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The Diocese of Jamaica
A Short Account of Its History, Growth and Organisation

By J.B. Ellis, M.A.

London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1913.

Chapter XVII.

I HAVE reserved for a separate chapter of this little book the relation of the possibility and actual occurrence of natural disasters which have influenced the progress and well being of the Churches quite as much as they have been harmful to the general prosperity of the Colony. These are grimly set forth in the Jamaica Official Handbook in the section referring to the Chronological History of the Colony. I need not repeat them, though perhaps I may say that these calamities seldom affect the whole island at the same time; floods, for instance, after an abnormal rain-fall are more frequent in the North-Easterly section, possibly owing to the mountainous nature of the country, while droughts are more frequent in districts more remote from high hills covered with trees: so too West Indian hurricanes, being of a cyclonic character, wreck havoc in the district which they encircle, but are less severely felt as the fringes of them only slightly injure neighbouring places. The first cyclone in recent years--going back to the disestablishment of the Church--was that in 1875, the next was in 1880, the year of the Archbishop's consecration, which completely destroyed a number of churches and schools and seriously injured many others. A calamity of this kind does not, it must be remembered, confine its attention to ecclesiastical or scholastic buildings; it destroys crops and agricultural produce; it clears the provision grounds of the peasant population, on which they so much depend; it often sweeps away the cottages of the poor as well as injuring the houses of the better-to-do; so that very frequently those who are willing enough to join in the work of Church restoration are unable to do so. After the 1880 cyclone an appeal for help was made to English friends, and met with a response which encouraged local effort and the damage was repaired. In 1886, the storm which struck St. Vincent with such overwhelming violence left its mark on Jamaica. A Mansion House Fund was formed in London for the relief of St. Vincent, and it was felt in Jamaica that the greater distress prevailing in the smaller Colony made it an unneighbourly act to issue a rival appeal to home sympathy. In 1882, a great fire in Kingston, raging over an area of forty acres, destroyed property to the value of over £150,000, and caused much distress. As far as Church property was concerned, the Jews were the greatest sufferers by the fire, their two synagogues with their sacred paraphernalia being entirely destroyed. Within a few years both these buildings were replaced by handsome structures. The Jews in Jamaica have always given such generous support to any benevolent object that every Christian was glad when they were able to renew their ancient religious rites and ceremonies in suitable buildings, and to recover from a calamity which spared Christian places of worship. When the earthquake came both creeds were alike fellow-sufferers and sympathisers.

In these and such-like circumstances it has been impossible to replace buildings without help from outside Jamaica, and it need not be said that Church people, who have lost property and growing crops, and who are for the time being in close touch with actual poverty, are unable to contribute to the support of their clergy, and therefore clerical income has to be provided, in a reduced amount, from some other source; otherwise the clergy would be destitute.

From 1890-1900, Jamaica was almost entirely free from any convulsions of nature, though other parts of the West Indies suffered, notably Barbados and the Windward Islands in 1898, and the Leeward Island in 1899, to the relief of which considerable contributions were sent from Jamaica.

The opening decade of the twentieth century will probably always be remembered for its remarkable number of physical catastrophes. San Francisco, Hong-Kong, Valparaiso, St. Pierre, Sicily, will each have its mournful tale to tell. But Jamaica's troubles differ from all these in that they did not come alone, for within little more than three years from the hurricane of 1903, from the devastation caused by which the Colony had gradually recovered, there came the crushing calamity of the earthquake ot 1907. At the beginning of the new century Jamaica's prospects were bright with hope and promise. Economies in administration had been effected, agriculture was being extended in various directions, more markets for Jamaica fruits had been found, further facilities for carrying produce were available, tourists, bent on a pleasant holiday, and seekers after health from the United States and elsewhere had discovered in Jamaica the scenery and the climate they were looking for. Church life, too, was vigorous and encouraging. In the city of Kingston alone, in addition to the enlargement of the principal churches, there were twice as many churches and schools as there had been when the Archbishop was consecrated.

