Safety First

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Assailants Of Our Heritage

Two weeks ago we celebrated our 43rd anniversary of independence here in Barbados which meant that most of us either sang or heard the words to our National Anthem at least once around that period.  The chorus of this anthem says:
"We loyal sons and daughters all
Do hereby make it known
These fields and hills beyond recall
Are now our very own
We write our names on history's page
With expectations great,
Strict guardians of our heritage
Firm craftsmen of our fate

For those of us who have watched the systematic destruction of Speightstown in the decades since independence a more accurate rendition of the last couple lines of our anthem would be something more like:

"Assailants of our heritage
Through which we seal our fate"

We would not be too far from the truth given the recent bulldozing of one of the last colonial era two-storey buildings (pictured above) on Church Street in Speightstown.  I was stunned speechless passing this area recently to see this treasure gone and in its place a parking lot created, apparently for the supermarket next door, but currently occupied by a large white tent under which Christmas trinkets were being sold.  Have we gone stark, steering mad here in Barbados?  Other islands in the region also in tourism would do anything to get their hands on a colonial era building such as this that was just destroyed because they know it tells a story - a story that people travel thousands of miles to hear and see.

This latest destruction of our heritage in Speightstown is all the more tragic given the fact that the new government has been making noises about berthing cruise ships again in or near Speightstown.  This building could have been restored and brought back into usefulness both for tourism and local commerce.  This destruction is a travesty.  Whoever signed off on it should be tried for incompetence and stupidity.

This is the same mentality that earlier called for the destruction of the ruins at nearby Farley Hill to create more partying and carnival space (coincidentally, some of the same people employed to polish the image of those destroying the beach in Road View/Mullins).  Two days after we celebrated our 43rd Independence anniversary an article appeared in the Canadian press entitled "Another side of Barbados: Island's less visited northern region has rugged appeal" lauding the charm of Speightstown and the historical treasures in and around the area.  It said in part:

"SPEIGHTSTOWN, Barbados -- The northern part of Barbados is one of its least developed regions, but it's also among the most beautiful.
From quiet Mullins Bay Beach to the dramatic cliffs and crashing waves of North Point, the region is home to the island nation's oldest greathouse and historic Speightstown, with one of its best new museums... The charming streets are lined with 19th century two-storey shops, many with Georgian-style balconies..."

Tourism appeal aside, what does it say about us as a people that we cannot and/or do not recognize the wealth we have in our own heritage?  When are we going to understand and live out the true meaning of being "strict guardians of our heritage?"  It does not mean that old is bad and must be torn down to put up something that looks like a North American city.  Even they, the North Americans" are past the idiocy of tearing down everything to build new.  More often than not these days the old is being kept, even if it is only just the old facade propped up while the new skyscraper or whatever is built behind it.  This building on Church Street which complimented so well the Georgian parish church across the street from it, St. Peter's Church, could and should have been saved.   It is time to stop the lunacy!!!

Alarmingly, this "tweet" appeared on Twitter a few days ago: 

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  1. Disgusted ! Outrage! Shame on them for this murderous onslaught on our heritage how do they answer for this austracity.

  2. Hi! How arew you? My names Bailon and I am from Polland. Yours site is wonderful. Mayby exchange? This is my siote

  3. Interesting comments in the Advocate yesterday about what's disappearing near Speightstown ==>> "The changing face of north west Barbados."