Eric Gairy Visits Carriacou.
Making ‘Uncle’ Eric.
Eric Gairy was elected ‘Premier’ in late 1967. He made a point of travelling to Carriacou soon after. Despite huge popularity in Grenada, Gairy was not Carriacou’s favourite politician. That accolade seemed to go to local man, Herbert Blaize, leader of the GNP, who lived in Hillsborough next to the Sports Ground. Gairy had a lot of his own ground to make up and he wasted no time visiting the island.
Gairy had been in government in the 1950’s. In the aftermath of hurricane ‘Janet’ in 1956 he was accused by the British Government of using funds , allocated to Grenada for clearing up the damage, for his own personal use. This accusation, bizarrely described as ‘squandermania’ led to Britain suspending the constitution in 1961. Gairy, as Chief Minister and Minister of Finance, was reputedly interred on a British frigate and thence taken to Govt House at Top Hill, Carriacou. Legend has it that the British tried to force him to sign a document stating he would never again participate in politics in Grenada. He reputedly threw the pen back at his tormentors and refused to sign.
It would seem that this act of defiance was duly noted by Grenadian citizens and the following year he was restored to his vacant seat. In 1967 the Associated Statehood Act granted the Grenada Government full autonomy over its internal affairs. In the election which followed Gairy and his GULP party was voted into power.
He paid two visits to Carriacou, one on Thursday. 10th Feb. 1968 and another on Tuesday 19th March 1968. As if to lay the ghost of his internment he arrived for his second visit on a British frigate, accompanied by Mr Turbott, the British appointed Governor.
Bishop’s College students turned out in force to greet the visiting dignitaries. Students lined up in the Market Place and were introduced by Mr Alleyne and Rodge Gay.
As I said, Gairy had arrived on Carriacou with a bit of a hill to climb to win over the people. He reputedly did this with one stroke of political acumen and showmanship. As the motorcade made its way around the island, Gairy is said to have spotted a labourer working by the side of the road. He must have noticed he was barefoot. He appears to have stopped the whole motorcade, approached the man and handed him a personally written note to take to Bullen’s store to exchange for a pair of boots.
Faster than semaphore, news of this incident sped back to Hillsborough and by the time the motorcade arrived back in town Gairy had been euphemistically transformed into ‘Uncle Eric’ and his reputation as ‘a man of the people’ had been dramatically enhanced.