No Referendum, no Republic!

No Referendum, no Republic!

I listened to our Prime Minister give an interview on ABC Australia, part of which was carried on CBC-TV news on 17 Sep 2020.  In it, the Prime Minister explained that Barbadians will not be allowed a referendum, to decide on whether they support Barbados becoming a Republic,

Our Prime Minister must know that she cannot do that.  Our Attorney General, all the lawyers in the BLP and DLP, our Governor General, and all our judges should know that she cannot do that.  Yet, she noted that she will follow NIKE and “just do it”.

Our Prime Minister is not a dictator, so she must have a proverbial ‘Ace’ up her sleeve.  In the interview, she revealed it.  She justified her approach by explaining her belief that Barbadians elected her to do it.  Let me quote her.

“We certainly campaigned on it in the manifesto, that while we committed to referendum on other issues, we did not on this one, and we made it clear that this is where we believe the country must go.”


As the leader of the third largest political party in Barbados, and on behalf of the thousands of Barbadians who voted for Solutions Barbados in the last General Election, I had to investigate this claim.  Because either I was suffering from some sort of memory loss and had to resign, or our Prime Minister inadvertently misspoke.

I reread the BLP’s 2018 Manifesto.  There was no mention of any plan to make us a Republic.  On the matter of referenda, page 45 states:

“Introducing National Dialogues, National Referenda and consulting with Barbadians on major national issues, such as the decriminalisation of recreational marijuana.”

Is changing our system of government to a Republic, not more of a major national issue than decriminalising recreational marijuana?

I then read the BLP’s 2016 Covenant of Hope.  Again, there was no plan to make us a Republic.  On the mater of referenda, Page 22 states:

“We support the use of People’s Initiatives, as well as the mechanism of Referenda, to ensure that our citizens may influence the work of our Parliament and our Executive. This permits our people, and not only Parliamentarians, to have an appropriate role in decision-making on fundamental issues affecting the stability and cohesion of our nation. This must always follow an intensive public education programme.”

If fundamentally changing our system of government to a Republic, does not qualify as a fundamental issue affecting the stability and cohesion of our nation, then what does?


So, where could our Prime Minister have gotten the idea, that a Republic plan was in their campaign manifesto?  I decided to investigate.  I read the BLP’s 2013 Manifesto, but there is no mention of a Republic plan.  So, I read the BLP’s 2008 Manifesto, and there it was, on page 77:

“Update the Constitution Review Commission recommendations on replacing the Crown with a Barbadian President and proceed to consult the public fully by way of a referendum”

Clearly the BLP’s stated intent was to measure the public’s support, of our politicians’ desire for a Barbadian Republic, by a national referendum.  So, what happened?’

One possible explanation is that a plan to make Barbados a republic without a national referendum, was in an early draft of the BLP’s 2018 Manifesto.  Since the BLP cannot force Barbados to become a republic, that plan was abandoned.  Whatever the explanation, the BLP does not have a mandate to make us a Republic.

Without a mandate from the people to make us a Republic, the BLP needs to go back to the drawing board.  To become a Republic, there must be support from both the Government and the Public – there is no other way.  The public’s support is normally measured by a national referendum.  No referendum, no republic.

Grenville Phillips II is a Chartered Structural Engineer and President of Solutions Barbados. He can be reached at

Note: The link to the PM’s interview follows.

The Will of the People.

The Will of the People.

Our Prime Minister is confidently predicting the results of the promised referendum on whether we, the people of Barbados, want a republican form of Government. There is nothing wrong with our Prime Minister expressing such confidence. She enjoys a 30-0 majority in the House of Assembly, and believes that she understands the will of the people.

Some activists are advocating that our Prime Minister should avoid getting the peoples’ consent, on such a fundamental change to our system of Government. That is highly irresponsible, and the absolute worst possible advice.

We all live on this island. If we are to become a Republic, then we should vote on the matter, and agree that the majority vote will carry. Before the vote, all sides should be given the opportunity to defend their side before the public.

Activists normally hate such democratic methods. Their arguments are normally too weak to stand up to any serious scrutiny. So, they may intimidate compromised politicians to do their biddings.

Unfortunately for them, our Prime Minister is not compromised. She has demonstrated that she serves the people, and will do things the right way. So, carry on Prime Minister, and let the discussions on the public benefits of republicanism begin.

After we make our voting choices, then we must accept the result, and do our best to promote the new Barbados. There should be no need to revisit previous discussions on this matter, since we had a fair opportunity to do so before we voted. So, all hands on deck.

If the peoples’ right to vote on their future is denied them, and we are forced into becoming a Republic, then it will likely be temporary. Another administration can justifiably undo what was done in a dictatorial manner, so that the will of the people may be properly done.

Grenville Phillips II is a Chartered Structural Engineer and President of Solutions Barbados. He can be reached at

Preventing Corruption in Barbados

The recently defeated Integrity in Public Life Bill (Integrity Bill) will not trouble the scores. Despite the fake Oscar-contention outrage of our senators, if the bill had passed, it would simply have made corruption legal in Barbados. That is how terrible the bill was designed.

At first, the bill specified that a person could not be investigated for corruption after they had retired from public life for 2 years. So, a person who received a bribe in January 2018 and then retired, cannot be investigated after February 2020.

A sloppy bribe may be uncovered by a financial audit, but the 2018 accounts are audited in 2019. The earliest the Auditor General will look at the 2019 audited accounts is in 2020, after the fellow has retired. How convenient. Perhaps the time has come to ask our politicians and senators, why they would champion such a farce.

After Solutions Barbados explained the farce, the final Bill increased the time where no investigations can happen, to 5 years. That is also useless in Barbados, since the Auditor General provides his annual report of many issues that are more than five years old. A short limit on investigating corruption is a glaring loophole for guilty persons.

The Integrity Bill will likely cost taxpayers $5M each year, to recover less than $50,000. It is a farce. It conveniently ignores the estimated $100M of corrupting no-bid contracts each year. The Integrity Bill is wasteful, ineffective, and practically useless for Barbados. Consider the following scenario.


A company bribes a person to get a no-bid contract. The company charges the Government five times the normal value of the work, which Barbadians must pay in higher taxes (that is why most Barbadians live hand-to-mouth). The bribe may be paid in any of the following ways.

1. Paying his election advertising expenses.

2. Building a house, and transferring ownership five years after he retires.

3. Purchasing land, and transferring ownership five years after he retires.

4. Purchasing financial instruments that mature five years after he retires.

5. Funding community projects in his constituency.

6. Paying money to his friends.
7. Selling him property (eg. car, house, etc) at a significant discount.

8. Paying for the renovation of his house.

9. Paying his children’s educational costs.

10. Hiring consultants and employees whom he recommends.

11. Hiring him as a consultant five years after he retires.

12. Procuring and managing a business (eg restaurant or store), and transferring ownership to his family five years after he retires.

