About the Parish of Saint Andrew Jamaica

About the Parish of Saint Andrew Jamaica
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St Andrew Jamaica


St Andrew Jamaica is situated in southeast Jamaica, bordered by Saint Catherine to the west, Saint Thomas to the east, Saint Mary to the north and Portland to the northeast. The parish stretches into the Blue Mountains range and lies just north of Kingston. Its capital is Half Way Tree. With a population of about 542,000, Saint Andrew is the most populous parish in Jamaica.

Originally called Liguanea (pronounced Lig-a-nee, an ancient Arawak Indian name) after the Liguanea Plain in which it lies, St Andrew Jamaica was formed in 1867 when the number of parishes in the island was reduced from 22 to 14. Since most of the other 13 parishes were named after governors of Jamaica, their wives, or English kings, it is possible that St. Andrew derived its name similarly, but no one is quite certain. Saint Andrew is home to one of the oldest churches in Jamaica, Saint Andrew Parish Church, which was founded in 1664. The church was named for Saint Andrew, an apostle and the patron saint of Scotland. Maybe the parish took his name as well?

Saint Andrew Parish

As for its capital, Half Way Tree, there are also different opinions about how it got its name. One explanation is because of a huge cotton tree located there under which travelers would rest when going from the city to the hills and rural areas of the parish. Another is that the crossroads there marked the halfway point between two British military barracks at Port Henderson and Newcastle.

With an area of 166 square miles, St Andrew Jamaica is the second smallest parish. It encompasses all of the city of Kingston except the waterfront area, which remains in its own Kingston parish. In 1923, the parishes of Kingston and St Andrew were administratively merged to form the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation. Some of the other major centers in Saint Andrew are Cross Roads, New Kingston, Papine, Matilda's Corner, and Constant Spring but they are usually considered to be suburbs of Kingston. The parish, in fact, is most often referred to as Kingston and Saint Andrew, rather than as two separate parishes.

Bob Marley live in concert in Zurich, Switzerl...

Bob Marley live in concert in Zurich, Switzerland, on May 30, 1980 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Trenchtown is one of Kingston’s well-known neighborhoods. The area gets its name from its previous designation as Trench Pen, 33 acres of agricultural land once used for livestock by James Trench, an Irish immigrant. The Trench Family abandoned the land in the late 19th century. It is a common misconception that the name comes from the large open sewer that runs through the neighborhood. During the 1930s, Trenchtown was a residential area; squatters lived in the Dungle (city dump) area near the waterfront. Trench Town was re-developed when a housing project was built, replacing squatter camps that were destroyed by Hurricane Charlie in 1951. Many who came from rural Jamaica to find work settled there as it was a desirable location. Trenchtown is known in popular culture due to numerous reggae musicians, including Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer, but most notably Bob Marley, who spent much of his youth there in a "government yard" (housing project) on First Street.

There is only one river in St Andrew Jamaica, the Hope River, which is one source of supply for the Mona Dam. The Liguanea plains have a beautiful backdrop of mountains. In the east is Long Mountain, with Dallas Mountain, a spur of the Blue Mountains, further east. To the north is Jacks Hill behind which loom the Port Royal Mountains. To the northwest are Stony Hill, Coopers Hill and Red Hills. The highest elevation is Catherine's Peak at 5,000 feet.

Mavis Bank Coffee Factory

Mavis Bank Coffee Factory (Photo credit: Elizabeth Thomsen)

Large deposits of gypsum are found in eastern Saint Andrew with the largest quantity found in Bull Bay. There are also small deposits of copper, zinc, lead and manganese and iron ores. A lot of the parish is used for agriculture. Its principal products include coffee, mangoes, cacao, peas, beans, sugar cane and cattle. Coffee was first planted at Temple Hall after being introduced from Martinique in 1728. Today it is Jamaica's second most valuable export crop. There is a processing plant at Clydesdale and another at Mavis Bank.

Today, the city of Kingston, along with suburban Saint Andrew, is a modern metropolis with imposing buildings, an international conference center which houses the International Seabed Authority, theaters, a national Stadium, a National Library, the National Gallery, schools, colleges, two universities and two daily newspapers. The headquarters for the island's commercial banks, larger insurance companies, lending agencies, building societies, and credit unions are in the Corporate Area of Kingston.

There are, however, serious problems of a physical and social nature such as pollution of the Kingston Harbour and the Liguanea plain, crime and the growth of ghetto areas, not unlike most big urban centers around the world. The government and private sector are taking steps to address these problems. It is still the commercial capital of the island with modern port facilities at Newport West and the Norman Manley International Airport on the Palisadoes strip. Kingston is one of the largest ports in the English-speaking Caribbean.

The Right Excellent George William Gordon (1820-1865), one of Jamaica's seven National Heroes, was born in this parish. Born to a white planter and a slave, Gordon became a businessman and a landowner in the parish of St Thomas-in-the-East. Click here to read more about George William Gordon and the Morant Bay Rebellion.

Alton Ellis st andrew jamaica

Alton Ellis

So many other well-known people were born in Saint Andrew parish! They include revered record producer, Clement Seymour "Sir Coxsone" Dodd CD (1932-2004), the Jamaican musician Augustus Pablo (born Horace Swaby, 1953-1999), ska and reggae legend Desmond Dekker, 1941-2006, (born Desmond Adolphus Dacres in St. Andrew), rocksteady artist Alton Ellis OD, 1938-2008, (Trenchtown), reggae superstars Dennis Brown OD (from Kingston, my favorite!), 1957-1999, Gregory Isaacs (1951-2010, from Fletchers Land), Neville "Bunny Wailer" Livingston OJ, a founding member of the Wailers who was named by Newsweek as one of the three most important musicians in world music, and Ken Boothe OD (Denham Town), reggae artist Leroy "Lion" Edwards, bass guitarist for the Mystic Revealers, reggae and dancehall stars Buju Banton (from Salt Lane), Third World's Michael "Ibo" Cooper and Stephen "Cat" Coore, Richell "Richie Spice" Bonner (from Rock Hall), Sean Paul (born Sean Paul Henriques in Kingston in 1973) who won the Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album in 2004, David Nesta "Ziggy" Marley, Bob Marley’s eldest son and a 4-time Grammy-winning musician, Damian Robert Nesta "Junior Gong” Marley, Bob's youngest son and 2-time Grammy Award winner, Bounty Killer, Beenie Man, Michael Rose (from Waterhouse), Junior Reid, Marcia Griffiths, the popular Jamaican-American reggae singer called the "Queen of Reggae", Shaggy (born Orville Richard Burrell in Kingston), Madge Sinclair (1938-1995), the Emmy-winning Jamaican-American character actress most well-known for her parts as Belle in Roots and nurse Ernestine Shoop on the series Trapper John, M.D., Linford Christie, the only British sprinter to win a gold medal in the 100m event (at the 1992 Olympic Games), and retired U.S. National Basketball Hall of Fame player Patrick Ewing (born in Kingston in 1962), who played most of his illustrious career for the New York Knicks.

For a fascinating glimpse of what St Andrew Jamaica was like under British rule, take a look at the official 1670 Saint Andrew Census. They counted 194 landowner families and only 1,552 people living in Saint Andrew at that time!

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