Jamaica Gleaner
Published: Sunday | October 25, 2009
Home : Entertainment
KEEPERS OF THE HERITAGE: Nanny's legacy thrives in Moore Town
Paul H. Williams, Gleaner Writer

Alliah Wright, a student at Moore Town Primary and Junior High School, dancing up a storm.

In his recently published book, The Chieftainess - Glimpses of Grandy Nanny, Colonel Charles Harris, former chief of the Moore Town Maroons, writes, "Death of the chieftainess occurs without mystique as the chieftainess knows when her death is imminent, calls her lieutenants to her residence. Three coffins are interred with but one bearing her remains. They all lie at Bump Grave, the site of the national heroine in Moore Town."

On Monday, October 19, scores of residents and visitors converged upon that site to honour the memory of the Right Excellent Nanny of the Maroons. Dubbed Nanny Day, it was a time of reflection and recollection, but it also was a time to celebrate her victory over the British, and to remind those who might have forgotten the prominent place that Nanny occupies in the annals of our heritage.

Public Defender Earl Witter, who was the keynote speaker at the formal wreath-laying ceremony, said he chose to address the Moore Town Maroons over attending the national honours awards ceremony in St Andrew because "it is recognition of the importance in our history of Queen Nanny of the Maroons that I elected to take up the challenges of the road to come to Nanny Town today." Among other things, he paid tribute to the "indomitable will" of the Maroons who fought the British to maintain their freedom.

Maroon drums

The story board for Nanny's Monument at Moore Town, Portland.

Before and after Witter addressed enthralled patrons, the hills around Moore Town and beyond reverberated with the sounds of Maroon drums. It was a demonstration of deft beating, as the elder drummers from Moore Town and the younger ones from Charles Town showed that Nanny might be long dead, but her posterity was keeping her legacy alive.

Among the keepers of the heritage was master drummer and abeng blower, Isaac Bernard, who was the centre of attention whenever he perfected the art of abeng blowing. The sprinkling of rum on to the drums and into the air was done to appease Nanny's spirit. The group from Charles Town was in its usual element, their singing, dancing and drumming mesmerising the sensibilities of onlookers.

However, it was the precociousness of Alliah Wright, a student at Moore Town Primary and Junior High School that nearly brought the makeshift tent down. Wearing a red turban and adorned with green leaves, she played the role of Nanny in her school's speech and dance presentation. While the heavy rain pelted the tarpaulin, she rocked and twirled spiritedly to the sounds of the drums as her schoolmates sang. Then, she was joined by Tishong Hylton, who was no less able, and together they gave a dazzling display of what is to become of Maroon culture in Moore Town.

From all indication, the memories of Nanny in Moore Town will never fade. Her descendants are making sure the legendary story of her greatness is forever told. Earlier, Kerese Whyte, Portland Farm Queen, laid a wreath at the foot of Nanny's Monument, located on the 'hill bump' overlooking a crystal-clear stream, as a testament of her pre-eminence in the heritage of the people of Moore Town.

Members of the Charles Town Maroons of Portland dance and sing to the beat of Maroon drums last Monday.

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