Gt Gramps’ Diary #3: Grenada, skinny-dips, a mouthful of hotstuff and on to Jamaica.

We left the same evening, and at daylight on the 25th October 1847 we could see the trees on the hills of Grenada and by Breakfast we had reached the narrow entrance to the harbour.  Entering this, a most beautiful sight meets the view. On the left, in full command of the passage, rises the fort on a bold rocky point completely overhung with beautiful trees and trailing creepers and shrubs, bold rocks standing out here and there amongst the vivid green of the foliage. On the right hand a rugged cliff, also crowned with wild luxuriant foliage. Passing through this narrow gateway the scene is, if possible, still more beautiful, the harbour is like an inland lake deep, still and safe from winds, surrounded by high hills covered to the summit with woods of rich tropical growth. Georgetown, a dirty, shabby place, runs from the water’s edge a long way up the side of the hills, with many little white villas looking houses on still higher ground.

Port Grenada but not as Gramps would've seen it
Port Grenada but not as Gramps would’ve seen it

In the evening a passenger for this island gave a ball to which many of us were invited. We found it a delightful change from ship life and danced till daylight. As soon as the sun rose two of the passengers joined me in hiring a boat to take us across the harbour to an old jetty where we had a delightful swim, and for the benefit of future visitors – a la ‘Arry,  I spent half an hour in carving my name on one of the beams at the end of the landing stage! We returned refreshed, and in time to accompany two or three passengers who left us here for St. Kitts, to their steam boat, and back in time for breakfast, and at 6 p.m. on the 26th we also got under way.

Before I leave Granada I must tell you that on the 25th of March, 1796, a brother of your great grandmother, Captain Joseph Clavey – after whom one of you is named – was the first man to enter the breach in the Fort wall when it was stormed at the point of the bayonet. After a short but valiant career he contracted yellow fever and died on his way home, on the 31st day of August in the same year. We used to possess his sword and sash at Corsley but I think it must have been sold when our home was broken up.

29th,October: At daylight this morning I observed two sailors peering into some fleecy clouds rising on the starboard bow which in an hour’s time we could see were hanging over some lofty mountains in the large island of Hayti (San Domingo). At 10 p.m. we hove to, in order to send off the mails and a few passengers, and the next morning found us still within a few miles of the island though we had made many since leaving Potau Prince at midnight. We did not lose sight of the mountains till midday.

Being told we might see Jamaica at dawn of the next day I lay on one of the skylights this night instead of going to my cabin, and at daybreak on the 31st October I was dressed and waiting to get the first sight of “The land of Springs”.  As we neared the island we had a most enchanting view, in which deep ravines and towering mountains, softened by distance, and the sea in the foreground, made a perfect picture. The morning mist was slowly rolling up the mountain side discovering beneath its cloudy folds the bright green of the mangroves skirting the sea-beach to the water’s edge, and then, as it continued to rise, the soft dreary blue of the distant mountains with the numerous valleys and spurs appears, topped here and there with gold by the rising sun, reminding one of the crumpled sheet of paper said to have been used by Columbus to illustrate the appearance of Jamaica from his ship.

This beautiful appearance changes as you round Port Royal, a narrow slip of low land jutting into the bay and forming, as it were, one of the gate posts of the harbour, Port Henderson, high rocky promontary some three miles off being the other.  We were now in the harbour and as we approached the wharves where many steam boats were moored we were surrounded by boats and our decks soon crowded by negroes and white men long before we could get to our berth alongside the wharf.

I had just finished breakfast when a note was put into my hand to say that Mr. Wortley, to whom I was consigned, would meet me at the Railway Station. I went there and we went to Church together and then by train to Spanishtown where we lunched at the house of a friend of his.

While waiting in the garden after dinner this good man gathered a beautiful looking scarlet fruit from a small bush and handed it to me saying, “Taste this Mr. Griffith – don’t Red-Chili-Peppermake two bites of a cherry or you’ll lose the juice and flavour” – so I crunched it up in my mouth and – blessed him!! – for it was a red hot chilli pepper! and raised blisters in my mouth, of course I pretended I did not find it unpalatable, and merely said, “Ah! well it’s rather pungent is it not?”

Mr. Wortley was a self taught Civil Engineer and had several engagements in hand, and, as I had learnt surveying and levelling before leaving England I was at once set to work at plans for an extension of the railroad which was at that time constructed only about 4 miles beyond Spanishtown, and afterwards I had to take a series of levels for a large proposed irrigational channel. Whilst at the latter work some 12 miles from home heavy rain came on, and I was out in it the whole day in wet clothes which resulted in a chill and a very serious illness, which, at one time was so bad that I heard the doctor advise Mr. Wortley to “write and prepare my people for the worst”. But I was not to be killed off so easily, and on the 25th of November I was able to mount my pony and take half-an-hour’s ride.

After this illness the doctor considered a change to the more healthy North side of the island necessary, so it was arranged at Spanishtown, where Mr. Wortley and I went to meet a Mr. Blagure at breakfast, that I should go to one of his large sugar estates in Trelawny as a “Book-keeper” with – at first – the magnificent salary of £15 per annum.

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