The celebration of National Heroes Day on September 16th is designed to honour those who made significant contributions to the advancement of St. Kitts and Nevis before and after the attainment of political independence on 19th September, 1983.
At present, there are five citizens who have been given The Order of National Hero which is the highest order of merit awarded by the government of Saint Kitts and Nevis.
It was in 1998 when the Order was first established, and each recipient of this honour is styled as “The Right Excellent Sir”.
The five distinguished citizens who have been designated are Robert Bradshaw, Paul Southwell, Joseph N France, Dr. Simeon Daniel and Dr. Kennedy Simmonds.
The Right Excellent Sir Robert Llewellyn Bradshaw
Today we feature The Right Excellent, Sir Robert Llewellyn Bradshaw who became the first named National Hero in 1998.
Robert Bradshaw was born on 16th September, 1916, in the western district of St. Paul, Capisterre. His mother was Jane Francis, a domestic servant, while his father, William Bradshaw was a blacksmith.
Bradshaw was however raised by his grandmother after the migration to the United States of his father. At the time the young Robert was only nine months old.
Sir Robert’s life was deeply influenced by the plight of the working class, especially those toiling in the sugar industry, which at the time was the dominant economic activity in the colonial era of St. Kitts & Nevis.
In 1932, at the age of 16, Sir Robert himself began his working career as a machine apprentice at the Basseterre Sugar Factory. It was this time at the factory that Bradshaw became more involved in the affairs of workers’ rights,
Six years after starting his work at the factory and at the age of 24, Mr. Bradshaw, in 1940, found himself at the forefront of a major strike for higher wages.
The same year, he took up employment as a clerk at the St. Kitts-Nevis Trades & Labour Union.
But his move up the ranks of the trade union was swift and within four (4) years, in 1944, after the sudden death of then president, Joseph Matthew Sebastian, (the father of former Governor General Sir Cuthberth Sebastian), Robert Bradshaw was elevated to the top post of the union, where he served as president until the time of his death, some 34 years later.
Two years after becoming union president in 1944, Bradshaw officially entered the arena of politics in 1946. He was successful in his first election, winning his seat in the Legislative Council.
He later also became a member of the Executive Council and by 1956, at the age of 40, was appointed to his first portfolio, that of Minister of Trade & Production, for the then State of St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla.
Though his main focus was on the people of St. Kitts and Nevis, The Right Excellent Sir Robert Bradshaw dedicated much of his life to the integration of the Caribbean.
When the territories of the English Speaking Caribbean formed themselves into the West Indies Federation in 1958, Robert Bradshaw ran for one of the legislative positions which he won and eventually became the Minister of Finance within the federal government which was headquartered in Trinidad.
When that federation failed in 1962, after the withdrawal of Jamaica, Bradshaw returned home to continue his fight in local politics and took over from Paul Southwell, as Chief Minister in 1966. One year later, in 1967 when The British Government granted Statehood to St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla, giving the new body internal political control, Bradshaw emerged as the First Premier of the state.
As the decades rolled on new political challenges came from forces in Nevis, Anguilla and St. Kitts and months after the attainment of Statehood his government was faced with a rebellion from Anguilla, and later in the early 1970s, the emergence of a strong political party called the Nevis Reformation Party, (NRP), in 1970, whose main cause was secession of that island. In addition the formation of the People’s Action Movement, (PAM), in St. Kitts in 1965, also began to pull some of the earlier support given to Bradshaw and his Labour Movement.
His attempts at taking the State into independence never materialized, largely because of the unwillingness of the people of both Anguilla and Nevis to be enjoined in his move to full nationhood.
Nevisians and Anguillians complained that they felt neglected and that their respective islands were being unfairly deprived of revenue, investment and services by the central government in Basseterre.
But in St. Kitts, Bradshaw remained a champion in the eyes of most Kittitians. Sir Robert is also highly credited for the role he played in the acquisition of the Basseterre Sugar Factory and also the ‘Sugar Lands’ in 1975, to help rescue the ailing sugar industry.
By the late 1970s, Bradshaw suffered major setbacks when his health started to fail.
