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February 14, 2013
Star Features


 

Moore Town: Maroon's paradise
Diandra Grandison, Star Writer



Huts on display at the Cultural Centre in Moore Town,Portland. - Ian Allen photos


Col Wallace Sterling blowing the abeng in Moore Town, Portland.

Birds chirping and the rushing Wild Cane River are some of the sounds that can be heard when one visits the rural community of Moore Town in the hills of Portland.

The quiet farming community is home to the Moore Town Maroons, and is also the resting place of Jamaica's only female National Hero, Nanny.

Moore Town, which is located in the hills of the John Crow Mountains, has a population of over 1,000 persons and got its name after a request was made to the British in the 1800s for "More Land" for an expanding Maroon community.

According to the community leader, Colonel Wallace Sterling, "It was by error that the community got the name 'Moore Town'. The town surveyor at the time, changed its spelling to its current name, because he thought it was proper."

While walking through the community, you will find its Cultural Centre, which hosts an array of Maroon artefacts and which also doubles as a visitor's lounge, a peculiar post office, a clinic and the Moore Town Primary and Junior High School.

While speaking to residents, the general consensus is that Moore Town is an excellent place to live.

According to 56-year-old Bernard, "I would never leave here, crime is not an issue, we don't have to deal with Government for taxes and water, me like how it run, just live off of what we earn although it might not be much."

While Eukley Phillips, 52, told THE STAR "It's a nice place to live, youths dem loving, have school, post office, clinic, Nanny Park weh attract tourists and absolutely no crime."

tax-free lands

As mentioned earlier, the residents are not burdened by some of the living expenses of other communities in the island.

Moore Town residents do not pay taxes by virtue of the treaty their ancestors received which gave them the benefit of tax-free lands.

Also, residents told THE STAR they only pay a flat fee of $250 a month for piped water, their main expenses are those of electricity and wireless-internet bills.

But do not get the idea that one can simply move into the community, according to Colonel Sterling, one has to have relational ties to the community.

"No one except for a Maroon can buy land here. One can live on the land if they are married to a Maroon or related to one. But if the Maroon spouse should die, the widow/widower cannot sell the land to an outsider, he/she will simply have to continue living on the land or leave it."

But while speaking with the residents, THE STAR was told that although few, they do have some concerns.

"Wireless-internet is expensive here, we need cheaper access because we have lots of kids at high school who need it for homework," a resident told THE STAR.

Another resident, 16-year-old Cordell Cuthbert, told THE STAR, "The unemployment level and the road leading to the community need to be fixed."

Another area of concern for residents is the utilisation of the Moore Town Primary and Junior High School.

According to the school principal, Kathleen Wright, "The school isn't being used to its full capacity due to population control. The people are not having much children and also rural-urban drift is affecting the school's population."

It was revealed to THE STAR that the school can accommodate up to 500 students, but has an enrollment of only 110.

Wright also told THE STAR that the school is in desperate need of a perimeter fence and a sign to notify motorists that a school is in the area.

Colonel Wallace Sterling encourages persons to visit the Maroon village and to bask in its rich heritage and pristine landscape, "Come and enjoy authentic Maroon songs, our beautiful Nanny Falls (waterfall), cuisine and our nature trails."


Left: Fifty-six-year-old Bernard demonstrates the use of a 'Benna', an instrument used to catch birds by Maroons in Moore Town, Portland. Right: A bee farmer on his way to work.

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