WYNTER CRAWFORD-THE CONSUMMATE JOURNALIST AND POLITICIAN

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A number of historical figures in Barbados have carved their names on the landscape of history???s page, one such individual was Wynter Algernon Crawford.

During the 1940s to 1960s, he became the voice of change and a beacon for independence, and was considered by many as a progressive and political giant in his time.?? This was enunciated by leading historian, Professor Woodville Marshall in his book ???I Speak for the People: The Memoirs of Wynter Crawford.???

As the duly elected representative for the parish of St. Philip in 1940, Wynter Crawford???s dedication and commitment to freeing this country from the shackles of colonialism, made him a visionary and one of the key figures that helped to shape this country???s development at a pivotal point in its history.

He was born in 1910, one of seven siblings. His formative years were spent in St. Lawrence, Christ Church, where he attended the boys??? school in the area.?? From there, he won a scholarship to pursue secondary education at Combermere School.

It was his father???s blindness that pressed a young Wynter into the world of work at the age of 16.?? He emerged as a salesman for the clothing firm, C.B. Rice in Roebuck Street, and travelled throughout the Eastern Caribbean.

According to his youngest brother, Cecil, his journeys helped to foster his independent spirit and it was while in Antigua that he ventured into journalism, eventually publishing a monthly magazine, The Tribune, in Dominica.

It was on his return to Barbados, that he started The Observer Newspaper in Fairchild Street in 1934.?? As its editor and publisher, he used the paper as an important tool to express his views about what he considered to be the evils of colonialism, in particular, the conduct of the British in the Caribbean and the dominance of the planter/merchant class, as juxtaposed against the extreme poverty that existed among black Barbadians. As a result, he was considered to be a radical, campaigning for a socialist reform of society, free from what he considered to be the oppression of the plantocracy.

It was because of his outspoken views about the impoverished conditions of the farmers and peasants who worked on the sugar estates that Wynter Crawford gained the reputation from the Colonial Office as a socialist agitator.??

???He was a strident advocate for freedom of the colonies from the oppression of the merchant/planter class and the Church ??? He campaigned for the dis-establishment of the Anglican Church [because its policies seemed to be] encouraging slavery,??? his brother, Cecil explained.

However, it was the riots of 1937 that propelled him into the world of politics.?? It was under the influence of the Grenadian statesman, Albert Marryshow and Grantley Adams that he became the founder and leader of the West Indies National Congress in 1944. Following the dissolution of that party, he became a minister of Government and this island???s Deputy Premier as part of a Democratic Labour Party Administration, then led by Errol Walton Barrow.?? He held the portfolios of Trade, Industry, Labour and Development, as well as Commerce and Tourism, from 1961 to 1965.

Mr. Crawford was concerned about this country???s educational system and made many parliamentary contributions on the subject, including obtaining free milk and biscuits and the supply of stationery for school children in 1940. He also advocated having compulsory education.

However, as his brother Cecil indicated, his socialist reform ideals were really manifested as the duly elected representative of the parish of St. Philip, from 1940 to 1966.?? He endeared himself to that constituency to such an extent that he was known as the ???Father of St. Philip???.

As a member of the House of Assembly, Wynter Crawford promoted the establishment of a secondary school, which later became the Princess Margaret Secondary School.?? He was also responsible for the creation of a water main from Long Bay to Sam Lord???s Castle. It was through his intervention that the widening and deepening of Megs Channel in St. Philip, the installation of water-borne latrines for St. Philip???s Church Girls??? School, and raising the ceiling of unsecured loans to fishermen were achieved. His other contributions included matters of labour, the cost of living, the war and the fishing industry. He was concerned about the plight of sugar workers and peasant farmers, proposing a Bill to that effect on June 1, 1948, as well as an Act to enforce wage rates for the sugar industry for the years 1948 to 1949.

Wynter Crawford was passionate about such issues as over population, unemployment and emigration.?? His other proposals included recruiting Barbadian labourers for work in the United States and having a comprehensive social security scheme for the island. In the area of education, he pushed for more secondary school places for children and the regulation of private secondary schools. He also spent much time on harmonising the terms and conditions of service for employees of local Government bodies in the Civil Service under the Civil Establishment Bill.

This eminent politician, who is regarded by many as an unofficial national hero, was awarded a Companion of the Honour of Barbados in 1980 for his meritorious service to this country.

Following his retirement from politics, he lived a quiet life until his death in 1993.

On Saturday, August 29, when Prime Minister David Thompson unveils a plaque and re-names the Six Roads Roundabout in honour of this noble Barbadian, it will signify that his years of sacrifice and dedication for his country have been memorialised for generations to come. clashley@barbados.gov.bb

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