November 2021 Volume 17

Bredrin’ Notes: Dr Patrick Dallas 1969—1976

Stephen Vasciannie
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Vice Principal Carlton Bruce – sometimes feared, always respected – entered our First Form class in the room which may once have been a two-car garage. He urged us to resume our seats quickly, apologized for interrupting our afternoon lesson, and turned efficiently to the business at hand.

Mr. Bruce was with us to discuss our first monthly report about class performance at KC. Generally, he seemed unimpressed with our group, for he warned us at least twice not to be “mediocre”. But, as a means of inspiration, he told us about a student a few years ahead of us – a big bredrin’ to the aspiring youths of Melbourne Park.

St. Elizabethan

This student, Mr. Bruce explained, had come to KC from St. Elizabeth with average marks, but had soon established himself as a star performer taking a top position in the top third form. This student was to be our “role model”. This student was Patrick Dallas.

In the wild west of old, Mr. Bruce’s well-intentioned comments would probably have made the academic leader a target – as adversaries would seek to topple him from his perch by fair means or foul. This, though, was not the case with Patrick Dallas. Instead, he became a guide, leader and friend to many students.

Patrick – as a teenager -- was a serious man with a ready, sincere smile. In the early years, he reportedly carried around an exercise book with French vocabulary largely unfamiliar to others, to supplement the substantial lists of French words offered by the dynamic Helen Douglas. And when a French choir scheduled to perform at the 1973 School Prize-Giving needed help, Patrick was among the group of Fifth Formers brought in by Head of Department Mary Buzzard to add proper pronunciation to “ Tout Va Très Bien, Tout Va Très Bien!”

Along the way at North Street, Patrick also excelled in literary matters. He played the alcoholic Porter in a KC performance of Shakespeare’s Macbeth” with memorable humour, was active in the book club organized by Peter Maxwell, and followed the poetry of John Keatset al with special intensity: Keats’The Eve of St. Agnes and Thomas Gray’s Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard were undoubtedly among his favorites, and probably still are. But, notwithstanding his literary inclinations, he was a practical student, not given to the construction of castles in Spain – if I may borrow a Chaucerian phrase that Patrick once offered up in a KC School magazine in the old days.

Sportsman

No mere bookworm was he. Parick’s skills in cricket and table tennis would easily have landed him a place on the first teams of most secondary schools. In the former sport, he was quite merciless with deliveries outside the off stump, though the contemporary critics – possibly including Melbourne Park sportsmaster/coach Keith Plummer – may have preferred to see more confidence in the promising batsman’s treatment of the well-pitched inswinger cutting back into the pads. In table tennis, Patrick was equally adept with backhand flicks and forehand loop drives.

But look now: this was KC sports in the early 1970s. To make the cricket team you could be vying with soon-to-be West Indian fireman Michael Holding and in table tennis, national representatives Richard Stephenson and Dennis Duncan! In the circumstances, Patrick opted to excel among the spectators in the stands, giving energetic “Fortis Caderes” in favour of the school’s prowess.

Academic Distinction

At the end of his Fifth Form journey, Patrick Dallas convincingly delivered on Mr. Bruce’s implied promise. In the Cambridge “O” Level appointment with the examiners – in the manner of a lion in Zion – he captured 9 subjects, with 5 distinctions. The KC performance orchestra came out with trumpets in support of Patrick and his other high-performing colleagues who had shared in the dedicated effort towards academic success.

In his Upper Sixth Form year, Patrick was a member of the KC Schools’ Challenge Quiz team under the guidance of coach Frances Coke. The team, which was captained by Barrington Salmon, reached the semi-finals of the national competition falling by 4 points to Manchester High.

On the team, Patrick shouldered primary responsibility for the Sciences – Maths, Phys, Chem. -- and French; but given his wide-ranging inclinations, no one was surprised that he knew about “coal carriers” going on strike in St. Lucia in the 1930s: see also Frances-Marie Coke, The Spirit of Clovelly Park (2020), at p. 246. Mrs Coke also recalls that Dallas was responsible for maintaining the quiz buzzers and kept quiz sessions lively with his puns and his infectious sense of humour: ibid., p. 242.

To the World

It so happens that departure from high school – and especially a demanding high school – may mark the end of an outstanding academic career, as the school casts too long a shadow. Not so with Patrick. After leaving KC, this Fortis brother took up a Hungarian Government Scholarship to pursue Chemical Engineering in Veszprém.

In Hungary, the Jamaican contingent included, among others, Patrick’s classmate and friend from First Form Cedric Lazarus and Leon “Maggie” Brown, also from the College. Armed with a Masters degree in Process Controls & Systems Engineering from Hungary, completed in the Hungarian language, Patrick successfully tackled the doctorate in Control Engineering at the University of Bradford, England. He captured a British Overseas Research Award and a prestigious Commonwealth Scholarship to complete his university studies in the land of Keats and Geoff Boycott. At the University of Bradford, Patrick was president of the Afro-Caribbean Society and a very active member of the anti-apartheid movement, while also representing the university in both cricket and table tennis. He also played in the highly rated Bradford League, following in the footsteps of the great Sir Learie Constantine to turn out for Saltaire Cricket Club.

Dr Dallas, the engineer, has made a pronounced mark on Jamaican society. Among other things, he has advised ministers of government on questions relating to Information & Communications Technology, software engineering, telecommunications, mining and energy, has served on various boards in his fields of expertise, has been President of the Jamaica Computer Society, and has assisted universities in structuring advanced courses of study in Information & Communications Technology, science and engineering. In addition, he has served as Chairman of the St. Elizabeth Homecoming Foundation and has, of course, been President of the Jamaican Chapter of the KC Old Boys Association.

Family

Patrick’s commitment to his family and close friends has been an enduring characteristic of his life. His late, much-loved mother was the rock on which his numerous achievements has been constructed, but his extended circle of other family members has benefited from, and nourished Patrick’s generosity, thoughtfulness and joie de vivre. The KC Quiz community has also been a key part of Patrick’s extended province, as too has been his link to West Indies cricket across the years.

Long may this KC Bredrin’ prevail in his activities. He has flourished from St. Elizabeth to Melbourne Park and Clovelly; from Vineyard Town to Veszprem; from Bratislava to Bradford; and he has done it with style. Carlton Bruce had picked a winner indeed.

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