Hamilton Brown's Brig - the James Ray Ireland VIEW SOURCE

Hamilton Brown Jr.(1776 – 1843) aka Hamilton Browne Esq. was a sugar planter and slave owner in Jamaica, was instrumental in the importing of several hundred labourers and their families from Ireland to Jamaica between 1835 and 1840. 

Born in 1776 in County Antrim, a Presbyterian, he started out humbly as an estate book-keeper and rose to become a large landowner, major planting attorney and Member of Assembly representing St Ann in Jamaica for 22 years.

SLAVE REGISTRY ACT - Mr Hamilton Brown brought in a Bill to repeal the above Act; for, he said, it was an Act, which, when passed in 1816, the whole Island, with one voice, exclaimed against. The House was, however, at that time seduced into the measure by hypocritical promises from home, and they, therefore, passed the Bill as a peace offering. The pledge of Government had however not been kept, and the Assembly were therefore justified in repealing the Bill. The Honourable Member, in the course of his speech, adverted particularly to the hypocritical means resorted to by Mr Wilberforce to get the measure carried in the Colonies, by making the Slave Trade the cloak to cover his real intentions; but he had now shown his cloven foot, and it behoved the House to defeat his iniquitous designs. He hoped the House would remonstrate against the proceedings at home with spirit and firmness; and although the island was a small body, he trusted it would show on this occasion that it possessed a great soul. Several other Members spoke strongly in favour of the repeal of the Bill.  [Royal Jamaica Gazette 16 Nov 1823]

Over the period 1815-1843, Hamilton Brown was recorded as owning the following plantations:

  • Grier Park Estate (1815-1832) 124 slaves 

  • Antrim Estate (1816-1832) 159 slaves

  • Minard Estate (1819-1839) 128 slaves 

  • Colliston (1825-1839) 108 slaves 

He also leased a number of other plantations (Beverly, Little River, Retirement, Runaway Bay and Unity Valley) and was an attorney (agent) to several others including Queenhithe. 


From "Three Months in Jamaica" by Henry Whitely

"The same day I dined at St. Ann's Bay, onboard the vessel I arrived in, in company with several colonists, among whom was Mr Hamilton Brown, representative for the parish of St. Ann, in the Colonial Assembly. Some reference having been made to the Order of Council, I was rather startled to hear that gentlemen swear by his Maker that the Order should sever be adopted in Jamaica; nor would the Planters of Jamaica, he said, permit the interference of the Home Government with their slaves in any shape. A great deal was said by him and others present about the happiness and comfort enjoyed by the slaves, and of the many advantages possessed by them of which the poor in England were destitute. Among other circumstances mentioned in proof of this, Mr Robinson, a wharfinger, stated that a slave in that town had sent out printed cards to invite a party of his negro acquaintances to a supper party. One of these cards was handed to Mr Hamilton Brown, who said he would present it to the Governor as proof of the comfortable condition of the slave population. This, and other circumstances then mentioned, tended to confirm the notions I had brought from England respecting slavery in Jamaica; and, although I was somewhat shocked and staggered by seeing, the same day, the Methodist chapel, at St. Ann s Bay lying in ruins, as it had been destroyed by the whites six months before, by learning that the missionaries were no longer permitted to preach in that parish. I, nevertheless, left the place next morning with my favourable impressions respecting the condition of the slaves not materially abated. These impressions, however, I was sot permitted long to indulge. [Cheltenham Journal - 6 May 1833]


In 1834, Emancipation and apprenticeship started in Jamaica (but enslaved people were not fully free until 1838). During that time a paid slave was called an "apprentice" (i.e. labourer).  It was reported that Hamilton Brown's "apprentices" at his estate at Queenhythe became insubordinate and unruly that summer 

