The Right Excellent Charles Duncan O’Neal National Heo of Barbados
Charles Duncan O’Neal, a medical doctor was a member of the elite class and held a high social position in the Barbadian community. Despite the social norms of the time, he chose to dedicate his life to assisting the poor and actively rejected the racism of the 1920’s and 1930’s. Unheard of ‘behavior’ for the time in which he lived!
Charles Duncan O’Neal was a rare individual, unconcerned about the potential damage to his reputation, he quickly became known as the first gentleman from the upper class (who not only had a university degree and independent business) to throw caution to the wind and refuse to conform to the expectations of those in his socio-economic bracket. He led by example, igniting the arousal of social and political consciousness throughout all strata’s of society thus laying the groundwork for significant social reform.
Early life and education
Born in 1879 to Joseph and Catherine O'Neal, Charles Duncan O’Neal attended Trents Primary, the Parry School and went on to Harrison College where he placed second in the examination for the Barbados Scholarship in 1899. Sent off to Edinburgh University in Scotland to study medicine, he gained distinctions in almost all the academic areas and a Blue Ribbon in surgery.
Recalled as the first politician in Barbados to rally for improved working conditions for women, Charles Duncan O’Neal also supported the role of women in leadership positions in the Democratic League and Working Men’s Association! His lists of achievements include but are not limited to the following:
Establishment of the Democratic League in October, 1924 which was based on the principles of socialism thus attracting membership from the colored and middle classes.
Creation of a proto-union entitled the Working Men’s Association
Investment in The Herald Newspaper which was renowned as the medium through which reform, enfranchisement and social change were voiced daily.
He fought for free education and dental care for children, improved housing and abolition of the:
Located Laborers’ System
The Master and Servants Act
In 1932 he won a seat in the House of Assembly as a Member for Bridgetown
Campaigned for the abolishment of Child Labour.
As a tribute to this extraordinary gentleman, the ten dollar note features the portrait of Charles Duncan O’Neal and the bridge in Bridgetown is named in his honor.
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