Scores gathered outside the Lyndhurst Funeral Home on Passage Road,St Michael to witness the departure of the procession to begin the state funeral for the nation’s longest-serving Prime Minister, Professor the Rt.Honourable Owen Arthur, that journeyed to his home parish and former political riding, St Peter, where he was laid to rest.
Adults, children and babies in hand, sheltered under umbrellas from a fierce sun that beat down throughout the day, as they observed the cortege leave the funeral home at 12 noon.
Some of them proudly waved their hands and the national flag as they bade farewell to their late former leader who died on July 27 at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital from heart disease.
Around 11:56 a.m., the bearer party, which consisted of six soldiers from the Barbados Defence (BDF) and officers from the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF) arrived and proceeded into the funeral home to bear Arthur’s casket to a waiting hearse.
“We met at Mona in September 1964 and we remained friends until the day he died,” said Lyndhurst funeral director Charles Griffith. He told journalists that he did not believe it would be appropriate for him to give exact details of the funeral’s home role. But he boasted that the hearse, a Lincoln Icon, was a “top of the line vehicle” which has been at the funeral home for a number of years but is still in pristine condition.
“It has what we refer to as a deck which comes out and makes it easier for the pallbearers to put the casket into the hearse and then it will go right back in,” Griffith said.
Before leaving the funeral home to head off with the procession, Arthur’s nephew, Julian Arthur, described the occasion as an emotional high point of the past four years as his family was thrown into mourning numerous times with the loss of lost several members, including during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Julian Arthur said: “The entire Arthur family has been through a lot in terms of death in recent times. From an uncle standpoint, he was always a good man, always a family man. You know him as the economic articulate guru, but he was an avid family man, a great cook, always thought that he was probably one of the best chefs. Given that he had a career in politics, he thought that he could probably make it on the West Indies cricket team.”
Many onlookers who spoke to Barbados TODAY said they came to get a final glimpse of their late beloved Prime Minister on his final journey. They all expressed deep appreciation for what he did for the country during his tenure as Prime Minister and beyond.
Angela Kirton from Kensington Lodge, The City, said she came out to pay her final respects to the prime minister she adored and his family.
“It is a fact that that is we man and we will never forget him as long as we live. He is down to earth, he would tell you it as it is; you vex with him or you please and it was as simple as that,” Kirton said. “He bring this country back to life. He going to heaven because he was a good man.”
Joycelyn Edwards, also of Kensington Lodge, said she was present to witness the special occasion because Arthur was a loving, genuine and caring person whom she believed put the needs of the people first when he led the Government.
She recalled that she told Arthur during a political meeting that he was going to serve as the leader of the nation.
“Before he even did Prime Minister I told him a night in the Pine, ‘listen to me, you goin’ be the next Prime Minister’. And he said, ‘man you getting drunk man, man – hush your mouth’. I remember that,” Edwards said.
Phyllis Knight from Country Park Tower exclaimed that Arthur was the best Prime Minister that Barbados ever had. Knight said she would forever hold strong to the belief that Arthur was the greatest and noted that she would never trade him for the world.
“He was a good October man like me. We love you, Mr Arthur,” Knight said.