Commencing in 1787.

BY PHILO SCOTUS. (Son of Scotland - Philip Barrington Ainslie)

pp 172 - 188



Whilst driving about the ground, I met with an old schoolfellow, who had, like myself, just landed in Jamaica from Scotland. He was with his uncle, Mr. Munroe, who chanced to be an intimate friend of my cousins; and, on Robert Scott introducing me to him, he immediately gave me a pressing invitation


to accompany Scott to his estate of Kinloss, and to remain there until my cousins returned to Hamden. Mr. Munroe enforced his kind invitation by saying, "You must not remain in Falmouth, which, to a Johnny Newcome, is attended with the usual risk of a town." Mr. Baillie coincided in this opinion. It was therefore fixed that I should leave Falmouth for Kinloss the morning after the ball.

The banquet was a grand affair, and, as the term now is, came off brilliantly. It was given in the hall of the Court House, a spacious room, and what is of great consequence in the tropics, well ventilated and cool. Mr. Stewart, the custos rotulorum of the county of Cornwall (an office similar in importance to that of lord-lieutenant in England), presided, having the governor on his right and the admiral on his left. There was a very numerous attendance of the principal proprietors and inhabitants of Trelawny and the adjoining parish of St. James's. Mr. Baillie placed me next to himself at table, and, as he sat near the governor, I heard all the speeches and introduction to toasts, to which I listened with a mixture of admiration and awe. It was the first assemblage of the kind I had (as the French say) assisted at, and I felt exceedingly gratified at being present. As soon as the healths of the governor and admiral had been given and acknowledged, they bowed and retired, which was the signal for the general breaking up of the party.

I accompanied Mr. Baillie home, soon after which the saloons and ball-room were lighted up, and every preparation completed for the reception of the invited. On the entrance of the governor, the band of the 55th regiment (lately arrived from England) struck up the national anthem, when dancing commenced,


and was kept up with great spirit. French cotillons had gone out, and the quadrille, the waltz, and the polka, were yet in the womb of time. The good old country dances, therefore, were the order of the evening, diversified occasionally by highland reels, danced con amore by the fair daughters and hardy sons of the Gael. The morning hours were far advanced ere the joyous throng separated; and I, thoroughly tired out, gladly sought my pillow, where, protected by gauze netting from the merciless mosquitoes, I slept soundly, and awoke, next morning, with the pleasing anticipation of my ride to Kinloss, and my visit there.

I have mentioned that the 55th regiment had but lately arrived from England. A large detachment of them were quartered at Falmouth. They were mostly fine, strong, hearty men; and their ruddy cheeks and healthy looks appeared in strong contrast with the pale wan complexions and listless gait of those who were old residenters under the wasting sun of a tropical climate. I used to watch the men of the 55th as they were marched, every morning, to the beach, where they were soon in puris naturalibus, plunging and swimming about in the cool waters of the sea, without any fear of sharks, against whose attacks they were protected by a cordon of boats, which were kept rowing about outside and to seaward of where the soldiers were bathing.

Another and most painful sight I was also a witness to, the daily passing by of a band of negroes who had been landed from a Liverpool Guinea-man the same week as the arrival of the Lady Forbes. There were both males and females amongst them. I perceived, with astonishment, no appearance of sorrow or unhappiness at their degraded and, what seemed to me, miserable condition. On the contrary, they all appeared to


be merry and cheerful, and, with that volubility so characteristic of the negro race, they kept up a noisy chattering, intermixed with laughter. They were composed of Cormantees and Eboes — the former tall and muscular, and of a determined and fiery temper; the latter much quieter and more tractable, but of a less powerful frame.

