Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Whitehall Great House in Negril Jamaica

As you travel around Jamaica you will encounter many seemingly abandoned buildings. But what you might actually be seeing could be a building that was partially destroyed by a hurricane, a building that belongs to a person who is working in foreign to earn the money to finish it, but hasn't done any work on it so the earth has taken it back over, or a little board house that  would surprise you to know people actually live,  mansions with 5 bedrooms that house only one family, buildings that look like hotels that house only one family and 2 room board or concrete homes that house multiple families.

You may even  ride down a road and encounter an old abandoned Plantation. Plantation, when I hear or see the word it automatically conjures up the following images and bad and uncomfortable feelings.

Early 20th-century USA photo: "Negroes picking cotton on a plantation in the South"
African slave labor extracted from forcibly transported Africans was used extensively to work on early plantations (such as cotton and sugar plantations) in the United States, throughout the Caribbean, the Americas and in European-occupied areas of Africa. Several notable historians and economists such as Eric Williams, Walter Rodney and Karl Marx contend that the global capitalist economy was largely founded on the creation and produce of thousands of slave labour camps based in colonial plantations exploiting tens of millions of abducted Africans.]

And  I also visualise lynchings, rape, lashings and brutality. As a result, for the past 50 years of my life, you could not have paid me to seek out, nor support any building with the name Plantation in it. Recently the Rhodes Hall Plantation Resort in Orange Bay, Jamaica sponsored a Weekend Concert with the likes of Queen Ifrika, Tarrus Riley, Richie Spice and Tony Rebel was also in attendence( he did not perform) these are some of the most militant, socially conscious Artists in the business, so I  felt that if they could perform there, then I could support them in this endeavor. It turned out to be a beautiful, and romantic  place, a wonderful  weekend  and an amazing concert.

As a result of finally going through the gates of a Plantation and not having nightmares, I decided to seek out the one in my own back yard. As you know I live in Negril, Westmoreland in the Whitehall housing scheme, some people actually consider my area Good Hope. A  few miles from my home there is an abandoned Plantation. No one knows the story behind this place, who owns it, when it was built, if it was a working Plantation,  growing cotton or sugar cane. I'd like to know if there were  slaves here once upon a time, was it destroyed through man, misfortune or Divine intervention.  Did good people once live here, did they own slaves, were they kind and decent to them, or at the least humane, or where they the vile slave masters I read about in history books , not the ones from the classroom that were watered down, but the ones I discovered as a teenager in  the books that my older brother Albert  shared with me about the middle passage, the cruelty, and inhumane flesh traffickers that conjure up horror in my mind, even today.

 Did they have parties in the Grand Ballroom and on the lawn in the summer, women walking around in their beautiful gowns sipping on cold champagne and iced rum punch, feeling the cool breezes coming from the Caribbean Sea below. And the men in the Great parlor sipping Bourbon while smoking Cuban cigars. Did the slaves have their own celebrations during the holidays, did the ones from different tribes who might have once been enemies in their Homeland  find a common bond once they were brutally bought to this place in bondage.  Was this a good place or an evil one?  I intend to one day investigate, because I really want to know, after all...... it is in my back yard. It is  my neighbor.

 Someone must own it or someone may have captured the land because I had seen it in pictures before my visit and you could tell the difference, in the original pictures it was overgrown with vegetation, when we went it was nicely spruced up for visitors. I'm told it has been a nice place for a courtship with  a picnic on the lawn, some people went up for a camera shoot for their 10Th year Anniversary  and had a lovely time. But I have also heard sinister things of hassles and a robbery. Maybe as in all of these cases it is history repeating itself.

I just know that the day we went it was a nice, unhassled, no stress Sunday Family Outing. And it was a lovely spot to visit. I saw no ghosts of my past.

The View

"Still I Rise"
by Maya Angelou

But donated to another website by Seveen

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own back yard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

UPDATE:  The following was found on the website below. Bad Man. Bad Place.

Apparently, Mr. Parkinson wanted to be buried on the property with all his gold and jewels and shortly after his burial, his grave was desecrated and vandalized and his body left out to be consumed by scavengers. Mr. Parkinson was not well liked by his neighbors or the slaves that worked on his plantation and was known to frequently tie those who disobeyed him to a "prickle" tree and whip them as punishment.
There is also a famous cotton tree on the property that is believed to be over 900 years old. It is said that if you touch the tree and make a wish it will come true!
The property was taken over by the Jamaican Government from William Cargill III in 1971. The property is now owned by an American from Cincinnati, Ohio.


A great place to visit by horseback, the Whitehall Greathouse is an old plantation mansion on the former property of the Whitehall Family. As recently as 1985 the mansion was reduced to ruins by fire, but still offers incredible views of Negril's coast, and remains a popular attraction.
The Whitehall Great House is a perfect destination for a quick horseback ride through the Jamaican countryside. Originally a plantation home for the Whitehall estate, the property was virtually destroyed due to a fire in 1985. From the Great House, you have a breathtaking view of the Negril's coastline.

As you can see not a lot was written about this place.


  1. this is beautiful~ thank you so much for posting.. i feel everything you are saying and visualizing exactly what you did~

  2. Greetigs Harvest Girl

    Welcome to my space. Happy that you enjoyed. Isn't amazing how one can get caught up in the story telling and see themself in the story itself.

    Hope you continue to follow my blog, I hope there will be something else you can identify with.


    1. I spent a summer at Whitehall in 1970........I 'was told' it was owned by the Mitchell family....the parents lived
      in MoBay and the property was managed by their son, Hunter Mitchell (a cousin of my girlfriend). I 'was told'
      family heirs had been members of the Tories during the American Revolution......after the revolution the family
      was given this land (3-400 acres) by the British government.

      At the time I stayed there, they were farming sugar beets and raising polo ponies. The workers were Black and
      referred to Hunter as 'Master Hunter'. I asked Hunter about this and he told me that 'try as he may, the family of
      workers had been on the plantation for over 100 years and he could not break them of this habit'. I remember,
      about a 1/2 mile E of downtown, we took a right by a river flowing from the south (supposedly part of the plantation), then took another right up a dirt the top, a left turn and Whitehall.

      In retrospect, I do not know if my girlfriend was related to the mother's or father's side of the family, so I do
      not know if 'Mitchell' was the original name of the family who was initially given the land by England (it could
      have been the mother's side of the family).

      I had a wonderful experience, this I know. We rode the horses along the beach and they had a catamaran
      for sailing and a small boat for cruising the river (blue crabs living in holes along the river banks). There was
      a gazebo on the north side of the house where we had our morning coffee and our first spliff of the day.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Hi there,
    I travel to Negril and stay in Good Hope, just above the Marl Pit with friends and family. I recently spent some time at the tree you wrote about and at the great house, also at the desecrated grave and about the bush therein. I'd love to say hello in person one day if you ever want a visitor. Holler at me and I'll give you a link to some beautiful photos of your hometown :):):)


    1. Spencer, I would love to see any pictures you would care to share.

  4. Im from Good Hope But Lived Next To The Great House... readin this brings back memories.....

    1. Joe I would love to hear some of your stories about your life in Jamaica. Please come back and share.


    2. I stayed at the Whitehall Estate in 1974. At that time it was owned by the Mitchell family, ancestors of the original owners who were granted 400 acres by the king of England. They had Black employees who referred to the owner as 'masta'. I asked the owner about this and was told these employees were ancestors of the original slaves who worked there, and they insisted on calling him 'masta', as was the original custom