The name Thorne has a magical ring to it in St Elizabeth, St Joseph and its neighbouring villages. Winston Churchill Thorne. He might not have received a knighthood from the Queen, but to the people of his community he will always be “Sir”.
His first and middle names together are famous internationally, but it’s at home that Thorne has made a name for himself, having taught virtually every senior member of this village at some point of their primary school lives.
“When the people out here see me they say ‘sir’. I am 95 years old, you know. I taught all of the older people around here, nearly every person ’bout here I taught. I know who was poor, who was well behaved;
I know who had a decent upbringing and all of that,” he affirmed in a recent interview with Barbados TODAY. At 95 the former teacher is sharp. He was a good friend of the Father of Independence Errol Walton Barrow and he recalls his life history with such clarity, listing dates and significant details as if they happened yesterday.
Thorne’s teaching career began in 1936 at the St Joseph Boys School. When St Joseph Boys and Girls were amalgamated, forming St Elizabeth Primary, he acted as principal for a year before he was appointed deputy principal at St Bernard’s Primary.
The winner of numerous community awards, he was not the first in his family to make a major contribution to education in this nation. His father Luther Thorne, was the first Minister of Education and headmaster of St Margaret’s Boy School.
Luther Thorne Memorial School stands as a testimony to the father. After serving over 33 years in the public service, Thorne the son bought the now defunct Washington High School where his father acted as headmaster, with a roll of 560 pupils.
He has no problem pointing out some well-known names who passed through his doors. “The current Minister of Education Ronald Jones was a pupil of mine. Vere Parris, the principal at Combermere taught Spanish at Washington High School.
[The late] Carmeta Fraser, she taught domestic science,” he recalled. Wearing a striped shirt neatly tucked in his pants at 6 p.m. on Monday evening when the interview took place, the elderly man admitted that he was a strict educator whose focus was on good behaviour. The saying, manners maketh man, had to be observed by all in the classroom. “I made sure that the children were reasonably tidy. They could not enter the school unless their hands were inspected, their clothes had to be tidy. And punctuality was my idea.
“I believe that you should do unto others as you would have others do unto you. So I made sure that they had a regard for God. They all were taught that I was very sharp but very kind,” he said. And as strict as he was, Thorne said he was not a fan of flogging and used it as a last resort. “Even then I only give three or four lashes, the limit. I used to punish you by taking away whatever you love best because some students [preferred] a flogging. If I know you want to go to an excursion, when that time come around, it did not matter,” he noted in a firm tone.
The Justice of the Peace also served as deputy chairman of the Board of Management of St Elizabeth Primary. An educator for virtually his entire life, Thorne is not afraid to share his opinion of the system.
There are times he sits in his gallery and thinks about the way things were and the way they are today. And he gets upset at the mindset of some of the people it produces. “We have made progress in some areas and regressed in others. I object to the idea that because you are a doctor or a lawyer, [you believe someone else is] nobody because you are a carpenter or a mason. It is happening in Barbados and I see it,” he said. While he helped frame young minds, teaching was not all that occupied Thorne’s time.
He owned a petrol station so long ago that it operated with a hand pump. It was located just a stone’s throw away from the home he shared with his wife of 52 years. He also owned a mini taxi which he used to transport residents of St Joseph to and from work in The City. Having lived in this eastern parish for 52 years, Thorne would not give up St Joseph for anything. The soothing breeze, the attractive fruit trees, the friendly people make this an extra special parish and the perfect place for him to relax and enjoy his golden days, he said.
“The people are very respectful and because of its proximity to the sea it is very windy and the air is fresh. St Joseph is quite a gem,” a well-spoken Thorne said. Thorne was nominated to be interviewed by a group of men hanging out at Gaggs Hill Rum Shop, just a short distance away. According to the young shopkeeper that rum shop, the oldest in the parish, was the main hangout spot, even for the neighbourhood dog, Ears.
He said the community came together there, for a game of dominoes or card competitions; to watch a cricket or football match, or to have some of the best locals rums. “We don’t have crime in St Joseph.
The last crime person who was bout here was [the infamous prisoner] Winston Hall,” the shopkeeper boasted. A drive from the rum shop leads to Bathsheba, one of the most popular picnic spots in the country, where visitors and locals alike go to soak in the pools, and to see the rock formations broken away from ancient coral reef.