Once known as the wickedest city on earth, I grew up hearing stories about the sinful city that was full of pirates and gold. Before it became the wicked city it was a tiny fishing outpost for the island’s indigenous Taino people.
The spanish who first captured the island and began settling it in 1509, used the area as a stopover for cleaning their ships. The British soon took over in 1655 and began building a fortress upon realising the strategic position the area was. When completed and stocked, the fort had 500 men, 104 guns. During the 17th century, the port was basically the capital of the island and the infamous buccaneers carried their loot from the Spanish territories to be kept there.The most famous pirate of them all, and the one I grew up hearing stories about was Sir Henry Morgan.
Port Royal was an important economic centre by 1692, but on June 7th a terrible earthquake destroyed most of the city. It was cut off from the main island and a large section of the town sank into the sea. Many people died as a result but many also died from the illnesses and plagues that followed.The town was quickly rebuilt but a fire in 1703, and subsequent hurricanes in 1722 and 1736 saw a mass migration to the capital Kingston.
The port fell under the British naval control until 1905 when the British closed the dockyard. Earthquakes in 1907 destroyed much of port and the army left in the 1950’s.
Today not much is left of Port Royal. It is a small quiet fishing community with great seafood restaurants that my family and I still enjoy going to on Sunday afternoons. There is a guided tour on the city so you can see the historical sites and hear the good pirate stories. I remember going on school trips to Port Royal and my favourite place was the Giddy House. It was built in 1888 and stored artillery for the Victoria Battery. The Earthquake of 1907 shifted it to its present 45 degree angle so when you stand inside you get a “giddy” feeling.
The old hospital,the Fort and St. Peters Church all have interesting stories to discover.
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