Recognizing our second oldest club in District 81! The Bridgetown Toastmasters Club
Featuring the second oldest club in District 81, Division C, Area 11
The Bridgetown Toastmasters Club
“56 plus years and still going strong!”
The roaring 60s- The foundation
In the mid-1960s, one man had the burning desire to help Barbadian men acquire the ability to speak in public and in this regard, Alfred Defreitas of Painter’s Corner, Roebuck Street, Bridgetown founded the Bridgetown Toastmasters Club. Mr. Defreitas was a businessman who had previously been a Toastmaster in Georgetown, Guyana.
1965- The club is chartered
The club was chartered on July 6, 1965 and for many years the Club met at the Caribbee Hotel. On many Tuesday nights, members were still out “meeting” beside their cars long after midnight. From time to time, the club held meetings at the Hilton Hotel and Diocesan House. The club finally settled at the Caribbee Hotel, Christ Church until 1996 when it moved to the Springer Memorial School, the Dining Club and presently at the Warrens Office Complex.
1986- Formation of breakaway clubs and women were welcome
The Bridgetown Toastmasters is the mother of all other Toastmasters Clubs in Barbados, beginning with The Sunjet in 1986 being the first to “break away” followed, in 1993, by the first corporate Club, the Bartel Club (now NXT Generation). The Sunjet Toastmasters club was formed in 1986 by Competent Toastmaster (CTM) Keith Roberts, a then member of the Bridgetown Toastmasters Club.
Although women were admitted into Toastmasters International in the seventies, it was not until 1986, after a fierce debate, that women were accepted into the Bridgetown Club. The decision to admit women into the club was not an easy one for the Club. The first resolution for their admission, sponsored by CTMs Tony Olton and Ronald Weekes provoked the return of Toastmasters who had not been to club meetings in many years, just to ensure that it would be defeated!
The first women to be admitted to the club in 1987 were Dr. Linda Perry and Ms. Lorna Barrow, presently ATM-B Lorna Barrow. As is usually the case, the inclusion of women impacted the club in many ways not foreseen by the male members. The dress code which stipulated “no shirts without collars” and “no sandals”. This appeared extremely limiting and ridiculous when applied to women.
The club can boast of achievements that are uniquely its own. One of its members, CTM Louis King dedicated his life to Toastmasters over the last 40 plus years and only missed meetings when he was off the island. The fact that he took a wife from among the membership surprised no one and certainly further cemented his bond with the club. One cannot forget the Toastees, a dynamic, performing trio, whose performance could not be missed and are without equal anywhere in the international Toastmasters family.
1993 - Formation of the first corporate club
In 1993, Advanced Toastmaster (ATM) James Corbin (now deceased) formed the first corporate club in Barbados, The Bar Tel Toastmasters Club. At the time, ATM Corbin was in charge of the company’s Total Quality Programme and saw the need for his team members to be able to deliver effective presentations.
Over the years, the Bridgetown Toastmasters Club has served the community well, working with such organizations as the Royal Barbados Police Force, The Barbados Youth Service, the 4-H Movement and a number of schools and youth groups.
By far the most important community event for the Bridgetown Toastmaster Club was the annual Alfred Defreitas Inter-School Debating Competition. The competition was named after the club’s founder, Mr. Alfred Defreitas, and was started by the Club in 1983 in response to the limited comment on public issues and the acute shortage of debating clubs on the island at that time.
The competition was also critically acclaimed in the Barbadian media, with finals televised by the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and carried live on radio – Voice of Barbados (VOB).
Unfortunately, the debate was discontinued when the club reached the stage where some members were pursing either academic or career interests, and could no longer volunteer the amount of time necessary to ensure the success of the debate.
Today, Barbados can boast of having 14 clubs. The Bridgetown Toastmasters Club continues to be an active and vibrant club, providing the membership with the same excellent and relevant communication and leadership skills as it did for its other members over the years.
The fact that the Bridgetown club has survived for the past fifty-six years and is considered the “beacon” for the other clubs in Barbados, is testimony of the vital importance of communication skills and self-development—what Toastmasters is all about!
Bridgetown Toastmasters Club
Beverley McCollin-Moore, DTM
David Parris, DTM