Sir Henry feels special
Newest knight lament lost bajan values
Sir Henry Fraser’s accomplishments are many. The retired University of the West Indies lecturer and medical doctor is an academic, senator, historian, national orator, painter, author and newspaper columnist. However, the crowning glory to his successes is the knighthood conferred on him for Barbados’ 48th anniversary of Independence.
“I do feel particularly special, because I’ve been presenting the citations for the knights and everyone else honoured over a period of 15 years; and when I reached the 15th year I felt, ‘Well, I’m retired from medicine, I’ve retired from the university; it really is time for somebody younger to take over this job’,” Sir Henry told Barbados TODAY.
He last presented a citation in January, 2013.
Over the Independence weekend, his telephones were ringing off the hook as Barbadians called to congratulate him on his knighthood.
“I was particularly pleased with some of the knights who have called me –– several of the most revered knights in Barbados [such as] Sir Frank Blackman, who is legendary and an old family friend. Everybody is thrilled,” the historian noted.
“I’ve been very lucky, because as you go through life, a lot of the times you are simply doing the best you can and you get appreciated in many ways. I mean the house is filled with things that I’ve received at various times in my life.”
I retired from the university four years ago, but at a time when I was both professor of medicine and clinical pharmacology, and I was director of the Chronic Disease Research Centre; and I was then given the job of being dean, while I was still director of research.
“Then I was given the task of dean of the School of Clinical Medicine to develop that into a full faculty. So all of these jobs meant that I then had to shelve all of the things that I did. So I stopped consulting with WHO [World Health Organization]; I stopped working with the drug laboratory; I retired as CAREC [Caribbean Epidemiology Centre] adviser, and all sorts of things.
“So when I did those things, it felt like I was retiring multiple times. So all along there has been tremendous appreciation. I was just doing what my parents taught me to do.”
The 70-year-old fondly recalled that he had time to get accustomed to being referred to as “Sir”, being constantly given the title by a worker at the state-own broadcasting station CBC some time ago.
“I’ve had a year or two to get accustomed to the idea, which has been amusing, sometimes embarrassing and fascinating,” he said with a smile.
Sir Henry lamented that Barbadians viewed service as servitude –– rather than a privilege, a view he was taught by his parents at an early age. He said he was also taught the importance of setting and reaching for goals, pointing out that he was informed he would have to win one of the five Barbados Scholarships available from the time he entered The Lodge School.
After graduating from the University of the West Indies, where be pursued his studies in medicine, and returning to Barbados in 1969, he met his wife Maureen. They are now married almost 45 years.
Asked her reaction to her husband’s knighthood, Maureen, who loves telling amusing anecdotes, simply looked at him and said: “I’m happy for him.”
Reflecting on this country’s Independence, Sir Henry expressed regret that Barbadians appeared to have lost their sense of responsibility and to have misunderstood the meaning of Independence.
“We are Independent, but we have lost something in our culture and we have not continued to have the sense of responsibility we used to. In the old days, people had a very, very strong religious commitment. Their Sunday School upbringing gave them a sense of values, and the grandmothers made sure this was passed on to the grandchildren.
“Now we have children raising children; children aren’t going to Sunday School any more. The values have been lost; so responsibility has been lost.
“Coupled with that, we have a Government that feels that to get elected every parliamentarian has to be giving, giving, giving. So we’ve developed a dependency syndrome,” he asserted. “We’re waiting for handouts as individuals; we’re waiting for handouts as a country.
“We are not creating. We are not working. And I see and I hear over and over again ‘we’re not coming out of recession’. Everybody has money in the bank, and they say we have no confidence. There is $9 million in our banks sitting down growing moss, and Barbadians will not act. They will not create; they will not work hard enough,” Sir Henry bemoaned.