Early eye on politics
Last week, in an exclusive interview, the SUNDAY SUN featured the more personal side of Prime Minister Freundel Stuart.
Today, the focus is on Stuart from a political standpoint.
Prime Minister Freundel Stuart says “from the time I was about age nine, I was interested in politics and followed about everything that was happening around me”.
Growing up in Marchfield, St Philip, just about 150 yards away from the residence of popular St Philip politician the late Reynold Weekes, Stuart would see most of the leading politicians of the day visiting Weekes.
“It was from Reynold Weekes’ shop that we got our groceries, and it was not unusual to run into these people while you were at the shop.
So one was always intrigued by these men, what they were doing and all the whispers you would hear in the shop about what they were doing,” the Prime Minister remembers.
Among politicians making an indelible impression were National Hero the Right Excellent Errol Barrow, J. Cameron Tudor and Wynter Crawford.
Stuart was also exposed to the political rhetoric of his elderly neighbour Samuel Tudor, uncle of Cameron Tudor, who was “always promoting the causes of his nephew Cameron and by extension the Democratic Labour Party”.
“That gave me the kind of oxygen to pursue politics,” the Prime Minister asserted.
Stuart also learnt a lot about the politics of the day from his own father, a sugar factory worker, and he explained how in those days factory men “talked either factory work, politics, or what was going on in the courts”.
Many a night when he was assumed to have been asleep, Stuart would be awake in bed listening to political conversations between his father and a visiting friend from the factory.
But, despite the extensive exposure to political discussion, did this young boy ever dream he would one day be Prime Minister of Barbados?
In characteristic style the Prime Minister responds: “I never coveted it. I prepared myself painstakingly and thoughoughly for political service.
So if it was going to be the Prime Minister’s Office, I was going to be ready for it. But it was not that I pursued it obsessively. I guess I left all that to the working of fortune.”
The first time he visited Government Headquarters was just after leaving Boys’ Foundation School in 1969 and the story surrounding it is one he relates with some poignancy, pointing out: “I did not know how to enter this building.”
Having approached the building from the back, he was standing outside in seeming bewilderment when then Prime Minister Errol Barrow drove in and “very imperiously” offered assistance.
“I felt dwarfed by this mighty presence,” Stuart remembers.
Barrow escorted the young boy into the building, and as Barrow walked away, Stuart’s eyes remained fixed on him as he pushed a door.
It is the same door through which the Prime Minister now passes daily to enter his office.
“I wondered what went on behind that door.
“I never came back to Government Headquarters after that until the day after the 2008 general election . . . .
I did not have to wonder any more because I came through that same door and David Thompson was waiting here to see me.
“I then saw what really happened in here. I had no way of knowing though that upwards of just over two years later I would be coming in here in my own right.”