1940s and '50s
 Half of the decade of the '40s was overshadowed by World War II, and the impact of storms and hurricanes continued to affect all parts of the island, including, of course, the parish of St Ann, and Fern Gully, during the whole decade.
 Daily Gleaner, March 9, 1940
I am pleading for Fern Gully, in St. Ann. Fern Gully 20 years ago was picturesque and beautiful. Today it is denuded and destroyed. I understand only £100 was placed for the upkeep of Fern Gully. Today that is gone. The ferns have been disappearing.

Dr O E Anderson, in the Legislative Council.
             THE FERN GULLY 
THE EDITOR, Sir:—We speak with a pardonable pride of our Parish of St. Ann as the "Garden Parish" of Jamaica, and aptly so for it is a "thing of beauty". My home is a thousand feet above the sea, and only three miles from the sea (as we fly) and its only defect is a badly kept Parochial Road. The Fern Gully so beautifully carved by Nature is reached within two miles, and leads through Ocho Rios to Dunn's River, and the lovely Roaring River Water Falls.
The object of this letter is to call attention to the present condition of the Fern Gully which has been sadly left alone since our recent storm. Who is responsible for this is the question I now
ask on behalf of the Parish which demands an immediate reply?
Some say that the Tourist Trade Development
Board was responsible, but that owing to the outbreak of War no funds are available as there are no tourists!
Surely the Fern Gully is an Island asset and should be preserved and cared for out of general Revenue, and not be dependent on uncertain conditions.
I am etc.,
April 2, 1940.

Canon Samuel Augustus Swaby died on April 17, 1940.
 Storm 5 of 1939, October 29 - November 6
 Report on November 3, 1939, of the impact of a storm (it was briefly a catagory 1 hurricane Oct 31 - Nov 1) which moved west, and then north of Jamaica, leaving the northern and central parishes of the island with the kind of damage referred to in Canon Swaby's letter in 1940.
. . . but in July 1940 American visitors seem to have seen Fern Gully rather differently . . .

                                                       Daily Gleaner, July 14, 1940
 And, after America entered the war in 1941, bases were set up for US troops, who then also travelled the roads of the island, including Fern Gully -
Daily Gleaner, December 14, 1942
 Hurricane August 1944
 St Ann suffered serious property damage in the hurricane of Sunday, August 20th, 1944, and six people died. As the Gleaner item however shows, nearly eight months later nothing had been done to deal with the damage to Fern Gully.
 Here, somewhere around the mid-point of the story, I am including one reference to a continuing problem all through the years - traffic accidents. Since this is a depressing topic, this one comment will have to cover all such incidents!

Daily Gleaner, September 12, 1946

Lorry-Car Collision

OCHO RIOS, September 11: (By telegraph from our, correspondent) —

Ocho Rios is fast becoming famous (or infamous) for the number of accidents occurring

 at or near the point where the [recent] collision occurred which is on the Fern Gully

road, and it has been argued repeatedly that improvement is long overdue on this stretch

of roadway.

 . . . a Gleaner editorial, some months later
 and a Poetry League expedition, the following year, which seems to have passed through Fern Gully without comment.
             1950 on

It was at this time that Dr George Proctor began his life-long study of Jamaican ferns, one of the latest in an honoured tradition of botanists who have devoted themselves to the study of Jamaica's remarkable and, in numerous instances, unique flora.

Daily Gleaner, June 27, 1950

A five-hundred-dollar research grant has been made by the American Philosophical Society to Mr C.

Bernard Lewis, Director and Curator of the Institute of Jamaica, for completion of field work on a

project which he is sponsoring in the study of the fern flora of Jamaica. 

The grant will allow for the continued study of local fern species, which had long been the study of the

late famed Dr. William Maxon of the Smithsonian Institution.

For its size, Jamaica probably possesses more species of ferns than any other country in the world.

Over 500 are known. Many forms are widespread, but the richest areas for ferns are the wet slopes

and gaps of the Blue Mountains, the Cockpit Country, and the ever-rainy John Crow mountains of


With the death of Dr. Maxon, it was found that very little of his manuscript  had been written. Mr.

George K. Proctor, recently associated with the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, and

formerly a lecturer in botany at Temple University decided to take up the project left unfinished

by Dr. Maxon.

Mr. Proctor has just completed six munths of field study of the subject. To make this possible, the

Board of Governors of the Institute of Jamaica assisted him with a grant-in-aid to cover some of his

field expenses.

He left the island mid-month to take up a summer camp position in New Hampshire which he has held

for a number of years. He returns to the island in September to continue the programme of field study

which this grant from the American Society will complete.

While in the United States Mr. Proctor will visit the Smithsonian Institution and the Philadelphia

Academy for consultation and advice with colleagues who are interested in the  project. Before

returning to Jamaica, he will also consult the herbarium of the New York Botanical Gardens and other

leading students of ferns.

