We shall not involve ourselves in sterile ideological wranglings because we are exponents not of the diplomacy of power, but of the diplomacy of peace and prosperity. We will not regard any great power as necessarily right in a given dispute unless we are convinced of this, yet at the same time we will not view the great powers with perennial suspicion merely on account of their size, their wealth, or their nuclear potential. We will be friends of all, satellites of none.
This is one of the most famous quotes to be spoken by Errol Walton Barrow, affectionately known as the father of Independence. Mr. Barrow made a huge contribution to the political and social sphere of Barbados. In this piece, we highlight who he was and the great impact he had and continues to have on Barbadian society.
Mr. Barrow was born into the Anglican faith in the parish of St. Lucy on January 21st, 1920 to parents Reverend Reginald Grant Barrow and Ruth Barrow (née O’Neal sister of another national hero of Barbados, Dr. Charles Duncan O’Neal). He attended the Wesley Hall Boys School and then attended secondary school with the aid of a scholarship at the Combermere School. However, at the age of 14, another scholarship took him to Harrison College, where he finished his secondary school education. At the age of 19, he won yet another scholarship to attend Codrington College, but chose not to pursue this and instead briefly taught at the Foundation School and worked in the Petty Debt Court before his interest in military saw him join the Royal Air Force, eventually serving in World War II. After serving as personal navigation officer to the Commander in Chief of the British Army at the Rhine, Barrow decided to revive his academic education and studies law, eventually being called to the Bar in 1949. He subsequently returned home in 1950 and became a member of the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) in 1951. Despite winning a seat in St. George that same year, Barrow was led to form a new political force due to his great dissatisfaction with the leadership of the BLP. Thus, 4 years later, he, along with a few others decided to form an opposing party to the BLP – the Democratic Labour Party (DLP).
The road to success in this party was not a smooth one. He lost his St George seat in the 1956 elections, but after contesting a by-election in St. John, he returned to Parliament in 1958. During his leadership of the DLP, he was successful in advocating and achieving many social changes for Barbados, and it was his party’s advocacy for the cause of the sugar workers during their campaign for increased wages, that led the DLP to power on December 4th, 1961.
Errol Barrow is designated as the father of Independence due to the fact that it was under his leadership of the DLP that Barbados gained Independence in 1966 from Britain, thus making him the first Prime Minister of this new independent nation. Unfortunately, he died in office, having served terms as Prime Minister during the periods of 1966 – 1976 and 1986 – 1987. Some of the achievements he made during his tenure included:
Errol Barrow married Carolyn Plaskett of New Jersey on November 8th 1945. They had a daughter, Lesley Barrow (now Lesley Whatley) and a son, David O’Neale Barrow. Despite his well-known political exploits, he also engaged in recreational activities during his down time. These included flying, diving, fishing, photography and cooking. He was also affiliated with the Guild of Air Pilots and Navigators, the Barbados Light Aeroplane Club and Barbados Cruising.
During his tenure as DLP leader, Barrow received awards including:
In recognition of his stellar contributions to the Barbadian society, a community park, the Errol Barrow Park was opened in St. Michael on the 28th of November 1987. Similarly, he has also been honored by the granting of a public holiday, celebrated on his birthday, January 21st, every year: Errol Barrow Day. Additionally, other honors and recognitions include his presence on the Barbados $50 bill, his designation as a National Hero of Barbados, and the erection of a statue made in his image, located fittingly in the center of Independence Square.
Additionally, the creative arts Centre of the Cave Hill Campus bears his name as the Errol Barrow Centre for Creative Imagination.
Barrow was also a guest of the US President Lyndon Johnson in 1968 and was made a Privy Councilor in 1969. Sudden and untimely death in 1987, Errol Barrow’s contribution to the Barbadian society is still evident today. As it is said:
“He found Barbados a collection of villages, and transformed it into a proud nation” - Unknown