Today is Independence Day in Jamaica – a half-weekend of merriment to celebrate the seismic moment in 1962 when this fabled holiday destination shrugged off the grip of the UK – while remaining part of the Commonwealth and retaining the Queen as its head of state. Confusing? Not at all. Rum cocktails all round.
And you can celebrate too. Here. By reading this range of fascinating facts about a country whose indigenous Taino population once called it “Xaymaca”…
Bob Marley – Kingston has a musical touchstone
If you want to trace the tale of Jamaica’s most famous son – and, for all Usain Bolt’s heroics, the spiritual father of reggae still wears this particular crown – you can find Bob Marley in its capital. The Bob Marley Museum (bobmarleymuseum.com) is set up in the home, at 56 Hope Road, where the writer of No Woman, No Cry and Buffalo Soldier lived in the mid-Seventies. The house was the scene of the infamous failed attempt on Marley’s life on December 3 1976. He played a gig in Kingston a mere two days after the shooting.
You are unlikely to meet Usain Bolt in Sherwood Content. He now lives in Kingston. As does another sporting icon. The West Indies cricket team has been blessed with many fearsome fast bowlers – arguably none better than Courtney Walsh, the Jamaican slayer of batsmen who took 519 Test wickets during his 17-year international career (only the Australian legend Glen McGrath, with 563, is ahead of him in the all-time list fast-bowling list). Walsh retired in 2001, but his presence lingers in his home city, where he owns (and is often seen at) Cuddy’z Sports Bar and Restaurant (cuddyzsportsbar.com). This is an excellent spot for a drink either before or after a match at Sabina Park – Kingston’s 15,600-capacity cricket arena, which is among the sport’s most atmospheric.
Usain Bolt – The Fastest Man on Earth
Although you need a four-wheel-drive – or a sturdy hire car and a sense of adventure – to reach it, Sherwood Content is a crucial stitch in the Jamaican tapestry. It sits 30 miles south-east of Montego Bay in the north-west of the island. The last 10 of those miles, heading south of Falmouth, take you into Trelawny Parish, and the village where Usain Bolt was born on August 21, 1986. In truth, there is little here (yet) to mark it as the place where the greatest ever sprinter and winner of eight Olympic gold medals took his first (surely swift) steps – although Wellesley Bolt, Usain’s dad, still runs the grocery store.
Excerpts from the Telegraph