Carry Me Ackee, Go a Linstead Market

If you’re driving via A1 between Ocho Rios and the south side of the island, you could take a quick detour and pass through the town of Linstead, in the parish of Saint Catherine, Jamaica, which was made famous by its bustling fresh produce market and popularized in the Jamaican folk song, Linstead Market.

Jamaica’s most famous and largest produce market is Coronation Market in downtown Kingston. But Linstead developed as a market back in the 19th Century when coffee and pimento wholesalers conducted business here. Farmers from the surrounding rural communities would come to this central spot to sell their produce. It was once one of the most popular markets in the whole island and the town of Linstead grew up around it.

This area is very rural and the farmers’ hardships gave birth to the folk song Linstead Market. “Carry mi ackee go a Linstead Market, not a quattie wut sell, lawd wat a night, not a bite, wat a Satiday night.” Today we sing it in an up-tempo manner without really understanding that this was a sad lament by a mother who couldn’t sell enough at the market to feed her children. This market lady made no money because not even a quattie’s worth of her produce had sold (a quattie was the British penny ha’penny, a small copper coin of very small value) and she was going home empty-handed after selling all Saturday night. This Jamaican folk song would be in the category of the up-tempo Dinki which are designed to cheer someone up and make the best of a bad situation (such as following a death).

While Linstead Market has declined in importance because many Jamaican towns and villages have their own markets today, it still has a reputation as one of the best spots to get fresh farm produce. You can find vendors hawking every type of produce that grows in Jamaica, but nowadays there is a wide variety of other items like herbs, spices, clothing, shoes, soap, etc.

So, go ‘a market in Linstead and, while you’re there, check out the town’s lovely churches. Most have been ravaged over time by several hurricanes and an earthquake but have been repaired or rebuilt. The original Anglican Church was built in the 1600s. The Jericho Baptist Church dates from 1835.