It is that time of year when family members, friends and well-wishers make their way to Government House in Government Hill, St Michael, to witness this island’s nation builders have their National Independence Awards conferred upon them by Governor General Sir Elliott Belgrave.
Heading the list of awardees this morning was Professor Emeritus Sir Henry Fraser, who was awarded the Knight Of St Andrew for his outstanding service to Barbados and to humanity in the field of medicine. Eighteen other outstanding Barbadians who also made meaningful contributions to the social and economic development of Barbados received too their insignias from Sir Elliott today.
Among those rewarded were Dr Lawrence Bannister, sociologist Dr Farley Brathwaite, Bentley Gibbs, Lucene Wharton-Isaac, broadcaster Victor Fernandes, trade unionist Dennis Clarke, actor and teacher Victor Clifford, entertainer McDonald Fingall and retired senior medical officer Dr Elizabeth Ferdinand.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY at the conclusion of the two-hour ceremony, Fernandes said: “It is always a pleasure when the work you have done is deemed to be satisfactory enough to be recognized nationally as something to be emulated and celebrated. In that sense, I am humbled by the offer of such an award.
“It was certainly not something I was anticipating or expecting. I think it is really a recognition for all of us who are in the industry. I do not take it only as an award for myself, but for the team members who helped me along the way to achieve the things we did in broadcasting –– not only in Barbados, but also in the wider Caribbean.
“I have had a lot of support from colleagues, a lot of support from my superiors, people on respective boards, guidance from a number of mentors. So, in a sense I see this as an award not just for me, but for all of us who have worked together to achieve some standards and some excellence in the industry.”
Fernandes pledged to give of his expertise wherever it was required, because he saw himself “first and foremost a broadcaster, and will always remain a broadcaster”. Speaking on his rapid rise in the industry Fernandes, said: “Well I got out of the blocks early. It follows that if you get out of the blocks early, having read my first television broadcast when I was 17 years old, by the age of 29 you should be reasonably well seasoned.
“But for me it was never about work. It was a passion. It was always something I loved to do; and if you love what you do, it is not work. It is something you are committed to.”
Commenting on being recognized for his contribution to education and the cultural industry, entertainer Fingall said: “The award is an honour; and I do feel honoured. What I am saying, it is a good feeling. What really struck me is how the public responded to me when the awards were announced. People seemed to be more excited than I was, and that made me feel even better.”
Reminiscing on his contribution to the calypso art form in the now defunct Untouchables Tent, Fingall said: “Our emphasis was on entertainment. It was sad to a lot of people that the tent was disbanded. You have to know when to finish.
“If you do not finish, it will finish you. And when it finishes you, it will be difficult to make a comeback. We disbanded with the hope that one day we will return.
“I am thinking that we can have a show soon called the Return Of The Untouchables –– just one show before all fans disappear. Our fans would now be in the 70s and the 80s, when it is recalled that we began in 1983.”
Equally delighted at being recognized for his contribiution as a teacher and director of the 100-strong St Leonard’s Boys’ Choir, Andrew Lokey said: “I am really, really proud of what I have achieved on behalf of the St Leonard’s Boys’ School. I am humbled by it.
“I really do not look for these things. I work hard because I love what I do. There are challenges, but the reality is that is life. As I have said repeatedly, my purpose is really to help.
“We have seen some measure of progression at the school and that is satisfying.”