Celebrating the Centenary of Jamaica’s Calabar High (Part III)

The climb to the top

Between the opening of the school in 1912 and the resignation of the founding headmaster, Ernest Price, in 1937, Calabar climbed to the top of the high-school fraternity. During this 25-year period, the school consolidated its reputation for academic excellence and establishes a major presence in interschool sports’ competitions. The school population increased from 29 to 170, and in the student body, “13 different countries were represented, from places like Cuba, Haiti, Grand Cayman, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Grand Turk, Nigeria … Britain and Australia” (Beryl Russell).

For Country and Community

In 1914, two years after the opening of the school, World War I began, and James Hylton and Harold Darby, both in their late teens, were the first two Calabar old boys to enlist.

The arrival of M.E.W. Sawyers in 1930 as minister of the neighbouring Baptist church brought new life to the Jones Pen community. Calabar boys became increasingly involved in the church’s outreach programmes, which included the Young People’s Fellowship, the Men’s Movement, the Christian Endeavour Society and the Boys’ Brigade.

In this period, the old boys also began demonstrating the difference that Calabar graduates would make by breaking with the elitism associated with high school education and placing their scholarship and leadership abilities at the service of the wider community.

The leadership qualities which Calabar nurtured were reflected in the appointment of two old boys, Philip Sherlock (Manchester High) and K.D. Carnegie (Beckford and Smith), as headmasters of high schools before their 30th birthdays.

In the field of medicine, the Calabar graduates who became doctors for the most part established their practices in rural Jamaican towns and integrated themselves with the communities they served. Isaac Aarons (Montego Bay), Alfred Carnegie (Savanna-la-Mar), Gervaise Harry (Port Maria), Aldwyn Stephenson (Anchovy) and Vincent Robb (Spaldings) all became household names in their respective communities. Vernon Anderson went to British Honduras, where he pioneered the country’s public health system before returning to Jamaicain 1949. John Henry Miller combined the profession of medicine with pen-keeping.

Other graduates of this period pursued other professions with equal success. Ivan Eccleston began his working career in the courts, became the first Calabar boy to be appointed a resident magistrate, and ended his career as a judge of the Court of Appeal. Charles Randall chose law, became a solicitor and a partner in the firm of Judah & Randall. K.D. Carnegie remained in the field of education until 1943, adding a BA (Hons) and MA (Lon) to his résumé. That year, he transferred his enormous abilities to the work of the Anglican Church and became one of Jamaica’s most eminent theologians.

Three of the four Webster boys who graduated from Calabar in the 1920s joined the family business and helped to build Webster’s & Sons, one of the largest commercial conglomerates in the capital city, and all made time for community work. Paul Geddes, a graduate of the 1920s, reflected in later life that Calabar encouraged his enthusiasm for practical and vocational pursuits, which contributed to his success as a brewer of distinction at Desnoes & Geddes, where he was associated with the launch of the world-famous Red Stripe beer. Other early graduates who made their mark in business included H.D. Hopwood in manufacturing and commerce, and Lascelles Panton in public transportation.

Establishing the Tradition of Academic Excellence

The fourth Webster brother, George Evelyn Eden, brought Calabar its first major academic award in 1924 by winning the Rhodes scholarship. In 1929, after graduating from Oxford, he became the first Jamaican to qualify for the prestigious Indian civil service. That year, when the London Times published the list of successful candidates with their schools and colleges appended, alongside “Rugby, Eaton, Harrow and other equally famous British public schools, the name Calabar High School in Jamaica appeared” (Price).

The headmaster, Earnest Price, enrolled his three sons at Calabar, and all three would distinguish themselves academically. The first, Ernest, won the Jamaica Scholarship in 1925. After completing his Senior Cambridge at Calabar, he was transferred to Wolmer’s, where the facilities for teaching higher-school science were better. Two years later, the second son, Neville, won the £80 Scholarship, and in 1931, the third son, Bernard, became the second Price to win the Jamaica Scholarship.

The year before, Alfred Carnegie had realised his immense academic potential by winning the Jamaica Scholarship and he would go on to win the gold medalin clinical medicine and surgery at Edinburgh University. Egerton Richardson was equally gifted and was a favourite for the Jamaica Scholarship in 1931 after placing first in the Cambridge School Certificate Examinations in 1929. Unfortunately, he left school that year to take a teaching job in order to supplement the family income. The pattern of academic excellence continued with Harvey DaCosta, crowning a brilliant all-round school career by winning the £80 Scholarship in 1933.

As Calabar climbed to the top of the high-school fraternity, the school’s growing reputation for discipline, Christian values, academic proficiency and athletic prowess made it the boys’ school of choice.

Arnold Bertram is a Calabar old boy who served in both Houses of Parliament and held a range of portfolios as a cabinet minister. He is an historian currently writing ‘A History of Calabar High School’, to be published as part of the school’s centenary celebrations. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and redev.atb@gmail.com.

For the original report go to http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20111010/news/news3.html

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s