Day 434 – Three Fingered Jack & other Jamaican history

They say that history is told by the winning side, the victors, oftentimes falsely representing what really happened. Often hiding, playing down or ignoring the atrocities committed by the victors in the name of war/politics/colonialisation/religion. 

In 1780, the notorious rebel “Three-Finger’d Jack” Mansong escaped from slavery into the Blue Mountains of Jamaica and murdered hundreds of travellers. The dangerous outlaw remained at large for almost two years before he was captured and killed by the same Maroon who had allegedly taken two of his fingers in an earlier skirmish. (Frances R Botkin)

According to

Three-fingered Jack’ was the popular name of a man who escaped Jamaican slavery some time before 1780, became a leader of a group of maroons, and was captured and killed. His story can be traced in the Jamaican Royal Gazette. It was introduced to the British public through a section of a book by Dr Benjamin Moseley, A Treatise on Sugar, published in 1799, which describes Jack’s use of ‘obi’ to maintain his power. Moseley’s account of Three-Fingered Jack inspired the very successful stage pantomime Obi, or Three Finger’d Jack, which first played at the London Haymarket Theatre in 1800. Two novels based on the story were published that same year, and the story was then told and retold through further pantomimes, theatrical productions, chap books, juvenile literature, novels and other cultural productions. Jack’s use of Obeah formed a significant element in most of these retellings.

In 1978 the Jamaica National Trust Commission, later replaced by the Jamaica National Heritage Trust, placed a heritage sign at the side of the road that leads east from Kingston to the parish of St. Thomas. Near the village of Bull Bay, the sign is easy to miss, but remains present today, accompanied by a sign advertising a restaurant and beer garden, ‘Jack’s Place’. The sign was placed during a period when Jamaica was establishing a series of National Heroes. Although Jack was not considered as a candidate to be a National Hero, he was considered sufficiently important to warrant this sign, which explains that he ‘fought, often singlehandedly, a war of terror against the English soldiers and planters who held the slave colony.’

There are many seen as heroes by their own people and monsters by their opposition. Jack Mansong is one of these. He is part of the history of Jamaica though and as such should be remembered. He fought against the enslavement of his people and to me that was honourable.

One of the reasons I love Jamaica…

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In Visions of Blue Jonah and Lilia are back in Jamaica.

…’What exactly do you do Henri?’ Jonah asks. I was waiting for that.

‘Jonah…’ I try to change the subject but Henri shakes his head.

‘No Lilia, it’s OK. Jonah has the right to know. Gorgoleta-Trochilus started dealing in ‘not so legal’ goods during the trade embargo with Cuba, but we have since moved into legal import and export. It’s all above board now.’

‘Is that why you left my mom & me and went back to Cuba all those years ago? I was only a year old.’

‘Yes Jonah, I’m sorry for that now. In 1962 a young family did not fit into my dangerous world and I did not want to expose either of you to unsafe situations or possible retaliation from my business contacts. Several of them were quite terrifying individuals and cartels. We were in the middle of the missile crisis and Cold War. Some of us were convinced it was the beginning of the third world war.’

‘Those were dangerous times indeed. I know that in South Africa it was the year Nelson Mandela was arrested even though it was a few years before I was born. It was a dark time for my country too.’

‘The world was an unhappy place then. It was, I believe, the time when the world came closest to Armageddon. Total destruction as a result of nuclear war.’

A shiver runs down my spine and I look away. In the distance I see Kiki trying to be brave but still too scared to go into the ocean. ‘Kiki my girl, come here. Henri, Jonah, please excuse me. This stuff is too heavy for me, you two have rained on my parade a bit, choked my little bee and I need to go and play with my dog to recuperate.’
I kiss them both and run towards Kiki.

After we play around with driftwood and dig up some clams and bury them again – Huskies don’t fetch but they love to dig, Jonah and I walk further along the crescent shaped beach.

‘I can see caves in those rock formations Lilia, but I remember very well what happened last time I took you exploring. I will go there while you paint our house’ he picks me up and swings me around.

‘We are going to make this work Big J. We can grow old here. I feel at home and we have a future here. Thanks to Henri. You guys made your peace yet?’

‘Now seems like the perfect time. Look at him playing with Kiki. How can I still hold the past against him?’

‘Henri, I apologise for not giving you a chance before. Lilia and I would love to stay here and build a future with you. That OK?’

With tears in his eyes Henri embraces Jonah. No words need to be said.

I hook my arm into Henri’s on the one side and Jonah’s on the other while Kiki runs free ahead of us on the path leading back to the cottage. ‘So Henri, do you have a special lady in your life? Jonah and I were wondering about that gorgeous bed in your jet.’

Jonah starts coughing and Henri stops walking. ‘I’m sorry Lilia what did you say?’

‘Henri, you will get to know me well and I must warn you that I am a very direct person. I try not to be rude but sometimes I don’t give my brain time to catch up with my mouth.’

‘That’s true.’

Jonah… grrr’ I growl at him in warning but then soften it with a smile.

‘But I love her anyway’ he says. A good save.

‘It’s alright Lilia, just an unexpected question. I actually met a lady from Trinidad a few years ago when she became my personal chef. Her name is Jalade Granville. One thing led to another and she has actually just moved in with me. At our age marriage is not on the cards but companionship is. We enjoy each other’s company and I absolutely love her cooking. I am looking after her grown son Omar financially while he is studying Botany at the Institute. You will see him around in the gardens, he loves flowers and plants.’

‘We will have lots to talk about then. How old is he?’

‘He is about thirty maybe, late twenties. He could never study before as they did not have the financial means. Why don’t you come over tonight for dinner and meet them? I am sure that Jalade can do vegetarian dishes too.’

‘Dinner would be lovely, but please let me help Jalade with the veggie stuff, share some ideas?’

‘See you at six thirty then Lilia. We are looking forward to being more than three for dinner!’

‘Oh and Lilia, Jonah told me that you two are not really attached to technology and didn’t even bring your mobile phones with. I find that hard to believe, so I purchased a mobile for each of you…wait. For security reasons. This Estate is very big and anyone can get lost. Please keep them with you when you leave your home OK? For me? I also purchased a laptop for each of you as I heard that you left your old ones behind. You really did travel lightly. This is in order for you to do research Lilia. For your incomplete project, Jonah told me about the book on slavery and I am very interested in that. You can work on new projects, the new hotel, anything. Enjoy.’

‘Thanks Henri, you are too kind. I know that we most probably need to keep up with the world but it is nice to not always be available. We decided to make a clean break with the UK, all our contacts included – except for Bella and Howie. No one but them will be able to find us. I will most definitely continue my slavery manuscript, on our way back from the airport your chauffeur pointed out the grave of Three Fingered Jack. I am going back there as soon as I can to include his story and a few photos in my manuscript.’…

Our plant based food for the day is  Ital Jamaican Rasta vegan food. From coconuts to fruit to tofu, rice and beans.

Peace out


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