Robert Llewellyn Bradshaw was born in the Saint Paul, Capisterre Village, in the island of St. Kitts to Mary Jane Francis and William Bradshaw. He was a man of humble beginnings. He was raised by his grandmother after his father, a blacksmith, moved to the United States when he was only nine months old. He attended St. Paul’s Primary School and completed seventh grade; the highest level of primary education available in Saint Kitts at the time. He attained three Seventh Standard Certificates and even taught as a pupil teacher for a short while.
Bradshaw began working at the age of 16 as a machine apprentice at the St. Kitts Sugar Factory. His mother, a domestic worker, became the caretaker at a guest house at the Factory and a young Robert Bradshaw moved in with her. It was there that he began to take interest in the labour movement. In the machine shop, Adam Claxton, a welder, suggested that the young man should join the Workers’ League. His membership was seconded by Harry Audain. However, his career as a machinist did not have a chance to take off when in an accident in the machine shop Bradshaw injured his right hand and the doctors were unable to restore its full use. Bradshaw stayed in the tool room of the machine shop where he earned 2/3 per day but he also turned his attention to more academic pursuits. His mother paid for a correspondence course from England and two boys from the Grammar School who worked in the Factory Laboratory helped him with his studies.
In 1940, Bradshaw left the Sugar Factory following a strike for higher wages and joined the St. Kitts and Nevis Trades & Labour Union as a clerk. Bradshaw supported the cause of the sugar workers and was one of the political stalwarts of the country. He became the first secretary of the Sugar Factory section of the Union and a member of the Executive Committee. Robert Bradshaw succeeded Joseph Matthew Sebastian as president of the union in 1944. He also held the title of Vice President of the Worker’s League, but his activities were not limited to the local scene. In 1945 he took part in the establishment of the Caribbean Congress of Labour and was elected its first Assistant Secretary. He then became the president of the newly created St. Kitts Nevis Anguilla Labour Party. He entered politics in 1946 and won a seat in the Legislative Council in the elections that year. He was again elected in 1952 when universal suffrage was introduced. In 1956 he was Minister of Trade and Production for St. Kitts Nevis & Anguilla. During the short-lived West Indies Federation (from 1958 to 1962), Bradshaw was elected to the Federal House of Representatives and held the post of minister of finance for the Federation. After the break-up of the Federation, Bradshaw returned to St. Kitts from Trinidad.
Robert Bradshaw married Millicent Sahaley, a Kittitian Lebanese in 1963. They had one daughter, Isis Carla Bradshaw. However, Isis was not his first daughter. His first daughter, Etsu Bradshaw, is from an earlier relationship.
In 1966 he was sworn in as Chief Minister, and on February 27, 1967 became the first Premier of the Associated State of St. Kitts Nevis & Anguilla. Under his leadership, all sugar lands, as well as the central sugar factory, were bought by the government. Opposition to Bradshaw’s rule began to build and was especially great in Nevis, where it was felt that the island was being neglected and unfairly deprived of revenue, investment and services by its larger neighbour. Bradshaw mainly ignored Nevis’ complaints, but Nevisian disenchantment with the Labour Party proved a key factor in the party’s eventual fall from power. Opposition in Anguilla was even stronger, with the Anguillans evicting St. Kitts police from their island and holding referendums in 1967 and 1969, both times voting overwhelmingly to secede from St. Kitts-Nevis and remain a separate British territory.
In January 1975, Premier Bradshaw’s government took possession, by law of all the estate lands in St. Kitts and in December 1976, his government successfully negotiated the take-over of the St. Kitts Sugar Factory. Premier Bradshaw had long been an advocate of independence for the State of St. Kitts Nevis & Anguilla and when his Labour Party won all seats in St. Kitts in December 1975, he spearheaded independence talks with the United Kingdom’s leadership in 1976 and 1977. Affectionately known as the “Father of Independence,” Bradshaw served as the first Premier of St. Kitts from 1967 until his death on May 23rd, 1978. In total, he spent 32 years serving the island as a public official.
Sir Robert Llewellyn Bradshaw became the first National Hero on September 16, 1998 when the St. Kitts and Nevis Federal Parliament, passed the National Honours Act, which established the Standing National Awards Committee and three classes of awards. September 16 officially became National Hero’s Day.
Caleb Azariah Paul Southwell was the second Premier and the first Chief Minister of St. Kitts & Nevis. He worked as a teacher, police officer, and trade unionist.
