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Peter Beckingham

Former governor in Turks and Caicos Islands

Part of UK in Grand Turk

22nd January 2016


I’ve always been a big fan of museums, and working in the Caribbean hasn’t changed my view. The Museum of Slavery in Nassau presents a detailed, and disturbing, account of the impact of slavery in the Bahamas, and museums in St Kitts and Nevis portray a fascinating picture of life before independence. Nelson’s Dockyard in Antigua is renowned for a superb collection of memorabilia and historic buildings.

But for my money, although of course I am biased, our National Museum in Grand Turk takes some beating for its variety of history. In a 90 minute visit it is possible to see remains from a 17th century Spanish galleon sunk off our shores, a short account of the impact of European settlement on local inhabitants, and gauge the extraordinary achievements of some of America’s first astronauts, including John Glenn’s famous splash down in our waters in Friendship 7 in 1962 prompting a visit by no less than the then Vice-President Lyndon B Johnson to Grand Turk.

I was at the Museum again this month, to see the opening of a new exhibit designed to illustrate how the role and style of Governors here has changed.  The display inevitably includes the famous plumed hats beloved of a former era, and shows how dependent former Governors were on mail and postage. No internet links for them.

As well as casting off the archaic symbols of an earlier era, Governors in our Overseas Territories now have much easier access to guidance, advice and indeed instructions from London. For example, when we and London were considering recently the impact of TCI’s extraordinary economic turnaround, and its success in paying off the UK guaranteed loan, it was possible for representatives of a range of interested officials from different Departments like the Treasury, Foreign Office and International Development in London to gather by teleconference with TCI. Ministerial views are known almost instantly.

Similarly, when an event like the arrest of Dominican Republic fishermen or Haitian migrants in our waters takes place, the BBC can carry the news within hours. This means that TCIG or UK Ministers or Governors no longer have the luxury of days, or even hours, to fashion a public statement.

Our National Museum gives a great flavour of how our history and culture has been influenced by surrounding events. The sinking of a Spanish ship, or even the return to earth of John Glenn, were not known about as rapidly as they would be today. But by understanding our history, and seeing exhibits like those at our National Museum, we are in a much better place to interpret and respond to the different events which impact on Turks and Caicos.

Congratulations to the Museum, not least as it celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, on being such an integral part of TCI’s history and culture. Its director Pat Saxton, the many volunteers who give hours of their time to welcome visitors, and its sponsors  deserve all the support we can give. I hope every school in Turks and Caicos will have on its itinerary a visit to the Museum as well as TCI’s other historic landmarks, like “Waterloo”, Duke Street and The House of Assembly.

TCI Museum      Governors Exhibition Museum

Grand Turk Museum                   Governor’s Exhibition, Grand Turk Museum

Waterloo Governor's Residence           Friendship 7

“Waterloo” Governor’s Residence        Replica of Friendship 7, Grand Turk

About Peter Beckingham

Peter was the Governor of the Turks and Caicos Islands from 2013 to 2016. Before this, he was British Deputy High Commissioner to India, based in Mumbai, the commercial capital,…

Peter was the Governor of the Turks and Caicos Islands from
2013 to 2016. Before this, he was British Deputy High Commissioner to India, based in Mumbai, the commercial capital, where he had a responsibility for developing UK-India trade and investment. His earlier appointments have
included Consul-General and Director-General of Trade and Investment in
Sydney, and British Ambassador to the Philippines, where he initiated
the UK Government’s involvement in a peace process with the Philippine
Government and Muslim rebel groups.
Peter is married to Jill, a teacher of special needs, and they have
two grown up children. His outside interests include cricket, golf and