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Sir Frank Leslie Walcott – National Hero of Barbados

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A Man of and for the People

Known for being a somewhat fearless and formidable man, Sir Frank Leslie Walcott (1916 – 1999) was born in St. Peter, in the north of Barbados, and raised in Bridgetown, the nation’s capital.

He was most notably a passionate Barbadian trade unionist, a politician, and an ambassador, playing a pivotal role in organizing the Barbados Labour Movement.

Describing himself as ‘Frank by name and Frank by nature’, Walcott is most often remembered as the single most important trade unionism personality in Barbados.

Sir Frank distinguished himself on all levels – locally, regionally and internationally. Not only did he organize workers and negotiate on their behalf, but he also was known for having a visionary approach to bargaining for improved conditions for the working Barbadian population.

 

How Did it all Begin?

Sir Frank Walcott was invited by the leaders of the Progressive League, Sir Hugh Worrell Springer and Grantley Adams, to join the labour movement.

Sir Frank began his vocation as an active unionist and in 1945 became the assistant of Sir Hugh Springer, the General Secretary to the Progressive League. Only a year later, in 1946, Walcott became fully employed by the island’s first trade union, the Barbados Worker’s Union, and when Sir Hugh left the union in 1947, it was Sir Frank Walcott who was appointed as successor to the Barbados Workers Union’s prestigious General Secretary position.

Walcott also served three separate terms as president of the Caribbean Congress of Labour, as well as serving in the Governing Body of the International Labour Organization. Not only that, but he also served with the American Institute for Free Labour Development and was Chairman of the World Employment Conference.

 

Walcott – Working for Workers…

In the political arena, Walcott served as a Member of Parliament in the Barbados House of Assembly, representing the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) from 1945 to 1966, and again from 1971 to 1976.

Between these terms, Sir Frank also served as a Senator, and was in fact President of the Senate from 1986 up until 1991, when he retired from public life.

By 1953, he was also elected to the Executive Board of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, a position he also served until his retirement.

Between the years of 1958 and 1991, he earned his name as ‘the union’s most forceful personality’ by making the BWU as strong as any other in the region with his visionary outlook and determined spirit.

 

Did you know?

Sir Frank Walcott spent forty-five (45) years as an employee of the Barbados Worker’s Union.

 

Honors and Legacy

Benefits such as The National Insurance Scheme and Maternity Leave are among the many achievements accomplished by this great Barbadian.

After Barbados gained its Independence in 1966, Walcott also served as the nation’s first Ambassador to the United Nations.

In 1954, he was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.

In 1987 Walcott was also bestowed the highest honour in Barbados – Knight of St. Andrew (KA) of the Order of Barbados.

— The Sir Frank Walcott building in Saint Michael, Barbados, is also named in his honour.

In 1998, by an act of Parliament, Sir Frank Walcott was publicly honoured by being named as one of the ten official National Heroes of Barbados, paying tribute to a man of great respect who made an immeasurable contribution to the Barbadian work force, and distinguished himself locally, regionally, and internationally.

 

Did you know?

Sir Frank Walcott is also noted for having been an exceptional cricket umpire.

By: Brett Callaghan