The recent renaming of Denham Town Primary after former Prime Minister the late Edward Seaga (died 2019) came as no surprise.
Since Seaga’s Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) returned to government in 2016, under the leadership of current Prime Minister Andrew Holness, this administration has been on a relentless campaign to name landmarks after their own. We all know that Jamaica’s highest award – National Hero – is in the pipeline for Seaga if the politicians get their way with this continued drip-drip feed of all good things Seaga.
Since 2016 Holness has renamed a new highway after Seaga and a building at Petrojam.
- In February 2018 at the naming ceremony for Seaga at Petrojam Prime Minister Andrew Holness said to his mentor (Seaga)
“Putting your name on a building is just one way of giving that symbol, but it is such an important thing to do because generations will come and the winds of time will blow away memories of the great things you have done, so we have to leave markers behind for (people) to see and appreciate the value (of your work),”
- At the naming ceremony for Edward Seaga Highway (replaced North-South Highway) in June 2018 Holness said..
“We memorialise his work, his legacy in a physical manifestation, and we inscribe his name on it that it might live on in the minds of those who own the future, that they may be inspired by it and seek to make similar if not greater contributions to building our nation,”
The irony of the highway name change was that Seaga was against its construction in the first place.
The current JLP administration has named places in honour of deceased former colleagues in Dr Ken Baugh (health centre in Point Hill) and Enid Bennett (school in Bog Walk).
In May this year a discussion was held in parliament over the renaming of a road in honour of Clifford Campbell (former Governor General and JLP MP) in the parish of Westmoreland.
Dwayne Vaz from the People’s National Party (PNP) suggested that the road in question should be named after his former colleague and mentor, the late Roger Clarke.
But government minister Everald Warmington stood up in parliament and lambasted his fellow parliamentarians for pushing this constant renaming of public structures after their political friends.
“I don’t support any infrastructure in this country being named after some politician who served here or there. We were not elected to come here to be honoured in that sense”…..Warmington continued “We have the privilege to represent the people of Jamaica,…So, they owe us nothing to name anything after us.”
PNP & JLP – Two of a Kind?
What was striking about Warmington’s statement was that not one MP from either the government side or the opposition PNP benches rose to support his comments.
PNP members have said little about these renaming landmarks because when in power they too have been equally self-serving in naming structures/landmarks after their colleagues.
We saw under the last PNP administration (2011-2016) the renaming of a school in St Elizabeth after their former colleague Roger Clarke (died 2014) and a highway was named after their former leader/Prime Minister P.J. Patterson.
The way both main political parties have abused their authority to carry out such lavish name changes – not to mention the plush ceremonies on the day – is just sheer arrogance.
One of the more outrageous naming exercise came in 2017 when a centre at the controversial Caribbean Maritime University (CMU) was named after the sitting Energy government minister who had responsibilty for the CMU – Andrew Wheatley. The signage in Wheatley’s honour was removed in light of the ongoing Petrojam scandals
Community Stalwarts Deserve Greater Recognition
Jamaicans have witnessed landmarks named after Olympians and musicians but those are so few and far between. The recognition of local community stalwarts with similar accolades have gone largely ignored. In many instances the local icons have done far more for their community than any political figures could ever have done. But it is the latter’s tiny contribution that get exaggerated in media and documented circles.
If you take the town of Old Harbour and its outskirts (MP is Warmington) – where I grew up – the contributions of the likes of Mabel Grandison, Gloria Robinson, Linda Spence, Charles Pryce, Dr James Brown, Oswald Dawkins, Mavis Cohen, Luther Gibbs, Olga Lewis, Carl March, Alrick Mignott, Colin Bradford (Olympian), Judith Spencer-Jarrett, James Dawes and many others that raised the profile of the community.
- The likes of Oswald Dawkins and Charles Pryce played a significant role in the infrastructure development of the community of Old Harbour/Old Harbour Bay and its environs.
- The late Linda Spence (former local librarian) had such a positive impact on the reading culture for young people in the community from the 1950s and was integral to the construction of the then new library back in the late 1970s. It is surprising that the local library was not renamed in her honour.