My friend Scott called for me the morning after the ball, and together we set out for Kinloss, Mr. Munroe having kindly mounted me. Mr. Baillie endeavoured to persuade us to defer setting out until the evening, when the heat of the day would be moderated; but like all younkers, full of buoyant spirits, we defied the sun, and rejected his advice. We started about noon, and went on our way rejoicing. We soon cleared the dusty streets of Falmouth, and proceeded to Martha Bray (of which Falmouth is the seaport). The road was bounded on the left by an extensive wooded marsh, through which ran a considerable river, which, rising in the interior and passing Martha Bray, falls into the sea at Falmouth. On the right were the cane-fields (or as they are called, pieces) of the Holland estate, with the buildings and sugar-works. This is considered to be a very unhealthy station, and, indeed, it cannot be otherwise, as the cane-pieces as well as the buildings are on a dead flat, and exposed to the full influence of the miasma rising out of the marsh immediately in front. Soon after passing Holland, we heard uproarious peals of laughter, accompanied with loud and incessant chattering, the cause of which was soon apparent by the appearance of an infinite number of laundresses, who were carrying on their operations on the borders, or rather within the waters of the flowing stream; and by their mirth and hilarity, seemed greatly to enjoy their


occupation. They possessed a power of chaffing equal to any number of London cabmen, and shouted out their fun and jokes at us as we passed. The method of performing their work was most favourable to the destruction of linen, cotton, and other fabrics, inasmuch as not making use of any boiling water, but merely placing the garment they had been washing in the river, on a flat stone, they pounded away upon it without mercy, either with a wooden beetle or another smooth stone. Leaving these merry sable damsels to the enjoyment of their sayings and doings, we trotted on to Martha Bray, situated on a rising ground, or rather ridge, and containing several handsome houses, the residences of gentlemen engaged in commerce at Falmouth, but preferring to reside with their families in this agreeable locality, rather than in the hot and dusty streets of that town.

After passing Martha Bray, we crossed the river by a massive stone bridge, to the left of which appeared the house and buildings of Irvine Tower estate, surrounded by extensive and thriving cane-pieces, in which I saw, for the first time, a numerous gang (as it is termed) of negroes at work amongst the canes: the gang included both males and females; they were under the supervision of a principal negro, and also of a person called a book-keeper, whose pale face and superior dress at once proclaimed his European origin. He did not appear to be endued with either activity or energy, but, under the protection of an enormous broad-brimmed hat, seemed resting on support of a stick; the negroes, on the contrary, were laughing and joking with each other, and every now and then gave out the refrain of one of their songs to a very melodious air. The fences of the cane-pieces were low stone walls.


on the top of which were planted the pinguin, whose sharp protruding prickles formed an excellent and efficient fence against all intruders, whether bipeds or quadrupeds. I observed that the canes were in different stages, some just appearing above the ground, other patches in a more advanced state, while in larger numbers of the cane-pieces, the canes had been recently cut and gathered, and were already manufactured into sugar. As we proceeded, the day began to change, heavy black clouds appeared, evidently threatening both rain and thunder; we therefore increased our pace, as it is very unsafe for those who have freshly arrived to be exposed to getting wet. My friend Scott, who was acquainted with the road, having journeyed along it previously, on his way to Kinloss, urged our making all dispatch to reach Gloucester estate, where we might shelter until the storm had passed. Fortunately we effected this, and trotted into the yard of the buildings just as the rain began to descend, and without ceremony or apology, we entered the overseer's house. He was at dinner, and two book-keepers with him; he appeared a most uncouth person, and his manners were little superior to those of a common mechanic or labourer. He made no offer of hospitality, which we did not regret, as his dinner was composed of salt herrings and a piece of salt beef; there were neither vegetables nor bread on the table, the place of the latter was supplied by what in Jamaica is called bread-kind, viz., plantain, cut in an unripe state, and when used are roasted; they are very indigestible, and it requires time to be accustomed to them. Decanters of rum and lime-juice were there, which, when mixed together and sweetened, form a most agreeable beverage; but that which appeared to be in the highest estimation,


was London porter, of which the surly overseer and his two aids partook with intense gusto.

