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Ralph ‘Bizzy’ Williams delivers emotional tribute to his sibling Sir Charles, a Barbadian pioneer

by Anesta Henry
7 min read
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Construction magnate Sir Charles Othneil Cow Williams was on Monday remembered as a visionary businessman with a deep loyalty to Barbados and the Caribbean.

Relatives and friends of Sir Charles who died on November 19, at age 88 at the Bayview Hospital, gathered at the St James Parish Church to bade farewell to one who rose from humble beginnings to become the country’s largest private owner of land and the founder of C.O Williams’ Construction.

Prominent businessman Ralph Bizzy Williams told those who attended the service both in person and online, that his older brother who was almost ten years his senior, loved and lived life to the fullest.

Williams said the two of them grew up at Foster Hall, St John on the first piece of land that their war veteran father and Christian mother owned. He said that he, Sir Charles and their seven siblings’ upbringing on the family farm where they all assisted, prepared them for their later lives.

An emotional Williams recalled that he shared a special bond with Sir Charles from the days he accompanied him as a wingman as he searched for a wife in their younger years until he went to England in 2000 to witness him being knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for his contributions to national development. Their bond, he noted, grew even closer in the last three years.

Williams said that an industrious Sir Charles, who pioneered construction, mining, dairy farming, horticulture, agriculture, housing, electrical contracting and more, began to build his empire with two old bulldozers which their older sibling imported.

He said it was his brother’s vision that played a significant role in developing Warrens into the commercial centre it has become.

“As my brother won contracts and started businesses across the Caribbean going nonstop as he always did, he always took us along with him. So, our Williams Industries Companies got work and when our teams won contracts and did developments, his companies got work. We never competed against each other, in business or in sport.

“I guess that was because both of us hated losing, so one of us had to lose if we were competing against each other. He loved horses, polo and fishing. I loved racing, sailing and cruising on my boat with family and friends. Ours was a relationship based on unconditional love for our families and our country Barbados,” Williams said.

He said not for one second did he ever dream that he would receive hundreds of messages from persons of all walks of life, races, political persuasions and religious denominations, as countrymen expressed appreciation for all that Sir Charles has done in his lifetime for the people of Barbados and the Caribbean.

“This love and goodwill and Sir Charles will redouble the motivation of his and my successors to continue building and doing all possible to continue moving the earth to please as we all work to build a stronger Barbados and a united Caribbean nation. Sir Charles’ son Teddy and his support team are very capable.

Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley, in a recorded video on behalf of the Government and people of Barbados, said though Sir Charles was a small man in stature height, in reality, he was a colossus; a giant of a man in every field.

Mottley said Sir Charles who was as Bajan as flying fish and cou cou, was down-to-earth even though he walked with princes, bowed before queens and enjoyed success in business. But the Prime Minister said those who were fortunate to catch Sir Charles in his home or away from the glare of the camera, found him to be just as any ordinary citizen.

Mottley said Sir Charles wanted to see his projects moving along swiftly, but he was not impatient because he was haughty or uncaring.

“In fact, it was the opposite. Sir Charles was in the business of making money, yes, but when he spoke of his projects, his dreams, his plans, it was always in terms of how many jobs they would create and how much foreign exchange it would earn and how the society would benefit.

“And that came I believe from walking the journey of Independence, which was effectively the journey of his adult life. He was all about Barbados, he was about the welfare of Barbadians. He knew his employees by name, something where others would do well to look at. He knew where they lived, he knew their families, he knew their children,” Mottley said.

Meanwhile, Sir Richard Cheltenham said his friend Sir Charles was loyal to friends and family, was generous, unselfish and a good judge of character.

Sir Richard, who worked with Sir Charles in a legal capacity, said the colourful and outspoken construction magnate whose pioneer development projects dominated the Barbados landscape, was not always right, but he was most often right in his judgements because he paid attention to people rather than just to paper details.

He said that in the course of a long, successful life and career, Sir Charles also suffered major setbacks and failures along the way, but would persevere undeterred and confident that eventually he would succeed.

“In the end, his confidence outweighed his setbacks significantly. I suppose that that is why his motto was, the road to success is always under construction. He was civic-minded, looking to the best interest of the country and its people even sometimes to his own detriment.

“Many may not know that in the highway expansion project the Government had stopped paying him after a while. Instead of downing tools like others would have, Sir Charles decided that he would do it for Barbados and for the country’s development. In the end, he suffered a serious loss but I do not think he regretted it.

“It was part of his active patriotism as a proud Barbadian which he demonstrated again and again in many ways over his lifetime. One of the ways in which he has done this is reflected in the many donations of both money and land which he gave for the public good,” Sir Richard said.

He also noted that the construction magnate felt great pain when he was forced to send home staff due to the recession. He said Sir Charles, who at times was stubborn and impatient, was never stuck up or elitist and treated everybody with the same unfailing courtesy and respect.

Rector of St James Parish Church, Reverend Beverley Sealy-Knight spoke about how Sir Charles loved that church and noted that they shared a relationship based on mutual respect and care as he allowed her to be his pastor and his friend.

Sealey-Knight said even when showing signs that he was experiencing discomfort, because of his stubbornness, he showed up, even if it was on Tuesday because he missed the Sunday service. She said he made his way to the altar without fail to receive the blessed sacrament and never failed to make his financial contribution.

“The other thing I must share about Sir Charles was his gentleness, an attribute all should possess and especially the Christian. The world can be ruthless; indeed, it is a ruthless place to live in and hostile environments appear everywhere. In order for the individual to survive the times, there must be those oases to be found where there is refreshment for the mind and for the soul.

“In those moments when a person experiences kindness and gentleness from others, it is like a soothing and healing balm. And I saw that gentleness in Sir Charles as he took the time to talk with others of this community, as he took the time to share. . .One of the fruits of the holy spirit is gentleness,” Reverend Sealey-Knight said. anestahenry@barbadostoday.bb

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