Profile of Clement Payne, Barbados Pocket Guide

Clement Osbourne Payne (1904 - 1941)

A man with a message, Clement Osbourne Payne, sought to educate the masses on how best to improve their standard of living and how to somehow remove themselves from the ill-treatment that was so very prevalent from the elite white planter classes.

Born in Trinidad to Barbadian parents, Payne was seen as a true missionary on a path. Forever capturing audiences with his powerful and explosive speeches, he was determined to embed in the minds of the people the importance of uniting in an effort to strengthen themselves. Such was the case in 1937 as he held several public meetings in the vicinity of Bridgetown.


His Life's Work

His forcefulness was met with much disdain and was seen by the Constabulary in Bridgetown as a possible threat. Police kept a narrow eye on him on a consistent basis but this close surveillance never bothered him as he used this attention to now bring to the fore, core issues.

In June of 1937, against the will of the Police, Payne held a meeting in Golden Square to inform the public of labour disruptions in Trinidad.

Accused of giving his date of birth as Barbados when it fact it was Trinidad, Payne was presented a summons to appear in court on July 22. He pleaded not guilty and the case was adjourned but when it recommenced, he pleaded his own case, was found guilty and ordered to pay ten pounds sterling forthwith or spend three months in jail. He pleaded this decision and received a great amount of moral and financial support from the working class, much to the displeasure of the white planters and police.


The very same night of July 22, he held a meeting where he made clear his intention to pay a visit to Government House and have a formal meeting with the Governor. On that morning, armed with hymns and popular anthems, he and approximately 300 workers marched to the Governor’s residence where soon after, he and 13 supporters were arrested and later charged for their refusal to break apart their gathering. Despite all of them pleading not guilty and granted bail, Payne was held in custody.

On July 26, Payne’s appeal against his previous charge of providing false information with regards to his place of birth was won. However, he was still debarred from staying in Barbados. His loyal supporters then hired a young Barbadian attorney by the name of Grantley Adams, to represent him. On recognition of the possible harm Payne would face had he not accepted the expulsion order, Adams advised him not to question it.

1937 Riots in Barbados

News of his deportation didn’t take too long to reach his supporters nor did it take long to make some kind of impact on them. So much so that they completely disregarded his slogan “Educate, agitate but do not violate!”. Such disregard saw them brandishing sticks and stones as they went on an intentional path of distruction. Show windows, cars and anything that got in their way became victims. The violence continued for four days throughout the island leaving 14 dead, 47 wounded, 500 arrested and millions of dollars in property damage.

A Commission of Inquiry (The Moyne Commission), was designated by The British Government to look into the situation in Barbados and other British West Indies colonies. In its report a conclusion was made confirming that charges made against the island's rulers were indeed correct and should therefore be discharged accordingly. The primary of which was introduction of trade unionism legislation.

On April 7, 1941 Payne collapsed while conducting a political meeting in Trinidad. He died shortly afterwards.

In an effort to uphold the contribution Clement Payne made to Barbados, The Clement Payne Cultural Centre was formed in 1989. Currently located at Crumpton Street in the parish of St. Michael, the purpose of this Centre is to remind Barbadians of the continuous work that this pioneer in the Caribbean trade union movement made. Indeed an outstanding man.


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