Then came a terrible reaction. On the nth of August, 1903, a hurricane of exceptional violence struck the east end of the Island, causing serious losses both to large planters and to small settlers, and inflicting either complete or considerable or in some cases only slight damage to Church buildings. The number of these buildings amounted in all to 135. Help, as usual, came from home friends and societies, sufficient to meet about one-third of the cost of restoration or replacement, and the other two-thirds were provided by the self-sacrifice and liberality of Jamaica Church people, largely by free labour and gifts of material. Naturally there was much suffering and some loss of life among the dwellers in the cyclone-swept districts. Within little more than three years the Archbishop was ready to report to the Synod that by far the greater part of .the damage done by the hurricane to Church buildings had been repaired, and that the prospects of completing the restoration within a reasonable time were, on the whole, hopeful and cheerful. So were things when in the year 1907, "in the first month on the 14th day of the month," a great earthquake, accompanied by fire, practically annihilated the city of Kingston and inflicted much damage on several neighbouring parishes. The destruction in Kingston was almost complete. It need not be mentioned here in lengthly detail. It is enough to say that the business portion of the city was laid waste, the homes of merchants and professional men were wrecked, churches, chapels and schools were overthrown, thousands of industrious artisans and working people were rendered homeless and destitute, and a heavy percentage was levied on the life and limbs and future health of the community. To enter in many words into the often described horrors and confusion and bewilderment consequent on this calamity would be out of place in a simple record of the Jamaica Church. Possibly the experience of many corresponded with that of the Archbishop. He was present at the time of the earthquake at a meeting of an Agricultural Conference then being held in Kingston, and largely attended by delegates from other West Indian Colonies and from home. All present escaped uninjured from the Conference room, and the Archbishop, in an address in England thus relates his own impressions:--

"After the shock was over I immediately went about the town to see of what use I could be to the people. It was a most distressing and pathetic sight; all who were not injured had gone out into the streets; many crowded round me, laying hold on me as if for protection and calling upon God for mercy and help; others were loudly expressing their conviction that the Day of Judgment had come. And I can assure you that, though I did not think of it as the Day of Judgment, I felt then, and I feel now, that when I do see the Day of Judgment, and if it should correspond literally with the figurative descriptions in the Bible, it will be nothing strange to me. But I will not enlarge on that: it expresses just the feeling I then had, and the feeling I have now, concerning the awful destruction and distress, the terror on every face, the wailing, the sorrow, the hopelessness and the crying for Divine mercy."

The work of relief began promptly; the wounded were rescued from falling or burning buildings and taken to the Public Hospital, to ships in the harbour and such other places as were attainable; the homeless, many of them infirm old people or young children, were provided with rough shelter in open spaces, such as the Race Course and the Public Gardens. Accounts vary as to the number of persons who actually perished; the variation is a slight matter at such a time; according to one Return, 750 persons were buried within one or two days in the City Cemetery, and very many were dug out of the ruins and burnt, it being impossible in many cases to recognise and identify the mutilated and charred corpses. These unnamed and unknown dead are not uncommemorated, for on the 2nd of June, 1909, the Governor, Sir Sydney Olivier, unveiled at the cemetery a monument erected by public subscription in memory of about 500 persons who lost their lives in the earthquake. A low wall surrounds the place where the trenches and graves were; in the centre of this space is another enclosure, octagonal in shape, with pillars at the corners of the octagon, and connecting walls between the pillars. Within these walls is the principal feature of the memorial, a central column built of reinforced concrete. On it is a marble tablet, with the following inscription:--

"In the earthquake and fire which destroyed the City of Kingston on the fourteenth day of January in the year 1907 A.D. about one thousand persons perished, and this enclosure marks the spot where five hundred, whose remains were unrecognisable, were buried together. This monument is erected to their memory by their surviving kinsfolk, friends and fellow-citizens.

"The rich, the poor, the great, the small, are levelled.

"Until the Angel calls them they slumber."

