Thanksgiving service kicks off diamond jubilee celebrations of Antigua’s iconic dockyard

Being escorted into the church by her daughter Sarah Nicholson (left) and Heritage Resources Officer of the National Parks Desley Gardner (right) is Lisa Nicholson, whose late husband Desmond Nicholson played an integral role in starting the yacht chartering industry in Antigua.
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Celebrations to mark the 60th anniversary of Nelson’s Dockyard got underway yesterday with a service of thanksgiving at the Baxter Memorial Methodist Church in English Harbour.  

The celebrated historic facility, the only dockyard from the Georgian period that is operating in the world today, is the single most recognisable centre for yachting in the Caribbean.  

In attendance at the service was His Excellency Governor General Sir Rodney Williams, whose roots are buried deep in the community and, like his father, Sir Ernest Williams, was at one time the elected Member of Parliament of St Paul’s, the area in which the dockyard falls.  

Also joining the celebration were members of the English Harbour community, National Parks Authority employees and key stakeholders.   

In delivering the feature address, Sir Rodney chronicled the historic development of the facility and heaped praise on the many contributors to its current success and widespread acclaim.  

“The Nelson’s Dockyard is a project which has successfully married heritage preservation with economic empowerment for the community and the nation as a whole. I am delighted to have been a part of this process where history will record that the vision for the Nelson’s Dockyard has been and is continuing to be realised,” Sir Rodney declared.  

The current MP, the country’s Minster of Foreign Affairs, EP Chet Greene, expressed his delight at the growth and expansion of local businesses in and around the dockyard. He reaffirmed the government’s commitment to ensuring that the efforts of all involved in achieving UNESCO World Heritage Site status will not be in vain.  

“We will not stop until this community is declared a city or town in Antigua and Barbuda,” he said, acknowledging the access to the variety of services that English Harbour can now offer to residents and visitors alike.  

It’s among the countless reasons that thousands of visitors journey to Nelson’s Dockyard every year to enjoy the scenery, take tours though an intriguing maze of beautifully restored historic landmarks and to witness its exciting yachting events.  

In no small measure, this has helped to ensure that Antigua and Barbuda remains a quality destination at the very top of the list of travellers all over the world.  

The dockyard was a significant consideration by UNESCO when bestowing the area and its related archaeological sites with the prestigious designation just over five years ago.  

“Sixty years is a diamond anniversary. So the National Park, the dockyard, is a diamond in our tourism product. That’s how we need to see it,” noted Minister of Tourism Charles Fernandez, who also addressed the service.  

The upkeep and maintenance of the park and its myriad facilities is managed by the National Parks Authority.  

Ruleta Camacho Thomas, the Acting Parks Commissioner, used the occasion to reach out not only to all stakeholders of the Park but the English Harbour community to be a part of the future direction of the iconic facilities.  

“The future success of the Dockyard will depend on the involvement and inclusion of the community. We celebrate you and commit to continued and meaningful engagement and inclusion as we chart a course for the future,” Camacho Thomas stated.  

Also playing a major role in the proceedings were Arlene Edwards who provided a spirited welcome to the proceedings. Also the National Parks Staff Choir shared a beautiful blend of voices through songs led by organist Linroy Adams, a longstanding employee of the Park, and Nathania Jonas who played the National Anthem on pan. There was also a stirring performance from the Joyful Voices Dance Ministry.  

The service was conducted by Rev. Derek Browne of the Baxter Memorial Methodist Church. The theme of the sixtiethh anniversary activities is “Carved into History, Anchored by Community.”  

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