Francis Kerr-Jarrett was a landowner and sugar manufacturer in Jamaica. He served as Custos Rotulorum of Saint James Parish, Jamaica, from 1933–1965.
Custos rotulorum is Latin for ‘keeper of the rolls. It is a civic post in Jamaica that involves helping to maintain law and order.
The Kerr-Jarrett Family
Francis Moncrieff Kerr-Jarrett was born on 27 August 1885, the son of Herbert Jarrett Kerr III and Henrietta Theresa Helen Whitlock Vidal. Francis was the fifth child of the couple’s eight children. Herbert was Custos of Trelawny Parish Jamaica. His father had also been a Custos in Jamaica.
The Kerr-Jarrett family owned most of the land on which Montego Bay now stands, including the 3,000-acre Barnett Estate, which is one of Jamaica’s oldest sugar plantations and the Bellefield Great House.
Francis Kerr-Jarrett’s working life
Kerr-Jarrett became manager and owner of the Barnett Sugar Estates from 1910 and after service in World War I, he was a member of the Legislative Council of Jamaica between 1919 and 1921. He served as Chairman of the Jamaica Sugar Manufacturers’ Association between 1930 and 1945 and was Custos for St James, Jamaica, between 1933 and 1965. Kerr-Jarrett remains the longest serving Custos of Saint James Parish. He was knighted in 1965 for public services to Jamaica.
Francis Kerr-Jarrett and Marcus Garvey
Francis Kerr-Jarrett was one of the most vocal of the planter class in Jamaica that opposed Marcus Garvey in the twenties and thirties. Along with Herbert George de Lisser, a journalist from another planter family. These colonial operatives opposed Garveyism and the nationalist ideas of Jamaica.
Francis Kerr-Jarrett and Rastafari
In the years preceding independence, Francis Kerr-Jarrett had made numerous appeals to the governor of Jamaica, Hugh Foot, and later Kenneth Blackburne, to clamp down on the growing Rastafari movement.
Kerr-Jarrett was integral to the development of Montego Bay as a tourist resort. The clean-up of the area resulted in the Coral Gardens massacre, which saw Jamaican police and military forces detain Rastafarians throughout Jamaica, killing and torturing many.
Francis Kerr-Jarrett died on 13 December 1968, aged 83. His dream of turning Montego Bay into a tourist attraction was fully realised, and Rastafarians continued to be oppressed for several years.