1920s and '30s
At the start of the 1920s, Philip Sanford Marden, 
an American travel writer of Lowell, Massachusetts,
wrote at some length in his book,
Sailing South (1921),
of the drive through Fern Gully.
p 268-70
As we drew near the coast the road took a headlong plunge of three miles or thereabouts, down and ever 
downward, through caverns seemingly measureless to man, the sides of which were covered with ferns of
most stupendous size and endless variety. Not the least interesting of Jamaican flora are the varieties of
fern. They embrace innumerable species. Your driver, whatever else he may not know, is anxious to show
you his knowledge of such things as these. 
"See, Missy! Silver fern! Wait! I get him for yo'." And forthwith he jams on his emergency brake, vanishes
over the side, and disappears in the undergrowth. Shortly he emerges with a few fern leaves, which you lay
on the back of your hand and then administer a smart blow. Behold! An exact reproduction of every frond
remains outlined in silver on your sunburned flesh. Or maybe in gold, if it's a gold fern. And as for sensitive
plant what
they call locally '"Shamed of you" it is everywhere. Touch it and it shivers and shrivels into
itself, for all the world as if alive and very much frightened, thus to remain for about ten minutes by the
watch. Then it plucks up heart and opens again. 
The drive down to the sea, at a place still bearing the name of Ochos Rios (Eight Rivers) for some reason
which we did not discover, is known somewhat unpoetically as the "Fern Gully Ride." I never fancied the
word "gully." To me, it means a bleak and stony ravine, quite different from this opulent fern-clad abyss,
from the bottom of which we could hardly see the sun. 
We ground our way down through the verdant gloom of that cleft in the primordial rocks, pausing prudently
after a time to let the brakes cool sufficiently to save them, and always exclaiming at the beauty of the
environment, which was notable alike for its ferns, its depth of shadow, and its precipitous walls which
vanished somewhere above into an unguessed heaven of tropical trees. 
Then almost without warning we emerged from the gulf of ferns, and lo, there was the sea beating in long,
regular rollers on the palm-clad beach. A brawling stream, doubtless one of the eight, dashed out of the
jungle and with one exulting, joyous bound leaped into the arms of Ocean. East and west under the palms
stretched the white road that circles the island. Inland, the cliffs rose boldly. 
 Daily Gleaner, May 28, 1923
Colonel John Dampman, an American visitor in an article in the Reading Eagle, (Pennsylvania), May 18, 1923.
                Fern Gully in 1927
          Fern Gully on a 1930 post card
Fern Gully is three miles long, and when the end is reached, the only thing desired of life is to turn back and travel the three miles, over again. Would one ever tire, of such to and fro journeyings? If one did, then it would be the "sweetest tiredness on earth."
Arabel Moulton-Barrett, 1928  
(- she was a respected poet herself in Jamaica, and was the niece of the famous poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning.)
(read the whole of Arabel Moulton-Barrett's Fern Gully fantasy)
 Travelling through Fern Gully
 - not all visitors were equally thrilled by Fern Gully and might have suggestions as to how it could be improved: more tree ferns perhaps!
 The '30s do not seem to have been any better for Fern Gully than they were for everywhere else!
Visitors did still come and enjoy the scenery

Daily Gleaner, August 22, 1931
A charming little lady in the person of Miss Lois Palmer, is responsible for the high tone of the decorative work within the pages of The Ladies Home Journal, and just at this time she is very happy in spending a few days in Jamaica. Arriving by the S.S. Metapan on Monday morning last from New York, on what is her first visit to the Island. Miss Palmer has since been to Castleton and Hope Gardens, Bog Walk and other points, and on Thursday, journeyed down to the beautiful Fern Gully in the Garden Parish.

Fern Gully in the 1930s 
Seen by a representative of the "Gleaner" at the Myrtle Bank Hotel last night, Miss Palmer was all over in smiles at the thought of the five happy days past. "Fern Gully is so much like Devonshire, England," she said, "I just couldn't believe that the country place was so beautiful."

"When I went down to Fern Gully on Thursday, I thought that one of the most beautiful trips one could desire. . .”

 but the problems of flooding and keeping the road open continued as before - as reports from the Legislative Council show:
 Daily Gleaner, May 31, 1933
[Hon G. S. Ewen, Trelawny in Leg Co]

wondered if the Government knew that they had certain legal rights with regard to the Fern Gully in St. Ann. As a matter of fact, the Government had an encumbrance on titles with regard to lands adjacent to the Fern Gully. The object of this was to prevent denudation; and he was astonished to find the destruction which had taken place in the Fern Gully. It showed that there was a lack of interest with regard to the Department responsible for the Fern Gully. He did not know which department was responsible, whether it was the Colonial Secretary's Department, the Director of Public Works or the Lands Department. The fact remained that there was gross neglect on the part of those responsible. He agreed that if thev did something with regard to the route of the river from Bog Walk the would be doing something which was necessary (hear. hear). If he had known about the Government's position with regard to the Fern Gully he would have taken up the matter some time ago. 'Therefore if the Government took on obligations in the matter they should perform those obligations better than they had done in the past. Their scenery had a good deal to do with their tourist trade and he agreed that they should do everything possible to maintain the beauty spots of the island.
Jamaica had suffered from hurricanes and flooding in the early 1930s, and the later years were little better, but Fern Gully survived - perhaps bloodied, but unbowed!
Daily Gleaner, November 12, 1937 

