Saturday, April 13, 2024

HEATHER-LYNN’S HABITAT: Speightstown ‘not dead yet’


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IT IS FROM HERE that intrepid Barbadians set out to conquer the United States East Coast in 1670.

Schooners once set sail from here for the hour-long trip to the capital port. And while Holetown may have been the first landing site, Speightstown was the town in Barbados in the 17th and 18th centuries.

But the port that was the hub of trade between Barbados and its United Kingdom colonial masters is almost a ghost town today.

This week Heather-Lynn’s Habitat took a tour of the northern town and spoke to residents, vendors and historians about what could be done to breathe life into the town named after William Speight.

“I won’t say it’s dead as if to bury, but it needs to be more alive.” – The words of vendor Cynthia Burnett, who has spent the last nine years plying her trade on Church Street.

THEY SPOKE WITH one voice – the vendors, delivery men, business people, even a member of the Nazarene Church.

Speightstown could be considered one breath away from dead, when it should not be.

And they all have advice on how to breathe new life into the old town that repelled attacks with its five forts and from where Barbadians set out and successfully conquered the East Coast of the United States.

For the outspoken flamboyant operator of the Fisherman’s Pub, Clement Armstrong, the solution to Speightstown’s problem was simple. And it boils down to educating people about the historical gold mine in which they lived and worked.

“We don’t appreciate what we have. We had five forts – we had Fort Orange, Fort Coconut, Denmark, Dover and Half Moon Fort. We got to educate our people. All we’re doing is trying to get generation after generation of people to believe that Speightstown is nothing and eventually the right people will own it.”

He also wants to see the Speightstown bus actually pass through the city; and the street made one-way going south to north, thereby eliminating the “37 no-parking spots” along the street.

A stone’s throw away, sitting in the shade of one of the buildings opposite the long-closed Noel Roach Drug Store on the main thoroughfare in Speightstown, an elderly vendor tends to the few customers who stop at her tray.

She has been plying her trade for the past 25 years and her assessment of Speightstown is quite simple: “It dead.”

“All the business that come shut down. I don’t see no one coming in. Business real dead,” she said as she shelled green peas to pass the time.

On Church Street, business is a little better thanks to new ventures that set up shop there.

“But sometimes you can’t even see a fly to keep you company. Otherwise, you would still make a dollar but it’s not as good as it used to be,” said Cynthia Burnett.

And it is those businesses, said Janette Gibbs, that set Church Street apart from the main street.

“All like the boardwalk . . . want rebuilding. Mannings want refurbishing. Right now Church Street, where Lumber Company is, more got a vibration than down here,” said the retired nurse who was at the Speightstown Church of the Nazarene.

She feels it’s the high cost of rent that is driving businesses away from the northern town, as she points out areas where business after business has packed up and left.

“That area where Noel Roach is and Mannings would be a nice addition to the area,” she mused.


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