Friday, September 9, 2022

Remembering The Day I Encountered Queen Elizabeth In Bridgetown, Barbados Over 33 Years Ago


 Approx. location where I saw Queen Elizabeth In Bridgetown March 9, 1989, at end of the black path
 Queen Elizabeth greets Queen's College students, on Barbados visit in March, 1989

 After a seventy- year reign, one of the most singular (and beloved) monarchs on the planet,  died yesterday.  This followed an extended period of fragile health after contracting Covid some months ago.   Elizabeth II was notable for being the longest reigning British monarch, spanning the terms of no fewer than 14 U.S. Presidents.

As I watched the news unfold yesterday, I recalled my own chance encounter (note the word encounter, not meeting!) with Elizabeth over 33 years ago, in Barbados,  no less.

 That day, Thursday, March 9, 1989, I had just finished lunch (barbecued quarter chicken, fries, coke) at the 'Chicken Barn' on Bay Street and was on my way back to Harrison College for an afternoon electronics lab with the upper class (calculus-based) Physics  students (equivalent to U.S. college sophomores).   

  The walk back toward the college (about 3/4 mile)  took me across the Independence Memorial Bridge  along the black path marked on the map above.  This was toward (then) Lord Nelson's statue where Broad Street meets High Street.  Roughly at the 'X' position shown a small crowd had gathered, with Elizabeth at the center, chatting with primary school children.  Their uniforms indicated they came from the (St. Michael's) Cathedral school across from the Lower Green bus stand.  I stopped and took in the moment, fairly incredulous that I had chanced to see this Royal I'd only heard or read about up until now.   And not in England but in Barbados' capital city of Bridgetown, not far from the college I taught.   

When we did visit London, in July, 1978-  here I am with Big Ben in the background:

The nearest we managed to get to the Queen was her residence at Buckingham Palace where one of the Royal (Beefeater) Guards, e.g.

obliged our request for a photo.  The scene also reminded Janice of her dad's visit to London 26 years earlier for Elizabeth's coronation. We remained in London for ten days, at the home of a radiographer friend of Janice's (in Perivale) and enjoyed every minute. We regularly took the tube to London and enjoyed all the usual sights - like Windsor Castle, the London Planetarium, the Royal Greenwich Observatory and Westminster Abbey -  as well as concerts at the Royal Albert Hall.

The main occasion for the Queen being in Barbados was in commemoration of the island nation's 350th anniversary of the establishment of a parliament democracy. She had arrived the day before, March 8th, and was going to be there for four days of assorted celebrations.  Formal activities also included the laying of a foundation stone at Queen's College, the sister school of Harrison College, i.e.

The Queen returned to England on March 11th via British Airways Concorde.   Alas for many, Barbados' identity as a constitutional monarchy ended after 55 years on Nov. 30th, 2021.  At this point in time Barbados transitioned to a  republic within the Commonwealth with the president of Barbados  as its head of state.

The Queen herself will be remembered by Bajans for her grace and affability in three memorable visits, in 1975,  1977, and March, 1989. I was also living in the island during the two earlier visits but it took the one in 1989 for me to happen upon her by chance during one walk back to Harrison College. It was a brief encounter, perhaps a few minutes over all, but a memory that endures. Strangely, the memory of any officials accompanying the Queen - and I'm sure there were a few -  had been blurred from my memory. All I recall is seeing her engaging with those 9-10 year old Primary school kids.  Weird but true!

See Also:

Dame Sandra pays tribute to Queen Elizabeth II


"Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II will also hold a special place in our hearts, and we in Barbados will always treasure the memories of her visits to the island, in particular on Wednesday, February 19, 1975, when she knighted our first national hero, The Right Excellent Sir Garfield Sobers on the Garrison Savannah."

by Richard Eskow | September 10, 2022 - 6:28am | permalink


Every human death is a loss. But Queen Elizabeth lived a long and, from most accounts, good life. The people close to her have lost a mother, a friend, a real person. They shouldn't be dismissed. Neither should the British citizens who mourn her. The grief people feel for a public figure is real, even if what they're really mourning are the passing days of their lives.

I wish we lived in a world where it wasn't necessary to put this particular death into perspective, but we don't. Shortly before her death, the Queen met with the new prime minister of Great Britain. Liz Truss was chosen for that position by the less than 200,000 dues-paying members of the Conservative Party, some 0.3 percent of the British electorate. That's right: a handful of party stalwarts, predominately white, male, and older, paid for the privilege of choosing the country's leader. They call that "democracy."

Truss is a hard-right extremist in the Trump mold, a pro-fossil-fuel extremist who has already begun filling sensitive environmentally-related positions with climate deniers like Jacob Rees-Mogg. As a result, more people will die. More than half of Britons think she will be a "poor" or "terrible" Prime Minister, and they're sure to be right.


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