Arnold Bertram, Contributor
One hundred years ago, on September 12, 1912, Calabar High School was formally opened by the Baptist Church in Jamaica.
Pride of place went to the two founders of the school. The Baptist fraternity which hosted the occasion led by The Reverend Ernest Price, president of the Calabar Theological College and headmaster of the school.
His deputy, the Reverend David Davies, grew up in the Australian Outback and after gaining his first degree from the University of Adelaide proceeded to the University of London for post-graduate studies. He was an intellectual of the first order. Among the other Baptist leaders were Burchell Stephenson, the former headmaster of Calabar Elementary and his successor, Kent Newton Phillips. The officiating minister at the opening ceremony was Rev Thomas Gordon-Somers.
Also on hand to witness this landmark were the Venerable Archdeacon Simms, headmaster of Jamaica College and the Rev William Cowper, headmaster of Wolmer's, the leadership of the Anglican Church, the Jewish Assembly, the Presbyterians, the Methodists and the Salvation Army.
The pioneering spirit of Price was evident from his arrival in 1910 when he went on a tour of the island, covering some 250 miles by horse and buggy. On the tour he witnessed at first-hand the challenge faced by Baptist ministers to find suitable education for their sons. "We went from manse to manse in which we either saw a boy growing up with the smattering of education that an overworked father or mother could give in the absence of adequate books and instruments".
Price's first vision of the high school that became Calabar was "a simple dormitory with a room in another part in which the boys might do their home lessons. The vision grew when the Rev William Pratt, an Oxonian, and minister of East Queen Street Baptist Church, suggested that the school fees could be used to hire a teacher from England to conduct elementary classes while Price and David Davies taught secondary subjects part-time. It was at this point that the Rev W.A. Graham, Presbyterian minister, asked the Baptists to consider a much wider scope of operations - a boarding school for boys that would provide secondary education not only for the Baptists but for other denominations as well.
Among the contributors to the building of Calabar was Miss Purcell, a leader in the Moneague Baptist Church whose donation of £1,000 was critical to the completion of the school, and the funding of an annual scholarship in her name.
The centrepiece of the new school was a two-storey building which had been constructed along modern lines with optimum light and ventilation with three classrooms on the ground floor and the dormitories for the boys on the upper floor and the buildings included separate quarters for the headmaster and the deputy headmaster. Single male teachers were housed in the same building with the boys. A library and a gym were located separately. The sports facilities provided on the campus were a cricket field, a tennis court and a croquet lawn.
The first 13 places in the school were all taken up by sons of Baptist parsons, but the demand from other denominations was such that places had been found for 16 additional students. The school's philosophy of education, spelt out in the preliminary prospectus was: "To give a thoroughly modern education in a definitely religious atmosphere, with a view to earnest life in the professional or commercial world either in Jamaica or elsewhere, and that the whole aim of the school life would be to develop self reliance, honour and courage and to train boys to these by allowing as much liberty as possible and by the introduction of self government under the monitorial system".
The school motto "The Utmost for the Highest" challenged every Calabar boy to set the highest personal goals and to make the utmost effort in achieving them. In the school's religious environment, the boys were encouraged to see service to Christ as the highest goal to which they could aspire and that no sacrifice was too great in this cause.
Read more on Calabar's first 100 years in tomorrow's Gleaner.