100 year old book
100 years in a minute
At 156 years old, The Hampton School has a very rich and interesting history. It's one of the oldest all-girls schools in the island, and Outlook got its hands on one of its treasures - a 100-year-old book that contains the minutes of meetings of The Munro & Dickenson's Trust, which still runs The Hampton School and Munro College.
Like some sort of undercover nerd, I was beaming with excitement when I heard that the book existed. And it wasn't even in the school's St Elizabeth home, but in Kingston, a relative stone's throw from my office. Former Hamptonite Hope McMillan-Canaan, public and corporate affairs manager, Scotiabank, had procured the book from the institution for a project she was working on, and once I heard about it, I had to see it and touch it for myself.
True beauty really is in the eyes of the beholder, and to me, this book was a beauty. At first glance, it seemed like nothing spectacular. It's large with a light blue cover. In the middle, it had a simple note in typeface - Minute Munro & Dickenson's Trust. Com ... 8 January 1913. Fin ... 28 April 1937, indicating the years the minutes inside covered. The book is large and heavy, its physical weight perhaps exceeded by the weight of information contained within its pages.
It smelt great. Book lovers will know what I'm talking about. Not musky, just mature. Its pages stiffened by age, they are full of poise, like a classy woman. And like a woman who embraces her age, she wears her wrinkles with pride. Over the century, bookworms have feasted on the pages and left their marks - irregular tunnels that lead nowhere, in no discerning pattern. The penmanship was impeccable and some of it only slightly legible because of fading ink.
According to current principal and former Hamptonite, Heather Murray, the book is one of two that the school has and is among the treasure trove she uncovered when she took over the reins of the high school. "I came back to Hampton and found many things, including a 1914 Hamptonia magazine. We even have a 150-year-old Bible."
In 2008, to celebrate the institution's 150th anniversary, the school created their own museum. Some old girls submitted their report cards and among the artefacts found in drawers was a painting received from a New Zealand visitor to the institution decades ago.
After the museum came the museum club, which is like a historical society. The club is maintaining and adding to its current collection with the hope of documenting not only The Hampton School's story, but St Elizabeth's story. Murray's musings were laced with laughter as she recalled some of the matters discussed and noted in the minutes. "I have looked through them (minutes) and they have stories of when we were buying wood before we had electricity. Not many people place a value on that. It anchors the school in the past. That's fascinating and not many of the girls know it."
Her dream is to preserve it so that current and future students will know. "I hope they (students) will learn their history, but not only learn their history, but see that they have a deep history and connect it to what others have done and what they need to do."
Here are some of the most interesting entries we came across:
p July 9, 1913
The trustee directed that the secretary address the parents of Gladys Reid and Camille Levy informing them that, unless their children mend their general conduct during the year ending the 31 Dec, 1913, the trustee will consider the possibility of depriving these girls of their scholarships.
p Mr Reid's letter
The trustee considered Mr. Reid's letter as undesirable and directed the secretary to inform that gentleman that if he is not satisfied with the treatment of his daughter at Hampton, the trustee will not offer any obstacle to his removal of her from school.
Re letter from the Jamaica Schools commission saying that the Government is not prepared to amend the law on Pensions for teachers of Secondary Schools.
p A meeting of the trustee of Munro and Dickenson Trust held at Hampton on Wednesday 8th April 1931
The trustee congratulated Ms Campbell on the success attained in the Cambridge examination as outlined in her report.
It was agreed that the return passage of Miss Riley to England be paid by the trust and that Ms Campbell be asked to arrange the passage. This in recognition of her long service of 12 1/2 years.
A letter was read from Mr H. Lynch asking for a rebate of school fees for his children who he was asked to remove from the school at Hampton during the present term, consequent on them having been suspected of Scarlet Fever.
p July 13, 1921
A letter was read from Mrs Farquharson to hold an investigation in connection to the recent outbreak of whooping cough at Hampton.
p Wednesday, 13 April 1932
It was also decided that Mr S. Barton be written to expressing the regret of the trustee at the death of his daughter at Hampton during last term and to say that the child having been at the school for as short a period of the term, the term's fees are refunded.
p 10th June 1935. Held at Munro College. Meeting called to order at 10:00 a.m.
Letter to Wolmer's Trustee re pensions for Ms Barrows. The chairman signed a letter on behalf of the trustees directing the same to be forwarded to the Wolmer's trustees.
Read a letter from Mr J. W. Peskett asking for increase of salary in view of length of service in the school and forth coming marriage.
His salary was increased by £25 per annum for two years, to bring his salary to £300 after such time.
p 14th October 1936
Re transportation of goods - Hampton's head mistress directed to ascertain the cost by truck from Kingston in comparison with the cost of goods being shifted west wise to Black River and then transported to Hampton by Cart. The trustee was of the opinion that the truckage would be cheaper.
With one and a half pages left blank, the final entry was made on April 28th, 1937.