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A Brief History of deCarteret College:
, Jamaica

Contributed by Joseph Lyn Kee Chow & Wayne Chen

When the Diocesan College for boys was founded in 1919, Jamaica was a far different place from what it is today. Slavery had been abolished for less than one hundred years; Universal Adult Suffrage was twenty years distant; people were generally well disciplined, education was largely the prerogative of the wealthy; all the senior positions in the civil service, police, and army, were occupied by expatriates. The supreme authority in Jamaica and its dependencies was the Governor, Sir Leslie Probyn, who governed in the name of George V the King- Emperor. The year 1919 also saw the signing of the Treaty of Versailles which ended the First World War. This was the treaty that was supposed to end all future wars, so it was also a time of a time great hope and expectation.

Lord Bishop deCarteret thought this an opportune time to establish a boy's school in Mandeville, for he was persuaded that education should be one of the main thrusts of the church in this new era. The school had a small beginning with fewer than twenty students. This was not unusual, for not many parents could afford to have their children educated at this type of institution. The school was also plagued by a rapid turnover of Headmasters during that period. Despite this, the College was beginning to make a name for itself. Many of its students had gone on to complete their studies at such prominent Jamaican high schools as Munro or Jamaica College. More importantly, some students were successful in the English Common Entrance Exams, and went on to prestigious English public schools.

1930 was an important year in the history of the school. It saw the arrival of a new Headmaster, the Rev. Reginald Morton-York, whose tenure was to stand twenty-three years. Within a year of his becoming Headmaster, the name of the school was changed to deCarteret Preparatory School in honour of its founder on his retirement from the Jamaica Diocese.

The 1930's were difficult times for Jamaica, economically and socially. The Great Depression steadily deepened as the decade progressed. Conditions had become intolerable for many Jamaicans, especially the poor. This eventually led to the riots of 1938, out of which grew the Moyne Commission that examined social conditions. Despite these difficult times, deCarteret continued to make steady progress. It had become one of the leading preparatory schools in Jamaica drawing its support from the pillars of society. A glance through the school's admission register for this period reveals some of the most prominent names amongst the landed gentry, the business community, the professions, civil service, army and police. Overseas students made up a significant percentage of the student body. The reputation of the school was further enhanced when in 1936, Turton Purchas won a scholarship to Weymouth College in Dorset, England. Throughout this period, deCarteret students continued to gain admission to prestigious English public schools.

Form 2B, 1948. Travel to school in England was severely restricted by the war in Europe.

With the onset of World War II, the school seemed to have gained recognition, and numbered among its students, boys from the elite families of the Jamaican society, since the war severely restricted travel to and from England. Amongst them was Fraser Arthur Richard Richards, son of Sir Arthur Richards, the then Governor of Jamaica. He attended the school from May 1941 to July 1943. Indeed, during the war, and in the immediate post-war period the school fully justified its motto 'Aedificamus', for it seemed to be for ever expanding. In the 1940's, a gymnasium was built to the south west of the old school, with funds raised by the students and faculty. This was an invaluable addition since it was later used as a dining room, classroom and external examination room. A chapel was built on the west face of the hill in the early 1950's and dedicated in 1953 by the Lord Bishop of Jamaica, Basil Montague Dale, in the presence of a number of dignitaries and a bevy of clergy.

During the war many former deCarteret old boys volunteered for service in the armed forces. There is a memorial plaque to Stuart Alistar Fredrick Robertson, R.A.F., killed in action 24th March 1941 and another to Donald Basil Westing of the Suffolk Regiment killed in action in Malaya on 8th April, 1951. Even as World War II waged on, Jamaica began its march towards independence. In 1944 a new constitution gave the franchise to all adult Jamaicans. In 1953, the Constitution was amended to accommodate an Executive Council of Ministers nominated by the Governor, on the advice of the Chief Minister, although the Governor retained considerable reserve powers. In 1957 full internal self government was accorded to Jamaica, giving the Council of Ministers full control over all internal affairs. In 1959 the Council of Ministers was replaced by a Cabinet headed by the Premier. The Governor's powers were now restricted to defence and foreign affairs. Full independence came in 1962.

