Demonstrators yesterday demanded that a Conservative MP surrender his 621-acre sugar plantation to the people of Barbados as compensation for his family’s 200-year slave ownership and trade on the island. Richard Drax, the Dorset South MP, has said his ancestors’ role was “deeply, deeply regrettable,” but resists demands for reparation.
As part of this year’s Tolpuddle Festival, a rally organized by Stand Up to Racism, Dorset, outside the Drax family estate highlighted the family’s historic role in slavery. The festival celebrates the Tolpuddle Martyrs, low-paid farm workers, who were transported in 1834 to organize union activities.
This is the first time the festival has worked with repair activists. Several hundred activists attended the “It’s Time Mr. Drax” rally yesterday on the hottest day of the year so far.
Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC, told the rally that Drax had a moral duty to pay reparations to Barbados. “Mr. Drax should pay now,” he said, citing the violence, rape and murder that accompanied Caribbean slavery.
The diverse and friendly, yet noisy, march circled part of the “Great Wall of Dorset,” a three-mile brick wall that surrounds Drax’s home in Charborough Park, eight miles from Tolpuddle.
Last december Observer other Sunday Mirror revealed that Drax personally controlled the Drax Hall plantation in Barbados, which his family has owned since 1650 and was worked by slaves for 200 years. We also reveal Drax, who is said to enjoy a Downton Abbey lifestyle – He is the richest landowner MP, worth at least £ 150 million, with a 22.5-square-mile Dorset estate and 125 properties, including his 17th century mansion.
Nigel Costley, secretary of the South West TUC, told protesters: “No one can be held responsible for the actions of their ancestors. But Richard Drax is still sitting on the mountain of gold obtained from the horrors of slavery. It’s time for me to pay something. “
Speaking from Barbados, Labor MP Trevor Prescod said: “Drax Hall witnessed excruciating pain and suffering, and people still today continue to experience a handicap that is the result of generations of slavery.
“We ask Mr. Drax to show moral leadership and to discuss with us how to address the legacy of slavery.”
Grafton Shaker of Dorset Unite, who grew up in Barbados, said that as children they were taken to plantations for several days, “but they never told us about the horrors of slavery.”
Organizers of the rally say they repeatedly asked Drax to meet with them so they could deliver a statement. They have had no response.