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National Hero of Barbados – Errol Walton Barrow

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The Father of Independence and Social Transformation

Born in the northern parish of St. Lucy on 21 January 1920, Errol Walton Barrow, a social activist and political leader, was the first Prime Minister of Barbados. Also known as the ‘father of Independence and social transformation’, Barrow’s life is full of great accomplishments.

Not only did he serve in the Royal Air Force during World War II, but he then also went on study Law and Economics to become an Attorney at Law. After returning to Barbados in 1950, Barrow was elected into the Barbados Parliament in 1951 as part of the Barbados Labor Party (BLP). Disillusioned with the state of Barbadian politics at the time, he sought his own political alternative and subsequently in 1955 formed the Democratic Labor Party (DLP), going on to become the party leader in 1958.

He served as Premier of Barbados from 1961 to 1966 and proudly led his country to Independence from Great Britain, thus becoming the island’s first Prime Minister. He held this highly respected position for ten years, until 1976 when the BLP was re-elected back into office. Remarkably, in 1986, after almost ten years as leader of the opposition, Barrow was again overwhelmingly elected as Prime Minister of Barbados.

However, a year after his re-election, Barrow suddenly collapsed and died in his home on 1 June 1987, passing away while still in office.

 

Honors and Legacy

During his time in office, Barrow led the DLP to many great social and political advances – accelerating industrial development, expanding the island’s tourism industry, the introduction of National Health Insurance and Social Security, and the expansion of free education on all levels.

In 1965, Barrow also led the foundation of the Caribbean Free Trade Association (CARIFTA), which later evolved into the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). In fact, it was Barrow, together with other leaders of the Caribbean region, who helped to enact the ‘Treaty of Chaguaramas‘ to strengthen the political and economic relations between the English-speaking Caribbean territories.

 

Errol Barrow is fondly remembered for the following achievements:

— First Prime Minister of Barbados (1966 – 1976)

— Father of Independence

— Supporter of the University of the West Indies and Regional Unity

— Designer of a modern system of public budgeting

— Architect of the University of the West Indies Campus at Cave Hill

— Creator of the Barbados Community College

— Co-founder of the Caribbean Free Trade Association (CARIFTA)

— Inspired the lowering of the age of majority from twenty one to eighteen

— Co-Founder of CARICOM

 

Not long after Barrow’s death in 1987, the Errol Barrow Park, a community park located in the local parish of St. Michael, was opened in memory of the late Errol Walton Barrow.

The Errol Barrow Centre for Creative Imagination, at the University of the West Indies in Barbados, Cave Hill campus, is yet another honor bestowed upon the late great Errol Barrow. The Centre promotes the making, study and appreciation of the arts.

In 1998, by an act of Parliament, Barrow was also publicly named as one of the ten official National Heroes of Barbados. National Heroes Day on April 28th and is a bank holiday celebrating these official national heroes that have played a major part in Barbados’ history and development.

To celebrate the accomplishments and give recognition to this phenomenal Barbadian, Errol Walton Barrow’s birthday (21st January) is also honored as a national holiday in Barbados – aptly named ‘Errol Barrow Day‘.

There is also an Errol Barrow statue to honor this great local hero in Independence Square, in the heart of Bridgetown, the nation’s capital. Fittingly, this location gives you a view of the Parliament Buildings as well as National Heroes Square, a fine nod to this local legend.

 

Did you know?

Errol Barrow’s portrait can be found on the $50 Barbadian currency bill, yet another honor given to this accomplished Bajan.

By: Brett Callaghan