatty and Lightbody to Montego Bay?


Sunday, May 20, 2018

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“...but AGS Coombs, working in the mold, manner and shared vision of David Areleus Corinaldi (1896-1920) and Phillip Lightbody (1921-1936), both members of the Legislative Council, achieved much for the beloved City of Montego Bay” ... quote Shalman Scott's previous

— Article on A G S Coombs.

AS readers will see, the surnames mentioned in the topic of this piece are forerunners to Allan George St Claver Coombs and from both of whom he received the baton to run another leg of the race of the city of Montego Bay's journey, in terms of its progress and development, to where we now stand.

This progress and development were not achieved within a context of isolation of the city's activities, but rather within a context of a national, regional and international chain of major events and activities, particularly in Europe. And so the aim of the writer is to establish these connectivities to clarify and illuminate the how, why, where and when Montego Bay's surges of progress and setbacks happened; and who among us, during our historical journey, played outstanding roles not only in our lives as dwellers of the city of Montego Bay, but also as citizens of Jamaica.

The linkages between the banana industry and the tourism sector, with Montego Bay as major nexus and therefore driver in national development, are impatient of any debate. And so, while the article focuses on some local personages, it is at the same time a discussion not just about this city, but also about this nation. For indeed the social, economic, political and cultural challenges of Montego Bay over the centuries have been more or less the same across Jamaica. And so every locale, town, community or city has had its own Corinaldi, McCatty, Lightbody and A G S Coombs, et al.

The city of Kingston, for example, was also known in earlier history as “Beeston” named after Sir William Beeston, governor of Jamaica from 1693-1700, who was four-time speaker of the House of Assembly. The devastating aftermath of the Port Royal earthquake of 1692 became his to manage. And from all reports, Sir William did extraordinarily well for the people of Port Royal, his constituency, Kingston and Jamaica. Sir William Beeston, the owner of Liguanea Plains property, was pivotal to the process that led to the establishment and declaration of the city of Kingston later in 1872.

David Areleus Corinaldi, after whom Corinaldi Avenue, and Corinaldi Primary School were named, was a newspaper publisher and politician of national stature and repute. He was elected to the Legislative Council — today's Parliament — in 1896, defeating the sitting member for Montego Bay James E Kerr in a bitterly fought and racially charged election campaign. Kerr was full-blooded white, while Corinaldi was of mixed race being of a Jewish father and a negro woman. He did not suffer fools gladly and was considered impetuous, intellectually sharp and a person with impeccable rhetorical abilities. These qualities along with Corinaldi's business and travel experiences rendered him an effective advocate for Montego Bay.

A Government secondary school for boys — Cornwall College — was established at Barracks Road, where it remained for the first 15 years, before moving to its present location on the property then known as Pleasant Hill. This achievement by Corinaldi blazed the trail for new thinking in respect to quality public educational facilities. This move began to shatter the glass ceiling occasioned by the skewed policies and practices of the private English grammar schools with their unabashed white elitist preferences in a society that remained closed to the aspirations of the emergent, socially conscious and large black underclass.

In time, the maid and Backra sons would now sit side by side in the same classrooms. Or later, the daughters of the maid and of the “Missis” would be sitting together in the same bench on high school for the first time at last. By the time of the PNP and Norman Manley's assumption to power and the introduction of the Common Entrance Law in 1957, the ruling class found no comfort in these unbearable arrangements and began to ship their children overseas, particularly to England, in increasing numbers — for school.

With his newspapers The 19th Century and then The 20th Century published throughout the county of Cornwall, coupled with his political power, Corinaldi's greatest contribution — and undying legacy to Montego Bay and western Jamaica — is that he assaulted by the neck institutionalised inferiority complex among the masses and began the march towards the elimination of self-hate and lack of a collective cultural identity.

