by Neville Clarke
The former parliamentary representative for St. Michael West died at his Rock Dundo Park, St. Michael home around 8:30 a.m. today.
In December last year, Sir Branford was hospitalised briefly after suffering a seizure at his home. Sir Branford, who rose to be one of Barbados’ most flamboyant political figures, was born into humble circumstances in Fairfield Road, Black Rock, St. Michael, and was the youngest of five children born to St. Clair Rollock and Elma Taitt-Rollock.
He received his formal education at Wesley Hall Boys’ School and Combermere School. On completion of his secondary education, Sir Branford spent his first working years with Cable & Wireless in Barbados and Antigua.
Sir Branford later followed his future bride Marjorie to New York where she was working as a nurse at Brookdale Medical Centre. In 1962, Sir Branford married and began his career in the public service with the United Nations Secretariat.
In 1965 he became the first manager of the Barbados Development Board in New York and in 1967 he was invited to become Barbados’ first Consul General in New York with responsibility for the entire US.
In 1971, the Right Excellent Errol Barrow invited him home to serve as a senator and Minister of Trade, Industry and Commerce, a position he held until 1976 when he was elected to serve as parliamentary representative for St. Michael West.
Sir Branford was re-elected to the Lower House for four consecutive terms as member of parliament for St. Michael West until he was defeated by Barbados Labour Party candidate, Reverend Joseph Atherley, in the 1999 general election.
Besides his appointment in 1971 to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Commerce, Sir Branford held the position of Minister of Tourism and Industry from 1986 to 1987; Minister of Health from 1987 to 1993 and Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1993 to 1994.
In his capacity as Minister of Health, Sir Branford was responsible for the introduction of Cardiac Care at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. His tenure as Minister of Health later ended in the highly controversial commission of enquiry into the St. Joseph Hospital at Ashton Hall, St. Peter. The enquiry was set up by the Owen Arthur Administration.
Sir Branford served as president of the DLP for three terms and as general Secretary for several years. It was during a contest for the presidency of the party that Sir Branford became involved in a bruising battle with then former Prime Minister Errol Barrow, which analysts argued had stunted any further growth for him within the party.
Sir Branford was the campaign manager in the successful by-elections of now Sir Richard Haynes and Sybil Leacock. In fact, he managed every national campaign for the DLP after his return to Barbados in 1971. He retired from elective politics in 2004 and was later appointed President of the Senate in 2008 until he resigned from the position because of failing health.
In the Independence awards of 2010, he was the lone recipient of Barbados’ highest award, the Knight of St. Andrew.
Meanwhile, reacting to his passing today, fellow Cabinet member and former Deputy Prime Minister, Sir Philip Greaves, said: “Branford was my colleague for many years and during my time he held a number of ministries and in each one his work was outstanding.
“His commitment to work gave him a number of enemies, but that did not deter him from pursuing what he believed was right. His outstanding work also gave him a number of friends and well wishers.
“It is a pity that he is not around to be in this election campaign. That probably has hastened his death. I therefore want to extend to his wife, children and his extended family and friends who are numerous, my deepest, deepest sympathy. Barbados by any measure has lost a stalwart,” Sir Philip added.
Another former Cabinet minister and stalwart of the DLP, Warwick Franklin, said: “I heard this morning of the passing of my friend and colleague Sir Branford Taitt. Sir Branford and I go back to our days at Combermere School and we have been friends for over 60 years.
“Politically we worked very closely in the interest of the people of Barbados and both of us had the privilege of serving in a Cabinet under Errol Barrow and Sir Lloyd Erskine Sandiford. Sir Branford had a keen intellect and was always searching for means and ways to improve the quality of life of all Barbadians. At this time my sympathy goes out to his family and colleagues. May he rest in peace.”
Sir Branford is survived by his second wife, Lady Colleen Taitt, his three children Sharonne, Monique and Branford Jr, grandson, Marley, his three step children, Dawne-marie, Gina and Sean, and seven step-grand children.
Arrangements for Sir Branford’s funeral service and burial will be announced later. firstname.lastname@example.org†††