Professor Henry FraserArchitecural Historian / Heritage Consultant
Chairman, Sentinel Committee, Barbados National Trust
Writer, TV Presenter, National Orator & Motivational Speaker
Professor Emertius, Medicine and Clinical Pharmacology.
Immediate Past Dean, Faculty of Medical Sciences.
University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Barbados.


THINGS THAT MATTER: Reflections on Island in the Sun: the Story of Tourism

Henry S. Fraser

As a small boy growing up in Barbados, with bookshelves filled with the classics my mother had won as prizes at the Alexandra School and some saved by my father from his father’s shelves, we thought all books were magical things created by brilliant people “over and away”. Our only book written by a Barbadian was Our Common Heritage, by my history teacher at Lodge, Sir Alexander Hoyos. As a result, Sir Alexander not only awoke in us a sense of self as Barbadian, but admiration for the heroes who were his heroes… white, black and brown Bajans, especially Samuel Jackman Prescod, Christopher Codrington and Charles Duncan O’Neal, and the odd Englishman like Bishop William Hart Coleridge and Bishop Mitchinson, who transformed the society and created our educational base. But above all, he inspired some of us to write too – and we started with our puerile efforts in the Lodge School Magazine, which he supervised.

And so, while I thank our mother for teaching us to love reading from age four, I thank Sir Alexander for teaching me to love writing. A history essay was a thrill. An English essay or a sonnet was a challenge, as it was almost impossible to reach the standard of teacher David Pope and score an “Excellent”. And there amidst the fields of the Republic of St. John was born my life-long love for writing.

So when Sue Springer of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) and Keith Miller of Miller Publishing invited me to join Dr. Kerry Hall to produce a book to tell the story of tourism in Barbados (a 60th Anniversary book) it was like a gift from God in every way; first to work with such wonderful, visionary, dynamic and hard-working people as Sue and Keith; secondly to work with the brilliant historian and tourism consultant Kerry; and thirdly to have the challenge of learning more about our amazing history of tourism and to tell it, with pictures, for the whole world – what a pleasure!

We started with exhilarating, long meetings with Sue and Keith and Colin Jordan, then President of BHTA – hours of ideas, stories and jokes. Then Kerry and I got to work and divided the task; it felt like Britain and France dividing the colonial world 200 years ago! She would work with the theme Pioneers to the 1950s, and I would work on the last 60 years. The main problem was that Kerry’s PhD thesis on the History of Tourism ran to several hundred pages and Keith had given us a strict limit on words and pages, so what would we cut! Luckily old fashioned English teaching included the art of précis – cutting text in half or a quarter by leaving out the least important or superfluous parts. But for Kerry some of my suggested cuts felt like cutting her heart out!

Kerry’s chapters are “Pioneers and Prostitutes to Steam Packets”, and “Pioneers to Sun Worshippers”. And her research unearthed the most amazing stories, including tributes to those early pioneers, the black and brown ladies of Bridgetown like Rachel Pringle and Caroline Lee. And she highlighted that critical period of the 1880s, when sugar was in the doldrums and the pioneers of that era recognised that tourism must fill the gap and save the day. Similarly today, sun worship has declined and Heritage Tourism must fill the gap and save the day. The analogy is striking and we must bit the bullet and build on our heritage!

The project has been a model of collaboration, of hard work, of networking and research, putting many heads together to produce something important for the benefit of all Barbadians. Kerry and I would like to pay tribute to the many people who helped us in so many ways.

We started with the founders of modern tourism – Paul Foster and Pat Nehaul, doyen and doyenne of tourism for decades, and notes made of meetings at Melrose, home of Frank Odle, and of course, Sue Springer and Colin Jordan. And so many stories and facts came from Cecil Ince and Nick Parravacino, who both have amazing memories for names and details of colourful stories; Bob Parravacino, Geoffrey Cave, Richard Williams, Andrew Zephirin, Paul Altman, Hugh Godsal, Denise Douglas, Alfredo and Bernie Weatherhead, Gordon Seale and Peter Odle, and from bar men and business men. And finally,  Ronald Watson, who provided a treasure trove of historical photos, brochures and ancient hotel ads.

But the hero of the production beside my co-author, for me as a visual artist, was Neil Barnard of 809 Design Associates. Neil is a graphic artist with a passion, and when the bug bit him, he set out like a hungry lion after his prey, to expand our range of photos hugely, and to find every conceivable image that would tell the story in such an unforgettable way. His selection is amazing, and the result, in this splendid, one foot square and 200 page magnum opus, must rival the Reverend Griffith Hughes’s Natural History of Barbados of 1750! Thank you Sue, Colin, Keith, Neil and everyone who helped in this exciting journey.

Bouquet of the Week: To the dedicated Sentries and Corp of Drums of Barbados, a division of the Barbados Legion, performing their brilliant re-enactment of the Changing of the Sentries at the Main Guard of the Garrison, highlighted this week; to the vision and work of the Garrison Consortium and the words of the Minister of Tourism in recognising the huge opportunities with our World Heritage property.

Professor Fraser is Past President of the Barbados National Trust, and past Dean of Medical Sciences, UWI.

Henry Fraser Historic Houses Of Barbados Book CoverHistoric Houses of Barbados
Written by Henry Fraser & Ronnie Huges.
Available at all book leading book stores in Barbados.

Henry Fraser Treasures Of Barbados Book CoverTreasures of Barbados
Written by Sir George Alleyne and edited by Henry Fraser.
Available at the UWI Bookshop the publishers.

Henry Fraser Chattle House Book CoverBarbados Chattel Houses
Written by Henry Fraser and Bob Kiss.
Available at all leading book stores.

Henry Fraser A-Z Barbados Book CoverA-Z of Barbados Heritage
Written by Sean Carrington, Henry Fraser, John Gilmore and Addington Forde.
Available at Days Bookstore Barbados and

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