September 2019 Volume 15

Ronnie G. Chin - The Man behind Fortis Nation Archives

Pat Bignall
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In mid-April, 2019, there was a buzz of activities on the Fortis landscape. Fortis Nation Archives Group was established on Facebook with the major objective of preserving the history of our beloved Kingston College. In order to maintain the mandate, the Group was deliberately established as a closed group where all members and posts are preapproved.

But how much do we know about the Fortis Man behind Fortis Nations Archives and how he got involved?

Ronnie Chin started KC in 1970 but migrated to the U.S. at the end of third form where he completed high school and college. He followed in the footstep of his Dad, one of Jamaica’s top professional photographers – the late Astley Chin – and studied Photography in College.

I sat down with Ronnie to find out about his involvement with KC and what made him so passionate about the preservation of KC’s history.

Even though Ronnie never got involved with the Old Boys’ Association while in New York and while he only spent three years at KC, he still had a deep love for the institution. So, when he returned to Jamaica, temporarily, in the late 1990s, he found himself right back at 2A North Street. He was invited to be a member of KCOBA-JA and he accepted the invitation without any hesitation. Ronnie’s involvement with the OBA spring-boarded him into all the achievements that are now coming to the fore.

He is most appreciative to those who assisted and guided him during those early years and he stated categorically that he would not have achieved all he did without the team that worked with him – some of whom were on every committee that he chaired.

Ronnie the Lawn Tennis Coach

When there was talk among the old boys about resuscitating the Lawn Tennis Programme which was dormant for many years, Ronnie volunteered to assist administratively, however, the job of Coach also fell in his lap. Having no prior experience in coaching the game, Ronnie sought out and attained the professional training necessary for certification.

He engaged KCOBA-NY for sponsorship to get the programme off the ground and according to him, “Winston Stewart, the then president, confirmed the chapter’s willingness to assist. KCOBA-NY purchased and shipped all the rackets that were required along with balls”. Ronnie observed that there was only one Tennis Tournament for high schools and in 1999, he sought approval from the KCOBA and most importantly, the family of Douglas Forrest to establish The Douglas Forrest Memorial Tennis Classic. This saw many schools from Kingston and the rural areas participating in the two-day event at their own cost.

With the support and approval of Principal Johnson, Ronnie had ‘Fortis’ printed on the T-Shirts instead of the customary ‘Kingston College’. “The use of ‘Fortis’ on the Tennis Shirts may have been a first for a KC sports team,” Ronnie intimated. Ronnie coached the team for four years and, under his guidance, the team did relatively well - copping the Most Improved Team Trophy for the four years.

If there’s one regret Ronnie has regarding the Tennis Programme it is that no one took up the mantle. He believes that with KC’s rich and enviable history in Lawn Tennis and the interest that the sport generated for the relatively short period he coached the team, it should never have fallen off the school’s co-curricular agenda.

KCOBA-JA – Public Relations Officer

When Ronnie was elected to serve on the Executive of KCOBA in the capacity of Public Relations Officer (PRO) one of the responsibilities that came with his election as PRO was Editor of “Fortis Forever” - the OBA’s Quarterly Magazine. Ronnie had some flexibility in determining the content of the Magazine. This meant that he had to gather photos and articles that would excite the readers. He believes that this was where his accumulation of KC-related information really started.

With his love for and training in Photography, Ronnie ensured that every KC event was covered photographically. His collection of KC material grew and in addition to his personal photographs and articles, other Fortis stakeholders would send him material. Even when he was no longer the PRO for the KCOBA, he still had the urge to continue building his collection.

Ronnie noted that when Senator Anthony Johnson was compiling material for the 2nd Edition of the History of Kingston College, he brought two boxes of photographs and magazines to him. Many of those pictures required retouching and Ronnie used his photographic skills to edit them. According to Ronnie “My favourite picture that I restored was a black and white photo of Bishop Gibson in his robe in the chair”. He also pointed out that “the cover photo and most of the pictures used for the last ten years of the book were my photos”. And, Ronnie’s contribution was duly acknowledged by Sen. Johnson in the Book. Not surprising - his involvement with Sen. Johnson’s book deepened his yearning for historical information on KC and extended his collection.

