QRC celebrates 150 years
GEORGE ALLEYNE Wednesday, April 8 2009
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Queen’s Royal College (QRC) one of the oldest educational institutions in the Region and the school which gave Trinidad and Tobago its first Prime Minister, Dr Eric Williams, and its current President, Professor George Maxwell Richards, celebrates 150th anniversary this Saturday (April 11).
Initially founded in 1859 as the Queen’s Collegiate School, the name change to Queen’s Royal College was effected in the then Legislative Council on March 25 (1870) and the formal signifying by the British Monarch, Queen Victoria, conveyed by the Secretary of State for the Colonies of her “pleasure that the Collegiate Institution should be called the Queen’s Royal College.” The advice was sent by the Secretary of State for the Colonies on May 24, 1870, Queen Victoria’s birthday.
Queen’s Collegiate School and its successor, Queen’s Royal College, have had a history of firsts which have done credit, not only to the Grand Old School but to Trinidad and Tobago and the entire region as well. Queen’s Collegiate School would become in 1863 the first secondary school in Trinidad and Tobago to enter students for the Senior and Junior Local Examinations set by the British Universities – Oxford and Cambridge.
Six students were entered and all passed, four with Honours! In turn it produced one of the first Island Scholarship winners – TR Cadiz in 1863.
In addition, in 1870, the year of the name change to Queen’s Royal College, QRC won three of the four scholarships offered for the first time that year through AW Wight, LJ Fabien and GL Latour. It should be noted, however, that they had received a substantial part of their preparation for the examinations before the name change.
Royalian Island Scholarship winners through the years would include names stamped on the pages of Trinidad and Tobago history such as WCD Inniss, Dr Arthur H Mc Shine and AE Phipps, 1896; Archdeacon Stokely Doorly, 1898; FL Guppy, 1899; FEM Hosein, 1901; CA Child, 1904; Dr BOV Jarrette, 1908; Sir Courtenay Hannays, 1901; Sir Hugh Wooding, 1923; Rupert VS Aleong, 1930; Dr Eric Williams, 1931; Dr L A H Mc Shine, 1932; L G Dookie, 1935;
Dr Winston Mhabir, 1940; Dr Rudranath Capildeo, 1938; the Seemungal brothers, Lionel Seemungal, 1939 and RP Seemungal, 1940; The Lee brothers, Dr Carl Lee, 1942 and Dr Ralph Lee, 1942; Dr Mervyn Henry and Dr Harold Hamilton, 1943; William G Demas, 1947; Sir Vidiahar Naipaul, 1948; Dr Neville Byam, 1947; Leopold C Martin and Ralph Romain, 1951 and Rudy Piggott, 1953.
In 1952, Queen’s Royal, through J Reginald Dumas, Lloyd Best, Dr John Neehall, and Dr Gordon Namsoo and Dr Garth Alleyne, would for the last time win all the scholarships offered. This would mark the end of a Golden Age. Queen’s Royal would provide Independent Trinidad and Tobago with its first Leader of the Opposition, Dr Capildeo and a Chief Justice, Sir Hugh Wooding, who would also serve as Chancellor of the West Indies.
While the second half of the 19th century would bear witness to a welcome thrust by colonial governments in the English speaking Caribbean to establish secondary schools, the emphasis on such educational opportunities was not for the broad mass of children of school age, but rather for those of the middle class. The children of public servants would benefit, however, from the founding of the Queen’s Collegiate School and its successor, the Queen’s Royal College.
Children of families of humble circumstances were also able to attend Queen’s Royal through Government Exhibitions. But I have strayed.
Edward Calvert was the first Principal of Queen’s Collegiate School, while the second, Horace Deighton, would continue in the post following on the name change. The Second Master of QCs would become Second Master of QRC. The Queen’s Collegiate School opened on Monday, April 11, 1859 at the premises of CM Vessigny, at the corner of Oxford Street and Cumberland Street, now Abercromby Street. The Principal, Edward Calvert lived to the north of the School.
For the record, there had been a Grammar School at the north east corner of Duke Street and Richmond Street, whose Principal was Edward Stuart. According to an article by CB Franklin, early in the last century, Stuart was approached by the Colonial Government “to associate himself with the new enterprise and bring along with him as many of the boys of his school as would be willing to join the Queen’s Royal College. This Stuart did and he would later become the Third Master of The Queen’s Collegiate School, spending five years there.”
In between QCS/QRC being sited at Oxford and Cumberland Streets and at Queen’s Park West it was housed at the old Princes Building. Wherever the school was housed, however, each Royalian, past and present, has been proud of the 150-year-old alma mater.