July 2023 Volume 19


Professor Stephen Vasciannie
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Fifty-two years ago, the front gate of KC's Melbourne Park Campus at 13 Upper Elletson Road carried the metallic carvings of two cricketers batting in full flow.

On the first morning of school on September 6, 1971, about 200 boys, many duly candy-bumped and with anxious hearts, passed these cricketing figures, with some probably noting that Melbourne Park's “little KC” for First and Second formers was a cricket club up to the early 1960s or so.


By some means of osmosis, the anxious First Formers were guided to congregate at what we perceived to be the front of the school. To our left was the Isaac Henry Rifle Range (long removed and replaced by a large block of classrooms), while to the right in the distance were the large wooden Pavilion used for morning assembly, and farther on, the old Staff Room. Behind us were the sports field and a closed off short cut between KC and Blake's Preparatory School. We gathered then on the front part of what is known today as the Byron Bachelor Track.

Byron Bachelor himself may have been in that September 1971 gathering. Others, among the bespectacled young intellectuals present were Howard Walters, Maurice Matthie, Colin Gabay, Patrick Aldred, Oliver Smith and David Jones (son of one of KC's finest teachers ever, Eugene Pat “Wyatt Earp” Jones).

Other budding intellectuals on the front lawn included, among numerous others, Orville Beckford, Joseph McKinson, George Dallas, Donald Jones, Charlton Collie, Rodney Edwards, Gordon Brown, Kingsley “Screechy” Mitchell, Norris Bruce, Fitzroy Cole, Michael Marsden, Michael McGhee, Wayne Linton, Delroy Murdock, Paul Burke and Bernard Jankee.

The boys gathered were from all over the Kingston Metropolitan Area, then called the “Corporate Area”: Harbour View, Spanish Town, Rollington Town, Waterhouse, Southside, Havendale, Red Hills Road, Molynes, Tivoli, Jones Town, Mountain View, Stony Hill, Half-Way Tree, Bull Bay, all over.

In the early days, students were subject to detention for lateness, but this rule was not applied to boys from Spanish Town on grounds of distance. Vice Principal Carlton Bruce (more anon) also applied the Spanish Town exemption to Waterhouse for years, until someone told Mr. Bruce, contra preferentum , that Waterhouse was not beyond the Cremo Factory – and definitely not a part of Spanish Town.

Primary School

On the first morning, some of the boys may have gathered according to connections from primary and preparatory schools. This short listing may have inaccuracies arising from the effluxion of time. Bruce Polson and Delano Franklin knew each other from Norman Gardens Primary; Dwight McKoy, Courtney Chung, Christopher Edwards, Maurice Spauldings, Richard DeLisser, Gordon Taylor and Deryck Roberts had roots in Harbour View Primary; Oliver Smith, Keith Hanson, Delroy Blissett, Donald Grant, and Lloyd Wynter were among those from Rousseau Primary; Phillip Matthews and Michael Roach were from Rollington Town Primary; Holy Childhood Prep entrants included Sydney Wellington, Michael Chin, Douglas Fidler, and Eric DePass; the St. Richards' crew included Ronald Steven “Stumbo” Hylton, Garfield Hall, Fitzroy Walker, Richie Dyche, and the present writer; Noel DoHarris, Michael Riley and Dudley Knight were among those from Pembroke Hall Primary; the list from Shortwood Practising included Ray Stafford and Winston Graham; Central Branch offered, among others, Karl “KP” Francis, and Richard Robinson; the gentlemen from Mountain View Primary included, inter alia, Marcus Williams, Douglas McKenzie, Michael Davis, Raymond Jones and Solomon Pinnock; and the Providence Primary boys who may also have gathered on the first morning included, again among others, Peter Smith, Dwight Decicieo, John Campbell and Larry Chambers.

Bair, Henry, McDonald

Again, by some means of osmosis it seems, the first day boys found their respective classrooms. KC, at the time, practiced – somewhat inconsistently -- a form of streaming that is no longer justifiable today in light of modern approaches to teaching and learning. In any case, we came to know the boys in our stream best, and shared experiences with the teachers in our stream. Mr. J. Bair was both authoritative and socially conscious. On the first day of his Geography class with us – we were to be doing “Symbols Used on Maps” – Mr. Bair thundered against the Jamaican practice of household, domestic employment, maintaining that this was unquestionably a negative part of our legacy of slavery. He also showed thoughtful awareness of challenges faced by adolescent boys and insisted that young men must be responsible and dignified. On the other hand, he could burst into anger and was not averse to cutting remarks: “You could not have attended School X!”

In our first term, my stream had Mr. H. Henry for Mathematics – Henry Henry, I wondered. Mr. Henry was a young temporary stand-in for Mr. E.B. McDonald. Despite his youth, or perhaps because of it, Mr. Henry inspired order, discipline and Mathematical expertise without ever lifting his voice. He was instinctively professional, and knew when to leave students to figure out Maths problems on their own. My only difference of opinion with Mr. Henry was intellectual with a small “i”: I named a straight line SV and he took off a mark, saying that the proper name was AB, XY or some other consecutive combination of letters. After 50 years, “I and I still want I mark”.

