Sir Harold Bernard St. John, KA, QC
Former Prime Minister of Barbados
Harold St John was a leading Barbadian politician, an elder statesman of the Barbados Labour Party (BLP), and served as the country's third Prime Minister from 11 March 1985 to 29 May 1986. He was also a tireless campaigner for Caribbean integration.
Early life and education
Harold Bernard "Bree" St John was born on 16 August 1931 in Christ Church, Barbados. He was educated at Boys’ Foundation School and then Harrison College. He later studied for the LLB at the University College of London, graduating in 1953 and being as admitted to the Inner Temple in 1954 before returning home to private legal practice. He took “silk”, that is, became a Queen’s Counsel (QC) in 1969.
Sir Harold practised throughout the eastern Caribbean. In 1959, he joined the Barbados Labour Party (BLP), which had been founded in 1946 - while the island was still a British colony - as an offshoot of the trade-union movement. In 1964, two years before independence, he served as an opposition representative in the first Senate of Barbados (1964-1966) which had replaced the Legislative Council as the island moved towards greater internal self-government.
Sir Harold won his first attempt to represent Christ Church, carrying the flag of the Barbados Labour Party (BLP). He received 5 572 votes, almost 1 000 more than the Junior Member Sir Edwy Talma of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP), who hitherto had always (from 1951) been the senior Christ Church member. Losers in that contest were Peter Morgan of the Democratic Labour Party and Fred Goddard of the Barbados National Party.
In the waning months of 1970, St. John took over leadership of the BLP following the resignation of Sir Grantley Adams. By 1971 Barbados’ parliamentary system had changed to single member constituencies, and St John chose to run in Christ Church South Central. He led the BLP to a controversial defeat to the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) led by Prime Minister Errol Barrow. St. John lost his own seat to a popular civil servant from Christ Church, Anderson “Peanuts” Morrison by 78 votes.
In 1976 the BLP defeated the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) for the first time in more than a decade. St John defeated Morrison in South Central by a margin of 1,807 to 1,204. The BLP went on to win a second successive term in the 1981 elections. The Christ Church boundaries were again changed in 1981 and Sir Harold ran in East Central where he won in a straight fight against Dr Bobby Thomas.
St John served during the BLP's two terms as Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Trade and Industry and Minister of Tourism under Tom Adams, and succeeded him on his sudden death in 1985. He took much of the credit for the rapid development of the tourist industry in Barbados, which had replaced sugar as the mainstay of the economy from the early 1960s, and later with the growth of the offshore financial services sector.
St John's time as Prime Minister was brief: the BLP was heavily defeated by the DLP in the May 1986 elections, winning only three seats in the 27-seat assembly. St John, lost his own East Central seat to trade unionist Robert (Bobby) Morris, by 252 vores. He paid for this disaster with his job, and was replaced as BLP leader by Henry (later Sir Henry) Forde, a former foreign minister.
After the defeat, he he served as a member of the Senate and in 1991 returned to the House in the newly created Christ Church South seat. He was victorious over Dr Carl Clarke of the DLP, and George Bispham of the National Democratic Party.
In 1994 the BLP regained power under new leader Owen Arthur. St John would go on to retain Christ Church South in the subsequent elections of 1994 and 1999, beating John Boyce on both occasions.
Sir Harold retired from active politics when the life of the last House of Assembly ended prior to the 2003 general elections.
Honours and awards
In 1994, the Accolade of Knight of St. Andrew, the country's higher honour, was conferred on Harold Bernard St. John in recognition of his service to the county.
Sir Harold was married to Lady Stella (née Hope) and had three chilrden - Bryte, Charmaine and Nicole.
Sir Harold died at 3:10 p.m. on Sunday, 29 February 2004 of cancer at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Bridgetown, Barbados. He was 72. Prior to his death, he was one of only three survivors of the Parliament of 1966 the other being Lionel Craig and J.B. "Patsy" Springer). Sir Harold was accorded a state funeral on Monday, 8 March 2004 at the Christ Church Parish Church, Barbados where is body was later interred.