From Harvey River

Dona Croll reads from Lorna Goodison's portrait of past generations of her unconventional family in Harvey River, Jamaica.



Lorna remembers her remarkable great-grandfathers.

The Englishman William Harvey, who is shunned by his peers for marrying a black Jamaican woman.

Then George Wilson, an Irish sailor who jumps ship and finds himself at home among the wattle-and-daub rum shops and brothels of Jamaica - until he is bewitched by a beautfiful young Creole woman.

Lorna remembers her remarkable great-grandfathers.


Lorna recalls the lives of her mother, Doris, and her four sisters, who dazzle the locals with their finery and genteel manners on their weekly trips into town.

Life in Harvey River is good, until tragedy strikes when Doris' proud elder sister Cleodine finds herself marrying a man she doesn't love and their beloved brother Howard succumbs to the temptations of a pepper-eating redhead who looks like fire itself.


A cricket match brings Lorna's mother and father, Doris and Marcus, together.

After a chaste but whirlwind romance, the newlyweds return to Marcus' hometown, where the marriageable local women all turn out to judge the stranger he chose over them.

They are immediately won over by their beautiful and sophisticated rival, and life for the young couple and their children in those early years is good - until everything is changed by the outbreak of war in 1939.


After losing their business and home, Marcus and Doris make their way to Kingston Town.

Surrounded by boxes of finery from her former existence, Doris prepares for the harsh realities of life in a small apartment.

Working barefoot at her sewing machine, she reinvents herself as the matriarch Mama Goodie, supporting her nine children with her inexhaustible love and strength but always dreaming of the good times back in Harvey River.

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Lorna looks back on her extraordinary childhood in Kingston as the daughter of Mama Goodie, whose bottomless cooking pot and endless words of wisdom sustain the locals.

But times are changing in Jamaica, as the hypnotic chants and drums of the Rastafarians echo over the city and independence for the country finally arrives.