The Right Hon­or­able Errol Wal­ton Bar­row (19201987)


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 19661976 and 19861987. Some of the achieve­ments he made dur­ing his tenure included:

  • the expan­sion of free edu­ca­tion to all lev­els mark­ing a vic­tory against seg­re­ga­tion in education;
  • the intro­duc­tion of a National Insur­ance and Social Secu­rity scheme;
  • school meals on an improved nutri­tional basis;
  • improved health services;
  • improved road infrastructure;
  • accel­er­ated indus­trial development;
  • con­sid­er­able expan­sion of the tourist indus­try, a sta­ple of the Bar­ba­dos econ­omy today;
  • the expan­sion of the com­mer­cial sector;
  • made Bar­ba­dos a mem­ber of the Orga­ni­za­tion of Amer­i­can States;
  • archi­tect of the Uni­ver­sity of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus;
  • cre­ator of the Bar­ba­dos Com­mu­nity College;
  • co-​founder of the Caribbean Free Trade Asso­ci­a­tion (CARIFTA);
  • co-​founder of CARICOM;
  • low­er­ing the age of major­ity from 21 to 18;
  • sig­nif­i­cant improve­ment in the pro­vi­sion of social ser­vices to all Barbadians.

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:

  • An Hon­orary Doc­tor­ate of Civil Law from McGill Uni­ver­sity of Canada in 1966
  • The Lions Inter­na­tional “Head of State Award” for “out­stand­ing ser­vice to the coun­try” in 1967
  • A Queen’s Coun­cil (Q.C.) in 1980.
  • In addi­tion to this, he was also a pub­lished author, writ­ing “Canada’s Role in the West Indies”, pub­lished in 1964 by the Cana­dian Insti­tute of Inter­na­tional Affairs.

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In recog­ni­tion of his stel­lar con­tri­bu­tions to the Bar­ba­dian soci­ety, a com­mu­nity park, the Errol Bar­row Park was opened in St. Michael on the 28
th 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

© Photo 1 taken from Caribbean​lifesto​ries​.com
© Photo 2 taken from Sta​t​icflickr​.com
© Arti­cle of caribbe​an​dreams​magazine​.com

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