Regional

The story of Manchester Part V: CARPENTERS MOUNTAIN

BY DONALD I BLAIR

Monday, August 25, 2014    

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THE sum of the parts is never more than the whole, however, the integrity and character of the whole is dependent upon the nature of the parts. As such, the three hilly communities of Carpenters Mountain, Mile Gully, and May Day that coalesced to form the parish of Manchester in 1814 guaranteed their progeny's continued development for the future. Though not as numerous as their northern neighbours, the citizens of Carpenters Mountain persevered in the role that destiny gave them and now in 2014, Manchester stands proudly on the eve of celebrating its 200th birthday on December 13, 2014.

On December 12, 1814, the communities that were nestled in the Carpenters Mountain were all part of the parish of Vere. As a result of their willingness to champion a common cause with their neighbours in May Day and Mile Gully, the area became (on the following day, December 13, 1814) the southern part of the new parish of Manchester. Like the other regions of Manchester, Carpenters Mountain proved to be suitable for coffee production and cattle rearing. Also, like its northern neighbours, its hilly terrain made it unsuitable for the profitable production of sugar cane. Either way, the area has remained largely agricultural but is eternally tied to a piece of history that is unique to each individual community and district. These varied pieces of history tap into the deep and ancient roots of our land and people and give us the strength to move forward with confidence.

The absence of sugar plantations in Carpenters Mountain did not mean the absence of slaves. So, in the period following 1838, it too, had its "free village" located at Victoria Town. The town is named for Queen Victoria, the British monarch who ruled the British Empire for 63 years and is reputed to have visited the town on her visit to Jamaica. Victoria Town is also home to Jamaica's first post office and first gaol/prison. The former is not a positive marker, but historic nonetheless and not terrifying enough to prevent some Chinese from migrating there much later in the 1930s. The ruins of their buildings are still visible on the playing field.

Like the rest of the country, Victoria Town faced its share of challenges in the 20th and 21st centuries. Its economy was impacted negatively in the 1980s, when the Reynolds Jamaica Mines aborted its cattle-rearing operations.

While Victoria Town endeavoured to maintain its integrity, the community of Resource was busy, yet unconsciously preparing itself for service to one of Jamaica 's future National Heroes. In 1914, Marcus Garvey founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) in Jamaica but found it prudent to move its headquarters to Harlem, NY, (the black capital of North America) two years later. Membership in the UNIA eventually outgrew that of the American organisation, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). As a matter of fact Garvey and the black founding member of the NAACP, WEB Dubois "neva did plant gungu a line". That did not stop Marcus from realising the need for black communities to create a global network for the purpose of trade and transportation. And so Garvey founded the black Star Line -- a shipping company through which he reached out to individuals for investment.

One such group of investors that responded positively to Garvey's call was in the community of Resource in southern Manchester. In 1923, Marcus visited Resource to thank the people personally for their support. He was amazed at the number of people in Resource and its environs who had bought shares in the Black Star Line. While sojourning in Resource for several months, Marcus oversaw the construction of a Liberty Hall on land donated to the UNIA. An annual fair to celebrate this legacy is held in Resource on Garvey's birthday.

While 'Manchesterians' keep Marcus' memories alive, the Curphey Home in Cross Keys provides a haven for Jamaica 's veterans who were willing to give their all in defence of freedom. The home, founded in 1957, occupies the old Glassonby Great House and is named in honour of Colonel Sir Aldington Curphey. When the old soldiers of Curphey Home "fade away" they are laid to rest in the home's cemetery among their comrades.

While the old veterans rest in peace, the living can enjoy the natural pleasures of Cross Keys. The town's name was arrived at from one's ability to look "across at the Pedro Cays". In time "across" became "cross" and "Cays" was swapped for the more easily spelled "Keys", hence "Cross Keys". Here in Cross Keys one can also visit what is arguably the deepest cave (194m) in Jamaica. (Morgan Pond Hole in Cobbla is reputed to bottom out at 200m).

One fact, however, that is indisputable is that four of Manchester's rivers are located in the southern half of Manchester. The Alligator Hole River and Swift River are both known habitats for the West Indian manatee and the crocodile. The Gut River supplies the area that it runs through with extremely rich agricultural crop nutrients, while the Alligator Pond River has historical and archaeological significance dating back to the Arawaks/Tainos. Ironically, a number of persons are genuinely amazed to learn that Alligator Pond, the home of the famous Little Ochi and Gut River beach are located in south Manchester .

Trelawny lays claim to Usain Bolt; Kingston lays claim to Donald Quarrie but claim to the athletic fore-runner, the grandfather of them all, Arthur S Wint goes to Manchester. Dr Arthur Wint was a true Jamaican legend. A scholar, healer, diplomat and an athlete; he served Plowden, Manchester, and our country well.

After eight years of military service, Arthur Wint left the RAF to attend medical school in England. The consummate athlete, Wint balanced his training with his studies and earned a gold medal for his efforts by winning the 400m race at the 1948 Olympic Games. He became Jamaica's first Olympic gold medallist, beating teammate Herb McKenley.

The residents of Carpenters Mountain have played their roles well as pioneers in the founding and building of Manchester. They have faced many and varied challenges over the past two centuries but their attitude of never give up, never give in, will continue to inspire.

Donald I Blair is a retired Professor of History who resides in Mandeville.

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