There are hundreds of similar ways of paying and receiving bribes. Our useless Integrity Bill is conveniently designed to avoid all of them. Worse, the Integrity bill does not address any of the common methods of political corruption.


Forcing the public to make payments to consultants that only benefit one political party, is political corruption. The payments are normally made to political supporters, who may be disguised as: public relations, media, information technology, security, or financial advisors.

Solutions Barbados recommended an effective anti-corruption policy. It is based on the proven method of rewarding whistle-blowers, as an incentive to blow the whistle. We planned to reward them with the total value of the bribe. We also planned to fine both the bribe givers and the bribe takers, to pay for the policy.

The whistle-blowers already know about the corrupt activities. They include: tellers who did the bank transactions, contractors who renovated the houses, lawyers who drafted the contracts, accountants who did the audits, and vendors who sold the properties. Employees of the department that gave the no-bid contract, and the company that paid the bribe, also know.

The Government is planning to pass a whistle-blower protection bill, but there is no reward incentive. Instead, the exposed whistle-blower gets to keep working in the now toxic work environment, until it takes its foreseen emotional health toll. What a farce of an incentive.

It is time for our politicians and senators to stop giving us false hopes. If they do not plan to reward whistle-blowers, and abolish corrupting no-bid contracts, then at least be honest with Barbadians. Passing an ineffective Integrity Bill is not in the public’s best interest. However, it is good political advice, that benefits only one political party.

Grenville Phillips II is a Chartered Structural Engineer and President of Solutions Barbados. He can be reached at

Slavery 2.0 – Part 5.

Slavery 2.0 – Part 5.

We have come to the end of this series of research articles on Nelson. Thank you for reading. The articles had two purposes. The first is to show how difficult it is to oppose popular culture. The second is to teach that regardless how polarising an issue is, we should never invent evidence to support any side of an argument.

Once we reject this teaching, and are willing be misled with proven invented evidence, then we become mentally enslaved, as described by David Comissiong. That type of enslavement is sustainable, when we convince the next generation that truth is not determined by evidence and reason, but by those who shout the loudest.


Nelson lived in a time when racism was popular, and the slave trade was legal. Yet, he went against the popular culture by paying and promoting sailors of all races equally. When politicians were opposing the slave trade, Nelson was opposing slavery itself. Nelson probably freed more slaves outside of the US, than any other person during that time. In return, our activists label him a racist white supremacist.

In our lifetime, slavery is illegal, but it is still being practised. As it was in Nelson’s time, the worst form of slavery is still sex-slavery. Sex-slaves are now an investment. They are forced into prostitution, and into making pornography, so that their ‘owners’ can be paid.

By 2010, Barbados become a transit location for sex-slaves [1]. Like the traders of Nelson’s day, the Government benefits from the taxes slavers pay, as they force their victims through our ports.

There are some countries that facilitate the lucrative sex-slavery trade, and do not care who knows about it. There are other countries who want the financial benefits of sex-slavery, but do not want to tarnish their reputations. So, they only pretend to do something about it.

Some spend years doing: educational lectures, sensitization workshops, awareness training, planning meetings, legislative changes, and a host of such activities. But they never charge, prosecute, or convict a single person.


A country that does not prosecute slavers, advertises to the world that sex-slavery is de-facto legal. Barbados was not like that. In 2016, Barbados passed the Trafficking in Persons Prevention Act, to show the world that we were serious about prosecuting slavers.

Every person who plans, transports, or assists the trafficking of persons within Barbados, or across our borders, is liable to a fine of $1M and/or a 25-year prison sentence [2]. If the victim is a child, then the slaver is liable to a fine of $2M and/or life imprisonment [3]. The courts may order that restitution be paid to victims of sex-slavery.

If a slaver takes the victim’s passport or airline ticket, they are liable to a fine of $250,000 and/or 20 years imprisonment [4]. If a company is involved, then the company is liable to a fine of $5M [5]. Consent is not a defence, neither is the victim’s past sexual behaviour [6]. There is no good reason to enslave another person.

In Barbados, victims are to receive: protection, housing, education, counselling, legal assistance, medical assistance, living expenses, and assistance getting to a safe destination [7]. They can also live and work in Barbados for the duration of the prosecution of their enslavers [8].

Such laws should signal to slavers that Barbados is too risky a place to traffic persons. However, an opposite signal appears to have been sent. The slavers take their victims through our ports with impunity, thinking that they will never be prosecuted – because we are only pretending.

In 2017, Barbados was identified as being a transit country for child sex-slavery. Barbados was also identified as doing little to address this serious problem [9]. Our refusal to do anything meaningful about child sex-slavery, has landed us on the Trafficking in Persons Report’s Tier 2 Watch List [10]. We can now rub shoulders with countries, where child sex-slavery also appears to be tolerated.


If we cared about the reputation of our tourism industry, the very least that we should do, is to install large posters in the arrivals’ section of our ports. The posters should clearly inform victims of their rights, and slavers of their liabilities. Unfortunately, in modern Barbados, that simple action takes many years of action-delaying meetings and seminars.

So, what have we done about sex-slavery in our generation? Have we used our influence on social media to advocate for their release? Have we used our political influence to stop the practise in Barbados? No. Instead, like the racists of Nelson’s time, we ridicule those who are on the right side of this popular culture.

We are afraid to tell our political leaders to enforce the law on sex-slavery. We are ashamed to encourage our friends to stop supporting it. We demand our right to access sex-slaves at clubs and on the Internet. We give our children smart devices, with no pornographic filters, that allows them easy access to sex-slaves – and we do not care.

Nelson hated corruption, unfairness, and all types of slavery, and did what he could to oppose those things in his generation [11]. Nelson also hated the hypocrisy of political agents when they debated slavery. Perhaps that is the real reason why today’s hypocrites hate Nelson so much.

Grenville Phillips II is a Chartered Structural Engineer and President of Solutions Barbados. He can be reached at

References for Part 5 follow.

[1] Exploratory Assessment of Trafficking in Persons in the Caribbean Region. International Organization for Migration. 2010. p.5.

[2] Trafficking in Persons Prevention Act. 2016. Section 3.

[3] Trafficking in Persons Prevention Act. 2016. Section 4.

[4] Trafficking in Persons Prevention Act. 2016. Section 6.

[5] Trafficking in Persons Prevention Act. 2016. Section 12.

[6] Trafficking in Persons Prevention Act. 2016. Section 5.

[7] Trafficking in Persons Prevention Act. 2016. Section 18.

[8] Trafficking in Persons Prevention Act. 2016. Section 19.

[9] Trafficking in Persons Report. Department of State. 2020. p.99.

[10] Trafficking in Persons Report. Department of State. 2020. p.99.

