Photo: Barbados GIS. This statue of Horatio, Lord Nelson is to be removed next month. It is not known whether the statue will be thrown into the harbor, or otherwise relocated.

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados–OCT 24, 2020 The statue of Lord Nelson, located in National Heroes Square, Bridgetown, will be removed from that location on November 16, 2020 — International Day of Tolerance, as designated by the United Nations 50 years ago.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, with responsibility for Culture, John King, whose office is leading the project, described the decision as “a step towards the healing of the Nation and to remind us all that tolerance is a universal human right”.

“The Government of Barbados has announced its intentions to officially become an independent republic on November 30, 2021, which is our 55th Anniversary of Independence,” Minister King added. “This is indeed an ultimate statement of confidence in who we are as a people and what we are capable of achieving.

“As we amend the Constitution to have a Barbadian Head of State, and as a symbol of the maturity of our democracy, it is imperative that we reexamine notable elements of our colonial past. Cabinet’s decision to remove the statue is part of this process as we seek to promote national identity as part of a modern Barbados.”

The more than 200-year-old structure is to be removed and transported to a temporary storage site under the guidance of experts, before being returned to public display on the compound of the Barbados Museum and Historical Society at The Garrison, St. Michael.

The removal of the statue will pave the way for the redevelopment of National Heroes Square as part of the overall renewal of Historic Bridgetown, which forms part of the country’s UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site.

The transformation of Golden Square, Fairchild Street Market, the Careenage and Constitution River, the Empire Theatre and Hyatt Hotel are components of the regeneration of the nation’s capital.

Minister King made it clear though, that the removal of the statue and the transformation of Bridgetown were not just representation of physical development.

The statue of Lord Nelson, located in National Heroes Square, Bridgetown, will be removed from that location on November 16, 2020 — International Day of Tolerance, as designated by the United Nations 50 years ago.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, with responsibility for Culture, John King, whose office is leading the project, described the decision as “a step towards the healing of the Nation and to remind us all that tolerance is a universal human right”.

“The Government of Barbados has announced its intentions to officially become an independent republic on November 30, 2021, which is our 55th Anniversary of Independence,” Minister King added. “This is indeed an ultimate statement of confidence in who we are as a people and what we are capable of achieving.

“As we amend the Constitution to have a Barbadian Head of State, and as a symbol of the maturity of our democracy, it is imperative that we reexamine notable elements of our colonial past. Cabinet’s decision to remove the statue is part of this process as we seek to promote national identity as part of a modern Barbados.”

The more than 200-year-old structure is to be removed and transported to a temporary storage site under the guidance of experts, before being returned to public display on the compound of the Barbados Museum and Historical Society at The Garrison, St. Michael.

The removal of the statue will pave the way for the redevelopment of National Heroes Square as part of the overall renewal of Historic Bridgetown, which forms part of the country’s UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site.

The transformation of Golden Square, Fairchild Street Market, the Careenage and Constitution River, the Empire Theatre and Hyatt Hotel are components of the regeneration of the nation’s capital.

Minister King made it clear though, that the removal of the statue and the transformation of Bridgetown were not just representation of physical development.

“As the Government moves towards a policy to promote national identity, self-development, civil engagement and cultural diversity, the narrative must speak to how this national space, in which the Cage was located, where many of our ancestors were dehumanised through torture, imprisonment and ultimately death, can now be given new meaning,” the minister explained.

“It also takes into consideration the memorialization of the contribution of Barbados’ true heroes, including those who died in World Wars I and II, as well as our national heroes.”

The shifting of the statue of Lord Nelson, which has the full support of Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley and her Cabinet, is the culmination of decades of discussion and planning, dating back to the Committee on National Reconciliation, chaired by former Principal of the Cave Hill Campus of the UWI, Sir Keith Hunte, and the National Heroes Square and Gallery Development Committee, led by the then Clerk of Parliament, George Brancker.

The decision was also influenced in more recent times by wide consultation undertaken by the Ministry of Culture, and as well as the extensive support at home and throughout the Diaspora of the #Nelsonmustgo campaign.

The bronze statue of Admiral Lord Nelson stands at the top of Broad Street in the capital city of Bridgetown.

The statue was erected on 22 March 1813 in the area known as Trafalgar Square, opposite Parliament Buildings. The statue predates Nelson Column in Trafalgar Square in London by nearly 30 years. Barbados’ Trafalgar Square was officially renamed National Heroes Square in April 1999.

Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson was a British flag officer in the Royal Navy.

His inspirational leadership, grasp of strategy, and unconventional tactics brought about a number of decisive British naval victories, particularly during the Napoleonic Wars. He was wounded in combat, losing sight in one eye in Corsica at the age of 35, and most of one arm in the unsuccessful attempt to conquer Santa Cruz de Tenerife when he was 40. He was fatally shot during his victory at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

Nelson, who lost one eye and an arm in combat in different incidents, was known for his wit and once said: “I could not tread these perilous paths in safety, if I did not keep a saving sense of humor.

Other quotes attributed to him include: “Desperate affairs require desperate measures” and “England expects that every man will do his duty.”

Nelson’s record on slavery and race seems to have been mixed.

He believed that Caribbean islands’ economies relied heavily on the Atlantic slave trade and attempted to use his influence to thwart the abolitionist movement in Britain. He was a close friend of Simon Taylor, a Jamaican slave owner.

However, any West Indian slave escaping to a navy ship, including Nelson’s, were signed on, paid, and treated the same as other crew members. At the end of their service they were discharged as free men. In fact, the bronze relief at the base of Nelson’s column clearly shows the black George Ryan aged 23, with musket shooting the French alongside the dying Admiral.

In 1799 Nelson intervened to secure the release of 24 slaves being held in Portuguese galleys off Palermo, and in 1805 Nelson rescued the black Haitian General Joseph Chretien and his servant from the French. They asked if they could serve with Nelson, and Nelson recommended to the Admiralty that they be paid until they could be discharged and granted passage to Jamaica.

The General’s mission was to end slavery in Haiti and elsewhere, a fact of which Nelson was well aware but the general and his servant were well treated and paid.

Nelson visited Barbados in 1805 and was considered a hero by locals of the day for his battles against the French who controlled some of the other islands in the Caribbean, but other than that has no specific connection to Barbados, though he did marry a woman from Nevis in a somewhat fraudulent marriage in which he was offered a large dowry that never materialized.

It is not known what will happen to the statue after removal from the park, or whether the historic statue has a buyer. No doubt Nelson would have seen the humor in the situation, 215 years after his death in action at the battle of Trafalgar, far from the Caribbean.