Franklyn Morant, known to all as `Bowla’ was recently feted in Kingston, at Witty Soul Tone Wine Bar, Savannah Plaza, Constant Spring Road. And the honor couldn’t have been bestowed on a more deserving Fortis. Because whether representing or supporting Kingston College, there is nobody more passionate.
Bowla represented KC with distinction in the three major sports – football, cricket and track & field, in the 60s in what was a glorious period in the school’s history. But to celebrate Frank as only a great sportsman, would be a travesty. Because he is one of those great KC ambassadors-at-large who moves easily and humbly among all people, never tooting his own horn. Those qualities are as luminous as his contributions in the field of sports.
Frank attended St Simons Infant School, Jones Town and Central Branch Primary Schools before beginning at KC in 1960. He played Colts and Second XI football and cricket before moving on to the big-times. He played mid-field for the famous 1964 and 1965 football teams which swept Manning and Walker Cups and the Oliver Shield. His no-nonsense and sure-footed approaches on the football field gained him All-Schools berths and the nick-name `The Black Pearl’. And because of his calm temperament he took most of the penalty kicks for the teams.
Only if pressed, he will recall what he considers his finest hour – his combination passes to Mikey Vernon and Neville Oxford which resulted in the 1-0 win over Vere Technical in the 1965 Oliver Shield. He knows his yeoman service as a mid-fielder was appreciated, and so he takes in stride, the humor made of a picture depicting him wrong-footed to Alan `Skill’ Cole’s wizardry. Self-deprecatingly, `Bowla’ will always remind, `I got the ball’.
After leaving KC, Bowla had a stint with the Division 1 Club Cavaliers, before taking up a football scholarship at Michigan State University. There his success continued as he was a member of the team which captured the 1968 NCAA soccer title.
In schoolboy cricket, Frank progressed through the ranks as a fast bowler and middle-order batsman to help KC win the Sunlight and share the Spaulding Cup in 1964. In that same year Bowla was also a member of the school’s winning track and football teams. This might well be a unique feat. The cricket team placed second the following year and Bowla gained All-Schools status. As a fast bowler Frank had that intimidating Wes Hall-like leap at the crease, and the Gary Sobers mannerisms with the bat.
When either schoolboy, domestic or international cricket is on, Frank is somewhere at the venue. In domestic matches, in line with his low-key persona he prefers to be on the boundary in the company of a few. An avid watcher with a keen eye for talent and a command of the game’s history, Bowla from his perch will predict, with usually uncanny accuracy, who will go on to great things. His most frequent mention about cricket, is the fact that in a Gleaner photograph at Collie Smith’s burial, he was the lad stooping at the grave.
In track & field, beginning in 1963 Bowla represented KC in the 100 yards, quarter-mile, 4x100 and mile relay events. His capstone may have been going to Penn Relays in 1966. In his years of competing in any sport, Frank could never be accused of not giving his all. He is a winner.
What is also impressive about Frank, is his knowledge and recall of almost every student that attended The College in his time, the attending old boy fraternity, as well as noteworthy events. His vivid recall is stunning, and he could be considered a walking historian. His knowledge is not only limited to those who attended KC, but includes that of athletes from other high schools. He has cultivated life-long friendships along the way, and moves easily among all strata of society. That could be his most lasting contribution to KC.
Frank studied political science in university, and that field of study fleshed out his interest in local and global events, and his work as a trade union negotiator. He is a master of Jamaica’s history, politics and socio-economic intricacies, and relishes quiet discussions on any topic. In social settings, he prefers not to take center stages, opting instead for grounded conversation on the periphery.
His best friend one might surmise, is Mickey `Mouse Brown’ Vernon, who embarked on virtually the same sports field journeys as Frank. “He is my Achilles’ heel”, `Mouse’ is fond of saying of his eternal friend.
These days Frank in his retirement, spends most of his weekday evenings enjoying breezy conversation under a shady tree in front of the administration building of The College’s North Street campus. It’s instinctive of him to guard the school’s treasure. In that regard, KC has no better steward.