1941 – The Racetrack

The story so far.

Some of the Hodgson’s and Mair’s had emigrated to America. Ida Mae wanted the rest of her siblings to join her in America. World War 2 was ongoing. Mass Teddy’s sister Emmy had been deceased for a month.

The story continues….

It was May 1941. My grandfather Edward Aubrey Hodgson, was known as Aubrey. I have no photographs of my dads father but I have been told that he was a stocky, thin-faced man. His sister Ida Mae, called him “the sensible brother”

She used to write to him asking him to come and live with her in America. She adored him and kept a picture of him in a prominent place in the hallway of her New York home. She told her children that he was kind and gentle.

Aubrey was an excellent cricketer, “a good batsman and fast bowler.” He played the guitar too. He was close to his younger brother Cecil and taught him how to play also. Just like his brother, Cecil was also an excellent cricket player.

Aubrey had five children with his partner Goldie Mae Deer, my grandmother. She was known as Miss Gold or Granny Gold.

Goldie Mae Deer c1950

Aubrey was a shopkeeper at his late grandmothers shop at Belle Vue, Saint Elizabeth. The shop was less than a mile away from Southfield. Grannie Gracie owned and ran the shop for about 50 years from at least 1890 until her death in 1837. While she was alive it was known as Gracie Mack’s Market, Belle Vue, Crossroads.

My father lived there, he had a bed at the back of the shop. Telephone conversation, 3rd December 2004 with Cissy Powell née Hodgson, daughter of Aubrey and Miss Gold

Originally having a thatched or cedar wood roof, the shop suffered severe storm damage in the 1930’s and had it’s roof blown off sometime before her death. Her daughter Mabel had the roof repaired with corrugated iron.

The late Gracie Mack’s Market, Belle Vue, Crossroads. 2004
Aubrey ran his late grandmother’s shop. 2004
Less than a mile from Southfield Village. 2004

You are all probably aware by now that the Hodgson’s lived at a place called Southfield Pen in Saint Elizabeth, Jamaica. You may be wondering what exactly a Pen was. A Pen was in fact a farm that raised and sold cattle and livestock. That is what the Hodgson’s did, they bred and sold animals.

Every pen (or farm) had on it’s land, a family home for the owner of the estate. This homestead was usually encircled by stone walling to keep it separated from the farmland and other buildings on the estate and was generally called the Great House.

This term was really more suited to the super huge sugar plantation houses such as Rose Hall Great House in Montego Bay. Although a great house on a pen farm was a sign of great wealth and status, it was considerably much smaller than a great house on a sugar estate and therefore produced a much smaller income.

Rose Hall Great House, Montego Bay. 2004

The Hodgson’s were raised at Southfield Great House on the Southfield Pen Estate. If you look in the sidebar gallery at the photograph of Southfield Pen great house, it looks too small to have been even considered a great house. But the house structure and estate have dramatically changed over the centuries. It once used to be a magnificent residence.

It appears that the original 18th century home may have been a much larger two storey house, that was rebuilt after a hurricane or storm damage. This was long before Mass Teddy and Mabel lived there.

The barren virgin lands on which Southfield Pen Estate was to be built was originally granted by land patent to Mass Teddy’s British ancestors. It was originally 308 acres in size but by the time Mass Teddy had become the owner, it had decreased in size maybe to about 100 acres due to some of the land being sold or passed over to other family members.

Mass Teddy’s land was sectioned off into various fields that contained a range of different animals to supply their food source. Pigs, chickens, cows, goats etc.

The Hodgson’s were self sufficient people, they didn’t buy anything. Poultry, coffee trees, fruit trees, pimento, etc. They family wanted for nothing. In fact children used to go up the hill to the Hodgson’s asking for their left over plums and other fruit. Mass Teddy would kindly oblige.

The Hodgson’s were one of the most prominent families in Southfield. Everyone knew them. In fact the village of Southfield originally took it’s name from Southfield Pen many centuries before the Hodgson’s even lived there. Southfield Pen existed before the village was built.

The most favourite animal that the Hodgson family owned were horses. The Hodgson’s were horsemen. From a young age Mass Teddy taught his boys to ride them. They were skilled riders who could ride them bareback without a saddle.

The children of Teddy and Mabel became skilled horse racing Jockey’s and would race for money. Even Mass Teddy’s brother in Law Mass Sam bred racehorses. Both families each had a horse and buggy.

Mass Teddy built a racetrack on his Southfield land and would put on riding exhibitions, jumping fences and riding without a saddle. There were regular race meetings in and around Saint Elizabeth and the family would ride or bet on those horses.

