The area on which the National Heroes Park now stands was once one of the most popular spots in Kingston. Founded in 1783, for 101 years, the land was the centre for horse racing in Jamaica.
It was also the site for other sporting activities such as cricket and cycle racing. Being a place where people naturally gathered, the area was also the venue for travelling circuses that visited the island from time to time.
The 74-acre National Heroes Park is the largest open space in Kingston and serves as the resting place for three of Jamaica’s national heroes: Marcus Garvey, the founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League, and cousins Sir Alexander Bustamante and Norman Washington Manley, who together advocated for universal suffrage for Jamaica in 1944.
Although in need of a spruce-up, the park is a big hit with history buffs who come to pay their respects to the greats buried in the park. After Jamaica gained its independence from Britain in 1962, the park was redesigned and changed its name from George VI Memorial Park to National Heroes Park.
In addition to sculptures of Jamaica’s national heroes, and a cemetery where past Prime Ministers Michael Manley and Sir Donald Sangster are buried, visitors can see the Jamaica War Memorial erected in tribute to soldiers killed during World Wars I and II. Even more intriguing is the Memorial to 1865, commemorating the Morant Bay Rebellion.
This has a rock on a pedestal flanked by bronze busts of Abraham Lincoln and a black slave brandishing a sword. Marcus Garvey is also buried in the park, as is ex-premier Norman Manley, whose body was flown here from England in 1964 and interred with state honours.
The Manley Monument, honouring his son Michael, was dedicated in March 2002. And, on a different note, the park shades the final resting place of musician Dennis Brown, who died in 1999.
Bob Marley dubbed Brown the “Crown Prince of Reggae.” A ceremonial changing of the guard, complete with music by the Jamaica Military Band, happens the first Sunday of every month at 9AM.
For some more local colour cruise the National Heroes Circle, where mostly women hawk fresh crab, macaroni pie and corn on the cob. The park is also the burial site for 140 elderly women killed in a fire at the Myers Ward of the Eventide Home for the Aged in 1980. A monument marks the mass grave containing the women’s remains.
The vendors are delighted to interact with tourists who come with an appetite for both Jamaican history and their delectable homemade snacks. National Heroes Park is currently maintained by the Parks Division of Jamaica’s National Solid Waste Management Authority.
Security is provided by a formal honour guard from the Jamaican Defence Force, with a Changing of the Guard taking place every hour.
Jamaica’s Ministry of Local Government, Community Development and Sport are responsible for the renovations currently taking place at the park.
This park is one of the country’s favourite attractions, one you would definitely want to visit.