Norman's birthplace restored
More than one year ago, Tourism Minister Wykeham McNeill told Parliament of a plan to restore and maintain the birthplaces of Jamaica's national heroes and prime ministers. Today, The Sunday Gleaner continues a series on the state of these places with a look at Roxborough in Manchester, the birthplace of National Hero Norman Manley.
Tyrone Thompson, Gleaner Staff Reporter
It is one of the few, if not the only one, where the renovation has been done so far - $42 million spent on the birthplace of former Premier and National Hero Norman Manley at Roxborough in Manchester - and Minister of Tourism Wykeham McNeill believes that was money well spent.
"Of course, it was worth it. You want to maintain the history and heritage of our people because its an important part of who we all are as Jamaicans," declared McNeill recently.
The site, which sits on approximately 2.5 acres, had fallen into disrepair and eventually destroyed by fire in 1968. It was renovated by the Government and the National Heritage Fund and was reopened in July of 2013 as a museum and heritage park. The roads leading to the site were also repaved.
McNeill argued that there is intrinsic value in the renovation of historical sites such as Roxborough, which he believes will aid in projecting the island as a multiple-attraction destination.
"Its part of the wider cultural package. You have to remember that part of the role of the Tourism Enhancement Fund is to showcase our history and our culture, because we are not just selling sun, sand and sea, we have a lot more that makes us special as Jamaicans."
While acknowledging that economic challenges have slowed the plans to refurbish all the birthplaces of national heroes and former heads of government, McNeill argued that the restoration of Roxborough is evidence that his promise is being fulfilled.
"Work has taken place at Blenheim, work has also taken place at the Seville Great House, and we are just commencing work at Port Royal. Yes, there are economic challenges, but we have done significant work because we are in danger of loosing a lot of these artefacts, and so we have to protect them for future generations," argued McNeill.
The Tourism Minister was supported by Ainsley Henriques, chairman of the Board of Trustees of the National Heritage Trust, who is also adamant that the investment made in Roxborough is showing returns.
"I can tell you that more people have visited the site since it has been renovated last year than have visited in the previous 20 years because we're getting a lot of school tours, so Roxborough is definitely alive again," declared Henriques.
While admitting that there is still some work to be done at the site, including the installation of solar panels, which should be the chief source of electricity for the cultural site, Henriques was confident that once these issues are addressed, Roxborough will be the catalyst for a dynamic cultural experience everyone could enjoy.
"We know we have a little fixing up to do at the site, and that will be addressed very soon.
"But what we are doing at Roxborough is breaking away from the old way we tell our history so that we can make it new and exciting for our young people so that they can relate to it, experience it and enjoy it."