In 1664, the Spanish relinquished control of Jamaica to the British and Sir Thomas Modyford divided this fair isle into seven administrative units known as parishes. These were located mainly in the mid to south-eastern end of the island: Clarendon, St John’s, St Andrew’s, St Katherine’s, Port Royal, St David’s and St Thomas in the East. As we know, Jamaica has undergone several parish evolutions since then, leaving us with the 14 we know today.
Yesterday, we shared some quick facts about the parishes of St Ann, St Mary and St Catherine as part of Parish Pride month. Today, let’s revisit those parishes to find out how they got their names.
St Catherine was named after Charles II’s queen, Katherine, and it was once spelled as such. A parish named St Catherine (some records say St Katherine’s) has been noted on Jamaican maps since 1655, even though it was not the same shape or size we recognize today. Charles II and Katherine, whose name was also spelled Catherine, reigned from 1649 and 1662, respectively. She was born Catarina Henriqueta de Braganza to Juan ‘The Fortunate’, Duke of Braganza and his wife Luiza Maria.
St Mary may have been named after the Spanish port Santa Maria, although Modyford’s daughter was called Mary and when the parish was first formed, it was next to the parish of St George which was named after her husband, George Nedham.
St Ann is the translation from Santa Ana, given during the names of Spanish rule. The parish’s English name came from Anne Hyde, first wife of James II. Hyde, known colloquially as ‘the commoner who became a duchess,’ spent her childhood at the court of Princess Mary of Orange in Breda. She secretly married James II, the brother of Charles II in 1660. Their marriage was frowned upon by society, and James had a succession of mistresses which greatly distressed his wife. Nevertheless, they had eight children, two of whom – Mary and Anne – later became queens of Britain. Anne herself died of cancer many years before James’s accession to the throne.
Some information from Pieces of the Past by Rebecca Tortello.