Kingston 1881

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Christmas in Kingston, 1881


Falmouth Gazette, January 6, 1882, page 3, column 2


          what an english gentleman now on the southside

                writes of jamaica in general, and kingston

                                       in particular.


          And now I come to the Christmas festivities. Bending my steps

             to the Victoria Market with a friend, at  about 6 a.m. on Monday

             the 26th, to witness the turning  out of all Kingston, I was most agree-

             ably surprised to see, instead of a crowd of roughs, an immense

             gathering of people of all classes and hues, such as I had never in all

             my travels in many Countries seen before. It was, in truth, a real

             Carnival, eclipsing, for splendour and order, and kindly displays of

             Earnest good feelings, any similar gathering I had met in dear Eng-

             land, or in France, Italy, Germany, or America. Can it be possible,

             I frequently asked myself, that this is Jamaica of which I have read

             and heard at home so many frightful stories of its utter demoraliza-

             tion, wickedness, and all manner of hideous vices? Can these

             thousands of black and colored folks so orderly, graceful, and

             superbly attired in costly apparel be the same Jamaicans of whom

             I had heard at home that they were all little better than brutes,

             and that centuries yet. unborn would not find them civilised and

             better than the rudest Savages. In that enormous concourse of people

             which I scanned on that, to me, memorable morning, I saw no person

             drunk, disorderly, or troublesome. In that heaving crowd, stretch-

             ing from the sea-board up far away to the Parish Church, there

             were old and young, Wives, Mothers, and even little Children, and

             Infants in arms, all dressed splendidly and arresting the wondrous

             surprise of thoughtful and quiet spectators like myself. I sincerely

             believe that neither in England nor Scotland, and certainly not .in

             Ireland, could such an immense gathering of people have been seen,

             in which order sobriety and good manners prevailed so conspicu-

             ously as in and about the Victoria Market of Kingston on that

             lovely day, the 26th December. “Good morning Mas William”

             said a portly black Dame, magnificently dressed in colored silk,

             with foreign ringlets about her neck, and valuable ornaments to

             match her robe &c. “ I wish you a Merry Christmas and I hope

             “God will bless you and Misses and de Children and make you all

             “see many more.” These kind words were addressed to my good

             friend beside me, and I need hardly add that he grasped the hand

             offered, and responded in terms which proved that he possessed a

             gentle and a noble heart. “And who is dis Gentleman wid you

             (alluding to me) he come from over de water ?” I was at once in-

             troduced, and received my first warm grip from the hand of one of

             the despised race. “Glad to see you Sa, wish you a Merry Christ-

             “ mas, hope you won’t get sick, you must keep out of de Sun and

             “don’t sit up late at night, and don’t eat too much fruit and drink

             “liquor pon it.” As the advice was useful to me a teetotaller, I

             promised faithful obedience. Then suddenly calling two pretty

             young Maidens, who had strolled away from her, she brought them

             up and introduced them. These young Ladies were her Grand-

             daughters of fair complexion, graceful manners, and superb ap-

             parel. How strange all this to me - Grand-mother black, and

             Grand-children white. It was all explained to me in time, and

             again I had to deplore the profligacy and wickedness of white men

             who have brought so much shame and misery on the native women

             of Jamaica. The above greetings, which from personal experience

             I have attempted to describe are but a grain in the enormous hil-

             lock of congratulations, good wishes, blessings and handshakings

             piled up on the advent of the “Prince of Peace” who came into the

             world to ransom and save all, of every creed and clime.


          I must not forget the good things provided within the well kept and

          attractive market buildings. In the flesh market there was a fine and

          abundant display of Beef &c. Better and more succulent meat

          I never beheld, but the Cutters should be taught to use their knives

          and cleavers like English Butchers, and avoid hacking and slash-

          ing the joints and choice pieces. The Mutton was only fit for the

          kennel, and scarcely good enough for valuable hounds. I have, how-

          ever, eaten Kingston Mutton from the Farm of a person of the

          name of Hockins, and for quality and flavor not to be surpassed at

          home. It was a pity to see the poor stuff exhibited in the Victoria

          Market on the 26th. Of fruits there was an abundance and very

          moderately priced, considering the enormous fees levied on all who

          vend their goods in the pretty, but expensive building. But I must

          not mar the pleasure and real happiness I have felt in witnessing

          Christmas in Jamaica -- a land truly of Springs, beautiful skies,

          magnificent scenery, and wonderful climate. I can never cease to

          pour out my gratitude to Jamaica for the marvels it has worked in

          my health and spirits. That person who would call it “a God for -

          saken hole” must be lost to all sense of truth.    



I was fascinated  with the account above of Christmas 1881 - Boxing Day actually, since Christmas Day was a Sunday - on King Street; some of you will know it already. It raises many interesting issues, but I was chiefly impressed by the atmosphere of happiness and peace it portrays. Of course the following Christmas was sadly different, as Kingston had suffered the worst fire in its history, in the down-town area, earlier in the month.


Sent out for Christmas 2003






Queen of the Dancing Girls, 1837











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