A house that played a seminal role in Jamaica’s musical history was torched in an alleged act of arson on Saturday morning. The house, located in Trench Town, is the family home in which Bob Marley and Bunny Wailer lived while growing up on Second Street.
Some residents believe arson was the cause.
“Is a woman who started the fire. She and the people dem inna the yard have an issue and she just get vex and bun down it,” said a resident, who was unwilling to give her name.
Olivia Grange, minister of culture, gender, entertainment and sport, disclosed that the Government intends to restore the boyhood home of the reggae pioneers.
The house, located on No 19 Second Street in Trench Town, St Andrew, had been declared a Protected Site by the Jamaica National Heritage Trust in 2018. Once restored, the site will reportedly be turned over to the Bunny Wailer Foundation, which will utilise it as a Wailer’s Museum.
Marley and Bunny Wailer, along with Peter Tosh, were founding members of The Wailers.
Grange said that the two-storey house “represents the space in which the creative genius of Jamaican artistes put to music their sorrows, struggles, determination, and messages of love, underpinned by Rastafari philosophy and the reggae beat”.
She added that the Jamaica National Heritage Trust would soon commence an assessment of the damage to the structure towards restoration.
Maxine Stowe, former manager of Bunny Wailer, said that the Second Street, four-apartment structure is the birthplace of the Wailers.
“The birth of the Wailers happened in that yard. Bob Marley lived in that house with his sister, Pearl Livingston, Bunny, and Bunny’s father Thaddeus “Thaddy Shut” Livingston… He had one child with Cedella [Booker, Bob’s mom, who eventually moved to Delaware]. The kids all grew up together,” said Stowe.
The Second Street home played an integral role in the Wailers’ back story.
“Peter [Tosh] was Bunny’s gambling partner and Bunny saw Tosh tuning up the strings of a guitar while they were at a gambling house across the street from his home. Bunny soon realised that Tosh was a natural musician and they left the gambling house and went over to Second Street to meet Bob because the group needed a guitarist. Months afterwards they would rehearse under the guinep tree in the yard for hours. That yard is full of history,” Stowe said.
She also added that Beverley Kelso, a former Wailer, had a friend who lived on the second storey of the house and often visited the home.
“She heard them rehearsing downstairs and that’s how she joined the Wailers in the early years,” Stowe said.
Kelso was a backing vocalist and one of the founding members of The Wailers (between 1963 and 1965). She reportedly sang on 25 tracks by the group; the first, Simmer Down, for Coxsone Dodd in 1963, and the last in late 1965. Kelso emigrated to the United States in 1979. The deaths of Junior Braithwaite in 1999, of Cherry Smith in 2008, and of Bunny Wailer in 2021, have left Kelso as the only surviving founding member of the Wailers.
Marley died in May 1981, while Bunny Wailer passed away in March 2021.