Dr L Clarke: Interesting QC Facts

Date Published: 
Stabroek News
Stabroek Staff

One of the lesser known facts about Queen's College, was appropriately disclosed yesterday, Emancipation Day, by Dr Lawrence Clarke an Old Boy of the School and author of "Queen's College ­Records of a Tradition of Excellence: 1844 ­1994".

Speaking at the launching of the book and the opening of an ex­hibition at Queen's College, Dr Clarke said that part of the funding to put up the first building, in 1851, which housed the school in Brickdam was obtained from the out­standing balance of the slave compensation, fund. This he described as "a uniquely Guyanese contribution"

Also that from 1923 to 1938, the village of Buxton sponsored a scholarship, tenable at Queen's. The scholar­ship was funded by dona­tions from the villagers and facilitated atten­dance at the school by an outstanding son of the village, who had not won a county scholarship but had successfully written a qualifying test. Dr Clarke said one of the first winners was BBG Nehaul who was later to become a medical practitioner.

He suggested that there should be a return to this tradition by other donors, whose contribu­tions could then be ap­propriately commemorated.

Commenting on the achievements of the School, Clarke said the graduates of the school between 1910-1930 were the most rounded personalities turned out by the school - brilliant academics and at the same time outstanding athletes.

Those from 1844-1876 formed the back­bone of the indigenous public service and those from the years between 1880-1910, including the legendary Edgar Mortimer Duke, were to become the first group of indigenous professionals whose academic strengths were phenomenal.

The graduates during the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, who included LFS Burnham, Cheddi Jagan and Walter Rodney, provided the politicians that were to become the backbone of the struggle against colonialism.

But Dr Clarke noted that the graduates after this time were uni-dimen­sional, with conditions at the school contributing to the loss of that dimen­sion which had given the school its strength. This, he observed, might have led to the attempts at tampering with the con­cept of excellence.

He said that in writing the book, a task which stretched over nine years, he was struck by the number of Guyana scholars produced by the School who had burnt out and suggested a sociological study to determine whether, in the light of the pressure of competition and the drive for success, the School had prepared its students "to live as balanced citizens once the school years were over".

Dr Clarke said such a study would indicate whether or not any inor­dinate damage had been done, particularly emo­tional damage.

He remarked that one of the motivating factors which led to the writing of the book was what he described as attempts from as far back as thir­teen years ago to consign the School to the dustbin of history. Dr Clarke said that it was his deter­mination that this should not happen.

He recalled being home on holiday in the early 1980s when there was talk of the need for a "School of Excellence", and his concern that QC was not being viewed in that light. A visit to the Principal's Office, during this period, revealed that valuable records about the School's development and evolution were water-soaked and left un­tended without regard to their historical impor­tance to the School and the nation. This prompted action and strengthened his motiva­tion.

Dr Clarke noted that the initial pain of the ap­parent rejection of his alma mater was reawakened by a visit, last week, to President's College, School of Ex­cellence, nestled aback a placid village on the East Coast, which brought to mind the words of an editorial from an issue of the Queen's College magazine of 1940s when the then editor called for the School to be relo­cated to such a setting.

He also urged that the importance of historical records be recognised, reversing the existing trends not only here but reportedly at QC's sister schools in Barbados, (Harrison College), and in Trinidad and Tobago (Queen's Royal Col­lege). Queen's College is no school if it could not tell who the Heads of its Houses were in a certain year or who were the winners of middle school scholarships in another.

Dr Clarke's book is among a number of pub­lications by QC old stu­dents at an exhibition which was declared open by Lawrence Muss, President of the Canadian Chapter of the School's Old Students Association. The Exhibition mounted in the School cafeteria area consists of old photographs, report cards, paintings and other works by students of the school over the years.