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Remembering Calabar High of the 1970s

Published:Tuesday | November 3, 2015 | 12:00 AMDevon Dick, Contributor

Recently, Calabar High Old Boys' Association hosted its annual dinner under the presidency of David Miller and chaired by Mike Fennell. It was a gala affair with attendance from the president of the KC, as well as the JC Old Boys, perhaps to get ideas for their associations.

The high point was the induction of Professor Errol Miller, Dr Wesley Hughes and Flavia Orr into the Hall of Fame. Miller, an educator, delighted the jam-packed Mona Visitors' Lodge with stories about non-existing dead voters and life at Calabar. Wesley Hughes via video recalled how an umpire in a cricket match was appealing for the batsman to be given out, not remembering that he was the umpire. He gave himself out and walked away from the job of being an umpire.

However, the one who crossed path with me was Flavia Orr. She served for 33 years at Calabar. She was my teacher in 1973 or 1974. It was a time of student rights with a student representative on the Board of Governors and students having the right to elect head boy, and not just the teachers.



In 1972 when I went to Calabar, the head boy was John Thompson, noted attorney. We had memorable and hard-working head boys who were very bright. From my year, Christopher McClure was the head boy and he passed five O' Levels at fourth form! Perhaps the most outstanding and involved head boy was David Fitz Henley, who was not dusty when it came to passes at GCE O' Levels.

I had some outstanding history teachers, including Mrs Gordon, who taught us in first form and made history come alive and interesting with her pleasing personality and competence. Sam Washington was a great history teacher. No wonder I was able to pass O' Level history at fourth form.

I have fond memories of Ms Orr as my literature teacher. I remember swotting for the examinations and knowing the book from cover to cover. I did not get a good grade and I asked her why. She explained that what was also required was an analysis of the work. That piece of advice has stood me in good stead. She was also a very charming person and was always well dressed. I still recall her in a full white suit attending the Calabar barbecue. Flavia Orr gave outstanding service to Calabar and she richly deserves the honour.

A novelty for me was the swimming pool at Calabar. I saw people jumping into the swimming pool and I decided to follow. I did not take the time to learn or understand the art of diving and so I ended up doing a belly splash - a painful lesson.



Since I was from Airy Castle, St Thomas, and my last two years before entering Calabar were spent at Glen Stuart Primary, Maggotty, St Elizabeth, I had never seen a table tennis board before. However, I loved the sport. In first form, I played Vincent Haldane and he won 21-2 with his right hand and then he used his left hand and won 21-4. But I never gave up and five years later, I was representing Calabar at inter-school championship. One year, we reached the finals with KC and I played Colin McNeish, Jamaica's champion. Stephen Hylton, later to become Caribbean champion, was a member of Calabar's team and I used to beat him. It is not where you start but how you finish.

My headmaster at Calabar was Arthur Edgar. I received a caning from him for playing table tennis while class was in session. Later in life, he was ordained a Baptist minister of religion and we became colleagues, the 'caner' and the 'caned'. God moves in a mysterious way.

We have fond memories of the Calabar of the '70s and are indeed grateful for the experiences which have taught us great life lessons. Many of these experiences have gone into creating our own Halls of Fame. What a gala affair it will be when the doors to Rabalac Halls are thrown wide open to accepting females, not only as teachers, like the illustrious Flavia Orr, but as students!

- Rev Devon Dick is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew. He is author of 'The Cross and the Machete', and 'Rebellion to Riot'. Send feedback to columns@