Patterson, Port Royal & Pickney

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


The Most Hon. P.J. Patterson
The Most. Hon. P.J. Patterson, ON, PC, QC, MP, B.A. (Hon.), LL.B. was Jamaica’s 6th Prime Minister. He took office in 1992 and served for 14 years. He previously served in other ministerial capacities. He studied at the University of the West Indies, the London School of Economics and the Inns of Court. 

Patterson has had vast experience as a negotiator on a national and international level, which helped in his role while he was the Chairman of Caricom.  He’s a strong believer in regionalization for the Caribbean.



 He was instrumental in the modernizing the country’s infrastructure, as well as the financial sector. Jamaica’s borrowing relationship (18 years) with the IMF ended during his stint as Prime Minister and the country experienced a decline in poverty levels. His strong belief in education led him to start a program to transform the island’s education system. 

He has received an Order of the Nation Award and in 2006 was awarded the Order of Excellence of Guyana and is a member of the Global Leadership Foundation, a non-profit, non-governmental organisation whose mandate is to improve the quality of political leadership and governance through availing current national leaders of the expertise of former leaders.

Now fasten your seat belts for a trip to Port Royal. 



Port Royal
Port Royal is located at the southeastern tip of Jamaica. It is positioned on a strip of land at the mouth of the Kingston Harbour.  It was established in 1518 and during the second half of the 17th century was a centre of business within the shipping industry.

It was the headquarters for pirates from several European countries. When the English came in 1655, their intention was to conquer the Spanish in Hispaniola. They were unsuccessful and took Jamaica from the Spanish instead. The English used the help of the pirates to secure the island and because of the city’s proximity to crucial trade routes. 

Museum at Port Royal
These pirates were legitimized under the name ‘privateers’. Their escapades—read that as raiding Spanish ships—made Port Royal one of the richest cities in North America. The income from privateering far surpassed the money made from the production of sugar. 

Over time, Port Royal gained the reputation as ‘the wickedest city in the world’ based on its community of pirates, drunks, robbers and prostitutes. It also had the reputation of having one tavern for every ten residents. After Henry Morgan was appointed governor, the face of the city changed and in 1687, anti piracy laws came into effect. Port Royal now became famous for the execution of pirates.

Fort Charles
On June 7, 1692, a massive earthquake rocked the city, which didn’t stand much of a chance, built as it was on the sand.  Studies have shown that the sand turned liquid and flowed into the harbor, in a process called Liquefaction.  This happens when earthquakes hit land which is sandy in nature, and water-saturated. The increased water pressure forces the particles to separate and form a sludge-like matter that resembles quicksand. Picture buildings sinking and others sliding into the sea.

Thousands died and many others succumbed to illnesses brought on by the lack of medicine, water, and proximity to dead bodies, or which there were many. Fort Charles survived while many others sank. The earthquake was thought to be God’s punishment for the sinfulness of the city’s inhabitants.

Ruins at Port Royal
The attempts to rebuild the city met with limited success. Fires, hurricanes and flooding hampered the reconstruction efforts. As time passed, Kingston grew in importance and in 1815 another disastrous fire put paid to the redevelopment attempts at Port Royal, along with an outbreak of cholera in 1850.

The last earthquake in 1907 again liquefied the sand on which Port Royal was built and flattened the city.  Port Royal served as the capital until after the earthquakes, at which time the capital moved to Spanish Town.

Giddy House at Port Royal
Port Royal is a wonderful place to visit as it is rich in history. These days, Port Royal is a quiet fishing village where you can get the best fish meals served on the beach. Port Royal also houses a museum and the Caribbean Maritime Institute, as well as many relics from the past. The sites still below the sea are important archeological 'digs'. Teams of archeologists have been harvesting material from the ships that sank in the harbor in the 17th & 18th century. Go to this link if you're interested in further details on the excavations.

An aside here: I couldn’t resist adding the Giddy House. If you stand inside this building (see picture above), which was left this way by one of the earthquakes, you become giddy, hence the name. 


I give you a few more Jamaican terms:-

Pickney: child/kid. Plural is ‘pickney dem’.  Origin is from the slave term pickaninny, which is a pidgin term meaning children of Negroes. Wikipedia has an interesting take on the word’s origins. 

Passa Passa: Apart from being a popular weekly dancehall event on Spanish Town Road, a Passa Passa can be a disagreement and/or conflict that involves high drama. 


Don't Get Mad...Get Even is still free on Amazon. Download your copy of this award-winning short story collection. 

21 comments:

  1. I love Port Royale in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.

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    1. Mike, I found out this morning that they filmed most of that in St. Vincent. I was most outraged. :)

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  2. This is so fascinating! I have a friend who comes from Nassau in the Bahamas, and she says that there are pirates in her family tree! I always hear about Port Royal in connection with pirates - it's pretty famous!

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    1. Yes, Port Royal was world famous way back then. It must be wonderful to be able to go back that far on one's family tree.

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  3. What a tale! I can't believe the emotions I went through while I read it. I felt excitement over the pirates, humour over the pubs, and sadness over the earthquakes...and of course, giddyness over the half-sunk house. Awesome post.

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    1. I knew the post was gonna be long when I started digging up factoids on Port Royal. A couple of books have been written about the pirates and the city.

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  4. Port Royal sounds great, and certainly an interesting history, Joy. Those fish meals on the beach sound yummy!

    Denise

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    1. Writing this up made me want to visit there. I spent a night there and didn't sleep a wink.

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  5. Wow! I felt all this come alive for me! I could actually see Patterson making an interesting character in one of my books! And! Then you took me to Port Royal. Amazing history.

    I tagged ya if you're up for the challenge.
    tanyareimer.blogspot.com

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    1. Hey, Tanya, always happy to provide something to keep the brain active.

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  6. I was staring at the picture of the Giddy house. I was getting giddy just doing that. I couldn't imagine how silly I'd become if I stood in it lol!!!

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    1. Angela, I've been inside it and it's weird but you do become off balance and disoriented.

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  7. The Port Royal history is interesting. Loved the Giddy House!

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    1. If I wrote historical fiction, all of this stuff would be fodder for a story. :)

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  8. Patterson sounds like a good guy. 14 years is a good stretch for a PM too.

    Those underwater ruins look interesting. Certainly a turbulent history. The English always used some dirty tactics so I'm not surprised they used pirates to fight the Spanish!

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    1. Hi, Nick,
      One thing I like about Patterson is how dignified he is. I've never seen him upset and he's slow and deliberate in his speech.

      Turbulent is a good word to describe Port Royal's history.

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  9. The giddy house looks cool. Those earthquakes, however weren't. Scary!

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    1. Which is why I'd NEVER live in Port Royal. Not to say we're 100% safe from earthquakes anywhere in Jamaica. :)

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  10. I would love to visit Port Royal - and explore those ruins. I've been to the Caribbean once or twice but not Jamaica. Now I really want to go! Fascination about the earthquake/liquifaction phenomenon.

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    1. Li, you'd have a good time in Port Royal. It still has an olde world feeling. I guess because of the red brick that's everywhere and the wooden houses.

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  11. I'm loving your ABCs---and learning so much about Jamaica too!! Now to plan a trip....! :D

    Paula from TheTweenAndMe.com

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Don't be shy. I'd love to hear what you think.