A teacher and a gentleman: Sir Howard Cooke and Joseph Earle

Michael BURKE

Thursday, July 17, 2014

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SIR Clifford Campbell was 99 years old when he died, Sir Florizel Glasspole was 91 when he died, and Sir Howard Cooke was 98 when he died. Do their lengthy lives have anything to do with the sedentary life at King's House? Incidentally, the first governor general of Jamaica was the last colonial governor, Sir Kenneth Blackburne. He was governor general for less than four months. Truly, it is way past the time that Jamaica should have been a republic.

Being a republic will not fill bellies — which was my answer the late Wilmot Perkins' question, which I did when he was alive. But it will cut the umbilical cord with Britain and hopefully help to bring about the confidence that our people should have, as I wrote last week.

The death of Sir Howard Cooke and Baptist deacon Joseph Earle, a former principal of Calabar and former president of the Jamaica Co-operative Credit Union league, came just before Germany won the football World Cup.

Jamaro Campbell, a young man who is employed to a company owned by Paul Burke, predicted before the games began that Germany would come out on top. Jamaro made his analysis objectively by watching how the teams play the game. He was so accurate that I wonder how is it that others get to be sports commentators and yet they would never think of asking Jamaro Campbell, who seems to know more about such things than most sports commentators?

Unlike the misplaced sports commentators, however, Sir Howard Cooke certainly deserved to be placed where he was, in his case, as governor general. Sir Howard had an enviable track record as a churchman, teacher, insurance salesman, and social worker with Jamaica Welfare, politician and governor general. I had occasion, as a history research consultant, to interview Sir Howard on more than one occasion at King's House, and also in his retirement at his residence in Montego Bay.

The elderly Sir Howard Cooke had a quick and lively sense of humour. Although I was there to interview him on a specific topic, he would often stray to something else. Seated around his desk at King's House, the discussion strayed at one point and he told me that his father had 19 children.

Immediately I asked, "Does that mean that your mother had 19 children, Sir Howard? To which he answered, "No man, spread the good thing around, you know." Not that Sir Howard was encouraging that sort of behaviour, but he was quick-witted about the Jamaican reality, which we all know about.

It is, however, true that we have to knock the problem of men having several 'babymothers' if we are to become a disciplined nation -- which Sir Howard knew and also said. Unwanted children are many times untrained as they are very often left alone to their own devices.

On one occasion I left my cap in Sir Howard's office at King's House. I was able to retrieve it later. Sir Howard remarked in the ensuing session that, in the colonial days, the cap would have been simply thrown out. He responded that he was aware of that, and that the first time he came to King's House as a scout and was told that the scouts could only go so far, and no further, he had no idea that one day he would be its occupant.

I met Joseph Earle in 1989 at the credit union league convention at the Americana Hotel (now Jamaica Grande). I had tremendous respect for him. I recall that the initial result of the inter-school athletics championship in 1991 was a tie between Calabar and my alma mater, Jamaica College.

According to the rules, whenever there is a tie, the tying overall winners with more first-place winners would be declared the champion. If there is still a tie then the school that had more second-place winners would be declared the champion. And if there is still a tie, the most third-place winners. It went to the most third-place winners and Calabar was declared the champion.

After the awards ceremony that Saturday night, when Calabar carried home the cup, there was a recount of the initial points standings and it was found that JC had in fact won by two points and the championship was awarded to JC. The JC team decided that they would march from its Old Hope Road location to Calabar on Red Hills Road to take the cup. It was Joseph Earle who suggested that the then JC Principal Ruel Taylor call an assembly at JC on the Wednesday morning, and he, along with the Calabar team members, would present the cup to JC.

In the meantime, the JC Old Boys' Association had summoned as many old boys as they could — and I was one of them. I witnessed the impeccable civility between two Afro-Jamaican men, Joseph Earle and Ruel Taylor, principals of Calabar and JC respectively, in doing damage control after an honest mistake. Mr Earle congratulated the JC team on their victory and called the fastest JC athletes to the platform and congratulated them. How many Jamaican principals would have handled the matter as well
as this?

The World Council Of Credit Unions had their Annual General Meeting in Jamaica in 1992 while Joseph Earle was president of the Jamaica Co-operative Credit Union League. In a column in the now defunct Jamaica Herald, I criticised the credit union league for not advertising the meeting sufficiently and for not educating credit union members to have a proper understanding about credit unions and what they can achieve — much to the annoyance of many of the then credit union leaders.

But Joseph Earle, as credit union league president, instead of being annoyed, objectively organised a strategic planning seminar for three weekends in 1993 because of what I wrote. I attended the seminar as I was then a member of the supervisory committee of the credit union league.

Due to a previous commitment, however, I will not be in attendance at the funeral of Joseph Earle. May the souls of Sir Howard Cooke and Joseph Earle rest in peace.





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