- Alrick Mignott, local businessman, may go down in the history of Old Harbour as the most generous to set foot in the community.
- Judith Spencer-Jarrett may be a cousin of mine but the way she transformed the fortunes of Davis Primary is worthy of loftier admiration than the naming a computer room in her honour. Not to mention her volunteerism.
The Case for Mabel Grandison
Mrs Mabel Grandison, teacher and former school principal, gave 7 decades to the education of youngsters in the Old Harbour, Marlie Mount & Old Harbour Bay. When Mrs Grandison was appointed principal of Old Harbour Primary in late 1960s she faced objections from some of her male peers because of her gender. Mrs Grandison went on to become the first principal of Marlie Mount Primary in the mid 1970s.
Mrs Grandison teaching career in the Old Harbour Bay and Old Harbour primary schools began in the early 1940s. Despite Mrs Grandison retiring in 1979 she continued to provide extra classes at Marlie Mount Primary right up to the 1990s.
Mrs Grandison has received the Prime Minister’s medal but her name should be landmarked in the community so current and future generations never forget her immense contribution. Why not rename Marlie Mount Primary after Mrs Grandison?
Old Harbour and its immediate outskirts has been crying out for newer primary and high schools since the 1980s as the local population has increased beyond recognition since the last schools were established in the area in the 1970s. Maybe one of those new school coming to the area should be named after Mrs Grandison.
Bruce Golding, former Prime Minister, can vouch for Mrs Grandison’s positive impact on thousands of Jamaicans and his own family. Mrs Grandison is still alive today and is a centenarian.
Politicians – Violent Enablers?
As Warmington said parliamentarians were elected to do their jobs. It is fair to say the violent crime that’s choked Jamaica’s development since the 1970s can be traced right back to both main political parties and their ties to violent gangs that has transcended generations. For that simple reason I was never a fan of politicians having landmarks named in their honour.
[Jamaican journalists and historians have had a habit of exaggerating the careers of politicians. Their writings is more gloss and little on substance or criticism.]
Manley/Seaga – Hero Status
Expect the PNP and JLP to try and agree to a cosy deal that eventually upgrades Seaga and former PM Michael Manley (PNP) to National Hero status just as both political parties did when Alexander Bustamante (JLP) and Norman Manley (PNP) were elevated to Jamaica’s highest gong back in the day.
In light of recent international events over landmarks and statues expect some apolitical Jamaicans to push back hard on such a proposal.
Back in my primary school days at Old Harbour school in the late 1970s, there was this life sized framed photograph of a black man on the wall in the main building.
Being a natural inquisitor even then, I asked the teachers – who was this well groomed man? No one knew; not even my then principal of the school had a clue and she had been a teacher there since the late 1940s. Neither my dad could give me an answer and he was a former student in the 1930s.
40 years later, I came across the same image online whilst doing some research and it turned out that the person in question was one Simeon Cornelius Thompson a former headteacher of Old Harbour Primary (then known as Ludford Trust) and president of the Jamaica Union of Teachers. Thompson died in 1918.
So our community and school had a leading educator in the early 20th century and none of us knew for decades because it was not documented or landmarked prominently for of Old Harbourites to understand and fully appreciate.
Modern Landmark Names Do Matter
For such a young independent nation as Jamaica the landmark names it chooses do matter. If we keep naming landmarks after just the political class and the odd sports star or musician, we erase the memory of those real local heroes whose impact were more significant to the development of their community.
It is time for the profiles of those unsung heroes in the community to be raised to loftier and permanent levels. If we continue to ignore these community giants local history will be lost/doctored for good. It is common knowledge that Jamaica has a dreadful record in recording its history at the local community level.
If Enid Bennett can have a school named in her honour in Bog Walk for prosperity, then so too should Mabel Grandison in Old Harbour or its environs, given her 7 decades of significant contribution to the local education sector.
Mrs Grandison (nee Rainford) was born close to Bog Walk. I have never met her but I have witnessed her positive impact on many others.