THE CATHEDRAL AT SPANISH TOWN

If I have not mentioned all the names of the places in Jamaica dear to
the hearts of tourists, and of towns which are the pride and glory of
Jamaicans, it is because I do not think such a catalogue would be of
general interest. The description of Kingston may stand as a description
of Jamaican cities; Port Antonio, Montego Bay, Spanish Town and the rest
differ from Kingston in a less degree than Fleet Street differs from the
Strand. It would be wearisome to attempt to give a chapter to each.

Port Antonio is the northerly port and the centre of the island’s trade
with America; Montego Bay is a thriving commercial centre; Spanish Town
is the ancient seat of Government. At one time Spanish Town was the
island’s capital, and there we find a fine monument erected to
commemorate the victory of Rodney over the French fleet under de Grasse,
and the old cathedral. The cathedral is the oldest building in the
island. It links the Jamaica of to-day with the Jamaica of four
centuries ago, since it was built by the original conquerors in 1523.
In the West Indies only the cathedrals of Carthagena and Havana can
equal it in point of antiquity. After much renovation and reconstruction
the structure now stands as the centre of the Anglican Church in
Jamaica. Its floor is paved with gravestones and memorial tablets, on
which are carved the names of many of those who played a large part in
the island’s history. Monuments bearing the names of the Earl and
Countess of Effingham, Sir Basil Keith, General Selwyn, and the Countess
of Elgin, may be seen. And on an ancient grave bearing a date early in
the seventeenth century we read:

Here lies Sir Thomas Lynch at ease and blest;
Would you know more ye world will speak ye rest.

In the body of the building one can read the epitaphs of many of the
officers sent by Cromwell to conquer the island. The altar-plate and
vessels are most ancient and valuable, particularly so are a fine flagon
and chalice which were brought to the cathedral from the plunder of San
Domingo in 1685. In proper cathedral fashion the war-stained flags of
the West India Regiment are hung in the chancel, and the verger will
tell you that the coloured regiment brought them to this house of prayer
when they returned from Ashantee.

Near Montego Bay there is another romantic building; though only a
private house, it stands as one of the landmarks of the island. Rose
Hall, a fine old West Indian mansion, rich in carvings and ancient
woodwork, remains as a monument of the Jamaica of

[Illustration: A GARDEN TERRACE, JAMAICA]

the days of the millionaire planter. Rose Hall is typical of what the
majority of the old West Indian mansions were before the island fell
into the clutches of poverty. It is a house with a history. One, Mrs.
Rose Palmer, lived there in the days of old, and it is recorded that
there she poisoned three husbands in rapid succession. If tradition does
not err, this lady must have been of curiously abandoned habits. Under
her régime Rose Hall and the surrounding plantations became a famous
centre of dissipation and vicious cruelty. At times her slaves were
pampered and encouraged into all kinds of most vicious excess; at others
she would flog her whole retinue, and sometimes barbarously murder a few
of them, simply for the pleasure she found in the killing. She died at
last, and report said she had been strangled by her negro paramour.
However, she left sufficient money to pay for the erection of a marble
monument in the Parish Church; a memorial which was to contain a list of
her virtues, and hand her name and fame down to posterity. Tradition has
it that shortly after the clean white marble was set up in the church a
crimson band grew out of the sculptured throat, permanently discolouring
the neck and proving that the lady died of strangulation.

Another excellent show place in Jamaica is the Hope Garden, a few miles
out of Kingston. This is the headquarters of the Jamaican botanical
department, and it undoubtedly contains one of the most magnificent
botanical collections in existence. Here can be found a most extensive
and representative collection of tropical plants, and the botanist will
have little difficulty in discovering a specimen of anything and
everything that grows in any part of the world. But quite apart from its
scientific value the Hope Garden is well worth a long visit. The gardens
are carefully cultivated and the smooth green lawns and gravelled paths
offer a fine contrast to the rugged wildness of the Jamaican lanes.
Except for the difference of the climate, and the greater variety of
rich out-door plants, one might imagine oneself in the trim gardens at
Kew. We find carpet beddings and ornamental borders, lily-covered water
tanks and banks of flowering orchids. Considerably more than an acre is
given over to the cultivation of roses, and an intelligent attendant
will tell you that Jamaica is not a good place for growing most species
of the rose. The soil is too rich, the climate too warm. The poor rose
gets no rest–it must flower continuously throughout the year, and so at
the end of the fourth or fifth year, the poor plant, prematurely old,
worn out by the constant exertion of producing its scented bloom, droops
and dies. You will discover little forests of every tree to be found in
Jamaica, and pass by clumps of fruit-trees bending beneath the weight of
their heavy harvest. Yes, the Hope Garden is well worth seeing,
especially so if one has an interest in or a love for beautiful flowers.

