He was a steadfast nationalist and loyal defender of Barbadian autonomy.
A stout advocate of Caribbean sovereignty, he passionately opposed any foreign
power interfering in the political affairs of Barbados and the region.
And as such came to be seen as one of the giants of Caribbean leadership.
Such a man was Errol Walton Barrow, whose birthday we celebrate
tomorrow, Tuesday, January 21.
Most deserving of the day of honour, this National Hero of Barbados
earned his gargantuan national stature from the very early days of his ongoing
commitment to Barbadian Independence from British rule, which saw fruition
on November 30, 1966, and his ardent advocacy of the Caribbean’s ability to
become a prosperous region, based on its own human and mineral resources,
rather than on the contemptibly and disreputably donated external handouts
–– with their caveats and codicils.
Unknown for gaudiness and ostentation, this man in his meteoric rise to
prominence would serve as an inspiration to other Barbadians that eschewing
pomp and boast was no hurdle to meaningful and lasting success, and that
dedication to worthwhile goals could be of consequential benefit to both
country and self.
And, Errol Barrow’s deep-seated engagement with achieving Barbadian
Independence would have come as little or no surprise, since he was born
–– on January 21, 1920 –– into a family of political activists (uncle Dr Charles
Duncan O’Neal among them) from whom he took his nationalist cue.
Staunch nationalist and advocate of Barbadian autonomy that he would
become, he would however succumb to a diversion –– the World War II
effort –– despatching himself into the British Royal Air Force. Thenceforth, the
young Barrow would studied law at the Inns of Court and pursue a degree
sin economics at the London School of Economics in England.
It was about this time that Errol Barrow would sharpen his skills and tweak
his dreams for the task back home.
Returning to Barbados in 1950 with an energized passion for political and
social economics, he involved himself in several political pursuits. He ran for
the St George seat in Parliament on the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) ticket,
becoming an MP one mere year after his return.
By 1955 dissatisfied with many of the BLP’s policies and programmes, Errol
Barrow would take others with him to form what he deemed the more liberal
socialist Democratic Labour Party (DLP). But it would cost him his St George
Parliament seat in the 1956 general election. Charismatic as he was, he would
be back in the House of Assembly within two years after successfully contesting
a by-election in the parish of St John, where he remained its representative
until his sudden death in 1987 at the age of 67.
Errol Barrow would become Premier of Barbados after the DLP’s sweeping
victory in the December 4, 1961 general election. As Premier, he pursued
a crash programme of public works –– including construction for some
30 industries, the institution of better wages and working conditions for
agricultural labourers, and the expansion of free secondary education in all
Government schools. All this was done as Errol Barrow paved his way towards
Barbados’ Independence, a goal severely criticized then by the Opposition
Barbados Labour Party, but reached nonetheless by the DLP Government on
November 30, 1966.
One the critical high points of Prime Minister Barrow’s tenure was his
antinomy towards what he perceived as Washington’s patronizing interaction
with the Caribbean island nations at the time –– and its meddling with their
Some of us will recall the dispute between Barbados and America over the
use of the United States Naval Facility in St Lucy and the clearly expressed
wariness by the Prime Minister over the reach of Washington policy towards
the island. And Errol Barrow was moved to put to the House of Assembly
that the United States was guilty of “destabilizing” his Government, as it was of
those of Guyana and Jamaica.
Consequently, the United States Naval Facility property would be
returned to its original owners, the people of Barbados, after which Errol
Barrow increased the annual rent of the facility to a staggering US$20 million.
Washington would soon afterwards close the site because it had become
Our National Hero was even wary of our regional security scheme
“contrived in Washington”. Such was the man who stuck firmly to the belief
that Barbados could be a friend of all, but a satellite of none.
A worthy thought to mull upon tomorrow Errol Barrow Day!