Southwell was born in Dominica on 18 July 1913 to Joseph and Amelia Southwell. At the impressive age of 13, Southwell became a teacher and later joined the Leeward Islands Police Force in 1938. He served Antigua, Montserrat, St. Kitts & Nevis, and Anguilla until he retired from the force in 1944.
In 1944, Southwell became an employee of the Saint Kitts Sugar Factory where he worked as a timekeeper and assistant stock clerk until the end of the sugar factory workers strike in 1948, which he was very instrumental in. He was then recruited into the St. Kitts & Nevis Workers League (now the St. Kitts & Nevis Labour Party) by Robert Llewellyn Bradshaw and Joseph N. France and for the next 10 years he assisted as a part time organizer of the St. Kitts & Nevis Trades & Labour Union. He later became the Vice President of the Labour Union in 1947.
Following his dismissal from the Sugar Factory, Southwell spent a year representing workers free of cost to the Union. Eventually he was appointed the first sole organizer with a wage of $15.00 per week. that time he also functioned as Associate Editor of The Union Messenger. He also functioned as Associate Editor of The Union Messenger. His talent for writing and his political awareness was showcased in two publications he did “The Truth About Operation Blackburn and The Union” and “What it is, What It Does”, which was co-authored by Robert Bradshaw.
Paul Southwell was elected to the St. Kitts Nevis & Anguilla Legislative Council in 1952 and was appointed to the Executive Council in 1955. and served as the First Minister of Communications and Works in 1956 when a ministerial system was introduced. In hopes of having even more extensive constitutional changes, Southwell lead a delegation to London in 1959 which resulted in the introduction granting a full ministerial system in 1960. The post of Chief Minister was created and the subject of Finance which was previously under the jurisdiction of an overseas official, passed into ministerial hands. With Bradshaw in the Federal House in Trinidad, Southwell became Chief Minister, a post he held until 1966.
In 1965, the Sugar Industry employers, refused to grant an increase in wages and refused to request the Sugar Industry Price Stabilization Funds, which were available to pay for the increase. In his role as Chief Minister, Southwell ensured that legislation was enacted to draw money from the Sugar Cess Funds to pay for the increases. This step, which was subsequently emulated by Barbados and Trinidad, drew considerable resistance from the employers and led to the Campbell Commission of Inquiry into the Sugar Industry before which both Bradshaw and Southwell conducted themselves with distinction.
After St. Kitts Nevis & Anguilla assumed the status of Statehood in association with Great Britain in 1967, Southwell was appointed Deputy Premier and Minister of Finance, Trade, Development, Industry and Tourism. Not only was Southwell deeply involved in the political arena in St. Kitts Nevis & Anguilla, but also the Caribbean at large. Southwell was also the Chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Association and Chairman of the West Indies Associated States Council of Ministers. Paul Southwell was appointed the position of Premier following the death of Bradshaw on 23 May 1978.
Southwell had a keen interest in the arts and in sports. He was President of the Mutual Improvement Society and a devotee of the works of William Shakespeare. The State’s Art Festival of 1964 was his brainchild. He was the founder of the Chief Minister’s Cricket XI in 1960and later President of the St. Kitts Cricket Association. He was also an enthusiastic golf player. Southwell pioneered the economic diversification in St. Kitts & Nevis. Due his devotion to the development of his country, the industrial site in St. Kitts was named in his honour and is now called the C. A. Paul Southwell Industrial Park.
Paul Southwell died suddenly on May 18th, 1979, while chairing a meeting of the West Indies Associated States Council of Ministers in Castries St. Lucia. Southwell left behind his wife, Gladys Southwell and 11 children; 6 daughters and 5 sons.
In 2004 on the eve of celebrations to mark the 21st Anniversary of Independence, Mr. Southwell was given the title of Knight Commander of the National Hero posthumously and dubbed Sir Paul Southwell.
Joseph Nathaniel France, son of Thomas and Mary France, was born in Mt. Lily, Nevis on September 16, 1907. A fitting day for a National Hero. At the tender age of 13 years the, France came to St. Kitts to spend the holidays with his relatives at New Town, Basseterre. Before the vacation was over France was offered a job as office boy with the St. Kitts-Nevis Universal Benevolent Association at its office on Cayon Street. His parents allowed him to take the job on condition that he continued his education at evening classes in St. Kitts. This, he was able to do because the UBA ran a night school and young France attended regularly.
