Learning at St. Ann’s Fort
Not only did patrons hear about the Garrison, Guns and Galas of the home of the Barbados Defence Force when the lecture was delivered by historian and Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Education at the University of the West Indies, Professor Pedro Welch, but they were also given a tour of the West Indian Regiment Room; The Drill Hall (State Dining Room); and The Barbados National Armoury; and viewed cultural, social and military reenactments.
It was also a celebration of sorts of the second anniversary of the inscription of Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
St. Ann’s Fort was built in 1705 and named after Her Majesty Queen Ann. It is currently the home of the Barbados Defence Force Headquarters, an armoury display and an interesting collection of artifacts from the 17th and 18th century. It also houses the world’s largest collection of 17th century English iron cannons.
Welch took his audience on a historical journey as he wove his way onto the “historic tapestry”, he spoke about the establishment of the military in this country was tied to the setting up of the British imperial presence in the region.
“Indeed, while the island might not have been a major concern of the British imperial authorities prior to the 1640s, growing competition with other European powers for the wealth of the sugar islands meant that increasingly the Caribbean and more specifically Barbados was being seen as important jewels of the crown.
“The passing of the first Navigation Acts in 1651 and the subsequent Anglo-Dutch war of 1652 to 1654 and the Anglo Spanish war of 1654 to 1660, established the Caribbean as a theatre for European wars …,” he said.
In his welcoming remarks, Minister of Culture, Stephen Lashley, said that it was only when events which focussed on the heritage of the country, “when we understand those stories, that we will be empowered to take ownership of our World heritage Property”.
He added: “If you ask most Barbadians what first comes to mind when one mentions The Garrison, I am quite sure that the response would be ‘the races’. This is entirely understandable, of course, because we have not been educated about the importance of this fortification. The significant role which it played in the development and power of the British Atlantic Empire would not have been brought to our attention in the way that it should have been.
“Understandably, too, would be the feeling that whatever else the Garrison might signify besides the races, was the domain of the colonial powers. We would not automatically see the role that the enslaved Africans and their descendants would have played in making the Garrison a fortification which was of vital importance in the British defence system. Enabling us to see all of this, to see our World Heritage Property as part of our collective heritage, is one of the primary objectives of the Public Education Programme which is being implemented by my Ministry, working closely with the Barbados World Heritage Committee,” he said.
There was also a tribute to Major Michael Hartland, who served in the BDF from September 1, 1980 until December 1989 and spearheaded the cannon collection. (DS)