Ballad of Sixty Five

“We heard the boom boom boom of the drums and the high, thin voices of the fifes as Deacon Bogle marched down from the north on Morant Bay town. We heard it in the morning that had suddenly become still. The noise of the sea had fallen away from the oncoming drums as if the waves had not been roaring at all.” Vic Reid, Sixty Five

Interpretations of Paul Bogle

The faces of Paul Bogle

Today, October 11, 2012 marks the 145th anniversary of the Morant Bay Rebellion when Paul Bogle and the people of Stony Gut rose up against injustice. It is his spirit, as it is the spirit of Nanny, Tacky and Sam Sharpe, the willingness to rebel, to refuse to die in “an inglorious lot” that has made Jamaica the country that it is, and more importantly, the country that it can become.

In tribute, I invoke the words of Alma Norma’s ‘Sixty Five’

The roads are rocky and the hills are steep,
The macca stretches and the gully’s deep.
The town is far, news travels slow.
And the mountain men have far to go.

Bogle took his cutlass at Stony Gut
And looked at the small heap of food he’d got
And he shook his head, and his thoughts were sad,
‘You can wuk like a mule but de crop still bad.’

Bogle got his men and he led them down
Over the hills to Spanish Town,
They chopped their way and they made a track
To the Governor’s house. But he sent them back.

As they trudged back home to Stony Gut
Paul’s spirit sank with each bush he cut,
For the thought of the hungry St Thomas men
Who were waiting for the message he’d bring to them.

They couldn’t believe that he would fail
And their anger rose when they heard his tale.
Then they told Paul Bogle of Morant Bay
And the poor man fined there yesterday.

Then Bogle thundered, ‘This thing is wrong.
They think we weak, but we hill en strong.
Rouse up yourself. We’ll march all night
To the Vestry house, and we’ll claim our right.’

The Monday morning was tropic clear
As the men from Stony Gut drew near,
Clenching their sticks in their farmer’s hand
To claim their rights in their native land.

Oh many mourned and many were dead
That day when the vestry flames rose red.
There was chopping and shooting and when it done
Paul Bogle and the men knew they had to run.

They ran for the bush were they hoped to hide
But the soldiers poured in from Kingston side.
They took their prisoners to Morant Bay
Where they hanged them high in the early day.

Paul Bogle died but his spirit talks
Anywhere in Jamaica that freedom walks,
Where brave men gather and courage thrills
As it did in those days in St Thomas hills.

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