[11] Letters and Dispatches of Horatio Nelson – Vol 4 1802 to 1804. p.125.

Nelson, the Mass-murderer – Part 4.

Nelson, the Mass-murderer – Part 4.
This article addresses Trevor Marshall’s claim that Nelson was a mass-murderer of Barbadians, and David Comissiong’s claim that the statue is keeping us psychologically enslaved.
According to Trevor Marshall, Nelson destroyed food on American ships that was to feed slaves, resulting in mass deaths from starvation. Let us look at the evidence.
In 1774, the enslaved Barbadian population was estimated at 78,874. [1] Food for the Barbadian enslaved normally came from trading with the American colonies. This trade essentially stopped at the start of the American war of independence from Britain in 1775. This resulted in severe food shortages, and many slaves died from starvation. [2]
Food was imported from England, Scotland, Canada, and Ireland. But it was not enough feed the enslaved. The planters had to import higher-cost beef, pork, and herring. But such foods were not normally given to the enslaved. [3] Planters resorted to illegally importing food and supplies from the French islands and Americans.
In 1780, the enslaved population had fallen to 68,270. [4] Then a major hurricane resulted in the deaths of an estimated 4,326 persons, and the near total-destruction of buildings and food crops. With limited food available, the desperate enslaved started looting. [5]
Approximately 5,000 enslaved persons died from starvation between 1780 and 1781. [1] They were not replaced, since slave imports to Barbados almost stopped during the war. [6]
In 1781, the enslaved population fell to 63,248. In 1784, it fell further, to 61,808. [1] The war ended in 1783, and American ships resumed trading.
In January 1785, Nelson decided to enforce the Navigation Act. His initial efforts were unsuccessful – most American ships were able to unloaded their cargo. [7] So, he gave notice to the Americans that he would seize their ships after 1 May 1785. They did not believe him.
On 2 May 1785, Nelson seized an American ship. He was charged, acted as his own lawyer, and the judge ruled in his favour. [8] Nelson seized four more American ships in Nevis.
The Nevisians sued him, and again, the trial was determined in Nelson’s favour. [9] By November 1785, American ships were replaced with 50 British built and operated trading ships. [10]
In 1786, the enslaved population rose to 62,115. In addition, there were 833 free black persons. [11] Another storm struck Barbados in 1786, resulting in more deaths and damage to houses and crops. [12]
In 1787, the enslaved population rose to 64,405. The free black population rose to 2,229. [11] Nelson was married in March 1787 to a Nevisian widow, and returned to England in June 1787.
In October 1787, Captain Bligh sailed from the UK to Tahiti to obtain breadfruit trees for the Caribbean. After initial challenges, he brought the trees to St Vincent in 1793 and Jamaica in 1794. The enslaved did not generally like breadfruit, and it was fed to pigs and poultry. However, it was an effective emergency food. [13]
The historical record does not support the assertion that Nelson’s actions caused any mass-starvations. The reduction in the enslaved population was certainly due to hurricanes, and likely, the refusal of planters to give the enslaved the higher-cost imported food.
David Comissiong identified two reasons why Nelson’s statue needs to be removed from its current prominent location. He quoted the National Heroes Square Committee thus. “In view of Lord Nelson’s pro-slavery proclivities and activities, the location of the statue must not be such as to suggest that Nelson is a hero of the Barbadian people.”
Parts 1 to 3 of these series of articles show that there is no credible evidence of these pro-slavery proclivities and activities. Instead, there is credible evidence of his anti-slavery proclivities and activities during the Mediterranean campaign. Therefore, their basis of moving Nelson is flawed.
David gave the second reason as psychological enslavement: “this is important to nation building. You are not going to build a strong economy and a strong society, unless you have people who have a positive self-image, who are psychologically liberated.” This is also based on a flawed understanding of Nelson as an oppressor.
Our historians have convinced two generations of Barbadians that Nelson was a racist, white supremacist mass-murderer of Barbadians, with no credible evidence.
Our political activists have convinced two generations of Barbadians, that their lack of economic progress, is due to them being psychologically enslaved – rather than the corrupting mis-management of our country by their political masters.
I have a lot of sympathy for those who want to see the statue of Nelson gone, because they have been misled.
If Nelson is really this evil mass-murderer that our children are being taught to believe, then the statue should be destroyed immediately. It should not put in any museum to be examined, or thrown into the wharf to be retrieved, or sold to be admired by others, but destroyed – completely. But our children are being lied to.
Our children were never told about the Nelson who was a brilliant teacher, trainer, and captain, and who disobeyed orders to win battles and keep his crew safer. They were never told about the Nelson who treated all people equally despite their colour, hated corruption, unfairness, and all types of slavery, and did what he could to free the enslaved.
Facing a mountain of evidence, Nelson’s accusers accept his brilliance as a naval officer, but claim that he did nothing for Barbados. We are told that he despised Barbados and would not even step foot in our country. This is, of course, another lie.
Nelson visited Barbados several times, both to dine and to report to his commander, who was stationed in Barbados.
Nelson uncovered massive corruption in Barbados, which he reported. He also enforced fair trade to Barbados.
Nelson was stationed in the Caribbean to protect the Islands from the French and Spanish forces. During the American war of independence, the British lost most of their Caribbean colonies to the French. Nelson protected the islands, including Barbados, throughout his naval career.
In the year that he died, Nelson left Europe without orders, and chased after the main French fleet that was plundering property in the Caribbean. His first destination in the Caribbean was Barbados. He would chase them back to Europe, where his final battle against the combined French and Spanish fleets took place.
Should Nelson occupy such a prominent place in our city? Two hundred years ago, Barbadians thought so. If Barbadians today want to move it to a less prominent place, then they should also be allowed to do so. But we should never invent history to justify our agendas.
Grenville Phillips II is a Chartered Structural Engineer and President of Solutions Barbados. He can be reached at
References for Part 3 follow.
[1] Carrington. The American Revolution and the British West Indies’ Economy. Journal of Interdisciplinary History. 1987. p.833.
[2] Carrington. The American Revolution and the British West Indies’ Economy. Journal of Interdisciplinary History. 1987. p.827.
[3] Carrington. The American Revolution and the British West Indies’ Economy. Journal of Interdisciplinary History. 1987. p.831.
[4] Carrington. The American Revolution and the British West Indies’ Economy. Journal of Interdisciplinary History. 1987. p.844.
[5] Schomburgk. The History of Barbados. 1847. p.47.
[6] Carrington. The American Revolution and the British West Indies’ Economy. Journal of Interdisciplinary History. 1987. p.839.
[7] The Dispatches and Letters of Vice Admiral Lord Viscount Nelson, Vol 1. p.129.
[8] Harrison. The Life of Horatio Lord Nelson, 1806. Vol 1.
[9] Southey. The Life of Nelson. 2012 p .15.
[10] The Dispatches and Letters of Vice Admiral Lord Viscount Nelson, Vol 1. p.149.
[11] Schomburgk. The History of Barbados. 1847. p.86.
[12] Schomburgk. The History of Barbados. 1847. p.50.
[13] Howard. Captain Bligh and the Breadfruit. Scientific American Inc. 1953. p.88.

