Tubal Uriah Butler aka “Buzz” was born in Bluggo Cottage, Georgetown, Grenada on January 21, 1897. He served in the British West India Regiment in Egypt and Palestine.
On his return from World War 1, he formed the Grenada Representative Government Movement and the Grenada Union of Returned Soldiers.
In 1921, Uriah Butler moved to Trinidad attracted by the flourishing oil industry. He worked as a pipe fitter at the Roodal Oil fields. In 1929, he sustained an injury in the oil fields which left him with a permanent limp.
From 1922 to 1931, Uriah Butler became actively involved in the Moravian Baptist Church and by 1931 he became the Church’s chief pastor.
Uriah Butler emerged as a working-class leader
In 1935, Butler joined Captain Arthur Andrew Cipriani’s Trinidad Labour Party (TLP) (formerly called the Trinidad Workingmen’s Association – TWA). In March, he led a hunger march from the Apex oil belt to Port-of-Spain for higher wages and improved working conditions.
@sweettntmagazine Tubal Uriah Butler: History of Labour Day in Trinidad and Tobago Tubal Uriah Butler aka "Buzz" was born in Bluggo Cottage, Georgetown, Grenada on January 21, 1897. He served in the British West India Regiment in Egypt and Palestine. On his return from World War 1, he formed the Grenada Representative Government Movement and the Grenada Union of Returned Soldiers. In 1921, Uriah Butler moved to Trinidad attracted by the flourishing oil industry…. #labourday #mayday #june19 #labour #longweekend #trinidadandtobago #tobago #laborday #love #uriahbutler #labourdayweekend #workersday #union #strike #workers #happylabourday #fyzabad #labourparty #worldlabourday #work #internationalworkersday #votelabour #holiday #trinidad #labordayweekend #internationallabourday #happylaborday #workersrights #betterpay #socialism ♬ original sound – Sweet TnT Magazine
This marked the beginning of Butler’s emergence as a working-class leader. In 1936, Butler left the TLP and formed his own party, The British Empire Workers and Citizens Home Rule Party (BEWCHP).
In 1937, he organised a sit-down strike which proved to be the catalyst for future labour movements. The turning point of the oilfield workers’ riot began when police attempted to arrest Butler while addressing a meeting on the evening of June 19.
Bloody battle between oilfield workers and police officials
Oilfield workers clashed with police officials which resulted in a bloody battle. Fourteen people were killed, fifty-nine wounded, and hundreds arrested.
Among the casualties and injuries were several police officers notably Police Sub Inspector William S Bradburn who was shot, and Corporal Charlie King.
Corporal Charlie King, in his attempt to arrest Butler, was chased and thrown from a shop window. He broke his leg when he landed and lay immobile on the ground as the mob poured paraffin on him and lit him on fire at Fyzabad Junction. This junction is now known as Charlie King Junction.
Detention on Nelson Island
On September 9, Butler surrendered. He was tried and freed on the charges of sedition but was jailed for two years for inciting a riot.
He was released from jail in May 1939, but in November of that same year, he was rearrested and detained as a security risk under the defense regulations of World War 2.
He spent six years, the duration of the war in detention on Nelson Island and was not released until the war was officially over in 1945. On his release from jail, he intensified his efforts for home rule and social justice.
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The Trinity Cross, highest award
In 1946, Butler called a general strike, and in 1947, he and a group of his followers gathered in Port-of-Spain and stormed the Red House as a result, Butler was expelled from the Oilfield Workers Trade Union, the OWTU.
In 1950, the Butler party won a seat to represent St Patrick West in the Legislative Council. He continued to serve on the Legislative Council until 1961.
He even ran for Federal Elections in 1958 but was defeated by Hussain Shah. He then contested the La Brea seat in the general elections of 1961 but was unsuccessful.
In 1970, Butler received Trinidad and Tobago’s highest award The Trinity Cross for his contribution as a labour leader and reputation as a fighter for the people. He was regarded as the hero of the people.
The Uriah Butler Highway
On June 19, 1972, the anniversary of the Oilfield Workers’ riots of 1937 was declared an annual holiday by Act 19 of 1972 and is celebrated as Labour Day in Trinidad and Tobago.
The Princess Margaret Highway was renamed The Uriah Butler Highway in his honour in 1988. Butler died on Sunday February 20, 1977 and was given a State Funeral and buried on February 24 at Fyzabad.
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