Derek Walcott joins Samarians in 125th Anniversary

The Saint Mary’s College, the island’s oldest school for boys, is currently marking the 125th anniversary of its 1890 founding. Last Sunday, hundreds of ‘old boys’, as well as current students, congregated at the Minor Basilica in Castries for an afternoon service to mark the occasion. Also in conspicuous attendance were once upon a time student and Nobel prize winner Derek Walcott, and former principal Michael Mondesir; politicians Guy Mayers, Shawn Edward and Desmond Long. So were senate president Claudius Francis; former prime minister Stephenson King; and the governor general Dame Pearlette Louisy.

Derek Walcott at the Square named after him.

Derek Walcott at the Square named after him.

“Ole boy” Claudius Francis and GG Dame  Pearlette Louisy.

“Ole boy” Claudius Francis and GG Dame Pearlette Louisy.

Also a former Samarian, Monsignor Patrick Anthony led the mass. He congratulated current St. Mary’s principal Rohan Seon, his staff and students. “When St. Mary’s College opened on 20 May 1890,” he said, “it was blessed with a Eucharistic celebration. When the second Moment began on 22 March 1947 it began with a Eucharistic celebration with Father Harcot. It is no coincidence, but through divine providence and what St. Mary’s stands for and symbolizes, that we again begin this 125th celebration with a Eucharistic celebration. What a beautiful day to have the celebration: on the feast of the Ascension.”

He explained that Mary is what the college is all about, and why faith is so important to what it stands for: “If today we can say proudly that the first two national heroes, Sir George Charles and Sir John Compton, were Samarians; if we can say that our Nobel Laureates and so many others who have achieved like Sir Darnley Alexander, Sir Vincent Floissac, Sir Dunstan St. Omer were Samarians; then we have to ask why is it that this institution is able to produce men who have global stature . . . who have blossomed into
global spirits. There was that underlying principle which Father Tapon always maintained and it is this: if you want to develop a country, if you want to develop a society, if you want to make men and women who will be noble and great, they must be grounded in faith; they must be men and women of God; they must be grounded in spirituality. That was the guiding spirit.”

According to Anthony, it is not enough to learn to read and write. The “whole man” had to be educated. He cited “Mary becoming the vessel to declare the glory of God through Jesus Christ.” This was the raison d’etre behind the school and its homage to Mary, he added. “Why the name Mary? Because the human being through whom God made his son come to reveal who he was, and who we are through baptism, came through that chosen human being to show other human beings that their potential is boundless.”

The priest also called for reflection on the life and work of another Samarian, Dunstan St. Omer, who passed two weeks ago and whose art work adorns the walls on the church. Sunday’s church service was followed by a march around the Derek Walcott Square. The procession was led by the Royal Saint Lucia Police Band followed by present students bearing their respective House banners. Many ‘old boys’ who anchored the march wore the school colours—black and white. Some also wore the school tie and crest.

There was then a mass gathering of past and current students, teachers, parents and well-wishers when house registers were signed and EC$125 pledges were made toward a legacy fund. The governor general also laid a wreath at the cenotaph in honour of Samarians who have passed. An animated Teddy Francis (past student and teacher of SMC) conducted the proceedings that included a short presentation by Leevie Herelle who heads the anniversary committee. The afternoon saw lots of interaction among old friends, some being called to the stage in order of the decade they graduated. Some were excited, others appeared hesitant, for whatever reasons. The singing of the school anthem and the many photo opportunities made for an unforgettable occasion.

A series of follow-up events is planned under the theme “The SMC Journey: 125 years of Stewardship and Excellence.” A documentary of the school’s history will be presented in the form of a timeline, as well as a VIP fundraising event dubbed
“SMC – Festive Food, Wine, Float and Cheese Social,” in honour of the school’s tuck shop tradition.

Also present at Sunday’s celebration was Veronique Alexander, affectionately known to Samarians as “Mum.” She operated the school’s canteen for more than four decades.

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