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REMEMBERING BREE: Sir Harold loses fight

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REMEMBERING BREE: Sir Harold  loses fight

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FORMER PRIME MINISTER Sir Harold St John is dead at 72.

His courageous fight against cancer ended yesterday at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. He died at 5.10 p.m. after falling unconscious about 24 hours earlier.

His wife, Lady St John, other family members and long-serving political colleague Dr Richard Cheltenham were at his bedside in Ward A6 when he quietly succumbed.

As a mark of the high respect in which he was held by people of both political parties, many paid tribute last night.

In addition to official tributes, there were messages from former Prime Minister Sir Lloyd Sandiford, Chief Justice Sir David Simmons, Senior Minister Dame Billie Miller, Opposition Leader Clyde Mascoll, Cheltenham, MP Louis Tull, Senator Dame Pat Symmonds and former Deputy Prime Minister Philip Greaves.

Government announced Sir Harold’s death last night in the following statement: “The Government of Barbados regrets to announce the death this evening of former Prime Minister Sir Harold St John.

“A period of official mourning will commence this evening until the date of the state funeral, which will be announced at a later date.

“The National Flag will be flown at half-mast from tomorrow [today] during the period of official mourning.

“The Government extends its deepest sympathy to Sir Harold’s widow, Lady St John, his children Charmaine, Nicole and Bryte, and to his family.”

Born August 16, 1931, Sir Harold served as Prime Minister from March 1985, at the sudden death of Prime Minister J.M.G.M. “Tom” Adams, until May 1986, when his Barbados Labour Party (BLP) lost the general election.

Barbados’ third and shortest-serving prime minister, Sir Harold had 37 distinguished years of public life. He entered local government politics in 1966 and retired as MP for Christ Church South when the life of the last House of Assembly ended in 2003.

In that period he served as everything from chairman of the Southern District Council to senator, backbencher, opposition member, Cabinet minister and prime minister. He was knighted in November 1994 in an historic and ironic moment when Governor-General Dame Nita Barrow, sister of his foremost political opponent Errol Barrow, dubbed him “Sir Harold”.

Sir Harold never concealed his passion for public life and though twice defeated at the polls – in 1971 and 1986 – he returned on both occasions to regain his political glory.

He joined the BLP as a young lieutenant of the then aging Sir Grantley Adams when that party was in the doldrums at the height of the power of His Excellency Errol Barrow.

He cut his teeth in the pre-Independence debate as member of the Under-40s team of young men from all political persuasions who fought resolutely for a federation of the West Indies.

Sir Harold was a Queen’s Counsel and a former footballer who chose a political career and was an unapologetic federalist.

He worked for Barbados up to the end. His unfinished tasks included the troubled fishing negotiations with Trinidad and Tobago and the building of the new Hilton Hotel, which he visited ten days ago. He was leader of the Barbados negotiations with Trinidad and Tobago and chairman of the Needhams Point Development Corporation.

 This article was published March 1, 2004.