Thanks, Churchill Neita and Sunday Observer
Former Kingston College Principal Douglas Forrest<strong id="strong-6e053f8875cabc1eecbff267c20ba8ac">.</strong>

Dear Editor,

This is, at once, an open letter to your columnist Churchill Neita, QC, and an expression of my gratitude to the Jamaica Observer for publishing his lucid piece on my most esteemed high school principal.

Fortis Churchill, I thought that I knew the history of Kingston College (KC) and of Douglas “Dougs” Forrest, but this superb piece of yours exceeds all that I could imagine. It ought to be enshrined in a fitting monument to that exemplary Jamaican who is one of my own life’s forever inspirations.

In many ways the eclectic Dougs was my academic Gamaliel at whose feet I would gladly sit once more. I can, but I will not overwhelm this Observer issue with my own recollections of this epitome of unmarried roundedness and selflessness.

From the Dougs I learnt stick-to-it-iveness; I learnt to sing treble, though neither as well nor for as long as my public-spirited classmate Dr Winston “Winty” Davidson; I learnt to love and read French, though not quite as well as the very clever double-Dr Clive “Nicky” Nicholson; I learnt to appreciate the beauty of classical music, though, at first, against my philistine will.

In his own way, that sound principal of KC insisted that I find a place in my rebel’s heart and mind for the humanities, critical thinking, and quantitative reasoning. He even filled in for the fourth-form maths teachers occasionally.

Sometimes, my highly respected hero seemed not to despise the dodgy, depraved philosophy of Le Marquis de Sade whom he first read at the Sorbonne. That is a riddle I may never solve.

Nevertheless, Principal Forrest’s legendary kindness quietly helped to keep me and my younger brothers in school. That rather sensitive man was a tomato encased in a shell of titanium steel.

He, along with another sensitive Christian, Caswell Campbell of Olivet Gospel Hall, discerned that we were all in need and quietly gave me employment while I was in sixth form. That and my Government of Jamaica scholarship paid the bills and kept us lodged and boarded for at least two years.

Furthermore, when it became stylish for sixth formers to wear white shirts, all KC boys were still required to be in khaki shirts. That was the rule that I religiously obeyed up to lower six.

But white shirts and blouses were the new thing throughout Jamaica’s sixth forms.

What did Principal Forrest do?

One late afternoon, as I was just returning from the southern end of Clovely Park to what is now the Douglas Forrest Building, The Dougs beckoned to me as he stood near the trunk of his brand new white Austin 1100. I complied wearily.

Nice new car, I thought.

He opened the trunk.

Nice new smell, I thought.

In the trunk of the Austin 1100 was his weathered brown Pratesi briefcase. Beside the Pratesi was a large shopping bag with about half a dozen brand new white cotton shirts still in cellophane. I was puzzled when he said to me, “Minott, as a leader, you should strive to be in style, take three of these shirts.”

The next morning, 59 years ago, it was again my turn to read the scripture in St Augustine’s Chapel. Smiling like a Cheshire cat I approached the venerable lectern and read with extra gusto from the New English Bible. I was finally clad in a brand new against-the-rules, yes, white shirt.

I fancied the knowing glint in his eyes for about a good fortnight.

That is one way that my gentle giant quietly taught sensitivity and he, to his dying day, generously gloried in my and our career successes overseas and here.

Thank you for so thoroughly digging this all up, Queen’s Counsel.

You and the Sunday Observer have vigorously shaken me, and your words on my esteemed Douglas Forrest have royally stirred me.

Thank you for the benefit of your time.

Dennis A Minott

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