The moment the rain ceased we proceeded on our way, and soon entered the valley in which Kinloss, as well as several other estates, is situated. It was bounded on all sides by hills of a moderate height, on the slopes of which were cane-pieces interspersed with woodlands, still uncleared, and in their primeval state; and where the cotton, mahogany, and bread-fruit trees, as well as the cocoa-palm, grew in all their natural beauty and magnificence. The largest estate which we passed was called Duin Vale (Celtic for the dark or shut-in vale). It belonged to a Mr. Campbell, and had been long a family possession. Kinloss, and another estate at the upper embrochure of the vale, called Gibraltar, had also belonged to the same family, who settled in Jamaica soon after the troubles of 1715, and had received a grant of uncleared land, and almost unapproachable from the more settled districts, the only route being through primeval forests, and over a very rugged and hilly country. It was here, with that inexhaustible love of country and a mountain home, so unfailing in the heart of a true Highlander, that the progenitor of the present proprietor settled, and named the home of his exile the Duin Vale. And truly it must have been, at that period, both dark and shut in, before they began to clear it. Soon after passing Duin Yale we reached Kinloss, situated on the same ridge, and were welcomed by Mr. and Mrs. Munroe with great kindness. As it was my first peep into the mode of living on a plantation, and as my future course of life might be intimately connected with it, I looked at all with anxious interest. The house (or, as it is ever called in Jamaica, "the great house," to distinguish


it from the one inhabited by the overseer) was an erection of considerable extent, built entirely of wood, with a shingle roof. A verandah ran along one front, from which the hall, or principal apartment, entered, and out of which were the doors leading to the bedrooms. There were no ceilings to any of the apartments, neither were the windows glazed, merely having what are called "jalousies," or wooden shutters, similar to those used in Spain and Italy, and which can be opened or shut in such a degree as suits the inclination of the occupier of the apartments. The view from the principal front of the house commanded a long stretch of the valley, and a range of precipitous hills, covered from the margin of the valley to the summit with a dense mass of primeval forest, within which the foot of man had never trod. From the other front of the house appeared extensive cane-pieces, which covered the rising ground, and as the crop was then being gathered, there was a large gang of negroes busily at work in that important and anxious occupation. Dinner was served soon after our arrival, and afforded me an insight into the usual family mènage of a planter. As fresh beef, or any other butcher's meat, would not, of course, keep under a tropical sun, and was therefore seldom attainable above once a week, the resources of the larder were limited to poultry and occasionally pork (the negroes being allowed to raise pigs), the deficiency being supplied by salt provisions, imported principally from Cork, and other parts of Ireland. The chief vegetables were yams and sweet potatoes, and there was no bread on the dinner-table but bread-kind and roasted plantains. In the second course, pies, or puddings, made of pumpkins, were standing dishes; and the fruits of the country made


delicious preserves. We had shaddocks, oranges, &c., for desert, and Madeira as the only wine, but accompanied with what is called "beverage" (lime-juice sweetened, to which is added a small portion of rum). Two active young negroes acted as butler and footman, and performed the duties exceedingly well. They were clothed in white cotton trowsers, and a jacket, or frock, of the same material, and were without either shoes or stockings, such being the general costume of house servants, excepting in towns, when a jacket of cloth is substituted for the white cotton. As the dinner hour was four o'clock, and there was no sitting over our wine, Scott and I sallied out to the cane-pieces, and afterwards to the sugar-works, where I saw, for the first time, the process of manufacturing sugar; we afterwards walked towards some woodland skirting a field of Indian corn, out of which we flushed a large flock of paroquets, which flew away across the valley, screaming and chattering as only paroquets can scream and chatter. It was sunset when we turned towards home, and as in those latitudes there is no twilight, but day at once sinks into night, we were lighted by the moon, whose light was nearly as clear and bright as the day. We were soon at the tea-table of our kind host and hostess, from whence we ere long adjourned to the shelter of our mosquito curtains.

