From Flying Machines to the Supersonic Jet Age

93 Chapter 6 The Birth of BWIA Seawell Airport in Barbados was formerly Seawell Plantation, part of 389 acres acquired by government from Richard Seawell, whose family had owned it from as far back as 1680. The first small wooden terminal was erected in 1938, at a cost of $7,680, to receive the KLM inaugural passenger flight. In the mid to late 1940s, a slightly larger terminal with a galvanised roof, concrete walls and BRC partitions was built. The original small wooden building was sold to Decourcey O’neal and removed to a spot of leased Crown Lands on Bath Beach. For over 50 years it was his family’s ‘bay house’, the local term for a seaside cottage. I am told that in the early 2000s it was in a state of dilapidation and had to be demolished, as the owner no longer lived on the island. Around 1953, a larger but still quite basic terminal was erected adding a control tower within the structure three years later. A very modern, larger terminal, the fourth, was designed and the building supervised by architect Captain ‘Tommy’ Tomlin, in association with George Nehaul, a construction engineer (husband of Patricia Nehaul, at that time deputy-manager of our tourist board). It was built in 1958/59 over the earlier 1953 structure on the same site – leaving the existing control tower of circa 1956, intact within this building. According to a story told to me by Sir Donald Wiles (who in the 1950s had been Permanent Secretary to the Premier Sir Grantley Adams), it cost $360,000, was within budget and within the deadline for completion. The Premier, on hearing the good news, ordered a bottle of cold champagne for his senior staff and himself. Seawell Airport was officially renamed Grantley Adams International Airport on 15th December 1976. The announcement of the change of the airport name was made during the throne speech by the Governor General on 7th October 1976, when Sir Grantley’s son, J.M.G.M. ‘Tom’ Adams was attending his first session of Parliament as Prime Minister, having just won his first general election as leader of the Barbados Labour Party. That day will be remembered for another event – more on that later. The Civil Aviation Department is allowed eight weeks within which to