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Knutsford Express Went Above and Beyond For Me

Knutsford Express

I was exhausted when I got home. We had spent a long and exhilarating day driving more than 200 miles to visit heritage sites in St. Catherine, Jamaica and all I could think of was crawling into bed and getting some sleep.

I was about to turn off the lights when I remembered that I still hadn’t booked my ticket on the Knutsford Express for my trip to Falmouth the next morning. I logged on quickly and was thrilled to see that a bus was leaving Montego Bay at 7:30 a.m. I could sleep a little longer, I thought, as I completed the purchase.

I was ready before my 7:15 pickup but as I closed the gate to my house, I panicked. The bus was leaving at 7:30, I should be at the station at 7:15. I called Eton, my taxi driver.

I’ll be right there, he said. I’m only a few minutes away.

Eton drove like a bat out of hell, collapsing the trip to less than 10 minutes. Thankfully, of seven traffic lights only one was red.

Knutsford Express

Andre Johnson

Walking up to the Knutsford Express counter at 7:25, I told the agent that I had a ticket for the 7:30 bus to Falmouth.

“There isn’t a 7:30 bus to Falmouth,” she said. “The bus left at 7:00 a.m. and there isn’t another one till 9.”

“But I have a ticket,” I protested.

She peered at her computer screen and said to no one in particular, “The computer messed up,” picked up a phone and walked away from the counter.

On any other day, the 9:00 would have been fine. But this was the first day of a three-day historic preservation seminar I helped Falmouth Heritage Renewal to organize. I couldn’t afford to be late.

I pulled out my phone and punched in Eton’s number.

“Yes, Miss,” he said.

By the time I put my phone back in my bag, the agent returned.

“The Negril driver will take you to Falmouth,” she said.

I was stunned. The least I expected was that they’d give me a complimentary ticket but to take me to Falmouth? Wow, that was going above and beyond.

Before I could cancel my taxi, a tall young man with an engaging smile approached.

“Are you the person going to Falmouth?”

He led the way to his bus, a regular 40- or 50-seater. I couldn’t believe my luck. Actually, this was more than luck. This was a gift straight from the gods. How else to explain a bus that materialized right when I needed it?

I took one of the seats directly behind the driver’s and we pulled out of the station.

The first thing I asked was his name. Andre Johnson. Laughing, he added that both his names are common in Jamaica.

I told Andre my story and thanked him for agreeing to drive me to Falmouth. He said he had just come in from Negril and was about to leave when Keisha, the agent I spoke with, told him what happened. I felt even more grateful. The timing was pure serendipity.

I’ve been taking Knutsford Express to Kingston for at least five years and have always been impressed by their reliable and on-time service, friendly and efficient staff, comfortable and clean buses, even the chilled complimentary bottle of water they provide each passenger.

Now, thanks to Andre and Keisha, Knutsford’s stock has increased several fold in my book.

Andre, a 28 year old (he was impressed when I guess his age correctly) father of an adorable little girl and another child on the way, told me he’s been working with Knutsford Express for about nine months. Prior to joining the Knutsford team, he had also worked as a mechanic for a transport company.

Many of the Knutsford’s drivers, he added, are experienced auto mechanics so they know when something is wrong and can tell the company’s mechanics exactly what and where the problem is. Hearing that made me feel more confident in the company.

As we pulled into Falmouth, I asked Andre if I could take his photo for a post I planned to write about my Knutsford experience. He adjusted his tie and struck a pose.

I was smiling all day as I told almost everyone I met about my experience. Everyone was surprised at my good luck.

The next day, as I waited for my return trip to MoBay, I shared my story with Alexia, the Knutsford Express agent in Falmouth. She didn’t seem surprised by how Keisha had handled the situation, adding, “the error was ours.”

Fantastic, I though, Knutsford’s agents have the latitude to problem solve.

A lot of us, especially those Jamaicans who’ve lived elsewhere, are quick to bemoan the service we receive from many of the island’s companies. I can’t disagree: the majority of employees could use customer service training and be empowered to resolve issues as they arise.

And many local companies need to realize that bad service drives customers away. Clearly, Knutsford Express understands this and provides consistent, first-rate service. (The other company, in my experience, that also gets it is Flow.)

So I’m taking this opportunity to ‘big up’ Knutsford Express, Andre Johnson, Keisha, Alexia and the entire team for the service they provide. They really do take you from city to city in comfort and style.

