The first black owner of a sugar estate in St John was named Barrow, but he was not the island’s Father of Independence. Also hailing from St John was a man who it was said could have beaten Barbados’ first prime minister at the polls, but never put it to the test.
Those interesting facts came out as the rural parish celebrated the January 21 birth date of National Hero Errol Walton Barrow at the Gall Hill playing field. On this Errol Barrow Day, residents remembered a man who, though born in St Lucy in 1920, went on to win the parliamentary seat for the eastern parish from 1958 and held on to it until his passing while leading the country as Prime Minister on June 1, 1987.
Apart from awards presented to outstanding children of St John and other activities on the national holiday, historian Trevor Marshall, also a native of that parish, read a list of deceased “St Johnians” who were also to be recognized.
“Bernard Leslie Barrow was the first black man we knew in St John to own a sugar plantation,” he said of that Barrow, who died in the 1940s.
Of the more famous Barrow, Marshall recalled that in 1958 when he first ran for the St John seat and won, there were 10 people who had been on the ballot, including Evans Webster, a descendant of the British clan, who sought to win the seat every year.
“A lot of people do not know that Evens Webster had . . . something in the [family] will, [that said] he could only get his inheritance as long as he ran for every election that was held in St John, to elect someone to the House of Assembly. People always used to wonder why Evans Webster was running every year, every time there is an election,” the historian said.
Marshall went on to speak about Horatio Cooke, who died 31 years ago, and after whom the auditorium at the National Union of Public Workers’ headquarters is named.
“A public servant, champion of St John, trade unionist . . . and it was said that the only person who could have beaten Errol Barrow in St John was Horatio Cooke, so much was his redoubtable fame and influence.”
Another black large land owner to score a first for St John was Charles Miller Austin, who topped the other proprietor, Bernard Barrow, by being the first person of his colour to own two sugar estates – in Ashford and Malvern.
Austin was the grandfather of another Barbadian prime minister, Bernard St John.
Also included in the list of St John’s notables was Joseph Nathaniel Goddard, of Newcastle Woods.
He was born in 1874, became a speculator, then “went down in town with his nine sons and one daughter, and established the Goddard empire which now stretches over 17 Caribbean countries”, Marshall said.