Munro College enters 165 years with credits and distinctionsMonday, May 10, 2021
The designation of four of its buildings as national heritage sites is indicative of the status that Munro College has earned over its 165 years, not only as a valued contributor to the education sector, but also as an iconic landmark on Jamaica's historical and archaeological landscape.
Munro is always an institution to take a second look at, as a century and a half of academic accomplishments, nation-building, sports achievements, and character development have reinforced its standing as among the best public schools and one reputed to have produced the most Rhodes scholars in the Caribbean.
Located on a mountaintop in deepest rural Jamaica, Munro has always come in from the cold to claim front line space and to share the headlines with its more urbanised schools.
A member of the so-called elite secondary schools that once reigned as preferred education refuge for the wealthy, Munro led the charge for removing elitism with a warm welcome to the establishment of the Common Entrance Examinations of 1957, and the Education Minister Edwin Allen's blockbuster New Deal for Education 1966, which literally flooded secondary schools with the brightest and best of the poorer classes that had been formerly relegated to elementary school leaving certificates.
Much credit for this to their legendary Headmaster Richard Roper, 1955-83, who, when the Common Entrance was introduced, had already prepared Munro to accommodate the increase in students, (including yours truly) and already had a transport system organised to accommodate the increased number of day students.
The school likes to point to the record of having produced six members of the 1962 Independence Cabinet — Donald Sangster, Ken Jones, John Gyles, Roy McNeil, Herbert Eldemire, and Neville Ashenheim. Not bad for a small school cut off from the urban world and sitting on a mountain peak (Santa Cruz Mountain, 2,500 feet above sea level).
There are many other mixed achievements, well described in the Munronian magazine, roving from Pulitzer Prize poet to national poet laureate, from reggae stars and dancehall producers to captains of industry, from preachers to legal luminaries, from celebrated diplomats to genuine war heroes, from a local pioneer in bobsledding to a global pioneer in plastics, from a nominee for a Nobel Prize to decorated novelists and journalists, and from small business entrepreneurs to a prime minister, Munro has seen it all.
And for any sports-loving young man just entering the school, Munro also had it all. Consider, in my time, at least five football fields, two cricket fields, two tennis courts, a gymnasium, a boxing ring, a rifle shooting range, an athletics track (330 yards in those days), football field converted to hockey field during the Easter Term, caving In Palm Tree Cave and Hampton Cave, a hardcourt football war zone known as the padda court, and a three-mile running track to what was called “End-of-asphalt” (plus that secret trail to the nearby sister school Hampton).
The school offered choices, but football was always the main attraction, and it was what drew me down the hill to the playing field every evening (even during the Senior Cambridge and Higher School exam periods), for a round of rag-tag football played only by seniors. I just wasn't good enough to make the transfer from B field to A field, which was the domain of the First X!
Sports, football in particular, is an indelible part of Munro's history. The school has a long list of students who have scored for Jamaica in sports and in other areas of national development. In those days, 1959 to 1964, Munro had one of the four top schoolboy football teams in the country (Jamaica College, Cornwall and Kingston College the next best).
Lindy Delapenha is rated as Munro's best-known sportsman, with a legendary career that saw him single-handedly winning the Olivier Shield in a comeback from 1-4 down to win 5-4 against Calabar, and has the distinction of being one of the first black men and the first Jamaican to play professional football in the United Kingdom.
There is also Ronald Sturdy, who at age 15 in his first Olivier Shield football season came out the highest goalscorer, with nine goals.
Professor Mervyn Morris, another all-round sportsman for Munro, was the number one player on the Jamaica tennis team in the 1950s, and also earned the Oxford University Blue for representing Oxford three straight years in tennis.
Delapenha, Sturdy, Morris, and Rhodes scholar and outstanding athlete Vin Lumsden are, perhaps, the four names held up as the greatest in Munro's sports history.
In recent years the school also extols Delano Williams, who won two sprints doubles at Boys' Champs in 2012, running a personal best 20.27 in the 200 metres, barely missing Usain Bolt's 20.25 record, while taking the 100 metres in 10.8. A Turks and Caicos native, he chose to run for Britain in the Olympics, otherwise Munro would have made another major contribution to our national teams.
The years 1961-63 can be called 'golden years' for Munro sports, winning the daCosta Cup for three of those four years (1961, 62, 64) and performing with distinction in all other schoolboy competitions.