Instinctively the people, who had learnt to regard Archbishop Nuttall as their trusted friend and counsellor, looked to him for direction at this crisis, and the Governor, following the popular voice, officially appointed him Chairman of the General Relief Committee; there he presided over men and women, irrespective of race or creed or colour, some of one Church, others of another, others of no Church, but all bound together to do what they could by ties of common humanity and of common sorrow and misfortune. The task of the Committee was two-fold--immediate and permanent. In the first place it had to collect and distribute food and clothing, to provide shelter and employment, to restore, as far as might be, the conditions of a healthy life. Help was readily forthcoming from sister Colonies, from Great Britain, from the United States and elsewhere. The Lord Mayor of London (Sir William Treloar), opened a Mansion House Fund and members of the West Indian Committee were active in their efforts to obtain assistance. But it was soon evident that this was insufficient, that private philanthropy could not be adequate to rebuild the ruined city, and to restore the lost livelihood of many of the survivors. Numbers of persons were crippled or partially disabled for life; there were widows and orphans to be provided for; others had not a penny wherewith to resume an active life. Then, too, there were considerable merchants and men of business who resented the idea of being dependent on charitable doles, and who sought for means by which they could help themselves to rebuild their ruined premises and restore their commercial prosperity. Under these circumstances it was agreed that a Deputation, consisting of the Archbishop and the Crown Solicitor (Mr. A. W. Farquharson), should proceed to England to plead for an Imperial Grant to meet the former of the distressful class of cases above mentioned, and an Imperial Loan to meet the latter.

The Deputation succeeded in its object; a Loan of £800,000 was made, and a Grant of £150,000 was given. And in consequence, the city has largely been rebuilt on improved plans; widows and orphans have had sufficient provision made for them; those who lost property in houses or otherwise have been compensated; merchants have been enabled to restore their premises and to resume business on reasonable terms of repayment (approved by the Imperial Government), for Sinking Fund and interest on the loans advanced to them. It was a great piece of work which the Archbishop and Mr. Farquh arson had been enabled to accomplish, and no one will be surprised to know that they had a most enthusiastic and hearty reception on their return to Jamaica.

The allotment of relief was undertaken without delay and completed as soon as possible. Of course, everybody was not satisfied. When is everybody satisfied? The amount to be distributed was large--namely Imperial Grant, £150,000, and Mansion House Fund, £55,395, some of which, as it was received, had already been spent on immediate and urgent relief. But the claims for help were larger; it was impossible to meet them all to their fullest and most literal extent. In every calamity there are some losses which cannot be replaced and also, though the losers do not think so at the time, there are often losses of unnecessary things which need not be replaced. No question of official or social position, no question of religion or race was allowed to influence the Committee which had the difficult and sometimes thankless task and responsibility of equitably distributing this money.

We now turn to the Church's losses by the earthquake. While the Archbishop was busy presiding over the Committee whose duty it was to supply the material needs of the people he had also to consider the structural losses which had befallen Church buildings. These were serious indeed, especially in Kingston. The total number of buildings destroyed or injured was 130; of these fortunately a goodly number were so slightly damaged that their repairs could be effected mainly by local effort, not involving the charge of more than a few pounds to the Church Relief Fund. But in other cases a different story has to be told. Of churches which were entirely or almost entirely wrecked, the number was 30, the cost of rebuilding varying in estimate from £7,000 at the Kingston Parish Church to £100 for smaller churches in country districts. The Theological College, the Deaconess Home, the Bishop's Lodge, the Church Offices were all victims to a very serious extent. So complete was the wreckage in Kingston and neighbourhood that out of some dozen churches which would otherwise have been available not one could be used for an Ordination, which was accordingly held under the shade of trees in the grounds of the Theological College, probably, in the words of the Archbishop of Canterbury, "the first time in modern history when anything of that sort has been done in an emergency such as this"; and the Synod of 1907, with its accompanying services, was held in a tent on the same grounds.

There was little or no delay in ascertaining approximately the amount of injury done and the probable cost of rebuilding and repairs. The first estimate of money required came to upwards of £38,000, to meet which the Archbishop appealed to English Societies and friends for £30,000, being confident that with that outside assistance he would be able by local aid and by careful management to secure the effective reconstruction of the wrecked buildings. His confidence was fully justified.

Directly after the news of the disaster had been telegraphed to England, the Jamaica Church Aid Association set to work to obtain help through its organisation. The Archbishop's visit to England on behalf of the Colony further stimulated the efforts of the Association, he being at liberty, when he had secured the main object of his visit, to plead for a short time the claims of the Jamaica Church. The Mansion House Relief Fund, the Imperial Loan and the Imperial Grant, were ear-marked for their special purposes, namely to meet the material needs of the people and to help to restore the ruined city. It is necessary here to correct a misapprehension, which was widely prevalent in England at the time, to the effect that the various Churches would be assisted in the distribution of the funds above named. This is wrong. The Funds referred to were devoted, as they were intended to be, entirely to secular relief and the Church neither asked for, nor expected, nor received any help from them. It is possible that if any Church had asked, giving a sound business security, for an advance from the Imperial Loan on the regulated terms of repayment such an advance might have been made; but, as far as I know, no suggestion of that sort was ever thought of. The mistaken impression was soon corrected and did not interfere very much with the Church Relief Fund. It had its origin in the work which the Archbishop was called on to do for the whole of Jamaica, both there and at home. Writing on this point the Archbishop of Canterbury, commending the Jamaica Church Association's appeal, said

