John Piggott wrote in his condolence to Orin Austin’s family in the UK that Orin was his form prefect when he entered Queen’s College in 1956. I started in the 5th Form in ’56 and got to know Orin very well. Although we were not in the same form or house we were both in the Tour Club where he and Herman Rohlehr were buddy pals and close friends of Ronald Payne who later married my sister, Waveney Joy. So, I really knew him through the Tour Club and Ronald, and I must also add Mathematics. These were guys who did maths well. In the 1950s Queen’s was molding and channelling maths geniuses towards engineering and technology occupations. I would always turn to Ronald or one of his friends to point out and explain where I went wrong in a maths problem.
Concerning Mathematics, Queen’s boys in the 1950s were different from those of earlier generations. The earlier generations of maths greats (Fred Wills, Norman Cameron, Sonny Rodway) generally combined Maths with Latin, Greek, History, Literature, Scripture (the Classics) and became career lawyers or teachers. QC moved to Thomas Lands in 1951. The new library and chemistry, physics, biology laboratories were on the ground floor along with ‘The Basement’ of the ‘new school.’ In the basement, ‘country boys’ did some of their home-work in huddles or played ping-pong or waited for cadets or scouts to commence at 4pm. Detention, supervised by prefects doing their homework, also finished at 4pm. The ’50s generation of maths greats like Orin combined maths with natural science subjects (particularly chemistry and physics) and henceforth were guided by masters towards further education in engineering and technology.
Orin played basketball which was newly introduced to the curriculum at Queen’s by an American biology master, Mr Irvine. It was played in the main hall mostly at night. I remember on a Tour Club visit to Suriname he scored a spectacular basket against our opponent that spun off the backboard and all the spectators stood and cheered (standing ovation). Orin belonged to clubs in and out of school and was appointed Head Prefect of Queen’s College in his final year.
He was General Manager of GUYTRAC in the 1970s and his wife, Iris, was the bookseller at Fogartys Department Store. Orin Austin married a ‘connaisseur’ of books! Iris knew my book tastes. She would put aside particular books for me before they were sold out. I never visited their home but I imagine it must have been serene. When I called my friend Umrow Persaud to tell him of the passing of Orin he exclaimed, “What! I was he right hand man at GUYTRAC! He was a coolie black man like you! He help me learn engineering.” Orin Austin was an excellent mechanical engineer.
Orin’s daughter, Martine, wrote Terry Fletcher from the UK that his dying wish was to be cremated and that “we should scatter his ashes at the beach so that he can perhaps make it back to Guyana in some way.” His parents may have been calling, “When are you coming home, Orin?” John Piggott wrote to his daughter requesting that some of the ashes be sent to us, QC alumni, and we would scatter them on the family’s behalf wherever they think is appropriate. I think an appropriate place is the playing fields of Queen’s College. This will be a first.
May his soul rest in eternal peace.