GETTING TO KNOW ST THOMAS
GEOGRAPHY AND DEMOGRAPHY
Saint Thomas is Jamaica’s eastern-most parish, located to the south of the parish of Portland, and the east of the island’s metropolis, Kingston and St. Andrew.
With an area of 742.8 square kilometres (286.8 sq mi), it ranks as Jamaica’s ninth-largest parish. It is very mountainous, with ranges that include the Port Royal Mountains, stretching from above Newcastle in St Andrew, to Albion in St Thomas; the Queensbury Ridge, between the Yallahs and Negro rivers; and to the extreme south, the isolated ridge of Yallahs Hill, with its highest elevation 730 metres (2,394 ft) above sea level. The Blue Mountains form the northern border of the parish. The parish contains large wetlands areas, comprising the coastal area between Morant Bay and Hector’s River. There are also many cliffs and beaches. There are three main rivers in the parish; the Yallahs River, measuring 36.9 kilometres (22.9 mi) long; the Morant River, measuring 21.9 kilometres (13.6 mi) long; and the Plantain Garden River, measuring 34.9 kilometres (21.7 mi) long. The latter is the only eastward flowing river in the island. The total population of the parish is 94,410. The ethnic makeup of Saint Thomas is 88.2% Black, 7.6% Asian, 3.2% White, and 1% Other. “The parish has a relatively youthful population. Approximately 54.7% of the parish’s population was 29 years or younger: children under 0-14 years accounted for 27% of the population, youths of 15 to 29 years accounted for 27.7%. The working-age population (15-64 years) accounted for 64.1%, reflecting the national distribution. The elderly, 65 years and over, accounted for 8.9%; this figure is lower than the national proportion of 11.1% reported by the Economic and Social Survey Jamaica (2010).
Agriculture plays a vital part in the economy of Saint Thomas. Sugar and bananas are the main items produced for export.
Most small farmers produce domestic and orchard crops, which provide the main source of employment. Serge Island Dairies is located in the parish. St. Thomas also has many factories for food processing and electrical equipment. With the implementation of the St. Thomas Tourism Destination Plan, the parish is poised to become a major tourism and commercial hub, catering to a more premium, heritage-based and environmentally-responsible tourism interest.
The coast of St. Thomas is skirted by the A4, which runs from Kingston to Annotto Bay.
The primary secondary road runs east to west along the foot of the Blue Mountains from Golden Grove to Richmond Vale, with north-south connecting roads linking it to the A4 at mile posts such as Pleasant Hill, Port Morant, Morant Bay, Belvedere, Yallahs, Albion and fast-developing area of Twelve Miles, the western gateway to the parish.
Under the South Coastal Highway Improvement Project, significant road improvement works are currently being carried out from Harbour View, St. Andrew through the parish of St. Thomas and connecting to Port Antonio in the parish of Portland.
Rail transport in St. Thomas was formerly limited to estate light railways, such as the one serving the former Bowden banana shipment port. All have ceased operation.
The Morant Point Lighthouse guards the easternmost tip of the parish and the island.
Bath Botanical Gardens - one of the oldest botanical gardens in the western hemisphere. Located in the town of Bath
- Bath Fountain – mineral spring located in the town of Bath
- Blue Mountains – mountain range extending over a portion of St. Thomas parish
- Judgement Cliff – sheer cliff face near Easington created in 1692 by the same earthquake that destroyed Port Royal
- Bob Marley Beach
- Three-Finger Jack
- Morant Bay Fort – fort dating back to 1773
- Stony Gut – site of Paul Bogle’s former chapel, burned during suppression of the rebellion
- Lyssons Beach – public beach located in the town of Lyssons
St. Thomas is home to several secondary institutions of education. Morant Bay High School, established in 1961, was the first of its kind in the parish of St. Thomas.
The parish of St. Thomas houses two political constituencies; Saint Thomas Eastern and Saint Thomas Western.
The heritage-rich parish of St. Thomas is the birthplace of some of the island’s more accomplished sons and daughters:
- Isaac Barrant – Politician
- Winston Blake – Sound system pioneer, music producer, founder of Merritone Music
- Paul Bogle – Baptist preacher, leader of the 1865 Morant Bay Rebellion, Jamaican National Hero
- Hanif Brown – Spelling Bee Champion and Spelling Bee Coach
- Bushman – Reggae artist
- Chronic Law – Reggae artist
- Juliet Cuthbert – Olympic and IAAF World Championships medalist
- Len Garrison – Co-founder of the Black Cultural Archives
- George William Gordon – Businessman and politician, representative to the House of Assembly, associated with the 1865 Morant Bay Rebellion and Jamaican National Hero
- Jermaine Hue – Former Jamaican national football player
- Dionne Jackson-Miller – Lawyer and journalist
- Natty King – Reggae artist
- Robert Lightbourne – Politician
- Morgan Heritage – Reggae band
- Hansle Parchment – Olympic and World Championships medalist
- Popcaan – Reggae artist
- Alvas Powell – National football player
- Tarrus Riley – Reggae artist
- Toni-Ann Singh – Singer and Miss World 2019
- Skillibeng – Reggae artist
- Stein – Reggae artist
- Stevie Face – Reggae artist
- Barrington Watson – Jamaican painter who maintained a residence at Orange Park near Yallahs in St. Thomas.