If there is one politician who remembers the days leading up to this island’s Independence and the early thrust towards national development, that man is Sir Philip Greaves, Knight of St. Andrew and a former Deputy Prime Minister.
Indelibly etched in Sir Philip’s mind is his contribution as a delegate to the Constitutional Conference held in London in 1966. He remembers the historic negotiations for his nation’s Independence and when the Barbados Independence Act was passed by the United Kingdom Parliament in 1966.
He also remembers the panel selected to work on the Draft Constitution of Barbados, which included Sir Frank Walcott and Sir William Douglas; the controversial nature of that said conference; and when, on November 18, the designation Premier was changed to Prime Minister by an amendment to the Barbados (Letters Patent Consolidation) Order, 1964.
But what the 85 year-old recalls most vividly is his call to political life by the Father of Independence and then Premier of Barbados, the late Errol Walton Barrow.
In an interview with the Barbados Government Information Service, Sir Philip acknowledged it was dissent among some Cabinet Members that catapulted him on to the political scene in 1965.
“There were some problems that arose because Mr. Barrow wanted Independence at that time and they were others who were not so inclined, and among them were two Cabinet Ministers…,” he recalled, noting that the resignation by one of them led Mr. Barrow to consider him for a position.
Recounting the offer, he said: “He wanted to have some words with me; he told me what he wanted and he offered me the position… So I accepted the position as Minister without Portfolio and I was Leader of The Senate.”
Holding the title of Minister without Portfolio was not without promise. Within less than two months when Mr. Barrow wanted to constitute a panel to work on the Constitution for an Independent Barbados, Philip Greaves was among four Cabinet Ministers co-opted to that task in 1965. “Perhaps my London experience would have to come high on the agenda,” he remarked, as he alluded to the Independence Conference held in the United Kingdom (UK).
Explaining further, he said: “In London, the conference was controversial. It began in controversy in that there were three factions – the Government Party, the Barbados National Party, which was then the main opposition party, and the Barbados Labour Party. The Government faction stayed alone but the two other parties more or less held similar views. There [also] came a time when we were not satisfied that the Commonwealth and Colonial Secretary, who was a Cabinet Minister in the UK Government, gave sufficient attention to the Barbados Government’s position. He seemed to be leaning towards the other parties. It seemed so to Mr. Barrow, anyhow.”
Sir Philip recalled the exchanges he saw between the Chairman of the Conference and Mr. Barrow, and noted this led to the adjournment of the meeting and feelings among the delegates that: “There goes Independence for Barbados – No Independence for Barbados”. However, according to him, when it was later announced that November 30, 1966, would be Independence Day, there was jubilation among all delegations.
On his return from the UK and with elections in early November 1966, Sir Philip found himself cast in a new ministerial position that would once again prove advantageous to him and his country.
“We had to choose Ministers all over again under the Constitution of Barbados… At that point I was made Minister of Home Affairs, and I had responsibility for the police; immigration, urban development and town planning. And, during that period, Mr. Barrow was not only Prime Minister but he was Minister of Foreign Affairs.”
By 1971, Sir Philip was holding a different portfolio – Minister of Housing, Lands, Labour and National Insurance. As he recounted those early days in a new Ministry, he declared his greatest pleasure, apart from Independence, was bringing housing solutions to Barbadians. His was a belief that if a nation’s people were to progress, then their social development had to be a priority for government.
“I am proud that I was able to develop Eden Lodge, for starters. As a matter of fact, I can even go back a little bit. At the time, housing consisted of the Housing Authority which was low income housing; and the Urban Development Corporation, which was middle income….
“There was nothing in between there for an individual who did not qualify for middle income and was disqualified from the Housing Authority [as being] low income. So, I decided to bring them together as one, as the National Housing Corporation… so that we could deal with it in a way in which we could include everybody in housing,” he explained.
Consequently, the era of the 1970s saw the development of low income housing at Eden Lodge, as well as low to middle income housing in areas such as Lodge Terrace, Lodge Crescent, Wanstead, Oxnard’s, North Wildey and Friendship Terrace, where some were constructed, as Sir Philip put it, with ownership in mind.
“People could have moved upward, if they wanted to – from the Housing Authority into the low middle income, or even higher, depending on their income at that particular time. And, that was Friendship Drive. We also did some work on the small area at Free Hill.”.
The former Member of Parliament, who represented St. Michael North from 1965 to 1994, also brought cutting edge technology and innovation to housing with the development of Oxnard’s in St. James. Though regretting that the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) did not complete this project, as they lost the elections of 1976, Sir Philip still credits his party for seeking to incorporate a heating system into the design.
Elaborating on this, the man considered by some back then as “one of the stability forces in the DLP”, said proudly: “We spoke with Mr. James Husbands [of Solar Dynamics Ltd.] and we came to an agreement where he would put in each house in Oxnard’s the system for Solar Dynamics, and we added it on to the price of the house so that the systems could be paid for over a period of time. Every house owner in Oxnard’s at that time, over 100, was able to have solar put into their house. And, Oxnard’s was a middle income or near middle income housing, at the time!”
Sir Philip clearly had a vision for the people of Barbados and was on the pulse of their every need. His regular visits, every Sunday, to his constituents in St. Michael North kept him in touch, and though his manner of interacting might be deemed unorthodox today, he remembers it was welcomed.
“I would visit and work on an area for about two hours. The next hour then would be spent just driving through the constituency; people would stop me or I would stop and have a word with them…
“The next Sunday, I would work another area and do a similar thing. So, I was through the whole area every Sunday but working one of those sections on a house-to-house basis… I did not establish an office in the constituency. My office was in my car; everybody saw me; I drove around. That was it.”In Parliament, Sir Philip was an avid debater, and had the rare distinction of holding the positions, at various times, of Leader of Government Business in the Senate and in the House of Assembly. Important legislation for which he is credited today includes the Succession Act which, among other things, abolished the right of primogeniture and acknowledged the principle of the “union other than the marriage”.
At the end of the Parliamentary term in 1994, Sir Philip retired from elective politics. In 2009, he was conferred with Barbados’ highest honour, the Knight of St. Andrew, and on occasions, most recently in June of this year, he acts as Governor General.
As Barbados celebrates its golden jubilee, Sir Philip Greaves can be counted among those who contributed selflessly and reverently to the vision of an Independent Barbados.