He was diagnosed with prostate cancer and he died at his home at Fort lands, Basseterre on 23rd May, 1978.
At the time he was married to Millicent Sahaley, a Kittitian-Lebanese, whom he wed in 1963. Together they produced one daughter, Isis Carla Bradshaw. He also had another daughter, Etsu, who was from an earlier relationship. Unfortunately, both his wife and younger daughter Isis, have since passed.
The airport in St. Kitts was renamed from Golden Rock in 1998, to the Robert Bradshaw International Airport to honour his memory.
The Right Excellent Sir Robert Bradshaw was 62 years old when he died.
The Right Excellent Sir C. A. Paul Southwell
Today we profile The Right Excellent, Sir Caleb Azariah Paul Southwell, who was named a National Hero in 2004.
Paul Southwell was a policeman, politician, teacher, trade unionist and sports administrator. And in his later years, he assumed the highest office when he succeeded his friend and colleague, Robert Bradshaw, to become the second Premier of St. Kitts & Nevis.
Though he spent most of his adult life in St. Kitts, Paul Southwell was actually born in Dominica on 18th July, 1913. His parents were Joseph and Amelia Southwell.
His entry into the teaching profession began at the age of 13 but he moved on to join what was then the Leeward Islands Police Force, in 1938, at the age of 25. He retired from his law enforcement stint in 1944, at the age of 31, after working in Anguilla, Montserrat, Antigua, and St. Kitts & Nevis.
When he left the police force, C. A. Paul Southwell found employment at the Basseterre Sugar Factory in 1944, just when his future colleague Robert Bradshaw was assuming the presidency of the local trade union.
At the factory, Southwell worked as a time keeper and an assistant stock clerk. This he did until 1948 resigning after the workers strike of the same year.
Like Bradshaw, Southwell left the factory and joined the St. Kitts & Nevis Trades & Labour Union. He made the move to the union in 1948, and one year later became a member of the emerging Saint Kitts and Nevis Workers League, which today is called the St. Kitts and Nevis Labour Party in 1946.
Like Bradshaw who was never removed from his post, Southwell served for 33 years as the Union’s Vice President until his death in the late 1970s.
At age 39 Paul Southwell won his first election in 1952, entering what was called the St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla Legislative Council.
Two years after, in 1955, he was also appointed to the Executive Council, shortly after becoming Minister of Communications and Works in 1956.
Then on 1st January, 1960, he was elevated further when he became the First Chief Minister of St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla, serving until July 1966. By then Bradshaw had returned from Trinidad after the collapse of the West Indies Federation.
When the islands were taken into Statehood and Bradshaw appointed Premier, Southwell became his Deputy Premier and Minister of Finance, Trade, Development, Industry and Tourism, in various Cabinets of the Labour Party government from 1967-1978.
He is also credited for the establishment of ZIZ Radio station on March 5th 1961 after he convinced the British Government to provide grant funds to establish the station. The creation of the Frigate Bay tourist belt is another milestone in the service of Southwell. He was the one who was said to have the vision for a diversified economy, blending tourism with sugar and agriculture.
When Robert Bradshaw died in May 1978, Southwell was installed as Premier days after.
Unfortunately, his tenure lasted approximately one year. He suddenly died while attending a meeting of the West Indies Associated States Council of Ministers in Castries St. Lucia as the territories of the Leeward and Windward Islands continued their efforts at closer political and economic unity. Southwell too was a committed regionalist.
Southwell was married to wife, Gladys, and the two had six daughters and five sons.
The Industrial Park in in East Basseterre St. Kitts was named in his honor after his death.
The Right Excellent, Sir Caleb Azariah Paul Southwell, died of cancer on 18th May, 1979, at age 65.
The Right Excellent Sir Joseph Nathaniel France
Today we profile The Right Excellent, Sir Joseph Nathaniel France who became a National Hero in 2004.
Joseph N France was the first Nevisian to be bestowed with the Order of National Hero.
Uncle Joe as he was affectionately called by his trade union comrades, was born in Mount Lily, Nevis, on 16th September, 1907.
