Eternal Father bless our land,
Guard us with Thy Mighty Hand,
Keep us free from evil powers,
Be our light through countless hours.
To our Leaders, Great Defender,
Grant true wisdom from above.
Justice, Truth be ours forever,
Jamaica, Land we love.
Jamaica, Jamaica, Jamaica land we love.

Teach us true respect for all,
Stir response to duty's call, strengthen us the weak to cherish,
Give us vision lest we perish.
Knowledge send us Heavenly Father,
Grant true wisdom from above.
Justice, Truth be ours forever,
Jamaica, land we love.
Jamaica, Jamaica, Jamaica land we love.

The competition for the words of the National Anthem of Jamaica was announced in September 1961. The selected lyrics would be published and a separate contest would be held for the music. Nearly one hundred entries for the words were received and it was subsequently announced, on March 17, 1962, that the competition for the words of the National Anthem would close on Saturday March 31, 1962.

A Joint Committee of the Houses of Parliament was responsible for making the final selection. However, members remained divided between two possible choices until July 19, 1962. Former Prime Minister Hon Edward Seaga, who was a member of the committee established by the House of Representatives for the design of the Jamaican flag and the national anthem, shares his personal account of how the National Anthem was created in the article From Colony to Independence. He wrote:

The committee was not inspired by any of the 12 entries sent to it by members of the public who composed songs for the competition to select a national anthem. But two entries stood out, one more so than the other.

Because of the short period of time remaining, it was decided to use a tape recording of the entry selected for playing to members of the House in the lobby of Parliament to get opinions on suitability. The recording was without any accompaniment, which made the rendition very uninspiring. In the chamber of the House, members were vocally upset at the selection. Some wanted an entirely new composition.

Robert Lightbourne, whose beautiful composition had been rearranged and submitted, explained that a new composition was impossible in a few weeks. Other members said the songs presented sounded like hymns. One other, Keble Munn, suggested that it was not essential for an anthem to be composed at this time. Canada, up to that time, had no anthem. It took Wycliffe Martin, another member, to remind the House that if there was a flag, there would have to be an anthem, and we had already selected a flag.

In my contribution to the debate, I bemoaned the rearrangement of the Lightbourne composition, which I had heard him play on the piano at this home several times. I expressed pleasure in "hearing a song which would have made a beautiful national anthem", and expressed concern that "what we have heard tonight is, to my mind, a watered-down version of that very song. Some of the most inspiring passages were omitted, including the climax that would have stirred the mind and heart. The omission of that part has made it something less than the best."

But I went on to urge, "If this is our last chance, then I am prepared to accept what we heard here tonight as our national anthem, because when August 6 comes, I do not intend to stand for any other anthem of this country and I do not intend to stand up for anything called a national song. If people are dissatisfied with this national anthem, then in the future it can be changed, but do not call it a national song and ask people to stand up."

Despite pleadings of the leader of government business in the House, Donald Sangster, to make a decision in the interest of time, members would not agree. The House then adjourned in frustration.

The words for the anthem were submitted by Father Hugh Sherlock. They were a prayerful petition in keeping with the deeply religious nature of the country.

Lightbourne's composition was arranged by bandmaster Warrant Officer John Plant of the Hampshire Regiment, which was stationed in Jamaica at that time. The problem was that the music could not fit with the words.

Mapletoft Poulle, an attorney, who also was a bandleader, was given the music and words to synchronise in a new arrangement. He was not successful, so he used four bars from Lightbourne's composition and created a new melody to fit the words. But he was not able to arrange the composition for rendition by a band. Major Joe Williams, member of the Jamaica Military Band (later bandmaster), was given the assignment and successfully arranged the final version for playing by a band and presented it for submission to the committee.

At some point before the audition in the House, a radio station got a tape of a Ted Wade entry and began playing it on the air as the proposed national anthem. It was arranged for band and choir. Naturally, this gave the rendition great depth and Jamaicans were commenting favourably. However, there was one major problem. Ted Wade was an Englishman, and it was considered inappropriate for the national anthem to be composed by a non-Jamaican.

When the members of the House were invited to hear the two renditions on tape, the Poulle-Lightbourne composition, suitably arranged by Major Williams, was the more appealing. There were only two weeks left for Independence.

Great effort had to be put into teaching an entire nation a new anthem in two weeks. That was my responsibility as part of my portfolio of culture and information. The assignment was given to the government public relations office to blitz radio and other media. This was done with sufficient success to create a lusty performance from spectators on the night when the national flag was raised.

The Jamaican anthem was fully accepted by Jamaicans. It is considered to be one of the distinctively melodious of all anthems, though not a rousing national tribute.

But Poulle felt slighted that he had not been given sufficient credit for the composition, although he had joined Lightbourne's name to the credits. As a result, he kept the original score which his family sent to the British Library. It was a regrettable decision which was never corrected. It is time now to correct the omissions regarding Mapletoft Poulle and to approach the British Library for the return of his original score to the land to which it belongs.

The anthem is the creative work of four persons, the late Rev and Hon Hugh Sherlock, OJ, OBE, the late Hon Robert Lightbourne, OJ, the late Mapletoft Poulle and Mrs Poulle (now Mrs Raymond Lindo).

Code for use of the National Anthem

  1. All persons should stand at attention, (ie, heels together) at the playing of the National Anthem and men should remove their hats.
  2. The first verse of the National Anthem should be played or sung as specifically designated on the arrival of the Governor-General or the Prime Minister.
  3. The National Anthem may be sung or played at public gatherings.
  4. Singing of the National Anthem should form part of the ceremony of raising and lowering of the flag at the beginning and end of term in schools and at Independence celebrations.