Thu | May 28, 2020

A point well made - Dr Douglas Manley the all-rounder

Published:Friday | August 2, 2013 | 12:00 AM
Minister of Youth and Community Development Dr Douglas Manley speaks at a ceremony on December 11, 1974, when keys to houses in the community village at Cacoon, Hanover, were handed over to pioneer farmers.

 Louis Marriott, Contributor

THE DEATH of Dr Douglas Manley at his Washington Drive home in St Andrew on Friday, July 26, marked the final chapter in the legend of the nuclear family headed by National Hero Norman Washington Manley and the outstanding sculptress and patroness of the arts, Edna Manley.

Born on May 30, 1922, Douglas Manley, with his younger brother Michael, spent his early years living in the intellectually inspiring atmosphere of Drumblair, a Mecca for a wide range of professionals lured to the family mansion by conversations on such matters as politics, economics, law, society, art, and culture.

As well as stimulating the minds of his sons by exposure to those exchanges, Norman Manley presided over sessions where he sat with Douglas and Michael in a reading room - each reading silently - at the end of which the three shared, taking turns, what they had read and discussed it with the others.

The Manley boys were foundation students at St Andrew Preparatory School, located about a mile away in Half-Way Tree. Remarkably, of the 10 1930s foundation students of St Andrew Preparatory, the Manley brothers and Phyllis McPherson-Russell were simultaneously members of Michael Manley's 1970s Cabinet.

Douglas Manley received his secondary education as a boarder at Munro College. He was an outstanding schoolboy boxer, repeatedly winning in his weight division at the secondary schools' boxing championships. He sprang a huge surprise at the 1941 inter-secondary schoolboys' track and field athletics championships, on the turf track at Sabina Park, when he equalled his father's 100 yards record of 10 seconds, set in 1911, leaving in his wake two legendary schoolboy sprinters, Leroy 'Coco' Brown of Wolmer's Boys' School, and Herb McKenley of Calabar High School. He never ran competitively again, and when asked why not, responded, "I have already made my point."

He went to the United States for the start of his tertiary education and earned his bachelor's degree in sociology at Columbia University. He completed his doctorate (PhD) in sociology at Liverpool University in Britain, with his thesis on race relations in Liverpool.

In 1949, he married Carmen Lawrence, a Jamaican actress and playwright then living and working in the United Kingdom. The union produced two sons, Norman and Roy, but Mrs Manley died of cancer in London in the late 1960s.

On his return to Jamaica after university studies, Dr Manley was employed as lecturer in sociology at the University College of the West Indies, with a considerable reputation as an expert in testing and measurement.


In the late 1960s, he lived and worked in Ethiopia, Zambia and Rhodesia on a UNESCO assignment relating to education and culture. He returned home in 1969 to enter the field of politics and contested the South Manchester constituency for the People's National Party (PNP) in the 1972 general election.

South Manchester was a very special constituency for Dr Manley as it included Roxborough, the birthplace of his father. Dr Manley was declared the winner of the seat on the preliminary count but was unseated after a legal challenge by his Jamaica Labour Party rival, Arthur Williams.

Dr Manley was appointed to the Senate and the office of minister of youth and community development. He also served as minister of agriculture and minister of health at different times in the 1970s. He lost his parliamentary seat in the 1980 general election, in which the PNP was routed by the JLP.

He returned to the House of Representatives when the PNP swept back into power in the 1989 general election but retired in 1993 and was succeeded by the PNP's Michael Peart as member of parliament for South Manchester.

Dr Manley was well known and admired for his acerbic wit. His niece, Rachel Manley (daughter of Michael), described him as "the most enormously mischievous person I've ever met". He once told her, she reported: "Your father is no good with less than 10,000 people."

In recent years, Dr Manley was afflicted with health problems. Then, one Friday night in February 2008, the then 85-year-old Dr Manley and his family survived an ordeal when three gunmen broke into their home, roughed up him and his son, attorney Norman Manley, and stole money and other items, including a ring given to him by Haile Selassie, which they took away in Dr Manley's car.

His enjoyment of representational politics was reflected in his authorship of The Candidate, a novel based on the subject. It is perhaps fitting that meaningful and significant work on the restoration of the Roxborough building was done before his passing.