Devon Dick | CBar Arthur Edgar as Dreadgar
Arthur Edgar, former principal of Calabar High School, recently published his autobiography, My Story, which reflects on his 80 years. Prominent among the highlights of his life was his eight years at Calabar. Edgar and I entered Calabar the same year, 1972, he as headmaster and I as student.
Edgar had previously been principal of William Knibb High School, before going to another Baptist school, Calabar. In reflecting on his time, he said that at his appearance 'students melted away' (page 91). No wonder we nicknamed him 'Dreadgar'. I remember being caned by 'Dreadgar' because I 'skull' class and was either watching or playing table tennis.
This work is Edgar's personal recollections, and as he admitted, 'my memories may not coincide with those of my siblings, wife and children' (page 5). He failed to mention that his recollections might not coincide with his students. Take, for example, his recalling the earthquake at Calabar. He said the earthquake struck and it was felt on the third storey of the building. He said after the first quake, the boys all ran and went into the courtyard leaving only three persons in the room. Those were Burchell Taylor, pastor of Bethel Baptist Church and Edgar's brother-in-law; a blind student and himself. I remember the earthquake, but I cannot recall going into the courtyard. In addition, he was the first Christian I heard harmonise the Creation story in the Bible and evolution.
During Edgar's time at Calabar, the football team, which was captained by Atkinson and had defenders such as Michael McPherson, won the Manning Cup. In addition, it was during this period that Calabar ended Kingston College's reign after 14 consecutive victories at the annual Boys' Championships, due to the astute coaching of Olympian Herb McKenley.
GOLDEN ERA OF CALABAR
Calabar produced outstanding athletes such as Richard 'Bionic Man' Wilson. The victories in Manning Cup and Boys' Championships revived school spirit and the decade of the 1970s is seen as the golden era of Calabar. Furthermore, Calabar excelled in academics, with student Gooden receiving a prestigious scholarship, and in 1976, classmate Christopher McClure passed five GCE O'Level subjects while in fourth form. This was a big achievement.
When Edgar resigned from Calabar, he left in faith, not sure what would be the next move. He served as executive director of Caribbean Christian Publications, which produced Sunday school material for the Caribbean region. The Sunday school material was more relevant to our context and were written by Caribbean people mainly. It was during that time I realised that there was another side to 'Dreadgar'. I experienced his hospitality as he and his wife, Linett, allowed me to stay in their home in Florida while I wrote Sunday school material. They went the extra mile in making one feel comfortable and it was no principal-pupil relationship.
We were later to become colleagues when Edgar was ordained to the Christian ministry as a minister of the gospel within the Jamaica Baptist Union (JBU). Paradoxically, he did the Bible Study during the Annual Assembly of the JBU under the topic of 'Living by Faith'. It was an excellent presentation and it was a testimony of his life story which is observed throughout his book.
In this book, Edgar weaves the history of the country with his story. He helps readers to understand 1936, the year when he was born. According to Edgar, in 1936 there was 'no television, microwave ovens, mobile or smartphones, computers, jet planes, compact discs (CDs) or DVDs, ball point pens, zippers ... .' How did people manage in those days?
Edgar's story will resonate not only with the people in Jamaica but with the majority of the diaspora.
- Rev Devon Dick is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew. He is author of 'The Cross and the Machete', and 'Rebellion to Riot'. Send feedback to columns@ gleanerjm.com.