Tag Archives: interesting Jamaican facts

“Ruckus” In De Yard

The English language is a beautiful sound when spoken correctly. The Jamaican “English” on the other hand  is even more delightful, colorful, expressive and downright amusing when spoken incorrectly.

We refer to this type of broken English as Patois.  For some of us, it is still difficult to understand the real thing when confronted, but we have to admit, had they used the Queen’s English to express themselves, it would have made for a very boring tale.

Take for instance, this poor English Magistrate who presided over a case brought before the Court.  Your Honor was commissioned from London to head court proceedings in Kingston.  This was back in November of 1972 when we still had British influence in our judicial system.

Little did he know, with all his qualifications, knowledge and experience, he would have to rely heavily on his Clerk Of The Courts to assist in trying this case.  Here is a copy taken from the original post dated November 19, 1972  in the Jamaican Gleaner, written by reporter Rudolph McDowell:

Ruckus in de yard
By Rudolph McDowell

MR. HENRY STAID, Resident Magistrate, sighed deeply as he contemplated the witness in the box. A large female, given to much gesticulation and a deplorable tendency to verbosity.  Added to this, Mr. Staid was still having trouble with the language he daily had to contend with in the Court. At times he found it utterly incomprehensible, and he was secretly annoyed with those friends in England who had warned him that one of the advantages of a post to Jamaica, was that, unlike Asian or African countries, English was the spoken language.

He had struggled painfully to cope with the situation, but at the end of six months, he was still leaning heavily on his Clerk of the Court and kindly police officers for interpretation, not only of language, but also of the significance of allusions which were often totally beyond his comprehension.

During a pause between two bursts of volubility on the part of the witness, the Magistrate managed to interpellate question on the matter under jurisdiction.

‘You said…’ but before His Honour could proceed further the witness had caught her second breath.

‘Yes, Miranna”, she said sturdy arms akimbo, ” Gatta is de real cause of de ruckus in de yard. She an’ You-nicey have indicated feelings fe one annodder over a man for a long time NOW”.

“Now, now” said the Magistrate feeling his way through the murk of evidence. “You say that Gatta was the cause of the” — er-ruckus in the yard. Who is Gatta? Mr. Clerk, is Mr. Gatta to be called as a witness?”

“No Sah,” interrupted the witness before the clerk could reply. “Gatta is not a him. Gatta is a she.”

Then as the Magistrate raised an enquiring eyebrow, “Is a ‘ooman, she name Gatta, Sah.”

“Oh, I see. Her name is Gattasa.”

‘No Miranna is not Gattasa. Is Gatta, Sah”

“Gattasah?” .

“No, Miranna. Gatta Sah,

As matters appeared to be getting confusing, the Magistrate asked the Clerk if this was the name of a female- “Is she to be called as a witness?”

Cleric: “Yes; but her real name is Smith”.

R.M.: “Then why is she called Gatta’?”

Witness: “She real name is Gatta Simit, Miranna”.

R.M. to Clerk:  “I thought you said her real name is Smith.”

Clerk: “Simit is the local pronunciation of ‘Smith, Your Honour”.

R.M. — “I see. The real name of the witness to be called is Miss.— or is it Mrs. — Gatta Smith?”

Clerk: “It is Miss, Your Honour, and her full name is A-ga-tha Miranda Smith. But in local parlane it is “Agatha, abbreviated to ‘Gatta,’

R.M. “Dear me. What a length of time to get at the root of a simple matter”.

Clerk: “Yes Your Honour”.

R.M- reading from his notes: — “You said that Gatta was the cause of the ruckus in the yard?”

Witness: “Yes Miranna. Mek de ruckus start.”

R.M. “What is this — er- you stated that Gatta did? What is a ruckus? – –

Witness: “A ruckus is a little bangarang, sah.”

R.M: — “What is a bangarang?”

Clerk, anxious to have the case proceed:— “Your Honour, a loud disturbance wit’ or without violence”.

R.M. “I see. And you referred to a person whom you somewhat affectionately called You-nicey? I take it that the person referred to usually acted the part of peace-maker, whenever, er-ruckuses occurred in the tenement premises?

Witness: — “You-nicey,  peacemaker Miranna? A she a de cause of all de trouble in de yard anytime bangarang bruck out because of her su-su mouth.”

R.M. “I take it then that she has a physical defect of which she was acutely conscious and resented any reference thereto?”

Witness: — “Miranna”. ‘I don’t understand.”

R.M: — “She didn’t like any reference to her defective mouth? Then why is she called “You-nicey?’ I thought it was a term of regard or affection”.

Witness: — “No sah- You-nicey is her name”.

Clerk: “It is a Biblical name, your Honour — Eunice — locally p r o n o u n c e d ‘Younicey.”

R.M. “You referred to Younicey’s su-su mouth. What is the actual nature of the defect? Is it a hair-lip or a dislocated jawbone?”

Witness:— “Ef her jawbone did dislocate, den we would always have peace in de yard. Is de way she susu an’ mek labrish dat cause de trouble all de time”. ”

R.M.:— “What is labrish. What are the ingredients used in its manufacture that are the cause of trouble?”