One of the great charms of Jamaica as a tourists’ resort is the
multiplicity of the places every one really ought to see. People arrive
from Europe or America, and the first friendly Jamaican they meet
provides them with a programme of the places they really ought to
visit. The friendly native gives them a list of excursions which will
fill every minute of their time from the moment of their arrival to the
projected time of their departure. When the newcomer meets a second
friendly native he criticises the list prepared by his predecessor, and
suggests many alterations. Substitute “Belle View” for “Mandeville” on
such a day, or go to “Castleton” and leave out “Hope Gardens,” so that
the bewildered tourist knows not what to do.

I am utterly incapable of giving advice in the matter. I invariably
arrange such things particularly badly myself. My plan is always to have
no plans. I do in the morning what seems most interesting. In this
manner it is probable that I waste much precious time. I have wasted
many mornings in the streets of Kingston when I might have been
sight-seeing in the hills. But that is my rule. I prefer to have no
plans, and I like to avoid the beaten track of the tourist. It is better
to lounge always, especially so in the tropics. On a former visit to the
island I was with a party who insisted on “doing” everything. We used to
get up in the morning at six and go to bed at night at twelve. We lived
in buggies and trains and tram-cars. At every point of interest we were
stopped and invited to admire something which was eloquently described
in the local guide-books. The natives we met were all unnatural. I
remember that I expressed a desire to see a native village, and we were
driven to a collection of trim huts, and a dozen well-dressed negroes
appeared for our inspection. And the fee that was paid to the negroes
for having been examined was placed in our bill of expenses. That, I
venture to think, is not the best way to see a new country. It is always
better to walk than to take a buggy, but if a buggy must be used then it
is well to hire it by the hour or day and tell the driver to drive
on–to drive in any direction that leads to no particular place. If you
take a ride in the tram-cars it is better to sit in the seats used by
the natives, the market-women and the labourers, than to loll in the
front benches among the white people. If you want to see the
market-place don’t take a policeman with you as if you expected to mix
with the most abandoned criminals, and if you want an iced Kola go to
one of the negro rum-shops for it, and avoid the beautifully-furnished
European hotels. The people who “do places” and “see everything” usually
mix only with tourists and never get to know the natives. True, they see
the scenery and many of the places of interest, but they don’t get to
know the life of the place, and they can have no knowledge of its
people.

If the visitor wants to go to service on Sunday he would find it more
interesting to go to a negro meeting-house than to the most popular of
the fashionable churches. He would find out more about the inner life of
the Jamaican army by ten minutes’ talk with any soldier of the line than
by an hour’s interview with the smartest captain or most courteous
commanding-officer. It is better to talk with the market women and the
black men who deal in native tobacco, with the

[Illustration: RESTING BY THE WAY, JAMAICA]

water-side porters and the black constables, than it is to attend
lectures, or read books, or interview politicians, if you want to know
anything about the Jamaican labour problem. And all these things are
more or less impossible if you explore Jamaica along the lines of a
crowded time-table.

That is my opinion. So I am reluctant to suggest that tourists should
make a point of seeing this thing or that. I would rather advise a
newcomer to buy a buggy and a couple of horses and engage the services
of an honest driver. Having secured these he should pack a bag with a
couple of flannel suits, a tooth-brush and some under-linen, and then
explore the island, practically giving his horses their heads all the
way. The only instruction he need give his driver would be, Avoid the
railroad track and go through as many villages as possible.

After this the tourist may go home knowing that he has seen something of
the island even though he has not visited Spanish Town, Castleton,
Gordon Town, Mandeville or Port Antonio. These places are but the names
of important centres; Jamaica is the land of wood and water. The
plantations and the banana fields, the forests and the rivers, and
hedges, and the native villages are more interesting and far more
fascinating than marble monuments or anglicised native houses.

