Around a month ago I arrived in the City of London at Fenchurch Street station. I had to make my way to Millbank to attend a conference so walked down to Tower Hill tube station only to find it closed. Worse than that because it was a Saturday the powers that be had decided to close most of the underground network for maintenance.
Luck would have it there was a direct bus from the Tower of London to Trafalgar Square which I duly caught. As it wove its way through the City of London I reflected that in my childhood, when I’d walked these streets, where now there were high rise office blocks there were then bomb sites, the blackened remnants of the blitz.
However I knew precisely where I was because the layout of the streets was exactly the same as were their names. Indeed you could bring a person back from over a 500-year-period and the grid plus the names of the alley ways and streets would as familiar to him or her as they were to me, albeit they would be looking very different.
Which brings me back to Gibraltar because whilst the “big smoke” it isn’t it is an historic town with every lane, street and building commemorating its heritage. Therefore I find the decision to change the name of Devil’s Tower Road and Cannon Lane mystifying and I am sure for many people it is distressing.
It is a tradition in Gibraltar that those who have served the community right up to today, as the Bishops Devlin and Caruana certainly did, should be commemorated with the naming of a street or building after them. No argument there but the honouring of recent history should not mean that the Rock’s past heritage is ditched. Hence Bernard Devlin should be given the same distinction as Charles Caruana with new street names in the growing parts of Gibraltar.
As I understand it the distinctively named Devil’s Tower Road gets its name from the Devil’s Tower, a seventeenth century watchtower that stood nearby (see picture above bottom left). In its place the government wants to place the imaginatively named North Front Avenue – my goodness, they must have brain-stormed for weeks to come up with that one.
It is entirely appropriate that barrister Patrick Canessa should have organized the silent protest last Thursday against the renaming of Cannon Lane because of its close associations with his family and early life. Streets, lanes, ramps, buildings are not inanimate objects they are the very fabric of peoples’ lives. Hence whenever I have come across a thoroughfare being renamed elsewhere it has been after a lengthy consultation with the residents who have had the right to decide what the street they live on should be called.
The Gibraltar Heritage Trust has come out against the name changes as has the Progressive Democratic Party. The PDP reminds me of the British Liberal Party of old that was famous for engaging in local issues, for speaking up for the concerns of neighbourhoods against the might of the town halls or government. Whether the PDP’s grassroots activism converts in to seats in parliament at the coming election remains to be seen.
The renaming of two streets without consultation may be viewed in the corridors of power as being a minor issue. Sadly the syndrome of not believing the people should have a view or be included in decision making smacks of government by arrogance. Mark my words it won’t be long before instead of strolling down Main Street we’ll be shopping on Caruana Boulevard, and it won’t be named after a bishop.