Sir Joseph Nathaniel France, KCMG, CBE JP was a politician and trade union leader. France served as a representative in the St. Kitts Nevis National Assembly and as Minister of Social Services under Chief Minister Paul Southwell. He was also served as the General Secretary for the St. Kitts & Nevis Trades and Labour Union. France started his career as a printer at the Progressive Printery Ltd., which related to the U.B.A. and which in 1921 started publication of a newspaper, “The Union Messenger,” edited by J. Matthew Sebastian, the father of His Excellency the Governor-General, Sir Cuthbert Montraville Sebastian.
That paper strongly advocated social, industrial and political reform in the territory. To its pages France contributed as a reporter, columnist and a short story writer. In its role as champion of the underprivileged, the newspaper paved the way for the formation of the St. Kitts Workers’ League Ltd. In 1932, afterwards renamed the St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla Labour Party.
As one of the early members of the Workers’ League, France took an active part in labour programmes to arouse the working population to consciousness of the need to organise for the advancement of their common interests. Public meetings, leaflets, the distribution of British socialist literature, petitions to the then British Colonial Office, interviews with visiting British Officials, etc., were all used to good advantage.
Within a few years of the inception of the Workers’ League, Mr France was elected to the Board of Directors. Among other things, this gave him an outlet for self-expression and for putting into practice some of the things he had learnt as a member of the literary society – St. Kitts Mutual Improvement Society – centre at Lower Market Street.
For two days in January, the island was in the throes of a labour disturbance arising mainly from a request of sugar workers for higher wages. When nothing else could calm the situation, the Government asked the leaders to make an appeal to the people to end the unrest. This was done with printed leaflets and personal contact with the crowds which concentrated between Buckley’s Estate and St. Johnson Village.
Along with Thomas Manchester and W.A.H. Seaton, President and Secretary, respectively, of the Workers’ League, and other Directors, Mr. France grappled with the issue. But the gruesome climax came with the reading of the Riot Act and the opening of gun fire resulting in the death of three persons, injury to several and imprisonment of others.
Two years another kind of crisis faced the leaders of the Labour Movement.
The issue was the right to vote. Up to that time the fourteen members of the Legislative Council were all appointed by the Governor.
These were made up of Government Officials, sugar estate owners, merchants and professional men. The working class had no representative there by the chosen by the working masse.
In 1937, a big battle was centred around the introduction of the elective principle into the territory. The bill was debated in the Legislature and was defeated by weight of the combined opposition to Labour.
Marshalling the ranks of fellow workers, the Labour stalwarts canvassed the three islands St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla to gain support in the course of the struggle. Evidence of public opinion was wanted as to whether Representative Government should be introduced here. The opposers submitted a memorandum to the authorities signed by some 200 people asking that there be no change in the Crown Colony system of Government.
Against this the Workers’ League presented a petition signed by 2,447 persons asking for the right to vote. Eventually this was accomplished. But after that, the first electioneering campaign under the new constitution in 1937 was a political confrontation of great magnitude.
France played his part amidst others and brought the Labour Movement through the issue with flying colours.
In 1938 France was elected Secretary of the Workers’ League after the death of Mr. W.A.H. 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.
The Trade Union Act was one of the fruits of the Workers’ League agitation. Under this law the St. Kitts-Nevis Trades and Labour Union was organised in 1940. It brought the industrial emancipation of the working class. Mr. France was elected as the first General Secretary and re-elected every year until his death on 21st May 1997. He helped to re-shape the structure of the Trade and Labour Union into the nineteen (19) sections now existing. He has experienced industrial conflicts of various kinds and has taken part in negotiations, conciliation of issues, etc., and has also represented the Union abroad on several occasions.
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.
Comrade 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 the revered Labour leader Comrade 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.
Comrade France served as the “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 Comrade Paul Southwell, Chief Minister.
When the new hospital in Basseterre was put down at its present site in Buckleys in 1967, it was named after him, on account of his invaluable service in the field of health and other related areas. Comrade France has successfully contested nine (9) 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 also helped to enact legislation in the country providing for the National Provident Fund, Protection of wages, minimum wages for Domestic Servants and Shop Assistants, Acquisition of Sugar Lands in St. Kitts, Re-cast of the Education System, Central Marketing Corporation (CEMACO) etc.
In 1978, he was graciously awarded the honour of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (O.B.E) by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, who awarded him the Knight Commander of St. Michael and St. George. The honour was presented by His Excellency the Governor General, Sir Cuthbert Sebastian KCMG.
Sir Joseph Nathaniel France, KCMG, CBE JP has been in the vanguard of every progressive movement that has emerged to look after the landless people in this country. In 2004, France was posthumously granted the title of National Hero by the National Assembly and is honoured annually on National Heroes Day. The general hospital in St. Kitts was named in his honour.