Clerk:— “Labrish is another word for gossip, Your Honour”

R.M- “Dear me. The matter seems to be getting more and more complicated. I think we had better adjourn Court for the day. Tell all the parties in this matter to come back again on Thursday next week.

Prisoner in the dock:— “No, Miranna. Mek we finish wid it today. For ef you put it off dem gwine bring Mouta Massy Mirri fe come yah, and tell lie all day. After all, my matter is a simple, one, sence mi no sey what dem sey me sey, so you can jus’ dismiss de matter right away an’ don’t badda bring up de ruckus in de yard”.

R.M- “No, no. The matter has to be gone into thoroughly. The Court will now rise”.

Court Sergeant: “All will now stand. Court adjourned until 10 a.m. tomorrow


Statistics Predicted Hurricane Would Hit Jamaica In 2012

I was busy researching material online for my next post, when I came across a startling discovery.

It had been statistically predicted that the next time Jamaica would be hit by a tropical system would be before the end of 2012.

My intention was to resource information that could possibly explain the theory of Jamaica’s luck in escaping major hurricane hits, in spite of their imminent and definitive threats.  It is a long known fact that on many occasions, just hours before a direct hit should occur, storms seem somehow, to miraculously veer away from the Island, as if being pulled by some huge magnetic force.

In the course of my research, I came across a website simply titled Hurricane City.  They posted statistics showing Kingston’s history with tropical systems.  Some of it I really didn’t understand too well but take a look at the last section (this was posted it seems, at the end of 2011):  Statistically, it was predicted Kingston would get hit by a tropical system this year – they predicted on or around September – we got hit in October.  How curious is that?

Here is a copy of the postings:

Current weather(br)=brush (ts)=Tropical Storm (bd)=Back Door,meaning coming from over land from opposite coast.Not all names are noted,also storms before 1950 were not named.Not every stat on every storm description is given.

Years within 60 miles
36 times in 140yrs end of 2011

Names from list above
Charlie,Allen,Gilbert,Gordon ,Ivan,Dennis,Dean,Gustav,

Longest gap between storms

29 years 1951-1980

How often this area gets affected?
brushed or hit every 3.89 years

Average years between direct hurricane hits.(hurricane force winds for at least a few hours)
(14h)once every 10.00 years

Average MPH of hurricane hits. (based on advisories sustained winds, not gusts)

Statistically when this area should be affected next
before the end of 2012

Hauntings At Skull Point, Jamaica – Part 2

Previously, I related a story contributed by a popular writer, to the Jamaican Gleaner. It involved a ghostly legend surrounding some strange-looking trees in an area known as Skull Point in Mile Gully, Jamaica.

Well, as it would happen, our heroic writer encountered yet another mystery, not too far away from what he termed “the whispering trees.”

Personally, the name of the area alone – Skull Point – would be enough to keep me at bay. Our writer, however, had a nose for news. A talent that placed him, once again, on the chilling scent of mystery and ghoulish hearsay.

According to an old shopkeeper in the Mile Gully area, legend had it that long ago, a slave named James Knight from the Lyndhurst Estate in the parish, became a Christian and started preaching to fellow slaves. This angered his owner who ordered Knight beheaded. The slave’s killers carried out the order, placing Knight’s skull on a pole, then planting it in the community as a warning to all other slaves. It is said that because of Knight’s violent death, coupled with  the fact that he wasn’t given a proper burial, his spirit has since been roaming the community and in particular, an old abandoned church.

Intrigued by the alleged ghostly sounds witnessed by parishioners, our roving reporter set off on a trek to the haunted site. There had been numerous recounts of unexplained noises coming from within the crumbled ruins of the old church.

The Plot thickens:

The reporter stood hesitantly on the steps leading up to the church, shrouded in a deathly silence, broken only momentarily by a passing vehicle. An emphatic shout whistled from the motorist, “Mind di duppy dem run out pon yu!” (translated: Be careful of ghosts coming out at you).  Then the car was gone.

Wrapped in the eerie stillness surrounding, the reporter slowly made his way to the entrance of the church. As he stood poised in the entrance way of the gutted ruins, he suddenly became motionless.

Coming from inside was a crescendo of high-pitched squeals, unlike anything the writer had ever heard.  He resembled it to that of a maniacal symphony. Rooted to the spot, the writer took a few moments to regain his composure, forcing himself to continue inside, despite the obvious sounds of doom awaiting.

Several moments later, he breathed a deep sigh of relief, realizing the origin of the legendary nemeses to be caused by a huge swarm of bats, disturbed from rest and now frantically flying to and fro. Confident he had dispelled yet another mystery, the curious reporter began taking a series of photos to prove to the Community and readers alike, that the flying mammals were the only inhabitants of the old church and clearly, the guilty noisemakers .

What’s your take on this?

Completing his descriptive report, the proud writer began assembling his photos to add to the Copy.  Wide-eyed, he quickly scanned through each of the targeted shots he had taken.  He could not believe his eyes. Each and every photo he had taken had a clear view of the church from all angles.  The only details missing – were the bats.

“Where are the bats?”