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 “This is a very proud moment in the history of the people of Barbados.” – Barbados’ Prime Minister, Mr Errol Barrow


Midnight: Darkness encompasses Savannah... then the Barbados flag emerges

By Tony Vanterpool

The Barbados Advocate
Wednesday, November 30th, 1966

At one minute after midnight today, Barbados threw off the shackles of colonialism, when during a tense and historic moment at the traditional Garrison Savannah, the British Union flag was lowered, and the 166 square-mile nation’s ultra-marine blue and gold flag with broken trident was hoisted.

A deafening applause came from the thousands and thousands who came from every nook and cranny of the sugar-coated territory, braving the threats of inclement weather, to witness the most significant achievement since the freedom of the island’s slaves 132 years ago.

And so ended 339 years with Britain as a colonial territory and so began the membership of Barbados to the British Commonwealth of Nations as its 26th member.

After receiving the constitutional instruments from the Duke of Kent, who presided at the ceremony as the Queen’s Special Representative, Barbados’ Prime Minister, Mr Errol Barrow, 46, said: “This is a very proud moment in the history of the people of Barbados.”

In an address, obviously packed with emotion, the Prime Minister added: “I am glad, and I am sure that members of my Government are equally glad, that we were born at a time when we could see this eventful day.”

In his moment of glory, the Prime Minister continued: “On behalf of the people of Barbados, on behalf of the Government, on behalf of the young people, I should like you to convey to Her Majesty the Queen, the heartfelt thanks of us all, that she was on this eventful day the Head of the Commonwealth and that she elected to send you, her trusted cousin, to see us through the dawn of independence.”

There was a mad rush of the Garrison Savannah by Barbadians who wanted to get proper vantage points. And from as early as 7 pm traffic policemen were battling with numerous roadblocks along Bay Street.

At the Garrison, some people gathered on roof tops and in trees. Virtually one half of the savannah was filled with people, and people even filled some of the grand stands which were not very close to the ceremonial square.

Children and adults alike were crushed through pressure of numbers, and first aid had to be admitted at regular intervals.

Prime Minister Barrow and Mrs Barrow arrived at 10:40 after attending the state banquet at the Barbados Hilton hotel. By the time they took their seats in the Royal Box, the stand for invited guests was practically filled.

But due to congestion, less than 10 minutes before the flag raising, invited guest were still arriving.

The Royal Party arrived at 10:55, which was already 15 minutes behind schedule and after a shortened version of the displays, which excluded the motor-cycling Rockets due to the wet condition of the ground, four religious leaders representing the Barbados Christian Social Council mounted the dais and read the prayers.

Then came the real prelude to the great moment as the Governor-General designate, Sir John Stowe, and the Prime Minister, left the Royal Box and took up positions facing the flagstaff.

At 11:58 the guards of honour saluted the union flag and the first verse of the British National Anthem was played.

Then at midnight, the guards of honour saluted the flag of Barbados and the first verse and chorus of the Barbados National anthem were played.

Suddenly darkness – the Union Flag was lowered and the Barbados Flag hoisted. And when the lights went on again the ultra-marine blue and gold coloured Barbados Flag with broken trident was fluttering in the wind.

A full week of Independence celebrations and activities

Independence day set off a week of celebration and activities.
And can you guess who performed at the state ball on the night of Independence? Dianna Ross and the Supremes; you can bet that was a performance to remember.

Some of our Trinidadian neighbours who had come in for our big day staged an impromptu march through Bridgetown playing sweet steel pan music all the while. They drew a big crowd of locals who promptly joined in and danced up and down Broad Street and Swan Street.

In the coming days, Government House opened to the public, and the inimitable Royal Barbados Police Force Band entertained on the illuminated grounds; probably in the new national colours.

Minister of Community Development Edwy Talma, crowned Norma Chadderton the island’s first Independence Queen. And the curtains came down on an expanded version of the annual Agricultural and Industrial Exhibition in Queens Park, where the highlights on the penultimate day were a gymkhana and a horse jumping show. Can you imagine trying to fit horse jumping at Agrofest?

Congratulatory telegrams came from regions as diverse as the Republic of Botswana to the Republic of Cyprus. And as the 122nd member, the flag of Barbados would now fly at the United Nations.

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