The next time you see your local postman; greet him with a smile because you are among a noted few who continue to have mail delivered straight to your door.
The Barbados Postal Service has set a standard by providing a personalised mail delivery service for residents across communities, one which England, the island???s ???Mother country???, followed some 45 years later, and others are yet to adopt.
Acting Deputy Postmaster General, Margaret Ashby, reflected on this and other achievements of the Barbados Postal Service as she addressed the Barbados Network Consultation 2014 3rd Diaspora Conference at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre recently on the topic: The Role of the Post during the Panama Migration.
???Barbados is among a few countries in the world which still offers a door to door delivery service. We have become accustomed to having our mail delivered at our homes, but this is not the case of persons in many countries. Even within our region, persons are still required to travel to the post office to pick-up their mail,??? she stated.
But, this was not always the case. When a postal service was established 36 years after the settlement of Barbados, it facilitated the movement of mail in and out of the country. At that time, residents had to journey to Bridgetown to collect their mail from what was then called the Packet Agency.
It was not until April 15, 1852, that the Inland Postal Service, now the Barbados Postal Service, was inaugurated, making Barbados the second island in the British West Indies to establish such a service, and paving the way for residents to receive mail directly to their doors.??This launch also saw a post office being opened in each of the 10 rural parishes, and the establishment of 30 Letter Receiving Houses (designated places where persons went to receive access postal services such as purchasing stamps and posting letters) to allow easy postal access to residents.
The number of these Letter Receiving Houses was later reduced as post boxes were introduced making the post even more accessible.??Ms. Ashby noted that 44 mail carriers (postmen) were hired to provide universal door to door delivery within the island, marking the beginning of Barbados??? postal network which still exists 162 years later.
In those times, the mail carriers would transport mail from the General Post Office in Bridgetown to the rural post offices via a mule and horse cart.?????Before the advent of the telephone, the Post provided the main and cheapest form of communication. During this time, life revolved around the postman. Villagers watched eagerly for the arrival of the postman or listened for his knock on the house signaling his arrival, as he called out to occupants ???Post???,??? she added.
But providing a door to door service across the length and breadth of Barbados is just but one of the roles played by the Barbados Postal Service during its years in existence. ???The post has a long legacy in delivering quality service. That is why we say, ???if you place it in our hands, we will get it there???. In an era where there was no social media such as Skype, WhatsApp, Facebook or Twitter, the post performed the critical role of facilitating social mail where people were kept in touch with each other,??? she explained.
In fact, the rural post served as a hub within its community becoming not just a place where persons could buy stamps, post letters, send and receive parcels and collect remittances via Postal Money Orders, but also a place where they could catch-up on the latest news.??Giving a historical perspective, Ms. Ashby said the services offered by the Post emerged as critical during the Panama Migration. ???It was the only medium through which persons could stay in contact with their families. This resulted in a large influx of mail,??? she said.
However, she added that the Post had already established a network to facilitate the receipt of mail by the average Barbadian, and also provide the communication and financial connection between Barbados at home and those abroad, not just in Panama, but also in England and the United States.
???Due to a lack of knowledge, some may seek to refer to the Post as ???snail mail???, but for persons back then, this word was non-existent??? The post provided the most accessible and affordable means by which persons could communicate with their families. The receipt of a letter or parcel meant the stability of the family; for without the receipt of such funds, families could be vulnerable when there was no money to meet financial commitments,??? the Deputy Postmaster General noted.
She added that Barbadian workers also benefited from the Barbados Postal Service as it also facilitated the importation of dry goods for hardware stores and forwarded parcels to Panama.?????Today, 100 years later, at this pivotal time in our history, the Post still has a vital role to play in facilitating the creation and expansion of a thriving business community in Barbados.
???Today, more than ever before, the Post must chart new waters in forming partnerships with government and private entities to restructure its processes and offer new services in line with the demands of its customers,??? Ms. Ashby stated.??She added that like the Post of the early 20th century, it must also be given the necessary tools to succeed as a contributor to the development of Barbados and its people.