Before dawn the next morning, I was awoke by a noise similar to the sound of a horn or trumpet, which is produced from blowing a conch shell (hence called shell-blow); having slept soundly, I jumped up and dressed, which operation was expedited by my not having yet been subjected to the tyranny of shaving. Ere I had completed my toilette, the dawn (which is equally as brief as the twilight) had given place to the rising


sun, "who came forth in all his glory, as a bridegroom from his chamber, rejoicing to run his course." Before breakfast, I walked to the works, where all was activity in carting canes from the fields to the mill, where they are ground, and the expressed juice conveyed to the boiling house. I ascertained that the work goes on (except the carting) through the whole night during the gathering of the crop, the negroes being told off into gangs, to be on working duty on alternate nights; but on this subject I shall enter more at length hereafter. At eight o'clock breakfast was served; consisting of the usual bread-kind, of roasted plantains, also yams and sweet potatoes, together with small round cakes, called journey-cakes, made of flour similar to scones of barley-meal in Scotland. There were also eggs and salt herrings, with excellent home-grown coffee; but tea was not at that time in general use.

After breakfast, Mr. Munroe retired to his counting-house, accompanied by my friend Scott, who was now to commence his duties as clerk to his uncle. Being thus left to my own devices, I sat down to relate to my dear father all that occurred to me since we parted (alas! for ever and aye) in the previous February. The view from my own room was delightful. The valley lay below, through which ran the public road, and where, every now and then, might be discerned travellers of every hue pursuing their way under the glare of the tropical sun. In front, my eye rested on the precipitous range of hills, covered with trees clothed with the richest foliage, amongst which occasionally appeared precipices of limestone. The air was quite still - not a sound was heard except when a flight of screaming paroquets flew across the valley, and took refuge within the dark shades of the opposite forest.


At noon the shell-blow was again heard announcing to the negroes the hour of dinner and of rest from their labours, and also changing the hands in the boiling-house. On returning to the verandah, I found Mrs. Munroe surrounded by several negro children, to whom she was imparting instruction in needlework. They were merry little beings, and treated with great kindness by their benevolent mistress. After regaling on some shaddocks and oranges, accompanied by a little American biscuit called "crackers" (which are much and deservedly esteemed), by way of luncheon, I took my gun, and set off for the cane-pieces, hoping to get a shot at the paroquets. The sun was unclouded, but I felt no more inconvenience in walking under its blaze than if I had been under the sun of old Scotland.

In proceeding through the cane-pieces, my dog Tom, a constant attendant, who was ranging amongst the canes, gave tongue. I therefore kept a sharp look-out, expecting a rat to bolt across the road which divided the cane-pieces (denominated an "interval"), when, to my surprise, I perceived a black snake, of considerable size, glide from amongst the canes, and endeavour to cross the road. I immediately fired, which put an end to his travels. Tom sprung out of the canes, but would not do more than bay at the snake. On ascertaining it was quite dead, I took it up, and examined its mouth, within which I discovered two fangs. I was informed, however, that being perfectly free from poison, they are quite innocuous and harm- less, as are all other of that tribe of reptiles in Jamaica. After this novel rencontre, I walked forward, taking care to keep Tom at heel, and avoid making the slightest noise; but it was all in vain for the paroquets flew up


from among the corn-stalks and far out of shot, and as usual screaming, took their flight across the valley. After experience told me of the extreme wariness of these birds, and of their always providing for their safety whilst on feed, by placing sentinels on the adjacent trees. After days of continual toil, I only shot one. The labour of stalking them is almost more fatiguing than stalking red deer on the Highland hills. My visit to Kinloss extended to the 4th of May, during which I became acquainted with many of the neighbouring families, amongst whom was a Mrs. Campbell and her two daughters. The youngest I greatly admired. The mother was an American (of Philadelphia), and it was there that both her daughters were born. They came to pass some days at Kinloss, and arrived on horseback, their horses covered with nets to protect them from the flies (which are a pest in all tropical climates, and whose bite is most severe). The ladies wore poke bonnets, with deep capes, which covered their shoulders as well as the entire of the back of the bonnet. Their riding habits, and indeed their entire dress, with the exception of their veils, were white, and of a very light texture. Their luggage was carried in boxes, on the heads of the female attendants, who accompanied them on foot; they were quadroons - three removes from negro blood, and much fairer in complexion than mulattoes. They were attired in white flowing gowns, fashioned somewhat like a robe de chambre. They wore turbans, but were without either shoes or stockings.

