Governor Sir John Peter Grant arrived here in
Last week in history
Sunday, October 01, 2006
Sir John Peter Grant was governor of Jamaica from 1866 to 1874. His
claim to fame (as far as Jamaica is concerned) is that he saw to the
building of much-needed utilities and infrastructure in Jamaica that
today we take for granted. It is now 140 years since Grant arrived
here to succeed Governor Edward John Eyre, who left Jamaica in
Why did Governor Eyre leave in disgrace? He was responsible for the hanging
of the innocent George William Gordon, the guilty Paul Bogle, and the
massacre of over 900 people, following the Morant Bay Rebellion of 1865.
There had been a royal commission of enquiry into the Morant Bay Rebellion
and recommendations were made for improvements in Jamaica.
Sir John Peter Grant was appointed governor of Jamaica in August 1866 to
implement the recommendations of the royal commission of enquiry. Born in
1807 to a Scottish family, Grant was 59 when he arrived in Jamaica.
Although he was getting on in years, he was evidently full of vigour and set
about building the physical infrastructure of Jamaica in a way not seen
Kingston Public Hospital, and the BelleVue Mental Hospital, known then as
the asylum, were built by the decree of Governor Grant. Prior to the building
of parish hospitals, the wealthy were operated on in doctors' surgeries while
the poor literally "took sick and died". This had been a carry-over from the
Please understand that in the previous year, the House of Assembly had
voted to come out of existence in frustration with Governor Eyre. Jamaica
then reverted to Crown Colony Government with a small executive council of
14 persons. This situation obtained until universal adult suffrage was granted
And as a crown colony government, good governors could act swiftly for the
bad, while tyrannical governors could carry out many outrageous abuses. Sir
John Peter Grant was a good governor, although up to now, no monument
has been made for him. Arguably though, his most important contribution
was in the area of water.
The Rio Cobre irrigation scheme is responsible for bringing water to the St
Catherine plains. Although the Mona Dam existed from 1849, most of
Kingston was without piped water until Grant came to Jamaica as Governor.
It is hard to imagine that residents in Kingston had to rely on wells, but that
was indeed the reality. Grant established the Waterworks on Marescaux Road
across from Mico College on the grounds of the National Water Commission one of the outlets where customers pay water bills.
Indeed, there was a stream of water that flowed on the waterfront across
from where GraceKennedy and Company is on Harbour Street. Many upper
and middle class residents who lived in that area at the time got their water
from that source until Governor Grant had a piped water service installed.
Governor Grant also introduced the Fire Brigade Service in Kingston. Please
understand that in those pre-motor vehicle days, the units would have been
horse-drawn water wagons. This happened after a fire at West Street blew to
the east and burnt buildings as far as Duke Street. Please understand that
before the great earthquake of 1907, which literally shook 90 per cent of
Kingston's buildings to the ground, most buildings in Kingston were made of
Governor Grant also started street lighting in Kingston by way of gas lamps.
On Fairbourne Road in Eastern Kingston, beside the police station, which is at
the corner of Windward and Fairbourne Roads, the last of three lamp-stands
that were on the road still exists.
I doubt if this lamp-stand goes back to the time of Governor Grant, because
in his time Springfield was a farm. I am not sure what the National Heritage
Trust is waiting on to have it declared a national monument. The two others
on that road were destroyed sometime in my adult years.
While Governor Grant increased taxation in order to implement projects, his
main source of money came from the disestablishment of the Church of
England or Anglican Church. This meant that the government no longer paid
the salaries and upkeep of the Bishop and priests of the Anglican Church.
Governor Grant introduced the Government Savings Bank, which in later
years would become the Workers Bank before it was sold to other
commercial banks. It is of interest that 60 years ago in 1946, the clerks at
GSB formed a credit union known as GSB clerks credit union until about 10
years ago when the word "clerks" was dropped because the Government
Savings Bank no longer existed.
The GSB Credit Union continues because it opened up its comment bond,
first to civil servants and employees of government statutory bodies and then
to their families. But Sir John Peter Grant implemented the idea of a
government savings bank where people could save money at the post offices
throughout Jamaica. And Governor Grant also reorganised the judiciary.