It is expected that as a result of this work, the volume on ferns for the "Flora of Jamaica", a series

published by the British Museum (Natural History) may be completed.

 Long before Hurricane Charlie hit in August, 1951 had started out as a bad year for St Ann and Fern Gully; heavy rains can come at any time, not necessarily in hurricane season.
Daily Gleaner, February 5, 1951
Heavy Rainfall
OCHO RIOS, St. Ann. February 3
(From Our Correspondent) — One of the heaviest showers of rain in the past ten years fell here this evening. The rain fell steadily for two hours, resulting in the newly asphalted Fern Gully-Ocho Rios road becoming inundated. Traffic was greatly
Daily Gleaner, February 6, 1951
By Cloudburst In St. Ann
OCHO RIOS, St. Ann, February 5.
(From our correspondent)
THE cloudburst on Saturday last has left the Public Works Department and Parochial Board with hundreds of pounds damage on their hands.
Since yesterday, the Public Works Department emergency squad has been at work to restore traffic to normal on the Fern Gully road.
Numbers 3 and 10 parochial roads are blocked. It will be some time before they are cleared.
Telegraphic and telephonic communications in some sections of the parish were disrupted.

 Hurricane Charlie, August 1951
 a Kingston street after Hurricane Charlie
On August 19 1951 Reuters reported from Kingston in somewhat purple prose:
Jamaica Is Wrecked
Jamaica has been wrecked by the furious hurricane that lashed across the island like a stampede of giant cattle Friday.
Inland crops are flattened and flooded, trees lie where they fell after being whipped off the ground by the black-funneled twister.

 In the Gleaner on August 24 the response of the Jamaican people to this challenge was described by E H J King, the history teacher and journalist from Britain who played a significant role in the movement for independence:
 A terrifying calamity, such as the hurricane which struck the island on Friday night, revealed basic qualities of the finest kind among, all groups of' the population.

There was stoic calm in the face of death and even among those who were injured. There was courage in those who went eagerly to the help of their neighbours There was spontaneous generosity in the way in which
badly needed shelter, food and warmth were shared with neighbours between whom there had never been any real decree of friendship.

The days which have since passed have also revealed other qualities, resourcefulness and a capacity for
organisation. These qualities have
manifest themselves,
not only at the highest level (where relief measures on a major scale are being put into effect) but in the smallest yards and homes. The little men and women have grouped themselves to do their best to help each other restore their homes and clear the debris with which their yards have been littered.

. . . .
I am told by competent observers that such has always been the case when disaster has overtaken any section of the Jamaican community.
. . . .
Never have I been so impressed with the nobleness of human beings as during Friday night and Saturday
morning. On Tuesday it seemed as if the Corporate Area was teeming with vigorous new life. The streets were rapidly being made shipshape.

People seemed to walk abroad with new zest and sense of determination. They were proudly aware of the fact that they had been tested in the crucible of fear and pain and had not been found wanting. The dross had been removed: the pure metal could now shine the brighter.
Nor must we forget the humour, robust, and often verging on the coarse, with which people helped to laugh away their cares.

 There seems some uncertainty as to how much damage was done to Fern Gully by Charlie, which affected the south coast more severely than the north. Alex Hawkes, who didn't come to Jamaica until the late '60s, wrote in 1970 that 'The hurricane in 1951 apparently did terrible

lasting damage to the delicate ecology of the district, so that many of the ferns were unable to

re-spore themselves with success', and Aimee Webster deLisser wrote of its 'denudement' in 1951,  but at the time there was virtually no reference to damage to Fern Gully. In fact within months it was firmly back on the tourist circuit.

 In early December 1951 Debbie Reynolds, then a young starlet, visited Jamaica and was to be photographed against some of the most scenic backgrounds, including Fern Gully, Tower Isle, Dunn's River Falls, and other beauty spots, but perhaps that never actually took place!
 Tourists were visiting and praising Fern Gully early in the year after Charlie:

Daily Gleaner, March 22, 1952 

Although they[Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Fleishhacker] have travelled extensively, they regard

Jamaica as "one of the treasure grounds of the world." They were particularly impressed with the view from Shaw Park, and with Fern Gully. They also consider Kingston 'a lovely city'.

Daily Gleaner, March 24, 1952

They [Mr. and Mrs. Charles Emery, Mr. David Grant and Mr.William Salisbury] declared that

they had never before seen such beautiful tropical foliage, and regard the Fern Gully as “divine.”

 After the failed attempts to take the Prince of Wales and the Duke and Duchess of York through Fern Gully in the 1920s it is gratifying to record that Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip were driven through it successfully in 1953, when they visited Jamaica. Incidentally this was the first time a reigning British monarch visited the island, though several others had done so before being crowned - for instance William IV, George V and, of course, George VI; may be there were others - did Edward VIII ever actually make it?
 Queen Victoria, however,
never visited the island, [nor Fern Gully,] whatever Jonathan Routh may have written!

Jonathan Routh died on June 4th, this year; he was 80.

