For hawkers in and around Coronation Market in downtown Kingston, handcarts are a popular mode of transportation for goods.
The man of choice for these cars is Robert Nickle, who has made a name for himself in the manufacture of handcarts. The 60-year-old is in Trench Town, banging plywood and configuring nuts and bolts on a steering wheel to make the cart move. Interestingly, Nickle does it with just seven fingers. He lost three figures after stepping into a fight in the 1980s.
“When I used to work in the market with my cart, the war made a gwan here (Trench Town) with Tivoli man dem for four years. I had a man working with me and I took him in a town and I don’t know why he’s going to trouble the young dem from Lizard Town and tie him the man in an onion bag. After he tied the bag with an onion, the young mussi cut his face off. and I tried to take the machete from him. Bridge me and start chopping me to pieces. I raised my hand in the air and he cut me off and I lost three fingers, “Nickle explained He lost two fingers on his right hand and the other on his left hand. Since then, locals call him “Thumpa.” But the injury hasn’t stopped him from earning a living for about 15 years.
Nickle is from St Thomas and was drawn to the market area to sell groceries on the ground. He needed an innovative way to get his products from market trucks to market. He had to use a crate with bags of “crocus”, but it easily tired him. After seeing another peddler with a cart, he got the idea to make them.
“Just take the board, frame, steering and wheels and in half a day you’re done. Handcarting doesn’t take a lot of time. You’re flying to reach a town in no time,” he exclaimed.
Even the sweltering sun couldn’t stop Nickle from finishing two handcarts he was making when the press team caught up with him. Armed with his hammer in his left hand, he drove nails into the plywood with precision. One of his carts costs $ 30,000. Nickle admitted that earning a profit on building wagons depends on the time of year, such as Christmas, when the number of buyers increases. However, he also rents out carts.
As he eagerly awaits the arrival of the Christmas season, he said THE STAR that handcart owners are sometimes victims of extortion and thieves. He said he is obliged to chain his carts or have a special imprint on them as a distinguishing feature.
“I got a license with the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation when they told me to do it and I also have a lot of carts. But I ended up losing some on the foray of the gardens of Tivoli [in 2010] when war has fallen on the market, and they throw one in the fire, ”Nickle added.
He begged young people to get involved in carpentry and spend less time idling or getting caught in illegal activities.
“Me I’m getting old now and I watch and go up and down with a gun and dem sumndeh and me just unnu come and learn how to build a cart so a nu can probably push and sell sack juice in a town . When you get into handcart manufacturing, you can make some money, trust me, ”he said.