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Jackie Ranston

was born in Lucea, in Hanover parish, Jamaica, the son of James Smith and his common-law-wife, Letitia. Young Jags had an unsettled childhood after his father left home; his mother died, and he developed asthma and a stutter. He was adopted by a female relative and her husband, a tinsmith, who raised him as one of their own.

Smith attended the Lucea Elementary School and, thanks to an anonymous sponsor, entered the exclusive Rusea’s High School after placing fourth in the scholarship examination. There is some uncertainty about the date of his birth, which Smith himself declared as 4 February 1879. A report written by Rusea’s headmaster in December 1890, however, notes: “Smith’s age was wrongly given at his admission. He will be 17 next February.”

In February 1892 Jags entered the civil service after passing the highly competitive civil service examination the first student from Rusea ...