The St. Michael School celebrated founder’s day in May and as the month drew to an end, we lost three builders of our institution. They have all made their mark that will long be remembered by alumni. However, as one of the first boys, I want to share, along with some of the others, what Dame Olga Patricia Symmonds GCM, DBE means to us.
Whenever I think of Dame Patricia, I remember the movie To Sir with Love. You have made boys to men and girls to women, or should I dare say, ladies and gents. How do you remember over 900 plus students all by name? Incredible! This was because you cared. You prepared us for life and to be a good credit to our school and wider society.
Indeed, one can look through the Barbadian society and see your handiwork. As the girls hold fast to your teachings of what a young lady should be, I am sure that most of them still don’t eat on the street.
You made it possible through your vision of co-education and changed the lives of the original 31 boys in 1979 and the four that came shortly after. We were the jewels in your eyes. We became your boys.
Dame Patricia and her deputy at the time, Mrs Sealy, would always remind us that we were pioneers and trailblazers. Even though we received special treatment, a firm rebuke and gentle discipline were not spared when we got out of hand. After all, we were her boys. You shaped our character!
Patrick says that he held you in awe – your poise and the precision in your articulation. From you came structure and what his school expected of him; it is branded on his heart. You always supported and encouraged his youthful exuberance.
According to Richard, from the age of 11 to 17, he remembers Miss Symmonds as nice, fair and attentive to us boys. At assembly every morning, there was a demand to strive for excellence or improvement and to bring honour to our school. Indeed, our integration into this former girl’s school was made easy by her loving kindness and encouraging attitude.
Indeed, Andrew reminds us that you prepared your boys for life and instilled in us a respect for our fellow students that we hold true to this day. We know how to eloquently get our ideas across because of your impeccable example.
Preston says that you will not be forgotten. It was an honour to be one of the first boys at The St. Michael School and to be called one of “my boys.” He says that you were always gracious, well-spoken and fair even when administering punishment for breaking a school rule. He thanks you for contributing and shaping him into the man that he is today.
David G and Richard C recounted that as part of the unique group of boys that first entered The St Michael School, they knew we were profoundly loved by our beloved headmistress. This love was not only demonstrated in her devotion to their educational pursuits, but she would enquire about them frequently by asking Sir Richard Cheltenham about their well-being after they moved overseas to further their studies. Whenever they were both home and visited with her, they would marvel at how keen and sharp her memory was as they reminisced about old times. Both are eternally thankful for the indelible mark she made on their lives and will forever carry her in their hearts.
It might be hard for some to understand what we meant to you and you to us. The first time you asked the boys to assemble in the hall by ourselves, the girls probably wondered if we were in trouble. You were just educating and instilling in us the way young men should behave, especially around the girls – even though the three feet standing apart rule did not work. Throughout our school attendance, we were encouraged by you and your dedicated staff members to aim high and strive by hard work to achieve our goals as they were attainable.
Dame Patricia loved English Literature, and these words spoken at Hamlet’s funeral by Horatio seem appropriate but are paraphrased here: “Good night, sweet Dame, may the flight of angels take thee to thy eternal rest.”
In my capacity as President of the Alumni Association and one of the boys of ‘79, we are better men today for passing under your service and stewardship. Miss Symmonds, you are a gem.
We love Symmonds, oh yes we do
We don’t love anyone as much as you
And when you’re near us
We love you Symmonds oh yeah
Oh Symmonds we love you!
You have truly been a good and faithful servant. Well done!
Nisi Auxilio Dei Nihil
Tribute to Dame Patricia Symmonds written by Winslow Straker on behalf of the original SMS boys
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