It is quite a coincidence that the names of two of my headmasters from my Alma Mater British Guiana Education Trust which I attended between 1950 and 1954 have been referred to within three days in your newspaper.
Editor, you were gracious enough to print my letter ‘The vulgarity starts from the cradle’ in Stabroek News of March 7, 2013 and that is where Mr. Ralph Ramkarran paid homage to the excellence of Mr. A. P Alleyne in his role as a former speaker of Parliament in his article titled ‘The Speaker’s decision cannot be reversed’ Stabroek News, 10th March 2013. The letter in Kaieteur News titled `Things have been wrong….’ was printed on 10th March 2013.
I consider myself fortunate to have been a product of Messrs Alleyne, Alexander, and Cheeks’ Headmastership. I recall the day in 1954 when myself and another student whose name is attached to a recently opened renal centre had gone to the office to pay our school fees. Mr. Alleyne told both of us that if we did pass our Senior Cambridge Examination he would return a whole year’s school fees to us. When results were published and we both were successful I asked Budhendranauth if we should ask ‘Ochro’, for that was his false name, to keep his promise. I was told ‘boy you mad’. I was proud to have been successful and to have been the first student living at that time in Mocha Village to have gone to a high school and to have been successful at an overseas marked high school examination.
In echoing the sentiments expressed by Mr. Ramkarran with regard to that gentleman school master A.P. Alleyne I am reminded of those who were the nucleus of students in September 1950 when British Guiana Education Trust (B.G.E.T) was formed. It was an amalgamation of students from Modern Academy, Repton and Washington High Schools (Headmasters R. E. Cheeks, J. ‘Pirate’ Alexander and A. P. ‘Ochro’ Alleyne).
Mr. A. P. Alleyne in his day was always the epitome of sartorial excellence, never without pocket watch, his vest which formed part of his three piece suit and fingers tucked in the lapel of his suit and like Mr. Cheeks strutted their stuff on entrance to a class. The great Latin scholar that he was he never refrained from bellowing ‘Ecce Assinus’ if he felt a student deserved such an accolade. There are still left among us those who benefited and achieved upward mobility because our parents could barely have afforded to meet the monthly tuition fees and mindful of the threat to have your name called out at assembly at being late in payment. We got the best of high school education offered in those days by pedagogues who were cognizant that your examination papers would be marked by foreigners in the motherland and not in the Caribbean. You therefore had to strive to excel and mediocrity was not an option.
The kudos which Mr. Ramkarran paid to Mr. A. P. Alleyne are well deserved. Whether we are or were a retired Deputy Clerk of the Parliament, multimillionaire bankers, a distinguished mathematician at the University of the West Indies (UWl), a Guyanese Consul General in New York, I still feel proud to have been among those who attended the school at which he was a headmaster teaching Latin, English Literature, English, History and Religious Knowledge. About the description of his being ‘little known’ I beg to differ. ‘Ochro’ Alleyne was a household name and enjoyed nation wide fame. With regard to his Latin scholarship – he could have stood up to the best of his time whether it was Forbes Burnham, Fred Wills or Sir Shridath. He was a renowned Shakespearean in is day.
Mr. Alleyne always displayed and encouraged the practice of etiquette, social graces, and decorum. He even demonstrated on an occasion in class the manner in which you greeted a Head of Government and/or Royalty.
It was nigh impossible for the indiscipline and vulgarity which permeates today’s school environment to have even raised its ugly head in the heyday of Mr. Aubrey P. Alleyne. The stigma attached to any such behaviour by a student or students would have made the rounds of the high school student population and resulted in the guilty being rejected as social outcasts. The same would have been meted out if anyone had dared to cultivate such trash terms as ‘bigman’, ‘bigger’ or ‘push ya bady’ as in today’s society. For Mr. Alleyne and his contemporaries had advocated that his students especially the males make it their duty to sit in on sessions of Parliament or when Judges in the court system were summing up to listen and learn from the oratory and hone debating skills. In addition the female teachers on staff would have had to dress appropriately and not in the figure hugging clothes which a number of them now wear in front of a class with maturing young men.
Mr. Aubrey P. Alleyne was a contemporary of Mr. Boysie Ramkarran when the country rallied behind the PPP for the first elections under Adult Suffrage and was a shining star at political meetings held in Georgetown at the then famous and green Bourda Green. There the stage, at our Hyde Park, was always set outside of Mr. Mc Gowan, Chasbert Book store at the south west corner. Ochro stood out for his eloquence among those like Ashton Chase, Martin Carter, Rory Westmaas, the Jagans, LFS Burnham, Jessie Burnham, Jane Phillips Gay et al. I can recall standing on the fringes of those meetings not too far from a fair lass who attended St. Roses High School and hear in his popular signature tune heralding his introduction of Ms. Jessie Burnham as a speaker in his booming voice ‘Rick Chick Chick ‘Congatay, Me bina a back Congatay. Me see fowl name Congatay’ and the crowd joined in the singing.
Editor, the phrase ‘little known’ is completely out of place since Mr. Alleyne ranked very high among those in his discipline like Messers R. B. O. Hart, Pinkerton, the Castello brothers, Luck and Clarke. They moulded a number of students who contributed in no small measure to the development of standard and values which led to a superior brand of governance and propriety regardless of the few exceptions.
The sociologists comment about the disadvantages of the absence of the father figure in a number of homes in this country. In the same vein the adverse effect of the present paucity of male headmasters must be seriously considered, as for example, in the large secondary schools population in Georgetown. Where are the male mentors when boys and/or girls are at an age when they are most impressionable?
Editor, the likes of Mr. Aubrey P. Alleyne brought to the fore in the then high school environment a number of brilliant minds among the academics who emerged. A majority of these brilliant minds are scattered far and wide in what we refer to as the Diaspora.
Above all Mr. A. P. Alleyne was a believer and a God fearing person. Before our first day’s sitting at the 1954 Senior Cambridge Examination he took the class to Mr. Barker’s Church in upper Bent Street for a service to ask God’s blessing for success.
Hats off to those former students who meet from time to time to celebrate the memories of those halcyon days at B.G.E.T over half a century ago, in addition to raising funds to assist in the schooling of some richly deserving youths.