A former minister in the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) Cabinet of Sir Harold Bernard Bree St John is recommending the establishment of a monument in honour of the late lawyer, politician and statesman.
Legal luminary and former BLP Minister of Agriculture Sir Richard Johnny Cheltenham, QC, is insisting that Sir Harold must not be remembered only as an “effective deputy” to Tom Adams, the man he replaced as Prime Minister in 1985 after Adams died in office.
“He is deserving of a lasting and prominent place in the history of our public life, and I recommend that a suitable memorial be erected in his honour. And I can think of no place more appropriate for its location than Oistins Town,” Sir Richard told those present at Christ Church Parish Church last night for the Sir Harold St John Memorial Lecture.
The lecture entitled, Sir Harold Bernard St John: The Man and His Legacy, was held as part of this weekend’s Oistins Fish Festival, which was the brainchild of Sir Harold.
“Bree is in danger of being remembered only as a hard-working, reliable and effective deputy to Prime Minister Adams. His larger contribution as the most creative thinker in the public life of the country over the last 75 years is likely to be forgotten and to go unacknowledged,” Sir Richard added.
He said no one had done more than Sir Harold to re-energize Oistins and enlarge its boundaries, adding that “without hesitation and after much reflection” he regarded his former colleague as “the most devoted patriot of our time”.
The former parliamentarian, who served under three Prime Ministers, said despite Sir Harold’s two major setbacks in elective politics, he never blamed anyone for his defeats to Anderson Peanuts Morrison in 1971 and trade unionist Robert Bobby Morris in 1986.
“He was a large, though not a towering figure in the public life of the country. He deserves a monument for the creative role he played and for the values of decency, integrity, perseverance, and, above all, of patriotism, which he consistently exhibited,” Sir Richard stated.
However, the top attorney said Sir Harold had a few weaknesses, including a lack of “the social skills that come naturally to most West Indians” and an inability to establish personal connections, especially while canvassing.
“On those occasions on which we canvassed together, he marvelled over the fact that I was easily able to chat with constituents, enquire about their families and health, admire kitchen gardens and craft. I always took my leave by kissing the ladies on their cheek. As we walked away, Bree would remark, ‘Johnny Cheltenham, you are a real wutless man, man,’” Sir Richard recalled.
He also spoke of the breakdown in the relationship between Sir Harold, who served as Minister of Tourism at the time, and Adams, over a speech which the then Barbadian leader had made about the sector.
So hurt was Sir Harold by the speech that he submitted his letter of resignation to Adams through Sir Richard, he recalled, but a scheduled Cabinet meeting on Monday, March 11 where the two men were to face each other never materialized because Adams had died suddenly on that very day.
“The dramatic transformation from resigning [as] minister to Prime Minister resulting from the death of then very Prime Minister to whom he had directed the resignation letter will forever rank as one of the greatest ironies of Barbadian politics,” Sir Richard said.