Every nation has its heroes — people who furthered their country’s culture or global standing. The Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis is no exception, and every summer, its residents commemorate those who have left a lasting impression on their home islands.
First observed in 1998, National Heroes Day is an island-wide public holiday. It’s celebrated on September 16 — three days before St. Kitts and Nevis Independence Day — and, depending on what weekday it lands, may be extended to accommodate a joint celebration.
The holiday is a byproduct of the National Honours Act, a piece of legislation that established a trio of merit-based awards: the Medal of Honour, the Star of Merit, and the Order of the National Hero. Robert Llewellyn Bradshaw was posthumously made the first member of the newly-created order, and an annual day of remembrance — National Heroes Day — was earmarked for his birthday.
Affectionately known as the "Father of Independence," Bradshaw served as the first Premier of St. Kitts from 1967 until his death in 1978. In total, he spent 32 years serving the island as a public official, and spearheaded independence talks with the United Kingdom’s leadership in 1977.
On the first annual National Heroes Day, St. Kitts recognized its former leader by renaming Basseterre’s international airport in his honor. The government of Cuba also gifted the Federation a bust of Bradshaw, which sits proudly displayed in the arrivals terminal of his namesake airport.
Since that first celebration, St. Kitts and Nevis has bestowed the Order of the National Hero on four other individuals: Paul Southwell and Sir Joseph Nathaniel France in 2004; Simeon Daniel in 2013; and Sir Kennedy Simmonds in 2015.
Born in 1913, Southwell held a variety of positions within the Kittitian government. He rose from a member of the Saint Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla Legislative Council to become First Minister of Communications and Works; Chief Minister of Saint Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla; and, ultimately, Premier of St. Kitts.
France was also involved in civil service: He worked as Minister of Social Services and General Secretary of the St. Kitts and Nevis Trades and Labour Union. He was awarded the Order of St. Michael and St. George — a British order of chivalry — in 1996, and upon his posthumous receipt of the Order of the National Hero, St. Kitts’ general hospital was renamed in his honor.
As first Premier of Nevis, Daniel guided his country from its independence in 1983 until 1992. He also founded the Bank of Nevis, and was an original member of the Nevis Reformation Party.
Another recipient of the Order of St. Michael and St. George, Simmonds helped create the People’s Action Movement, and upon St. Kitts’ independence from Great Britain, served as the island’s first Prime Minister.
Each of these heroes helped make St. Kitts and Nevis the islands they are today; why not celebrate them?