Central to that period was one of Munro's greatest all-round sportsmen Winston “Hutchy” Hutchinson, who captained the daCosta Cup team to their several victories, and who became the first Munronian to captain four separate school teams and be awarded colours in each, football, athletics, cricket and hockey. Hutchinson has an enviable record that can scarce be beaten by any other schoolboy sportsman in the history of school sports in Jamaica. He became the youngest player to play daCosta Cup football, age 11 years in 1959, while at Knox College.
Micky West of Wolmer's was the youngest Manning Cup player also at 11 years. After playing in the 1959 daCosta Cup competition for Knox, he was transferred to Munro and records that he had a most unusual introduction into the Munro team.
“During the football sessions I remember my induction into the team. There was an unexpected sudden and strong fist into my stomach by a senior boy. He then said that if I had not fallen with that blow, I could make the team. I made the team.”
At age 16 he made football history in Jamaica. It was 1961 and he had just returned home after an all-schools' tour of Haiti. He came back in time to play a junior Jamaica match against a Chelsea Football Club team that was visiting the Caribbean and had scheduled two games against Jamaica. Impressed with his performance, Chelsea approached Munro and asked if he could join their soccer team and fly back with them to England.
“As I was only 16 years old, my coach, Ken Walton, an Englishman, said that I would have to be placed in a school in England with a guardian and a host. Richard Roper, Munro's principal, was informed, and he agreed with Walton's proposal.”
It seems as if maybe his parents had other views, or whatever, because the discussions broke off after three months and a ground-breaking development in schoolboy football transfer from Jamaica to the international level was delayed until Alan “Skill” Cole, out of Vere Tech and Boys' Town, went to Brazil to play league football in the early 1970s.
The famous Munro/Cornwall rivalry, similar to the Kingston College/St George's College competitiveness of the 50s, was at its height in the 1950s and 60s. It brought out crowds that would not normally be expected to be seen at a schoolboy football match. When Munro stepped out on the Jarrett Park field in 1962 to face Cornwall in the finals, Hutchinson recalls a crowd of 10,000 packing the stands and grounds, with a display of skills and talent that still brings back memories of the colour and glitter and cheering and excitement that past students took to the games in those days.
Cornwall had one of their best ever teams, which included the crafty Billy Griffiths, and excellent forwards in Extol Mignott and Keith Thorpe. They also had the skilful Anthony Jump and Allie McNab on the forward line, being backed up by brilliant defenders Noel Henry and Kingsley Taylor.
The Munro team had Hutchinson at centre half with Lloyd Nation and Vice-Captain John Plummer in front of All-Schools' goalkeeper Michael Kavanagh. “We also had outstanding players from the previous year,” says Hutchy, in Joe Dunn, Lenworth Jacobs, Patrick Powell and Ryland Givans. Newcomers were Leighton Bailey; William “JC” Hutchinson (brother to Winston and now Cabinet minister); Brian Morgan, now one of Jamaica's best dentists; Leighton Carey; and Colin Lloyd. Winston was later to play that year on the All-Schools team with names like Claude Davis, Jackie Bell, Richard Domville, Douglas Sherman, Noel Henry, Lascelles Graham, Linley Headley, and Huntley Forrester.
The Jamaica College team that edged Munro in the Olivier Shield finals that year included Orville Williams (goal), Peter Morgan, Warrick Lyn, Keith Leach, Patrick Cooke, Norman McDonald, Micky Mowatt, Alvin James, Ken Snaith, Egerton Webb, Peter Wright, and Patrick Russell.
Hutchinson left Munro and went to The University of the West Indies (The UWI), where he named Athlete of the Year and was also elected to the students' guild council as their sports representative, where he initiated the first Inter-Campus Games held in Trinidad. While at The UWI he also represented the Jamaica in hockey at the Pan American Games in Winnipeg, Canada. He then went to Howard University, USA.
While at Reynolds Jamaica Mines in the 1970s he helped to coordinate the Inter Bauxite Sports Council activities before returning to Munro during his spare time to re-energise football. He persuaded Neil Harrison to lead the coaching team and this resulted in moderate successes in football, athletics, and, most importantly, scholarships for outstanding players.
Now, in retirement, he continues quietly to assist students in their academic and sporting ventures, while preparing his soon-to-be-published memoirs on the golden years of Munro sports.
Lance Neita considers himself a sportsman of the highest order, but is really a writer. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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