May 2011 Volume 8

Orett Campbell: Where is he now?

Dr. Cedric Lazarus
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In March this year, KC defeated Titchfield High, 33-11 in the finals of the Schools Challenge Quiz competition. It was KC’s tenth lien on the coveted trophy which the school first won in 1974. Orett Campbell, then in Lower 6th, was on that winning team. The other members of the team were Michael Fitz-Henley, Ian Jackson and Audley Jones. Orett returned to captain the team in 1975 and that team successfully defended the trophy. KC then became the first school to win the competition back to back and Orett became the first student in Jamaica to play on two winning quiz teams. In short, he became a KC icon! Where is this KC icon today? Read on.

Orett came to KC in third form in September 1970. So where did he spend his first two years of high school? Titchfield High! Orett recalls that when he came to KC he was promptly dubbed, ‘Country Bway’ by his new classmates, some of whom had no idea where Titchfield High was located. (It’s in Port Antonio by the way.) Initially, he was arbitrarily placed in one of the many third forms but after a few weeks one his teachers (Mr. Peter Maxwell) realized that he was not an average student and suggested that he should be transferred to 3A where he would be able to knock heads with others who would be able to challenge him academically. In 3A Orett recalls sitting beside the likes of Ivor Nugent, Peter-John Gordon, Oliver ‘Rasta’ Harrison, Kenneth Vaughan, Barry Gordon and John Hall Jnr. In 3A the ‘Country Bway’ from Portland immediately made his presence felt by placing first in the class at the end of the first term. His class mates were shocked. How could ‘Country Bway’ come first? Surely it had to be a ‘buck-up’, an accident. In their minds it had to be an aberration that would not and could not be repeated. However, when he came first again at the end of the second and third terms, his class mates were convinced that they had met their match and so at the end of the year he was recognized as a true Fortis. He was no longer ‘Country Bway’ - he had become one of them.

Orett remembers that the first teacher he encountered at KC was English teacher Mr. Peter Maxwell who was to become one of his mentors. Mr. Maxwell not only encouraged him to read widely by lending him books and journals but he also taught him the history and legacy of KC. Of course, this was not difficult for Mr. Maxwell who was Headboy in the 1950s and whose father Rev. Maxwell was a close friend of Bishop Gibson.  By fifth form Orett was training with the quiz team which was being coached by the great Frances Philips (later Coke), another teacher who had great influence on him throughout his KC years. The following year he was a member of the victorious team and a year later he captained his team to a second victory. His team mates in his second year on the team were Ivor Nugent, Barry Salmon and Donovan ‘Pip’ Shaw.  One of them recalls that in one memorable match Orett surprisingly pressed the buzzer after the quiz master Dennis Hall had only identified the category in which the question would fall!  So picture this: Quiz Master Dennis Hall, “The category is sports.”
KC’s buzzer sounds!                                         
A clearly bewildered Hall says, “Yes KC!”
Orett: “That would be ............”
Denis Hall: “Correct!”
What Hall probably meant to add was, “Did the captain of the KC team see my questions?”  

Orett says that KC means a lot to him, as apart from being the place where he got his secondary education it is also the place where he learnt about life, where he learnt about honour and camaraderie and team work. “Being at KC and being in contact with teachers like Mr. Maxwell and Mrs. Coke taught me to love all things Jamaican. It was at KC that although being a science student, I learnt to love literature and music and art. I don’t think anyone anywhere in the world had a finer education than I had at KC”.

Orett feels that sixth form was probably the best part of his tenure at KC and he fondly remembers going to Mr. Chin’s shop, many times long before lunch time, with the likes of Peter-John Gordon (who he remembers was often the chief instigator), the late Oliver “Rasta” Harrison, Ivor Nugent and others. The usual menu was either corn bread with butter and cheese or corn bread with “bully” beef. Those high protein and carbohydrate meals often prepared them for the long afternoons ahead as they were often at school engaged in various extra-curricular activities until 6pm, sometimes later.

After A’ levels Orett enrolled at UWI Mona to study natural sciences. His ambition was to be a physicist. However, after the first year at Mona he transferred to the St Augustine Campus in Trinidad to study Civil Engineering. He fondly remembers that at in those days Jamaican students literally owned Canada Hall on the St Augustine Campus. KC students on the hall with Orett included his former Schools Challenge team mate Audley ‘Jomo’ Jones, Donald ‘DJ’ Johnson, Peter ‘Bowl’ Thompson, Clinton Watson, Patrick Brown and many others.  He enjoyed his three years at St Augustine and graduated in 1980. For some reason he chose to remain in Trinidad after graduation. His friends put it down to love; not love of Trinidad but love of a Trinidadian lady.  Over the years he worked in Government as well as in the Petroleum Industry but now he is a consultant in the field of Quality and Environmental Management. He claims that being a consultant allows him to sleep late if he is inclined to do so and then work late into the night if there is work to be done. No more nine to five for him!

He misses going to Champs, Manning Cup games and all that but keeps up with the events at KC via emails from some of his past class-mates and he is hoping to catch up with others at the Big Purple Session in Miami this October.  “I have never been to that,” he says, “but this year I will try to make it.”

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