in Smith's Village


19th century

Daily Gleaner

A Disgrace to the City.

The condition of the streets in those portions of the city where the labouring classes are, too often from force of  circumstances, compelled to reside, has frequently been the subject of remark in these columns and time after time has the attention of the authorities been called to nuisances which would not for one moment be allowed to exist in other townships of the same magnitude as Kingston. For several months past, letters have been received from various correspondents, who either live in the west end of the city or whose business call them in that direction complaining of tbe disgraceful and, in fact, filthy condition of that part of the borough known as Smith's Village and the immediate neighborhood to the southward principally inhabited by labourers and those of our population who live from hand to mouth. The burden of these complaints has been that the City Council, who are responsible for tbe cleanliness and the sanitary condition of our streets, has grossly neglected its work and that no attention whatever has been paid to petitions from the people asking for a redress of their grievances. A personal visit to the district has conclusively proved that this inquietude on the part of the inhabitants proceeds from no trifling cause; evils which in any of the wealthier parts of the city would be considered abominable and nauseating, and would be immediately rectified pass by comparatively unnoticed in Smith's Village, the people having become to a certain extent, habituated to the squalor and filth which is a part of their every day existence and for which they apparently have no remedy. A stranger to Jamaica, and even an inhabitant of Kingston who visited the place for the first time would be struck with a feeling akin to disgust on walking thiough the lanes and very little would suffice to give him a thorough sickening and cause wonder as to how the place could possibly have become so dirty and dilapidated.

An interview with some of the denizens of this quarter gave a slight inkling as to the cause. It appears, from their statements that one old man, who does the best he can under the circumstances, has charge of the streets and lanes throughout the whole district; frequently he is taken away to other parts of the city where the taxpayers are, so far as this world's goods are concerned, of a better class. During the past five years, the streets have never once been swept and only on the occasion of a heavy rainfall are they flushed, artificial means apparently being out of the question - Last Lane, Wellington Street and many other thoroughfares, the principal streets of the village, are nothing more than vast cesspools. Many, almost the majority, of the houses are without kitchen, and cooking operations are carried out in the yards adjoining the huts where the fire is lighted and the street filled with smoke in a very short time. Again, very few of the houses are provided with sanitary accommodation and the result is that filth and dirt of every description is simply thrown into the street where it remains until swept away by the rain. At the present season of the year, the odour emanating from the rubbish lying about in every corner is abominable and it is not an easy matter to see how on earth the people can stand it. Possibly " Familiarity breeds contempt" and these unfortunate citizens and taxpayers have become so accustomed to the noisome smells that they treat them as a matter of course and a thing which cannot be avoided. The sparks which fly from the fires in the various yards are a constant source of danger and one would think that the police authorities would take some action to prevent fires being lighted especially in places where a spark might set a house on fire. One house owner made a complaint recently at the City Council office of the danger arising from a fire which was lighted by a person in the immediate vicinity of his shop. He was referred to the Fire Brigade whither he went and after telling his story, asked for protection. He was calmly informed that the mission of the Fire Brigade was to extinguish fire, not to prevent it. What satisfaction could this person obtain in case his shop and house were burned down?

The labourer who has already been referred to and who earns the magnificent remuneration of 9s per week is constantly occupied in keeping the sides ot the roads free from bush but he work is apparently too much for one man. At the present time he is cutting bush in the neighbourhood of Wellington Street and the operation is sirnplicity itself. He lops off the overhanging branches and cuts the weeds from the roadside, afterwards bringing them into one bunch. This done all along the street and there will be probably 20 or 30 heaps. As soon as this is dry, he fires it and leaves the blackened remains to lie there until his next visit, when the same proceedings are again gone through. As would be expected the billing and scraping is of so superficial a character that in a few days' time the street is as bad as ever and the inconvenience to pedestrians, - for no person with any respect for the springs of his buggy would ever dream of driving along those lanes - is quite as great. At many of the yards facing the roadside the fences are composed of dildoes, these in some places being nearly 20 feet in height and in not a few cases perfectly rotten at the base. It is a common occurrence for one o! these to fall across the road and their presence is a constant menace to travellers, especially during stormy weather, when they come down in every direction.
The water tables along the centre of the streets besides being a perpetual eyesore, become blocked with dirt of every description and the water, which should run down freely, is in consequence stagnated and most offensive. On a dark night it is almost impossible to proceed any distance without repeatedly stepping into some ot these pools and progress is as difficult as it is dangerous. When the rains are on, the road is a quagmire with mud almost to the knees.

One would imagine that as means of locomotion are so inconceivably bad, precautions would be taken by the City Fathers to provide plenty of light to make some amends for their other neglect. This, however, is far from being the case. The village boasts two lamps, both on the Spanish Town Boad, the rest of the district being in complete darkness. Is it any wonder that Smith's Village bears a bad name for evil deeds ? To a great extent, the members of the Council are responsible for the outrages which are constantly being committed in the neighborhood as by their want of attention and carelessness they practically place a premium upon crime. Everything is favorable for those who have any inclination to break the laws. The streets are to a great extent lonely and deserted at night, and even where more thickly populated, the people are so thoroughly accustomed and inured to deeds of violence, that they take comparatively little note of what is going on; on nights when there is no moon the darkness can almost be felt and as the police are about as numerous as the gas lamps there is absolutely no protection.


When one takes into consideration that these people pay the same taxes as their more favoured brethren and are mulcted in the same sum in the £ it is manifest that they are not dealt with in that fair spirit of justice which should characterise the actions of public bodies. One occasionally hears of similar cases in other countries - very rarely, however - and immediately some scandal takes place, the authorities wake up to a sense of their responsibility. Recently in an English town, a Magistrate was murdered in the lower parts of one of the cities and the result was of a most beneficial nature so far as the people were concerned. It was discovered that because the streets were in darkness and the police were, like angel's visits few and far between, such deeds could be committed with impunity. The corporation took prompt action. Gas lamps were erected in every available spot and the force of police was increased four-fold. It is to be hoped that no such tragedy will be enacted in Smith's Village before the members of the City Council can be induced to move in the matter, and the sooner they arouse themselves from their attitude of passive indifference the better it will be for all concerned. The statistical part of the question showing the taxes paid by the inhabitants &c. will be referred to in another article.

                  Daily Gleaner, August 1, 1893 

C D Powell was a school teacher, so presumably  was at this point the teacher at the St. Alban's School; I need to find out more about him. JL