Jamaica declares November 23rd Mary Seacole Day

Jamaica is hurrying down towards Christmas now, it seems. Not a gallop yet – just a gentle canter. Lots of happenings and running up and down, and things seem a little brighter and more lively than last year’s season, which was fairly glum.

There is some cheerful news here, though. The Government of Jamaica has finally seen fit to officially recognize the life and legacy of Mary Seacole. Yesterday was declared Mary Seacole Day, and there was a small ceremony to celebrate near the site of Blundell Hall, an inn or boarding house where she was born, at 8 East Street. The UK has really done a great deal in her memory, including a magnificent statue at St. Thomas Hospital in London. You can read a great deal of interesting history here, from Dr. Elizabeth N. Anionwu, Professor Emeritus of Nursing at the University of West London.

Here are details of the ceremony from the National Library of Jamaica. I wish I had been there!

The Government of Jamaica has proclaimed November 23, 2021, as Mary Seacole Day in memory of Mary Jane Seacole, internationally renowned Jamaican born nurse, on her 216th birthday. The Mary Seacole Foundation (MSF), a group that is aiming to increase awareness of Seacole’s attributes, laid a foliage piece as a tribute and in celebration of this national acknowledgement at the National Library of Jamaica (NLJ). The celebration took place in front of the NLJ building at 12 East Street, Downtown, Kingston – Mary Seacole’s birthplace, formerly known as Blundell Hall. The event was made possible through a partnership of the Jamaica Mary Seacole Foundation, the Institute of Jamaica (IOJ) and the NLJ.

The ceremony was witnessed by the committed team of Mrs. Sonia Mills, Secretary, MSF and the other representatives from the MSF, Dr. Anna Perkins and Dr. Hilary Hickling. Representing the Nurses Association of Jamaica (NAJ) were the President, Mrs. Patsy Edwards-Henry and Mrs. Janet Farr, Past President of the NAJ. Vivian Crawford, Executive Director, IOJ and Beverley Lashley, National Librarian, NLJ and their staff were also in attendance.

Dr. Anna Perkins, with a big smile, holding the Proclamation. (Photo: National Library of Jamaica)

Sir Patrick Linton Allen, Governor-General of Jamaica in his written proclamation, read by Dr. Anna Perkins, MSF, stated, “whereas this, the time of COVID-19 outbreak when healthcare professionals have been similarly challenged by a pandemic, it is an appropriate time to mark her birth, life, legacy and example.”

In her remarks, Dr. Hickling encouraged the younger generation to get involved in history and praised the flower selection for the use of flowers indigenous to Jamaica. Hickling says, “use our own to support our own”, as these flowers are some Mary Seacole had around her.

Foliage piece laid as a tribute to Mary Seacole. Indigenous flora: Portlandia and Thrinax parviflora (Broom Thatch). (Photo: National Library of Jamaica)

This foliage piece is made up of Indigenous Flora: Portlandia and Thrinax parviflora (broom thatch) and was arranged by Ayanna Gordon, National Museum, IOJ. Mrs. Patsy Edwards-Henry laid the foliage piece at the entrance of the NLJ as a tribute to Mary Seacole while highlighting Mrs. Seacole’s work through poetry.

Closing the ceremony, Sonia Mills in her acknowledgement, thanked the IOJ, NLJ and the NAJ among others, who have played a part in keeping Mary Seacole’s legacy alive and honouring the famed Jamaican nurse. Mrs. Mills added that Mary Seacole’s Statue, “standing very proudly on the grounds of St. Thomas Hospital”, is the only statue of a named black woman in the UK.

Finally, Mills credited the nurses in England who she says rediscovered Mary Seacole and gave birth to the immortalization of her work in the UK and Jamaica. A fitting beginning and ending to the day’s proceedings saw trumpeter Thomas Braidy, with the kind permission of the Jamaica Defence Force, providing the National Anthem and the salute to our heroine Mary Seacole.

For more information on Mary Seacole contact the NLJ at: nljresearch@nlj.gov.jm.

In celebration of the recent proclamation of Mary Seacole Day Jamaican cultural and medical representatives, in support of the Mary Seacole Foundation, laid a foliage piece at the National Library of Jamaica which was once the home of the renowned war-time nurse, Mary Seacole. Ground Level (L-R): Mrs. Patsy Edwards-Henry, Mrs. Sonia Mills, Mrs. Janet Farr, Middle (L-R): Yolanda Becker, Dr. Anna Perkins, Vivian Crawford and above (L-R) Ms. Beverley Lashley and Dr. Hilary Hickling. (Photo: National Library of Jamaica)

5 thoughts on “Jamaica declares November 23rd Mary Seacole Day

  1. Dear Emma! Thanks for writing and sharing this! For me, it really is a powerful breath of fresh air during these dark times. Finally, Jamaica is doing what they should have done a long time ago. Of course, Mary Seacole deserves a much much more. But it is an excellent start. Kudos to the IOF and the National Library. Judith

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Judith! Yes, it cheered me up too. It really is late in the day and we could still do so much more as you say. Many Jamaicans have most likely never heard of this amazing woman. I have always found her truly fascinating, extraordinary in so many ways. Take care and stay safe Judith!

      Liked by 1 person

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