Nelson, the Supporter of Slavery – Part 3.

Nelson, the Supporter of Slavery – Part 3.
We shall now address the evidence for Neslon’s support of slavery. There is probably more information recorded about Nelson than any other person. From this volume of evidence, one private letter is all that has been used to condemn him as supporting slavery.
There are two versions of this letter. One was published in Cobbett’s Weekly Political Register two years after Nelson’s death, in 1807. This was an independent newspaper founded by William Cobbett in 1802. The part of the letter used to claim that Nelson supported slavery, follows.
“I have ever been and shall die a firm friend to our present colonial system. I was bred, as you know, in the good old school, and taught to appreciate the value of our West India possessions; and neither in the field or in the senate shall their interest be infringed whilst I have an arm to fight in their defence, or a tongue to launch my voice against the damnable and cursed doctrine of **** and his hypocritical allies,
“and I hope my birth in heaven will be as exhalted as his, who would certainly cause the murder of all our friends and fellow subjects in the colonies; however, I did not intend to go so far; but the sentiments are full in my heart, and the pen would write them. I have as soon as I have done with this fleet go to England for a few months, and if you have time and inclination I shall be glad to hear from you – we are near thirty years acquainted, and I am as ever, &c. – Neslon and Bronte.” [1]
The other version was published in the formal collection of dispatches and letters of Nelson. The same part of the letter follows.
“I ever have been, and shall die, a firm friend to our present Colonial system. I was bred, as you know, in the good, old school, and taught to appreciate the value of our West India possessions; and neither in the field, nor in the senate, shall their just rights be infringed, whilst I have an arm to fight in their defence, or a tongue to launch my voice. We are nearly, my dear Mr. Taylor, thirty years’ acquaintance; and I am, as ever, your faithful and obliged friend, Nelson and Bronte.” [2]
Taylor died in 1813, six years after the letter was published. The collection of his approximately 2,000 letters is stored at the University of London. That letter from Nelson, which is perhaps the most important Taylor would have received from him, is notably absent from his collection. It is not even referenced.
The Slave Trade Abolition Bill was introduced into the House of Lords on 2 January 1807. It passed 41 votes in favour and 20 against. It was scheduled to be debated in the House of Commons on 23 February 1807.
Cowbett, who supported the slave trade, published the private letter on 21 February 1807. It did not appear to affect the outcome, since the Bill passed by an overwhelming margin of 283 in favour, and 16 against. It was passed into Law on 25 March 1807.
Despite the questionable credibility of the letter, let us make the unverifiable assumption that the most damning version of the letter is authentic. In that version, the most damaging part to Nelson’s reputation, is his intention to use his “voice against the damnable and cursed doctrine of [Wilberforce] and his hypocritical allies” in the “senate”.
Nelson never referred to the House of Lords as the Senate in any of his dispatches. However, Simon Taylor, who was born in Jamaica, and was a representative of the Assembly of Jamaica, may have referred to it in that manner. Nevertheless, the main question is: what is the cursed doctrine of Wilberforce?
There appear to be two likely explanations. The first is the doctrine of appeasement, since Wilberforce advocated peace with France in Parliament during the war. This was a very unpopular doctrine, and much disliked by Nelson, who did not trust the French, given their behaviour during the war.
This view is supported by the comment that the doctrine would “cause the murder of all our friends and fellow subjects”. Nelson understood the magnitude of France’s deceit during the war. The French had earlier slaughtered 4,400 persons after pretending to offer them peace [3]. The evidence from Nelson’s letters and actions, showed that he vigorously opposed peace with France.
The other likely explanation, is the abolition of the slave trade. This could also result in the murder previously described, given the genocide that occurred in Haiti following the Haitian revolution.
The problem with this explanation, is that there is no record of Nelson supporting the slave trade in parliament. Rather, as shown in the evidence in Part 2, he vigorously opposed the slave trade, including to representatives in Parliament.
There is one piece of credible evidence that supports the view that Nelson may have supported the slave trade. To my knowledge, his accusers have never used this evidence. However, honest research demands that all evidence must be unbiasedly examined.
It was a letter Nelson wrote to Locker in 1796. Nelson wrote: “I hope our West India Islands will not suffer more than they have done; but I see Wilberforce is meddling again with the slave-trade. I feel very much obliged by Simon Taylor’s remembrances; pray do not forget me to him when you write [4].
Nelson’s ‘meddling’ comment about Wilberforce seems more aimed at ridicule than active opposition. Nevertheless, his comment suggests that he did not oppose the slave trade in 1796, but was more likely to support it if questioned.
It should be noted that this letter was written two years before the Mediterranean campaign of 1798. It was then that he would have seen the horrors of slavery for himself. It was then that his letters opposing slavery were written, where his “blood boils” and his “heart bleeds” [5].
For some, like surgeon Thomas Trotter who served on a slave ship, it took observing the horrors of slavery up-close to get them off the fence and embrace a side. For others, like ther hardened slave ship captain John Newton (who later wrote the hymn, Amazing Grace), it took the power of God.
By his dispatches and actions after 1798, Nelson saw something that made him oppose all forms of slavery, and place himself on the right side of history. From the evidence in Part 2, it seems that it was the horrors of the north-African slave trade that changed his mind.
There remains one final part of this series – Part 4. It is to address the accusations made by Trevor Marshall and David Comissiong during our appearance on The People’s Business on 21 July 2020. I was not given the opportunity to respond to them on the broadcast. However, the accusation that Nelson was a mass murderer of Barbadians, which the media has uncritically promoted, deserves to be investigated.
Grenville Phillips II is a Chartered Structural Engineer and President of Solutions Barbados. He can be reached at
References for Part 3 follow.
[1] Cowbett. Political Register. 1807. p.296.
[2] The Dispatches and Letters of Vice Admiral Lord Viscount Nelson, Vol 5. 1846. p.450.
[3] Lowry. Fiddlers & Whores: The Memoirs of James Lowry, a Young Surgeon in Nelson’s Mediterranean Fleet. 2013. p.90.
[4] Letters and Dispatches of Horatio Nelson – Vol 2 1895 to 1897, p.130.
[5] Letters and Dispatches of Horatio Nelson – Vol 4 1802 to 1804. p.125.

Nelson, the Opposer of Slavery – Part 2

Nelson, the Opposer of Slavery – Part 2

Part 1 addressed evidence on whether Nelson was a racist. We shall now examine his position on slavery. We shall first present evidence that Nelson opposed slavery, and then evidence that he supported it. After reading both sides, you will be in a position to make an informed conclusion – which is how it should be.

