THERE ARE ghosts haunting the Kingston Harbour at the foot of Sea Breeze Avenue. On nights when the moon is full you can catch a misty glimpse of a woman dressed for a formal ball or a portly gentleman clearly once a person of substance (but now an intangible wraith). Look quickly from the corner of your eye and other phantoms drift by British army officers, a long-dead Governor.
Now sun-up. On the harbour side of the new highway stands a solid one-storey building, metal doors securely locked. Not a soul to be seen. Silence except for the zoom of racing motorists and the quiet lapping of the harbour waters against a filthy shore, where the wreck of a forgotten ship is slowly disintegrating.
Turn back time! The year is l926. A crowd has gathered for the official opening of the splendid Bournemouth Baths built by George Lindsay, a wealthy Englishman. Everybody who is Anybody is here this will be THE place to go! The Gleaner social pages will report "Captain and Mrs. were seen bathing at Bournemouth along with other socialites.". And why not? The Club has a ballroom, bar, and two magnificent pools one stretching into the harbour itself, protected from sharks by a metal net.
Since this is a Members' Club (and the year is l929) all of the members are white. But time passes, and there are protests from the public that this magnificent facility should not be restricted. So the Club officers reluctantly announce that "decent coloured people" may use the pools when members are absent.
The "decent coloured people" treat this invitation with the disdain it deserves, and stay away. And when Lindsay announces he will build a cinema in the grounds (sure to attract the riff-raff) many members transfer their allegiance to the stylish Silver Slipper Club at Cross Roads. As profits drop, Lindsay in 1937 donates the Club to the KSAC.
The public responds immediately. School swim teams hold competitions here. The ballroom does a thriving business, with live music provided by Eric Deans, George Moxey, Carlos Malcom, Tommy McCook and the Skatalites. Two governors Sir Arthur Richards and Sir Hugh Foot hold official functions here. Downtown children find healthy, safe recreation here. After work, many Kingstonians drop in to enjoy a drink on the balcony, watching the sun set over the sea. On June 9, l969, Bournemouth burns to the ground.
Decades pass. Plans to turn the spot into a true community centre are put on hold. Area children on hot summer days bathe nearby in the sewer which was once Kingston Harbour.
Come now to the '90s. Bournemouth is completely built (that's the building you can see now) with two large pools and bathroom and changing facilities. But for eight years the building remains closed and rapidly deteriorates. Nutten nah gwaan.
There have been good intentions, but the responsibility seems to have been tossed about like a hot potato. The KSAC seems to have remained silent. The Kingston Restoration Company claims that Bournemouth is a wee bit beyond the boundaries of its $10-million restoration project. A Foundation to rejuvenate Bournemouth Gardens has been formed. The YMCA was called on to assist, and one active member of the Y staff sensibly sought the support of the entire community. Working with the Springfield Division Youth Club he aroused enthusiasm and trained 12 peer counsellors to help other teenagers live productive lives.
Because the building was now in a deplorable condition after years of disuse, paint and bathroom fittings were begged from Windward Road merchants. But private sector funding, promised on paper, never materialised. The MP for the area has been unable to assist. The Y representative, discouraged, felt his efforts could be put to better use elsewhere.
Garth Soares, of the Foundation, confirms that pledges have not been met. He estimates (a ballpark figure) that it will cost $l.5 million to repair the building, install pumps and filters for the pools and clear up the grounds. The Foundation had set April 2004, as the target date for reopening the pools. There is no way now that the target can be met. The Foundation will meet again in April.
Meanwhile, children play in the filthy waters of Kingston Harbour, among rotting fruit, old scandal bags, used condoms and the occasional dead dog. Will they sicken and die as a result, ands join the other ghosts haunting Bournemouth by moonlight?
And the "new" Bournemouth Baths remain closed. The pools remain empty.