From educator, to politician, to leader of organised labour, to parliamentarian, to member of the Government and, finally, to the pinnacle of public life as Head of State. This was the spectacular and unexcelled rise of Sir Hugh Worrell Springer, Barbados' third native Governor-General. For six years up to 1990, Sir Hugh held that post, following the death of his predecessor, Sir Deighton Ward.
In recognition of his "good work for Barbados in general and for the Barbados Progressive League in particular", Sir Hugh is complimented by historian F.A. Hoyos. In his book "The Story of the Progressive Movement", the author points to Sir Hugh's "impressive contributions to the common stock of policy and counsel".
His long and distinguished academic career and public service mark Sir Hugh as among the greatest Barbadians of all time. A 1931 Barbados Scholar in Classics achieved at his alma mater, Harrison College, he later stood in the vanguard of public education policy-making throughout the Commonwealth for most of his life.
That scholarship qualified him for entry to Hertford College in Oxford where he gained a B.A. degree in 1936. He obtained the M.A. degree from this institution in 1944, studied law at the Inner Temple, London and was called to the Bar in 1938.
Sir Hugh Springer, already recognised as an outstanding administrator, was the organiser and first General Secretary of the Barbados Workers' Union from 1940 to 1947. He left Barbados that year to take up the post of Registrar of the newly established University College of the West Indies in Jamaica.
He worked in a variety of professional and political capacities, including being a Member of the House of Assembly; General Secretary of the Barbados Labour Party; Acting Governor and Commander-in-Chief of Barbados, as well as serving as Director, Commonwealth Education Liaison Unit; Commonwealth Assistant Secretary-General and Secretary-General of the Association of Commonwealth Universities.
By 1940, the Barbados Progressive League, whose labour programme had been outlined the previous year by new president, Grantley Adams, had won seats at the General Elections. Adams had also rededicated the League to political education and organisation as well as the development of trade unionism. Among those capturing a seat in Parliament was Hugh Springer who won on the League's ticket for St. George.
His administrative skills greatly benefited the Progressive League, of which he was General Secretary and which had created an economic section later registered as the BWU. So remarkable was his stewardship as the union's first General Secretary, that Hoyos wrote: "Hugh Springer's organising genius at this stage was of the first importance to the labour movement ...."
His already distinguished career advanced even further in 1944 when he was appointed a member of the Executive Committee, thus increasing labour representation as Mr. Adams had become a member two years earlier.
In a 1946 Barbados Progressive League-Congress Party coalition, led by Mr. Adams as the first Premier in the annals of the colony, Mr. Springer held responsibility for Education, Legal Departments, Agriculture and Fisheries.
It was impossible, however, to limit the services of so talented a son of the soil to Barbados alone. In response to the obvious regional need, he resigned from the League and the Union in 1947 to take up duties as Registrar of the University College of the West Indies, at Mona in Jamaica, a development regarded by the historian as a "severe blow to the labour movement".
But Springer had laid a solid foundation. For the BWU, he had bought properties including the first headquarters at the corner of Fairchild and Nelson Streets and the former Beacon building or "Unity House" on Roebuck Street.
Along with Frank Walcott, who was assistant to the General Secretary of the League and the Union, Hugh Springer had roped in the agricultural workers from the mid-1940s; consolidated divisions in the docks, and attracted membership from utilities, government, and clerical as well as white collar workers.
A published academic, Sir Hugh's work appears in regional publications such as "Caribbean Quarterly", "Pelican Annual" and "Torch" and in international publications such as "RSA Journal", and "Universities Quarterly", among others.
The former Governor-General was married to Dorothy nee Gittens and had three sons and a daughter.
Sir Hugh died in 1994.
*Source: "National Heroes of Barbados", published by The Barbados Government Information Service. Information provided by Government of Barbados.