REMEMBERING BREE: Patriotic son gave his all to Barbados
THE DEATH of Sir Harold St John, Knight of St Andrew and one of Her Majesty’s Counsel, learned in the law, marks the closing of the final chapter in the life of one of the most distinguished Barbadians in the long history of our country.
For more than half a century, this patriotic son of the soil placed considerable energies and intellectual gifts at the service of this country, the region and beyond.
Sir Harold chose representative politics as the vehicle for his dedicated and unyielding public service and was appointed to the high political office of Prime Minister 19 years ago when the then Prime Minister, Tom Adams died suddenly.
Prior to that, he had served as Deputy Prime Minister for nine years.
He proved himself a loyal and dedicated team player whose opinions were frequently sought by his leader and by his colleagues, not only because they were sound; but also because they came from the mind of a man whose detailed knowledge of the social and industrial landscape of this country was second to none.
He was at the centre of every major social and political initiative in this island from 1976 to 1986. The development and diversification of tourism, and the promotion and creation of the international services sector, among others, owe much to his inspired and informed leadership.
His energetic brilliance as chairman of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of countries at the negotiations on the Lomé Convention cemented his reputation at the international level as a statesman of the highest order.
His vast and detailed knowledge of our land law enabled him to make significant contributions to the shaping of the Freehold Tenantries Act, a piece of legislation which removed the lingering shackles of slavery from many of the rural parts of Barbados.
In more recent times, he has continued to serve his country as leader of the team negotiating with Trinidad on fishing matters.
As a committed regionalist he devoted much time and energy in the cause of Caribbean integration and his love of the Caribbean is second only to his love for Barbados and things Barbadian.
But beyond the specifics of his political achievements he leaves behind an enduring and enviable legacy. Friends and adversaries alike are united in the view that Sir Harold was a gentleman in every sense of the word.
For more than 50 years in the rough and tumble of politics he established and maintained an unblemished record for honesty, decency and integrity. As such he leaves a splendid example for those of us left behind.
In the course of his long political career he suffered the adversity of political setbacks, but on each occasion he accepted his fate and recommitted himself to the service of the people and his country.
On behalf of the people and Government of Barbados and on my own behalf, I extend the deepest condolences to his widow Lady St John, his children and relatives.
I trust that at this time of sorrow they will be comforted by the knowledge that the entire country grieves with them at the loss of a man whose contribution to this country marks him out as one of the pillars of modern Barbados.
May he rest in peace.
– Prime Minister, Owen Arthur
This article was published March 14, 2004.