A longstanding Democratic Labour Party (DLP) member today argued that the Right Excellent Sir Grantley Adams should never have been listed among this nation’s pantheon of National Heroes.
Instead, DLP stalwart Astor B Watts contended that the late founder and leader of the National Congress Party Wynter Crawford, should have been among the ten distinguished Barbadians accorded National Hero status.
The other nine National Heroes are Father of Independence Errol Walton Barrow; slave rebellion leader Bussa; politician and journalist Samuel Jackman Prescod; trade unionist Sir Frank Walcott; medical doctor Charles Duncan O’Neal; political activist Clement Payne; politician Sir Hugh Springer; Methodist missionary Sarah Ann Gill, the lone heroine; and cricketer Sir Garfield Sobers, the only living hero.
However, based on the fight Crawford waged during his political career on behalf of the disadvantaged in the society, Watts today argued strongly for his inclusion among the eminent group of Barbadians.
The 94-year-old Watts, who has been a member of the ruling DLP for the past 40 years and a supporter for an additional nine years, was at the time delivering the DLP’s lunchtime lecture at the party’s headquarters on George Street, St Michael.
Speaking on the topic Fifty and Onward, Then, Now and A Possible Beyond, he told the small gathering that he had lived through the period of social upheaval and had
first-hand knowledge of the events.
And giving his reasons for throwing his support behind Crawford as a suitable candidate for the status of National Hero, Watts said unlike Adams, who he said had thrown his support behind the planters and merchants upon his return to Barbados in 1928, Crawford had championed the cause of the working class even prior to the formation of his National Congress Party in 1944 and continued after the establishment of the party.
Watts insisted that it was Crawford and not Adams who had spoken out against the impoverished conditions of the farmers and peasants working on the sugar estates in the 1920s and 30s. For this, he said, Crawford gained the reputation from the Colonial Office as a socialist agitator.
On the other hand, Watts recalled that Adams was the lead writer of the Agricultural Reporter, the mouthpiece of the planters and merchants of the day.
Watts further recalled that during the 1937 riots, Adams, who was regarded as one of the legal luminaries of the day, had refused to attend a brief for Clement Payne, who was facing deportation for a “false” declaration to immigration officials in Barbados.
The longstanding member of the DLP argued that Adams could have easily won the case because it was a known fact among most Barbadians that Payne was born in Barbados to Barbadian parents, attended school in Barbados, but was later taken to Trinidad as a young boy by his parents.
Watts further charged that Adams’ anti-working class position came to the fore again when he chose to represent a Bridgetown merchant who had brought defamation charges against Clennell Wickham, the editor of the pro-working class paper, The Herald.
According to Watts, Wickham lost the case against the merchant and later died a “broken man” in the sister island of Grenada.
He further contended that Adams was never in the forefront of the formation of the Progressive League, the precursor of the current Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP), but only became the leader because he was in “the right place at the right time”.
His comments came against the backdrop of recent concerns raised by the BLP that attempts were being made to rewrite
history and to diminish the contribution of the party’s founder to the island’s development.
Late last month, BLP General Secretary Dr Jerome Walcott leveled the accusation against the organizers of the dramatic presentation at Golden Grove Plantation, St Philip, tracing Barbados’ development from the 1816 Bussa slave rebellion through to Independence until today, of a “bold attempt to re-write and re-interpret history and to try to denigrate the contribution of the Right Excellent Grantley Adams to this country, one of our National Heroes.
“It is not right,” Walcott had said then.