Sun | Jan 20, 2019

Mary Seacole Bust and the Gibbet

Published:Thursday | October 7, 2010 | 12:00 AM
Mary Seacole

The National Collections of the Museum of History and Ethnography at the Institute of Jamaica comprise more than 15,000 pieces and include artefacts that date back to the pre-Columbian era.

Two of our national treasures are the Mary Seacole Bust and the Gibbet.

The Mary Seacole Bust was sculpted by Count Victor Ferdinand Franz Gleichen (Prince Victor of Hohenlohe-Langenburg), nephew of Queen Victoria, who served in the Royal Navy. It was during his tenure as a lieutenant in the Crimean War that he met Mary Seacole and later urged Queen Victoria to support an already bankrupt Seacole. Retiring from active service in 1866, he became a sculptor and was renowned for his work on King Alfred and Queen Victoria.

Jan Marsh (2005) notes that it was probably at his studio in St James' place, where Seacole probably sat for this portrait bust in 1871, which might have been intended as a maquette, showing her medals obtained from her service in the Crimean War. It is believed to have been exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts in London in 1872 and later transferred to Kingston and to the Institute of Jamaica at an unknown date.

The artefact (Mary Seacole bust) is the property of the Institute of Jamaica and is made available as a service to the research community either through exhibition purposes or to be used in research documentation.

The Gibbet

After severe flood rains on the 20th of April 1856, the iron cage was uncovered on the road leading to Stony Hill, a short distance north of Half-Way Tree. Such cages were apparently used only in exceptional cases. History does not disclose the story of this particular cage, but Bryan Edwards' History of Jamaica describes the use of such a horrible device at the time of the St Mary Rebellion in 1760.

The rebellion broke out on the estates of Ballard Beckford and Zachary Bayly. The cause of the rebellion, according to Bryan Edwards, was the practice of obeah and not ill-treatment, for he particularly points out that because of his tolerant kindness, the overseer, Abraham Fletcher, of Trinity Estate (belonging to Bayly), was spared by the rebels and allowed to pass through them unmolested.

More than 50 white people, including many women, children and small babies, were butchered in a most savage manner, their blood being mixed with rum and drunk by the rebels. It being thought necessary to make examples of some of the most guilty rebels, two of the captured ringleaders, named Fortune and Kingston, were hanged up alive in irons on a gibbet, erected on the Parade in Kingston.

According to the Institute of Jamaica, it must not be assumed that the iron cage exhibited here is one of those referred to as having been used on the Parade, because the victims described on that occasion were men, no doubt, strong and powerful. This cage is small and the bones found with it appeared to have been those of a woman.

- Institute of Jamaica