Former Prime Minister, the late Professor Owen Seymour Arthur was remembered for his sharp intellect, his prowess as a political and economic giant, and importantly, his decisive nature.
And as the country said farewell yesterday to its longest-serving premier, cousin Dr Elliot Douglin paid tribute to the “country boy” who rose from poverty to the political pinnacle while being heralded for his “regional greatness”.
The medical practitioner explained that his cousin, who served 34 unbroken years as Member of Parliament for St Peter, had left precise instructions long before his last illness as to how he wanted his final farewell to be conducted, including the service at St Peter’s Parish Church where the state funeral was held.
Carrying out the late Prime Minister’s wish that one of his cousins focus on his family, Dr Douglin spoke of Arthur’s parents, Frank Arthur, a carpenter and shopkeeper and Iretha “Doll” Roach, an agricultural worker.
According to Dr Douglin, Arthur likely inherited his father’s forthrightness in speech and decisive nature as the older Arthur was known to be a stubborn, determined person who, “once his mind was made up on a matter, that was it”.
But in his near 30-minute tribute, he also painted a picture of the statesman who, like his father, was a “kind and fair” beneath an “austere exterior”.
The congregation, which included ordinary constituents, political friends and foes, members of the diplomatic community, the judiciary, and his large, extended family, was reminded of Arthur’s humble background, his craving for knowledge and his dogged determination to succeed.
The former Coleridge and Parry student who completed his ‘A’ Levels at Harrison College, successfully read for his first degree from the University of the West Indies at Cave Hill in Economics, History and Management. He would then receive a postgraduate scholarship which led him to UWI Mona in Jamaica.
Dr Douglin noted: “After completing his Masters in Economics he stayed on in Jamaica for ten years. He was employed at the Jamaica National Planning Agency where he worked with two prominent Jamaicans…Dr Omar Davies and Dr Norman Girvin.
“Owen later became an economic director of the Jamaica Bauxite Institute. He also worked closely with the PNP [ People’s National Party] under the Honourable P.J. Patterson. In Jamaica, he broadened his economic expertise and further developed his taste for politics.”
In a tribute peppered with humorous anecdotes about the former Prime Minister’s love for agriculture, cricket and the friendly family feud caused by cousin Haynesley Benn’s failed bid to unseat him from his St Peter stronghold, Dr Douglin said Benn’s attempt to remove the incumbent MP never diminished the love the cousins had for each other.
He continued: “Owen loved the beautiful island of Jamaica. In fact, Dr Davies called him a Jamaican born in Barbados…. He was an avid reader, particularly of history and economics, law and politics…. He possessed a sharp analytical mind and a quick memory for detail.”
Following his return to Barbados in 1981, Arthur began working in the Ministry of Finance under former Prime Minister Tom Adams. In 1984, he became a MP representing the Barbados Labour Party, which he would later lead as Prime Minister from 1994 until 2008.
But Dr Douglin reminded those attending the funeral that family meant the world to Arthur as he spoke of his love for his wife Julie, his daughters Sabrina and Leah and his grand-daughter Isabelle on whom he doted.
Dr Douglin praised the former Prime Minister as a man who “rose by dint of hard work”, was a titan of regional integration but who loved his country and was committed to improving the lives of all Barbadians.