Dr. Barbara Ball
Dr. Barbara Ball (Written By Ottiwell Simmons Former President of the B.I.U.)
There is no doubt that Dr. Ball was one of Bermuda’s most outstanding citizens. It is well known that Doc. spent all of her adult life caring for people, regardless of their station in life.
She was extremely talented and accomplished in many disciplines. She was a medical practitioner, a Judo black belt, a most capable trade unionist, astute politician, and a certified and highly qualified statistician; everything that Doc did in life was professionally done and more importantly, it was done for others.
Doc never married, she had no children. Her main employer was the under privileged and needy. For the four decades that she spent as an officer of the Bermuda Industrial Union its members became the object of her dedication. She would always say, “We cannot do anything until the union membership gives their consent or their instructions”.
She gave medical treatment to many of her patients without any compensation, Union officers and staff benefited from Doc’s benevolence. This generosity and thought for others was an innate part of Dr. Ball’s personality and her legacy.
Although Dr. Ball’s childhood ambition was to be a medical doctor, it soon became clear to her that the greatest need in Bermuda was to fight for the rights of the working class. In 1961 she joined the Bermuda Industrial Union. By 1962 she was the General Secretary of the BIU.
It was not long before Dr. Ball devoted much of her time reading about unionism and taking several courses. She eventually became the professor of unionism in Bermuda, and her activism became known and highly respected throughout the Caribbean.
The Dr. Ball story consists of great achievements that range from organizing, negotiating, dabbling with the Bermuda Constitution and helping to shape trade Union legislation. She also produced a memorandum to the United Nations in NY calling for an independent Bermuda. Organisations such as the Bermuda Civil Servants Association, the Police Association, and Bermuda Union of Teachers all called upon Dr. Ball for assistance with their constitutions in their formative days.
One of the most effective and feared negotiators, Dr. Ball must be given singular credit for a number of collective bargaining agreements. Dr. Ball led the campaign to organise the Carlton Beach Hotel staff, the non-clinical staff of the King Edward Hospital and gave valuable assistance in organizing all 7000 members of the BIU, spanning three decades – from 1960 – 1980.
But the Dr. Ball narrative is not complete without mentioning the obstructions she endured: -
In 1964, she was suspended from practicing medicine at the King Edward Hospital, of course this was because she dared to organise the staff into the BIU. There were lots public rallies and PLP/union support for Doc that had her reinstated.
Doc was summoned to the Supreme Court to answer charges of participating in a riot and calling an illegal strike. She was acquitted of all charges in that court; however, we in the Union and the PLP recognize that in the Higher Court before which she now stands, she has been convicted of all charges of dedication, sacrifice and making life better for all working families in Bermuda.
Her judgment? “Well done, thy good and faithful servant. Enter thou into the joy of your Lord.”
Take you well deserved rest, Bermuda’s Lady of Labour.
- Ottiwell Simmons