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Photograph of Jonathan Parkes, LSAH customer

Jonathan Parkes

I was born 1917 in Fair Prospect in the parish of Portland, Jamaica. I have four brothers and two sisters, and I am the second eldest. My father was a cultivator; he grew bananas, yams and coconuts to sell. We also had livestock, horses, donkeys, pigs and goats. The family lived in a big house with a lot of land. From when I was small boy I had to help with raising the chickens, pigs and goats before and after school.

I started school aged six and had to walk about three miles. It was a big school, the head teacher Mr Barratt was from Manchester. He was a very good teacher. His wife taught the younger children. I took my own dinner, usually fruit grapes, guava and berries etc. When it came to games, I was good at running. We also played marbles and spinning tops. On days when I was not at school I went into the bush to shoot birds with a catapult. I would often get "John Crows" on the Ackee tree. Once, I went with my father to where a banana tree had fallen and we caught ninety-six birds. We took them home and fried them.

Mr Parkes tells the folk story of Agouti:

Captain Bull was taking people and animals from one island to another. Brother Dog and brother Agouti made false horns on Brother Dog and the ship sailed with Brother Dog on board. Brother Agouti stayed on land and shouted to the ship, "Captain Bull! Captain Bull! Examine them." The Captain did and found the false horns. So Brother Dog jumped overboard and started swimming. Brother Agouti saw him coming so he ran and just as he got to his hole Brother Dog bit off his tail. So, from then on Agouti has no tail. It is somewhat like a mongoose, but a bit bigger; some people catch them and eat them.

I remember my school days fondly. I enjoyed playing cricket and doing athletics at school. Also they had music concerts where people came and joined, it was a good, happy time. Christmas concerts were extra special as other schools would come to compete. Everyone took pride in their own school and did the best they could. The school also organised garden parties where they would have horse races.

I didn’t receive any pocket money, but instead of this, each child had a bit of garden which they farmed. Their parents would then sell the produce to buy clothes and goods for the children. So rather than just getting money, they learnt how to farm and support themselves.

My father would not allow us to go and play far away, and we could only play with family because some of the other children swore too much. My mother did housework and looked after the kids; also she sometimes went into the bush for supplies. We were very lucky because the local parish doctor, Doctor Street, was a relative.

In the holidays I would visit relatives, look after my own garden and help with harvesting the cornfields. I also took a donkey and went swimming in the river and the sea. I was a good swimmer. I went fishing on Boston Beach, which was a very nice place and had waves big enough to surf on.

Long Bay was the local market, and I would take the donkey to carry the yam. I left early in the morning to get there Friday and Saturday. Manchioneal was another market but it was further away. Port Antonio is the main city of Portland and had the biggest market, plus it was easy to travel to for the whole family.

I went to church every Sunday at the Church of England. Nowadays I go to church when I want to go. It is just up the road and I still enjoy singing the church hymns.

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