by Linda Straker
- Government House has been the official residence of British-appointed governors since 1780s
- Frederick Newcome Esq, secretary to British Governor Charles Green, was buried on 25 November 1797
- Senator Chester Humphrey, President of the Upper House will ensure Newcome site is protected
He has watched over the city for hundreds of years from the Upper Gardens of what was then part of Government House compound, and most recently he watched the construction, opening and functioning of the new Parliament building as he laid there in silence.
Located directly in an area beneath the Parliament’s carpark and alongside the newly paved road used to exit from Parliament on special days, is his tombstone. To many, it may have gone unnoticed, but to others who have seen it looking at them in the face, they often wondered who is resting there in peace.
I was one of the persons who observed that tombstone last week Wednesday, 20 November 2019 as I exited the Parliament compound. Walking out of the compound in that newly paved road is my normal route once I attend a session.
As I walked, I observed the recently planted trees that will eventually add beauty to the scenery. Then suddenly close to a tree that was obviously saved by the excavators when the land was being cleared to construct the road and the building, was the unkept tombstone, standing there like an unwanted piece of concrete — but the shape shouted tombstone.
I tried to get some photos but the distance at where I stood did not allow; the earth was soft from the recent rain so I decided not to venture into the area.
That evening, I had a conversation with a former staff of the Ministry of Works who confirmed that he was aware of the tombstone but had no knowledge of the identity of the person. The next day I called the Office of the Governor-General which was unable to help. This did not dampen my spirit and promised myself to make this my personal project. I continued calling persons whom I felt would assist, but most were shocked to learn of the findings.
I then spoke with Darryl Brathwaite, a member of the National Trust, who in turn established contact between myself and John Angus Martin. Through a video produced by Kenrick Fletcher and posted online in 2013 that was sent to me by Martin, we were able to determine the name of the person buried in the upper Gardens.
His name is Frederick Newcome Esq and he was the secretary to the governor, Charles Green (1797–1801). An online search of the colonial records through the Gentleman’s Magazine shows that Governor Green was the fourth person to be governor after the killing of Ninian Homes by Julien Fedon in 1795.
The Gentleman’s Magazine was a monthly magazine founded in London, England in January 1731, which ran uninterrupted for almost 200 years.
The magazine further confirmed that Newcome died on 25 November 1797 after a short illness. My answer came on 25 November 2019 – 222 years after his funeral. Newcome was buried the same day that he died.
It was a rainy day and all the officers of the garrison and almost all the respectable inhabitants of the town attended his funeral. “His death will be long and sincerely regretted by society, to which he was a valuable acquisition,” said the announcement of his death. He was survived by his wife and an infant child.
With this knowledge, I then informed several persons to whom I spoke with earlier that I can confirm the name of the person who is watching the parliament. I also informed the Office of the Governor-General. I also spoke with other persons whom I believe can influence the cleaning and protection of the tombstone.
“We are aware of the tombstone located there but I am personally not aware who is buried there,” said Senator Chester Humphrey, President of the Upper House when asked if he had seen the stone and knows who is buried there.
“His name is Frederick Newcome and I can confirm that because after observing the stone I embarked on researching about it,” I informed him.
Happy to learn that at last parliament can now put a name to the gravesite, Humphrey gave the assurance that as President of the Upper House he will ensure that measures will be taken to bring the history of the deceased to life.
“We have no reason to remove this grave, so it will not be moved, but I will talk with the Speaker of the House and we will ensure that the site is protected. It’s our history,” he said.
Government House has been the official residence of the British-appointed governors sometime after 1784, and of the Governors-General since 1974, until Hurricane Ivan greatly damaged the building complex in 2004.
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