Once the war had ended and travel had become easier the school began to attract even more foreign students. They came from Colombia, Venezuela, The Dutch Antilles, Cuba, Haiti, The Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Bermuda, The Bahamas, Trinidad and even The United States of America. By the time Reverend Morton-York retired in 1953, the reputation of the school was solidly established and was further enhanced through his successor Major George Allen. Up to this time the school did not have a full secondary department, since it was considered to be a feeder school to the well established local high schools, and to the English public schools. Among the students entering in 1952, was Hugh William Dacres O'Connor, son of Sir Kenneth O'Connor, Chief Justice of Jamaica.

By the time the decade of the 1950's was drawing to its close, it became clear that there was a growing need for secondary education in Jamaica. It was obvious that within a few years Jamaica would become an independent nation. The Diocesan Education Board encouraged by the Reverend Michael Meredith, Headmaster from 1957 to 1961, decide to take the bold step of adding a secondary department to the school, offering candidates up to the Higher Schools Certificate standard. Reverend Meredith hoped that the secondary school would draw its students from its already well established prep department. This necessitated a huge building program. Most of the students were boarders, so a completely new school was built on the football field below the old school. The old buildings were now used exclusively as dormitories, staff quarters and chapel. By the efforts of the Diocesan Board, parents and friends of the school, the new school was built in less than one year, and was officially declared open on the 4th of February 1961 by the Rt. Honourable Norman Manley, then Premier of Jamaica, himself the father of an old boy, Douglas Ralph Manley who attended deCarteret from January 1933 to July 1936.

As a consequence of the additional space, enrolment doubled, and continued to grow throughout the decade of the 1960's necessitating further building expansion. Firstly, the covered way or 'Jacobs Ladder' in 1963, which enabled students and teachers to move between the new school and the old school sheltered from the elements. 'Jacobs Ladder' was truly appreciated during the Flora flood rains of October 1963. Secondly, in 1965 a new dormitory block was built above the science laboratories. This new block was declared open by the Governor General, Sir Clifford Campbell in April 1965. Thirdly, in 1967 a new dining room and kitchen was built on vacant lands to the north of the quadrangle, and new staff quarters to the north and east of the new dining room.

The decade of the 1960's was a period of unprecedented and unsurpassed economic growth for Jamaica. There were massive investments in bauxite and alumina, tourism, manufacturing and commerce. In 1966 sugar production topped 500,000 tons. Along with Jamaica, the school prospered during this period. The lower and middle school pupils continued to obtain places in the English public schools; the influx of overseas students continued unabated, among them the nephew of the well known movie star Sydney Poiter.

The Headmaster for the period 1962 to 1964 was Peter Strethill Wright, Esq. When he left deCarteret, the school had fully established itself as one of Jamaica's leading secondary schools. He was succeeded by the Reverend Harold Thomas Gibson Forster, who left under sudden and bizarre circumstances, after just one year. He was succeeded in September 1966 by Everald Barrett, Esq., the first native Jamaican to become Headmaster of deCarteret College. He came to deCarteret after a distinguished career at Cornwall College in Montego Bay. He retired in August 1969, and was succeeded by David Shepherd, Esq., in January 1970. R. E. Sparkes, Esq., affectionately called 'Bop' acted in the interim.

Academically, the school did very well during the decade. Three Jamaica scholarship came to deCarteret between 1960 and 1970; in 1966 to Peter Hanley, who subsequently was awarded the Rhodes Scholarship, in 1969 a special Jamaica Scholarship to David Chinloy due to the fact that he was too young to get the usual Jamaica Scholarship, and in 1970 to John Jay Cunningham. In 1964, Trevor Donovan Jackson became the first Jamaican to obtain nine Ordinary level passes at one sitting. Two years later he again distinguished himself by winning the Jamaica Independence Scholarship. This was truly an excellent performance for so small, and so new a secondary school.

