Toots heads to Heroes' Park


Toots heads to Heroes' Park

Cultural icons cemetery being revisited

Sunday, October 18, 2020

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PLANS for a national final resting place for the country's cultural icons are being revisited by the current political Administration.

The need for this facility has again come to light following the death of reggae pioneer “Toots” Hibbert, and the unfortunate situation which occurred last Thursday when he could not be buried at Dovecot Memorial Park and Crematory in St Catherine as the family had not secured the burial order, a legal document required before a body can be interred.

Minister with responsibility for entertainment and culture, Olivia “Babsy” Grange noted that the plans are being dusted off in view of what has happened regarding the interment of Hibbert.

“We started work on the establishment of this memorial park in the Bruce Golding Administration. So far we have developed a concept, identified a location where the relevant tests — including soil testing — have been completed. We will now move to develop the designs and budget to present a detailed proposal to the Cabinet.”

Meanwhile, she has announced that the Government has stepped in and decided to accord reggae legend Toots Hibbert a place at National Heroes' Park in Kingston in the section reserved for cultural icons.

Grange noted that interment in National Heroes' Park will suitably memorialise his contribution to Jamaica and reignite the unity in his family, among his peers and his fans, which is required at this time.

She shared this had become possible thanks to the generosity of the family of the late Charles Hyatt — the actor, broadcaster, director and author whose remains were due to be re-interred in the last burial spot for cultural icons at National Heroes' Park.

“At the time of his death in January 2007 the family of our dear Charles Hyatt had requested that he be buried in National Heroes' Park, but they were told that there were no more spaces available and he was instead interred at Meadowrest Memorial Park in St. Catherine.

“It was later discovered that there was one final burial space available in the relevant section at National Heroes' Park and the Government went back to the family who decided that they would exhume Mr Hyatt's remains and re-inter them in National Heroes' Park,” the minister said.

Grange added that given the current need for a suitable burial place for the late Toots Hibbert, the Hyatt family has generously consented to allow the reggae legend to be interred in the final burial spot in the section for cultural icons in National Heroes' Park.

“Toots is, without question, one of the pioneers of reggae music. He has even been credited with giving the genre its name. He is a national treasure whose humble demeanour and affable personality belied his towering global stature. I also endorse plans to erect a monument to Toots in his hometown,” she added.

Grange also gave her commitment to ensure that the late Charles Hyatt is memorialised in the proposed park.

Hibbert, known for anthems such as Bam Bam, Pressure Drop, Pomp and Pride, Money Man and Country Road, died on September 11.

It had been mentioned that he should be buried at National Heroes' Park, however in an interview with the Jamaica Observer Grange noted that a decision has been taken that no more cultural icons would be buried there and the remaining area will just be reserved for former prime ministers.

It was then announced that Hibbert would be laid to rest at his birthplace in Treadlight district, just outside May Pen in St Catherine. Plans changed, and hours before his service on Thursday it was made known that the popular Dovecot Memorial Park would be his final resting place. That was not to be.

Last Thursday, following a service of thanksgiving for Hibbert at Perry's Funeral Chapel in St Catherine, the procession journeyed to the cemetery but it was realised that the document was missing. This delayed and ultimately postponed the burial of the musical icon.

No date has been set for the interment at National Heroes' Park.

Among the cultural icons interred at the National Heroes' Park are reggae singer Dennis Brown; folklorist Louise Bennett Coverley (Miss Lou); actor Ranny Williams; and artist, cultural and religious figure Mallica “Kapo” Reynolds.

The park is also the final resting place and home to monuments for Jamaica's national heroes. Former prime ministers Donald Sangster, Hugh Shearer, Michael Manley and Edward Seasga are also buried there, as well as Governor General Sir Howard Cooke.

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