For one minute just before five o’ clock this evening the hearse bearing the body of Professor the Right Honourable Owen Arthur stood motionless outside the house where the young regionalist was raised in one last goodbye. Then the armed and unarmed forces ahead re-started their march towards Mount Pleasant Gardens where Arthur’s remains were interred.
The doors and windows at the brightly-painted family home were closed, but the symbolic gesture brought quiet and a respectful solemnity to a normally lively neighbourhood where scores of residents today lined the streets to pay final respects to the man who represented their interests in Parliament for 34 unbroken years since 1984.
Cadets stood at attention on both sides of the streets and Arthur’s neighbours, constituents, wellwishers and mourners took in the climb up Benn Hill, a walk Arthur and hundreds others have taken to the then All Saints’ Boys’ School in their youth.
Many residents had waited most of the evening, taking up almost every vantage point throughout the two-hour service at the St Peter’s Parish Church in Speightstown. Many walked alongside the official cortege as it made its way through the village determined to escort Arthur’s flag-draped casket to its final resting place on the historic occasion.
Barbados TODAY spoke to some of the residents and many made it clear that they were “die-hard” fans of the late representative who would never forget his significant contribution to building a thriving economy and his commitment to helping to improve the lives of the people of that northern parish.
Benn Hill resident who asked to be referred to as Saga said he will forever be “an Owen Arthur man” until the day he dies.
“When I die I want to go and see him in heaven,” he stated. In addition to carrying signs representing his admiration for Arthur, Saga also held an antique shotgun in his hand which he said represents the late Prime Minister as a warrior who fought for the best for his country and the Caribbean.
“Let me make it abundantly clear. Owen as far as I am concerned is the greatest that Barbados has ever produced. That man was a born leader. He was a man with a vision and had the best for Barbados in his heart.
“There is none that can come after him. I call him Moses. He was a fearless warrior and I can attest to that. He didn’t fight with his gun, he fought with his mouth, he was an action man,” Saga said, explaining that the gun was inoperable.
Pauline King travelled from Indian Ground to see the procession passing through Benn Hill. King said the occasion was a once-in-a-lifetime experience which she believes many will remember for years to come.
Meanwhile, Grenville Cumberbatch said he was happy to see that even in death, Arthur was recognized for what he has done for the country and the constituency. He said it was fitting that the procession passed through Arthur’s hometown.
“The idea of the state funeral is very nice. I went to school with Mr Arthur. I went to Coleridge and Parry and then he went missing and I heard he was in Jamaica and then the next time I saw him was in my district in Diamond Corner and he told me he was our other representative,” Cumberbatch said. [email protected]