"The noble work of the Archbishop of the West Indies on behalf of the whole people, without distinction of race or creed, has to some extent diverted attention from the special necessities and distresses of the Church people over whom he more immediately presides, and we cannot better recognise the value of his services to the community as a whole than by contributing adequately to meet the special needs arising from the destruction of our churches."

So, too, speaking at the Mansion House the Governor of Jamaica (Sir Sydney Olivier) mentioned the manner "almost self-denying, so far as the Church of England is concerned, in which the Archbishop had put the cause of public and private relief before the meeting perhaps more fully than even the cause of the restoration of the churches of the Island of Jamaica."

In the following year (1908) the Archbishop was again in England for a short time to be present at the Lambeth Conference and the Pan-Anglican Congress. One feature of the latter was the presentation and subsequent allotment of the Thank-Offering Fund. The Congress Committee dealt most generously and promptly with the urgent needs of the Jamaica Church. I quote the following from the published address of the Archbishop, on his return to Jamaica:--

"You are aware that we have been promised a grant of £15,000 from the Pan-Anglican Thank Offering Fund towards the restoration of our church buildings. We are all very grateful that this grant has been given, and given in such a warm-hearted and prompt manner. I attended several meetings of the Appropriation Committee, and tried to aid in presenting the needs of some other countries as well as the West Indies. As regards our own requirements I did not attempt to urge our claim, but, in brief, clear, printed statements and in individual conversations about the facts, as well as in the meetings of the Committee, I presented the truth of our case as definitely and simply as I could; and the grant was made unanimously.....There was a deep and intelligent sympathy with our needs which realised the wisdom of giving without delay what it was felt to be right and proper to give. We can now see the way to the adequate restoration of all our buildings."

Meanwhile the Jamaica Church Aid Association was still at work with satisfactory results. But, in addition to finding the cost of rebuilding, there were other pressing matters brought into prominence by the earthquake, namely the insurance of Church buildings and the methods, plans and materials for rebuilding. The former has been more appropriately referred to in a previous chapter. With regard to the ratter it has to be borne in mind that more than two centuries' immunity from very severe earthquake shocks had led to its inevitable result. Slight shocks had been felt from time to time, but they were hardly noticed; occasionally some damage had been done, but it was soon forgotten and its lessons were disregarded. The destruction of Port Royal in 1692 happened a long time ago, and was little more than a curiosity of distant history. No one dreamt that it was going to be repeated on a larger scale. And so for years buildings--churches, schools, colleges, parsonages among others--were built after the English style with modifications to suit the climate but with little or no regard to the possibility of destruction by seismic catastrophe. Perhaps this was natural; it is so in almost every department of human thought: the efforts we make to encourage natural growth and the faith we have in some sort of uniform evolution in the direction of what is right and good and sure have shut our eyes to the possibility--we laugh at the probability--of any violent catastrophe. Jamaica, and especially Kingston, had had a terrible lesson and an awful warning. And they were willing to learn the lesson and to take the warning to heart. Public and commercial and ecclesiastical buildings must be reconstructed in such a manner and by means of such materials as modern progress and knowledge and experience had shown to be able to give some trustworthy security against future calamity. This, it is believed, has been done and the new buildings--constructed of reinforced concrete in the case of town buildings--will, it is hoped, offer substantial resistance to any threatened disaster in the future.

