07 February, 2010
It is with great sadness that I report the following. One of the many public complaints against the outgoing Anguilla Administration has been its gross over-emphasis on economic development at the cost of the under-development of our social services. It seems that whenever there has been a choice between any of culture, social development, the environment, transparency, accountability or integrity on the one hand and the financial interest of the land developer on the other, the land developer won each time. It appears to be the commonest complaint one hears both on the calypsos and on the opposition platforms. Now, I hear a very sad story that I want to tell you about. First, a little history.
Portrait of Dr SB Jones MD
Dr Samuel B Jones, famous as the first black medical doctor in the
Leeward Islands, served as Warden, doctor, and Magistrate of Anguilla from August 1918 to May 1923. He wrote the first published history of Anguilla, The Annals of Anguilla (1931).
Dr SB Jones OBE of Anguilla
During the time Dr Jones was in charge of
Anguilla, the island experienced four consecutive years of drought, food shortages, a hurricane and a quarantine period. The last of these endured for several months due to the presence of 400 contacts and 19 cases of mild smallpox imported from the . In response to the threat, Dr Jones built a quarantine station on the tip of the point of the Shannon Hill which lies to the north of Dominican Republic . Sandy Ground Bay
View of the point at Shannon Hill where Dr Jones built the Anguilla Quarantine station
All schooners returning to Anguilla bringing the annual temporary cane cutters from the
Dominican Republic back to Anguilla were made to tie up to the great iron ring that still to this day remains cemented on the small cliff. There, the crew and passengers were detained in quarantine until they were cleared of all infection and were permitted to join their families. They were the 400 “contacts”. Dr Jones ensured that no serious case of smallpox escaped from the quarantine station. It is said that he built a fence across the Shannon Hill point, from shore to shore, and put guards at the gate to keep the men in and the girlfriends out. No Anguillians died during the epidemic that raged in the islands around. For his achievement in preserving the islanders from serious infection he was awarded the OBE. The ruins of the foundations of the cottages that made up the quarantine hospital could, at least until about five years ago, still be seen there. Now they have been bulldozed by some demented Philistine developer, and the site has gone back to its previous state of abandonment, but without the historic foundations. There remained one link with Dr Jones’ historic achievement.
Bulldozed foundations of the quarantine station at the point of the Shannon Hill
The cottages that he built on the foundations at the point on the Shannon Hill were subsequently, when he finally lifted the quarantine, transported by truck and by cart to the top of Crocus Hill. There they were installed on new foundations. They formed the first wards of The Old Cottage Hospital. Over the years, the original chattel house buildings were gradually replaced by the concrete and galvanized-roof buildings that are there now.
The back view of the Old Cottage Hospital
The front view of the Old Cottage Hospital
WISE stands for Workshop Initiative for Support in Education. The name rather conceals the purpose of the institution. This is where
Anguilla’s children who have behavioural issues, or who have chronic learning problems, come to complete their education. Members of the public have equipped it with wood working equipment and metal working tools. There is a modern, well equipped teaching kitchen. Language and mathematics skills are developed. Above all, there is shelter, care and concern showered on the students while they are there. WISE is a division of the Ministry of Education, and is one of the most important social developments that have taken place in Anguilla over the past decade. The management and staff of WISE are widely recognized throughout the island for their selfless devotion to, and love for, their wards. Many of them have graduated and gone on to be productive and useful members of Anguilla society.
The WISE classrooms at the Old Cottage Hospital
Now, the school children tell me that members of a certain political party have promised the Crocus Bay Development people that, if they should win the upcoming general election, they will sell them the Old Cottage Hospital buildings. The developers have, apparently, applied to some of these politicians for the property to be sold to them. Once they open their villas for sale, they do not want the school to continue on their doorstep, so to say. I am told that the original Old Folks Home on the grounds of the Cottage Hospital was turned over to the Fisheries Department when the old folks were removed to their new home at Pope Hill. This building has already been occupied by the developers. If this is true, there will be precedent for this proposed transfer.
The Old Folks Home at the Cottage Hospital, now occupied by the developer
Given what, in my opinion, appears to be the cattle-truck style of construction pursued by Crocus Bay Development, I doubt that there can be any question of a surplus bundle of money being available to the company for it to build a suitable replacement college building for WISE.
The Crocus Bay Development
It is not clear whether any, and if so, how much of a campaign contribution was solicited or donated in exchange for this promise. Given the presently apparently semi-abandoned state of the project, it is highly unlikely that there would be any substance to such a base thought. As is apparent from the photographs, construction appears to be almost at a standstill. On the Saturday I visited, there was one workman hammering away at the back of the site. The fronts of the half-constructed buildings were covered with weeds. It did not seem to be under active construction. A July 2009 article in The Anguillian Newspaper quotes the owners as saying that the first of the buildings would have been available for sale last year. The next seven were to be ready by December of 2010. It would appear that things are not progressing as planned. Even the website appears to be only partially constructed.
Weeds growing out of the front of the Crocus Bay Development, suggesting a degree of abandonment
Will WISE have to close down, or will they be able to remove their equipment, students and staff, to a new and adequate location provided to them?
Whatever the fate or fortune of Crocus Bay Development, if there is any substance to the story of the imminent demise of our Old Cottage Hospital building at the request of a real estate developer and speculator, all those who are concerned ought to be ashamed of themselves.