The last weeks of 2010 have been remarkably beautiful in Jamaica. The simple, pale blue of the morning sky. Dove-grey clouds like cotton wool piled up on the top of the hills, with the faintest promise of rain. An American Redstart flitting in the shade of the bougainvillea bushes – acid orange and velvety black amongst the sugar-pink flowers. The dark sheen on the leaves of the lignum vitae trees. Big crimson apples on our tree, and we are competing with fruit bats and birds to claim a few.  In the evening, a slender crescent moon rests on its back above our neighbors’ roof.  The raucous call of the Jamaican Woodpecker, in the early morning and at dusk. Shadowy purple sunsets, tree frogs calling as darkness falls.

Our apple tree
We shared our apples with the bats and birds

And yet, this morning the Petchary feels great sadness at the departure of a passionate, humane and kindly soul.  How he would have loved the green glow of this morning’s dawning, and the sharp, ringing call of the Doctor Bird (the Red-Billed Streamertail) at his home in the hills surrounding Kingston.  He had a deep love of the environment.  But his eyes are closed now.


Shiny lignum vitae leaves
The leaves of our lignum vitae tree shining this morning


The Petchary thinks John Maxwell was a new soul.  He will soon be back again, to fill this world with laughter (his delightful chuckle) and humanity (his concern and anger over the plight of the people of Haiti) and charm (his ability to connect with  people, intuitively and with grace and humor).

I am talking about him as a human being, knowing that at different times in his life he has been a newspaper columnist, teacher, political supporter, public servant and for fifty years a journalist – and probably other public roles that I am unaware of.  But the Petchary’s fondest memory is of John as our first choice for Santa in the children’s section of a Kingston bookstore where she worked, years ago. We dressed him in that stifling costume, and he was perfect, smiling and without complaint.

John Maxwell, Jamaican journalist
John Maxwell: A new soul, a kind soul

Until we meet again, John.


Woodpecker July 3 2010
A noisy, brash bird: Our beloved local Jamaican Woodpecker on the light post - a male

Related links:–fearless-warrior–John-Maxwell-

And a little brawta…

5 thoughts on “Beautiful/Sad

  1. Thank you for talking so fondly about my daddy! I can only imagine him as Santa! I do know that he would have loved your beautiful morning and the doctor birds in particular… one of my fondest memories was enjoying the morning birds he fed on his balcony in Stony Hill.

    Was thinking about that this morning and decided to see if any of his photos were online and found you instead. Hard to believe that it’s almost five years he’s been gone.

    – Leah


    1. Dear Leah: I am so glad you found the article – especially you! Yes, he was a wonderful Santa – so patient, with just the right benevolent smile underneath an over-large and stifling beard! I remember him writing about the doctor birds in his yard once. I have written a lot on environmental issues in my blog, and I think his passion for the environment has inspired me and spurred me on. I often wonder how he would react and how he would write his column, in light of what is happening now in Jamaica in that respect (bauxite mining, Goat Islands and so on). I know he would be keeping the pressure on, and some of us have taken up his mantle and are still trying! Overall though, I do remember him as a kind man. Kindness is a very much under-rated quality. Thanks so much for writing… Very best, Emma


  2. John was a journalist for 57 years. He started working in the business in 1952 (four years before I was born), and was active, in one way or another almost till his death.

    I first met John when I was an undergraduate in 1977, when John Hearne (bona memoria) took me to meet him at his (Maxwell’s not Hearne’s) house in Stony Hill. John’s been an immense influence on me since then. My younger son has the middle name Maxwell in John’s honour (which much impressed John when he found out).

    My favourite John story occured when I was covering the 1981 PNP conference at the National Arena. The conference had ended, and I’d gone up on the platform and was talking to John. A man came up to us and addressed John. “Your voice is familiar”, he said, “what’s your name?” Without blinking, John replied “Fragano Ledgister”. I was able to keep a straight face. I don’t know how. The man went off somewhat crestfallen, never having heard of me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lovely! Thanks so much for sharing that memory. I really loved his delicious sense of humor – something not everyone knows about him, but a rare and beautiful quality. He never took himself too seriously…


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