During the Napoleonic war with France, the French were capturing thousands of Europeans, and selling them as slaves [1]. Whole European families were also captured by pirates and sold into slavery for life – with no hope of being freed [2]. This type of slavery had been going on for hundreds of years.

Barbadian historian, Ronnie Huges, rejected the idea of white slaves in Barbados [3]. He is correct. There is no equivalence between the relatively brief indentured servitude of Europeans, Indians and Asians, and the lifelong slavery of Africans in the Caribbean and Americas – none whatsoever!

That said, the enslavement of Europeans and Africans by the Islamic north-African countries, was – different. In Barbados, slaves were a labour investment. If they did not produce, then the merchant risked bankruptcy, and the plantation was sold – and many were.


In North Africa, slaves were treated like replaceable toys, or machines. A surgeon in Nelson’s fleet described his observations.

“His seraglio does not even consist of an amazing number of wives and concubines, but likewise of little boys from the ages of eight to seventeen, upon whom he commits that abominable crime. I could not credit this information until I had ocular proof of it. I saw in one apartment a number of these boys, and the keeper stuffing them with flour and water, the same as poulterers do turkeys.” [4]

While the women and youth were generally condemned to sex-slavery, the men were condemned to hard labour in agricultural fields, quarries, or worse – the galley.

Galley slaves were permanently chained to the galleys while at sea, which could be for several months. They ate, slept, were beaten, and defecated in the same seat. Some were permanently chained to their seats for almost two decades until they died, or were to weak to row [5].

In 1797, after Nelson rescued a fraction of 2,000 Austrians, whom the French sold into slavery, his commander wrote: “It is high time that a stop should be put to this abominable traffic, a million times more disgraceful than the African Slave Trade;” [6].


Nelson tried to use his reputation to free enslaved persons of all races. Sometimes he was successful, like in 1799 when he was able to free 25 Moors and Turkish slaves [7], and sometimes he was not [8].

Nelson frequently disobeyed orders to do what was right, regardless of the consequences. He hated unfairness, and disobeyed the orders of his commander in Barbados, so that he could stop the unfair advantage of US ships operating in the West Indies [9].

Nelson also used his own money to investigate corruption in the Caribbean, and uncovered corrupt activities in Barbados (worth approximately BD$80M), St Lucia (BD$100M), Antigua (BD$165M), and Jamaica (over BD$230M) [26]. Naturally, he made himself an enemy of the slave-owning planters and merchants [10].

Nelson also disobeyed orders from his commanders during battles, which resulted in him winning battles. Had he lost, he probably would have been sentenced to death, but he had confidence in his brilliant military strategies.

Nelson understood his limits, and those were the Laws of England, which reflected political considerations. A dispatch to Parliamentarian Wyndham in 1799, requesting authorisation to fight for the enslaved, is revealing.

“Dear Sir,

“I am this moment favoured with your letter of November 21st; and my blood boils that I cannot chastise these Pirates. They could not show themselves in the Mediterranean, did not our Country permit.

“Never let us talk of the cruelty of the African Slave Trade, while we permit such a horrid war. But on the other hand, was I present with the Fleet of England, I could not prevent it, without plunging our Country in a war which our Merchants would reprobate, and Ministers not support me in. The Germans having entire possession of the Tuscan State, can by the help of the Russian ships send troops for the protection of those Islands.

“My heart bleeds. Let Government send me the necessary orders, and I will answer for chastising these Pirates.” [11]


When the horrors of slavery are understood, people with consciences become opponents of slavery. Until then, they may be deceived by romantic notions of a different, tolerable type of slavery. Perhaps the slavery of Joseph in the Bible, who managed his owner’s house and became the Prime Minister of Egypt. Perhaps indentured servitude.

Thomas Trotter was a surgeon, who worked on a slave ship in 1783 because he needed a job. What he witnessed changed his mind, and made him bitterly opposed to the slave trade. He would later become the Physician of the Channel fleet during 1795 and 1802 [12].

Naval officers who spend most of their time on their ships, and do not inspect the treatment of slaves, may be unaware of the horrors of slavery. However, the horrors were well known to many in the Mediterranean.

Nelson not only hated corruption, unfairness, and orders that could unnecessarily harm his crew, he also hated hypocrisy. He hated the hypocrisy of trying to outlaw the Atlantic slave trade, while ignoring the European and North African slave trade. That brings us to the evidence used to claim that Nelson supported slavery.

Unfortunately, I have exceeded the word-count for this article. Therefore, Part 3 (evidence that Nelson supported slavery) will follow shortly.

Grenville Phillips II is a Chartered Structural Engineer and President of Solutions Barbados. He can be reached at

References for Part 2 follow.

[1] Fraser. The Soldiers whom Nelson Led – Their Doings Described by Themselves. P.92.

[2] Lowry. Fiddlers & Whores: The Memoirs of James Lowry, a Young Surgeon in Nelson’s Mediterranean Fleet. 2013. p.141.

[3] Government of Barbados. Report of the Committee for National Reconciliation, Vol 2. P.91.

[4] Lowry. Fiddlers & Whores: The Memoirs of James Lowry, a Young Surgeon in Nelson’s Mediterranean Fleet. 2013. p.140.

[5] Ekin. The Stolen Village – Baltimore and the Barbary Pirates. 2006. p.187.

[6] Fraser. The Soldiers whom Nelson Led – Their Doings Described by Themselves. 2011. P.92.

[7] Harrison. Life of Lord Nelson, Vol 2. 1806. P.23.

[8] Letters and Dispatches of Horatio Nelson – Vol 4 1799 to 1801. P.112.

[9] The Life of Lord Nelson, Vol 1 by Robert Southey p.35.

[10] The Life of Lord Nelson, Vol 1 by Robert Southey p.37.

[11] Letters and Dispatches of Horatio Nelson – Vol 4 1802 to 1804. P.125.

[12] Browne. The Seasick Admiral. P.104.

Nelson the Racist – Part 1

Nelson the Racist – Part 1

We were told that there should be no statues of slave owners, so the statue of Nelson must be removed. When I asked for supporting evidence that Nelson owned slaves, none could be found. So we are told to believe that Nelson was a racist. Our response is the same – where is the evidence.

In Barbados, it is common for influential people to claim that: up is down, in is out, and black is white. Those who bow down and accept this new normal are left alone. Those who promote the lunacy are rewarded. Those who cannot sacrifice their integrity, become targets.

Since the evidence was not provided, I went looking for myself. Here is what I found.

Any slave, including from Barbados, that was able to board Nelson’s ship, or any ship in his fleet, was instantly freed and protected from recapture. That freed man was then allowed to work on the ship until it landed in a safe port [1]. On Nelson’s flag ship during his last battle, there were eight West Indian black men [2].

