TYPICALLY, straightforward, unvarnished, honest, LIONEL SEYMOUR CRAIG, was the one who best captured his life.
He said, “If I were to assess myself, I would say I am a person that has God’s richest blessings because I came from the Garden Land as a barefoot boy, went to school barefooted, and ended up in life sitting with the cream of the international, regional and national society. I am an achiever in my own way”
Not only was the man affectionately known by all as “Lammie Craig” an achiever in his own way – he was an achiever in a big way, an unmistakable presence and unavoidable force that will be forever a part of the political history of Barbados.
For over five decades, Lionel was the uncompromisingly militant advocate of the programmes and policies of the Barbados Labour Party, (BLP). And for his outstanding service and contribution to a grateful nation, he was awarded the second highest honour, the Companion of Honour in 2009.
Just 25 days after celebrating his 85th birthday, he succumbed to heart failure and passed away at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital on 9 March, 2014.
This meant a hole in the fabric of the BLP that is unlikely to be filled anytime soon – an important connection with a past generation gone and a colourful, tour de force that helped defined politics in Barbados as he changed lives that was not seen before and has not been seen since he retired from politics in 1986.
Commenting on his passing, Opposition Leader Miss Mia Amor Mottley said, “Lionel was the consummate politician who knew how to connect with people and how to represent them, who brought his tremendous people skills as a successful insurance agent to the task of representing people and improving the lives of ordinary Barbadians, especially the aged”.
It says all about his spirit and loyalty that Lionel joined the BLP just after the horrendous defeat in 1961, at a time when the party was in chaos and just short of imploding. He represented St. James from 1966 to 1981 and St James North from 1981 to 1986.
His representation in that parish was so outstanding, he was virtually unbeatable for two decades. He switched to St. Michael South in 1986, in a bid to boost the party’s fortunes, but lost in a valiant fight to the man who later became Prime Minister.
Lionel was part of that outstanding, brilliant Cabinet of 1976, reputed to be the best this country ever had. He was Minister responsible for Housing and was both hard working and visionary.
Housing developments at Rosemont, Haynesville, Ferneihurst, Wotton, Bagatelle, Oxnards and West Terrace bear adequate testimony to his ability to get things done. He also introduced the concept of starter homes and was at the forefront of total housing for the nation.
During the second term of the Tom Adams Administration, Lionel also held the portfolio of Parliamentary Affairs and Leader of the House, gaining the solid reputation for impartiality and professionalism, treating all members with equity within the confines of his constitutional remit. As testimony to this, he had genuine friends on both sides of the divide.
But to the end, he remained, unquestionably, a devoted, passionate, diehard BLP supporter, his family the only one superseding his love for the Party.
Many will recall his calls to keep in touch, offer suggestions, rally the troops and his legacy will be in the image of Lionel Seymour “Lammie” Craig, in failing health, still in the mix, there in a vehicle, during the last General Election.
The BLP again offers condolences to his family, which he loved dearly.
May he rest in peace and rise in glory.