Do not believe every story you hear which makes against the character of
the Governor or his wife. It is difficult for a high official, for the
direct representative of H.M. the King, to always please every
half-white woman and her husband. The jealousy of the half-white for the
pure white is very bitter. Do not utterly believe in the alligator
stories as told by the junior subalterns of West Indian regiments, or
yet the shooting yarns of medical officers of health. All white
Jamaicans do not spend all their time in following the festive alligator
or in spearing frisky sharks in Kingston Harbour. Do not trouble to
drive in any hackney-carriage if your destination is within easy walking
distance. The argument with the buggy driver is more exhausting work
even than a walk of two hundred yards. Do not go out in the sun without
a hat or with only a small cap. Do not drink too much either of the
cool, iced lemon squash, or the more-alluring whisky and mineral water.
Gin is not a particularly wholesome stimulant, but it is better for the
white man in Jamaica than the finest whisky. Water that is not filtered
should be avoided, and it is well always to sleep beneath your mosquito
covering. Iced drinks taken in large quantities are the best means of
securing a really bad digestion, especially if they are taken when one
is very hot. India-rubber shoes are easy to put on, but in the tropics
they are occasionally very difficult to discard. A qualified chemist
should be requisitioned to remove any half-melted rubber that may have
stuck to the soles of your inflamed feet. Panama hats which are loosely
plaited are excellent things for wearing on the suburban parades of cool
countries; in the tropics head-gear made of felt or pith is better. It
is not a good thing to wear heavy clothes, neither is it good to wear
too little. The wise man does not plunge into a cold bath when he is
very hot, neither does he bathe in the harbour among hungry sharks.
Inquiries should be made into the habits and customs of alligators
before the tourist takes a dip in some of the up-country rivers, and he
should avoid hunting the gaudy butterfly in malarious swamps noted for
the propagation of high fevers. It is never a good thing for a new
arrival to take risks, but if he insists, let him leave a written
document exonerating the climate from all blame of causing his death.

A Jamaican nigger should not be treated as though he were a dangerous
wild beast, and the tourist should remember that the blackest negro
tries to live up to a code of morals common to white men. All the blacks
who come in contact with you will be strongly

[Illustration: THE CAPITAL OF ST. THOMAS]

influenced by your conduct; you should treat a native just as you would
treat a white boy whose respect and affection you desired to retain,
always remembering that a black man holds his women folk in great
respect.

It is unnecessary that you should remind every coloured person that he
or she is coloured. Half-breeds prefer to pass as whites. On the other
hand be chary of believing that a person is pure white solely because
you have his assurance that such is his condition. It may be that it is
a matter of no moment to you whether he is black or white or yellow, in
which case give him the benefit and call him the colour of his choice.
Jamaican plantations are not waste lands, and should not receive the
treatment meted out to virgin territories. All fruit trees are not
planted for the convenience of curious tourists. It is not a polite
thing to pull down a banana-tree in order to discover the secrets of its
growth, nor is it kind to shake a ripe orange-tree in order to see how
many fruit will fall. Even the most luxuriant pine-apple field should
not be trampled through with a golf club, and that place which looks
like a private garden may really be one in fact. In such a case it is
not the thing for a stranger to pluck flowers or uproot rare ferns. A
country planter does not regard his private bungalow as a public museum
for the use of tourists, and as a rule he will resent any question as to
his ancestry. It is not good for a new arrival to accept all the
spirituous liqueurs proffered him, and Jamaicans will not admire a man
merely because he is a dissolute, dissipated dog. Do not offer emphatic
judgment on the qualities of a Jamaican horse until you have been on his
back for more than seven hours, and do not gamble at the three-card
trick on Jamaican race-courses.

Chasten your feeling of ultra superiority and do not put down every
untidy-looking white man you meet in remote country districts for a
tramp bent on gaining possession of your valuables. Important planters
in country districts, away from busy centres, sometimes pay but little
attention to outward appearances. Individual planters tire of much
reiteration of advice from young and enthusiastic tourists; likewise
they are not pleased to hear that you cannot understand how it is that
in such a wonderful climate all the planters are not the richest men in
the world. The Jamaican does not like the Englishman who imagines that
Britain keeps Jamaica going by charitable bequests; it is not pleasant
for a hard-working man to come across an individual who tells him to his
face that he is little better than a pauper. Above all, let it be
remembered that the inhabitants of Jamaica did not brew their 1903
cyclone with the idea of giving Englishmen a little shock in order that
British philanthropists might send cheques to the West Indies. Everyday
ideas on the politics of the island, on means by which the island’s
finances might be put on a better plane, on new industries, and better
conditions of labour, will occur to the bright young tripper. It is
better for a young man not to give emphasis to these ideas until he has
been in the country for several weeks.

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