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What Is The History Of The National Heroes Park In Jamaica?

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National Heroes Park Jamaica | Image Source: Jamaica GleanerWhat Is The History Of The National Heroes Park In Jamaica?| National Heroes Park Jamaica | Image Source: Jamaica Gleaner

By Venesha Johnson | Associate Writer

Our country, Jamaica, isn't just popular because of its colourful culture and delicious cuisine. Weโ€™re also a nation teeming with history which is evidenced by the various sights across the island dedicated to sharing this history with both locals and visitors.

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Located in our capital city of Kingston, National Heroes Park is a popular spot for both locals and visitors alike.

According to historical records, the property was bought by the Kingston Council in 1818 for ยฃ985 and 10 shillings. It was formerly a part of a land known as Montgomery Pen.

Due to its dominating activity, it was later dubbed the Kingston Race Course. From 1816, when the first race took place, until 1953 when the location was moved to Knutsford Park, it served as the hub for horse racing.

There were also other sports including football and cycling races. The Kingston Race Course was renamed the George VI Memorial Park in 1953 in remembrance of the late King George VI, who was Queen Elizabeth II's father. The park was renamed once more in June 1973 as National Heroes Park.

In the area known as the Shrine, monuments honouring our nation's heroes were erected. Additionally, a segment designated for prime ministers and exceptional patriots exists.

Several Historical Moments took place here, including:

  • The August 2, 1838 Independence Celebration.
  • In 1887 and 1897, respectively, Queen Victoria's Golden and Diamond Jubilees were celebrated here.
  • The Quebec Lodge building hosted the Jamaica National Exhibition from January 27, 1891, to May 2, 1891.
  • To honour the late King George VI, the father of Queen Elizabeth II, the Kingston Race Course was renamed the George VI Memorial Park in 1953. In anticipation of the Queen's first visit to the island, the grounds were ready. 
  • The same year, a War Memorial honouring those who lost their lives in the First World War was brought here from its original site on Church Street. Veterans assemble at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Day, the first Sunday in November, every year to pay tribute to those who lost their lives in World Wars I and II.

Reggae legend, Dennis Brown, poet, folklorist, writer, cultural icon, and educator Louise Bennett-Coverley, track and field great Herb McKenley, and Aggie Bernard, the "heroine" of the 1938 workers' battle, are just a few of the prominent Jamaicans interred in the park. There is also a monument in the park honouring the victims of the 1980 Kingston Eventide Home fire.

Monuments:

  • One of the park's most notable features is the Jamaica War Memorial, a cenotaph remembering the Jamaicans who died in battle during World Wars I and II.

  • Marcus Garvey's remains are housed in one of the park's original monuments. The centrepiece of Garvey's monument is a mausoleum shaped like a black star, one of his most popular symbols. A bust of Garvey, which was placed in the park in 1956 and moved after the monument's completion, is housed behind it behind an angled and peaked wall.

  • Mostyn F. Campbell designed a monument commemorating Donald Sangster following his death in 1967. The monument comprises two opposing curving elements that widen and turn inward at the top compared to the new base. The members' growth represents Sangster's rise from modest beginnings, and their dissolution is intended to allude to the incompleteness of his life's work.

  • In September 1972, a second memorial was built in Norman Manley's honour. Twelve pillars total, with the inner pillars being taller than the outer ones, are placed in two concentric circles around the monument. A horizontal element connects each inner pillar to its matching outer pillar, and a ring connects the inner pillars halfway up.

  • A memorial honouring Sir Alexander Bustamante was finished in October 1979. Finished with local marble, architect Errol Alberga designed an arch that is small at the top and widens at the base above Bustamante's tomb. The arch's base crosses a thirty-foot gap and has seats built into it.

  • On October 14, 1999, two monuments honouring historical personalities were erected. The first of these monuments pays tribute to Nanny of the Maroons and mimics the sound of the abeng, a customary weapon used by the combatants. In recognition of Samuel Sharpe's Baptist religion, the second memorial is shaped like a Greek cross, with its corners left open to symbolize freedom.

  • On March 15, 2002, a monument honouring Michael Manley was dedicated. From the side, the monument looks like an exponential growth graph. Slabs of black Jamaican marble cover its surface; some have phrases by Manley about equality inscribed on them.

  • As a gift from the Cuban people in appreciation for Jamaica's offer of sanctuary, a bust of General Antonio Maceo was added.

  • In addition, 140 elderly women who perished in a fire at the Eventide Home for the Aged Myers Ward in 1980 are buried in the park. The mass grave where the women's bodies were found is marked by a monument.

The National Heroes Park is a celebration and a solemn reminder of our history, heroes, other major contributors to our society and their sacrifices to make the Jamaica we now know a reality. So, if you are looking for an up close and personal history lesson, stop by during your visit to Kingston.

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References & Sources For What Is The History Of The National Heroes Park In Jamaica?

  1. Jamaica National Heritage Trust - Jamaica - National Heroes Park. (n.d.). http://www.jnht.com/site_national_heroes_park.php
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