Jamaican role for Penicuik man continues historical link

Sir Geoff Palmer from Penicuik has been named as the first Honorary Consul for Scotland by the Jamaican Government.
Sir Geoff Palmer from Penicuik has been named as the first Honorary Consul for Scotland by the Jamaican Government.

Jamaican-born scientist Sir Geoff Palmer from Penicuik has been made the first Honorary Consul for Scotland by the Jamaican Government.

Sir Geoff, an honorary freeman of Midlothian and Scotland’s first black professor, told the Advertiser of his pride at taking on this new role.

He said: “I’m delighted, and sort of surprised. It’s a great honour. Not only for me but in terms of the history.

“I have done a lot of work on the history of Penicuik, Scotland and Jamaica. There was a historical link, and me now being appointed to this somehow seems appropriate.

“There has been a link for over 200 years, so for this to now be recognised by the government is important.

“The position will open up better links between Jamaica and Scotland and I’m delighted to have chosen to do that. It’s a great honour. The Jamaican government sees what we Jamaicans are doing in Scotland and has recognised that.

“About 70 per cent of the names in the Jamaican telephone directory are Scottish. There are more Campbells there than here!”

Sir Geoff explained Midlothian’s dark link with Jamaica.

He said: “Some readers might say what’s the links between Jamaica and Midlothian? One example is one of the most famous members of parliament for Midlothian, Henry Dundas. His family came from Arniston. He was the person who actually selected the governor for Jamaica because he was Home Secretary and a powerful politician in the Pitt government.

“He controlled slavery in the West Indies. In the 1790s he sent Lord Balcarres to Jamaica to challenge the Maroons who were rebelling against British slavery rule in Jamaica. Balcarres went as governor and transported the Maroons to Nova Scotia. The Maroons are now regarded as an important part of Jamaican history.

“There is a powerful story to be told. I’m now looking to ensure that this history is told and not forgotten. Scottish people have taken to the truth of history.

“Another important thing is that Henry Dundas is probably more famous for stopping the end of the slave trade for about 15 years. It caused some 630,000 more Africans into slavery.

“So his link is very historically powerful. Midlothian is a central part of this historical change. Henry Dundas must be turning in his grave that the present Freeman of Midlothian is Jamaican!”

Sir Geoff came to Scotland as a student in 1964, aged 24. He left in 1968 but returned to Penicuik in 1977 and has lived here ever since.

As part of his new role Sir Geoff will welcome the Jamaican High Commissioner on January 28 and 29 to visit Heriot-Watt University and Glasgow University, and hopefully Midlothian Council also.

Sir Geoff added: “Again this is a historical visit and we hope that this will continue. There are also quite a few Jamaicans in Scotland and indeed Midlothian. They will meet the High Commissioner

“I think what the Consul does is represent the interests of Jamaica here in terms of telling people what Jamaica has to offer. A lot of Scottish people already go there on holiday. The history has created a lot of interest.

“So my job is to explain and promote this historical link between the two countries. It’s also my job to ensure that relationship can be built on.”