‘Poverty, racism and war’ drove Marshall to make a difference

Hugh Marshall Senior (front left) with Governor General Sir Rodney Williams and Lady Williams, and members of the Marshall family, during Friday’s ceremony (Photo by Gemma Handy)
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by Gemma Handy

A childhood surrounded by poverty – followed by experiencing racism as a young man in England – galvanised Hugh Marshall Senior to strive to make a better life for his compatriots.

The 84-year-old former government minister was yesterday presented with an insignia by the Governor General as a symbol of the award he was given by the Queen in January in recognition of his services to Antigua and Barbuda.

The investiture ceremony took place at Government House, attended by Marshall’s friends, family and dignitaries who heard how Marshall had “made it his business to make a difference”.

He was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE), upon the recommendation of the Governor General and advice of Prime Minister Gaston Browne, in the Queen’s New Year Honours List 2021. The CBE is the highest ranking Order of the British Empire Award.

His Excellency Sir Rodney Williams said it was “fitting” that Marshall should receive the award “in his homeland where the people who chose him as their parliamentary representative” resided, rather than travelling to the UK for the ceremony.

Sir Rodney spoke of Marshall’s “exemplary service”, describing him as a “commanding presence” who “always thought outside the box”.

Born in Jennings in May 1937, Marshall came from modest beginnings, his first job as an agriculture ranger with the Peasant Development Office (PDO).

He moved to London in 1960 where he married, before returning home in 1971. There, he joined the Antigua Labour Party, campaigning for the abolition of income tax and the creation of the State Insurance Corporation which still thrives today.

He was made a senator in the late 1970s and was the driving force behind the Coolidge Industrial Park, bringing in investors and ultimately creating more than 3,000 jobs.

From 1980 to 1994, Marshall served as MP for St Mary’s South – the same seat his daughter Samantha Marshall now holds – and was given the ministerial portfolio for trade and economic development.

He was the vision and influence behind the OECS Stock Market, the Jolly Beach Resort and the Jolly Harbour Marina, the largest of its kind in the region.

Marshall’s contributions also include the introduction of a clause in the Constitution which enables the transfer of citizenship to grandchildren.

The father-of-seven biological children, two adopted children and 13 grandchildren told attendees yesterday, “this award is your award”.

In a heartfelt speech, he spoke of his humble past.

“Growing up in Jennings as a young boy, I saw poverty around us. I remember going to school without shoes,” he recalled. “My life changed when I went to England and came face to face with the reality of life – racism.

“That was a triggering moment for me.”

He added, “The other moment was during the Vietnam War, seeing people fighting for what they believed were the rights of their country. I said to myself – I don’t have to fight; I only have to go home.”

Marshall was also chairman of the now defunct Lee Wind Paints, a position he held until 2017.

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