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The Rt. Rev. Bishop George Frederick Cecil deCarteret

Contributed by Joseph Lyn Kee Chow & Dorrett Smith

 

George Frederick Cecil deCarteret was born in England in 1866, the third and last child of Mr. and Mrs. Givelle deCarteret. He was a frail and sickly child and took little or no part in sports, games, or other outdoor activities. He was, however, an excellent scholar. He gained his B.A. in 1889, his M.A. from Wadham College, Oxford in 1892, and finally his D.D. in 1913. He had long decided on a career in the church, for he was ordained deacon in 1889, and priest in 1890. Between 1892 and 1913 he served in the parishes of Tulse Hill: Cheltenham, St. Paul's Church: Southwark, and finally Christ Church: East Greenwich, London. His obvious talent and potential did not pass unnoticed. Twice he declined consecration to the Episcopacy, preferring to remain with his parishioners who were devoted to him.

By 1912, the Anglican Church in Jamaica was facing serious challenges. Archbishop Enos Nuttall, up to then probably Jamaica's best known cleric (having represented Jamaica at the Coronation of King George V in 1910), was failing in health and requested an assistant. deCarteret consented to consecration to the Episcopacy, and was unanimously elected at a special Synod in July, 1913. He arrived in Jamaica on November 7, 1913. He was specially chosen for his task, being still a relatively young man who could revitalize the church. deCarteret immediately took this challenge - constantly preaching, dedicating new buildings, and taking 123 confirmations in 1914. In 1915 he accomplished a truly astonishing feat by visiting every church and mission in Jamaica, despite the poor road conditions. When Archbishop Nuttall died in May 1916, deCarteret was unanimously elected Lord Bishop of Jamaica, in August of the same year. His election was duly confirmed by the Bishops of the Province of the West Indies, again unanimously. He was enthroned as the Sixth Lord Bishop of Jamaica at St. James' Cathedral, Spanish Town, on December 14, 1916.

He at once began to draw attention to his main areas of concern - education, and social issues and problems. He was not afraid to criticize even the church herself. He constantly urged the government to provide adequate and affordable housing and to inaugurate industries for the general betterment of the island. Bishop deCarteret also constantly pleaded for better wages and working conditions to rescue women in the wage-earning class who were being forced by poverty to sacrifice their innocence to lustful and unprincipled men. He attacked the state lottery in 1926 saying that it was socially, morally and economically shameful. The new Lord Bishop was a firm believer in family values and was constantly waging a crusade against illegitimacy and concubinage. True to his Victorian heritage and upbringing he was against Sunday pleasures, since he considered that they profaned the Holy Day. He was strong in temperance on food and drink and formed a Social Purity Association as a means of promoting higher moral standards.

At this time, if a clergyman did not remit sufficient funds to the church office, only two-thirds of the clergyman's stipend was paid. Showing his sense of justice, Lord Bishop deCarteret called for the suspension of this canon, and stipulated a minimum stipend for each, thereby easing the lot of the clergyman. He even continued to say that if the church did not enlighten and reform itself, it would become useless. He noted advances in scientific inventions, education and religious investigations. To illustrate this, in 1925, he quoted the following verse from an English poet.

"Outwardly splendid as of old,
Inwardly sparkless void and cold,
Her force and fire all spent and gone
Like the dead moon she still shines on."

His other consuming passion, education, was without doubt the area in which he concentrated his greatest effort. He believed sincerely that the church should give as much support as possible to this cause. Soon after his arrival in Jamaica, despite his already busy schedule, he began lecturing at the Theological College. When he became Bishop, he advocated that the church should retain those elementary schools it still possessed, since the church had gradually been giving up control of church schools to government. He served on many boards concerning education:

1. Member of the Board of Education
2. Chairman of the Board of Directors of Mico Training College
3. Chairman of the Jamaica School Commission
(This Commission served as the Board of Management of Jamaica College and Cornwall College)
4. Member of the Board of Governors of Shortwood Training College
5. Chairman of the General Committee of the Jamaican Theological College.

He insisted that the church could do more for education, so despite great opposition at Synod he proceeded to establish St. Hilda's Diocesan High School for girls in Browns Town, St. Ann. For years afterwards this move was still being criticized at Synod by some of its less enlightened members. In 1918 he informed Synod that in the following year he would be establishing a Diocesan College for boys in Mandeville, Manchester; having secured premises and necessary pledges for the new school. Later in 1931, to honour him on his resignation from the Jamaica Diocese, the name 'Diocesan College' was changed to deCarteret Preparatory School. Finally, from his own private funds, he proceeded to establish Kingston College. In 1960, deCarteret Preparatory School was extended to become a high school and was called deCarteret College. No other person in the history of education in Jamaica has been as instrumental in establishing so many institutions of learning.

Bishop deCarteret retired from Jamaica in 1931, hoping to do missionary work in Canada. On his arrival in Canada he fell ill, and was forced to return to England. When he died, in January 1932, greatly lamented by all who knew him, not least by his many friends in Jamaica, a moving memorial service was held in the Kingston Parish Church. deCarteret College which celebrated its 75th anniversary in October 1994, is probably his most lasting memorial in Jamaica.


Edited by Karl Mair on behalf of the Management of deCarteret College, May 1998.

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