Irish Jamaica

By | Category: Travel destinations
Jamaican beach

Today Irish visitors come for the sun, the beaches, the food and the music.

The announcement by the Jamaican government that visitor numbers from Ireland to Jamaica rose by 56% in 2016 is a reminder that Irish holidaymakers may actually be visiting to see their relatives!

Nearly 360 years ago, Irish labourers and emigrants travelled there and many began a new life at the end of the contracts as planters on the island. In all it is calculated that perhaps as many as 80,000 Irish were shipped across to Jamaica but how many stayed? It is said that the Irish make up the second largest group of people on the island after those of African heritage.

However many did, they left their mark on the island with places such as Belfast, Clonmel, Dublin Castle, Irish Town, Kildare, Newry and Ulster Spring. Irish Town, for example, is a settlement in the Blue Mountains where a community of Irish immigrants came to live in the 19th century to make wooden barrels. Where they worked became known as The Cooperage and it was rum that filled the barrels and, no doubt,  the Irish after a day’s work! In addition, there are two St. Patrick’s churches in Jamaica. In all there are more than a dozen place names in Jamaica that have an Irish link.

There is a Mount Donegal as one of the higher mountains on the island as well as providing the name for one of the leading chef’s on the island, Trevanne Donegal. And yes, there is an Irish pub, the Irish Rover near Ocho Rios run by a Jamaican whose Irish wife’s family has a background in running a bar in Belfast.

Potatoes are commonly referred to as ‘Irish potatoes’, or simply ‘Irish’, and a variation on Irish coffee is made with Jamaican rum. There is also a popular Jamaican drink, a favourite of Bob Marley, called Irish Moss. Chris Blackwell, the founder of Island records was a supporter of Marley, helped influence his career and is of Irish descent. Today he owns Goldeneye, the former home of Ian Fleming which has become an upmarket holiday resort.

The first prime minister of Jamaica after independence, Sir Alexander Bustamante, was of Irish descent. After retiring he moved to a house in Irish Town, a house that may be in the process of restoration by the new owners. Although only about fifty years old will it become a Bustamante heritage site?

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