Errol Walton Barrow, the Statesman
Found island a garden of villages,
Father of Barbados' Independence,
And plantations steep with British linkage.
1950, Barrow with contestants
Campaigned with vigor, for the St George seat
Which he captured, the House felt his presence.
Lawyer/economist was hard to beat
His platform, for progress and for reform;
The other side of the aisle was his meat.
Veteran of WW2 did transform;
The evil laws that ruled this great island;
That flowed with colonial chloroform.
The folds and wrinkles on the land he ironed
Out, left by self-serving occupiers;
From his vineyard, fruits we eat have ripened.
The poor no longer seen as pariahs;
By invaders surfing with blue-box gang;
The poor with the rich now are land buyers.
On his legacy Barbadians cling;
This independence needs no queen or king.
The poem “ Errol Walton Barrow, the Statesman” is about a Barbadian who gave Barbados it own flag, the “Broken Trident” and placed the “Union Jack” on the Barbados Museum’s shelve. He was no ordinary politician, he was a statesman who managed Barbados from a macro level and saw the relevance of Caribbean countries in the evolving geo-politics.
Historical facts revealed that Errol Barrow served in the Royal Air Force during World War II. He enlisted in the RAF on 31 December 1940 and flew some forty-five operational bombing missions over the European Theatre. By 1945 he had risen to the rank of Flying Officer and was appointed as personal navigator to the Commander in Chief, Sir William Sholto Douglas of the British Zone of occupied Germany. After the war he studied Law at the Inns of Court and economics at the London School of Economics concurrently, taking degrees in 1949 and 1950 respectively. He also served during that time as Chairman of the Council of Colonial Students where his contemporaries included Forbes Burnham, Michael Manley, Pierre Trudeau, and Lee Kwan Yew, all destined to become political leaders in their home countries.
He returned to Barbados in 1950 and was elected to the Barbados Parliament in 1951 as a member of the Barbados Labour Party (BLP). Feeling the fever of anti-colonialism he had inculcated during his student days in London, he quickly became dissatisfied by the incremental approach to change advocated by the party stalwarts. In 1955 he founded the Democratic Labour Party as a progressive alternative to the BLP. He became its leader in 1958 and the party won parliamentary elections in 1961 within his constituency of St. John. Barrow served as Premier of Barbados from 1961 until 1966 when, after leading the country to independence from Great Britain, he became Prime Minister. He served continuously in that capacity as well as stints as Minister of Finance, and Minister of Foreign Affairs for the next ten years. During this period he had lengthy affair with American musician and civil rights activist Nina Simone, who had fled to Barbados to avoid prosecution for tax resistance.
During his tenure the DLP government accelerated industrial development, expanded the tourist industry to reduce the island's economic dependence on sugar, introduced National Health Insurance and Social Security, and expanded free education to all levels.
Barrow was a dedicated proponent of regional integration, spearheading the foundation of the Caribbean Free Trade Association (CARIFTA) in 1965. Eight years later CARIFTA evolved into the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), when Barrow, together with Forbes Burnham of Guyana, Dr. Eric Williams of Trinidad & Tobago and Michael Manley of Jamaica enacted the Treaty of Chaguaramas to bolster political and economic relations between the English-speaking Caribbean territories.
After another landslide victory in 1971, the DLP returned to the electorate in 1976 for a mandate after two years of bitter controversy over constitutional amendments put forth by the government. Barrow, who had invited public comment on the amendments verbally lashed out at those who had been critical of what he viewed as a minor procedural change in the appointment of judges. A general economic downturn which affected most countries in the hemisphere contributed to a shift in public sentiment resulting in the party's election defeat. As an indomitable advocate of Caribbean sovereignty he fiercely opposed interference in Caribbean affairs. As opposition leader in 1983 he spoke out forcefully against the United States invasion of Grenada and he was scathing in his criticism of other Caribbean leaders who kow-towed to Washington in the hope of getting economic handouts:
“Mr. Seaga (Prime Minister of Jamaica, Edward Seaga) thinks that the solution to Jamaica’s problems is to get President Reagan to play Santa Claus. I do not believe in Santa Claus.”
In May 1986, after 10 years in opposition, Barrow was re-elected as Prime Minister in a landslide victory in which the DLP won 24 of 27 seats in the House of Assembly. The campaign was notable for an address he gave at a political rally some two weeks before the election which came to be known as the "Mirror Image" speech. In it, Barrow rhetorically asked Barbadians what kind of a future they saw for themselves when they looked in the mirror; contrasting a life of menial labour as an émigré in the developed world, or staying and building a strong and independent Barbados to rival other small states like Singapore. His re-election served as a catalyst for resurgent nationalism in the region, which by and large had subordinated itself to U.S. aid policy in the early 1980s. Barrow wasted no time in distancing himself from the "mendicant mentality" of his predecessors J. M. G. Adams (who was the son of Sir Grantley Herbert Adams the Prime Minister of the West Indies Federation formed on January 3, 1958 and was dissolved on May 31, 1962) and Bernard St. John. In his first press conference as Prime Minister he referred to Reagan as "that cowboy in the White House". In a British interview he characterized the President of the United States as "a zombie; he's programmed, a very dangerous person".
He chastised Washington for its treatment of not only the Caribbean states, but also of Canada and the United Kingdom, which he described as Barbados' closest allies. His political opponents deemed his attacks on Reagan as "tactically stupid", but for most Barbadians his outspokenness meant that "The Skipper" was back. A year after his re-election, Prime Minister Errol Barrow collapsed and died at his home on 1 June 1987, becoming the second sitting Prime Minister to die in office. By an act of Parliament in 1998, Barrow was named as one of the ten National Heroes of Barbados. His sister, Dame Nita Barrow, also became a social activist, humanitarian leader and later Governor General of Barbados.
Indeed, Wikipedia has factually depicted the political career of Sir Errol Walton Barrow, the man I have known ever since I was given the right to vote at age 21 in 1964 though I never voted for him because my voting station was in Saint Lucy where the Democratic Labour Party candidate was Sir John Eustace Theodore Brancker who was adored by a substantial number of folks in the constituency of Saint Lucy who kept returning him to the Barbados Parliament for all the years he represented the Parish of Saint Lucy a Democratic stronghold ever since the birth of the Democratic Labour Party. Sir Theodore Brancker, the politician and lawyer fought for black rights, particularly suffrage, while a member of the Barbados parliament from1937-76. Saint Lucy was always a safe-seat for Theodore Brancker as he was affectionately called by the StLucyans. He was born on February 9, 1909 and died on April 25, 1996.
The illustrious career of Sir Errol Barrow, who was the Leader of the Democratic Labour Party, influenced the creation of this social commentary poem “Errol Walton Barrow, the Statesman”, the First Prime Minister of Barbados. It is written in the Terza Rima format. consisting of tercet verses in iambic pentameter in English poetry. It uses an interlocking rhyme scheme of aba, bcb, cdc, and so on. This poetic form was created by the Italian poet Dante Alighiere in the late 13th century. He organized its structure with five options . Option five defines the structure of this poem where use is made of a rhyming couplet at the end of the last stanza, with the end-rhymes not rhyming with the end-rhyme of the second verse of preceding Tercet as shown in the excerpt below of the last three stanzas of the poem.