September 30, 2005
National what? What is our heritage?

National Pride. National Anthem, we stand tall with head high. National bird, Vincy, our endemic parrot, only in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. National flag, we salute you, distinctively different from the red white and blue crisscross of Empire, our flag is green, blue and gold with diamonds.

NCB, our bank, NBC, our radio station. NIS insures our old age. A host of other National entities have been born over 25 years of independence. We have traveled far to form a national identity for our polygenous population.{{more}}

But before all of these, whilst St. Vincent and the Grenadines was still a crown colony, the National Trust was formed. The National Trust Act was passed by the Legislative Council on October 25, 1969. Its founder members included Dr. Earle Kirby and Morrison Baisden.

They were far thinking individuals who wanted to set up a structure through which to conserve the best of our heritage for our own people and future generations.

But what is our heritage? Currently Heritage Square means excitement and cool happenings or loudness and vulgarity depending on our viewpoint. But let us take a broader perspective.

Our heritage is that which is transmitted to use from our ancestors. We received islands of matchless beauty. There was fertile well cultivated farmland punctuated by discreet villages with interesting names. There were pastures, forested land, some of it virgin, and there were incomparable beaches where many increasingly spend their leisure time. A good National Trust chronicles these assets, highlighting appropriate conservation practice and organizing suitable access for the public to enjoy areas of scenic beauty.

The buildings our fathers left for us had a distinctive Caribbean style ranging from the lowly chattel houses to the stately stone constructed public offices epitomized by the Courthouse. A good National Trust helps us to recognize how practical and attractive our old buildings often were and encourages us to restore some of the better examples so that we retain the stamp of our own architectural identity in our towns and villages.

Sometimes houses take on a special importance because of who lived in them. King Jaja, an African potentate from Opobo, a state in what is now Nigeria, lived in several Kingstown dwellings during his banishment from home. An active Trust will identify such houses and seek ways to preserve at least one, and with it the story of King JaJa. Even as I write, Barbados, where JaJa spent a couple of days in transit, is capitalizing on the tale to develop a tourist attraction.

The tools and equipment we used often originated elsewhere and were adapted by our forebears to meet their needs. The sickle arrived and became the grass knife used by our grandfathers to cut material for thatching, stuffing mattresses and feeding donkeys. A National Trust can show you this adaptability through museum exhibits.

Industrial archaeology should be alive and well in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Sugar mills abound and many factories were converted subsequently for use in arrowroot processing. Now St. Vincent and the Grenadines is very much a pioneer in arrowroot production and it is the ingenuity of the Vincentian people that has resulted in a production line being developed specifically for this. A thinking Trust will herald this achievement and inspire our young to entrepreneurship.

We used to think we were a young country in a New World and our history began when Columbus discovered St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Thanks to the unstinting services of the first Chairperson of the National Trust, Dr. Earle Kirby, we now know that the history of St. Vincent and the Grenadines goes back at least 5000 years. If you want to see the evidence visit your “National Museum of the Vincentian People” in Heritage Hall at the Carnegie Library Building on Heritage Square. It is just starting and needs your support, your time, your artifacts, your ideas, your help and your financial support. Join the National Trust today! The office is open every afternoon Mondays and Fridays 12 noon to 4 p.m. and Tuesdays to Thursdays 1 to 5 p.m.

• Look out for the next article in our “Building Trust” series by the St. Vincent and the Grenadines National Trust.