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Jamaica - uniquely first(?)

Published:Sunday | July 17, 2011 | 12:00 AM
Egerton Chang

Egerton Chang, Contributor

We all know of the exploits of Usain, Shelly-Ann, VCB, Brigitte, Melaine, Sherone, Kerron, Asafa et al at the Olympics and World Championships that have catapulted Jamaica to the very top of athletics.

But how many of us know that the Jamaican flag is the ONLY flag in the world that doesn't share any of the colours of the American flag? This is according to an email making the rounds on the Internet.

This is not exactly so, however, as Mauritania (green and yellow) and Libya (green only) also doesn't share any of these colours. I checked, and even the flag of the newly created South Sudan carries red, white and blue. It also has black, green and gold, making it one of the most colourful flags. Jamaica has three colours nevertheless, and qualifies in this respect.

Then again, how many know that Jamaica is the first British colonial territory to establish a postal service (in 1688) having been the first colony England acquired by conquest. This web 'fact' is incorrect in one respect.

During the reign of King Charles II, the governor of Jamaica was instructed to make arrangement for the establishment of a post office in Jamaica. This was because of complaints from early settlers concerning the slow delivery of mail.

As a result, on October 31, 1671 (not 1688 as per the Web), Jamaica became the first British colony to have established a post office. The post office was established in the then capital, St Jago de la Vega, or Spanish Town as it is now known. (Postal Corporation of Jamaica)

In the United States, William Penn established its first post office in 1683 in Pennsylvania (12 years after Jamaica). In the South, private messengers, usually slaves, connected the huge plantations; a hogshead of tobacco was the penalty for failing to relay mail to the next plantation.

Central postal organisation came to the US colonies only after 1691 when Thomas Neale received a 21-year grant from the British Crown for a North American postal service. (

Therefore, it seems to me, Jamaica could lay claim to having the first post office in the entire Western Hemisphere.

Jamaica has the most 'churches' per square mile of any country in the world. (Source: Guinness Book of World Records). That's another 'fact' making the rounds. I have not been able to actually verify same with 'Guinness', but ever since I have known myself, I have heard this said about Jamaica. So I believe this one. As we say, "If it no go so, it go near so."

Jamaica was the first country in the Western world to construct a railway, even before the United States! This is not true.

The Baltimore and Ohio railway in the United States was incorporated in 1827 and officially opened in 1830. Other railroads soon followed, including the Camden and Amboy by 1832.

The railways of Jamaica, constructed from 1845, were the first railway lines opened to traffic outside Europe and North America, and the second British colony after Canada's Champlain and St Lawrence Railroad of 1836 to receive a railway system. Construction started only 20 years after George Stephenson's Stockton and Darlington Railway commenced operations in the United Kingdom. (Wikipedia)

Golfing in Jamaica

The Manchester Golf Club in Jamaica, established in 1868, is the oldest in the Western Hemisphere! This web assertion appears to be accurate save for the year.

Built on the hills near Mandeville in 1865, the Manchester club is Jamaica's and the Caribbean's oldest golf course. The course boasts nine greens and 18 teeing grounds. (

The earliest clubs formed outside Scotland was the Royal Blackheath Golf Club of England, which came into existence in 1766, followed by the Old Manchester Golf Club founded on the Kersal Moor in 1818. Eighteenth-century golf in the United States, while known to exist, did not catch on, and it was in Canada that golf first established firm roots in North America. The Royal Montreal Club was formed in 1873 (eight years after Mandeville), the Quebec Golf Club in 1875, followed by a golf club at Toronto in 1876. It wasn't until 1888 that golf resurfaced in the United States. (

Jamaica was the first commercial producer of bananas in the Western Hemisphere. This appears to be true. Thanks in part to shipping and refrigeration, bananas were able to be sent long distances. Elders & Fyffes established the Imperial Direct Line between Bristol and Jamaica in 1901. This was taken over by the United Fruit Company in 1910. (

Another 'fact' making it on the Web is that Jamaica had electricity before the United States. This one is not believable, as Thomas Edison distributed electricity using direct current, which required thick copper wires and was limited by the maximum distance of 1 1/2 miles Meanwhile, Nikola Tesla developed the more feasible method of distribution using alternating current. Westinghouse used Tesla's system to light the World's Columbian Exposition at Chicago in 1893. His success was a factor in winning him the contract to install the first power machinery at Niagara Falls, which bore Tesla's name and patent numbers. The project carried power to Buffalo by 1896.

History records that one of the first ever piped water-supply systems for the Western Hemisphere originated in the Jamaican town of Falmouth, Trelawny.

In 1766, Roger Hope Elleston, owner of Hope Estates, constructed an open conduit to carry surplus water from his property to the then town of Kingston, with branches at Duke, King and Orange streets. The Hope River was the source of this supply and the conduit was constructed at his own expense. The system fell into a state of disrepair and its operation was eventually discontinued in 1777.

The development of piped water supplies in Jamaica, however, can be traced back to 1799 when the Falmouth Water Works Company was established with the Martha Brae its source to supply the town of Falmouth with water. It was, therefore, the first town in Jamaica to enjoy the convenience of a piped water system. The Falmouth Water Wheel today stands solidly as a monumental example of one of the first water-supply systems. (National Water Commission).

Perhaps you could send me other Jamaican 'firsts' and firsts. Jamaica - wi proud o' you.

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