During the time on board, if the free black man worked, then he was treated the same as any of the white seaman, and received equal pay. They were also promoted on merit, trusted with rifles, and were commended for their bravery and skill [3].

When vaccinating the crew in 1800, the method was to inoculate the first in line. Then his blood was drawn and used to inoculate the next in line, and so on until the crew was inoculated. The first to receive the inoculation was a black man, which meant that white sailors down the line had the blood of the black man [4].

Is this the new standard for being condemned as a racist? Evidence of racism is treating others differently because of their race.

The evidence shows that Nelson treated people based on merit, not race. Therefore, until contrary evidence is provided by those making the accusation, we have to conclude that there is insufficient evidence to condemn him as a racist.

Rather than the accusers present their evidence of racism, we are told to believe that Nelson supported slavery. Again, where is the evidence beyond making the fanciful claim and demanding that everyone bow down.

I went looking for evidence that Nelson supported slavery, and found a lot of evidence – that Nelson did not support slavery. Actually, he used his reputation to free slaves. We should honestly follow the evidence, to learn the truth, regardless of how inconvenient it is to our biased agendas.

I will present the evidence for Nelson supporting and opposing slavery in Part 2.

Grenville Phillips II is a Chartered Structural Engineer and President of Solutions Barbados.

The references to Part 1 follow.

[1] Lowry. Fiddlers & Whores: The Memoirs of James Lowry, a Young Surgeon in Nelson’s Mediterranean Fleet. 2013. p.141

[2] Davey. Nelson, Navy and Nation. 2013. p.297.

[3] Davey. Nelson, Navy and Nation. 2013. p.308.

[4] Browne. The Seasick Admiral. 2016. p.210.

Before You Reject Nelson

Before You Reject Nelson.

The Prime Minister has wisely decided that any decision to remove Nelson’s statue, would be done after consulting the public. The only meaningful way to consult the public on a matter like this, is with a national referendum.

A reported 10,000 persons have already signed a petition to remove Nelson. Organised demonstrations have taken place to advocate for its removal. Activists have vandalised it. Protestors were given media space to promote their ideas.

Nelson has been portrayed as a slave-owning racist white-supremacist slavery-supporter mass-murderer. We were told that the statue should offend all Barbadians, and anyone not offended is a racist. That does not encourage honest discussion, and ensures that public meetings will likely be a farce.

Did Nelson own slaves? I could not find any evidence that Nelson bought, sold, or owned any slaves. He was mainly at sea from the time he was 12 years old until the day he died.

Was Nelson a racist? Again, I could find no supporting evidence in the historical record. He had black persons on his ships, not as slaves, but as trusted warriors. He was developing an extremely talented and disciplined naval fighting force – one that would rule the seas for the next 140 years.

In my travels, I observed the bronze reliefs at the base of Nelson’s statue in London. One of them depicts his death. Near the dying Nelson is a black man. He is not in chains. Neither is he doing labour work as are some other seamen. He is clothed, and armed with a rifle.  A photo of the relief is provided.

I shall commence a series of four articles, examining the evidence in the historical record.  The aim is to identify any evidence that Nelson was this wicked fellow, that some of our historians and political activists claim that he was.


Let me end by noting that the bronze statue is of exceptional quality. The workmanship appears to be as near to perfect as can be achieved, and its durability, after almost 200 years, is remarkable. It is far superior to the stone statue of Nelson in London, and should be studied by our artists as an exemplar of workmanship. I am concerned that we do not value quality in Barbados.

We destroyed the underground structure at Fort George, perhaps the first limestone masonry multi-arched structure ever built on this planet. The quality of workmanship of that international treasure was impressive, and beautiful, and durable. But that could not save it from those determined to destroy it.

We destroyed the 6-storey NIS building, which was built on the most expensive foundation system in Barbados. When the Queen visited Barbados in 1975, she knighted Gary Sobers, and opened that building. We demolished the $30M building, because some activists found it offensive, and incompatible with a planned park for one of our activist heroes, Clement Payne.

We applaud the vandalism of Nelson’s statue. We cheer those who want to destroy it, or dump it in the river. Even the Minister responsible has suggested putting it in the corrosive seawater. We are showing the world that we are an easily controlled people, with no appreciation for quality, who are discouraged from thinking for ourselves.


It Is Time For Christians to Fight Back

General John Kelly of the US Southern Command has reported that about 150 persons left the Caribbean region in 2015 to fight with Islamic State – the Islamic army that is killing Christians wherever they find them. He warned that Islamic terrorists may now choose to carry out terror activities in their home countries.

The mass-beheading videos by Islamic State appear to show Christians unresistingly kneeling before their executioners. Tragically, Christians were taught to submit to this barbarism by their religious leaders. Even after the televised mass-beheadings, Christians continued to be taught to submit to their oppressors while maintaining their faith until the end. Before a similar persecution is upon us, our religious leaders need to honestly discuss an effective Biblical Barbadian response.

Jesus’ Response to an Individual Oppressor

Jesus provided two responses to violence. The first was directed to individuals during their normal interaction with other individuals. Jesus advised His followers to essentially turn the other cheek and not resist such individuals. Paul advised Christians not to retaliate against oppressors since vengeance belongs to the Lord. The Bible teaches that God hears the cries of the oppressed, and that certain terrible judgement awaits the oppressors.

Those who organise the mass killing of Christians depend on the willingness of Christian religious leaders to convince their adherents not to resist the impending slaughter. Such religious leaders conveniently ignore Jesus’ second response to violence as they unwittingly cooperate with the oppressors.

Jesus’ Response to Terrorism

Jesus’ second response was directed to communities vulnerable to terrorism. A few hours before Jesus’ arrest, He instructed His disciples to sell some of their possessions and arm themselves with the latest weapon of war – the sword. The disciples obtained two swords and Jesus said “it is enough” (Luke 22:38), indicating that the armed should protect the unarmed.

And He said to them, “When I sent you without money bag, knapsack, and sandals, did you lack anything?”  So they said, “Nothing.”

Then He said to them, “But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one.  For I say to you that this which is written must still be accomplished in Me: ‘And He was numbered with the transgressors.’ For the things concerning Me have an end.”

So they said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.”  And He said to them, “It is enough.” (Luke 22:35-38)

There is no contradiction with Jesus’ responses. While Jesus ministered, He was the lighting rod that attracted criticism and death threats. He preached openly, chased merchants from the temple, and defended His disciples from criticism. However, shortly before He was arrested, and would not be present to protect His disciples, He instructed His disciples to defend themselves (Luke 22:36).

While Jesus was being arrested, His disciples asked whether the time had come for them to attack with the sword. Jesus replied “Permit even this” (Luke 22:51), signifying that the swords were last-resort defensive weapons.

