Errol Barrow Day: January 21
Errol Barrow Day is a national holiday in Barbados.
Social activist and leader Errol Barrow had a huge impact on the country of Barbados and its people. From 1950 until his death on June 1, 1987, Barrow fought for a better Barbados. In memory of the man and his achievements, Barbados celebrates Errol Barrow Day every January 21 as a national holiday.
History of Errol Barrow Day in Barbados
Errol Barrow first became involved in the politics of Barbados in 1951 when he was elected to the Barbados parliament representing the Barbados Labour Party (BLP). He soon became unhappy with the slow approach of the BLP and split off, forming a new political party called the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) in 1955.
At the time, Britain still controlled the island as a colony. Progress towards independence was slow, with the people of Barbados not gaining universal suffrage until 1951. Long a colony with a history of slavery and exploitation, Barrow believed strongly in an independent Barbados and worked towards social and governmental reform.
Barrow and the DLP were able to win parliamentary elections in 1961, with Barrow serving as Premier of Barbados. During a constitutional conference in Britain in 1966, Barrow negotiated for Barbados’ independence. After many negotiations, Barbados gained independence on November 30, 1966, making Barrow the first Prime Minister of Barbados.
During his time as premier and prime minister, Barrow and the DLP ushered in many reforms that brought Barbados closer to being economically less dependent on external sources. The tourism industry was bolstered, the industrial sector was expanded, free education was extended to all, and a politic of inclusion was spread.
This policy of inclusion was seen most in his push for greater integration across the Caribbean region. He headed the formation of the Caribbean Free Trade Association in an attempt to economically and culturally tie the Caribbean together. The association evolved into CARICOM in 1973, providing even tighter integration of wealth and foreign policy.
The DLP and Barrow lost in the 1976 elections. He spent 10 years as opposition leader, becoming increasingly vocal against the push to accept handouts from the United States and the Reagan administration. Barrow managed to capture the imaginations of Barbadians in 1986 and served as Prime Minister until his untimely death on June 1, 1987.
Barbados’ Errol Barrow Day Traditions, Customs and Activities
In past years, political divisions have clouded Errol Barrow Day ceremonies, but in the last few years, some positive changes have been seen, bringing more inclusion and togetherness. Originally a day propagated by the DLP and the Barrow family, more people are getting together to celebrate the spirit of Errol Barrow.
It’s worth noting that the holiday is a national holiday. As such, most of the island is virtually shut down. If you pass through during the celebrations, know that little will be open.