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History of St. Martins Secondary School

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by Herbert Young Tue, Nov 15. 2011

Before I give a brief history of the early years of our beloved alma mater, I think that it is necessary to give some information on two saints who have a connection with its existence.

St. Martins Secondary School was named after Juan Martin de Porres who was born in Lima, Peru in 1579 to a Spanish nobleman and a freed slave woman from Panama.{{more}}

Due to the poverty of his parents, he spent a mere two years in primary school.

At the age of 10, he was placed with a surgeon to learn the medical arts and, even at that young age, he spent a great deal of time in prayer. At the age of 15 years he became a lay brother at the Dominican Friary.

Martin de Porres developed a great love for the poor and also for animals. He had the gift of healing and cured many poor and sick in his community. It was also said that he had the gift of levitation and bilocation.

This holy man established an orphanage and hospital for children and fed some 160 people daily. His compassion knew no bounds. One day an old beggar, covered with sores and almost naked, stretched out his hand to St. Martin and he took him to rest in his own bed. When one of his brothers reproved him, he replied, “Compassion, my dear brother, is preferable to cleanliness.”

On another occasion, after being reprimanded by his superior for taking a wounded native Indian to his room during an epidemic, he replied, “forgive me my error, and please instruct me, for I did not know that the precept of obedience took precedence over that of charity.” After that occurrence, the superior gave him the liberty to follow his inspirations in the exercise of mercy.

Saint Martin de Porres was beatified in 1837 by Pope Gregory XV1 and canonised in 1962 by Pope John XX111.

He died in 1639 at the age of 60 and was the first person of African descent in the Americas to be declared a saint by the Catholic Church.

The other saint that has a connection with St. Martin’s Secondary is St. John Baptist de La Salle. Indeed, the school song is all about Saint Lasalle, “Great saint, to thee

We consecrate our minds and souls and hearts – O grant that we may do the right and choose the better part.”

Saint Lasalle was born April 30, 1651, at Rheims, France.

His father, Louis de La Salle wanted him to become a lawyer, but he insisted that he had been called to serve the church. He had his wish and was received in the clerical order in March 1662 and was later installed as a Canon of the Metropolitan See of Reims, in January 1667, at the age of 16.

He was ordained a priest on April 9, 1678 and two years later he received a Doctorate in Theology.

Saint Lasalle became very concerned about the poor uneducated children in his community and he established a school for poor boys.

He abandoned his family home, renounced his position of Canon and his wealth and went to live with the teachers of the school he had established. This initiative led to the founding of the community that became known as the Brothers of the Christian Schools.

Saint Lasalle was a pioneer in establishing training colleges for teachers, reform schools for delinquents, technical schools and secondary schools for modern languages and science.

He was declared venerable in 1840. He was beatified in 1888 and was declared a saint in 1900.

In 1950, Saint Lasalle was made a patron saint for those who work in the field of education.

It was primarily through the Institute of the Christian Brothers founded by St. Lasalle that St. Martins was able to make an outstanding contribution in the field of education in our lovely St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

I have so many fond memories of St. Martins, which began here in January 1961. On the first day, the students were gathered around on the first floor of the Verbeke Centre to be welcomed by the first Principal of the school, Fr. Burgess. On that very day, we were each given a number.

I was K117.

I recall that four houses were established. They were named after the four gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The colour of St. Matthew was yellow, St. Mark was blue, St. Luke was green and St. John was red.

One easily identified which houses we were in by the colour of the buttons on our shirts. The second button from the neck revealed the house to which you belonged.

Fr. Burgess was a disciplinarian. He went by the biblical injunction – spare not the rod and spoil the child. He had several lethal weapons, which included a wooden cane and a size 20 soft shoe bound in black tape.

The teaching staff at the time included Mr. DeVere James, Mr. Compton from St. Lucia, Mr. Pacquette and his wife, and Mr. Boxill from Barbados. We also had Mr. Parnell Campbell, Mr. Keith Saunders and Mr. Bernard Marshall for a brief period.

After Fr. Burgess left in 1963, he was replaced as Principal by Fr. Bown and we simply added an “s” and referred to him as “Fr. Bones.” Fr. Bown spent just about one year as Principal and Bishop Justin Field turned to the Christian Brothers in Ontario, Canada, for assistance in managing the school.

The Christian Brothers came to St. Martins in 1965 and Brother Robert Brick was appointed Principal of the school. The other Christian brothers who came with Bro. Robert were Bro. Kevin and Bro. Earl Sloan. During that period, we also had Mr. Paul Jerreau and Mr. Doug McNeil, who were also Canadians.

Bro. Kevin was responsible for getting our first football team going and we later developed excellent cricket and track and field teams as well. I remember when we played our first football match against Geest Stars and received a sound bashing. We played quite well, but were no match for a team that had some five national players.

After that experience, we improved our skills and began winning quite a number of matches with a team that included Vernon Kirton, Foster Huggins, Tony Durrant, Errol Chambers, Andre McIntosh, Leroy Sutherland, Jemmoth Campbell, Cave Compton, Roy Neehall, Don McIntosh and Herbert Young.

During this period, the school remained in the Verbeke Centre until 1970, when a new school was built at its present location, still very close to the St. Joseph’s Convent.

Over the years St. Martins produced many outstanding sportsmen, lawyers, doctors, businessmen, entertainers, people in public service, media personnel, farmers, teachers, priests, engineers and individuals in other areas.

While being a school for boys, St. Martins accommodated several girls who chose to pursue their secondary education at this prestigious institution. They too are making significant contributions to the development of SVG in various fields.

St. Martins has achieved a reputation over the years for excellence in education, self-discipline and the gospel values which underpin the teaching mission of the Catholic Church. The Christian Brothers who played such a magnificent role in all of this made their departure in July 1998 and handed the administration of the school back to the Catholic Diocese of Kingstown.

The Board of Governors, which was headed by Bishop Rivas at the time, appointed its first lay Principal, Mr. Gregory Sarkar, a Trinidadian, who took charge of the school until July 2006. He was succeeded by Fr. Paynter, who was the first native of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to hold this position. Fr. Paynter was succeeded by the present Principal, Mr. Nereus Auguste, in August 2010.

Let me at this point pay a special tribute to Bro. Alfred, who served as Principal of SMSS on two occasions. The other Christian Brothers who served as Principal included Bro. Robert Brick, Bro. Earl Sloan, Bro. Colgan, Bro. Dumond, Bro. Hogan, Bro. Vella, Bro. Isidore, Bro. Deary and Bro. James Dries.

During this 50th Anniversary Celebration, it is only fair to also make mention of some teachers who played a vital role in nurturing the minds of so many students who have graced the halls of St. Martins. We must remember Mr. Eddie Griffith who taught there from 1968 to 1978; Mr. Charles Best, Mr. P. John. Mr. Bradley Brooker, Mr. Cyp Neehall, the very popular Mr. Ezekiel Butcher and so many more.

The spirit of faith and zeal that resided in St. John Baptist De La Lasalle, who founded the Institute of Brothers of Christian Schools, which provided education for the poor, is still the motivating force behind the facilitators of St. Martins.

As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of St. Martins and the 32nd Anniversary of Independence of our small nation, I encourage all present and past students, teachers and parents to put our hands to the wheel and ensure that St. Martins become and sustain the position of the top Secondary School in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

May God continue to bless the efforts of the Principal, Staff and Students of St. Martins.

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