The murder, rape and enslavement of millions of Christians around the world over the past 2,000 years has been facilitated by religious leaders teaching pacifism. Jesus hated religious traditions that violated God’s commandments, and He publically insulted religious leaders who misled gullible adherents. Hear Jesus’ public response to such religious leaders: “Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?” (Matt 23:33)

It is better if each person conscientiously arrived at their own response to potential terrorists now, rather than being forced to react immediately during such a foreseen event. While I respect pacifists who have honestly considered all sides of this issue before reaching their conclusion, let it be known that if I am overwhelmed by terrorists, I intend to go down fighting.

Best regards,


Put Your House In Order

Dear Readers:

From my experience in working among people in post-hazard environments, I can conclude that a stable house is the most prized possession. I have witnessed the grateful expressions of relief among those whose houses survived the tragic events.  The contrasting near hopeless expressions of misery among those whose houses were destroyed were almost unbearable.

It was after my first deployment to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, that I finally understood that the primary purpose of an elected Government is to protect, as much as possible, the residents from foreseeable harm. It is for this reason why it is absolutely essential for each Government in the hazard prone Caribbean region to regulate the residential construction building industry in their country.

The Government of Barbados took the first step in trying to protect the public from certain post-hazard misery by publishing the Barbados National Building Code in 1993 [The Fire and the Fire Chief]. That was a commendable achievement because at that time, Barbados was experiencing an economic recession and political turmoil. Fortuitously, the national building standard was in place for the unprecedented building boom that would commence one year later, in 1994

It is a national disgrace that strains the limits of irresponsibility that the Government of Barbados, against all expert advice [The Construction Horror Show], allowed an entirely unregulated 14-year building boom with respect to building standards. Of the thousands of houses built, almost all of them are vulnerable to collapse in a major earthquake [Weapons of Mass Destruction]. It is to Barbados’ tragic misfortune that it would not have cost any additional money to have constructed the life-saving shear walls that the Building Code specified [Advice for Homeowners].

By 2010, the legacy of substandard residential construction was firmly established in Barbados [Happy Birthday Building Code]. At the start of that year, an earthquake in Haiti had reportedly killed approximately 300,000 people [In Defense of the Haitian Structural Engineer]. Near the end of that year, tropical storm Tomas examined Barbados and damaged over 1,500 houses. Following the visit, our Prime Minister reportedly made the following accurate observation: “I have to confess that I was flabbergasted at the fragility of the housing accommodation in Barbados.” [$37M Tomas Bill, Nation, 13 Nov 2010] He then reportedly recommended that it was “absolutely necessary to impose building standards in Barbados”, before adding the bewildering idea that a building code was “actively under consideration”.  With such ministerial statements, a strong response was eagerly anticipated.

Approximately two years later, around the 20th anniversary of the initial publication of the National Building Code, the Government of Barbados took the strongest possible action unimaginable. Against expert advice, the Government abolished the only national standard designed to help builders construct a house that could survive earthquakes and hurricanes [Good Code Gone Bad].

This act of utter stupidity placed Barbados in the unenviable position of being perhaps the only country on the planet that did not provide some type of structural building guidance to its residents. Even in the poorest country in the world, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a homeowner could have found more relevant building standards than in Barbados. It is a national shame to which our apathy only encourages our Government to act more irresponsibly, to depths formerly thought practically unreachable.

It simply does not make any sense! Why would a Government allow an unregulated building boom, despite repeated warnings of the fatal consequences? [Is This Explicit Enough?] Why would a Government, despite acknowledging the fragility of Barbadian houses, then withdraw the only national building standard that could protect Barbadian households, despite repeated warnings of the fatal consequences? Should Barbados experience the inevitable major earthquake tomorrow, then these two actions, in retrospect, would be justifiably deemed unforgivable.

When we stand inconsolably near the rubble of our child’s collapsed school, or when we learn that our loved ones died in the collapsed commercial building, that is not the time to ask how it could have happened. If you have read this far, then you already know how it happened. What you do not know is why, and Barbadians have a right to know, right now! why they are being led to an inevitable destruction.

The Government of Barbados is fully aware of the estimated losses. The United Nations assessed Barbados’ infrastructure in its Global Assessment Report (2013) and placed Barbados in its worst possible damage assessment category for earthquakes and hurricanes, with no upper limit on the amount of damage predicted. Recent seismic studies of Barbados (Salazar et al, 2013) have shown that Barbados is significantly more at risk to major earthquakes than predicted by the UN.

Based on the latest earthquake design parameters (Bozzoni et al, 2011), it can be reasonably assumed that all buildings with reinforced concrete floors in Barbados, that were built before 2011 and not updated to the current design standards, are expected to collapse during a major earthquake, killing most of the people inside. This includes schools, houses and commercial buildings. Unlike hurricanes, earthquakes normally strike without warning.

To reduce the risk of fatalities, Walbrent College has prepared a Home Strengthening Guide to economically strengthen sub-standard houses against earthquakes and hurricanes [Home Strengthening Guide].  It is freely available on the Internet.

Best regards,



Francesca Bozzoni, Mirko Corigliano, Carlo G. Lai, Walter Salazar, Laura Scandella, Elisa Zuccolo, Joan Latchman, Lloyd Lynch, and Richard Robertson, 2011.  Probabilistic Seismic Hazard Assessment at the Eastern Caribbean Islands.  Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, Vol. 101, No. 5, pp. 2499 – 2521, October 2011.

Walter Salazar, Lyndon Brown, and Garth Mannette.  Probabilistic Seismic Hazard Assessment for Bridgetown-Barbados, Employing Subduction Interface Characteristic Earthquakes.  Journal of Civil Engineering and Architecture.  Volume 7, No. 11 (Serial No. 72), pp. 1405-1422, November 2013.

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Public Notice

Dear Readers:

Due to the charging of individuals for breaching the Computer Misuse Act (section 14) and the Defamation Act, I must reduce the risk of inconvenience by reviewing all future comments for compliance.  You can help by not speaking disparagingly about people.  Please note that all favourable and unfavourable comments will continue to be posted, but any defamatory information will be redacted.

Best regards,


In Defence of God

That God exists should be obvious to any design engineer.  Two of a multitude of examples should suffice.

Our best mechanical designs produce products that require constant maintenance.  For example, our best valves, even when used exactly as designed, still leak over time, and leak more frequently with use.  Yet, once we do not misuse our bodies, our lips do not leak water when full, and we do not leak urine or stool.  This is similar for every animal.  The ‘valves’ in every species of every animal were designed and made perfectly from the very beginning.

