Sat | Jan 19, 2019

Rise & fall of Granville

Published:Monday | July 21, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Andewale McLaughlin, Staff Reporter

A few weeks ago, The Gleaner journeyed to Granville, Trelawny, as the midday sun shone brightly in all its sizzling glory. Past Martha Brae we went, as tall grass swayed in the breeze and trees danced on either side of the road, nary a soul in sight. Before long, we were suddenly upon the village. Along the main road we continued, and less than a minute later, as suddenly as it had popped up, Granville disappeared, and we were back in no man's land.

Turning around, we made a stop in the square, where the Granville Primary and Infant School and the Baptist Church lie at the heart of the community. Apart from a few women gathered at a stall by the road, a young man shooting the breeze, and a young girl in an old building used as a postal agency, the streets were deserted and there was hardly any sign of life.

Seeking out the story behind the village founded 169 years ago by Baptist missionary William Knibb, we asked some questions of the people in the square. They could not tell much about the history of Granville or even how it got its name.

interest fading

Ivanhoe Gordon, principal of Granville Primary, agrees that the residents' interest in the history of the village seems to be fading, especially among the youth.

"I don't think it is as well known by the residents of the community, the origin of Granville. They don't know the pride of place in history that Granville would take in the development of Jamaica's post-slavery society," Gordon told The Gleaner.

Founded as a free village by Knibb in 1845, the year of his death, Granville was established on 90 acres of land he bought at Grumble Pen - a former livestock farm in the main plantation area of Trelawny. It was purchased to give the newly freed black people a chance to start their own community and maintain some form of independence from the plantations. It was also hoped the free village would help to grow the congregation of the Falmouth Baptist Church.

Knibb renamed Grumble Pen 'Granville' in honour of British abolitionist Granville Sharp. After his passing, the village's early development was overseen by Knibb's widow, Mary, along with a Sergeant Wallace, who managed the distribution of the land. Though some families have documents signed by Mary Knibb, proving their ancestors purchased the property in the early years, many Granville residents still do not have official titles for their land to this day, Gordon told The Gleaner.

"What they might have is a diagram showing the boundaries, which they pass on through generations," he said.

A native of Granville, Gordon shared stories of how life has changed in the village since his childhood days. One of the changes which stand out for him is the decline in farming.

"When I was a boy coming to school, the pieces of land in the community provided subsistence living, as people planted whatever crops they could grow. It's mostly hillside land - mostly stony land - but Granville used to have lots of fruit trees," he said. "I can't say it is the same today because that generation of people used to take care of their crops. They would grow it to live off the land. There is not much of that happening today," the principal added.

The primary school, itself, forms a main part of the Granville story, starting out as a Baptist class house at the Baptist Church before being destroyed by Hurricane Charlie in 1951. It was rebuilt across the road in 1953, opening as a government school.

migrated from st mary

In 1954, Christine Gallimore migrated from St Mary to Granville to work at this "small school".

Journeying along a narrow, rough road up a hill overlooking the square, we came to the house of the retired teacher. Gallimore was a bit nervous when we turned up at her house. A sense of unease overcame her - fear even - as news of people targeting senior citizens in scams had put her in a state of worry and anxiety.

She quickly warmed up, however, when we introduced ourselves and assured her we had no such intentions.

"Suppose mi tell you say last night mi dream say mi woulda have visitor today?" she asked, smiling.

At 84 years old, she still farms in her backyard, a hobby she has enjoyed since she was a child.

"I can show you right now, as old as I am, using mi fork and mi shovel, how mi plant mi cassava, enuh!" she offered as she showed off her farm.

Getting back to the Granville story, Gallimore recalled days when there were three standpipes in the community providing water. When the pipes went dry, residents had to make the one-mile trip to the Martha Brae River. At times, she would pick up other residents in her car along the way to fetch water.

"We have come a far way since those days. We now have water, telephone … . I was the first person in the area to get telephone, you know," she told The Gleaner, adding that sometimes there were several persons waiting by her gate to call relatives in the United States, England, "and all over the place".

She also told stories of how she would help needy children at the Granville Primary School where she spent 12 years of her teaching career.

"When I used to assist children, I assisted them as human beings. I didn't say, 'You are a JLP, PNP, or no P or Rest in Peace or any kinda P.' I assisted anyone I could," she said.


Saddled with a number of challenges, Granville is on the decline, residents agree. Its biggest challenge? Unemployment.

"Too many of the youth can't find the kind of employment they would want to be involved in and to forge ahead," Gordon said. "Not much happens here.

In addition, migration has led to Granville losing a lot of its more accomplished residents.

"The community is changing because a lot of migration is taking place. Most of that migration is overseas. At one time, you used to know everybody, but now you don't, because a lot of strangers are around now," the principal said.

Villagers, including Gallimore, continue to hope Granville will be revived and not just be known for the "primary school, Baptist Church and place of safety".

As we said goodbye and headed to the vehicle, the retired teacher called out, "Unno really neva a go scam mi fi true?" It was a piercing reminder - a reality check of sorts - of where not only Granville, but Jamaica has come since the days of the Reverend William Knibb.

Where exactly is it? Trelawny? St James?

Both, actually. The village lying one mile southeast of Martha Brae in Trelawny is often confused with another community on the outskirts of Montego Bay.

It is a situation all too familiar for Ivanhoe Gordon, principal of Granville Primary and Infant School in Trelawny.

"There is always a confusion, especially in the Ministry of Education, where the two Granvilles are concerned," he told The Gleaner, especially when both communities had schools called Granville All-Age.

"I have negotiated arrangements, for example, for assistance with the breakfast programme at my school, and when I didn't see anything turn up, I called and they said it was delivered to such and such a person. They took it to Granville, St James."

A few months ago, Gordon said he and his school chairman were invited to an event for a tablet in schools initiative, only to find out when they arrived that the invitation was meant for the Granville school in St James.

With the addition of an infant department last school year and a subsequent rebranding of Granville All-Age as Granville Primary and Infant School, the principal hopes those days will soon be a thing of the past.

"It might take a little time, however, because in the Ministry of Education, for example, it might take some time to change out everything and start using the new name," he said.