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SVGS honours Victores Ludorum

SVGS honours Victores Ludorum

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by Lennox John 15.FEB.08

I deem it a singular honour to have been asked to bring brief remarks on behalf of the 71 past Victores Ludorum of St. Vincent Grammar School’s athletic sports meetings at this the 86th edition of this event which is taking place as the school celebrates the 100th year of providing secondary education to the young people of this nation.{{more}}

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the successive Governments, Headmasters, teachers, parents and students who have enabled the school to maintain the very high level it has been operating over all these years. I have been asked on this occasion to reminisce on athletic sports over the years and I am grateful to two former students, Elton Anderson and Cecil Cyrus for some of the information which I will share with you.

This special sports meeting is being held at the recently refurbished Arnos Vale Sports Complex with its magnificent facilities. How the boys of the first two decades of the school’s existence would have enjoyed these conditions! Their playing area was the bit of flat land at Richmond Hill where the Technical Centre used to be and where the new library is currently under construction. Elton Anderson remembers the fight for space to play cricket, football and to train for athletics in the limited area provided by what was then the Grammar School pastures.

In the mid-forties, Harley Moseley saw the need for a larger field for Sports and negotiated for the land where the present Grammar School Playing Field now is, which was then a citrus fruit orchard belonging to the Ministry of Agriculture. This field became the home of Grammar School Sports and it was not until the eighties that the event was held more often than not at this location.

We cannot mention the Grammar School Playing Field without remembering the work of Leon Doyle and Fitzroy Holder, the groundsmen for a considerable period of time. We well remember at sports time how they were required to bend their backs and mark the lanes manually with white lime. In those days, heats took place after school; no loss of instructional time was allowed, and games masters, house masters and these groundsmen would be on the Playing Field well after five o’clock as boys sought intensely after standard points to put their houses out front.

That brings me to the houses. When the school held its first athletic meeting there must have been about 100 boys on roll and following the Barbados model, the houses were named Set A and B. I have not been able to find out if there was a colour assigned to the houses, but if so, I imagine it would have been the colours of the school – green and gold.

By 1935, the need arose for a new house and this was named in honour of Mr. G.W. Reeves and assumed the colour blue. Set A and B were then changed to the Orange and Green House, bearing the appropriate colours. A new house was added in 1948 – School house using the colour red. Later, all the houses were to assume the names of former headmasters; firstly Orange became Lopey, named after William Marcus Lopey, then Green became Millar, after Gilbert C. Millar and School became Crick named after Ulric G. Crick.

In the early days of the school, the Grammar School’s sports meeting was one of the big events on the social calendar of the city of Kingstown. It took place as it is doing today on Wednesday afternoons, then a public half holiday to allow students to attend.

We may all wonder why such prominence has been placed on schools athletic sports meetings, why it requires the attention of the entire school but on the other hand, football and cricket matches go off with little or no fanfare. I have been told that like most other things, this is part of the British schools’ traditions. In England, students left home and went and boarded at Grammar schools. Once a year, the parents would be invited to visit the school and that would be the day when the boys would display their athletic prowess and there would be much socializing – the high point of which would be the high tea party. Our sports meetings had that same tradition of tea. It was an item on the programme and the events were stopped to allow the dignitaries to have tea.

How do the events compare? There were far fewer events then than now, though in my time we did pole vault and hurdles which are not on today’s programme and the tug-o-war has stood the test of time. In Cecil Cyrus’ time the longest and most popular race was the 880 yards and he says nearly 50 boys would get to the starting line and after a quick burst the number would soon be down to ten. I can empathize with this because in my time, the longest race was the mile and that race attracted similar numbers at the starting line. I believe the same thing happens now with the 5000 metres.

The Grammar School’s unique contribution to athletics has been the Road Relay from Argyle to Kingstown which was created by a former Games Master and Headmaster, Mr. Winston Baptiste.

We do not have many of our past Victores Ludorum with us today but if you look on your programme you will see some of the most outstanding performances by Grammar School athletes. Joffre McIntosh won the title 4 straight years 1932 to 1935, Randolph Providence, Elton Anderson and Marlon Martin 3 straight years. Then there are the family ties Norris Cummings 1937, 1938 the uncle of Andrew Cummings 1969, the father of Jadric Cummings 2006. The Thomas brothers Glynn 1971, 1972 and Bernard 1978. Elmore Daisy 1946, the great uncle of Peter Prescod 1986. Elton and Chris Anderson 1976 and Cammie King 1956, 1957 are also closely related. We need to note the fact that three girls won the title Cheryl Haynes 1979, Michelle Guy 1983 and Sasha Vitalis 1995.

Let me end by saying that his occasion should bring home to you that you have a long and noble tradition left for you by all who have gone before you and I hope that you will do your very best to keep it alive for as long as you are able, at least for the next 100 years.

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