Dr L Clarke: Interesting QC Facts
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.