Sun | Feb 5, 2023

Martin Henry | What was Jamaica like in 1962?

Published:Friday | August 4, 2017 | 12:00 AM

You could talk to the older heads. Thumb through the pages of The Daily Gleaner for that year when the paper was already 127 years old. Or skim the pages of several other periodicals, and there were several being published then, few of which have survived to now. You could go to the audio archives of the only two radio stations then - RJR, established 1950, and JBC, established 1959. TV wouldn't be until the following year, 1963, the state-owned JBC TV.

I spent a few glorious hours at the National Library of Jamaica, successor to the West India Reference Library of the Institute of Jamaica, dipping into the Handbook of Jamaica for 1962 for snapshots of what the country was like in the year of its independence. The Handbook was published annually between the 1880s and the 1970s, except for a few war years. At that time, the Handbook was compiled by the Jamaica Information Service, price 10 shillings.

Where are these companies now, among the many, which advertised in the Handbook? The Daily Gleaner, Alcan, Barclays Bank, Bryden & Evelyn, J. Wray and Nephew, Cable & Wireless, Jamaica Mutual Life Assurance Society, Jamaica Milk Products Ltd, and the big banana export companies, United Fruit Company, Elders & Fyffes?

The picture of our first native governor general, Sir Clifford Campbell, opened up the set of pictures of government leaders, by then solidly black, running through the publication.

Jamaica went again to the polls on April 10, for the third time in four years, to decide which party would form the government to lead the country into Independence. The country had gone to the polls in 1959 and had elected a PNP government. Then came the referendum vote on September 19, 1961, on whether Jamaica should remain in the West Indies Federation or leave to seek independence separately. Leave won handsomely, 54 per cent to 48 per cent remain.

Premier Norman Manley felt obliged to ask the country in a general election to decide which party and leader should take the country into independence. Voters narrowly chose the JLP and its leader, Alexander Bustamante, for the task, 50.04 per cent to the PNP's 48.59 per cent, with Marcus Garvey's resurrected old People's Political Party dating back to 1929 polling 0.86 per cent of the 580,517 votes cast and independents 0.51 per cent. There were then 45 constituencies. The JLP took 26, the PNP 19.

JLP elder Clifford Campbell was tapped for the office of the GG from the Senate where he was president. He had previously served both in the elected House of Representatives and in the nominated Legislative Council. The GG had a salary of 5,500 pounds with a duty allowance of £2,000.

Immediately after the referendum, Premier N.W. Manley put on fast-track preparations for independence. The joint select committee of Parliament that had been formed to prepare a Constitution for Jamaica and that had been meeting since October 31, 1961, held its final meeting on January 9. The House of Representatives approved the draft Constitution on January 25.

The Independence Conference, February 1-9, in London settled both the Constitution and a date for Independence, August 6. The 1962 Handbook of Jamaica carried the full text of the Constitution.

Back home, Premier Manley and Leader of the Opposition Bustamante agreed to appoint the editor of The Daily Gleaner, Theodore Sealy, as chairman of the committee that would organise the celebrations for Independence. Sealy's appointment was announced on February 22. The committee would later submit a budget of 350,000 pounds. Work on the National Stadium, under construction as the main venue for the Independence celebrations was interrupted by an industrial dispute that month but was completed to be opened by Princess Margaret, the Royal Representative for Independence, on August 4, with Alvin Marriott's sculpture, 'Jamaican Athlete', mounted in front of it unveiled.




Ministers come and ministers go, and are mostly forgotten. Only the Cabinets of Michael Manley between 1972 and 1976 can come anywhere near the memorable names of the 15 who made up the Bustamante lean Independence Cabinet, with only 12 portfolio ministers. Bustamante himself, prime minister and minister of external affairs. Donald Sangster, finance; Robert Lightbourne, trade and industry; Lyndon Newland, labour; Edward Seaga, development and welfare; Kenneth Jones, communication and works; Edwin Allen, education; Herbert Eldemire, health; Roy McNeill, home affairs; John Gyles, agriculture and lands; Leopold Lynch, local government; David Tavares, housing. And three ministers without portfolio: Senators Hugh Shearer, Wilton Hill, and Victor Grant, who was also attorney general.

There were four parliamentary secretaries, including the sole female senator, Esme Grant, at education. And how much were they paid? Ministers from the House of Representatives from £2,500 to £3,500; the ministers without portfolio from the Senate, £1,750; parliamentary secretaries, £2,000; and all having allowances.

That Independence Senate had some other appointees who became pillars of politics and household names: Michael Manley, Howard Cooke, Kenneth McNeill, Dudley Thompson. Among the 21 were the older Rudolph Burke, and Hector Wynter, Joseph McPherson, Frank Worrel, and Douglas Fletcher.

In the 45-member House of Representatives were other names that would go on to long careers in politics and public service after Independence, among them: Florizel Glasspole, Wills O. Isaacs, Allan Isaacs, Keble Munn, Neville Lewis, Sydney Pagon, and Winston Jones. Others had had long political careers before Independence, among them Vernon Arnett, Dr Ivan Lloyd, and Claude Stuart.

The speaker of the House was Bruce Golding's father, Tacius Golding. Gideon Aabuthnott-Gallimore was in the House. His son Neville and grandson, Andrew, would follow him as elected representatives. He had added Aabuthnott to his name so as to be listed first on the ballot! The sole elected woman was Iris King (PNP), Kingston West Central. And there was only Esme Grant in the Senate.

The leader of the Opposition had a salary of £1,750; regular members of the House of Representatives received £1,200.

The public administration of 1962 was surprisingly small by today's standards. All the officers in the various departments of government were listed in the handbook with their salaries. The Office of the Governor General had a staff of five, with aide-de-camp Captain Rudolph Green, who would go on to head the Jamaica Defence Force. The Legislature had only six staff.

Provisions for the award of pensions and gratuities under various schemes and pieces of legislation were carefully set out in the handbook. Pensions 55 years on have become a major issue for their escalating burden on the Budget without employee contributions.

And just how many of us came into Independence? The nearest census, that of 1960, counted 1,613,148 future citizens of an independent Jamaica. In 1943, the population was 375,485 less. And shortly after Emancipation, in 1844, there were only 377,483 persons on the island. The population has grown by 68.75 per cent since 1960. In that year, there were only 60 murders, just around four per 100,000 to 40 per 100,000 today, a tenfold jump.




Unemployed university graduates with degrees today would be glad to go back to 1962. The basic qualification for entry into the public service between 17 and 25 years old was the Higher School Certificate or the General Certificate of Education at Advanced Level. But the candidate had to have recommendation. Approved recommenders were heavily tilted towards the politicians, sowing seeds that bear sour fruits up to today: Cabinet ministers, senators, and MPs. And from the public service itself, heads of departments, a recipe for nepotism. The remaining qualified recommenders were members of the Privy Council, custodes, resident magistrates and justices of the peace. The numbers of entrants to the public service were much less than today.

In a liberating declaration, the public service regulations said, "No woman employed in any clerical office in the Civil Service who marries while so employed shall be liable to be called upon to vacate her office unless she is unable to or unwilling to comply with the normal requirements of her employment, including regular attendance, working overtime when necessary and the liability to transfer.

And working hours in public offices with a few exceptions, ran from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Mondays to Fridays, and to 12:30 p.m. on Saturdays, which would have excluded members of some religious groups from public employment.

- Martin Henry is a university administrator. Email feedback to and