Education and infrastructure were Corinaldi's focus as they were also his tools to effect economic and social revolution in this section of the island. It was he who gave the parish the moniker Noble St James and set about expanding the city south eastwardly — cutting new roads, naming some after major players involved in the business of social and physical upliftment for MoBay. He did not seek glory for himself alone. Tate, Thompson and McCatty streets he named after three prominent doctors in the city.

Dr Alexander McCatty, owner of the internationally re-nown Doctor's Cave Beach property located on Gloucester Avenue, using funds from his own resources, set up a sanatorium — forerunner to the Poor House — to help invalids, the poor and destitute who languished in increasing numbers on the streets without help. Humber Avenue was named after the superintendent of the Public Works Department Zachariah Humber, who supervised the construction of the new road network for the town.

Kerr Crescent was named after MoBay merchant and politician James E Kerr, whom Corinaldi had defeated politically.

And Leader Avenue was named after the Anglican Rector for St James Parish Rev George Herbert Leader, who, as chairman of the Cornwall College board, led the transition of the school from Barracks Road to its present location along Orange Street.

Corinaldi died in 1920, but not before he was honoured by the Legislative Council with the prestigious title: “Father of the House”. He also remained a member of Cornwall College's board until his death. Corinaldi was succeeded in February 1921 by another newspaper publisher, Phillip Lightbody, as the member of the Legislative Council for Montego Bay. A contemporary of Marcus Mosiah Garvey and Allan George St Clavers Coombs, Alexander Bustamante and A Bain Alves, Lightbody served for 15 years as a member of the Legislative Council and blazed the trail left by his predecessor.

In 1936 he caused to be established a Government secondary school for girls in the city — Montego Bay High School — the building being formerly the Beaconsfield Hotel. This high school for girls and Cornwall College for boys were the first of their kind in Jamaica as, unlike Rusea's in Hanover, Manning's in Westmoreland and Munro-Dickens in St Elizabeth and similar other high schools — Glenmuir, Decarteret, Jamaica College, Titchfield, etc, in the rest of the parishes the St James Planters made no bequest to fund secondary school education in the parish.

In 1845 when matching funds to the Negro Education Grant made available by the British Government to fund elementary education for the children of the ex-slaves were needed, the St James and Trelawny parishes led the fight in the National Assembly to defeat the British proposal. Mr Shirley, the member from Trelawny, was most vociferous against the proposal, stating that since the slaves had been made free in 1838, they would have more money than the planters and could fund their children education. The vote was unanimous against the motion. This is how and when the churches orthodox and non-conformists stepped in to fund public education more fullsomely in Jamaica; and are still very deeply involved in education direction and management in the country.

A house at Montego Bay High School is named in Phillip Lightybody's honour. He brought electricity to the town in 1928 and in the following year established a Government hospital on Gloucester Avenue across from the Pelican Restaurant and Wexford Hotel. This hospital served Montego Bay for 40 years. As a newspaper publisher he owned three newspapers in the county of Cornwall: Western Echo published in Savanna-la-mar, Westmoreland; Northern News published in Montego Bay, St James; and the Trelawny Advance published from the town of Falmouth.

Lightbody Avenue, named in his honour, still remains the widest street in the city, one that enjoyed great prestige back then as it led to the Montego Bay railway station. Yet, in the not too distant past, if the Jamaica Labour Party and Bruce Golding were still in power, by now the city would have had two Eldemire hospitals at Lawrence Lane and Mount Salem (Cornwall Regional which has seen better days) with no thought of Phillip Lightbody or Dr Alexander McCatty, who built a hospice for outcasts not with taxpayers money but with his own. And Golding alone is not to be blamed for what could have been a miscarriage of history. The education system must accept responsibility, for if the history of the city and parish were consistently, properly and adequately taught, there would have been greater public knowledge eventuating a burst of outcry for McCatty or Lightbody to be considered for the renaming of the Cornwall Regional Hospital. If it was at all necessary in the first place as I believe the present name is most appropriate.

But that situation imports again the corrosive and social danger of total ignorance or a dismal lack of proper historical information by a community and by a society. This situation must be properly remedied without equivocation or any mental reservation, whatsoever.