 Daily Gleaner, November 24, 1953

Plans for Royal tour: 'The scenery changes radically as the road swings from the bauxite

port of Ocho Rios, through the famous Fern

Gully and on to the limestone uplands of the

"garden parish” of St, Ann.'

Daily Gleaner, November 26, 1953

On November 25 'Fern Gully was clothed in verdant splendour as the Royal party passed through.'

Some were still remembering the past . . .

Mrs. Charles Whitford [actually she was the mother, by her first marriage, of 'Susan Lewis' who is noted at the bottom of this page], who left Jamaica for the USA in 1905, and returned for the first time in 1957, remembered Fern Gully as 'filled with maiden hair fern' and Ocho Rios 'as a little fishing village that no one heard much of'.

 . . .  and current visitors gave their views . . .
In November 1954 Mrs. Victor Carmichael, who, with her husband, was visiting Montego Bay, said to a Gleaner reporter -
'You should be proud of your country. This is the most beautiful place I have ever seen and I have seen a lot. Your Fern Gully beggars description and the scenes I have enjoyed during my drives through the countryside are so delightful.'
 In August 1955 the family of W. T. Mendell, Houston, Texas oil man, who were staying at 'Silver Seas', discovered the joys of seeing Fern Gully from bicycles:
'The Silver Seas station waggon transported them to the top of Fern Gully with their bicycles then they and the two eldest children cycled down the winding road.
"That's the real way to see the beanties of Fern Gully", said Mr. Mendell "You can look at the ferns rather than watching every curve every instant as you do in a car." Daily Gleaner, August 9, 1955

The April 1957 issue of The Automobilist, an American motoring magazine, gave visitors advice on driving around Jamaica:
 'Descending Mt. Diablo, the road narrows to just barely two-car width and enters Fern Gully where bamboo trees and giant ferns meet overhead turning bright daylight to dusk and where sunlight never shines.
"As you reach Ocho Rios, you'll look back at the mountains, the thick bottle-green jungle growth and the twisting, tortured roadway and wonder how you did it. But you did . . . and safely too . . .'
 However, there was at least one discordant note; a letter in the Gleaner in January 1955 expressed bitter dismay at the spread of garish bill-boards along the North Coast roads, and, final insult, at each end of Fern Gully!
 . . .  and there were some thoughts of the future
                                   Daily Gleaner, June 20, 1958
         Daily Gleaner, May 22, 1959
 and perhaps copies of Fern Gully too . . .
  Daily Gleaner, June 30, 1958

Garden of Ferns

THE EDITOR, Sir:- A recent news article in your paper mentioned the intention of the Hope Garden authorities to plant clumps of trees on the slight rise of land between the

lake and the foot of the hills behind the Gardens.

Leading up into the hills from this slight escarpment are two or three wooded valleys and I have often thought that with the necessary shade and a good water supply, these

valleys could be made into beautiful ferneries, comparing more than favourably with Fern Gully in its present condition. I have seen within seven miles of King Street a

beautiful little glade of ferns that to me was just as lovely as Fern Gully.

Some years ago in your columns I read of a naturalist visiting Jamaica to do research on ferns who said that Jamaica had more different varieties of ferns than anywhere else

in the world and I think it would be a fitting memorial to the late Mr. Downes and his

wife's work for us, which we take advantage of, whenever we visit the beautiful Hope

Gardens if the authorities would consider starting a garden of ferns in one of these

valleys with funds provided by public subscription.

I am, etc .


18 South Avenue,

Half Way Tree,

June 24, 1958

'the marvellous ancient humus fragrance'

Daily Gleaner, September 29, 1959
Susan Lewis

One of my favourite fragrances is Fern Gully. Driving up through that narrow pass from Ocho Rios to Colgate, I open wide all the windows of my car to let in the moist cool humus smelling air,
hoping it will remain in the car to comfort me as I descend Mount Diablo into the warmer section of the island.

Though it does not stay to the car, the memory of that cool fragrant air carries me until I can get by the sea in Kingston or best of all out at Port Royal, one of the loveliest places in Jamaica. Returning
from Kingston to the North Coast, one of the signals of arrival on my own territory is the cool air that blows in the car after the climb up Diablo's rough side. Then I know it is only a short time until I get a glimpse of my beloved sea on the North.

Down, down through Fern Gully again usually at dusk and the marvellous ancient humus fragrance fills the car again and into the maddening crowd of Ocho Rios at market time; then the slightly fishy but pleasant smell of Ocho Rios Harbour past the dusty docks of bauxite and then the mile upon mile of visual and olfactory feast - the sea.
 Susan Lewis, (1916-91)
- born Susan B Anthony,
- great-niece of the feminist activist of that    name,
- whose mother was Charlotte Sutherland, daughter of A N Sutherland, the original developer of the Moneague Hotel,
- was a remarkable woman in her own right.
She lived in Jamaica from 1954 to 1960, and
was a correspondent for the Gleaner most
of that time.

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