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Lakes at Moneague, Jamaica

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early 20th century

1917 and 1934



When the lake or lakes reappeared in 1917 and 1934, there was considerable Gleaner coverage of the phenomenon, especially in its more pleasant characteristics. Both were difficult years in Jamaica – 1917, the fourth year of World War I, was one of increasing shortages and hardship, and the ongoing recruitment of young men for the war in Europe; 1934 was in the middle of the Great Depression, in which Jamaica was suffering economic and social dislocation along with the rest of the world. Cheerful news was at a premium.

The beauty of the lakes was the first concern of many reports. S. A. H. in January 1917 wrote:


“It is a beautiful fresh water lake extending fully four miles in length with an expanse of half a mile. It is the most marvellous thing I have ever seen; and no words of mine can accurately describe this wonder! …extending up the valley was a great pool of clear water surrounded by lovely hills and palm trees with ferns and wild flowers along the edges of the banks….I was fascinated!”


In June 1934 E. M. N. waxed lyrical on the same topic:


"The blue skies above, the vast green country beyond is all and more than one can want of beauty on which to feast the eyes, fill the senses, and ponder over....  the glistening dazzling sunlight, the rich emerald green, the well-kept pastures that rise up from the valley that is now filled with water, the cradle of picturesque mountains with its green of darker hue -- all is marvellous -- beautiful!"


How one wishes for colour photography to preserve these views for us; unfortunately the black and white photographs printed in the press at the time totally fail to capture the exquisite scenes described and one has to fall back on imagination to bring the descriptions to life.



The large expanse of water attracted many to take part in the same recreations as their forebears – bathing and boating. In February 1917 an advertisement promised --


"Rafting and Boating on the Magnificent



and a report from a Moneague correspondent declared "Touring by boats, canoes, and bamboo rafts is heartily indulged in [by visitors], and thus a regular business is kept up by those who invest in these provisions."  The attractions of the lake were utilized by fundraisers for a proposed local hospital who held a Gala Day on Easter Monday. Advertisements for this event promised "bathing, boating on the Lake, regatta, balloon race, and sports of all kinds."  The function was apparently a great success, though the newspaper report makes no mention of any balloon race! On a more sober note it must be mentioned that a free ferry had started operation on the lake on February 14th, making two trips an hour normally and four trips an hour on market days.  A notice was posted "that the barge will not be used for excursions on the lake."


The entertainment on the lake in 1934 was similar to that in 1917.  Advertisements and photographs promised swimming and rafting, and a variety of boating activities including motor and row boating, "whoopee" and "joy" floating.  In April 1934 three youngsters from Wolmer's, Calabar and Mico School set out at 4 o'clock in the morning to cycle to Moneague, which they reached at 9.30 am.  They spent some time swimming, as one of them still remembered when I interviewed him some years ago; they then set out at 4:30 pm to return to Kingston, reaching the city at 9 pm. The Gleaner photograph of them records their trip for posterity.



Daily Gleaner April 3, 1934


In 1917 one of the major attractions near the lake was the Moneague Hotel, which was at the time leased from the government by an enterprising young businessman, Ben Oliphant.  An advertisement for the hotel in February starts off:

1917 Daily Gleaner


. . . the "Joy and Sorrow" lakes

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