Last week one of our sub-editors incorrectly identified noted Barbadian, Henry Fraser, as Sir Henry. Luckily, it was spotted before the publication “went live”. It appears that Fraser is in the news so often speaking with passion about matters that should be of interest to all Barbadians that somewhere in the back of the sub-editor’s mind we had already recognised him for his meritorious service to country.
Perhaps she was seeing the future, for today we feel compelled to say, “Thank you Sir Henry! Your remarks in the senate yesterday about how Barbados regards and treats symbols of its heritage were spot on — deserving of the highest honour this country has to offer.”
We have written on this subject before, but we can’t help but repeat that, collectively, we should all hang our heads in shame about the way we let important pieces of our landscape deteriorate to the point of national disgrace.
While we are at it, we also need to say thanks too to Sir Geoffrey Cave for his frank comments about how dirty we keep our country. Listening to his words, it seemed he could not help being charitable to us at this Christmas time by saying while we are dirty, it is not as bad as in some neighbouring countries.
We accept the Christmas charity, but Sir Geoffrey, quite frankly we have turned into a nasty set of people in a dirty country. No amount of comparison will lessen the shame we all ought to feel when we drive the highways of our country; or the absolute horror that should overcome us if we veer off the beaten path to some cart road or gully. It seems that nationally we are allergic to sanitary landfills and cleanliness.
But back to Fraser. The respected architectural historian told his Senate colleagues and the country that we were doing ourselves a gross disservice by our failure to maintain or restore historic properties like Sam Lord’s Castle, referring to five famous heritage tourism sites.
“They are still there, but of course Sam Lord’s Castle is a scandalously desecrated half-destroyed building, which sits there waiting for our judgment of the court case that took place I think nearly two years ago to save Sam Lord’s for restoration,” he said.
“It can of course be restored, just as St. Philip’s church was after fire, St. Peter’s church was after fire, Sunbury Great House was restored, The Pavilion at Hastings was restored, all after fire and Sam Lord’s Castle, built like a fortress is eminently restorable if we could get our decision-makers, who have that decision in their hands, to act on it.”
He then drew reference to “treasures” such as the Empire Theatre, Queen’s Park House, Carnegie Library, the old Supreme Court, Marshall Hall, the Old Eye Hospital, and Old Fire Station, all within “the historic core of Bridgetown itself”, along with Culloden Farm and the former Glendairy Prisons complex, that were all in need of attention.
Have we reached the stage where there is a need for a Government agency specifically charged with the sole responsibility of restoring and maintaining these sites, as well as turning them into the true profit centres that they can become?
It is so easy, even if costly, to build new Baobab and Omni towers, but such can be found all over the world. They represent just another conglomeration of steel, concrete and glass. What we cannot easily duplicate is the history and heritage embodied in Sam Lord’s Castle and the other properties identified by Fraser.
So when will we start to act? There is the argument that restoring these buildings is too expensive; but does it not cost us even more, in so many ways, when they are left abandoned for mother nature to do with them as she pleases?
And what does that say about us as a people?
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.