Bendung market the pride and joy of Falmouth
Falmouth's bend-down (bendung) market, the largest flea market outside of Kingston, goes back many years. While the market may not be the town's saving grace, financial or otherwise, the consensus is that it is the pride and joy of the town.
The market started in the Falmouth Water Square over 40 years ago during the building of the Falmouth Gardens Housing Scheme (Cuban site). Some men came from Kingston selling primarily pants lengths (a cut of fabric about 11/3 yards capable of making one pants) and shoes, including a current popular brand, which were fast-moving items then, as the shoe brand is now.
The name 'bendung' came from the action in purchasing the items. The commodities were strewn on the ground. Therefore, to take up their purchases, buyers had to bend over. This action defined the market; hence, the name bend down and colloquially known as 'bendung'.
During the construction of the housing scheme a large number of men were employed, who would normally not have an income. Much of their income, therefore, went into the buying of the items sold by the vendors. The sellers increased and word started circulating that a bargain could be got in Falmouth. This spread across the parish and then into other western parishes and, as the saying goes, the rest is history, bendung market was born.
The activities were attached to the market which was then in the square. Because of this attachment, when the market was moved to its present location bendung went with. The market is to again be moved to a new site under construction on the stretch of road from Martha Brae to Falmouth. When this is to happen is anyone's guess, as it is taking an inordinate longer time than the building of the Eiffel Tower, and the Empire State building. The construction is now going on for four years, as long as it took to build the Golden Gate Bridge.
Some believe that bendung market gave birth to full-scale 'higglering' as a vocation, where vendors travelled to foreign countries to purchase items and returned to Jamaica and sold them. Today, bendung has grown in many aspects, and while the pants length and shoes are still there, it now sells from the proverbial pin to an anchor and a bargain is there for everyone.
In recent years, the Trelawny Municipal Council has put in a grand market concept. Sound systems are placed at various points and the sellers allowed to peddle there. This provides a festive atmosphere to the selling.
Falmouth's Councillor Garth Wilkinson said there was an average of about 700 weekly vendors, but this was expected to increase to approximately 1,000 during peak periods, which include the back-to-school period in August or the pre-Christmas period in December. Vendors range from the official ones with stalls to the individual who might have received a barrel from relatives abroad which may contain clothing that cannot fit the recipients, or who may need the extra money. Therefore, bendung would be an option to conduct a one-off sale of these items.
The average monthly income to the Trelawny Municipal Council is approximately $500,000, which Wilkinson said is far below the potential based on the estimated calculation of the number of vendors. While he had an estimate on the sellers, he could not give an estimate of the buyers which, possibly, run into the thousands. He acknowledged that some businesses and vendors gained an income from the market, but he pointed out that selling at bendung is not the overwhelming moneymaker which some believe it is.
"While care is to be taken wherever money is exchanged, as theft can happen anywhere, the concept that the market is a haven for criminals is not correct," Wilkinson said. If you, therefore, are in Falmouth on a Wednesday and have time on your hands, a walk through bendung is an experience you may come away with a bargain."