The San Fernando Heritage Trust has been launched, with big plans to preserve the legacy of beloved historian Angelo Bissessarsingh, and the history of the city he loved.
Bissessarsingh, a special adviser to the Trust along with author/historian Michael Anthony, succumbed to pancreatic cancer early this month.
Seven months before his death, he attended a function at City Hall, San Fernando, where he was presented with the keys to the City by then-Mayor Kazim Hosein.
“Whatever I come across later in life, whatever accolades have been given to me, this is by far the greatest because my heart is in this City,” Bissessarsingh had said.
The idea of a San Fernando Heritage Trust, with the aim of highlighting and preserving the rich history and culture of the City whilst creating a sustainable heritage tourism product had been years in the making.
However, it was at that function that the call for a Trust became an urgent appeal and subsequent reality.
The Trust is now up and running. Its executive members are chairman Terrence Honore, deputy chair Richard Charan, secretary Michele Celestine, treasurer Nigel Woodcock, Nigel Khan, Junior Bisnath and Geoffrey MacLean who is also deputy chair of the National Trust.
Celestine said, “Angelo clearly recognised the importance of all the peoples of our great nation understanding and appreciating our history since it was the medium by which our tolerance developed into a great love of self and place.”
The Trust as one of its first official actions will be seeking to take a note to Cabinet to declare Harris Promenade a historic district since it is also host to many significant monuments, such as “the last train to San Fernando”, statues of Marcus Garvey and Mahatma Ghandi and an 18th century Band Stand.
Actions to honour Angelo
With Bissessarsingh's passing, three national actions have been requested to honour his legacy – that his books be introduced to our schools, that Carnegie Free Library be designated a Heritage Library in his honour and that a Fund be established for the restoration and ongoing preservation of historic buildings throughout the Country.
“The Trust intends to join the lobby for these action points to be implemented,' said Honore. He added “We will be seeking to honour the memory and legacy of Angelo Bissessarsingh in recognition of his sterling contributions to the establishment of San Fernando Heritage Trust.”
Honore said “In addition, support from the government and contributions from our corporate partners will be vital if the trust is to achieve our objectives. “A special committee has been appointed by Mayor Junia Regrello to explore all avenues including the possibility of funding from the National Lotteries Board.
Regrello and councillor Philip Montano have extended support to the Trust. Both of them attended the 2nd Caribbean Conference of National Trusts and Preservation Societies in May, 2016 at the Trinidad Hilton, Port of Spain.
Following that forum they invited visiting UK Consultant Terrence Suthers, Esq, head of the York Archeological Trust to the industrial capital for a site seeing tour of the places in San Fernando that had undergone the process for listing by the National Trust of Trinidad & Tobago during the previous year.
These included the Old Railway Station at King's Wharf, the Sarah Morton Dormitory at Naparima Girls' High School, the City's steel pan yards, the Nun's Residence of the Cluny Sisters, The San Fernando Police Station, Carnegie Free Library (all situated on Harris Promenade).
Suthers has told the Trust that such a fascinating cluster of historical architecture makes the City of San Fernando an attractive and worthwhile heritage tourism destination.
He offered advice on the many ways in which heritage tourism could bolster the economy of the southern City, providing jobs and new entrepreneurial opportunities.
For more information on the San Fernando Heritage Trust visit its Facebook page: The San Fernando Heritage Trust.