Sir Eric Matthew Gairy

gairy b&w photo

Eric Matthew Gairy, son of Douglas and Theresa Gairy, was  born in the parish of St. Andrew’s on the beautiful Caribbean Island of Grenada  on February 18, 1922.  He received his early education at the St. Mary’s RC  School in La Fillette and the St Andrew’s RC School in Grenville.

At School Sir Eric achieved high academic standards and took  keen interest in church activities, scouting, school gardening and sports. He  was a very good allround cricketer.

Immediately following his graduation he continued at the St.  Mary’s RC School as a teacher before migrating to Aruba in 1943. During his stay  in the Dutch island, Sir Eric worked with the Lago Oil Company and also took the  opportunity to pursue a correspondence course with a view to studying law, but  abandoned the studies and returned to Grenada in 1948.

It was in Aruba that Sir Eric developed an interest in the  Trade Union movement, playing a vibrant role in seeking increased wages and  better working condition for his fellow workers in the Lago Oil Company.

He took the hand of Cynthia Clyne in Holy Matrimony and later  on had two children Marcelle and Jennifer. In the 1950’s Sir Eric took up the  cause for workers whom he taught were working in deplorable conditions, which he  labeled as “slavery”.

Out of the struggle for increased wages and better working  conditions mainly for the agricultural workers came the plantation riots in  1951, known as “Sky Red”.

It was around this time that the GMMIWU trade union and the  Grenada United Labor Party were formed, both under the leadership of Eric Gairy.

Eric Gairy fought and won Independence for Grenada from the  British on February 7, 1974. Despite heavy opposition from the opposition  parties. Opponent of Independence called an island wide strike which left the  island without electricity, telephone, gasoline and food stuff.

Sir Eric is very well remembered for his vision for the  development of Grenada. The appointment of the first lady Governor in the  British Commonwealth. He was Grenada’s first Prime Minister. He was Grenada’s  longest serving government head, serving in the role as Chief Minister, Premier  and Prime Minister until he was overthrown in 1979.

The implementation of the “Land for the Landless” where poor  Grenadians were able to purchase lands was another of his vision.

He successfully hosted the General Assembly of the OAS in  Grenada despite heavy opposition from the New Jewel Movement.

Grenada was the first Caribbean Island to host an exposition  “Expo 69” which attracted visitor worldwide.  Another achievement was Miss  World 1970 when Jennifer Hosten surprised the world and put Grenada on the  map.

Despite heavy opposition he successfully brought the St.  George’s University School of Medicine to Grenada.  The University has  since grown into the St. George’s University and is now recognize  worldwide.

Sir Eric had a special love for the poor. He ensure that the  poor and senior citizen were taken care of by providing them weekly allowances  from his own pocket. Even when he returned to Grenada in 1984 and out of office  he continued this program.

Sir Eric Matthew Gairy died quietly at his home in St.  George’s on August 23, 1997. He will always be remembered by all Grenadians. A  true son of the soil. May his soul rest in peace.

By Titus L Neckles

Grave of Sir Eric Matthew Gairy, 1st Prime Minister of Grenada

Grave of Sir Eric Matthew Gairy, 1st Prime Minister of Grenada 

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