PM gives history lesson on names of places in SVG
While persons complain about the South Leeward Highway being renamed the Nelson Mandela Highway, several streets, villages and other landmarks still carry the names of former slave owners and colonial masters.
That fact was revealed by Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves while speaking to persons on Emancipation Day, August 1, at the ceremony held to rename the Rabacca National Park the Chatoyer National Park (after National Hero, Paramount Chief Joseph Chatoyer).
The prime minister, in presenting a history lesson, said that he was not advocating for name changes, but noted that it is important that persons are aware of their history.
He said that Higginson Street in Kingstown was named after a British lieutenant governor who came here in 1764.
“So, when you walk on the road Higginson Street, you walking on the road in town with a man who came here and thief your land,” said the PM, noting that he is not saying that persons must discard “the sign”, but they must be conscious about their history.
He said that any name change must be called for by the people, as we are an independent country.
“I just name a place the other day Mandela and some backward people wah cut off me neck,” said the PM.
Going further, Gonsalves said that Mt Bentick in Georgetown was named after two governors, William Bentick and Henry William Bentick.
“One was here between 1800 and 1802 and then one came after 1802, around till 1806, but all that time is when they driving the Garifuna and the Kalinago on the 238 acres,” commented Gonsalves in reference to the lands being taken from the indigenous people.
“I ain’t saying change the name from Mt. Bentick, but I just want you to know when you there in Mt. Bentick, where you think the name Bentick come from? You think the Bentick come from Africa? You think the name Bentick come from Garifuna? No, Bentick come from the name of a colonial governor,” stressed Gonsalves.
Giving another example, the PM said that Murray Village and Murray Road were named after Charles Gideon Murray, an administrator who was here at the turn of the 20th century and is the person responsible for the banning of the Spiritual Baptists.
The PM said that Murray was riding a horse one Sunday morning while the Spiritual Baptists were praying and singing, and the noise startled the horse.
“…and the horse heard and threw down Murray, so he banned them between 1912 to 1953, and the same law which Murray passed under the colonial government, the British, where they tell us justice is so good, that man passed a law that after that, Spiritual Baptists were jailed for praising the Lord,” said Dr Gonsalves.
He said that Murray later went back to England and won a political seat in Scotland, but he was one of the most backward representatives in the parliament, as he opposed the increased autonomy granted under the Government of India Act 1935, and was also a severe critic of the Labour Government that came to power in 1945.
According to the PM, Young Island was also named after slave master and colonialist, Sir William Young.
Young was a British politician and sugar plantation owner and served as President of the Commission for the Sale of Lands in the Ceded Islands.
“…in 1763, when the British came, and they decided in 1764 that all the land belonged to them, they name Young as the president of the land commissioners to sell the land to foreigners, British people,” said the PM who noted that Young set up fortification at Fort Young and took estates for himself, not only here, but in Tobago and Dominica.
“When he died, he owned 896 slaves and any time I take the boat and go to Young Island and I put me foot on it, I remember that the men who we have that island named after, that he had 896 slaves when he died,” said Gonsalves, adding that Young left Dominica in 1772 to come to St. Vincent to help fight Chatoyer.
“I am not saying to change Young Island name, I just want you to understand…,” stressed Gonsalves.