National Heroes: Errol Walton Barrow

Referred to as the father of the independence of Barbados, Barrow formed the Democratic Labour Party in 1955 and won the 1961 general elections. He was the Premier of Barbados until 1966 when Barbados became an independent country and Barrow became its first Prime Minister.

Another attorney in the annals of Bajan political history, Dippers, as he was known, studied at The Inns of Court and read Economics at LSE before moving back home in 1950 and joining the BLP. His time abroad planted a seed for wanting a stronger Barbados and the BLP wasn’t progressive enough for him. If you want something done, you have to start the Democratic Labour Party yourself!

When you next go through Bridgetown, stop at the Parliament Museum and have a look at the display that was made for Errol Barrow.

Over the next ten years Barrow continued serving as Prime Minister but also stints as Finance Minister and as the Minister of Foreign Affairs. The often-overlooked story was his affair with (the) Nina Simone who had fled the US when an arrest warrant was issued for unpaid taxes. As a brief side note, Nina Simone had left disappeared from her house in the US (she came to Barbados without telling anyone), leaving her wedding ring behind and this was interpreted by her husband (and manager) as a demand for divorce. It’s a fair deduction. It was when she tried to return that she found out about the arrest warrant and came back to Barbados where she stayed some time.

During Barrow’s tenure, the DLP 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. In 1971 the DLP won another landslide victory and again in 1986. During his ten years in opposition, Barrow was fiercely vocal about the American invasion of Grenada and scathing about the other Caribbean countries who turned a blind eye in the hope of handouts from Washington.  In his first press conference as Prime Minister he referred to Reagan as “that cowboy in the White House” and in a British interview he characterized the President of the United States as “a zombie; he’s programmed, a very dangerous person”. Barrow was definitely a force behind the national fervour that brought pride and patriotism to Bajans. His famous ‘in the mirror’ campaign asked Bajans to look at themselves and ask what they wanted for their future. A menial side dish offering labour to the rest of the world… Or a strong emancipated island to rival other small island states like Singapore?

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. He was a member of the Barbados Cruising Club where the bar has been named Dippers after him. His portrait has been on the wall there for many many years now.

Barbados Parliament Museum, Bridgetown
Contact: +1(246)310-5400
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