Gt. Gramps’ Diary #5 in which he reveals a liking of small birds

March 1848: A new Book keeper is now appointed so I have more time to myself and on Saturday afternoon we 3 generally ride off to the river “Martha Brae”, and spend an hour or more bathing, and having swimming races on, and by the side of our horses in a large deep pool, till a large alligator was seen there, which made us rather cautious tho’ it did not stop our bathing.

dads bird drawing xThe scenery on this river was very beautiful. It runs along a deep rocky valley, with tall bamboos and graceful trees hanging over its banks. The coot, woodpecker, and paroquets, keep up a lively noise, while the minor key is supplied by the melancholy “Whitebelly” and “Mountain Witch”, the latter is a large ground dove, seldom seen, as it lurks in the thick bushes, though often heard. Its deep sad “hoo, hoo hoo!” is so weird that it is impossible to tell from whence or from what distance it comes. The noble “Baldpate” pigeon, and Pea dove, the former eating fruit of the highest trees, and the latter running on the ground or flying about on low trees, comparatively tame, these and many more interesting birds are constantly to be seen. One of the prettiest is the little ground dove”, about as large as a fat sparrow, of a puce lour covered with small purple spots on neck and wings. A most familiar object all over Jamaica.

About the beginning of this month Mr. Blagure came to the Estate, and sent for me to copy a lot of letters and accounts, and finding me apt and useful, gradually took me from estate work altogether, and made me for the time his private secretary very much to my comfort and satisfaction. I now began to indulge my love of birds and finding a pair of young pea doves in an old calabash tree I tied them by one leg each, through the bottom of the nest, with my waistcoat string till they should be fully fledged. I then took them and for nearly 4 years one of them remained a beautiful and sweetly cooing pet.

15th March: Mr. Blagure drove me to Montego Bay. We had a delightful drive, as we went by the mountain road – and think every mountain road in Jamaica gives a panorama of beautiful views. This one, as we approach the town, is perfectly enchanting. The next day I returned by the sea-side road, 30 miles. This runs for some way on the sea shore strewed with conch shells and corals. On my return, I found Mr. Grant had broken one of his great toes, by letting a rum vat fall on it! So for some time I had to do double work, and sometimes to “line out cane holes”, a very tedious employment consisting in sticking up innumerable pegs at 4 feet apart, by the aid of a chain and any old negro who has strength enough to drag one end of it. The ends of the pegs blistered the palms of my hands at first till I made a leather pad. The sun too trying to work in all day, as it is impossible to escape from it in the open field.

7th June: Whilst with the field gang today I found a humming bird’s nest with one young one fully fledged, and as it flew out, I struck it with a stone. It was only stunned and soon recovered, so I took it home and fed it with sugar and water, which it soon learnt to suck out of a quill. On Sundays I indulged it with a bunch of fresh flowers. It seemed to know me and on opening the cage it would fly to my finger at once, or on the flowers which it rifled with evident delight. It was always unwilling to return to its cage but never attempted to fly away. The end of this beautiful pet was sad, for during one of my trips to Montego Bay with Mr. Blagure I had to leave it in the charge of Mrs. Grant, and on returning I found it dead – starved to death!

13th July: Our crop is now finished. We have made 140 hogsheads of very good sugar, which is considered a good crop, but the rum crop of 60 puncheons is a bad one. This evening as a sort of “harvest home” all the negroes assembled before the Busha’s house and danced till, being regaled plentifully with rum punch, most of them got tipsy and went away to fight or sank down to sleep where they were, on the grass. I caught a large “Yellow” snake early in August, and took it home to the great horror of all hands, negroes having a mortal dread of snakes whether poisonous or not, and when I let the thing creep over me and round my neck they really began to look on me as something uncanny. I put the snake in a barrel but, though I heavily weighted the cover, it got out, and was accused of eating every fowl that was missed for a month afterwards.

21st October 1848: I received a letter from Mr. Wortley asking me to leave Mr. Blagure’s service and return to help him on Cumberland and Halfway Tree Pens, as he had just received  direction to take charge of another Estate several miles off, and required help. I wrote to say that I was comfortable and I sure of considerable promotion and that Mr. Blagure wished me to remain with him and promised to give me independent charge of one of his properties as soon as opportunity offered, but I said I would do as Mr. Wortley wished.

After hearing again from Mr. Wortley that he was not well and had urgent need of assistance I resigned my appointment, and after a kind farewell from Messrs. Blagure and Favours, the Busha, I packed up my traps and sent my heavy box and a large wooden cage I had made and filled with every variety of wild pigeon and dove round by sea. On the 8th of November I started on my good pony Adam for the south side of the island, sleeping one night at Lancaster Estate and next morning the manager Mr. D. E. Besham and I had a delightful plunge off his wharf into the sea….


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