I arrived in Kingston Jamaica on the 27th October 1966 on the SS. Willemstad, which had previously called at Trinidad, Curacao and Aruba. I was met by four members of the Jamaica District staff; Rev’s: Atherton Didier (Chairman), Claude Cadogan (Secretary of Synod) Robert Dunston and Keith Webster (mission-partners). They cleared me through Customs and Immigration, then after dinner with the Didiers I stayed with Keith and Freda Webster for my first night in Jamaica. This was at the Excelsior School Chaplain’s house in Vinyard Town. The next morning I was awakened by roosters crowing.
Browns Town and Edmondson Circuit
Four days after my arrival I was taken to “John Crooks” on Hanover Street to pick up a car, a brand new Hillman Minx. The next day, the Rev Douglas Elliot, Superintendent of the Browns Town & Edmondson Circuit came into Kingston for me, and so I followed him over Mount Diabolo to Browns Town in the Parish of St. Ann. There at the “Egypt Manse” I met his wife, Betty and their three children; Martin, Stephen and Bridget. After my first night in St. Ann the next day I was shown around Browns Town its churches and supermarket, then, once again following “Douggie”, we took the winding road to Alexandria to be introduced to “Miss Lillian” as my “domestic helper” and so, to take up residence in the Edmondson Manse.
The Browns Town and Edmondson Circuit was made up of eight church in the west of the Parish. They were in two sections: Browns Town, Stewart Town (in Trelawny), Keith and Vauxhall for the “Super” and Edmondson (Alexandria), Eccleston(Cave Valley), Retirement(Watt Town) and Borobridge for the Probationer. I also had three class houses; Alva, Creen Hill and Top Aboukir, these were for the members who lived a good way from the main churches so that they could have evening services on Sundays and other meetings during the week. I was also given the responsibilityof being the Chairman for two Primary Schools and three Basic Schools.
My first Sunday was at t h e Ed m o n d so n C h u r c h f o r the 11am service and then Alva for 4pm, followed by Eccleston at 6.30pm. The services were similar to those used in England, most mornings were Holy Communion otherwise the full Order of Morning Prayer could be used.
The senior stewards in the churches were well respected leaders in their communities.
For Edmondson it was Stephen Tapper and his wife Ina, they ran a dry-goods store at the crossroads in Alexandria. He was a Local Preacher and JP, she was the local registrar and Sunday School Superintendent.
For Eccleston, it was Teacher Marston of Cave Valley, though formerly a school principal, he was trying his hand at being a farmer, rearing beef cattle, and growing crops of citrus, sugar cane, and bananas.
At the Retirement Church we had Kissock Campbell, the principal of the local primary school and a Local Preacher.
At the Borobridge Church (named after the Borobridge in Yorkshire) we had two dominant personalities; Robert Harrison (Mass Bob) and Bentley Tapper. Both were Local Preachers, Mass Bob was well known throughout that part of St. Ann and Bentley was of the esteemed Tapper family, his home was about two miles from the church at a place known as Two Meeting where two rivers joined to make the Cave River. This river then making its way to Cave Valley and down a sink hole to reappear 16 miles north at Dornock near to Stewart Town in Trelawny…. My eyes were opened to their brotherly rivalry when planning a fund raising rally. The churchyard had recently been fenced and gated and it was proposed that the oldest member should open the gates, that was Mass Bob however Bentley contested by saying “that it should be, the oldest continuous member”, I noted that there were two gates and so put both names forward. At the service of dedication Brother Bentley Tapper in giving the “vote of thanks”, looked straight at me and said, “Our minister is like Solomon”, not deserved of course, but the church leaders gave knowing smiles.
Under the Poincina tree
After a Sunday morning service at the Eccleston Church in Aboukir late in 1967, I was introduced to Paulette Higgins by Mrs Marston, (Miss Cissy). She was a student nurse at the KPH (Kingston Public Hospital). Her family were regular worshippers at the church, her mother, “Miss Winnie” being a class-leader, her father, “Mass Clinton Higgins”, though not a member at that time was well respected in the local community. I well remember the introduction when Miss Cissy took me from the church door across to the nearby Poinciana tree where Paulette was standing. In January 1969 we were reintroduced by Alan and Jean Stansfield, two English teachers at the Westwood High School for Girls in Stewart Town, Trelawny. I was invited to speak at the School’s IVF which was led by Paulette who’d returned to work as the School Nurse.
So started our courtship; engaged in May and married on the 16th August, at the Saxthorpe Church in St.Andrew by Rev Atherton Didier and Rev John Poxon (Headmaster of the York Castle School, Browns Town). My best man was the Superintendent of the Circuit, Rev Eric Patton. This was on the proviso that we used half of the forthcoming furlough in 1970 for language training in Mexico. Paulette had already cancelled her midwifery course at the Simpsons Memorial in Edinburgh to get married. Now we were lined up to attend CIDOC (Centre Intercultural de Documentation) in Cuernavaca about 40 miles south of Mexico City.