Mr. McDonald, the legendary Mathematician of Melbourne, came back from leave in January 1972. Second only to retiring Principal Douglas Forrest, Mr. McDonald was the longest serving teacher at school with over 35 years' service under his belt. Mr. McDonald, with his soft-spoken style, weaved his magic about complementary and supplementary angles, indices and simple interest, all the time intoning “I am pleased, I am happy, I am delighted”, when we got his more difficult “sums” right. Mr. McDonald was an egalitarian in his treatment of students, though he may have taken a certain pride in the fact that he had taught Dwight Decicieo's father and was in 1972 now teaching the son.

Urquhart and Douglas

Mrs. B. Urquhart and Ms. Helen Douglas were two other star teachers at Melbourne. They both went on to serve as Vice Principals at KC (why not Principals, one may well ask), but in1971 they were among the lead teachers of English and French, respectively. Mrs. Urquhart was especially determined that we should flourish, bearing in mind the opportunities that had been placed before us. She taught English Language and Literature with a discerning eye; and she was a famously tough marker who stimulated some of her students to express themselves with humour and precision.

Ms. Douglas faced the challenge of teaching French to insular Jamaican boys with elan. She offered individual attention to everyone, motivated her class with songs in French, and crossword puzzles, marked assignments with superhuman speed, and showed acute understanding of adolescent thought processes. Ms. Douglas, from 1971, and earlier, was exceptionally active, organizing numerous extracurricular functions for the enjoyment of all.

Thompson and Baker

Two other First Form teachers of note were Mr. Walt Thompson for General Science (“How coal was made” and other existential matters) and Mr. John Baker who took us around “the Fertile Crescent” in Bible Knowledge. Mr. Thompson had been for many years a primary school senior teacher or head teacher, and although he was in his retirement years chronologically, he retained a gentle sense of humour and demonstrated effective teaching skills. He had a powerful memory and insisted to the mischievous that he had eyes in the back of his head.

Mr. Baker – tall, sandal-wearing and inclined to “smoke” his chalk in class – was humorously eccentric. If he wanted us to pull up our metaphorical socks, he would put his feet on the teachers' table and pull up his socks literally. He was an avid reader of the Jamaica Daily News and loved words such as “exigencies” and names such as “Antiochus Epiphanes”. On one occasion, he made a special appearance with his wife on a quiz programme about classical music hosted by Barry Davis on the then JBC TV: our First Form BK teacher was a sophisticated star that day, one recalls with pleasure.

Carlton Bruce

Then, there was Mr. Carlton I. Bruce, the aforementioned Vice Principal who was in charge of Melbourne Park. “Bruce's Cane Juice” has the potential even today to stimulate controversy among First Formers from September 1971. In that debate, the criticism is well-placed, in my opinion. That said, I hasten to add that Mr. Bruce devoted his life to the upliftment of generations of KC boys, and he did so with efficiency, judgment and concern for the welfare of all students.

Beneath his apparently strict demeanour, Mr. Bruce could take and give a joke, as was evident in our First Form year when there was a rumour that two teachers were fighting for Mr. Bruce and that one had scratched his face. “Look at my handsome, smooth face”, the Vice Principal declared at our morning assembly. “Not a scratch, not a touch! Go and spread the word”. He was also a motivator, reminding First Formers about the successes of older boys such as Carlos Escoffery, Michael Fitz-Henley, Patrick Dallas, Clinton Watson and Cedric Lazarus, and extolling the virtues of his overperforming Form 2C. And if you had an accident at school, Mr. Bruce would be the first to offer direct, hands-on assistance.


Finally, a word on sports. In 1971, KC was the leading school at Boys Champs by a far margin and was in the running for supremacy in the Manning Cup, Sunlight Cup Cricket, Kelall Cup Table Tennis, Simpson Shield Swimming. Perhaps only the lawn tennis trophies were a little out of reach, but Garfield Hall and colleagues would eventually address that issue, So, KC was the top sports school in Jamaica, and this prowess served as a magnet for many boys gathered at Melbourne in September 1971.

Soon enough we would see First Formers on the football field. Noel Rhudd, Joey Strachan (also a good cricketer), Joseph McKinson, Robert Rodney, Carl “Daddy” Grant, Norris Bruce, Wayne Hinds and Richie Dyche were among those who stood out from early days. And in cricket, Peter Smith, John Murdock, Delano Franklin and “Dicko” Dixon stood out as pace bowlers. Douglas McKenzie was a good all round sportsman, Phillip Miller ran at Champs 1972 in Class IV and Glen Brown was a sprinter of promise. In table tennis, Winston Bryan was the leading player outside the world of the one-love chip.

KC helped to open up the world for us on that September morning

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