When design engineers, with significant research and development funds, design a car, cell phone, or any other manufactured product, then it is normally hailed as the most elegant design imaginable.  Yet, within approximately 5 years, it appears clumsy and crude when compared with the new current model.  We can be sure that today’s model will appear similarly crude 5 years hence.  Why is that?  Because their designs were not perfect, and we can normally detect an improved design.

We never seem to tire of the perfect designs of plants and animals as we do the imperfect designs of manufactured things.  Neither have we been able to improve natural designs.  We have tried to emphasize specific traits by grafting plants and selectively breeding animals.  However, these practices have not improved the pure-bred species.

Why don’t we get bored with nature?  Why do we continue to be amazed at each new discovery of natural things.  Because we appreciate perfection, and they were created perfect from the very beginning.  Actually, there is absolutely no evidence of any imperfect natural design anywhere on earth.  Put another way, there is no evidence of an imperfect natural design that evolved into a perfect or improved one.  All designs were made perfect from the beginning.  The only imperfect designs in the archaeological record  are man-made.  That is amazing!

God is perfect, and everything that He created was perfect, including us.  We had, and still have the perfect capability to choose to see His handiwork and acknowledge Him, or continue to believe the myth that life evolved across species – with no supporting evidence except the faith of blind ideologues who avoid any discussion on the issue.

A Probable Cause of Asthma

Dear Readers:

It has not been proven what causes asthma in our children, and researchers have not proven the reasons why there has been a dramatic increase in asthma cases worldwide.  So researchers who can find a correlation with other factors often offer their speculative opinions.

In Barbados, incidents of asthma have increased significantly since the 1970’s.  Health researchers have blamed the sub-Saharan African dust and allergens, environmental researchers have blamed pollution, and climate researchers have blamed the climate.

It is very easy and convenient to find a correlation with factors that only God can change.  It allows reputable researchers to go unchallenged and offers no hope to those who are directly affected – mainly the children and their parents.  Since parents are essentially powerless to change the sub-Saharan dust, allergens and the climate, they must resort to treating the symptoms with drugs.

Treating symptoms is not a permanent solution, but it can be an unnecessary lifetime expense.  Therefore, let us turn our attention to this issue in order to bring relief to the sufferers, and to prevent further incidents.

Before we continue, let me note that preparing this article revealed a glaring weakness of peer reviewed documents.  Generally, the reviewer only know as much, or perhaps a little more, of the narrow discipline of their peer, the author.  However, most causal investigations are not confined to only one discipline.  Therefore, single-discipline reviewed research will always be incomplete and substandard.  This should not reflect negatively on the competence of the researcher or the reviewer, but rather, on the effectiveness or the system in which they operate.  I can confidently state that the conclusions of most (if not all) single discipline reviewed causal studies on multi-disciplinary issues that I have read, are as useful as a shoe on a fish.

When trying to solve these types of problems, the most logical place to start is to understand the following.

  • The trend in the number of cases over many years.
  • The variability in cases during any one year
  • The relevant dramatic environmental changes when the symptoms started
  • The relevant environmental changes that increased as the number of cases increased

What environmental factors changed dramatically in the 1970’s across Barbados?  Well, not the climate, not the allergens, and not the sub-Saharan dust.  In Barbados, in was mainly an increase in the construction of concrete-block masonry houses and the purchase of automobiles.

Before, the floors of houses in Barbados were not in direct contact with the ground.  Ground floors in chattel houses and stone masonry houses were normally suspended above the ground as shown below.

House with suspeded floor

Builders constructing concrete-block masonry houses started placing the concrete slab directly on soil as shown below.

Floor on fill

A child sleeping in a room where the floor is in direct contact with the damp soil is not a safe environment.  In recognition of this, national building standards worldwide, including the Caribbean, specified that a Damp Proof Membrane or Vapour Barrier (eg. plastic sheets) be used to prevent moisture from rising through the floor and walls.

Tragically, builders and potential homeowners in Barbados were not made aware of Barbados’ national building standards.  Very few, if any (certainly none that I was aware of before Walbrent College was founded 5 years ago) had a copy of the Barbados National Building Code.  Therefore, either the Damp Proof Membrane was not installed, or it was not installed properly.  In the photo below, the black plastic Damp Proof Membrane is not lapped properly and it is not taped at the laps, allowing moisture to rise.


In the photo below, the Damp Proof Membrane or Vapour Barrier does not extend over the blocks.  Therefore, moisture can rise up the walls.

DPM not over walls

Therefore, all children in single storey concrete-block masonry houses, and all children sleeping in bedrooms that were located on the ground floor of a two-storey house, were in an unhealthy environment.  If they slept in an unventilated room with the room’s door(s) and window(s) closed, then the risk of harm increased significantly.

 Supporting A Plausible Solution

At this point, the significant increase in the number of houses with the floor in contact with the ground is plausible.  Now, let us see if the trends of asthma cases support our proposition.

Since there is increased rainfall in the rainy season of May to October, the ground floor and walls of houses would normally be damper than during the drier season.  The statistics show that there is an almost doubling of asthma cases in the wetter months of May to October.

Further, the number of asthma cases are always higher in the lower catchment area that drains into the Constitution river, where the water table and damp soil is closer to the surface, than in any other part of Barbados.

While this does not prove causation, it certainly makes ‘concrete slab on ground’ construction method a strong contender.  The proof can come by interviewing the sufferers to see whether they resided in such masonry houses.  It should be noted that poorly installed vapour barriers is reportedly a common problem worldwide.  Therefore, it can explain the general global increase in asthma cases.

Investigating the Increase in Automobiles

For completeness, we should investigate the increase in cars, and thus car exhaust emissions, as a possible cause.  If cars were the reason for the increase in asthma cases, then we would expect to see significantly lower cases in the windward eastern side of the island.  However, generally, there are a higher number of cases per 1,000 people in the better ventilated windward side of the island than on the western side, excluding the Constitution’ river’s drainage catchment area.

Help for All Parents

So what can parents do?  My suggestions follow, which would improve the quality of the interior house environment, even if another reason is later proved to cause asthma.

All new houses should have a properly installed Damp Proofing Membranes (continuous plastic sheet, lapped and taped) under the ground floor slab and walls, to prevent the damp from rising into the house.

All existing houses should have the external walls plastered and waterproofed.  If you are renting, then ask the tenant to do this.  The photo below shows a typical single-storey plastered masonry house.  Note the rising damp areas at the base of the wall.

Plastered house

What you cannot see is that the builder did not plaster all the way to the footings.  Please be advised that this is typical.  Therefore, the walls below the ground are normally damp, and the damp rises into the house – especially if the Damp Proofing Membrane does not extend over the blocks.  Note that the right side of this damp area is drier, only because the soil has been removed.

Unplastered foundation wall

The photo below shows a bituminous waterproofing agent applied to the plastered wall.

Waterproofed wall

I wish you well.

Best regards,


Note: All photos are copyrighted by the author.