Thu | Jan 26, 2023

Beyond Beauty - Primrose Swaby

Published:Sunday | April 6, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Black and white pencil dress paired with an over-size clutch, red pumps, and statement accessories.
Light and airy chiffon maxi dress in an abstract print design.
Purple satin abstract print A-line dress paired with a purple fascinator is perfect for any Easter outing.

Natalia Oh, Contributor

No stranger to the spotlight, Primrose Swaby has been featured many times for her accolades as one of Jamaica's top Spelling Bee coaches. A teacher who is loved by many at the Mandeville Primary and Junior High School, she started from very humble beginnings.

As she told Outlook, "Back in the days, walking barefooted two and a half miles on unpaved roads to and from school was no joke.

"Sometimes we had to run to get to school on time - and if we didn't, the headmaster would be waiting for us at the gate with a leather strap in his hands."

Now a stark contrast to the barefooted little girl, this stylishly dressed woman has walked the streets of Washington, DC, with the pride of chaperoning some of Jamaica's top Spelling Bee Champions.

Born to parents Edgar and Gwendolyn Newman, Swaby is the youngest of seven children. She says that growing up with modest means has taught her not to take anything in life for granted. Caring for her crippled mother at a very young age, when her older siblings left home, was daunting to say the least, but like many Jamaican girls, she rose to the occasion. She shares with Outlook that these are the reasons why Jamaican women are so strong and why, in her opinion, they stand out anywhere in this world, because they face harsh realities early on in life.

Daily lunch

She reminisces that her daily lunch was, "two bullas with butter (referred to as 'in between') and no drink, just pipe water". This, she says, had to last the whole day, and they would pick mangoes and gooseberries on the long journey back home.

Her beloved grandmother - Wilhel, a basket weaver, would have one bumpy banana hidden in her apron pocket waiting for Swaby. She remembers slicing the banana thinly with a knife so that it would last longer, as that was her delicacy for the day.

Though facing tough circumstances, Swaby became the Manchester Parish Spelling Bee Champion in 1972, and later a star student at Manchester High School where she thrived in academics and netball. Her love for teaching led her to Church Teachers' College and she later received a Bachelors Degree of Arts in Guidance and Counselling from The International University of the Caribbean.

"Back in
my time, children wanted to learn because they knew that was the only
way out of poverty. There were no get-rich schemes, no YouTube
sensations, no overnight successes, just hard work and dedication," she
tells Outlook. Loved and admired by students, family
and friends because of her kindness, jovial spirit and listening ear, it
is clear to see Swaby is beyond beautiful.

How do you spend
your weekends?

My weekends are spent taking care of my
home, writing lesson plans, and then going to church on Sundays.
Weekends, I believe, are family time to be spent with my loving husband
and my dog Nibbles.

What is your favourite vacation
spot in Jamaica?

Being a nature lover, I've always
been titillated by the natural beauty of my country, Jamaica. For me,
Negril is the spot that has always stimulated my imagination. I
particularly love watching the sunset from Rick's Café, which reminds me
of the awesomeness of God's work.

What is your dream
international vacation spot?

Paris, a city that
represents sophistication and style. I would love to see the Eiffel
Tower with my husband someday.


Dr Ben Carson, who penned the books
Think Big and Gifted Hands. He has
led me to believe that successful people have problems, but these are
mere hurdles to overcome in the race of life.

What is
the best advice you have ever received?

A special
teacher, Cynthia Powell (now deceased), was my inspiration at Ferguson
Primary School. In fact, she was my role model and confidante. Her words
were 'Be careful what you set your heart upon for you will surely have
it'. Those words have stuck with me my whole

Outfits courtesy of Fashion Statement
Boutique, Shop 25 Midway
Mall, 17 Caledonia
Road, Mandeville
Manchester, Tel:

Photos by Natalia Oh