After serving with distinction for the past five years as Barbados’ sixth native Governor-General, Sir Elliott Fitzroy Belgrave is preparing to step down at month-end, after redefining the nation’s highest public office and, in the process, earning the admiration and respect of Barbadians from all walks of life for the inspiring example he provided.
The 86-year-old former top prosecutor and Supreme Court judge, who often spoke with pride about his humble beginnings in Boscobel, St Peter where he grew up, went about the execution of his public duties with such a refreshing down-to-earthness that he came to be seen by the average Barbadian as affable, approachable, indeed as very much one of their own.
Removing protocol and other official barriers which traditionally have made the office of Governor General appear distant from the average citizen, Sir Elliott was often seen, as he went about his duties, very much at ease standing among and engaging persons from all walks of life, be they centenarians who regaled him with colourful stories about their lives, or primary school children whom he always encouraged to strive for excellence in everything they do.
As Sir Elliott was so down-to-earth and always had a pleasant and encouraging word for everyone, it was little wonder he soon became fondly known as the “People’s Governor General”.
Last evening, at a well-attended service at the Cathedral Church of St Michael and All Angels in the heart of Bridgetown, Sir Elliott’s outstanding service to the nation was recognized and celebrated on the occasion of his retirement.
True to form, he wanted it to be a public event and extended an open invitation for Barbadians to join him and his relatives, along with the Cabinet and other officials, in this public act of thanksgiving for the opportunity he had been afforded to serve the nation in this high office as the official representative of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the Head of State of Barbados.
In brief remarks to those in attendance, Sir Elliott thanked Barbadians “for the love and kindness they [had] shown” him over the last five years.
“I have tried my very best to serve the State and all the people of Barbados and I hope I have not let anyone down,” he said.
We are particularly appreciative that Sir Elliott was kind enough to offer compliments to the news media, noting that in providing coverage of his official activities over the past five years, they had discharged their duties well.
Delivering the sermon, Dean of the Cathedral, The Very Rev’d Dr Jeffrey Gibson, described Sir Elliott, an Anglican, as “a firm believer in God and a practising Christian” who demonstrated attributes that exemplified servant leadership.
“The example of Jesus of Nazareth, no doubt, would have provided the model and inspiration for a career of service to the people,” the senior Anglican cleric said.
“This timeless concept [of servant leadership] was modelled by Jesus as he ministered to the needs of people besides the Lake of Galilee, across the region of Capernaum and other parts of Palestine. It remains a model for all times and has been practised by believers in the Church and as they have lived out their citizenship in the world,” he added.
We concur with the various sentiments expressed in praise of Sir Elliott whose example demonstrates that true greatness lies in simplicity and humility.
Indeed, to expand on the theme of Dean Gibson’s sermon, Sir Elliott’s example can also be seen in another of Jesus’ teachings about leadership and service found in the Gospel of Mark.
“Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”
In his last initiative before leaving office, no doubt inspired by his visits to primary schools across the island, Sir Elliott has launched a trust to raise money to support scholarships for young Barbadians. It is an initiative worthy of support because education will forever be the key to personal growth and development and to equipping persons with the necessary skills to make a difference in service to humanity.
As he looks forward to beginning a new chapter in his life, with plans that include relaxation by sailing the high seas, we take this opportunity to extend best wishes for a happy retirement to Sir Elliott. May good health, continued happiness and every other blessing be his in his twilight years!