The Counting House at Good Hope Plantation

Counting House, Good Hope Great House

Good Hope Great House, with its Counting House, came on my radar about 10 years ago when I was looking for a suitable venue for an event I was planning. Since then, I’ve visited Good Hope several times but for one reason or another, have never been able to see the interior of the Counting House. Finally, a few weeks ago, I got my chance. I was only disappointed because I didn’t get to spend the night there.

The king was in his counting house, counting out his money – Sing a Song of Sixpence

Good Hope Counting House

Good Hope Counting House

I don’t know about you but when I hear Counting House, a line from a certain English nursery rhyme comes to mind. The king in that nursery rhyme could well have been John Tharp, the owner of Good Hope Great House.

Tharp, a shrewd businessman, was the richest and largest landowner in Jamaica.

At the ripe old age of 23, he already owned Good Hope. He bought the estates that adjoined it and expanded his holdings to about 9,000 acres. Tharp also owned a plantation about 50 miles away in Water Works, Westmoreland. At his death, in 1804, his property was valued at over 4.5 million pounds.

Counting House, Good Hope

Backview of the Counting House

Apparently counting money in one’s home was believed to bring bad luck so Tharp had the Counting House built just steps from the main house. Remember, this was the 1700s. Jamaica had no paper money or banks until the 1800s. People like Tharp, had to be their own banks.

As I surveyed the room, I tried to imagine how it might have looked in Tharp’s day. Where did he have his vault?

Counting House, Good Hope Great House

Counting House

Counting House

John Tharp’s office

Was anyone else allowed in his Counting House? If only the walls could talk.

Linking up this week with Travel Photo Thursday, which Nancie at Budget Travel Sandbox organizes. Be sure to head over and check out more photos from locations around the world.

 

Cheeseberries and Wild Raspberries

Holywell Cheeseberries

I’ve been curious about cheeseberries since I saw them last summer at Holywell Recreational Park in Jamaica’s Blue and John Crow Mountains.

Cheeseberries look like orange raspberries and are about the same size but they are sweet, a bit like tangerine. They thrive in higher elevations so you’ll find them growing wild in the Blue Mountain area. As far as I’ve been able to find out, that’s where they’re mostly found.

Cheeseberries

Cheeseberries

Cheeseberries, as well as wild raspberries, are popular snacks with hikers who climb the Blue Mountains or hike any of the trails.

Wild raspberries

Wild raspberries

Cheeseberries and wild raspberries are not native to Jamaica. Interestingly, cheeseberries are listed as one of the world’s worst invasive alien species.

Wild raspberries plant

Wild raspberry plant

Would you try fruits that grow wild?

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Ruins of the Slave Hospital, Good Hope Great House Jamaica

Slave Hospital at Good Hope

When I heard there was a Slave Hospital at Good Hope Plantation in Trelawny, I was eager to see it. At that point, I didn’t know of another plantation that had its own hospital.

Now mostly in ruins, the remains of the 300-bed hospital, which was built around 1798, suggest a large building that was designed in almost the same Georgian style as the others at Good Hope.

Ruins of Slave Hospital Good Hope Plantation

Drawing of the Slave Hospital from cambridgeshire.gov.uk

Good Hope Great House & Plantation, one of Jamaica’s largest, was owned by John Tharp, whose holdings at the time of his death in 1804, were valued at approximately $4 million dollars, including 2,800 enslaved. Next to the hospital, Tharp also established a Free School for children who showed promise. A doctor also lived on the estate.

Tharp, who was born in Hanover, Jamaica, was 23 years old when he purchased Good Hope in 1767 from Thomas Williams. He treated his slaves well, making sure they were clothed, fed and housed.

My negroes have increased and are happy. They kill me with their constant visits and attentions. It gives pleasure, though I am fatigued to death before the day is half gone for I must talk and shake hands with every one of them.

That’s not to say that they were free. They were disposable property that were listed among his livestock with a value next to their names. But it’s his making available basic needs that earned their loyalty and explains why Good Hope remained untouched during revolts that destroyed other plantations. Good Hope continued to prosper even after the abolition of the trade in 1838. The sugar estate on the property remained in operation until 1902.

Only parts of the walls and steps of the Slave Hospital remain. The current owners is use it as an aviary.

Linking up this week with Travel Photo Thursday, which Nancie at Budget Travel Sandbox organizes. Be sure to head over and check out more photos from locations around the world.