Old Naval Cemetery, Port Royal

Old Naval Cemetery (Andrew Smith)

If you needed any reminder of the devastating effects of yellow fever in the past, a cursory reading of the headstone inscriptions is enough. Its boundary wall is still largely in place though dilapidated but many of the headstones are of reinforced concrete and are simply crumbling away, the simplest carrying only a number.  We wonder if there exists anywhere a plan of the burials, or are the identities of those buried here now lost?  The most elaborate is a grey marble chest tomb commemorating Commodore Edward White, dated 1882, inside an iron railing – ‘THE death of Commodore Edward White, senior British officer at Jamaica, occurred at Port Royal, August 4, from malignant fever.’  It is a bleak and mournful place.

Tomb of Commodore Edward White, Old Naval Cemetery
(Andrew Smith)

The cemetery contains no war graves and so does not qualify for maintenance by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.  This is a real shame as they make such a beautiful and moving job of looking after those in their care, whereas this one is sadly neglected.

Entrance to Old Naval Cemetery (Andrew Smith)

By the gate a notice says that its previous restoration had been supported by the British High Commission.  The Port Authority intend to include the cemetery on the ‘tourist trail’ from their new floating pier and port – at the old coaling wharves – so there is a chance that it could be restored once again.

The FGSJ has asked the British High Commission for advice.  We have suggested the idea of developing an arboretum around the surviving memorials so that shade and a measure of delight are provided.

Anne M Powers