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The Heroes art connection

Olive Lewin, Contributor

ALL OUR National Heroes contributed significantly to Emancipation and/or to Independence. They all also seem to have been inspired by one or another of the arts and prized Jamaica's beautiful and bountiful natural environment.

Today we visit George William Gordon and Paul Bogle.

George William Gordon (1820-1865) was born to a Scottish land owner and one of his slaves in Cherry Gardens. Mainly through his own efforts, starting with teaching himself reading, writing and accounting, he became a successful businessman and land owner.

He was a 'free coloured' and an active nationalist whose concerns always centred on the plight of the poor. He championed their calls and voiced his concerns when he became a member of the Assembly. This displeased Governor Eyre and many of the better-off members of society. Gordon's membership of the Native Baptist Church also irked them. However he was a faithful and prominent leader who built churches and encouraged others to do the same. One of the deacons ordained by him was Paul Bogle.

After violence broke out at the Morant Bay Court House in 1865 during a demonstration led by Bogle, Governor Eyre declared martial law and had Gordon arrested though there really was no evidence of his complicity. He was taken by ship from Kingston to Morant Bay, tried and hanged on October 23.

Gordon enjoyed the rousing of the Baptist Church and its effect on his congregations. His mother probably had sung him to sleep with lullabies and comforted him with choruses that he learnt to love. He was an enthusiastic farmer and with Bogle had helped the St. Thomas small farmers with marketing their goods. The beautiful surroundings of the Cherry Gardens Great House which still stands must also have influenced him.

Little is known of Bogle's early life. As an adult he was one of the 106 St. Thomas people with the right to vote. He owned 400 acres of land and was a successful cane and coffee farmer. Bogle encouraged his fellow parishioners to farm too as a means of solving some of their post- emancipation problems.

As deacon of the Native Baptist Church at Stony Gut, Bogle organised religious activities which we can be sure included rousing singing and lively sermons. He and his brother Moses led the people in passive resistance to injustice and oppression. This did not succeed.

Money was scarce. Taxes were heavy and unemployment high islandwide, while the price of imported goods escalated because of the American Civil War. The suffering St. Thomas people looked to Bogle as their spokesman and leader.

There was active resistance which erupted when Bogle led a march to Spanish Town and then one to the Morant Bay Court House on October 11. There was a clash with the armed volunteer force, people were killed on both sides and the court house burnt to the ground. A price was put on Bogle's head. Captured on October 24, he was hanged that very day.

A statue of Bogle by eminent artist and sculptress Edna Manley stands in the Morant Bay Court House Square.

"Bogle mek him war oh him cyan 'tan to it ay

Bogle oh Paul Bogle oh" - (Maroon song).

N.B: Sam Sharpe was a town slave employed by Mr. Sharpe and not a field slave. This was not made clear in last week's column. Apologies.

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