To borrow from Mark Twain: “Truth is stranger than fiction.” It certainly is true in the case of Serenity Park. For most supposedly informed citizens, the park near the Sans Soucis bridge, not far from the government’s waterfront buildings, was named by a certain controversial former minister. Others closer to local happenings believe an unidentified infant school student suggested the name as his or her contribution to a school contest. It’ll come as no surprise that relatively new MPs had no idea until recently who, other than the former Castries Central MP, may have named the park.
When it got out that it was to undergo a name change, however, the public reaction was enough to send the present administration in a spin. Rick Wayne was first to put his foot down on TALK. He lauded Frederick, the former Castries mayor Irving John and his city council associate Mr. Louis Fernand. Mr Wayne also recalled the school competition that had delivered the name Serenity Park, and what a slap in the face of youth if, as rumour suggested, there was a renaming in honour of a long deceased, near forgotten once upon a time Castries Central MP.
In all events, by the time the scheduled renaming ceremony got underway late Wednesday afternoon, the authorities had learned more about the park, enough to have invited a certain St. Aloysius R.C. Boys’ School teacher to the event to hear Mayor Petersen Francis credit her with coming up with the park’s original name. I spoke with teacher Verlina Joseph following the ceremony that also involved the unveiling of a plaque. Her story: “Back in 2011, correspondence came informing us about a competition for the naming of the park. The contest was open to students and teachers.” The name came to her as she was driving along John Compton Highway.
“There was some construction going on in the area of the park but it all looked so serene, so peaceful and, you know, the name Serenity just came to mind. I can understand how some people assumed it had been submitted by a child. Actually I was a class teacher at the time; a Grade 2 teacher.” She said the mix-up never bothered her. That recognition was given to the school was good enough for her. “I actually submitted the name on behalf of the school.”
As for her last-minute invitation to Wednesday’s ceremony: “They actually called asking for the child who had submitted the name. And I told them that it was actually I. And that’s how I got to be there with my principal to hear the announcement that Sir George Mallet’s name would be added to Serenity Park.”
She was happy for all the unexpected attention she received this week but what pleased the teacher most was that the school was also recognized. As for the political overtones, Joseph said, “We’re not part of that.” She made no bones about distancing herself and her school from the political noise that continues to reverberate around the decision to name the park after a UWP icon. “As for the political undertones we’re not into that. R.C. Boys’ Infant School is not a part of that.” She admitted, however, “When I first heard there was to be a renaming, I felt a bit disappointed. What was the point? But then I received the call and was assured they would not actually be changing the name. They were only going to add another name to what’s there.”
Contrary to rumour, Richard Frederick was not invited to Wednesday’s renaming ceremony.