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The St Helena report and the gap in media

Simplicity makes Ladder Hill life so beautiful, writes Doreen

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Boy running, Ladder Hill Barracks. Picture by Guy Gatien
Jordan Stevens running at Ladder Hill Barracks. Click the pic to see more of Guy Gatien’s pictures

Doreen Gatien 100People living in Ladder Hill Fort have been warned they may have to move out in two years, to make way for a hotel. Writer DOREEN GATIEN, now living in California, cherishes her memories of a barracks childhood. Click here to see a gallery

The headlines coming out of my beautiful island are not very warm and fuzzy. Airport dust is one thing, the introduction of mobile phones is another; the diabetes crisis is shocking.

But to hear that the Ladder Hill Barracks community will have to leave is very regrettable.

At the barracks, in the before days
At the barracks, in the before days

I have barely heard more than a whisper, so I am unable to sense how my fellow Saints feel about all of the changes. I just know that when I sit quietly and think about them, I feel pretty sad.

Why are the Ladder Hill community homes described as “poor-condition”? Is it because some of the people still light a geezer for bath water? Or because there is no front door parking or two-car-garage homes?

Not having all of this is what makes living in Ladder Hill beautiful. My family and I grew up there and will always be so very grateful for it.

My mother has lived there for over 55 years. She was the cook at the Government guest house, Signal House, just around the corner.

She is the oldest person there, and has really felt a sense of belonging, sharing in neighbours’ joys and sorrows, and them sharing in hers.

Child of the barracks
Santara, Marjorie’s neighbor

She lives in what one of our friends from England, who dropped by one day when I was visiting at home, called “a beautiful little cottage.”

Why does Andy Crowe, the housing executive, have to “assure the community” that they will get something “new and better?” Why would the Ladder Hill community want “somewhere better” to live, or “something new and better?”

The very reason for wanting to build a luxury hotel in the historic Ladder Hill Barracks is the same reason why it will be a day of great sadness for those who are forced to leave.

For all, there are fond memories of being able to stand at the top of Jacob’s Ladder with tourists climbing the 699 steps and collapsing at the top; memories of the war cannons sitting on the edge of the cliff, the war tunnels, the forts, the Colonnade with its long stretch of storerooms, Secondary Selective School, the telephone exchange, Signal House.

My mother is elderly, but still has the courage to live alone. But I know that with her cheerful and contented spirit, wanting something different is the least thing on her mind, which is why she still lives at Ladder Hill Barracks today.

Picture gallery: Ladder Hill Fort, then and now
Hotel plan means ‘better homes’ for Ladder Hill Fort tenants

Doreen Gatien with her aunt and mother
Mum, Doreen and Esme waiting for the world to go by. Click the pic to see more of Guy Gatien’s pictures
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