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Today we celebrate 52 years of independence on my island of Barbados. I love living on this little island and I don’t think I’d want to live anywhere else in the world. We have some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
If you’ve never heard of Barbados we are an independent island nation, the easternmost island in the Caribbean island chain in the Lesser Antilles.
We were a British Colony for over 300 years, beginning in 1627 never changing hands and became an independent nation on Nov 30th, 1966.
I was going to do a list of 52 facts about our island since we’re celebrating 52 years but you know… life happened (hey I’m a mom, my time is not my own.)
So you get 10, 10 fascinating facts about my island Barbados. I hope you enjoy them.
FASCINATING FACT 1: IT’S A VERY SMALL ISLAND
Ok first off, Barbados is a very small island. It is only 166 square miles, 21 miles long and 14 miles wide. It takes about 45 minutes to drive from the south of the island where I live to the northern-most parish of St. Lucy.
Barbados is a geographically flat island with its highest point, Mount Hillaby in the parish of St. Andrew, standing at only 1,115 ft above sea level.
This is part of the reason we never changed hands. The flatness of the island allows for great views of our coastline so it was easy to see enemy ships approaching. As of 2016, our population was approx. 285,000
FASCINATING FACT 2: IT’S NAMED AFTER A TREE
The name Barbados was given to the island by Portuguese explorer Pedro a Campos who visited the island with his crew on his way to South America.
They were the first Europeans to visit the island. They called the island “Os Barbados” (or “Los Barbados”) which means the Bearded Ones, due to the numerous bearded fig trees that grew on the island at that time.
The tree, officially known as ficus
FASCINATING FACT 3: SINGER-SONGWRITER RIHANNA IS BARBADIAN
Rihanna, one of the best-selling music artist of all time, was born right here in Barbados on February 20, 1988. She was discovered by music producer Evan Rogers in 2003 at the age of 16 while still attending secondary (high) school.
In 2012, Rihanna founded the Clara Lionel Foundation to honor her grandparents. The inaugural project of the foundation was the opening of the Clara Brathwaite Centre for Oncology and Nuclear Medicine at our local Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
This involved an investment of $17.5 million in modern radiography equipment. The foundation currently funds over 45 projects with over $7 million in grants committed.
Fun Bonus Fact: I’ve never met Rihanna personally but she went to the nursery school that my mom used to work at. When my mom heard that Rihanna had “made it” she exclaimed, “Oh, my little Robyn!” (Robyn is Rihanna’s first name).
FASCINATING FACT 4: FAMOUS CRICKETER SIR GARFIELD SOBERS IS BARBADIAN
Sir Garfield Sobers, the greatest cricketer the world has ever seen (it’s true, there’s a song) was born in Walcott’s Ave, Bayland in the parish of St. Michael, Barbados.
He is considered the greatest all-round cricketer in the world. In 1958, he scored 365 runs, the highest individual score in an innings ever at that time. His record was only surpassed in 1994 by another cricket great, Brian Lara who scored 375.
Sir Garfield was also the first batsman to score six sixes in a single over off of six consecutive balls (an over consists of six balls so he scored six runs from each ball. (Learn more about the game of cricket)
Sir Garfield was personally knighted by the Queen in 1975 for his contributions to the game of cricket and in 1998 he was named as one of our 10 National Heroes (the only living one).
Fun Bonus Fact: Sir Garfield was a childhood friend of my mom who grew up just two avenues over from him in Old Quarry Ave in the Bayland. Read more about Sir Garfield here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garfield_Sobers
FASCINATING FACT 5: BARBADOS HAS THE THIRD OLDEST PARLIAMENT IN THE AMERICAS
The Barbados parliament was established in 1639 by the then governor to form a representative body among the local plantation owners to assist in his administration.
