It is most regrettable that for the second time today I feel duty-bound to issue a statement on the passing of another builder of Barbados — this time Ralph “Bruggadung” Johnson.
He was a very successful post-Independence industrialist of Barbados and would have led the way in exporting locally-made products into the Eastern Caribbean and beyond, as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Harris Group of Companies.
Certainly, thanks to his creativity, leadership and hard work, Harris Paints is today a household name, not just in Barbados, but across the Eastern Caribbean.
But for all his successes as a manufacturer, you cannot chronicle his life’s journey without pausing to consider his considerable achievements in, and contribution to, sports in this country.
For more than two decades, starting in 1986, he sat as a member of the board of the National Olympic Committee and was a principal architect in the founding of the local lottery, from which sports was always a major beneficiary.
‘Bruggadung’ has also been president of the Barbados Yachting Association, the Barbados Squash Rackets Association, the Caribbean Area Squash Rackets Association and the Caribbean Yachting Association. In his younger days, he played basketball, football, water polo and squash and was also known as an avid motor racing competitor, with his colleagues in the Barbados Rally Club describing him as a spectacular driver.
His business success and love for sports no doubt contributed to the name Harris Paints being associated with several teams in a variety of sports as the sponsor. It was this long and distinguished contribution to sports and business that led to him being awarded the Gold Crown of Merit in 1997.
Above all those though, ‘Bruggadung’ was Bajan — and you could not miss it in the way he interacted with others. He was Bajan by name and by nature and anyone who knew him knew that what you saw was what you got with him.
I extend deepest sympathy to the Johnson and Straker families — his wife Isabelle; children Jason, Jade, James, Tracy and Amanda; brother Paul Johnson and sisters Lady Straker, Rosemarie Smith and Diane Primo.
May his soul rest in peace.