Dave Lindo, Gleaner Writer
MILE GULLY, Manchester:
MILE GULLY in north-west Manchester was once a vibrant rural town filled with life and powered by the railway service, farming, and the bauxite industry. However, Mile Gully's current state is a far cry from its glory days, with evidence of stagnant economic growth and residents struggling to make ends meet.
Back in the day, the public passenger railway service played an integral role in the life of Mile Gully. The railway station, a stone's throw from the town centre, was abuzz with activities as well as the town itself, with people participating in various trades.
Farmers sold their produce to vendors and passengers on the train. From the 1960s through to the 1980s, the citrus industry was booming and Mile Gully was known for its oranges, which were planted by local farmers. Most of the oranges were transported by train to the citrus factory in Bog Walk, St Catherine.
A resident of Mile Gully who remembers those good old days is businesswoman Eunice Rerrie, who, for years, has been operating Rerrie's Grocery Shop and Bar in the town centre.
"Mile Gully was nice then," Rerrie said. "The railway, the Public Works (Department), and the bauxite were working well for the community. We always have a market up near the town, and people used to come out with their ground provisions and sell to people coming on the trains. They also sold meat. They would carry the meat on trays and go on the trains themselves and sell it," Rerrie told Rural Xpress.
She added: "When the (Kirkvine) bauxite (plant) was in operation, the workers always come and buy things in Mile Gully. The public works men also did the same thing and supported the businesses in the town.
"The farmers did well, especially when you had the AMC (Agriculture Marketing Corporation) in operation. You had the AMC trucks coming in the area, and farmers sold their produce to them. "
With the closure of the Jamaica Railway Corporation public passenger service in 1992, along with the closure of the Mile Gully Public Works office, Mile Gully's economy went downhill.
Things got even worse when the Kirkvine plant was closed in 2009.
"The town was doing well, but since 2009, business took a downhill turn. In 2010, it got worse. We barely a guh from hand to mouth now," Rerrie told Rural Xpress.
"And it's no way me personally going to see it come back. We don't have any Friday pay day; no two-week pay day. We don't have no pay. We have to depend on the two little farmers and the two little people who go out a Mandeville to work. That's all we have."
Rerrie said the return of the public passenger railway service would make a positive change to the economy of Mile Gully. "I would love to see the railway come back. It would bring back life in the town. People would be happy again," Rerrie said. "The reopening of the bauxite plant would also help to make things better."