The National Anthem

But I went on to urge, “If this is our last chance, then I am prepared to accept what we heard here tonight as our national anthem, because when August 6 comes, I do not intend to stand for any other anthem of this country and I do not intend to stand up for anything called a national song. If people are dissatisfied with this national anthem, then in the future it can be changed, but do not call it a national song and ask people to stand up.”

Despite pleadings of the leader of government business in the House, Donald Sangster, to make a decision in the interest of time, members would not agree. The House then adjourned in frustration.

The words for the anthem were submitted by Father Hugh Sherlock. They were a prayerful petition in keeping with the deeply religious nature of the country.

Lightbourne’s composition was arranged by bandmaster Warrant Officer John Plant of the Hampshire Regiment, which was stationed in Jamaica at that time. The problem was that the music could not fit with the words.

Mapletoft Poulle, an attorney, who also was a bandleader, was given the music and words to synchronise in a new arrangement. He was not successful, so he used four bars from Lightbourne’s composition and created a new melody to fit the words. But he was not able to arrange the composition for rendition by a band. Major Joe Williams, member of the Jamaica Military Band (later bandmaster), was given the assignment and successfully arranged the final version for playing by a band and presented it for submission to the committee.

At some point before the audition in the House, a radio station got a tape of a Ted Wade entry and began playing it on the air as the proposed national anthem. It was arranged for band and choir. Naturally, this gave the rendition great depth and Jamaicans were commenting favourably. However, there was one major problem. Ted Wade was an Englishman, and it was considered inappropriate for the national anthem to be composed by a non-Jamaican.

When the members of the House were invited to hear the two renditions on tape, the Poulle-Lightbourne composition, suitably arranged by Major Williams, was the more appealing. There were only two weeks left for Independence.

Great effort had to be put into teaching an entire nation a new anthem in two weeks. That was my responsibility as part of my portfolio of culture and information. The assignment was given to the government public relations office to blitz radio and other media. This was done with sufficient success to create a lusty performance from spectators on the night when the national flag was raised.

The Jamaican anthem was fully accepted by Jamaicans. It is considered to be one of the distinctively melodious of all anthems, though not a rousing national tribute.

But Poulle felt slighted that he had not been given sufficient credit for the composition, although he had joined Lightbourne’s name to the credits. As a result, he kept the original score which his family sent to the British Library. It was a regrettable decision which was never corrected. It is time now to correct the omissions regarding Mapletoft Poulle and to approach the British Library for the return of his original score to the land to which it belongs.

The anthem is the creative work of four persons, the late Rev and Hon Hugh Sherlock, OJ, OBE, the late Hon Robert Lightbourne, OJ, the late Mapletoft Poulle and Mrs Poulle (now Mrs Raymond Lindo).

Code for use of the National Anthem

  1. All persons should stand at attention, (ie, heels together) at the playing of the National Anthem and men should remove their hats.
  2. The first verse of the National Anthem should be played or sung as specifically designated on the arrival of the Governor-General or the Prime Minister.
  3. The National Anthem may be sung or played at public gatherings.
  4. Singing of the National Anthem should form part of the ceremony of raising and lowering of the flag at the beginning and end of term in schools and at Independence celebrations.