The rebuilding and restoration of churches had already begun before their completion was assured by the grant from the Pan-Anglican Congress. Without this grant they would without doubt have been carried out in course of time, though not, perhaps, without leaving a burden of debt on many churches. As it was, the grant served to stimulate local effort. Having secured the means necessary to relieve the Church from anxiety, and being confident in the willingness of the congregations to supplement what had been given from home, the Archbishop and his advisers lost no time in continuing strenuously to work. Progress was reported by the Archbishop to successive Synods. Thus in 1908 he reported that sixteen buildings had been restored and that work was being done on seven other buildings. To the same Synod, bearing in mind the demands made on his time and strength by services rendered to the general public, he took the opportunity in his annual address of saying: "It has been a satisfaction to me to know that, largely through the efforts of the Coadjutor Bishop, in a year of unexampled strain upon myself, the visitation of the Diocese has been thoroughly complete." In the year 1909 he reported that a large number of buildings had been restored and that the three principal churches in Kingston were in course of re-erection, that the contract had been given out for the rebuilding of the Deaconess Home, and that plans were being prepared for the restoration of the Bishop's Lodge and other buildings. While Church Committees and congregations were readily giving much local help, it seems only right that, without overlooking or undervaluing their services, mention should be specially made of some members of the executive Boards of the Church, who were constantly available and who cordially and unsparingly assisted the Archbishop. He would indeed be the last man to approve of any omission of their names from even the slightest sketch of the history of those arduous days. I, therefore, quote the following paragraph from the 1909 Synod address:

"I desire here to put on record my appreciation of the services of those persons in this Diocese who have locally and at the Central Offices given special help in arranging for the work of Church restoration and the carrying through of it. In this list I must specially mention Mr. Albert Jones (the Vice-Chairman of the Diocesan Financial Board), the Rev. E. J. Wortley, Mr. L. G.Gruchy, Mr. J. M. Nethersole and the Hon. G. P. Myers who as a Central Advisory Committee have aided me in regard to much of our building work; and also Mr. I. R. Latreille, the Accountant of the Diocesan Financial Board, and my Secretary, Mr. R. C. B. Foster. The work of Mr. Foster in this department has been very arduous and efficient. The assistance furnished by the Rev. F. L. King requires particular mention. Besides frequently conferring with me at Bishop's Lodge, he has by the expenditure of much time and labour given help in directing on the spot the actual restoration of many country buildings; his assistance has been invaluable, and has saved us much money, secured a better kind of restoration than would otherwise have been possible, and enabled many congregations to get back into the comfortable use of their Churches which, without this help, would have long remained in that broken-down condition which was keeping many persons away from the public services." [Mr. King gave similar assistance in the restoration of the churches injured by the hurricane of 1903.]

In the following year (1910) the Archbishop reported that nearly all the buildings injured or destroyed by the earthquake had been restored or re-erected including the three principal churches in Kingston; a few buildings were unfinished but were approaching completion; one, owing to certain peculiar and local difficulties, had not then been begun.

The month of January, 1911, witnessed the consecration of ten new churches; restored churches had previously been reopened with befitting ceremony. It had been appropriately arranged that these consecration services should be held as near as might be to the anniversary (the fourth) of the destruction of the former buildings. It is doubtful whether in the history of the Anglican Church there is an instance of so many churches being consecrated within such a limited time. I thought that this might have been the case after the great fire in London in 1666 but, having carefully examined such London Diocesan Registers as I was allowed access to, I can find no record of such a number of consecrations. The Archbishop's first estimate of the amount required for rebuilding was £38,000, and he appealed to outside help for £30,000, relying upon the Jamaica Church people for the remaining £8,000. The receipts from outside sources exceeded £34,000 (including £15,000 from the Pan Anglican Congress and more than £10,000 collected by the Jamaica Church Aid Association). The actual work on the restored fabrics involved a total cost of £50,000, towards which the contributions of congregations, including the value of free labour and of gifts of materials, amounted to no less than £18,000. This excess of contributions over an estimate (made when returns were not complete) of bare necessary expenditure assured the complete and efficient restoration of the buildings and also secured that, except in very few cases, there should be no debt on the restored churches. In every case grants from the Relief Fund were paid in instalments to supplement local effort. To give two illustrations of this--the Kingston Parish Church was re-erected at a cost of £6,000 of which £2,000 was contributed by the congregation: at Linstead Parish Church the congregation either contributed or made provision for £600 and the grant amounted to £350.

