KC founder has two birthdays
Bishop Percival William Gibson was a trailblazing founding father of pre-independent Jamaica. Many Jamaicans are very familiar with the annual Gibson Relays held at the National Stadium in his honour. But the relays are a small part of the mosaic of accomplishment that defines the man who became the first black Jamaican to be enthroned Anglican Bishop of Jamaica, and who also founded Kingston College, where he was founding principal for many years.
The firebrand preacher also founded Glenmuir High School, Bishop Gibson High, and he played a role in the creation of numerous other educational institutions across Jamaica.
Last Tuesday, several social media posts celebrated the 127th birthday of this clerical, educational and civic icon, a straight-A graduate of St George’s College. His birthdate is widely considered to be September 15, 1893. His Jamaican birth certificate supports this notion, stating that Gibson was born in Cavaliers, St Andrew, on that day. And noted University of the West Indies historian Patrick E. Bryan, in an article on Gibson published by the Oxford University Press, also shares this view.
But the tombstone of Bishop Gibson, photographed by this writer a few years ago in the St Andrew Parish Church Cemetery, tells an entirely different story. The headstone, located nearby the grave of another trailblazer, Sir Clifford Campbell (the first Jamaica-born governor general of the island), states Gibson’s birthdate as August 26, 1893.
One presumes that the information on the tombstone, including a line of scripture engraved therein, would have been shaped by contemporaries of the bishop, including Bishop Cyril Swaby, who succeeded him as Anglican Bishop of Jamaica, and Bishop J.C. Clarke, the then Suffragan Bishop of Kingston.
It is unclear how this discrepancy came about. Wikipedia, in various entries on Bishop Gibson, mentions both the August 26 and September 15 birthdays. Both dates keep the bishop safely templed in the Virgo zodiac sign.
Whatever his real birthday may be, it doesn’t change the powerful character of the Jamaican pioneer who has been described by a former church member in Washington, DC, as “principled, erudite and visionary”.
“Gibson was short in stature but his presence loomed large in the pulpit, especially relating to issues of equality and social justice,” the Anglican and graduate of Codrington Theological College in Barbados told The Sunday Gleaner.