The story of Manjack for me takes me back to my grandmothers stories about my Great Grandfather who was one of Barbados's first photographers.
He had photographed the Mines and so this was one of the many stories that my grandmother shred with me in the many happy hours we spent together
Manjack is bitumen-rich coal found mostly in the Scotland District.
The substance known locally as manjack is better known as asphaltum or pitch glance. It differs from coal in being fusible by heat, and in being soluble in alcohol, turpentine.
This thick black substance was known from the days of the early settlers, who used it like pitch to caulk boats. Later, in the days of boiling – houses on the plantations, it was mixed with bagase as fuel for furnaces to boil the tayches of syrup. In 1895 it was mined in large quantities and exported for use in the manufacture of paint, varnish, asphalt paving and early gramophone records.
Very large quantities of this substance occur in Trinidad and elsewhere, and consequently it is not likely that the Barbadian deposits will ever have much commercial value. It is the basis of black varnishes such as '' Brunswick Black,'' and excellent black varnishes and paints can easily be prepared from it by dissolving it in spirits of turpentine, and adding to the solution a small quantity of linseed oil to reduce its brittleness when dried. It might be used with considerable advantage for making gas, but on account of its fusibility special arrangements would be required in order to carbonize it.
The first manjack mines were opened in January, 1896 on the College Estate. There were also mines at Spring Vale and Bruce Vale in St. Andrew. About thirty-five men and boys and ten women were employed in these mines: the owner was R.H. Emtage. It is surmised that manjack deposits extend under the coral in all parts of the island.
Manjack was available in three grades, ranging in price from $15 to $25 per 2,000 pounds. During the First World War some of it was used as a fuel for trains. Synthetic compounds eventually replaced manjack, hence its decline; the mining of manjack stopped in 1920