Jamaica History and Culture
The Richest Sugar Bowl of Jamaica
Oristano (now “Bluefields“, or “Blewfields“ on the oldest of British maps) was founded in 1519 and was the second Spanish settlement on the island. With one of Jamaica’s most protected anchorages and ample spring water flowing from the mountains down to the Bluefields Beach (locally known as Sabito Beach), Bluefields Bay was seen as a highly desirable area. From the 1500s until the mid-1900s, Negril was viewed as a marshy and malarial swampland with its lack of elevation and absence of fresh water, and the North Coast was thought by the Spaniards to be too swampy for successful habitation and lacking in protected anchorages.
The British invaded Jamaica in 1655 and evicted the Spanish Catholics. However the Spaniards claiming to be of Jewish ancestry were permitted to remain. Kingston’s original synagogue was built in 1744 and the nearby town of Savanna-la-Mar is said to have ruins of a Jewish cemetery. Milestone Cottage, a two-bedroom villa, was built by the Hart family, descendants the Lindos who were early Sephardic settlers.
In 1670, Henry Morgan (1635-1688) used Bluefields Bay as a gathering place for the fleet that he assembled to sack Panama in January of 1671. Captain Morgan spent three years in Central America, finally returning to Jamaica in 1674 after being knighted by Charles II and appointed Lieutenant Governor of the island. Later in 1793, Captain Bligh (1754-1817), of Mutiny on the Bounty fame, sailed into Bluefields Bay on his ship HMS Providence and stayed at the Bluefields Great House. During this visit Bligh planted Jamaica’s first breadfruit tree, which he had brought with him from the South Pacific.
By the 1700s, the Bluefields Bay area was the richest sugar bowl of Jamaica. Maps from the era depict Bluefields as of equal importance to Kingston, with magnified inserts of only the two areas. These maps also clearly depict a seaside residence named Hermitage, and mark the site of San Michele (Italian for Saint Michael) as “Fort (ruin)“—likely a reference to a fortification with gun placements erected during the War of Jenkin’s Ear (1739-1748). Tate’s Shafston Estate, which has been in the same family for several hundred years, was still loading pimento, lime juice and logwood onto ships sailing to England well into the 20th century.
The two of the three colonial era villas, Mullion Cove (1949) and San Michele (1955), were designed and built by Lt. Colonel Terence “Rory“ Scott O’Connor and his wife Winifred Evelyn Scott O’Connor (neé Kirkham). The same couple also built Greenways, a home across the road from San Michele, and owned and ran the Treasure Beach Hotel. Her family had been associated with Westmoreland Parish for several centuries; on her paternal side, the Kirkhams owned a large estate called Grandvale, and her mother was a Tate of the mountainside Shafton Estate. Lt. Colonel and Mrs. Scott O’Connor met in England in 1935. He was of British Raj extraction, his father having been the Superintendent of Police of Benares, India (now Varanasi). They were married in 1937 and had their first child in 1938. War was declared in 1939, and Colonel Scott O’Connor was summoned to serve. He did not return from his posting in Nigeria until 1947, and the couple moved to Jamaica immediately upon being reunited. They lived in Mullion Cove for only a short time before selling it to Harold Cahusac and his wife Doris (neé Sanftleben) in 1955. The Moncures took over control of the house in 1982 when the widow Cahusac married Charles DeLisser. San Michele was sold to Oliver Holroyd-Smith in 1958, who then sold it to the Moncures in 1983. The name Mullion Cove comes from a place near Land’s End in Cornwall, England. The name was chosen as the lights of Penzance glitter across Mount’s Bay to Mullion Cove in Cornwall just as the lights of Savannah-La-Mar glitter across Bluefields Bay to Mullion Cove in Jamaica.