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Ipswich: left for dead

Published:Sunday | February 21, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer

THERE IS, for all practical purposes, no road to the community of Ipswich in St Elizabeth. 
Mostly, there is a rutted pathway, with white marl only navigable at a very careful crawl.

At other points, 'public' is a quasi-tragic misnomer for a road that would be much more appropriate on a large landowner's farm, grass in the middle standing out against narrow, white wheel tracks.

'Public' is inappropriate in another sense, as
The Sunday Gleaner
does not encounter a single car going down into Ipswich from the Maggotty end or continuing the descent towards the main road near the YS Estate.

And apart from the tiny, forlorn community itself there is only one other village, Merrywood, on that stretch of desolation.

It is all downhill into Ipswich and it is all downhill in Ipswich where, residents say, the October 1992 final cessation of the public rail service has had a devastating effect.

Comatose community

It is literally a community that is taken in at a glance, except for houses extending along the line. Concrete structures are in the decided minority, as are young adults.

This is a comatose community, clinging to life by dint of sheer stubbornness.

"It cause the people to go way. It used to feed 'bout 20 people every two weeks," Guy Clarke, who used to make the wooden ties between the metal train line, told
The Sunday Gleaner
as he reflected on the end of the train service.

Clarke would make six of the critical railway components daily from fiddle wood, many of which were taken to other points along the line. "Other man used to work the line. The people go way, because it very hard on us."

"Very hard" includes having no water, the residents having to travel a long distance to a river over a hill to tote back heavy buckets.

"Plenty house used to deh bout the place," Clarke said. He pointed to an overgrown hillock just above the line where
The Sunday Gleaner
encountered him, about a mile from the old Ipswich train station and said, "about five house did up the hill".

He turns and indicates across the valley and added, "about four did up a top thereso, them gone. More than three-quarter of the people leave the place through unacceptable living."

Clarke has left Ipswich before, but returned because "me jus' like it. Me father die and leave plenty place, so me take care of it. Me live here comfortable, do farming, take care of the trees and so on. No true it bushy, a very good place".

However, he is not sure that restarting the train service is feasible. "Better them take the train line make road. Me no feel the train going to be like how it used to be. More people have transport, so lesser people will take train," he said.

Still, he seems bewildered about how the trains stopped running in the first place. "We not even know how it really operate. Then jus' left the line and gone," Clarke said.