Manley, Morant Bay & Manatee

Saturday, April 14, 2012


Rt. Hon. Micheal Manley
Michael Manley (Rt. Hon.): was Jamaica’s fourth Prime Minister.  He served in the Royal Canadian Air Force during WW11, before enrolling in the London School of Economics in 1945. He eventually returned to Jamaica, where he got involved in the trade union movement. He entered politics in 1962, embracing ‘democratic socialism’. 


Thanks to Manley, a minimum wage was established for all workers. He introduced free primary, secondary and tertiary level education. He was also responsible for introducing equal pay for women, maternity leave with pay, outlawing illegitimacy (every child born out of wedlock was officially a bastard on the lawbooks), a labour relations act which improved workers’ rights, establishing a national housing agency through which the ordinary man could own a home, and subsidies of meals and uniforms for poor children. The list extends much further than the space I’ve allowed myself. Manley’s championing the cause of the poor was the exception in his time as he was from a well-to-do family.

In 1992, Manley stepped down from his role as Prime Minister and leader of the PNP for health reasons. After he left politics, Manley was sought after internationally as a speaker. He was charismatic, which is evidenced by his popularity with the Jamaican people and the women. Manley was married five times. He was also a writer and is noted for the award-winning A History of West Indies Cricket. Among the awards he has received are Jamaica's Order of Merit (OM), Order of the Nation (ON), Order of the Caribbean Community (OCC), UN Gold Medal and the World Peace Council's Juliot Curie Peace Award. Manley died in March 1997.
Morant Bay Court House/Statue of Paul Bogle
Morant Bay: is significant because of the Morant Bay Rebellion in 1865. Morant Bay within the parish of St. Thomas on the eastern side of the island. Paul Bogle, a Jamaican Baptist deacon, led a group of citizens from Stony Gut to Morant Bay in protest over the prevailing conditions. Though the former slaves had earned the right to vote, they were excluded based on a ‘poll tax’.  At the time, less than 2,000 black Jamaicans out of a total of over 400,000 could vote, even though the ration to whites was 32:1.

The rebellion started through the arrest of one person in the group who had gone to Morant Bay. Fellow protestors broke him out of prison and things turned sticky from there. Bogle was eventually accused of inciting the riot and a warrant issued for his arrest. He staged another protest march to Morant Bay, where the group was met with gunfire from ‘volunteer militia’ who panicked. Another riot ensued, which was suppressed, with nearly 500 people being killed by soldiers after the declaration of martial law. The riot in Morant Bay changed the course of Jamaica’s history. In response to the killings, the British government dissolved the House of Assembly, which meant that Jamaica reverted to Crown Colony government. 

Paul Bogle, National Hero
The governor at the time dispatched troops to arrest Paul Bogle and quell the uprising. According to an account from one soldier, "we slaughtered all before us… man or woman or child". The soldiers killed more than 400 black Jamaicans and arrested approximately 350 who were eventually executed, in some instances without a proper trial. Paul Bogle was executed in front of the courthouse in Morant Bay. Others (more than 600 men and women) were whipped and/or given lengthy prison sentences. Another national hero, George William Gordon, who had dubious involvement in the riots was also tried and executed. Governor Eyre was eventually charged with murder due to the loss of British lives and his poor handling of the riots, but the cases came to naught. I found an interesting factoid on Wikipedia. Some English liberals agreed with the charges brought against, Eyre, but An opposing committee, which included such Tories and Tory socialists as Thomas Carlyle, Rev. Charles Kingsley, Charles Dickens, and John Ruskin, sprang up in Eyre's defence. 


Manatees: are commonly called Sea Cows based on their size.  They are warm-blooded, docile and live in shallow water. They are grey with small flippers and a flat tail. Manatees are protected under Jamaican law as they are an endangered species.

