From marijuana farmer to expert stone cutter
An expert cut-stone builder, Fitzroy 'Blacks' Anderson is concerned that young people appear to have no interest in the trade despite it being a lucrative job.
Blacks, who is one of a handful of elite cut-stone builders in western Jamaica, grew up in Success in Hanover but now resides in Westmoreland.
"You know how mi start out? Planting marijuana when mi young, and (Hurricane) Gilbert come, and wi haffi run out a di bush. I was about 16," Anderson said. "Gilbert mash dung di weed farm. Dem time deh wi a sell weed fi like $200 a pound."
Anderson said that he and a group of friends later settled in Spring Farm in in St James, where they made a living cutting stones as an alternative. This was a skill he learnt from his stepfather, who supplied cut stones to the Hanover Public Works Department for road construction.
"Mi go Montego Bay, so mi end up cut stone all bout at $16 a dozen. Mi use di hammer and chip di stone how wi want it. When mi go look di work, bout five a wi go. Every day mi do one dozen, and di odda day, maybe two dozen, then three dozen.
"Mi did borrow one hammer and mi remember mi tek one pound a weed and carry it go swap fi one hammer from one old stone man wha resign. And from deh so, a di same hammer mi have from mi about 16, and mi a 45 now and mi still a work wid it. Dat is part a mi living," he said proudly.
Blacks has worked on some of Jamaica's finest hotels and villas, including Ritz Carlton, Ricks CafÈ, Rockhouse, and the Little Bay Country Club in Negril.
As for the upcoming youngsters, he hopes that more of them will gravitate towards the trade.
"It deh die out because di young yute dem naw learn di trade. First ting dem a tell you say, a it hard ... If dem no want wuk inna supamarket and wuk inna hotel, den a stone dem a go cut? You have a lot of youth weh wi mix di mortar fi you, but dem hardly want work," he said.
And despite the challenges, and the introduction of electrical tools and machines in consruction, Blacks said there is still a huge demand from elite hotels for hand-cut stone construction, for which premium prices are paid.
"Stonework very expensive. It is a nice work. Right now, if you a build wall, and fi get all some neat wall, like some pencil joint, you a look pon like all some $8,000 to $12,000 a square yard, roughly," he explained.