In April 2013 Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, suggested that the new London airport be named after Margaret Thatcher. I might have been bemused, failing to see the connection, a battleship perhaps, but an airport? As it was I was too busy with packing and preparations to come out to Bermuda so paid little attention. It seems that politicians have commonly given their names to airports – well, their colleagues have, presumably with an unspoken expectation that they too will be similarly honored in time. So we have McCarran Airport in Las Vegas after a US senator, Dulles Airport, Washington after a US Secretary of State, and slightly closer an ex-PM of St Kitt’s: Robert Bradshaw Airport.
And LF Wade Airport, Bermuda.
Leonard Frederick Wade (1939-1996)
You will have surmised that he was a politician, one time leader of the Progressive Labour Party of Bermuda, though they were never actually the party in power during his lifetime. I wonder if it is something to do with being left wing that leads to eponymous airports – Grantley Herbert Adams (Barbados Airport) and Norman Washington Manley (Kingston Airport, Jamaica) were both labour politicians. Or is it an island thing – Terrance Lettsome (British Virgin Islands Airport), Lynden Pidling (Nassau Airport).
LF Wade entered politics in 1968 when segregation and property-based franchise were prominent in Bermuda? He was black. The PLP took up a socialist rhetoric and walked a wobbly path between rejection of racial oppression and anti-white sentiment. This was the start of party politics reflecting Westminster, but was probably inevitably linked to racial arguments given the 60/40 racial split in the population and the fact that historically black people had been emphatically excluded from government on the island.
There is no doubt that LF Wade was a noteworthy character: he was trained as both a teacher and a lawyer, a family man (3 wives and 6 children) and played clarinet in a band. The naming of the airport after him in 2007 was noisily controversial. The PLP were in power in 2007 (they are not now) and I find myself agreeing with the opposition of the time who accused them of making decisions that were not theirs to make – the naming an airport should be a democratic process. The PLP responded that their election platform had included promoting naming of streets and public buildings – they probably had a long list of members they planned to honour.
Field Kindley was an American WWI pilot
What is the purpose of naming buildings, streets or airports in this way? I can understand the instances or promoting culture – Hungary have a Franz Liszt Airport, New Orleans has Louis Armstrong Airport; honoring really famous nationals also makes sense – Alexander The Great and Aristotle both have airports in Greece, and Pisa has Galileo Gallilei. But it seems that using partisan names creates an unbalanced version of history, socially excluding those who hold alternative views. I wonder if the conservative Bermudians might justly feel aggrieved at the promotion of political statements at their national airport.
All the rage
It turns out that airport names are in the news all over the place this month:
- Humberside Airport wants to rename itself after John Harrison, the local clockmaker who invented a tool for measuring longitude.
- Wichita has renamed their airport Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower Airport – lack of consultation providing the controversy
- Beijing is choosing between Daxing (meaning Big Prosperity) and Lixian (courtesy and virtue)
The Philippines have rules about all this – only dead people and a strict hierarchy so a local official will only ever name a tertiary road but a president might give his name to a motorway. In Uzbekistan they forbid naming any place after any person.
I see John Major has had a Spanish street named after him, not a motorway. Why? He went there on holiday.
Bermuda flights leave UK from Gatwick. The name was that of a goat farm on, or probably now under, the northern runway. Beware the websites telling you Gatwick was a small hamlet – there is one such, but it’s in Surrey.
Heathrow was located on a hamlet of that name and Stanstead by a village with the pretty name Stanstead Mountfitchet.
We might be accused of misleading by the naming of London Oxford International Airport, but it follows the pattern of London Heathrow and London Gatwick, and is arguably closer, at 60 miles, than London Ashford at 73 miles from Downing Street.
Is it a good thing that we have not yet succumbed to sponsorship of airports? Philadelphia has a subway station named AT&T. I like the sound of MacDonald’s International Airport of Independent Scotland.
Can be eponymous:
- O Hare at Chicago after naval pilot
- Logan International in Boston after WWI veteran and senator
- Shuttlesworth in Alabama for a flying preacher
- Dallas Love Field in memory of a pilot who crashed (painful memory)
- La Guardia, NY after the mayor
Or after Saints:
- St Paul The Apostle in Macedonia
- St John’s, Canada
Curiously none after St Joseph of Cupertino who is apparently a patron saint of flying.
Or some that are just Silly:
- Tsilli Tsilli, Papua New Guinea
- Raspberry Strait, US
I refer back to the Daily Mail, where Boris Johnson states that naming an airport would create “a permanent and lasting tribute” to his teenage hero. Saddam International Airport in Baghdad was neither while Sydney Airport has been called Kingford Smith and before that Mascot. If airports will so easily switch allegiances then surely it is best to stick with a geographical identifier, maybe just naming the waiting areas or the baggage reclamation after locally honourable people.
Lending your name to buildings, structures, streets, parks…
But poor Emilia Clarke, better known as the beautiful mother of dragons from Game of Thrones, has had a slug named after her: Tritonia khaleesi