With all the controversy now swirling around OBAN, the second major oil refinery scheduled for Freeport, Grand Bahama in 2018, it is interesting to note that at the opening of the first oil refinery there, a now famous speech was delivered.

In 1969, at the dedication ceremony of the new Bahamas Oil Refinery Co., in Freeport, Grand Bahama, Prime Minister, Sir Lynden Pindling brought the fire. Ears, spirits and old ways were left burnt in the flames of his ‘bend or break’ soul speech.

Pindling unleashed a blistering attack on the old established rules of Freeport. His words left many attendees squirming in their chairs or staring uncomfortably down at their shoes.

The Prime Minister could have given the standard polite political speech, but instead, he used the opening of the first oil refinery in the Bahamas, to say his peace on behalf of marginalised Bahamians throughout the islands.

Pindling’s words caused international headlines.

(Fort Lauderdale News, Sunday 10 August 1969)

Freeport, Grand Bahama was a well-designed, well-conceived city, which was created out of what was essentially bush land. Wallace Groves and the Hawksbill Creek Agreement was the drafting birthplace for the city of Freeport and the Grand Bahama Port Authority on August 4th., 1955.

By 1969, the successful economic progress and massive development of Freeport, was even more than its original creators could have imagined.

(Fort Lauderdale News, Sunday 10 August 1969)

New buildings, wide streets, exclusive housing developments, hotels and an influx of foreign residents breathed new financial life into Grand Bahama.

There was only one problem.

In 1969, a strict colour bar still existed in Grand Bahama. It was discreetly, but firmly maintained in Freeport.

(Fort Lauderdale News, Sunday 10 August 1969)

When Pindling came to power in 1967, he moved quickly to establish a ‘Bahamianization’ policy. Bahamians were to be given first preference for jobs that had been traditionally held by foreign workers, who, were almost invariably, white.

(Fort Lauderdale News, Sunday 10 August 1969)

Many local business merchants were against the Bahamianization policy. A Bahamianization policy some reckoned would cripple economic growth.

(Fort Lauderdale News, Sunday 10 August 1969)


When the Hawksbill Creek Agreement was signed on 4th., August 1955, The Bahamas was not yet under internal self rule.

By 1969, it was.

During the fourteen years since the inception of Freeport, the Grand Bahama Port Authority had become almost a government unto itself. Agreements made in 1955 gave virtually total economic and governmental control over to Wallace Groves and the Port.

Pindling, coming to power in 1967, tried to claw back some control for the Bahamas government. By 1969, Pindling had negotiated a 7 1/2 percent share in the Port Authority and took back licensing and police powers from Wallace Groves.

(Fort Lauderdale News, Sunday 10 August 1969)

At the ceremony for the dedication of BORCO oil refinery, it was undoubtedly the words “of it now refuses to bend, must now be broken” which must have melted every smile and caused those attending to almost drop their wine glasses.

It was said that Pindling paused momentarily before this sentence, in order to give his words their full import and effect on the audience.

(Fort Lauderdale News, Sunday 10 August 1969)


“There are many people in the Bahamas who are participants in and interested in economic development of the Bahamas. Not all of them, however, are cognisant of or interested in the economic and social welfare of the Bahamian people. Far too few acknowledge and fewer still accept the fact that development must be shaped to fit the human and social needs of the country where it takes place. Far too many here adopt the attitude that they have certain guaranteed rights to make money and that is all that matters. Freeport had indeed been a miracle of economic development; it has indeed been a shining example of financial wizardry. What it lacks is humanity: what it needs is a social conscience: what it must have, before too long, is a soul.

I have always been concerned about the lack of soul in Freeport, the absence of honest concern for the human and social needs of people. I was so concerned in the days when I stood almost alone. I had hoped that an early change would have been evident by now but I have been severely disappointed. It is a fundamental part of my basic political philosophy that people are more important than things; that men are more important than machines. In this Commonwealth of Islands that philosophy can quite fairly be interpreted to mean that Bahamian people are more important than things: that Bahamian men are more important than machines.

In this city where, regrettably, almost anything goes, where promisingly, some economic opportunities have come to Bahamians, Bahamians on nevertheless still the victim of a unbending social order which, if it now refuses to bend, must be broken.”

Speech given at the ceremony and inspection tour of the new BORCO refinery site, Saturday, July 26th,1969

From the book, The Vision of Sir Lynden Pindling: In His Own Words. Letters and Speevhed 1948 – 1997. Compiled and Edited by Patricia Beardsley Roker

Copyright 2000 – The Estate of Sir Lynden Pindling