Thirty-five years ago, on December 1, 1983, Dame Billie Miller opened the Luther Thorne Memorial Primary School at Wildey, St Michael.
This morning, as the institution celebrated the milestone with a special ceremony, a delighted Dame Billie said she did not regret naming the school in memory of the distinguished educator, or choosing its location.
In fact, Dame Billie told the staff, students, and those specially invited guests who attended the event, that the Luther Thorne Memorial Primary School projects is one of the best decisions she made as Minister of Education and Culture.
“Now the location of this school was very well considered. This Britton Hill, Wildey, Collymore Rock area, was then, way back in the 1980s, and still is now, the most densely populated suburb in the parish of St Michael, so location had to be very carefully selected. As the Minister of Health and National Insurance between 1976 and 1981, I decided to locate the Edgar Cochrane Polyclinic, just diagonally across the road from this site, never knowing that one day that I would become the Minister of Education.
“And then, when that happened, I was Minister of Education and Culture between 1981 and 1986, I chose this site for your school. We tried to incorporate as much land as possible, and was available, bearing in mind the expansion we knew would take place in the remaining years of the 20th century and now into the new millennium and the 21st century,” she said.
As Dame Billie reflected on the setting up of the school, she said she ensured that lots of fruit and shade trees were planted on the grounds, so that they may be enjoyed by all.
“That is what I did wherever I opened a school or a polyclinic in those days. I even imagined in 1983, Luther Thorne students might one day work in the Polyclinic as doctors or nurses, or that at the industrial park a little way down the road, some of you would be engineers, electricians, entrepreneurs, accountants, lawyers, anything that you could be. I suspect that some of those early imaginings may have come through,” Dame Billie said.
The Ambassador at Large and Plenipotentiary thanked the school’s management for permitting her the privilege of sharing in the institution’s 35th anniversary.
She explained that the occasion is extra special to her because while she has had the responsibility for the building of several polyclinics and schools, this is the first time that she had been invited to share in a prestigious occasion, such as the anniversary celebration.
“I thank you all, and I must tell you that I would not have missed it for anything, May I wish you students well for the years ahead. I believe you are going to make this school proud of you. I can still remember with much fondness, the primary school I attended and the teachers there. You will also have that wonderful memory when you move on to secondary school. You will never forget your primary school and its teachers who set the foundation for you when you become an adult. Make the very best use of your education, you will then never regret it,” she advised.
Luther Thorne’s grandson, Hugh Bobby Goodman, while delivering brief remarks at the event, thanked Dame Billie for making the decision to name the school after his grandfather who became a headmaster at the age of 26, the youngest at the time.
“Though he had already passed, he would have been very pleased to know that his hard work here on earth has been recognized,” Goodman said, advising the students that education is the most powerful weapon that can be used to change the world.
Member of Parliament for St Michael South Central and Minister in the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Investment, Marsha Caddle, who commended the school for reaching the milestone, urged the students to not only pay attention to their school work but also the friendships that they make at the institution. She reminded the students that while the ruling Barbados Labour Party (BLP) has been speaking about the role of young people in society, all the world’s problems are going to be solved by the future.
“When we talk about being given an opportunity to learn how to swim, to learn how to speak a second language, it is because we want you to get comfortable with the idea that you have to take some risk sometimes. I always say that you never really learn anything unless you are willing to look a bit silly, and feel a bit foolish, because that is the beginning of the learning process. So, I want to encourage you to take advantage of all your opportunities and to understand that what you are learning here is not only what is in your books, but [you are] also learning how to be a good friend and someone who contributes to society,” Caddle said.
Principal Debbie Bovell, who noted that Luther Thorne Memorial School has a rich heritage, said the ability of the school to realize its mission was assisted immeasurably by the donations of several businesses, too numerous to mention.
“I am pleased to lead a school with such a wonderful legacy. As we celebrate our 35th anniversary, I assure you that the staff and I will work with the vigour of those who have walked this way before us. A part of the celebratory process is to give God thanks for leading. To God be the glory,” Principal Bovell said, as she encouraged all to shout out, “hip hip hooray”.
The occasion was also marked by a re-enactment of the school’s history. (AH)