Thursday, April 18, 2024

MONDAY MAN: Dottin’s name on history’s page


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HARTLEY DOTTIN’S NAME may not resonate with many Barbadians, but it was written on history’s page when he played one of the most pivotal roles in the history of Barbados’ Independence celebrations.

Take a trip down memory lane to the night of Tuesday, November 29, 1966. It was raining heavily but in spite of this, thousands of Barbadians made their way through the muddy environs of the Garrison Savannah.

And it was all in an effort to witness the historic occasion when Barbados relinquished its colonial master, Great Britain, to stand on its own as an independent nation.

It was about 11:57 p.m. The Union Jack was lowered for the very last time and as the Broken Trident was being hoisted for the first time, darkness enveloped the Garrison.

After what may have felt like a lifetime for those present on the night, the lights returned at midnight. This time, fluttering in the wind was the illuminated ultramarine, gold and black of the Barbados Flag majestically perched atop a pole.

Beneath the flag in the position of a salute stood Dottin, a then young lieutenant in the Barbados Regiment, who was given the distinct pleasure of raising the Flag at such an historic event.

As Barbados marks its 49th year of Independence today, the 77-year-old reflected on that night during an interview with the DAILY NATION at his home in Clairmonte, St Michael.

“We had a lot of rehearsals, going through it over and over, to make sure everyone knew what they had to do, so I knew exactly what to do.

“On the night, I said this was a do-or-die thing. I told myself if I didn’t do it properly, the whole nation would be upset and if I did it properly, they might probably forget it after a while,” he said.

“I had confidence in myself that if I put myself to do something, I know I am going to get rid of all my butterflies, all my nervousness and do it properly and to the best of my ability. It was a proud moment for me. I didn’t see the significance of its longevity then; I just knew there and then it was something I had to do.

“So I psyched myself up that I would do it efficiently and effectively. Sure, I still felt a little nervous, with what-ifs running through my mind.

“The rain was falling and the ropes were swollen so what if the flag slipped off the pulley at the top of the pole, what am I going to do? All of these are the things that would have gone through my mind,” he recalled.

But as history went, none of his fears was realised and the grandeur of the Barbados Flag was raised for the world to see.

Dottin is the eldest of three children born to former principal of St Mary’s Primary School, Orlando Dottin, and his wife, former deputy principal of Westbury Primary, Beryl Dottin, both deceased.

He was born in Belleplaine, St Andrew, and attended Harrison College. At the tender age of 17, he transitioned from a cadet to become a member of the Barbados Regiment and quickly made a name for himself as he progressed through the ranks, which could be one of the reasons he was given the honour, he related.

Dottin was associated with the Junior Chamber of Commerce and later became president of the regional arm.

After serving Barbados in several capacities through the years, the professional land surveyor and father of four daughters is now retired.

Dottin recalled that on the night of November 29, as people waited with bated breath for the island’s next chapter to be written, there was a sense of pride. Unfortunately, he added, this pride was disappearing. This had led to people not maximising the opportunities handed to them almost on a silver platter, he said.

He questioned in particular why so many young people were even now leaving school without certification, although more opportunities were at their disposal today.

“I remember sitting the entrance exam at Harrison College when I was eight years old and I had two choices – pass or fail. Now children have 22 choices for secondary school, but are we using those opportunities for full advancement?” he asked.

“My mother had to resign her job as a teacher when she got married . . . . Now even students can have their babies and go back to school. So the opportunities and facilities are there but we are not maximising the use of them.”

In Dottin’s opinion, the raising of the Flag signalled to Barbadians that “we have a new beginning”.

“We have to take hold of our opportunities and develop them for the purpose of making Barbados better. So as we celebrate Independence and approach our golden anniversary, we must critically ponder: is the way we are living a true example of nationhood?” (SDB Media)


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