Skybourne Great House - refreshing throwback hospitality
Should I get the chance to buy Skybourne Great House from its owner, attorney-at-law Clayton Morgan, I would do so without hesitation. But alas, he is not selling, and I can't afford it.
The mountainside in Kempshot on which it perches can be seen way above from the western end of Montego Bay. The communication antennae pointing towards the sky gives an excellent indication of how high up it is.
The climb starts at Granville, but it is gradual until the road gets narrower and steeper. It is so narrow at certain points that some vehicles have to reverse, allowing others to pass. The farther up you go the cleaner the air gets, and the views more enchanting. St James!
I visited recently, and it was such a joy to be in my birth parish again. All my youthful days I have heard of the communities in this region, but I have never been there.
When we got to the turn-off to Skybourne from the main road, I could see huge and secluded properties all around. The story is that Skybourne is part of the former Kempshot Pen, an estate for cattle rearing. It is actually on top of a mountain, not far from the antennae seen from below.
As we travelled down the very narrow path towards the great house, the fantastic view of the valley and parts of St James appeared. I wondered aloud how the first owner found that piece of land, when at the time it was obviously covered with trees and bushes.
The land below sprawls from the Montego Bay coastline all the way to Trelawny. Parts of the Cockpit Country are also visible. We identified many of the communities in St James, including Mount Salem where the massive structure that Cornwall Regional Hospital is stands out.
Johns Hall, where my father used to go do some farming, is nestled in the valley directly below the property. Memories of the scent of Number 11 mangoes that he would take home soared up to my nostrils on the back of a cool mountain breeze, which the massive cut-stone wall around the property could not keep out.
Yet, the wall that make up the house keep the cold air out of 'Anthurium', the name of the great house. The weather can get very cold, thus the very thick walls, and fireplace are also made of stones.
ANOTHER TIME AND SPACE
At the entrance there is a cabinet full of things from the past, a prelude to what I was to behold within. When I stepped into the living room, I felt like I had entered into another time and space; in a time warp I was caught up. Only a few items belong to this age and day. The place smelled like yesterday, ironically not damp and mouldy, just aged.
The board floor, the fireplace, the record player, the furniture, the paintings, the brass chandelier, and the decor welcomed me to the past when people took pride in the things they made. The details are mind-boggling. There is a silver goblet that no longer shines. On the bottom is stamped: 'Patented by JA Stimpson 1854 Extended by seven years'.
The brass cutlery and drinking vessels, wine glasses, chinaware, and enamelled utensils betray the taste and style of the people who resided therein. Morgan and his family lived on the property for 10 years, and it is now used to accommodate short-term guests.
Apart from the spacious great house, there are two other decades-old buildings, 'Heliconia' and 'Begonia', with their own array of things from the past, and modern amenities. 'Fern', built by Morgan, is the much newer accommodation. This two-bathroom unit is farther down the hillside, from which the views are even more mesmerising.
Inside them all cosiness lingers, ready to embrace the next guests into this refreshing throwback hospitality on the top of St James.