trinity - eventide home

A: Trinity – Eventide home

B: Professionals – Massive fire


On may 20th 2011 residents of Torrington Park marched the streets of Kingston in order to raise awareness and call for an end to the political warfare that is still, occasionally, reaping havoc in the nation’s capitol and beyond. The timing of the event wasn’t chosen at random. Only two years before, the so called “Gully versus Gaza” feud had seriously gone out of hand, dividing Kingston once again in territories. This particular battle was different from previous territorial wars only in that the political parties were now replaced by dancehall dons. Politics was never far away, though. Allegiance was still the goal, and the victims were still very much real. As was the terror and fear that accompanied the fighting. The locals of Torrington Park had had more than enough of the violence and the partition of their neighborhoods into enclaves and decided to remind everyone what could happen. A terrible disaster took place on their premises exactly 31 years prior to their demonstration.

In the history book of Jamaica, 1980 – an election year – is documented as the most violent one to date. 844 people lost their lives and a great many more were injured. On may 20th of that year the nation was furthermore shaken by a huge fire that broke out in the Eventide Home. This home for the elderly was founded in 1870 and was specifically built for elderly women, but soon provided shelter for the poor, the crippled and the handicapped too. Both women, men as well as children were welcome. The latter two groups were housed in concrete buildings, whereas the women were located in a wooden compound. It was this selected area that burnt to the ground and left 153 women dead. 144 bodies were found in the ashes, two people later succumbed to their injuries in the hospital, 7 people went missing and were later pronounced dead. Although the origin of the fire is still unknown, many believe it was arson fueled by a political force. The Jamaican National Trust writes on their website that: “there were [..] a number of reports to the police from persons living at the home that gunmen had entered the premises more than once, claiming they had come to kill the staff and inmates for reasons connected with their alleged political affiliations.” They also uncover that the home, or what was left of it anyway, was attacked again some six months after the inferno, leaving two people injured. I’m not sure if the 144 casualties are included in the election year body count, although I’d hazard a guess and say they aren’t, as the political background has never been proved.


eventide burial
The victims of the Eventide Home disaster are buried in a mass grave.
Picture courtesy of Jamaican National Trust


A bad a chapter like this, having taken place in Jamaica, you would naturally expect to see touched upon in a great deal of songs. But that is not the case. Perhaps, and understandably so, the 1980’s elections were so fiery, so fierce and so violent that this particular episode is but one gruesome detail in a big, bloodsoaked tale. And it is, ofcourse. But still, it’s so ghastly and inhumane a story you’d expect more people than Trinity, Yellowman and Barrington Levy to have written a song about it. Perhaps more artists have referred to the topic in their lyrics, I hope so, but these are the only three I know of that included the name of the home in their title.

Trinity’s take is, dare I say it, the least modern sounding of the bunch. Riding a stepping riddim; a style that he is accustomed to; Trinity tells the story about the arson in terms of a critical and a dreadful act, featuring harsh lines like ‘the people a roast, while the wicked a boast.’ An act, also, that brings ‘water from him eye’, but also one, he assures, that will come back to haunt the guilty ones. Jah knows, he states, and the Almighty One will reach a verdict. In the meantime, he asks people to come see what he’s seen and to not forget what has taken place. Thirty odd years later, his plea is honoured by Miss Jamaica 2005, Konshens and a slew of other Jamaican celebrities.

The dub to ‘Eventide Home’, aptly named ‘Massive Fire’ was included on the “Joe Gibbs Productions” album that was released by SoulJazz in 2003. That was actually the first time I heard the track and I was mesmerized by the sirens and high pitched voices that make up a large part of the dub. Not knowing the background of the song at the time, as it wasn’t included in the liner notes, I thought of this song as wacky, goofy and witty. A fun tune. I mean, the sirens sound kind of corny and the high-pitched bawling comes across as whimsical, doesn’t it? Getting in touch with the story, however, I get what the sirens are about and I finally understand that the wailing people resemble the elderly facing the blazing fire. There is really nothing funny about this record. Trinity conveys his message, heartfelt and true, but this disc is an unfortunate example of The Mighty Two lacking in effort. The Eventide disaster deserves a far better chronicle.



Label: Crazy Joe (Ja)
Release date: 1980
Riddim: Eventide
Matrix: DSR 0711 ET / 0712 ET

(originally posted on 04-05-14)


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