What's in a name?

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Michael Walker

If

I type into my browser ‘La Gare, St Lu­cia’ I get The Elec­toral Board of St Lu­cia an­nounc­ing on its web­site that Vot­ers’ Lists are posted at the La Gare School, which is not far from Babon­neau – I added the Babon­neau bit for the ed­i­fi­ca­tion of those who might be un­aware of the lo­ca­tion of La Gare.

Some­what cutely, the next post­ing un­der the head­ing of ‘La Gare, St Lu­cia’ does not in any way re­fer to the is­land of Saint Lu­cia. In­stead, we are told, “The Venice Santa Lu­cia Train Sta­tion is the main train sta­tion in Venice. This mod­ern sta­tion is con­ve­niently lo­cated and pro­vides di­rect ac­cess to the Grand Canal. The sta­tion is a per­fect en­trance to this unique city of Venice.” How sur­pris­ing!

Now strangely enough, whilst of­fi­cial­dom in the form of the Elec­toral Of­fice of St Lu­cia and the Castries Coun­cil re­fer to the com­mu­nity as La Gare, oth­ers pre­fer to re­fer to it as La Guerre. The Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion has a school at La Guerre, while the map of 1965 names the same place La Gare.

Now, as far as I know, the French noun ‘La Guerre” means ‘The War’ while the equally French noun ‘La Gare” means ‘The Rail­way Sta­tion”. And in­ci­den­tally, the French im­per­a­tive ‘Gare aux ser­pents!’ hap­pens to mean ‘Watch out for snakes!’ which might, once upon a time, have been quite a common ex­pres­sion out in the wilds of Babon­neau.

Un­for­tu­nately, the Cre­ole ren­di­tion of the com­mu­nity’s name, La Gè, of­fers no as­sis­tance as it seems not to carry any par­tic­u­lar mean­ing. ‘Ladjè’ is the Cre­ole for ‘War”, and as far as I know, the Cre­ole Bri­g­ands had no rail­roads up in the hills sur­round­ing Babon­neau.

Faced with such a ‘cav­a­lier’ ap­proach to the spell­ing of the names of our com­mu­ni­ties, I am amazed that our Prime Min­is­ter has not yet called in con­sul­tants to serve on a Com­mis­sion headed by a favourite son or daugh­ter to record, cat­a­logue, reg­u­late, and leg­is­late on is­sues re­lated to the Na­tional Or­thog­ra­phy and its ef­fects on the coun­try’s Vi­sion and Pro­duc­tiv­ity. Surely, this is an op­por­tu­nity go­ing beg­ging! The is­sue might even be con­sid­ered to be of such ‘dig­nity’ to war­rant the at­ten­tion of the Se­nate or House of Assem­bly … you never can tell! I mean, imag­ine grow­ing up and never know­ing whether you had your roots in a rail­way sta­tion or a bat­tle­field; it could be quite trau­matic.

I have very fond mem­o­ries of the school at La Guerre (I’ll stick to the Min­istry’s spell­ing) that stretch back to the early 1990s when Ethe­lyn, now the prin­ci­pal at the Dame Pear­lette School at Union, was the boss lady there. When my wife and I first vis­ited the school we were met with the usual po­lite in­ter­est tinged with wari­ness and not a lit­tle scep­ti­cism – after all, for­eign­ers bear­ing gifts were noth­ing new, and in any case, we were most likely fly-by-night-shipspass­ing-in-the-dark-type bene­fac­tors. Lit­tle did they know then that we were in for the long haul, and what a long haul it has been.

The school it­self was pretty derelict even in those days. Two build­ings formed a sort of L; the longer per­pen­dic­u­lar was made up of the pri­mary school classes, the ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fices and a sort of li­brary that never re­ally be­came a real li­brary. The par­ti­tions be­tween the class­rooms were rudi­men­tary, flimsy and quite in­ef­fec­tive as far as keep­ing out neigh­bour­ing noise was con­cerned, due I sup­posed to the old cus­tom of hav­ing the school dou­ble as a place of assem­bly for the com­mu­nity or church, much to the detri­ment of the chil­dren who were sup­posed to be learn­ing there. The hor­i­zon­tal bit be­hind the school housed the in­fants. We painted the walls of all three class­rooms with bright scenes one sum­mer and pro­vided chil­dren with racks for shoes, books and bits and pieces.

The teach­ers, on the other hand, were a fan­tas­tic group of peo­ple – the best, the very best you could imag­ine. We be­came reg­u­lar vis­i­tors to the school. With the help of the Ro­tary Club of Gros Islet, my wife Inger or­ga­nized a com­pe­ti­tion among the 11 schools in the north to beau­tify their en­vi­ron­ment and help kids bet­ter un­der­stand the need for preser­va­tion and con­ser­va­tion long be­fore ev­ery­one else jumped on the cli­mate change wagon. She ran a 4-year pro­gramme that low­ered the in­ci­dence of cav­i­ties from a whop­ping 8 per child to zero per child; she ran school gar­den­ing projects; she ar­ranged sewing classes for teach­ers and pro­vided in­dus­trial qual­ity ma­chines to the schools; she con­ducted flower ar­range­ment classes and art classes for teach­ers; she did so many things, and now, to­tally dis­il­lu­sioned by the lack of support for all we have tried to do, she has left St Lu­cia for good, never to re­turn, and has set up our new home in Swe­den after almost a quar­ter of a cen­tury of de­vo­tion, or as Ro­tary puts it, “Ser­vice above Self”. It’s quite sad re­ally, or could have been – you see, we en­joyed our­selves im­mensely while it lasted!

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