As the decade drew to a close and the school celebrated its Golden Anniversary, it was accorded a very special honour. In March 1969, The Primate of the Anglican Community, Dr. Robert Ramsay, Archbishop of Canterbury, and his wife, paid a visit to the school, and addressed the student bodies and faculties of deCarteret College and Bishop Gibson High School for Girls. The decade of the 1960's was also remarkable in another way. Previously, deCarteret boys had virtually no contact with female students. However in 1962, Bishop's High School for Girls opened its doors for the first time in what was formerly Newleigh Hotel less than a half-mile from deCarteret. Shortly after, an interchange of sixth form students developed between the two schools with mutually beneficial results. Bishop's was to remain deCarteret's sister school for fourteen years.

The early to mid 1070's saw a continuation of the excellent academic tradition. Student and subject passes at the GCE 'O' and 'A' levels continued to be high. 1974, Jamaica's best ever year in terms of performance at the GCE 'O' level exams, saw deCarteret College topping the national averages. This decade would prove to be one in which great changes swept Jamaica. deCarteret was not immune to these changes and there was a shift in the demographics of the school. For the first time in its history, day boys outnumbered boarders. The Preparatory School (or Junior School) which for over fifty years had provided the early education of Jamaica's elite was finally phased out in 1974. Many of deCarteret's staunchest supporters emigrated during this time of social change forcing the school to become grant-aided. The sixth form had to be discontinued in 1976, due to lack of numbers.

With the advent of grant-aided status in 1976. the school admitted its first batch of girls. The transformation was now complete. What had begun as an elite private preparatory school for boys was now a co-educational government secondary school. David Shepherd, Esq., who had overseen most of these changes left in 1975. He is to date the last expatriate Headmaster.


Sports Day c.1979

Woodburn Miller, Esq., the second Jamaican headmaster served from 1975 to 1979. His tenure saw the phasing out of the boarding school and with former dormitory space now available, a doubling of enrolment was achieved. This period also saw the introduction of Home Economics and Agricultural Science to the school's curriculum. Tennis, horseback riding, swimming, rifle shooting and Latin were discontinued. Mr. Miller was elected president of The Jamaica Teachers Association in 1978 and left deCarteret in 1980 to become Principal of Kingston College. Mr. Godfrey Dennis acted as Headmaster from 1979-80 until the arrival of Mr. B. Roy hemmings. With the assistance of the Canadian High Commission Mr. Hemmings was instrumental in establishing the business department. Principles of Business, Office Procedures and Typing were introduced for the first time. When he departed in 1986, history was made as Mrs. Shirley Rowe became the first female to take the helm when she was named acting principal. Errol Levy served as headmaster from January to December 1987. The indomitable Mrs. Rowe was again called in to fill the breach in January 1988, upon Mr. Levy's sudden departure. She acted as Principal until the arrival of Mr. Herbert L. Brown in September 1988.

The co-ed era had its share of successes. Many have excelled and gone to 'A' level success at other schools. Worthy of note are Carol Hamilton (1986-1991) who went to Hampton and topped the 'A' level class of 1993; Telroy Morgan (1985-1990) went to Munro where he led the J.B.C. Schools' Challenge Quiz Team to victory in 1992 and led a group of his classmates on an educational tour to Africa. He is now completing an engineering degree at U.W.I. (St. Augustine) on a Jamaica Flour Mills scholarship; Paula Hanson (1978-1983) after having gone to do 'A' levels at Manchester High School, continued her studying at the U.W.I. where she won a Shell Company Scholarship. Others have excelled in the cadets, cricket, table tennis, track and field, and dance holding the flag of deCarteret high.

Mr. Brown's tenure of six years has been the second longest to date. His term was marked by The Years of Discipline (1991-1992); Diligence (1992-1993); and Excellence (1993-1994). Upon his departure in 1994 he is due to be succeeded by Miss Angela Walker (acting).

Edited and designed by Karl Mair on behalf of the Management of deCarteret College - May 1998.