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All about South Coast


The relatively arid southeast Jamaican coast has only one main town of note: Morant Bay. It was the home base for rebellious slaves during colonial days. You are more apt to hear a more Jamaican approach to the Queen's English. Gi ma smallers, boss means give me a dollar, boss. Anyone in authority, or able to give favours, is called boss. The common greeting is everyt'ing cool, mon? or everyt'ing irie?

Travel west to Kingston and just south of this city is what's left of former colonial capital, Port Royal. This city was proudly wealthy, wicked and wild during its pirate heyday. Most of Port Royal was destroyed in a 1692 earthquake of mammoth proportions. Hundreds died. There have been various efforts to restore Port Royal as a tourist attraction, but so far little work has been completed. It took Hollywood to build a "reel" Port Royal as a set for many sensational scenes in the Johnny Depp film hit: Pirates of the Caribbean. The film also depicted, in all its grisly horror, Gallows Point. That's where recalcitrant pirates were hanged until dead and then their bodies were displayed as a warning to other would-be Brethren of the Coast. Gallows Point was used for hangings as late as 1831.

A short trip to the northwest of Port Royal will bring you to busy, historic Spanish Town, for a short time Jamaica's capital. The city was also the venue for a trial that sent pirate Calico Jack Rackham to the gallows. Rackham's corpse was squeezed into a tiny cage and set up as a warning to other would-be nasty pirates. Rackham's female pirate companions, Anne Bonney and Mary Read, were spared from the hangman's noose because they were pregnant and it wouldn't be fair for the unborn children to pay with their lives for the sins of their mothers. No one knows what happened to Bonney after her escape from execution. She apparently disappeared. Read, however, died of yellow fever and is buried at St Catherine. The Spanish Town venue for Rackham's last stand is also the location for the House of Assembly, where Jamaica's elected representatives met until a British colonial government took over in 1866. Check out the town's Cathedral Church of St James, built in 1714 on the site of the original Spanish church. Next you come to the town of May Pen, one of many Jamaica "Pens." The name refers to places where farmers kept animals.

A coast road west along the southern coast leads to Bluefields, where British privateer Henry Morgan set sail in 1670, on his way to pillage and plunder the wealth of Spanish Panama. North of Bluefields in Cowpit Country, home base of runaway slaves bent on freedom for all. This area was also known as "Land of Look Behind." That's because British soldiers used to search the area for guerrilla warriors known as Maroons. The latter were descendants of slaves who refused to be enslaved by the British who took over Jamaica from its previously Spanish rulers.

Just south of Cowpit Country is Mandeville, an Anglo-Jamaican jewel at least 2,000 feet above sea level. The town sports whimsical cottages, English-style gardens, a village green and a passion for all things English. There is even a Georgian courthouse and a parish church. Think Devonshire with a better climate.


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