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Where did those Jamaican blue-eyed blonds come from?

TREASURE BEACH, Jamaica (AP): OLD-TIMERS around Treasure Beach, where there are many Jamaicans with blue eyes, blond hair and freckles, agree this place has a Scottish past. But how it came about, no one can say.

Popular legend holds that sometime in Jamaica's colonial past, a Scottish ship capsized on a treacherous nearby reef. The sailors swam ashore, and they never left, becoming fishermen and farmers. The area's isolation -- swamps to the east and west, mountains to the north and sea to the south -- isolated them from the majority blacks.

Until recently.

"You could say me a black Scotsman," says Glenmore McKenzie, a 23-year-old Rastafarian with light brown skin and blond streaks in his dreadlocked mane. He stokes the coals of a small grill, where salted mackerel and vegetables broil for tourists on the beach. "A Rasta first, a black man at the heart. Just with a little Scottish in me."

Lancel Graham, a gregarious 70-year-old fisherman with brownish-red skin, cropped straight hair and the hints of blue in his eyes, says he's more Scottish than that.

"I'm not right to black people, and I'm not white -- I'm a redman!" he says. "We're just proud of where we came from: Scotland."

Local historians have no physical or documentary evidence of that. European settlers may have come to Treasure Beach and the surrounding area over time, just as a small group of poor German farmers settled Seaford Town in the Jamaican bush.

Some see proof in surnames such as James, Moxam and Parchment, and in the occasional local with a face full of freckles.

"I'd come down here as a little girl in the 1940s, and many of my playmates were white," recalls Sally Henzel, 56, the daughter of English-born parents who settled in Jamaica during the 1930s and who now owns a guesthouse here.

The arid countryside of surrounding St. Elizabeth parish had discouraged the establishment of slave plantations -- but as a bauxite mining industry developed in the 1950s, black Jamaicans began moving in.

"Me was one of the first men to marry a dark woman," says Zimroy James, aged 68. "Everybody was fussing back when it happen."

Today they would fuss no more.

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