Portrait of John Maxwell by Valerie Bloomfield from the website of the National Gallery of Jamaica

John Maxwell certainly knew how to get under people’s skin and rub them the wrong way.  And he was quite right to do so.  Jamaicans of all social classes tend to be completely self-satisfied.  We need irritants like John Maxwell to stir us out of complacency.

Flourishing his pen like a machete, John cut and cleared left, right and centre with his piercing wit and uncompromising opinions. Journalism for John was more than a job.  It was a jab; a prick of conscience.

Indeed, journalism was a priestly calling for John.  He thoroughly enjoyed the moral authority he wielded as he called down judgement on a whole host of miscreants posturing as respectable leaders of state and industry.

‘Miscreant’ is the kind of word John took delight in using.  Not because it was a ‘big’ word and he liked to show off; but simply because it was the absolutely right word for the context.  ‘Depraved’, ‘villainous’ and ‘base’ don’t quite have the same condemnatory ring as ‘miscreant.’

The Oxford English Dictionary claims that the word is archaic – like many of the values John embodied, I suppose.  But archaic or not, John himself knew that journalism is a profession that demands fearless integrity of its practitioners.

Feckless (yes, ‘e’ not ‘u’) ‘journalists’ – as much as politicians – who only cared about self-aggrandisement were often the butt of John’s ridicule.

Maxwell could smell political corruption at a great distance and took pleasure in “calling a spade a bloody shovel.” We will all miss John Maxwell’s relentless digging up of our ‘folly’ ground.


Photo of John Maxwell from the Go-Jamaica web site

John Maxwell did wel an nuo ou fi provuok wi.  Im rob kou iiich pan wi, an fuos wi fi sidong iina ans nes.  An im did rait fi dwiit. Jamieka piipl, di huol a wi – hai, migl an luo, wi fiil se notn no rang wid wi.  An wi no waan nobadi kom tel wi we fi du. A it mek we du niid piipl laka John fi shiek wi op.

John tek op im pen an gwaan laik se a wan mashet.  An im kot an klier lef, rait an senta.  No maka no juk hat laka John wikid langgwij.  Im no taak wid no waata iina im mout.  Dis nyuuspiepa raitn a no suo-suo wok fi John.  A sinting fi wok op yu kanshens.

It kom iin laik se John a wan Faada.  An it swiit im wen taim im a kaal dong jojment pan di huol hiip a ‘miscreant’ dem we a gwaan laik se dem a nais an diistant smadi iina govament an bizniz an soch di laik.

Yu si ‘miscreant:’ a dem kaina wod John did lov fi brandish.  A no shuo-aaf im a shuo-aaf yu nuo, a yuuz dem de big wod.  Nuo, sa!  A chruu im nuo se dat a di ongl wod fi fit di shituashan. ‘Depraved’, ‘villainous’ an ‘base’ no soun so trang laka ‘miscreant.’

Di Oxford English Dictionary kliems se dat de wod gaan out a stail – siem laka aal a prinsipl wa John stan fa, mi ges.  Bot weda im uol-fashin ar nat, John did nuo se wen yu a rait fi nyuuspiepa yu ha fi tel di chruut.  Yu kyaan friedi-friedi.

Yu si dem so-kaal ‘jornalis’ huu naa no korij! John wuda kaal dem ‘feckless’! (Yes, ‘e’ no ‘u’).  Siem laka di palitishan dem uu no kier bout notn bot big op dem stietos. John mek a makri a dem.

Maxwell kuda smel koropshan wie dong di ruod.  An it did swiit im fi ‘call a spade a bloody shovel.’ John Maxwell neva stap dig op wi ‘fali’ grong.  Di huol a wi a go mis im.



  1. Miss Him Already – I wondered about him early this year when he spoke to Ronnie Thwaites from the USA about some Ilness he had gone there to seek treatment for.

    Immortalising this on the web.

    ” An it did swiit im fi ‘call a spade a bloody shovel.’ John Maxwell neva stap dig op wi ‘fali’ grong. Di huol a wi a go mis im. ”

    Those damn spades are indeed bloody shovels on steroids…

  2. It luk laik se Misa Maxwell a wehn bfuo fimi taim, bot sins im ded mi kom kraas sohn sitn we im rait an im luk laik di kaina smadi mi kuda sidong av gud kanvasieshan wid. Mi aaks mi mada bout im tu, an di fos ting shi menshan a di ier, an se im fiesti. hehe

    Wi niid muo jornalis laik im uu no fried fi taak di tingz dem. Dem diez ya nobadi no wahn admit se dem tink likl difrent. Dat tuu dienjaros. It eva iizia fi jos fala di kroud.

  3. Pingback: 2010 in review « Jamaica Woman Tongue

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