Troy Caine, Guest Columnist
THE very interesting story by Adrian Frater in The Sunday Gleaner (August 25, 2013) regarding the horrible Vaughansfield fire on Wednesday, August 25, 1943 also evoked memories of its political consequences in that area of St James during the early period of our modern political history.
The incident, which cost the lives of seven students and numerous injuries when lightning struck the school and started a fire was, however, mollified by the heroic action of its courageous headmaster, Mr Stanley Scott, who, with scant regard for his own safety, dashed into the inferno and rescued at least 25 of his students that day.
Hailed as an instant local hero from then, Scott would use his fame to test the political waters in the second general election of December 1949 with devastating effect, and became one of the few who attained elected membership to the House of Representatives largely through this kind of superhero image and at a time when educators were the toast of the political system.
A native of Westmoreland, Stanley Albert Scott was born in 1910 and became a Mico graduate who taught at Montpelier, Mount Horeb, Rockampton and Vaughansfield elementary schools - all in the parish of St James - and known throughout the parish for his social and agricultural activities.
His entry into politics began on June 1, 1949 when he formally announced his candidacy as an independent to contest the South East St James seat (which today is comprised of areas of South and East-Central St James). He would later be joined by six other candidates (including four other independents), making it the second constituency which would have a seven-man contest in the elections.
Predictably, the South East St James contest became quite a humdinger, and with four of the candidates attaining four figures, it emerged as one of the most competitive in 1949. With a 68 per cent voter turnout of 11,283 of the 16,587 listed voters, Stanley Scott stole the show with a poll of 4,111 votes (36.4 per cent) and defeated the popular Arthur Benjamin Lowe (Ind) by 1,907 when he polled 2,204 (19.5 per cent).
The PNP's Maxwell Carey (then a St James councillor) came third with 1,349 (12.0 per cent), followed by the Rev Cyril Morgan (then an independent) with 1,210 (10.7 per cent); next came the JLP incumbent Robert Cecil McFarlane, who got only 1,150 (10.2 per cent), and the other two independents, Charles S. Morris and Ernest N. Morris, received a paltry 815 (7.2 per cent) and 278 (2.5 per cent) of the ballots, respectively.
At that point, Stanley Scott became one of the two last independent members to be elected to the House (the other being Sir Harold Allan of East Portland) - and not "the first independent member of parliament in Jamaica", as stated by Adrian Frater in his article. The first independent members of the House were actually the first five elected in 1944 - Harold Allan, Roy Lindo, J.Z. Malcolm, F.L.B. Evans and the Rev Reginald E. Philips. Indeed, Stanley Scott also became the third independent (after Lindo and Philips) to defeat both JLP and PNP opponents in a contest.
The scope of Scott's 1949 victory was clearly highlighted by his dominance in 38 (44 per cent) of the 85 boxes throughout the constituency and a tie for most votes in two others. This dominance reflected a clean sweep of votes from areas geographically connected in a wide radius to the site of his ill-fated school, such as: Vaughansfield (obviously), Maroon Town, Flagstaff, Kensington, Springfield, Spring Mount, Amity Hall, Sunderland, Lottery, Somerton, Maldon, Yorkland, Potosi, Chatsworth, Bird Track, Summer Hill, Latium, Mocho, Catadupa, Tapland, and Niagara.
But to some extent, his triumph in 1949 as an independent could have been precipitated by the victory of seven independent councillors in all seven divisions in the constituency in the 1947 parish council elections.
SENT INTO RETIREMENT
However, by 1955, when the entire parish swung to the PNP, Stanley Scott became the JLP candidate who lost the seat to the PNP's Rev Cyril Morgan by more than 2,300 votes in a 65.2 per cent voter turnout, mustering only 2,786 ballots (25.9 per cent) to Morgan's 5,116 (47.5 per cent).
The result was perhaps influenced by the presence and strong showing of the Farmers Party candidate, Oscar L. DeLisser, who amassed 2,655 votes (24.7 per cent), with the advantage of being an influential and long-serving independent councillor in the constituency who would join the JLP a few years later. In fact, the 1951 parish council elections in the area had mirrored the writing on the wall for Scott's political fate as a JLP prospect when five of the seven divisions went to the PNP and the other two went to Independents.
Following his defeat in 1955 approaching 45, Stanley Scott called it a day and rode off into the political sunset, perhaps contented that he had made his mark even as a one-termer in the halls of Headquarters House and in the hilly districts of St James.
Later, he would attain far more recognition when successful independents acquired the distinction of endangered species status in the annals of Jamaican politics - and which today is believed by many Jamaicans to be a national misfortune, some six decades later.
Troy Caine is a political historian and analyst. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.