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Excerpts concerning the Jamaican Railway

January 2, 1894

The extension of the Railway towards Montego Bay is being pushed forward. Indeed work has also commenced and is being simultaneously progressed from that terminus to effect a junction with the line now open beyond Balaclava in St. Elizabeth.

It is however very deeply to be regretted that much contention has arisen between officers of the Government about the Railway construction; and also many cross suits between the Government and the Railway Company as to the interpretation of the contract existing between them. The difference between the Honorable Valentine Bell, Director of Public Works and Mr. Fraser, Surveyor General, and Government Inspector of Railways became so sore that it was referred to the Home Government. The result has never been published but it is generally known that Mr. Bell was completely exonerated from the charges brought against him. Mr. Fraser has not returned from England where he went on leave of absence. But the most serious outcrop of all these disagreements is the distressing Gray Hocking case. The Crown Solicitor has laid such grave charges against the Attorney General, as to his conduct of these Railway legal cases, that a Commission has been appointed by the Home Government to investigate the matter; and for the last two weeks Sir David Chalmers, Chief Justice of British Guiana and Hon. James Macdonald Chief Justice of Nova Scotia have been sitting in Kingston and examining sworn witnesses; to eliminate the facts and truth of the matter. The sittings have been terminated; but the decision has not yet been promulgated, thus still sub judice (judicibus) lis est and we have nothing more, at present, to say about it.

A proposition was put forth by the Hon. Mr. Solomon (member for Clarendon) in his place at the Council, to abandon, or at least to suspend, the Railway extension to Port Antonio, but the Council after ample deliberation, did not endorse the suggestion. The idea has recently been revived in England, through some occult influence, brought to bear upon the British Colonial Office. Vigorous meetings, on the North side, have been held in November and December last, to protest against this stopping of the Railway extension.


February 3, 1894


The nomination of candidates at the Black River Court House created but little interest in the parish as it had already been decided that Mr. J. M. Farquharson would be returned without opposition. The Returning Officer, Mr. Robertson , sat in the Court House from 12 till 1 p.m. on Wednesday and Mr. S. T. Forrest presented two nomination papers as follows:-

James Miller Farquharson, Long Ville, Santa Cruz P.O., St. Elizabeth, proprietor. Among the names were: Messrs. C. D. Leyden, T. P. Leyden, Dr. J. L. Calder, Walter H. Allport, E. T. Forrest, William Hill, John V. Calder, F. B. Bowen, S. T. Forrest, John Sinnet, Thomas Gooden, Rev. A. E. Lewis, A. A. Finlayson, J. J. DaCosta, William Webber, U. C. Hendriks, George E. Levy, S. C. Peynado, R. Daly, J. C. Nolan, William S. Forbes, A. J. Hendriks, A. J. Levy, Ed. A. Allen, John Clark, A. M. Myers, and many others.

Amongst those present in the Court House were: Mr. J. M. Farquharson, ____[torn] Hill, E. T. Forrest, S. T. Forrest, ___ Hendricks, T. B. Bowen, S. Delg___, and others.

At 1 o'clock Mr. Robertson declared Mr. Farquharson duly elected amid cheers from those present.

Hon. J. M. Farquharson said he was very gratified at the way in which he had received his election .......

......In his reply to their {the gentlemen present] address he instanced taxation, education, railway and extended representation.........


[Response by Mr. Farquharson:]

Of course you are all aware that some proposition has been made to give up the extension of the railway to Port Antonio. I have only head so and do not believe it is true. I do not know where such an absurd proposition could have emanated from, but whether it has or not, the thing is so very ridiculous that it could never be carried out. In the last session Mr. Solomon tried it and he was the only man to vote for it. It would never do to let the Railway Company off any part of their agreement unless they were prepared to give back what they had received or taking over the whole line. To let them off any part of the work and take the old railway would be indeed suicidal.

Mr. Forrest: Would you go in for the Syndicate carrying out their contract?

Mr. Farquharson:- Certainly, and how unfair it would be for people at the east end of the island. They are taxed alike for railway purposes and it would be a monstrous proposition. It could never be entertained at all. Well on the railway matter I would like to say first of all something with reference to the misrepresentations that have taken place with regard to the railway. We see it stated day after day that the elected members have made a present to the Railway Company of £520,000. There is not a word of truth in it. The £520,000 is the deferred payment they are going to get. They were to get £8,000 a mile for building the railway, at the end of that time they were then to get the £520,000 of deferred payment to make up the £12,500. But they are not getting £12,400 for it is not costing us that; the bonds are being issued in England and are bringing £105 at this moment.

Mr. Calder:- They were under written at 95.

Mr. Farquharson:-I mean the 4 per cent so that in premium over the £100, we get the benefit and if they realize that the railway will only cost £11,500. I put it to you whether the Government could have undertaken the building of the Railway for that price. The Government estimate for building the railway is something under £14,000 per mile. The Porus extensions cost very near £16,000 on the level road. Can yu suppose that the Government could build this expensive road, through that cockpit country for anything like £14,000? No, the cost would be £18,000 or £20,000. These men talk about taxation and the ruinous nature of the agreement but they seem to forget that if the Government had undertaken it we should have had to pay exactly the same, and it would have been a larger tax because the railway would have cost mote. They seem to lose sight of that altogether. So eager was the demand for railways that we were obliged to bow to the desire of the country. When it was proposed that the Government should build the railway, I at once opposed it and would not sanction it because I knew what the Government estimates were, and I was afraid of them. On looking it up I find that the Porus extension was estimated at £320,000. It was then increased and eventually put down at £463,655 or 37 per cent over the final estimate. Mr. Bell's estimate for building those extensions was something over £14,000. .........[On the earnings on the bonds]......what they are going to be will depend a great deal on the development of the country. At first it will not pay. The old Railway in 1878-79 was giving £457 nett a mile; in 1880-1 it gave £397; in 1881-3 it gave £502 and in 1883-4 £571. It was then sold and I cannot find any returns for the next two years but I find in March 1885 the Porus extension was opened and the nett earnings per mile fell to £213 only. The next year 1887-8 they went to £322 and in 1888-9 to £511. In three years they had more than doubled. The railway was sold in 1889, and I don't know what the nett earnings are now..............

So far as I am concerned, I would most willingly pay extra taxation for the railway, (Here, here) because without it we would never develop the resources of the country. We must also take the indirect advantages into consideration. To us who travel to Kingston, it is an immense boon. It has saved us money out of our pockets again and again. You can go from Balaclava to Kingston for 9s. --cheaper than the English lines.

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