The Rt. Excellent Errol Walton Barrow
This coming Sunday will be a day of much significance for most Barbadians. Indeed, January 21 has been of national import since 1989 when it was first officially observed as a public holiday in commemoration of the life and work of the Rt. Excellent Errol Walton Barrow, the first Prime Minister of this country.
So, on Sunday, the Government of Barbados will pay tangible and appropriate tribute to the “Father of Independence” when it unveils what, from all accounts, is an imperial and impressive looking nine-foot, bronze statue of the late Errol Barrow.
According to official sources, the St. Lucian crafted image of the National Hero will stand imposingly at the southern end of a redesigned and greatly transformed Independence Square. It will tower over an area that had been for many years one of his favourite political stomping grounds.
Remedial work on the Square began in earnest in April last year after officialdom took the decision to locate the Rt. Excellent Errol Barrow’s statue at that site. Since then, remodelling of the area has gone on apace; virtually transmuting the spot to the extent that it does not now bear any resemblance to its former state. In modern parlance, it now represents a complete ‘make-over’.
The ‘new’ Square complements the work that has already been undertaken in some other areas of the City by the Barbados Tourism Investment Inc. (BTI), which is aimed at the modernisation and redevelopment of Bridgetown. It also blends well with the work carried out in the adjacent Heroes Square and the northern shore of the inner basin of the Careenage (opposite the Treasury Building), as well as the new ‘Lift Bridge’.
In addition to the statue of the Rt. Excellent Errol Barrow adorning the Square, the other salient features of the renovated, near 50,000 sq. ft. open area, which is ringed by two bridges (the Chamberlain (‘Lift Bridge’) and the Charles Duncan O’Neale), part of the Constitution River and Fairchild Street, are an amphitheatre style setting, two fountains – the Trident and the Independence – and washroom facilities for male and female as well as the physically challenged.
The plans also call for the inside-lane that hugs the Square on Fairchild Street to be designated a taxi lane. It is expected to accommodate a dozen taxis that ply their business in the City.
Sunday’s unveiling, quite apart from its landmark moment, should bring a sense of closure and satisfaction to those persons and bodies that have been calling and agitating over the years for some form of symbolic national recognition for an outstanding son of the soil. The erection of the statue can therefore be described as a fitting and lasting tribute to a much-loved patriot and National Hero; and it brings the plans to fruition almost 20 years after his death.
The Rt. Excellent Errol Barrow was an exceptional Barbadian. His visionary role in co-founding CARIFTA, the forerunner to CARICOM, and his persistence in striving for the region to become a single economic entity in the global scheme of things, the precursory thrust to CSME, speak volumes about the man’s creative thinking and farsightedness.
However, his ‘first love’ was Barbados, his homeland and its people, as his design was one that envisioned a country with the requisite infrastructure and facilities to provide the desired standard of living and available opportunities for all of its people.
But, the contribution of Errol Barrow transcends his important role as a political colossus in transforming the political, social and physical landscape of Barbados and the resultant amelioration of the working and middle classes here. In fact, his service spanned a number of decades, from his meritorious and outstanding World War II pursuits in the Royal Air Force and his legendary emprises at the local Bar, to his efforts as an architect of regional integration.
He was Premier 1961 -1966, Prime Minister on two occasions – 1966 to 1976 and again from 1986 to 1987 and Leader of the Opposition during part of the interregnum in a political career that spanned some 36 years.
While it may not be important to chronicle Errol Barrow’s numerous accomplishments here, local historians and social commentators credit him with: democratisation of the education system and the provision of free secondary and tertiary education; the introduction of a National Insurance and Social Security Scheme; free school meals on an improved nutritional basis; better health services; accelerated industrial development; the quasi-diversification of the economy; lowering the voting age from 21 to 18 years; progressive and enabling labour legislation; facilitation of an environment that allowed more social and economic advancement; considerable expansion of the tourist industry; and his most memorable and notable accomplishment – taking Barbados into Independence on November 30, 1966.
His sheer ability, conviction of spirit, pragmatism, sphere of influence and charisma were such that he was held in awe by most persons – both friends and political foes alike. It is said he bestrode the country and the region as one who appeared to be ‘fearless and fully in charge’; all the while, being a practitioner of democracy.
Some commentators opined that Errol Barrow was driven by an innate desire to develop Barbados as much as possible, while endeavouring for the true democratisation of the country at the same time. Many believed he died in his quest to achieve these. Indeed, one such observer, Theodore Sealy, writing in “Caribbean Leaders” noted that “in his 15-year administration, it seems that social democracy in bringing the people to be beneficiaries of the new kind of state, freed as it is from the plantocracy, was the guiding spirit of his administration.” It was also said of him that “he found Barbados a collection of villages and transformed it into a nation”.
The ceremonial dedication on Sunday will of necessity include much oratory, pomp and pageantry that will serve not only to memorialise but also to immortalize Errol Walton Barrow. Barbadians of all walks of life, race and class and persons of different political persuasions are expected to converge on Independence Square to pay tribute by their presence and witness a statue that bears testimony to a really great Barbadian.
In addition to past and present parliamentarians, former colleagues, friends, relatives and constituents of the Rt. Excellent Errol Barrow will be very much present, as will be members of the Democratic Labour Party, which he co-founded.
Several school children in uniform, a combined primary school choir from St. John, the Mighty Gabby, John King, Nicholas Brancker, Arturo Tappin, James Lovell and David Walcott will participate in the ceremony which gets under way at 5:30 p.m.. There will also be tributes by family members, past colleagues and friends of Errol Barrow.
Member of Parliament for the City, Dame Billie Miller, will officially declare open the renovated Square, while Prime Minister Owen Arthur will deliver the feature address.
Some novelty will accompany Sunday’s proceedings, as music will be provided by members of the Police Band from aboard a barge in the Careenage.
BARBADOS, Come Out and Witness an Important Event on Sunday!