My occupations at Kinloss were little varied. With my gun over my shoulder and Tom at my heels, I took long walks, until the hour of dinner approached, when I returned home. During these walks I frequently


came in contact with black snakes, which glided with great rapidity away into cover, and whom I allowed to go in peace. The numerous and different kinds of lizards interested and amused me as I watched their mode of trapping flies, which they prey upon, by inflating and protruding a kind of bag from under their throat, which, being usually of a scarlet colour, attracts and fascinates their victims, who light upon it, and are instantly engulphed.

The first evening after my arrival at Kinloss, I was surprised to observe, after nightfall, a number of lanterns (as I imagined) moving swiftly in the vicinity of the cane-pieces and corn-fields. I pointed them out to Scott, who, after enjoying a laugh at my Johnny Newcomism, told me they were fireflies, who, by a beautiful provision of nature, are provided with a ball of bright light immediately behind each eye. This light, or phosphorescent ball, is so powerful as to enable those who place a number of them under a glass shade to read by the light so given out.

One of the great discomforts which attends living in the high temperature of the torrid zone is the being compelled to have doors and windows open after sunset, which admit clouds of mosquitoes and other noxious insects; but above all, as most repulsive and disagreeable, are the cockroaches, which, attracted by the light of the candles, surround and strike, in full flight, against the glass shades which protect the candles, and thus fall on your book or the table. The continual buzz of the mosquitoes is most irritating, and the sound of the hearty slaps given to the cheeks in the hope of annihilating these pests, proves how entirely the comfort of all they attack is at the mercy of these insatiate bloodsuckers. I have heard it suggested that a mask


might be worn as a defence against them but that would be but a choice of evils — between being stifled or stung to death.

Mr. Munroe had occasion now and then to visit Falmouth, and kindly gave me a seat in his catherine, (a carriage nearly similar to a gig, but with a roof raised on rods, to give protection from the sun), which I enjoyed as an agreeable change from the utter quiet of Kinloss. In one of our drives we visited Long Pond, an estate about ten miles from Kinloss, where resided, for several years, Francis Grant, one of the most influential men in the parish of Trelawny. On his return to his native country, he purchased the estate of Kilgraston, in Perthshire, and married a daughter of Mr. Oliphant, of Rossie, and became the father of several sons — his second, one of the most talented artists of the day, and the youngest the gallant General Sir Hope Grant, whose services in India have been most distinguished, and who is now in command of the army in China. The eldest succeeded his father to the family estate, and is universally respected.

At length my agreeable visit to my kind friends terminated, having received a letter from my cousin Robert, stating his intention of returning to Hamden on the 26th of April, and requesting I would meet him there on that day. It was therefore arranged that I should proceed to Hamden on horseback, accompanied by my friend Scott, the distance being about fifteen miles from Kinloss. The morning, as is usually the case at this season, was beautiful; and we set out in high spirits, calling, en route, on my old shipmate Gillespie, at the estate where he resided, and where he ended his days.

Proceeding onward, we visited the delightful villa (or, in Jamaica parlance, settlement) of Navarre, situated on a picturesque rising ground, amidst the delightful


shade of magnificent cotton-trees, interspersed with stately palms, bearing cocoa-nuts, and bread fruit, mangoes, and oranges were also around. Navarre had been built by Dr. Edgar, one of the most eminent medical men on the north side of Jamaica; and he had fitted it up with far more attention to comfort and convenience than is usually observed in that country. It was then uninhabited, as Dr. Edgar had purchased an estate in the parish of St. James's, where he resided, thus sacrificing to the ambition of being a landed proprietor, with all its anxieties and frequent disappointments, the useful and happy life he had enjoyed at Navarre.

