Broomfield Scouts discover rare Jamaican book in their Book Sale

Posted on 31 May 2018

Every February for the past 30 years the 1st Broomfield Scout Group has held a fundraising book sale. The books are donated and collected throughout the year by local residents. Prior to the sale, volunteers get more than 10,000 books out of storage and sorted into categories in the scout headquarters.

One of the book sale organisers, Sue Cole, is always on the lookout for old, interesting and what she calls “quirky” books such as first editions or books signed by the author. So when she found a 1944 book by Louise Bennett written in patois (Creole) and signed by the author, this was put to one side for further investigation.

Follow-up research found there were none for sale on the usual book websites. We contacted Macmaster University in Canada who hold an archive of Louise Bennett’s papers, but they didn’t have a copy of the book. However, they suggested we approach the National Library of Jamaica who confirmed it to be a rare, privately printed first edition of Louise’s poems and stories. Even the National Library didn’t have a copy – only a photocopy. Following a dialogue with the library, an arrangement was made that resulted in them acquiring the book. In May, Roger and Sue Cole were invited to the Jamaican High Commission in London where they presented the book to the High Commissioner, His Excellency Mr.Seth Ramocan and the CEO of the National Library of Jamaica Beverley Lashley.

Sue said… “it turns out that Louise (known as “Miss Lou”), was a highly revered Jamaican poet writing and performing her poems in Patois. She could almost be described as an equivalent to Shakespeare in Jamaica! Who donated the book or how it ended up in our book sale in Broomfield we may never know. But we are delighted that the 1st Broomfield Scout Group has played a part in returning one of Miss Lou’s iconic works back home to Jamaica.”

Roger Cole, 1st Broomfield Scout Group

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