The Racetrack

There was a race meeting taking place at a racetrack in Saint Elizabeth. My grandfather Aubrey was keen to attend. There was a horse running that he wanted to place bet on. It was a certainty to win.

Aubrey wanted to place big money on it but was short of cash. He approached his brother Cecil and asked to borrow off him. He was very confident that the horse was going to win. Cecil loaned him the cash. It was a large amount. You can probably guess what happened next – the horse didn’t win.

After the race meeting was over, people dispersed and were walking back home from the event. Aubrey was spotted keeled over leaning over against a tree. Was he distraught about the horse losing or was he perhaps feeling unwell?

2nd May 1941

Aubrey owed Cecil a lot of money, how was he going to pay it all back to his brother. Aubrey went to back to his shop with Miss Gold. Early morning he went to the stores but got sick. A car took him back to his shop. Sometime while he and Miss Gold were sitting up in bed, Aubrey collapsed, fell forward and died.

The family were in shock at his sudden death. How could this have happened to someone just 30 years of age? An autopsy was immediately carried out at the back of his shop at Belle Vue to discover what caused his death.

It was a natural death, nothing suspicious. No inquest was required. Aubrey had died of heart damage. The exact cause was ‘Acute dilation of the heart, resulting from chronic degradation of it’s muscles’.

The back of Aubrey’s shop. 2004

It was said that he also showed signs of sclerosis of his liver. This was probably due to his heavy drinking since the death of his beloved grandmother grannie gracie. Cecil was in attendance at the death in Belle Vue and signed his brother’s death certificate. Cecil was totally devastated, and grieved to the family “Why did he die, it was only money”

Death Certificate of Aubrey Hodgson 1941. Signed by Cecil.

Mass Teddy had now lost a sister and son within a month of each other. My dad and his siblings were left without a father from young ages. Mass Teddy had already begun a family burial plot on his Southfield lands. The first to have been buried there was his infant son, Vernie who died 1909 of a fever and was buried in the plot.

This was to be the Hodgson burial ground for Mass Teddy and all his family, but Aubrey was very close and devoted to his grandmother Grannie Gracie, he loved her so much that it was decided to bury him next to her at the Bent’s family burial ground at Bamboo, Top Hill.

Burial Ground The Bent’s. 2004
Grave of Grannie Gracie. 2004
Aubrey’s Grave. In Loving Memory of Our Dear Son, Father…… Aubrey Hodgson”

Reginald & Dorcas Speid

Aubrey’s Memory was honoured at nearby Oasis Hall, Bull Savannah by his Uncle Inspector Reginald Speid who delivered a eulogy about him, telling the people of his “genial manner and devotion to duty”

Mr Speid was the husband of Mabel’s sister, Dorcas Antoinette Bent, a school teacher of Mayfield School, Southfield. Aubrey and the other Hodgson’s had all attended Mayfield school as youngsters.

Dorcas and Reginald Speid were very strict and wealthy. Aubrey was so close to his mother’s sister and husband that he used to drive Inspector Speids car.

Dorcas and Inspector Speid c1920

My dad was 7, his sister and brothers were very young also when their father died. Dad and his youngest brother went to live with their mother’s family at Top Hill. Valdie, Clinton and Cissy were to be raised at Southfield Pen under the umbrella of their well off grandparents, Mabel and Mass Teddy.

Some of Teddy and Mabel’s children helped to provide the finances for the upkeep of Aubrey’s three children living at Southfield. Cecil provided for the eldest Valdie, Johnnie looked after Clinton and Hortense financially helped to raise Cissy.

“It was a very difficult time for my dad, his brothers and sister growing up in Jamaica without a father. My dad Rennie can’t remember what his dad looked like. He remembers seeing a photograph of him in a draw at Southfield Pen, but it must have got taken or misplaced. Ida Mae’s children have a copy somewhere but cannot find it. I hope it turns up one day”

“Dad told me that he and his youngest brother were raised by their moms mother Esther Roberta Deer, they called her mom. “Valdie, Clinton and Cissy were brought up by the Southfield Hodgson’s”

“It was an emotional experience in 2004 seeing and photographing the shop and graves of Grannie Gracie and my grandfather Aubrey. It was a real lump in throat moment for me”

“Not long after coming back from Southfield, I visited the late Lezlie Leyton Collins, Daddy Barber. He was Granny Gold’s widower. We spoke about Aubrey and he told me that his late wife never got over Aubrey “Miss Gold still loved Aubrey” he said. Robert Roy Hodgson”


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Up next, Pearl Harbor….

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