Our next halt was at Good Hope, one of the estates of Mr. Thorpe, who ranked next to Simon Taylor as the richest and most extensive proprietor in Jamaica. Amongst the numerous buildings, I observed one of an imposing size and appearance, which, on inquiry, I found was appropriated as an hospital for the sick negro population throughout his different estates. After our horses had baited, and we had refreshed our inner man with oranges and shaddocks, we continued our ride over the same undulating country, far less varied and interesting than that surrounding Duin Vale and Kinloss. Our road led us through cane-pieces, from which the canes having been gathered, the remains were as unpicturesque as those of stubble-fields. The sun was so hot that Scott was compelled to take refuge under an umbrella, which cause no alarm to horses in Jamaica, they are so accustomed to their being spread above them. I did not feel the least inconvenience from the heat, and was inclined to laugh at his precaution.

Presently, we entered upon an extensive plain, known by the designation of the Queen of Spain's Valley,

HAMDEN. p187

around which, in the remote distance, were ridges of hills, of considerable elevation, and covered with wood. On at length reaching the boundary of the Hamden estate, we discerned a gentleman riding towards us, carrying, like my friend Scott, an open umbrella. On perceiving us, he stopped, and courteously inquired whether he was addressing the cousin of Mr. Stirling, who was that day expected at Hamden. On my replying in the affirmative, he introduced himself as Dr. Hewan, and informed me that he had just come from Hamden, and had learnt that my cousin Robert was not to arrive for some days, as he was still in St. Mary's, awaiting the arrival of his brother Archibald, whom he daily expected to land at that port on his passage from Scotland. Dr. Hewan, on observing that I did not carry an umbrella, cautioned me against exposing myself without proper protection to the intense heat of the sun. I said that it was no annoyance to me, I was its proof against power.

"It may be so at present, young gentleman," he replied; "but it will not be long before you may have ample cause to change your opinion." How little did I then think that his prediction would be fulfilled.

Very pleasing were my first impressions of Hamden, my cousins' Jamaica home. We passed through extensive pastures, adorned with scattered groups and single trees of great size and beauty; a large piece of water, in the form of a lake, added to its parkish appearance. It was quite an English scene, and the cooing and occasional flight of pigeons increased the resemblance. Further on, a group of neat cottages appeared, almost buried under the rich vegetation of the plantain-tree and the spreading foliage of other trees and shrubs. These, I afterwards learnt, were the dwellings of negroes belonging


to the property. Soon after we arrived at the residence of the overseer whose house is surrounded by the different buildings appropriated to the various purposes of the estate.

The residence of Mr. Stirling, or, as I before mentioned, called, in Jamaica parlance, the great house, was within a short distance. It was of large dimensions, and built entirely of stone a circumstance of rare occurrence in the country districts of Jamaica. The walls were very thick - a great advantage in so hot a climate, by adding to the coolness of the interior. The house contained a large hall running through its entire centre; to the right and left were other rooms, and further on, where a staircase ascended to an upper floor, were additional bedrooms. The windows were all glazed, and on each side of them were loopholes for defence, which were also on each side of the entrance doors. Under the hall were spacious cellars and accommodation for men-servants; and as a further means of defence, there were loopholes, or apertures, cut in the floors of the hall and bedrooms, to allow a fire of musketry being kept up against any assailants gaining possession of the cellars and rooms on the ground-floor of the house. The kitchen, as is always the case, was in an adjoining building.

The view from the house was extensive, over a very flat country, but bounded, as I have before mentioned, by hills of moderate elevation, except to the south-west, where appeared a ridge of much loftier hills, covered with forest. There were several extensive and valuable estates within sight (whose cane-pieces occupied large tracts of the valley), amongst which were Weston-favel, Dundee, Wemyss Castle, &c. ...