For decades, Harris Promenade has been a hub for education, spirituality and culture.
But it being named after Lord George Francis Robert Harris, a symbol of British colonisation, is unsettling to some.
But San Fernando mayor Junia Regrello hailed the former governor’s work in Trinidad as he addressed the Christian Historical Society’s (CHS) thanksgiving service. He said Harris laid the path for San Fernando’s development.
During his tenure, Regrello led the charge for the renaming of several streets with historical colonial titles.
However, during a service at the San Fernando Methodist Church to commemorate 175 years since the granting of lands on Harris Promenade on April 29, 1846, Regrello said it was only possible through governor Harris.
Regrello told the few gathered that while he came to recognise the CHS and clergy members, it was Harris who donated the lands.
“His standout performance would be the role he played in the development of San Fernando. His astute leadership and business acumen influenced decisions such as the expansion of the sugar cane industry and his understanding of the presence of the indentured labourers who started arriving from 1845 and their value,” Regrello said.
Regrello said to increase output, Harris negotiated for incoming shipments of immigrants to include wives and children. He offered them parcels of land for continued cultivation on completion of their indentureship programme and also ensured that they settled well in designated lands of the Naparimas.
During Harris’ early years, Regrello said the sugar industry was in decline. With a depleted treasury, he approved the construction of the tramway to move sugar cane from the plantation, which was instrumental in using pitch from Lake Asphalt to improve the roadways.
Describing Harris as a practical man, Regrello said he understood the potential of San Fernando.
An opportunity presented itself when the town council, under president Robert Floyd, requested a strip of land south of High Street. The governor agreed on the condition that churches, schools, public buildings and the roads alongside it must be a promenade for the leisure of the people for evening walks and recreation.
“Thereby creating a space that became the bedrock of a modern society,” Regrello said.
He said it was unfortunate that there did not seem to be any deed, document or proper record of the settlement of the promenade between the governor and the council. However, he said the council must get credit for naming the strip of land in honour of the governor.
“During my tenure as mayor here, several persons have approached us in terms of having names changed. They found that we had Prince Alfred Street, Prince Albert Street and we had Lord Harris.
“Why should the promenade be named after Lord Harris? Well, I have just explained why,” Regrello told the gathering.
CHS president, Apostle Terrence Honore, requested an opportunity to place a memorial on Harris Promenade in honour of the church’s work over the years.
He asked the ministers of the Christian Council to begin a discussion to establish the Christian Fund to aid the city in times of disaster.