by Curlan Campbell
- Bloody Monday was 21 January 1974
- Nationwide labour strike and demonstrations lasted 21 days
- Escalation near Otway House resulted in death of Rupert Bishop, and injuries to many others
George “Sandy” Bain, the last surviving board member of Everybody’s Store Ltd, recounted the harrowing experience of “Bloody Monday” that eventually led to the permanent closure in the 1970s, of one of Grenada’s largest locally owned companies.
On the block opposite Market Square, where Farm and Garden Centre is now situated, Everybody’s and two other businesses, Granby Stores Ltd and Charles of Grenada, were located. Simeon Augustine Francis (S A Francis) held the positions of director and shareholder at Everybody’s, an esteemed hypermarket. Following his death on 24 May 1957, store ownership was transferred to his daughter, Florence Francis. This establishment was renowned as the first of its kind in the country, offering a diverse range of departments, including a supermarket, household and hardware section, and a luxury boutique for men and women. However, the political climate at the time eventually led to riots and looting of these businesses, whose owners could not recoup the losses and were forced to close.
50 years later, George Bain, Director at Bryden & Minors Ltd, believes it is time to share his story about what occurred on Bloody Monday — 21 January 1974 — following his involvement in the nationwide labour strike and subsequent demonstrations against Eric Gairy’s regime, which lasted 21 days.
Sparking that demonstration were allegations of abuse and illegal harassment by paramilitary forces after Gairy reneged on meeting the demands of the Committee of 22 — comprising the Conference of Churches, Grenada Chamber of Commerce, and trade unions — which demanded the government investigate and bring to justice those responsible for the brutal beating of New Jewel Movement (NJM) leader Maurice Bishop and his colleagues on Bloody Sunday.
Bain, who was 29 then, recalled being present at the demonstration near Otway House on the Carenage when Gairy’s Mongoose Gang marched into the crowd demanding they end the protest. This situation eventually escalated and resulted in the death of Rupert Bishop, Maurice’s father, and injuries to many others involved.
From his vantage point on Market Hill, Bain witnessed looters storming Everybody’s and nearby businesses. He said the proprietors had outstanding debts on imported merchandise and were indebted to banks for these goods. As they had no remaining inventory to sell and lacked any form of insurance against looting, consequently, they experienced significant financial setback and could not tolerate such a loss. Bain said without a shadow of a doubt the looting was politically motivated, a claim that members of the Grenada United Labour Party (GULP) government denied.
“At that time, Grenadians were left without work. I am talking about 200 employees between the 3 companies who were unable to find jobs thereafter because these people were probably in their 50s. Many of them migrated to the United States and Canada. In those days, you had no pension and gratuity to get, so others went home with nothing after 15–20 years of service,” he said.
Bain, who served as supermarket manager from 1969 to 1974, believes that Grenada’s 50th anniversary of independence should serve as a period of introspection, given the lack of awareness surrounding the challenges and upheaval endured in its attainment. “I think Grenadians are supposed to know what happened during this time of achieving Independence. But with the growing pains of Independence, this happened. You can’t hide from the fact that what happened in 74. We have gone a long way and Grenada has prospered, and I am so happy about where we are today. I think the country has done very well,” he said.
Following his job loss and the responsibility of supporting his wife and 2 children, Bain acknowledged that he had initially planned to leave the island for better opportunities. However, this plan was interrupted when he secured a position with Huggins to oversee Buy Rite Supermarket and later secured a position with Bryden & Minors.
Bain, now 79, reflects on the diminishing allure of St George’s, formerly hailed as a shopping and entertainment hub, due to the relocation of businesses to the island’s southern region. However, he remains optimistic about Grenada’s future and hopes that the country’s political stability can remain.