NOVEMBER 30, St Andrew’s Day and possibly the future Independence Day of Scotland, is already the Independence Day of Barbados (1966). It is celebrated annually with an arts and cultural festival and a popular national holiday.

While living there I sought out sources for the decision to make St Andrew’s Day Barbados’s independence day. There is a St Andrew Parish and the first British settlers were sent by our James VI/I. The island was “given” to one of his male friends, his “gentleman of the bed-chamber”, a young charming Scot James Hay, later first Earl of Carlisle –thus Carlisle Bay on which the capital, Bridgetown, was developed.

Although the English were the major plantation owners and slave masters (the Scots came much later and found plantation land already owned) there are detailed records of Scottish prisoners transported to Barbados (ie Barbadoed). Three waves of transported Scots, first under Cromwell, then as Covenanters as well as several hundred in the post-45 punishment of the Jacobites.

The poor-whites of St Andrew – the red-legs – lived in Scotland District and some still live there. But the real reason for the selection of November 30 has more interesting modern political and Scottish connections. The Barbados independence movement was led by the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) under the leadership of Errol Barrow, who won a mandate in the election of 1961.

He negotiated terms with the colonial office, who insisted late into the agreement that another mandate would be required through another successful independence election. In November 3 of 1966 the DLP duly won the mandate and so a date for the declaration was required. The decision was made to commemorate the birthday of Charles Duncan O’Neal, November 30. O’Neal was a pioneer of independence and an intellectual political advocate of democratic socialism (who happened to be Barrow’s uncle).

But there is a Scottish narrative here, for Dr Charles Duncan O’Neal (one of the first Afro-Bajan medical doctors) was educated at Edinburgh University in the early 1900s. While studying medicine in Edinburgh he came under the political influence of Keir Hardie, went to meetings, met him and adopted much of the Hardie social democratic doctrine. O’Neal went on to practice in the north-east of England, where he stood as a candidate for Hardie’s Independent Labour Party.

It is reported that at the Sunderland branch of the Independent Labour Party in October 1910, he told the crowd: “Although slavery has been abolished, and we sing ‘Briton never will be slaves’, there is still slavery in this land. The working men of this country are economic slaves.”

On his return to Barbados in the 1920s, he advocated for much-needed social and economic transformation with independence as the vital tool for implementing change. Although a middle-class doctor, he dedicated himself to the Keir Hardie principles of working-class development by forming the first grass-roots political organisation the Democratic League, the first proto-trade union the Working Men’s Association, as well as advocating free education and votes for “lower-class” men and women. Charles Duncan O’Neal is honoured as one of ten National Heroes of Barbados.

November 30 is celebrated with great pride in Barbados as the day in which it broke free from British imperial rule. On its national flag there is the symbol of the broken/snapped trident indicating vividly the break from Britain.

One day (soon?) Scotland will have its independence day with its own national flag, symbols and, yes, national heroes – and I am certain Keir Hardie will be one of them.
Thom Cross

ALL success to Dennis Canavan in promoting St Andrew’s Day as an official school holiday (The National, November 30).

Readers might be interested to know that Dumfries and Galloway Council was, I believe, the first in Scotland to have November 30 as a school holiday up till quite recently. Then the decision was sneakily taken by the Conservative administration to scrap it with the feeble excuse that the teachers didn’t like it as it was too near to Christmas!

At the time I was an SNP councillor and objected to the decision, but was unable to get enough support in the face of combined Conservative/Labour councillors to get the holiday re-instated. But hopefully, now that we have a Labour/SNP administration in D&G since last year, we will once again see our patron saint celebrated.
Alastair Witts
New Abbey, by Dumfries