The reason that I was unable to post on Thursday and Friday of last week was I was attending funerals, one on each day.
West Indian funerals are different from English ones. In particular, they are attended by several hundred people, whereas for English funerals there are often no more than a handful of mourners, or at most a few dozen. (Funerals of public figures or particularly well known people are an exception.) For a West Indian funeral, everyone who knew the deceased is expected to attend; and those who did not know him or her personally, but know one or more members of the family, are under an obligation to attend in order to show respect. For funerals in London, special coaches are often laid on to bring mourners from Birmingham or Leicester. Other mourners fly in specially from the United States or the West Indies.
For Friday’s funeral I did not know the deceased, a man in early middle age, but I do know his mother and so was happy to be there in her support.
So now, at last, to phonetics — or rather to spelling and what it implies about pronunciation. Here is an excerpt from a tribute printed on the back cover of the service booklet.
I will never hear you call me Marr again. In non-rhotic English English, Marr is a homophone not only of mar but also of Ma. All three are mɑː. In the context of the following ə in again an r-link is to be expected: if the preceding word were indeed Marr we would call it linking r, but since it is properly Ma we would call it intrusive r. Misspelling Ma as Marr is entirely understandable.
But that is not the end of the story. I do not know who typed up the service sheet, but I surmise that it was someone who grew up in England rather than in Montserrat. Since the deceased’s mother did indeed grow up on the island, I surmise that she herself did not pen the words in question.
The reason is that in Montserratian local pronunciation Ma ‘mother’ is not actually a homophone of Marr and mar (insofar as this name and this word are known on the island). Montserrat English has a rule of Final Shortening. Although long vowels and short vowels are well distinguished, in final position historically long vowels become short. (Details here.) Crucially, however, this rule evidently operated historically before the deletion of final r.
Thus jaw dʒa has a short vowel, but jar dʒaː a long one. Similarly we have snow sno (short) but snore snuo ~ snoː (long), and bay be (short) but beer-bare-bear bia ~ beː (long).
In Jamaican, on the other hand, (i) there is no across-the-board final vowel shortening and (ii) final r is retained.
For someone who grew up on Montserrat it would not make sense to spell Ma as Marr. For a Londoner, it would.