Sat | Dec 15, 2018

Excitement at Scotts Hall Maroon Village, St Mary

Published:Sunday | January 3, 2016 | 12:00 AMJoan Williams
Contributed Roddy blows the abeng.
Joan Williams Headshot
A copy of Joan Williams' book, Tour Jamaica.
Photos courtesy of Joan Williams The beautiful valley of the Scotts Hall Maroons.
Photos courtesy of Joan Williams One of the maroon women being attended to.

One thing about outings with The Fun & Thrills Adventure Club is that there is never a dull moment. The outing to the Maroon Village in Scott's Hall, St Mary, was, as such, full of excitement.

It started quietly with our scouting mission to engage the Maroon community and prepare them and us for our larger visit. We were directed to Roddy, who was the public relations officer, and he enlisted the help of 'Sweetie', who was also on the executive.

A few weeks later, close to 40 of us made the trek, some cycling from Mona and some hiking from the Grandy Hole bridge, which is as far as you travel on the Junction road before bearing west to the Scott's Hall settlement.

We were welcomed by three guides wearing official Maroon badges. These included the then leader, Noel Prehay, who was the longest-serving Maroon colonel in Jamaica at 35 years, and Roddy, who was now also wearing a vine of the Five Bredda bush. (Mr Prehay has since been replaced) Roddy explained that this vine is used to work spells in the event of meeting one's enemies. The abeng (proper Maroon name, Jebry) was then ceremonially sprinkled with white rum and blown to advise all Maroons that there were outsiders in the community.

After crossing a stream from the Irie river, which forms the Bowling Waterfall, we entered the beautiful valley of the Scott's Hall Maroons and headed on to the picnic grounds beside the Wag Water River.

We were told that when it rains, the river comes up so high it sometimes reaches halfway up the large guango tree about a hundred metres from the river's edge.

enough to splash

Being well into drought season at the time we visited, the river was not too deep, but we had enough water to swim in and have a great time. Some of us also walked up the Irie river to the Bowling falls, which is west of the picnic grounds.

The waterfall was not as heavy as it should have been, due to drought, but was good enough for us to splash around in and have a great time.

The picnic area is well organised and the Maroons had even built a lovely thatched toilet building there in the bushes with an actual flushing toilet.

We were shown a portion of the sacred grounds where the abeng is always blown respectfully before entering. One section is the healing ground where all kinds of ailments are said to be healed. The healing ritual involves Maroons gathering around the sick person while the spirits of ancestors enter the body and instruct them on what to do to bring about healing.

Our Maroon breakfast was soon ready and blessed ... and blessed it certainly was, because it was fabulous! I particularly liked the Fu Fu, which is an African dish made from ground provisions, plus plantains and bananas all ground up. Coconut milk is then prepared as if for rundown, into which the Fu Fu is then cooked. It was so delicious I commandeered some to take home. The Maroon tea made from a bush I cannot recall was also something everyone raved about.

Roddy also introduced us to the seeds of the cacoon vine, which he said is the largest seed pod in the world and is native to West Africa. It is used by the Maroons for food and the vines for camouflage.

On our return from the Bowling Waterfall, we saw that a crowd of Maroons had appeared and there was some internal quarrel taking place. Apparently, one group was claiming that the other was putting on all the events and making all the money off their culture and traditions, and not including everyone.

The police were also on spot as there was a real fear of a violent outbreak. Well, cockroach nuh business inna fowl fight and we visitors had the very good sense to stay completely out of it.

bad vibes

I must say that the policeman attending to the situation was the most exemplary officer I have ever seen in operation in Jamaica during my long life. He was calm, composed and in full control as he moderated and reasoned sense into the two noisy factions. He certainly wasn't cut from the same cloth as our typical overly aggressive policemen. I am sorry that I didn't get his name.

Now, during this time, two Maroon women's bodies appeared to get taken over by ancestral spirits. This further excitement, we were told, happens when bad vibes are around.

The two ladies taken over by spirits were mother and daughter. Miss Sweetie, our great cook, was the mother. When she saw her daughter's body being taken over, she took a dive too. They had to be restrained from injuring themselves and even had white rum sprayed over them,

When it was over, our club members, who were near to the daughter, said her eyes were glazed and she asked for water, and also asked what had happened. I feel the episode was too convincing to have been an act.

The Scott's Hall Maroons have plenty of land in the Gibbs Hill, Scott's Hall, and Castleton areas, all designated as communal Maroon land. One good encroachment of modern day on to the Maroons is that they can now get individual titles for pieces of land to allow them to benefit from their National Housing Trust contributions.

Some nice craft items were on display but I doubt if much patronage was received as the conflict completely diverted our attention.

On getting ready to head back home, the invigorated A team of cyclists opted to ride back to Mona. They delight in such exercise. The rest of us drove back in support vehicles and stopped at Castleton for refreshments, where the cyclists passed us waving.

This was another wonderful outing with The Fun & Thrills Adventure crew.

Joan Williams, moderator of Joan Williams Online broadcast on Power 106, describes herself as an unapologetic addict to the Jamaican outdoors. A

foundation member of Fun and Thrills Adventure Club, she explores the island at any given opportunity cycling, hiking or swimming with that group, family, Jah 3 and anyone else who will have her. In 1995, she published the popular Tour Jamaica and the fourth edition is now an ebook available at: Contact:

Feedback to article on Northern Trelawny and Southern Manchester

I would like to thank Ms Williams most profusely for highlighting the great work being done by that outstanding son of Jamaica, Dr Lawson Douglas, for the Kidney Foundation and for the many people who in Jamaica suffer from that ailment. My friend suffered for years from that terrible disease, and that is how I really got to know how widespread it was, but so under-reported. Her description of the area they hiked with Dr Douglas was graphic, as usual, and I want to encourage her to keep writing about and highlighting our beautiful country.

Feedback to article on Heywood Hall

The river is Paggee and Esther Anderson also starred alongside Sydney Potier in A Warm December.

- Charles Simpson