Thursday, 29 March 2007

Port Royal Families -- The Smedmores

My mother's family on both sides were from Port Royal, Jamaica, a small, sleepy little town now, whose main attraction is Morgan's Harbour Hotel and Marina, named after the notorious Sir Henry Morgan, former buccaneer and Governor of Jamaica. Port Royal flourished as a pirate haven in the 17th century, gaining the label as "the wickedest city in the world", all of which came to an end with the devastating earthquake of 1692 when more than half the city sank beneath the sea. Port Royal, however, became important to the British as a naval base during the 18th and 19th centuries, particularly during the Napoleonic Wars. Horatio Nelson himself spent time there, at Fort Charles, Port Royal, now known as Nelson's Quarterdeck, and a marble tablet on the wall commemorates this:
"In this place dwelt Horatio Nelson. You who tread his footprints remember his glory"
By 1905 the dockyard was closed and Port Royal became even less important. Many of the inhabitants whose work had been with H. M. Dockyard left and removed to Kingston.

The above photograph, from a postcard, is of the Garrison at Port Royal, by the famous French photographer, Adolphe Duperly, who took many photographs in Jamaica.

My grandfather, William Dey Smedmore, was born in Port Royal ... more about that in another post ... and worked as an Admiralty writer at H. M. Dockyard. He married Amanda Brown, whose family also lived in Port Royal. (Amanda's father, Daniel Elias Brown was a shipwright.) William and Amanda had nine children, seven of whom were born in Port Royal: the first three, Sylvia, Victor and Norman, were all born at Sime Street, while the next four, Elma, Owen, Maud (my mother) and Rodney, were born at Fisher's Row. Rodney was born in 1896, and then along came Lucius, the eighth who was born in Kingston at 49 Beeston Street, which remained the family home until the 1950s; Julian the last was also born there. So, sometime between 1896 and 1899 the family moved from Port Royal. By then, of course, my grandfather had retired from his post at the Dockyard. He would have been about 60 years old and, according to family story, did not work again.


patricia said...

Good post! I appreciate that you add the historical backdrop when talking about the family.

Judith said...

This page is the "very model of a modern..." blog -- elegant, well-written, tasteful, beautifully researched and illustrated. Would-be and wannabe bloggers, take note!

Dorothy said...

Thanks, Judith! I'm working up another post, still in Port Royal. I'm hoping to get permission to use a photo from the website of the Jamaican National Heritage Trust ... but if not ...well ...

Ara said...

Beautifully written, eloquent, intelligent, and thoughtful. Thanks for educating at the same time.

Arras Memorial

Arras Memorial

Trooper Victor Dey Smedmore

Trooper Victor Dey Smedmore
My uncle Victor