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Saint Mary
Jamaica-Saint Mary.png
Location latitude 18°09'N,
longitude 77°03'W
Capital City Port Maria
Major towns Highgate, Oracabessa,
Richmond, Annotto Bay
County Middlesex
Area 610 square kilometres
Rank Jamaica's fifth smallest parish
Population 115,000 in 2009
Commerce Agriculture, Manufacturing, Tourism

Saint Mary is a parish located in the northeast section of Jamaica. With a population of 115,000 [1] it is one of Jamaica's smallest parishes, located in the county of Middlesex. Its chief town and capital is Port Maria, located on the coast. It is also the birthplace of established dancehall reggae artists, such as Capleton, Lady Saw, Ninja Man, Sizzla and Tanya Stephens. Other notable residents of St. Mary parish include bestselling author Colin Simpson, who is the great-great grandson[2] of noted slavery abolitionist James Phillippo, and acclaimed music producer Chris Blackwell who is credited with "discovering" Bob Marley.[3]


There are a few traces of Taíno/Arawak presence in the parish. Saint Mary was also one of the first sections of the island to be occupied by the Spaniards. Puerto Santa Maria, later Port Maria, was the second town the Spaniards built on the island. In 1655, after the English captured Jamaica from the Spanish, the area around the north coast town of Santa Maria became known as St. Mary, with the chief town called Port Maria.

There are indications of strong resistance to slavery in the parish. Tacky's rebellion led by Tacky in 1760 and the existence of the Maroons at Scotts Hall showed that the parish was one of the most active in the fights for freedom. Descendents of the Maroons carried on their struggle after the abolition of slavery and in 1834 they joined with Reverend James Phillippo in his quest to establish one of his Free Villages in St. Mary. Phillippo built the first church in Oracabessa and led a defiant protest against the local landowner’s refusal to sell land to former slaves. The Maroons joined Phillippo in a show of force that led to the landowner’s capitulation and the sale of enough land to build homes for the local population. [4] St. Mary's present size was determined in 1867, when the parish of Metcalfe was merged with St Mary.

One of the largest landowners in Saint Mary at the turn of the 20th Century was Blanche Blackwell, mother of Chris Blackwell. Blanche sold plots of land from Oracabessa to Port Maria to her coterie of friends, including playwright Noel Coward, U.S. Ambassador Ruth Bryan Owen, and James Bond author Ian Fleming. Noel Coward's Firefly Estate is designated as a National Historic site,[5] and overlooks St. Mary harbour. It was once owned by the infamous pirate and one-time governor of Jamaica, Sir Henry Morgan who used it as a lookout,[6] complete with a secret escape tunnel to Port Maria.

In the 1990s, the Island Outpost Corporation developed one of St. Mary's best-known tourist attractions, the James Bond Beach club. James Bond Beach was featured in the James Bond film, Dr. No and the facility includes a concert pavilion as well as a large bar/restaurant.


St. Mary is located at latitude 18°09'N, longitude 77°03'W. It is bordered by Portland in the east, St. Ann in the west, and parts of St. Catherine and St. Andrew in the south.[7]

The parish covers an area of 610 km², making it Jamaica's fifth smallest parish. The terrain is mountainous, rising up to almost 4000 feet at the highest point, but there are no distinctive mountain ranges. The climate is varied, like most parishes on the island. The eastern section of the parish has shale rock and an intricate surface draining pattern, while the western section is limestone with predominantly underground rivers.

There are three main rivers in Saint Mary, the Rio Nuevo, Wag Water River and White River.


The parish has a good variety of agricultural resources. The principal products are bananas, sugar, citrus, pimento, cocoa, coconuts, coffee, vegetables, breadfruit and anatto. Pastoralism is also practised. In recent years, however, agriculture has been on the decline, which may be due to the problems that Jamaican banana export has been facing.

File:Ian Fleming Airport2.JPG
Runway, Ian Fleming International Airport, St. Mary, Jamaica.

St. Mary's parish, had once been listed as one of the poorest in Jamaica, but over the past 10 years there have been substantial improvements in the economy due to the influx of investments in infrastructure, including a new international airport (Ian Fleming International Airport), a new highway, and development of luxury resorts such as Goldeneye and Golden Clouds. The new intercoastal highway constructed in 2005 has benefitted the parish and has brought a significant increase to tourism-related activities.

The parish boasts what is thought by some to be one of the best secondary level schools in the nation, St. Mary High, from which several outstanding people have come. They occupy several reputable positions in varying sectors both at home and overseas.

Essential services includes banking and postal services. There are hospitals located in Port Maria and Oracabessa, as well as public health clinics in Highgate, Annotto Bay and Boscobel.


Tourism has become an increasingly important source of income for parishners of St. Mary. Some of the most well known resorts in St. Mary include Goldeneye and Golden Clouds. Ian Fleming International Airport provides private jet service for these luxurious properties as well as emergency airlift and general passenger service.[8] Two of the most popular beaches in St. Mary are James Bond Beach and Reggae Beach.

Prominent people

Prominent people who live or have lived in Saint Mary parish include:


  1. The Statistical Institute of Jamaica
  2. Public Record Office Readers Guide No 11. PRO, Kew, Surrey, 2nd Edition, (2002) pp 116. ISBN 1 903365 38 4
  4. Masters, P., 2006: Missionary triumph over slavery. Wakeman Trust, London. ISBN 1870855531. pp. 15-16
  5. Reference to JNHT designation
  6. History of property
  7. St Mary info

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