He therefore shares the same birthday as Robert Bradshaw, the first National Hero and former Premier.
During his 57 year career in the Labour Movement, spanning1940-1997, Sir Joseph served his country as a trade unionist and politician.
Many have described him as a man of great integrity, honesty and void of ambitions for personal wealth and power. Instead he was more focused on working in the best interest of the people.
Sir Joseph was granted the Knight Commander of the Order of St. Michael and St. George in 1996.
France was first elected to the St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla Parliament (Legislature) in July 1946 when there were just three (3) elected representatives provided for St. Kitts under the Constitution Ordinance of 1937.
The other two elected representatives on the Workers’ League ticket were Robert Llewellyn Bradshaw and Maurice H. Davis, (the late Sir Maurice Davis) who went on to become Chief Justice of the West Indies Supreme Court.
France served as “Member for Social” (from 1952) before the full Ministerial System was introduced in 1960. He then became the Minister for Social Services (which included Education, Health and Social Affairs under the then Labour Administration headed by Paul Southwell, Chief Minister).
When the new hospital in Basseterre was put down at its present site in Buckley’s in 1967, it was named after him, on account of his invaluable service in the field of health and other related areas.
France successfully contested nine General Elections- 1946, 1952, 1957, 1961, 1966, 1971, 1975, 1980, 1984 – as a representative of the people of St. Kitts (representing the constituency and people of West Basseterre from 1952 when adult suffrage was introduced in the territory of St. Kitts-Nevis and Anguilla, until 1984 when he retired from active politics).
He had a record 38 years as a member of parliament.
However, the first job he acquired when he moved to St. Kitts from Mount Lily, Nevis, in 1920, was as an Office Boy at the St. Kitts-Nevis Universal Benevolent Association Limited.
At the time, trade unions were banned from the territory and local black people had to be creative to circumvent the brutal British laws and as such they established friendly societies that carried out similar work to unions.
The society was popularly called “the Union”, by most Kittitians and Nevisians who found shelter for their social ills, by associating with the organization.
The Union was then located on Cayon Street, close to West Independence Square Street.
When he came to St. Kitts in 1920 it was simply for his school vacation but the young France convinced his parents, Thomas and Mary France, to allow him to stay in the island with relatives in New Town, East Basseterre, once he agreed to stay in school and continue his education by attending evening classes. He did but he never returned to Nevis to live.
When France joined the Benevolent Association it was then he came into contact with its president Fred Solomon, who was a local undertaker. Solomon was eventually succeeded by Joseph Matthew Sebastian, a school teacher at the time. Other stalwarts he met were J. A. Nathan, a retail merchant who served the Association as Secretary and G Wilkes who was a barber.
Eventually, France became a printer at the Progressive Printery Limited. This was an organization that had close links with the Benevolent Association. It started publication of the Union Messenger newspaper in 1921, edited by Joseph Matthew Sebastian.
This paper later evolved into the Labour Spokesman where France worked until the time of his death some four decades later.
When the Workers League, Which is now the St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party, was founded in 1932 it tried to recruit some of the strongest advocates for change. France would eventually be elected to the Board of Directors becoming very involved in organizing workers and the less fortunate, as they fought for their social advancement.
During the well-known Buckley’s Rebellion in 1935, France found himself in the vanguard trying to make peace, but the colonial rulers instead of listening to the demands for more acceptable wages and conditions, turned to violence killing some of the strikers.
In 1938 France was elected Secretary of the Workers’ League after the death of Mr. W.A.H. Seaton. Seaton was the father of current Governor General, Sir Tapley Seaton.
Mr. France was a member of the League’s delegation which gave evidence before the Royal West India Commission of 1938-39 appointed to inquire into social and economic conditions in the British Caribbean. The need for trade union laws, workmen’s compensation, land settlement, slum clearance, better health and educational facilities etc., were stressed by the delegation.
When Mr. France was elected as the first General Secretary of the League he was re-elected every year until his death on 21st May, 1997.
After the death of Mr. Sebastian in 1944, “The Union Messenger” was edited by Mr. France until the newspaper ceased publication in the 1960’s. He was also editor of the “Workers Weekly,” which was published by the Workers’ League from 1942-1956.
