Was Ambassador Keith “Tony” Marshall’s keynote address to fellow alumni merely a renewal challenge or a broad message for all individuals and societies, for all times, and for all seasons?
Not so long ago, when Barbados’ permanent representative to the United Nations, gave the keynote address at a reunion of the Harrison College and Queens College alumni in New York, he called it a little talk and gave it the title “ The Lost Spark “
The former Barclay’s Bank executive admitted that he had seen the description of keynote speaker many times, but never truly understood the responsibilities but after research, found out to his surprise that a keynote address was a central or determining principle in a speech or literary work… the note or key upon which a scale is based … a speech delivered at a political convention …
However, Ambassador Marshall said: “So the first declaration I have to make is that I am not making a political speech. So don’t expect anything like that.“ He then went further and refined his definition of a keynote address as one delivered at political or industrial conventions and academic conferences to set the underlying tone and summarize the core issue of the most important issues of the event.
Truth be told, Ambassador Marshall’s well researched presentation on the history and achievements of the alumni of two leading schools (his words); and his challenge to them not to falter or stumble again, may surely be considered by some not only political, but offering background to some of the core and important issues in Barbados today.
He alluded to the interest and value of benefactors.
“ Prior to 1733, when Harrison College was built, Thomas Harrison, a slave trader, and churchwarden of the Vestry of St Michael, suggested that part of his commission for the collection of taxes should be earmarked for the establishment of a charity school and that was how Harrison College was born. And as can be expected, it took its model from schools in England… “
He went on: “There were two types of scholars – foundation scholars – who received free education and others who paid a prescribed fee. It is fair to say that the school was primarily intended for poor whites and perhaps explains the reason for foundation scholars… When I went there, there were about 500 students of which 400 were white and 100 were black.”
With respect to the history of Queen’s College, initially a neighbour of Harrison College, Marshall noted the school was formed as a result of a Commission that essentially recommended equality of education for women. He explained that when the school started, the student population ranged in age from three to nineteen. He also alluded to the benefit of shared resources and space involving the two schools.
“Many Queen’s College students completed sixth form studies in science, math, and Biology at Harrison College,” he recalled.
Ambassador Marshall explained how history permitted comparisons and offered guidance: “ I’ve taken time to look at the history of the two schools because of their rating, on the Barbados landscape, and also so because of Harrison College more so, was the leader in winning Barbados scholarships, champions of athletics, football, cricket and even drill and shooting competitions of the cadet corps.”
“Queens College did similarly prior to the introduction of co-education. Despite the seemingly invincible dominance of these two schools, yet for years, no one could escape from observing the high quality ofesprit de corpsexuded by Combermere School students, and alumni and the warmth and gusto with which they sang, and still sing, their school song. I am saying that it shamed me and should also the alumni of both schools that there is an absence of that bond so evident whenever Combermerians get together… The Combermere spirit is worthy of emulation. Combermere is a school that stands out despite its paucity of Barbados scholars – I think it has one, and Prime Ministers, again it had one, and the absence of leadership captains in business and the commercial life of Bridgetown.”
“These observations have been brought to your attention in the hope that members –HC – QC alumni — will ponder these things in your heart and endeavour to let this effort of rekindling the joint alumni to lose its warmth, its goal and objectives through complacency, and reliance on the efforts of those who have gone before. Those who preceded us lit a torch, which shone brightly, but perhaps through our own fault, it has lost its brilliance and sustainability,” Marshall observed.