The Archbishop was assisted in the consecrations by the Bishop of St. Alban's (Dr. Jacob), representing the Church of England at home, by the Bishop of North Carolina (Dr. Cheshire), representing the Protestant Episcopal Church of the U.S.A., by the Assistant Bishop of Toronto (Dr. Reeve), representing the Canadian Branch of the Anglican Church, by the Bishops of Trinidad (Dr. Welsh) Honduras (Dr. Bury) and Antigua (the Right Rev. Edward Hutson, consecrated in Spanish Town Cathedral on the 15th of January, 1911), and the Co-adjutor Bishop (Dr. Joscelyne) of Jamaica. [While these pages were in the press, news was received that Dr. Joscelyne had resigned his appointment as Co-adjutor Bishop of Jamaica.] Archdeacon Bryan of Panama, Canon Pearce, the Archbishop's Commissary in England, and Canon Tree of Trinidad also took part in many services and ceremonies during a memorable fortnight The Churches consecrated were the following:

On 10th January - St. Cyprian's, Highgate.
On 12th January - St. Thomas's, Linstead.
On 17th January - Kingston Parish Church.
On 17th January - All Saints, Kingston.
On 18th January - St. George's, Kingston.
On 18th January - St. Matthew's, Allman Town,
On 19th January - St. Michael's, Kingston.
On 22nd January - St. Andrew's, Half Way Tree (an extension).
On 22nd January - St. Joseph's, The Grove.
On 27th January - Holy Trinity, Linstead.

Other services, functions and meetings were interspersed between these consecrations and are all duly recorded in a special number of the "Jamaica Churchman." [It is much to be desired that this most interesting number should be reprinted, with possible additions, in pamphlet or book form.] One of these deserves special mention, namely that at which, after the consecration of the Kingston Parish Church, an address of welcome was presented by the Diocesan Council. This admirable address is too long for reproduction here; it was replied to by the visiting Bishops and others, and in the cases of the home church by an official letter from the Archbishop of Canterbury, and of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the U.S.A. by a similar letter from the Presiding Bishop.

These two letters I give as a fitting termination to a very compressed account of a series of notable ceremonies. The Archbishop of Canterbury sent the following letter addressed to the Bishop of St. Alban's:--

"I rejoice to think of your being the bearer to the West Indian Church of our warm Christmas greeting and our grateful recognition of the service which West Indian Churchmen have rendered to the whole Anglican communion. For the example of their courage and perseverance under the splendid leadership of the Archbishop has stimulated and helped us all. To have faced and conquered such difficulties in the buoyant spirit of Christian hope and resolve is a feat of religious statesmanship which will have permanent record in the annals of the Church's life. We shall be with you in spirit at the consecration of the new or renovated buildings.

"May the abiding blessing of our Lord Himself rest upon the workers and the work."

The greeting of the American Church was conveyed in a letter, read by Bishop Cheshire, from the Presiding Bishop (Dr. Tuttle) to the Archbishop of the West Indies and was as follows:--

"Sorrow and gladness get much intermingled in this world of ours.

"With me there is sorrow that I cannot come to be with your Grace in the ceremonies approaching, attendant upon the happy consecration of the re-erected churches in your field; and yet with the sorrow there blends much gladness that the Church in the United States will be represented in these ceremonies by our faithful and much loved brother, the Rt. Rev. Dr. Cheshire, the Bishop of North Carolina, whom we beg hereby to commend affectionately to you and to your loyal flock of all the brethren of the Church in the West Indies.

"May the merciful favour and abundant blessing of Almighty God be upon the Church in the West Indies--upon its head and all its members--in your services in the Consecration of the renewed fabrics, and in your grateful devotions before His Throne.

"The entire Church in the United States, I am persuaded, sends herewith to your Grace and to your people its glad greetings and affectionate congratulations.

"And knowing you, my most Reverend Brother, as we widely do and remembering how you bore up against the wind and wave and violent rendings of some years ago, the pen of the presiding Bishop and the voice of his loved brother of North Carolina will alike vouch for the full truth of the Cambridge orator's application of the Poet's wonderful prevision of Jamaica's storm and Jamaica's prelate in the words:--

"Justum et tenacem propositi virum," and

"Si fractus illabitur orbis Impavidum ferient ruinae.'

"Professing again the felicitations of all our Church folk and to no inconsiderable degree of all our countrymen, and praying God's blessing upon all your joys and his comforting grace in all your trials, through Jesus Christ our Lord."

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