LATEST FROM ST. ANN August 9, 1834


We state, upon authority, that improper conduct has been evinced by the apprentices in some parts St. Ann. The people of Murphy-Hill, the property of Mr James Johnston, and at Queenhithe, an estate under the care of Mr Hamilton Brown, became unruly on Monday, and the same disposition shortly afterwards evinced itself among the negroes at Bog Pen and Home Castle. The special magistrates and troops, immediately on receiving information, proceeded to the disturbed places, and we trust our next accounts will be satisfactory.   The people at Draxhall, near the bay, also became insubordinate, the majority refusing to work without wages. Notwithstanding the remonstrances Captain Conner, the special magistrate, they persisted, and three men were flogged, and some women sent to solitary confinement. The Rhadamanthus went to sea yesterday morning, with two companies of the 37th Regiment, under Colonel McLeod, for the disturbed district, and a company of the 8th will march from this town this evening.   Just as this paper was going press, we are happy to learn that information has been received from Colonel McLeod, who arrived in St Ann's, in the steamer Rhadamanthus, and immediately landed the troops, and that his report is satisfactory, inasmuch apprentices appeared to of more quiet disposition; but Saturday being their own day, they, of course, were not required to work. There was every expectation they would return to their duty on Monday; especially as several of the special justices had arrived, who had been on all the disturbed properties, where they had pointed out the consequences of misconduct, and the punishment that would await them if they did not obey the law, in support of which overwhelming force would be brought against them.

[Dublin Morning Register - 1 October 1834]

Even after the British Abolition of Slavery in 1834, lrish ports continued to embark indentured servants for Jamaica (so that its planters, who had a preference for north-Europeans, could keep up with pre-abolition levels of production).  In fact, 1835 was the year of highest immigration to Jamaica.

  • The first vessel known to have done so is the James Ray – a brig belonging to Mr Hamilton Brown of St Ann, Jamaica.  
  • In December 1835, the brig left Belfast with 121 lrish (men, women and children) from Ballymoney, County Antrim to be located on estates and pens in Hamilton Brown's parish.
  • On one of his estates about 40 of them chased Hamilton Brown and narrowly missed giving him a sound beating. Others absconded, some joining the police, others drinking and refusing work. 
  • In 1836 Brown again despatched his brig to lreland; returning with at least 185 lrish for St. Ann.

Many of Ireland's peasantry (through Jamaican planter sub-agents in Irish ports) had been persuaded to sign up as indentured servants in return for a free passage to Jamaica, the promise of "high wages" and the hope of relieving their miserable condition.  Most were put to work as field unskilled labourers (planting and cutting sugar-cane, preparing coffee fields, and working on the barbeques). Between the harsh treatment meted out by some planters and the "pestilential" tropical climate, the mortality among these newcomers was very high. "Fresh rum and exposure to the sun were most destructive to newcomers" and the Yellow Fever epidemic of 1841 took many more.

He founded Hamilton Town (the largest inland market town in Saint Ann Parish) now Brown's Town, where the following memorial in St Marks Anglican Church Brown's Town still stands today:

'Sacred to the memory of HAMILTON BROWN Esq. Native of the County Antrim, Ireland who departed this life on the 18th Sept 1843 in the 68th year of his age. He was the FOUNDER OF THIS TOWN. Was 22 years one of the Representatives for this parish in the Honorable House of Assembly. His name will long be cherished by a grateful community who for nearly half a century experienced the benefits of his generous and warm heart" [image credit Scooter T]


In 1843 the death notice of Hamilton Browne Esq. Member of the House of Assembly, Jamaica was recorded in the Limerick Chronicle.

In his essay "Reflections of a Jamaican Father" (2018) Donald Harris wrote:

"My roots go back, within my lifetime, to my paternal grandmother Miss Chrishy (née Christiana Brown, descendant of Hamilton Brown who is on record as plantation and slave owner and founder of Brown’s Town) and to my maternal grandmother Miss Iris (née Iris Finegan, farmer and educator, from Aenon Town and Inverness, ancestry unknown to me).  The Harris name comes from my paternal grandfather Joseph Alexander Harris, land-owner and agricultural ‘produce’ exporter (mostly pimento or all-spice), who died in 1939 one year after I was born and is buried in the churchyard of the magnificent Anglican Church which Hamilton Brown built in Brown’s Town (and where, as a child, I learned the catechism, was baptized and confirmed, and served as an acolyte)".

Additional Information
Date of Birth 1st Jan 1776
Date of Death 18th Sep 1843


  •  This is a very interesting read. I hope IrelandXO will expand more on the Jamaica-Ireland connection. My maternal grandmother was born in St.Ann, Jamaica in 1912 and her last name is Riley. I am interested in tracing my roots.


    Wednesday 19th October 2022 02:00AM

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