Daily Gleaner, May 8, 1936

Mr. Little [MLC St Ann in Leg Co] . . . . desired to ask the Hon.

Nominated Member about public gardens. He understood that

there was an arrangement for the Agricultural Department to

look after the ferns in Fern Gully. He was not sure that there was

any improvement with regard to the position. He would like to

hear what was done. 

The Director of Agriculture said that the care of the Fern Gully

remained under the charge of the Director of Public Works.

Mr. Little pointed out that there was a strong recommendation

that the Agricultural Department should look after the care of the Fern Gully and he thought that the recommendation was

accepted. He did not think that the Public Works Department was the Department to look after the Gully. It was concerned

about widening the road and matters in connection with traffic

but a strip of land was acquired from the owners to improve the

Gully as it was considered a landmark of the colony and visitors

went there sight-seeing. They had heard that the ferns were

destroyed and that was why there was a recommendation to

have the care of  them transferred from the Public Works

Department to the Agricultural Department. He understood that

the number of variety of ferns that were there for some years

was being reduced and that went to show that there was lack of

proper care. They should not allow that to continue.


The Director of Agriculture said that he joined with the

Honourable Member for St. Ann in urging that they should

preserve the beauty of the Fern Gully. But after periods of dry

weather dead leaves were strewn in the Gully. But the position soon changed very rapidly after rains.

The principal work in looking after the Gully was the clearing

away of those leaves and the general care of the Gully. The

protection of the Gully, as desired by the Honourable Member

for St. Ann would involve somebody resident there to look after

it. But he was not aware that Government was prepared to meet

that expenditure at that stage.

He had been through the Gully recently and officers of the

department when going to other districts passed through there

and reports were frequently made with regard to its condition.

He thought members would be satisfied when he said that every

effort waa being made that the Gully should remain one of the beauty spot of the island and there was the wish of seeing it


Mr. Little said that was not practical: he wanted to know whether

it would be left to the Public Works Department or the Agricultural Department.


The Director of Agriculture stated that the Agricultural

Department had been instructed to keep an eye on it.

 Canute Altamont Little, J.P., 1889-1942
teacher and politician
MLC St Ann, 1935-42

but things didn't get much better . . . 
Daily Gleaner, November 23, 1937
Heavy damage to roads was done
in St Mary, St. Ann, St James and Hanover by the flood rains
which were experienced over the week-end. Traffic has been paralysed in certain sections, but the Public Works Department are rushing restoration work.
The road between St Ann's Bay
and Claremont was blocked by landslides on Sunday night but
these have been cleared and the road is now passable to traffic. The Fern Gully road has been washed out and blocked to traffic. The road between St. Ann's Bay and Ocho Rios is inundated and impassable in several sections. The township of Ocho Rios is cut off but it is understood to be under water.
 Daily Gleaner, December 1, 1937

Sir,- In view of the frequent and sometimes unjust criticisms which are levelled at the officers of the P.W.D., I should like to reverse the order of things and give a word of praise to the Superintendent of the P.W.D for St Ann and his Staff for the efficient and quick manner they handled the flood damage done on the Fern Gully Road leading to Ocho Rios.

As the result of the recent flood rains this road was a mass of small ravines and huge boulders, and in a few days the damage was put right and the road made safe for traffic In fact as the result of the use of a steam-roller, the surface of the road is now better than before the rains.

I am, etc,


Shaw Park Hotel,

Ocho Rios,

November 27, 1937.

Daily Gleaner, April 27, 1939

At Ocho Rios the bridge at Milford has been completed, for which I must express pleasure, but there is still the river training work. The difficulty at that town (though it is treated as a village it is a town), is that the water comes off the Fern Gully and is let loose and scattered into the town forming at certain seasons a large and very dangerous swamp. The information is that years ago, there was a ravine that took away the water, but the story is that the metal placed by the Public Works on the road was washed off by the rain and gradually levelled up the place until the water has no definite course to the sea.

. . . the April 27th 1939 Gleaner report on the Fern Gully situation continued, and contains
one explanation for the ongoing failure to correct that situation:

and at the very end of the decade, with the Second World War already starting, the rain and floods still came! 
 Daily Gleaner, November 04, 1939