It is the third oldest West Minister styled parliament in the Americas after the Virginia House of Burgess and the Bermuda House of Assembly
It was originally called the House of Burgess but the name was later changed to the House of Assembly. The General Assembly initially met at a building in the capital city of Bridgetown called the Sessions House, which was located at what is now known as Spry Street.
There is a monument outside our Central Bank which commemorates the site of the Sessions House.
Read more about the history of our parliament here
FASCINATING FACT 6: THE GRAPEFRUIT ORIGINATED IN BARBADOS
The Grapefruit is a “hybrid” fruit which first originated in Barbados. The grapefruit is so called because of the clusters of fruit on the tree appears similar to that of grapes.
It is thought to be an accidental hybrid of the Jamaican sweet orange and the Indonesian pomelo (shaddock).
FASCINATING FACT 7: THE CITY OF BRIDGETOWN IS A UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE
Bridgetown, the capital city of Barbados and its Garrison is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The name Bridgetown is said to be derived from a bridge that was built by the original Amerindian settlers and the Garrison was once the regional headquarters of the British Navy.
Bridgetown was used as the major port for the exchange of goods and slaves and features the same serpentine street layout and architecture as colonial English towns which contrast the grid layout of Dutch and Spanish towns.
When George Washington visited the island in 1751 before he became the first president of the United States, he stayed at Bush Hill at the Garrison. The building in which he stayed is now called George Washington House.
FASCINATING FACT 8: WE HAVE INTERESTING TIES TO THE HISTORY OF SOUTH CAROLINA
Barbadians were involved in the original settlement of South Carolina in the USA in 1670. In that year, three ships carrying emigrants from Barbados and Bermuda landed in what was then called Charles Towne.
It was the second attempt at establishing a colony there, the first being in Cape Fear in 1663 which was eventually abandoned.
The first 21 governors of South Carolina were either Barbadian or had Barbadian ties. The emigrants brought with them the “plantation culture” which involved the use of slavery for crop production.
Charles Towne (renamed Charleston) eventually became the port of entry for slaves into the English colonies in mainland America. Even though sugar production did not thrive there, they were able to transfer these techniques to the successful production of rice.
Today the similarities in surnames, colonial architecture, street layout and even the dialect of the people on Gullah Island (which has ties to Barbadian dialect), testify to South Carolina’s Barbadian roots.
Read more fascinating stories about Barbados and South Carolina here: https://www.barbadoscarolinas.org/fascinating-stories
FASCINATING FACT 9: HOME TO THE CONCORDE
Barbados was one of the Concorde’s four regular destinations and the only Caribbean country to have had a regular Concorde service from London.
When the Concorde was retired in 2003 it had flown more than 7000 flights in and out of Barbados since 1983 with an average flying time of 3 hrs and 45 minutes.
Because of the 4 (sometimes 5) hour time difference between Barbados and London, the Concorde would sometimes appear to reach Barbados before leaving London.
Since 2007, the Concorde, specifically the British Airways aircraft G-BOAE (Alpha Echo), has resided at that Concorde Experience, an aviation museum next to our Grantley Adams International Airport.
It was the 12th Concorde aircraft to be built out of the 20 ever manufactured.
Unfortunately, the Concorde Experience is currently closed with no definite date for reopening but you can visit their FaceBook page for updates. https://www.facebook.com/BarbadosConcorde/
FASCINATING FACT 10: THE BARBADOS FERTILITY CENTRE
Most people don’t know that Barbados is home to one of the top of the line fertility centers in the world.
The Barbados Fertility Centre was opened in 2002 and is an accredited center (Joint Commission International) which specializes in all aspects of infertility management.
They treat couples aged 21-49 who have experienced infertility for a year or more. Located on our scenic south coast the centre combines custom edge technology with rest, relaxation and holistic therapy.
The center experiences very high success rates, comparable to that of the US and the UK at relatively reasonable costs.
The medical director of the Barbados Fertility Centre is Barbadian-born, Dr. Julie Skinner who trained as an Ob/Gyn at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland.