WINSTON wows the crowds at Celtic Connections but the 56-year-old also aims to track down his roots and explore the mystery of his Scottish ancestor.
Reggae star Winston McAnuff—-

FOR Jamaican reggae star Winston McAnuff there is a poignancy to being in Scotland – the country which helped enslave some of his ancestors, while being the birthplace of others.

Winston is here to perform but also to examine the mystery of his great grandfather Frederick McAnuff, a Scot who moved to Jamaica, perhaps as a political agitator, an outlaw, a victim of the clearances – or all three.

He said: “I came here to set his spirit free. To say, ‘whoever you were, we brought you back, walk on and be free’.”

Winston’s accent is treacle-rich Jamaican and his manner is sunshine easy.

“Being here is cool, man. It’s awesome, a great vibe.”

The 56-year-old, once known as Electric Dread, is gathering a strong fanbase here after winning a devoted following in France, where he has become the first Jamaican to be nominated for their equivalent of the Grammys, the Victoires de la Musique.

Last night, he performed at Glasgow’s Celtic Connections to a rapturous reception, with Fixi, a French accordion player who is also his collaborator on his latest album, A New Day.

The music is a fusion of European and Caribbean, a flavoursome blend that has produced a seductive concoction.

It carries with it his international perspective, reflected in the mixed heritage that stretches back to Frederick and beyond.

Daily ecordJamaican reggie star Winston McAnuff with his brother John.
Jamaican reggie star Winston McAnuff with his brother John in Glasgow—

It was Frederick who gave him his name and his 77 year-old brother, John, who lives in London, has done what research he can.

The McAnuff dynasty has enjoyed its successes and its misfortunes.

John’s son, Jobi, is a professional footballer who captains Reading and has represented Jamaica at international level. His middle name is Frederick,

Winston’s son, Matthew, had a promising career as a reggae artist but was murdered during an argument in Jamaica in 2012, a tragedy his father is still struggling to come to terms with.

His other son, Kush, has his own reggae band.

John wants to gather what family history he can for his descendants.

Little is known of Frederick because, with low literacy and few written records, most history was passed down to families through word of mouth.

Winston said: “The story came down through our family that Frederick left Scotland in the 1840s because of problems with the law and he was involved in protests against the state. There was talk that they hanged his friends and he left the country for Jamaica.”

The search is critically hampered by the likelihood that Frederick McAnuff is most probably not his real name. There could be many reasons for that.

On the island, the names were not often written. They were often spelled as they sounded, with an added Jamaican twist, so the surname could be McDuff.

McAnuff is not a known Scottish name but it could have been misspelt or Frederick may have changed it because he wanted to be lost.

In the 1840s, there was a second wave of Highland clearances and forced immigration. Some tenants did riot and attack police and perhaps Frederick was one of them. Some Gaelic names were also changed to make it easier to assimilate.

There were also the political uprisings of the Chartists, who had campaigned for the vote.

Winston McAnuff and French accordion player Fixi
Winston McAnuff and French accordion player Fixi

Frederick arrived in Jamaica around 1840, according to the family, and this was just after the abolition of slavery, when agents recruited in Scotland for plantation workers.

Perhaps Frederick simply grabbed the chance to make a new life for himself and get a fresh start.

He settled in a village called Lower Buxton, near Browns Town, and later married Elizabeth Edwards, the black daughter of clergyman, Pastor Edwards.

They had seven children including Alfred, John and Winston’s grandfather, whose son, Melvin, was their father.

In 1907, Alfred married Rachael McFarlane, daughter of William McFarlane, deacon of the village’s first Baptist church and school, who was the freed son of a mixed-race female slave.

William’s father was believed to have been a white Scot and probably a plantation employee.

There was already a strong Scottish contingent in Jamaica that had grown rich on the back of the slave trade.

Professor Tom Devine, author of To the Ends of The Earth: Scotland’s Global Diaspora, said that in 1800 there were 10,000 Scotsmen in Jamaica.

Between 1771 and 1775, Scots owned nearly 45 per cent of all estates valued at more than £1000.

He said: “Those who actually ran the estates, the managers and the overseers, were predominantly Scots.

“In Jamaica, the richest of all the islands, they presided over a pervasive culture of avarice that engendered a regime of unrelenting and pitiless rigour on the slave plantations.

“Untold numbers of black people were, quite literally, worked to death.”

Trinity Mirror SouthernReading star Jobi McAnuff
Reading star Jobi McAnuff—-

Alfred died before John was born and he lost his mother when he was only 10, so it fell to Rachael to look after him.

But Rachael was resentful of Alfred because he’d had an affair and refused to discuss him, or Frederick, in any detail.

Although she was never proud of her Scottish roots, Rachael always wore a head wrap of tartan plaid.

John said: “Families didn’t discuss ancestors much. There was guilt associated with slavery. We were mixed race and had our share of hostility from both black and white. That still exists in Jamaica and it will never go away.”

He remembers his father, Melvin, asking Rachael to show the family a Scottish reel.

John said: “She was angry because she didn’t like to discuss the Scottish connection. My father had to persuade her and she did, eventually, show us – as she must have been shown previously by her parents.”

The brothers now just want to find out what they can and recognise their heritage as part of who they are.

Winston said: “We haven’t come here for Scotland to accept us or refuse us.

“We see the world as a global community with families scattered across the world.

“We know the Scottish connection to the slave trade but we don’t bear grudges or carry any malice.

“We are here because the music has guided us here.

“I have been carrying this Scottish and African blood proudly for all of my life.

“I have the name, it brands me and I am proud of what I am.”