Indian Mongoose
The Mongoose: (and no, the plural form is not mongeese) was brought to Jamaica from India in the 1800’s to rid the cane fields of rats. This was so successful, an enterprising land owner exported some of them to the Hawaiian islands, which didn’t have such good results over there. Other than streaking across roads that bisect cane fields and becoming road kill, mongoose aren’t a common sight in Jamaica these days.

 2011 Posting for ‘M’ in the A-ZChallenge.

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22 comments:

  1. What a story of the riots. How sad. I hope things are better in Jamaica in that front. I hope all are able to vote now. Stories like the one you told make me so angry! Why would Charles Dickens and others stand up for Eyre? Did they really know the situation?

    ON a happy note, I love Manatees! They are the cutest creature in the world.

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    1. Hi, Clarissa,
      The A-Z is making me look at the history I know from a fresh perspective. Now I truly understand why these men were made National Heroes. All they were about was to get a better standard of life for the ordinary man. I guess it was easy to be hundreds of miles away in England and make judgements without seeing the lay of the land. Thank goodness for people like Knibb who had access and made the facts known in Parliament way back then.

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  2. Manley looks familiar, but this is the first time I've read about him.

    I didn't know the mongoose was exported elsewhere. That's sad about what they're doing in Hawaii.

    I hope you're having a great weekend.

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    1. Medeia, it's possible you've come across him because he has been given several international awards and had strong veiws on Apartheid.

      Hope you're enjoying the weekend too.

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  3. I'm learning some wonderful history about Jamaica from your posts. The mongooses in the VI are not as common a sight as they once were either. I don't know why their numbers seem to have declined (not that I mind) but you'd think with all the feral chickens there'd be plenty of food for them. Now we have a lot of iguanas which weren't so prevalent when I was a kid.

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    1. Bish, I think what has also happened to them is that people kill them. My husband told me he killed quite a few when he was a boy because they used to eat his chickens. We have also lost a lot of iguanas. (I'll whisper 'thank goodness' here) Can't think what I'd do if I came face to face with one!

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  4. Interesting post about Manley. Thanks for the information.

    And mongoose were introduced in my country to wipe out snakes.

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    1. Hi, Nas, my research tells me that mongoose eat all sorts of stuff, which is why people used them the way they did.

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  5. I'm learning so much about Jamaica. Good to know about the uprising and how horribly it was handled.

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    1. I'm learning along the way too, Theresa. I learned a lot of this stuff in school, but you know how it is...

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  6. Wonderful insights into the history, people, places, and animals of Jamaica! Manatees are cool. They and their cousins, the dugong, are thought to be what spawned the mermaids myth! In fact, the Malay word for mermaid is 'duyong', where the name for the animal came from.

    J.C. Martin
    A to Z Blogger

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    1. J.C., Hadn't known about the dugong. I'll have to go find some pictures.

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  7. We have Manatees in Florida (which is where I'm from). They are so adorable. Very friendly to humans. Fantastic history lesson, Joy! What a time for the people in Jamaica. I was shocked to read so many well-known people supported the defense of Eyre. Charles Dickens??? He's one of my favorite authors. *sigh*

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    1. Would you believe that I haven't ever seen one in the flesh? I too was shocked when I came across that information. Dickens is someone I read a lot in high school, and to think his work focused around the poor and work houses and the hardship those people faced in them.

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  8. Your post is so fact-filled and interesting. It shows me how very little I know in general (and about Jamaica). There are signs in Florida which warn boaters of manatees in the waters off the Gulf coast.

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    1. Thanks for coming by Susan. I'm learning as I go along too.

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  9. Your post and your blog really helps me learn so much about Jamaica. There's so little I know. Sigh. Thank you!

    Thank you for visiting my blog!
    http://skaypisms.blogspot.com/

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  10. Manatees are gorgeous creatures. I've never seen one in the wild, but they look so graceful in the water.

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  12. Michael Manley, I just knew that he was a great person. May Jamaica have the same person like him.
    Regards too from Young Entrepreneur
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