Magazine article Geographical

The 'Tom Cringle' Cotton Tree, Jamaica: James Johnston, 1891

Magazine article Geographical

The 'Tom Cringle' Cotton Tree, Jamaica: James Johnston, 1891

Article excerpt

This imposing cotton tree was often said to be the largest on the island of Jamaica. As much as its physical beauty, the stories and myths which surrounded the tree no doubt sparked the curiosity of photographer and British missionary James Johnston.

Several decades earlier, novelist Michael Scott took shelter from the sun under the shade of the tree on what was then the main road between Spanish Town and Kingston. Originally from Glasgow, Scott had travelled to Jamaica to seek his fortune, writing about his experience through the fictional character of Tom Cringle, whose journey to Jamaica was riddled with pitfalls involving piracy, smuggling, slavery and war. His adventures are narrated in Scott's most famous book Tom Cringle's Log, published in 1829 - where he described the tree at length saying it was 'more than 20 foot wide of solid timber and cast a shadow more than a 100 foot long'.

In Jamaica, the indigenous Taino populations used cotton trees to make hammocks and fishing canoes. …

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