Roper Cup Chairman

It is said that the reward for good work is more work. Ronnie assumed the position of Chairman of the Roper Cup Committee – a position he held for about 10 years. He was the face of the Roper Cup – even when St. Georges College was hosting. No wonder, in August, 2008, St. George’s College recognized him for his “dedicated service to Kingston College Old Boys Association and his fostering of good relations between the St. George’s Old Boys Association and the Kingston College Old Boys Association”.

It was Ronnie’s initiative that saw the introduction of the Under 14 and Under 16 Teams to the Roper Cup Competition. Having secured sponsorship from Carimed, the trophy (for the Under 16 and 17 Teams) was appropriately named the George Thompson Trophy.

Community Health Fair

Ronnie knew the importance of community involvement, especially taking into consideration the environment in which the school operated. So, in early 2005, in his capacity of PRO for the OBA, he and his team engaged health care professionals and conducted the first Community Health Fair on the grounds of North Street. This was a resounding success.

50th Anniversary at Penn Relays

In 2014, Noel Spencer invited Ronnie to be the official photographer for KC’s 50th Anniversary at Penn Relays. This was another opportunity which allowed Ronnie to capture and record an important part of KC’s history and he capitalized. Ronnie was also the person who created the KC Flag that permanently flies at the Penn Relays.

Fortis Nation Archives (FNA)

Having being involved with so many KC activities especially since he was ‘the man behind the Lens’ this has enlarged Ronnie’s collection beyond his own imagination and got him deeper into the history of Kingston College. “Over the last five years, I started thinking about what to do with the large collection of Kingston College material in my possession. I believe this was what gave birth to Fortis Nation Archives [FNA]. I believed that creating the online archives would be a good way to share historical information with my KC Family” Ronnie noted. He also expressed the view that a lot of material pertaining to KC are in private hands and he hoped with the creation of FNA these persons would be encouraged to share on the page or privately with him.

Ronnie opined that we have a responsibility to preserve KC’s history for the generations to come “If we don’t try to harness these material, when old boys pass on their family may not know what to do with them and they will be thrown out and lost forever” he said matter-of-factly. “There are a few older boys who are still alive who know KC’s history and I have been engaging some of them and getting quite a bit of information from them” he continued. Ronnie has also been using these old boys as resource personnel to verify information posted on the FNA Page. He believes that it is not only critical that we try and garner as much of the historical information as we can put our hands on, but we must also ensure that the information is accurate.

Ronnie continues to be in constant dialogue with a few OBs who have been his resource personnel in verifying the accuracy of the information presented on the FNA page:

· Donovan Davis – former track and field coach – 1962 -1965 and the winning coach of the 1964 and 1965 Penn Relay Teams

  • Jimmy Richards – former Cricket Coach and KC Historian

· Neville Gray (Mussie). Mr. Gray got involved with Photography while at KC in the 1940s and has a wide collection of historical KC photographs that he has been sharing on FNA

  • Warren Chen Shui – KC Historian
  • Stratton Palmer – KC Historian

While these persons were singled-out based on the level of the consultancy, Ronnie mentioned that there are many other old boys who have contributed and verified information.

“The goals of FNA are the collection and restoration of historic photographs, articles and anecdotes with the hope that one day Kingston College will have a space dedicated to an Archive” Ronnie expressed optimistically.

In closing the discussion, Ronnie issued an appeal to all Old Boys and their families “If you have historic photographs or articles on Kingston College, I am imploring you to share them on Fortis Nation Archive or via my email - Help us to maintain the online archive as we continue to hope that a physical space for KC Archive will materialize soon”.

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