Dockyard’s diamond celebrations to begin this weekend

Celebrations for the prime tourist attraction will run for 12 months (Photo by Gemma Handy)
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By Carlena Knight

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As the nation continues to celebrate 40 years of independence, one key historical site is gearing up for a year-long celebration to mark an extra special day in its calendar.

This Sunday, Nelson’s Dockyard National Park will commemorate 60 years of the naval dockyard’s reopening following a mammoth restoration under the theme ‘Carved into history, anchored by community’.

The focus of the diamond jubilee celebrations will be on commemorating and reminiscing on the history of the area and strengthening ties with the nearby communities.  

In fact, Desley Gardner, Heritage Resources Officer, explained on Wednesday that they will also be recognising a few local residents who contributed to the historic area in some way.

“It’s also about sharing the type of work that is done in the dockyard because a lot of persons don’t know what sail-making is. They don’t know what rigging a ship may entail. They don’t necessarily understand why these mega yachts come here year after year and what type of work is being done on the yachts.

“The efforts of our vendors and taxi drivers or tour operators and how they use the space, so we definitely want to highlight it,” Gardner said.

There will also be an education drive geared towards teaching youth and other interested folk a few traditional practices.

“Especially such a traditional practice like the seed working, using tamarind and jumby seeds to make beautiful trinkets, the art of putting these seeds together. It is a skill that our people have been doing for years and it definitely needs to be passed down.

“I mean, there are so many different skills that we could learn and the community has them. They have the knowledge and they want to share them with younger persons. So, we definitely want to encourage the education of young people – especially into different professions and not very out there and known like being a lawyer and a doctor – but we want our people to be skilled people,” she added.

The dockyard, which is in the heart of the park itself, is the only continually working Georgian era dockyard in the world. In 2016, it was granted UNESCO World Heritage Site status.

Although the historic site has been around for hundreds of years, according to Dr Christopher Waters, Director of Heritage Resources, history has shown that after the dockyard had been handed over multiple times, it eventually closed after falling into disrepair, before being reopened in November 1961.

It was for that reason and more that Dr Waters said the celebrations will run for 12 months.

“It’s also a way to look forward and a way to rejuvenate and re-energise ourselves within the National Parks and within the community especially after these last, almost two years of the pandemic.

“We are hoping for a … very good tourism and yachting season and so we think that by celebrating the 60th and by continuously highlighting our community and the efforts of the many, many individuals that have been working here and working in the area, not just in the dockyard itself, that this is something that we can not only celebrate but teach history. It’s also a build-up to 2025 when we will be celebrating 300 years of the dockyard,” Waters said.

The celebrations will begin this Sunday with an invitation only thanksgiving service. There will also be special Clarence House tours starting next Sunday. Interested persons can call 481-5021.

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