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OUR CARIBBEAN: Lamming’s glimpse of Errol Barrow

Rickey Singh

OUR CARIBBEAN: Lamming’s glimpse of Errol Barrow

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One of the most arresting portraits I can recall of the “Caribbean Man” whose birthday this nation celebrates tomorrow as Errol Barrow Day, is that offered by George Lamming on paying tribute to the Father of Barbados’ Independence on his return as Head of Government in May 1986 when his Democratic Labour Party (DLP) won a landslide victory.  
In his written tribute to Barrow in June 1986, within weeks of the DLP’s return to government, Lamming’s Portrait Of A Prime Minister was to reflect his uniqueness as one of the very outstanding political leaders of the Caribbean region. Sadly, a year later, the Dipper was to die from a heart attack.
So, on this 23rd year of celebration of Errol Barrow Day, I consider it quite appropriate to recall Lamming’s 1986 portrait of the Barbados politician who was to play a most pivotal role in the inauguration of the regional economic integration movement that’s CARICOM:
“. . . A reflection on the source of influence is appropriate to any serious observation of Errol Barrow, the new Prime Minister of Barbados (1986). He has been here before, from 1961 to 1967. Even in Opposition, he sometimes gave the impression that he had lent the other office to his successor. A man of slow voice and very gentle manners, he surprises and often shocks Barbados by the things he says . . . .”
Lamming recalled: “I have heard him warn the poor to avoid taking their disputes into the law courts. He appears to have doubts about the honour of his own profession, and he has said so. He was “easy, accessible, almost ordinary in his style of discourse, be it fish market or supermarket, back alley or modern highway, chattel home or posh ministerial office . . . . It is difficult to think of a public figure in Barbados who commands such a wide and genuine affection from his people . . . .”
In the context of Barrow’s contributions to the regional integration movement, Lamming, whose very instructive portrait is included in Caribbean Reasonings – The George Lamming Reader, has noted:
“Until 1975, he had played a central role in helping to convene no less than 13 Heads of Government meetings which bore fruit in a variety of Caribbean institutions: Caribbean Free Trade Area, the Caribbean Development Bank, Caribbean Meteorological Institute, University of the West Indies (Cave Hill Campus), the Law Faculty and the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) . . . .”
Let me, therefore, conclude with an appeal Barrow had made in addressing a CARICOM Heads Of Government Conference, and also referenced by Lamming: “I place special emphasis on defending the dignity and self-respect of our people, since it must never be thought that poverty is a good enough excuse for abandoning these virtues . . .”