Entrance to the Douglas-Charles Airport

Entrance to the Douglas-Charles Airport

It is official.

The airport everyone knew as the Melville Hall Airport is now  the Douglas-Charles Airport.

The renaming ceremony took place on Monday afternoon.

The government said the airport was being renamed in recognition of two past prime ministers, Pierre Charles and Rosie Douglas.

The citation for the renaming of the airport said Douglas gave “heroic service to the people of Africa, the African Diaspora and the Commonwealth of Dominica.”

It said he “proposed practical solutions to the liberation of Dominica.”

“Rosie worked tirelessy to educate the people while at the same time listening to and learning from them,” the citation said. “The result was he gained the people’s love and admiration.”

It went on to say his selfless commitment to the struggle to transform Dominica is an example for all future political leaders.

Pierre Charles’ citation said he dedicated his life to the political independence of Dominica.

“And upon becoming prime minister of independent Dominica tackled the national, fiscal and ecomonic crisis of the first decade of the 20th century,” it said.

The citation said Charles’ leadership has brought praises on himself, his family, the people of Grand Bay and Dominica.

In his speech at the function, prime minister Roosevelt Skerrit, said both men gave their lives in the service of Dominica. He said they set Dominica on a path of recovery and are ‘undisputed role models’ for him and his cabinet.

The airport was renamed after Douglas (left) and Charles

The airport was renamed after Douglas (left) and Charles

Roosevelt Bertrand Douglas was the fifth prime minister of Dominica. He came into office on February 3, 2000, remaining in power until his sudden death on October 3, 200. He was prime minister for eight months.

He first became a member of parliament in 1985 and leader of the Dominica Labour Party (DLP) in 1992, after the death of Mike Douglas, his brother. He led the DLP to victory over the Edison James-led United Workers Party in January 2000. He later formed a coalition with the Dominica Freedom Party (DFP).

After his death he was succeeded by Pierre Charles, who was prime minister from 2000 to 2004. He became MP for Grand Bay in 1985 as an opposition parliamentarian with
the DLP, which was under the leadership of Mike Douglas. He maintained his seat in the 1990, 1995 and 2000 general elections. When the DLP formed the coalition government with the DFP he was made minister for communication and works.

He died suddenly on the evening of January 6, 2004.

The airport got its original name from General Sir Robert Melville, British Governor General of the Southern Caribbee Island Colony of which Dominica was a unit, according to a Facebook post by local historian, Dr. Lennox Honychurch.

He wrote that when the British took over Dominica in 1793, surveyors were sent to cut the island into lots for sale, with men in high positions grabbing the best bits of land.

Melville took the area where the airport is located to set up his sugar plantation and named the estate, Melville Hall, after himself.

The Melville family owned the land until 1860, according to Dr. Honychurch.

In the 1940’s when the British wanted to build an airport the area was chosen and the land was bought from the owners of Melville Hall Estate.

Chief minister Le Blanc opening the airport in 1961. Photo credit: Dr. Lennox Honychurch

Chief minister Le Blanc opening the airport in 1961. Photo credit: Dr. Lennox Honychurch

Construction of the airport began in 1957 under the DUPP administration of Frank Baron but it was opened in 1961 by chief minister, Edward Le Blanc, who came to power just a few months after it was completed.

Hence, the airport was named after the estate it was built on, according to Dr. Honychurch.

Skerrit said he is adamant that the island’s main airport not be named after an 18th century slave owner.

“For those who want our airport named after a slave owner, that is a matter for them,” he said. “It is long overdue that we have to honor our own. History will not be kind to those who decided to display their ingratitude to two men who served this country with distinction.”

See photos below from the ceremony. Credit: www.opm.gov.dm