The point is to be made with utmost clarity at this stage that Montego Bay was never a political dolly house of an Eldemire, or a Cooke city for that matter — although the contribution of those families remained meaningful and duly acknowledged — but rather a city in which several other families through blood, sweat and tears, and other untold sacrifices have all helped to build. The duty of this generation is to ensure that the memory of those others do not waste away into oblivion. For example, to remember the pioneers who created and defended with road blocks, fire and demonstrations the communities of Meagre Bay, Glendevon, Hendon, Bottom Pen, Rose Heights, Norwood sections of Lilliput, Barrett Hall, all of Flanker, among others.

Some were shot and killed by soldiers and the police. Still, others suffered in hospitals, badly wounded and in jailhouses where a few even died. I insist that knowledge of the history of those struggles can lead to useful behavioural patterns. Meanwhile, ignorance produces confusion and continual mayhem! The youths in those areas must earnestly enquire how they grew up to find a place which belonged to their family and somewhere to call home! Or called “Fe we”! How come? Is grandpa now ashamed to tell you that he was a capturer? But so were the Kerr-Jarretts; one of whom was Colonel Nicholas Jarrett arrived from England as part of the invasion force under General Penn and Admiral Venables and captured Jamaica from the Spaniards!

Colonel Jarrett received huge swathe of captured land, then later the family occupation was legalised through the Treaty of Madrid between England and Spain in 1670. The same process applied to wherever you are at in the communities mentioned earlier. Like you, the Kerr-Jarretts now have all legal rights and protection to their lands. For the original landowners — the Spaniards — did not try to get back the lands which came into their control for over 150 years before Jarrett arrived with gun in hand and horse-drawn cannons and shoot his way into possession.

These are some of the unadulterated facts of our history that we must know as we seek to settle questions of justice, equity and fairness within our city and our nation. And to decide, for example, to whom deservedly should monuments be built and official titles be given or named.

I have had enough of those personal accolades and do not need anymore: Mico University Gold Medal Awardee for contribution to Education, Government and Politics; Governor General Achievement Award for the parish of St James, 2001; National Honour of the Order Of Distinction (OD) for my contribution to Government, Politics and the Trade Union Movement (2002); Industrial Relations Consultant; Justice of the Peace for the parish of St James for 37 years; Vice-President of the World Conference of Mayors Inc, with responsibility for the Caribbean and Latin America region for five and a half years; first vice-president of the Association of Local Government Authorities (ALGA); first mayor of the City of Montego Bay (1981); Businessman in Tourism (retired 2006); political analyst, writer and radio host; Lecturer in Labour and Developmental Economics, Industrial Psychology and the History of the Caribbean Trade Union Movement and Labour Laws, among other things. Not the least of which I am a certified lay preacher in the Baptist faith.

I am most humbled and grateful to Almighty God and to the thousands of people in my life who have given me a helping hand. Life has fundamental lessons for all to learn, if we may. Additionally, to recognise that as humans, the cosmetic differences in physical appearance, beliefs and even economic location in the social structure does not change the elemental core of our psychology — that we all have the same set of needs and by extention the same set of motivations.

Some of us just hate when the next person has the advantage at our expense. When the roles are reversed we are just fine. Corinaldi, Dr McCatty and Lightbody demonstrated through public and political service a fundamental understanding of those behavioral patterns and managed them well. They remain excellent examples for future generations of Jamaicans to emulate.

The batons of their political agenda and political objectives were cumulatively dovetailed into the pool of inspiration that would fire the imagination of “Father” A G S Coombs later. But these discussions can never be completed regarding Montego Bay's evolution and industrial development without focus on the role of visionary businessman and entrepreneur extraordinaire, a son of Montego Bay … Mr Tony Hart and the amazing Montego Freeport story! More anon.

Political historian Shalman Scott is the first Mayor of the city of Montego Bay




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