He was a member of the Editorial Board of the “Labour Spokesman,” the official organ of the St. Kitts-Nevis Trades and Labour Union, and contributed regularly to its publication.
France was a quiet humble easy going man. He had four children, three sons and one daughter.
The Right Excellent, Sir Joseph N France was 89 years when he died on 21st May, 1997.
The Right Excellent Sir Simeon Daniel
Today we profile The Right Excellent, Dr. Sir Simeon Daniel, who became a National Hero in 2013.
Sim Daniel, as he is best known, was born on 22nd August, 1934 in the Nevisian village of Barnes Ghaut, St. Thomas Lowlands Parish. His parents were farmers Joseph Daniel and Melvina Daniel, formerly Archer. He had five other siblings.
However, never was able to benefit from the long care of his mother as she died when Daniel was only seven years old. His early maternal influences therefore came from his grandmother, Augustus Mini Archer.
His father was an active trade unionist in Nevis with close ties with the Trades & Labour Union in St. Kitts.
His parents always wanted the best for him and He received his early education at St. Thomas’ Government Elementary School in Nevis. He became a pupil teacher in 1950, at the age of 16. Thereafter, he managed to gain his Leeward Islands Teacher’s Certificate in 1957.
But he soon left the classroom and switched to law in 1962. He travelled to England to study law, He graduated in 1966 as a Barrister at Law and was called to the Bar in England.
Back home after being called to the local Bar, he worked as a Crown Counsel, Registrar of the Supreme Court, Additional Magistrate, and Assistant Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs.
By 1969, Sim Daniel entered private practice in St. Kitts and from then his life changed as politics soon found him.
It is said that the sinking of the Christena Ferry changed many lives in both St. Kitts and Nevis and that it also was a turning point for the political climate in the State.
Therefore when the people of Nevis wanted to be better organized to represent their interests in the State, a small group got together to form the Nevis Reformation Party, NRP in 1970.
Daniel was amongst the founding members of the party which eventually he would lead.
He served as Chairman of the Local Council from 1972 to 1980 and was elected to the National Assembly in May 1975 and February 1980.
Following the formation of the coalition government of the People’s Action Movement of St. Kitts and the Nevis Reformation Party, Daniel assumed the portfolios of Minister of Finance and Nevis Affairs on 19 February 1980. He gained Home Rule for Nevis under the Independence Constitution in September 1983, with the now famous 113 Clause in the independence constitution.
Daniel was the first Premier of Nevis from 19 September 1983 (Independence Day) to 2 June 1992.
By the early 1990s, the politics in Nevis was again changing. This time, Nevisians were expressing some concern about their local government, headed by Daniel.
As a result a new party emerged, headed by Vance Amory who in the early 1980s served as one of his Permanent Secretaries.
With the 1992 elections upon him, Daniel took the gamble to switch from his safe seat in St. Thomas’, his home town, to make way for another of his for permanent secretaries, Joseph Parry, allowing Parry to run and win that seat.
However, this led to the demise of Daniel as he was defeated and so too was his party.
His successor was Vance Amory after his party, the Concerned Citizens Movement (CCM) who won the election in 1992.
Daniel never recovered politically from that defeat and eventually retired from active politics heading back into his law practice and business.
By then he and others had already established the Bank of Nevis Ltd. in 1985.
After establishing his law firm, Daniel focused on his practice and by 1996 he welcomed into his Chambers a young lawyer by the name of Mark Brantley, forming the firm, Daniel, Brantley & Associates.
After Daniel’s death, the firm was led by Brantley, who became Deputy Premier of Nevis and the Deputy Leader of the CCM, which was the party contesting against Daniel’s NRP. Despite that however, both Daniel and Brantley, remained law partners.
Dr. Daniel was married to Sheila Daniel. He had four children.
Despite his passion for law, business and politics, Sim Daniel’s first dream was to become an Anglican Priest.
Daniel died at his home on 27 May 2012 and was buried with full military honours. He was 78 years old and had been battling cancer for years
The Right Excellent Sir Kennedy Simmons