by Randy Bennett
Vice Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson’s reign in National Heroes’ Square is no more.
The 200-year-old statue of the former British colonialist was removed from its perch this evening, leaving an empty limestone structure in its place.
Scores of Barbadians, most of them carrying cell phones and cameras to record the proceedings, turned out to witness the historic event which was celebrated with a cultural presentation.
With Heroes’ Square barricaded, onlookers lined Broad Street and took full advantage of the Wickham Lewis Boardwalk’s elevated view to see a professional team
of architects, engineers and sculptors remove the controversial statue.
There was also a heavy police presence, with some of the officers armed.
Prime Minister Mia Mottley, Attorney General Dale Marshall and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office with responsibility for Culture John King, along with the other members of Cabinet, were also present.
At exactly 4:18 p.m., a crane from Crane and Equipment Limited hoisted Lord Nelson from its resting place for the last two centuries to rapturous applause and screams from the crowd.
Just over an hour later, it was loaded onto the vehicle where it began its journey to its new resting place, the Barbados Museum and Historical Society.
During and after the statue’s removal, there were several performances from the Israel Lovell Foundation, Haynesville Drummers, Pinelands Creative Workshop, as well as an excellent collaboration between The Mighty Gabby and songbird Nikita.
In her address, Prime Minister Mottley promised that the Square would reflect the island’s heroes.
She said consultations would be held regarding how those heroes would be better celebrated.
“While the statue of Vice Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson is an important, historic relic, it is not a relic to be placed in the National Heroes’ Square of a nation that has had to fight for too long to shape its destiny and to forge a positive future for its citizens,” Mottley said, adding that it was unfortunate that it had taken so long for Lord Nelson to be taken down.
She said two commissions – one of which she was a part –, dating back 20 years, had called for its removal.
“We wonder how the injustices that perpetrated and dotted this land for centuries have taken so long to be reversed,” Mottley queried.
Describing this evening as “significant”, the Prime Minister contended that the ability for a country to have its own identity was important. She said this meant sometimes difficult conversations were necessary.
“I ask us today to recognise that this Government has been very clear that national consciousness and identity come
at the core of the nation-state and if we do not know who we are, if we are not clear what we will fight for, then we are doomed to be exploited and to be colonised again – not necessarily in the same way that led to ships coming in but in the way that will allow the mental spaces to be dominated by stories and songs and messages that are not our own and that are not intended to be able to lift up our people to where we need to go in this world today,” Mottley maintained.
She said this was just the beginning of several initiatives aimed at raising national consciousness. She hinted that the Transport Board Terminal in Fairchild Street could be named after renown Spiritual Baptist Leader Granville Williams.
Mottley said Golden Square would also be properly maintained.
She also used the opportunity to reassure Barbadians that the move by her Government to make Barbados a republic was the right one.
The Prime Minister said the time had come for a President of Barbados who would be a Barbadian.
“The time has come for us to take care of our house without disrespecting anyone else’s house,” she stated.