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Stabroek News

The Moneague legend
published: Saturday | January 21, 2006


Hartley Neita

A HURRICANE in mid-October 1810 caused massive damage and destruction from high winds and floods all over the island. In five days, the valley adjacent the village of Moneague in St. Ann was covered with water, leaving only the peaks of the surrounding hills uncovered.

By April in the following year, the water began to fall, leaving properties destroyed. As a result, the Vestry cancelled the taxes for these properties.

This was one of the early records of the formation of this lake.

There were, of course, many oral stories which had been passed down from generation to generation, from as far back as the brief Spanish occupation of Jamaica. Gradually, a legend grew.

CHILD DROWNED

It said that the Moneague lake rose once in every generation. Sometimes it remained for up to three and four years, and it only receded after a young child was drowned in its deep.

They were therefore warned not to swim in its water or to fish from its bank. Naturally, the warnings were ignored, and the legend continued.

Residents in the neighbourhood made rafts and boats to carry people and produce from one side of the lake to the other.

On weekends, in particular, Jamaicans travelled by horse and buggy, and later by motor vehicles, to picnic on its banks, and fish and sail on the lake.

TOURIST ATTRACTION

In 1934 when the Government saw the value of a potential tourist industry to Jamaica, the Acting Governor, Sir Arthur Jeff and other senior officials visited the area to assess its value as a tourist attraction.

No attempt was, however, made to do anything about it, although a hotel was built in the village.

Despite the destruction to houses and property, as soon as the water receded residents returned to build on the land.

And the legend will continue to be repeated from generation to generation.

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