ROAD RENAMED: The naming of the road leading to Naparima College, in February 2010.
The man who changed Naps
Rev Edward Lute...
IN February 2010, the road leading off Independence Avenue, to Naparima College, at Paradise Hill, San Fernando, was officially renamed Lute Drive.
It was in honour of the service of Rev Edward T Lute, who was the last of the Canadian missionaries to hold the principal’s position at the Presbyterian secondary school between 1953 and 1961. Rev Lute’s son, Ted Lute, was there to receive the honour on behalf of his father, who died in 1963.
Stanley Algoo and Dr Brinsley Samaroo, who attended the school during Rev Lute’s tenure, attended the event, and Samaroo delivered the feature address. Algoo, who won an Island Scholarship, later researched and wrote of the impact and influence of Rev Lute. What follows is part of Algoo’s story.
Rev Edward T Lute, (MA, BD, from University of Toronto and graduate work at Union Seminary, New York) became principal in 1953. He resembled the movie star Kirk Douglas. Coming from the urban North American city of Toronto, with contemporary ideas of high school facilities, he set about rebuilding Naps from a wooden structure and primitive science labs to a modern concrete-and-steel structure and a modern science wing which allowed Sixth Formers to pursue Maths and Science curricula.
He added classroom lockers for books, a boon to students’ aching arms. With the recovered lumber, he added a gymnasium to the premises and physical training to the curriculum.
He also began the expansion of Presbyterian secondary school education to Tunapuna and to Siparia. The schools were originally called Naparima North and Naparima South. Eventually they became autonomous and were renamed Hillview College and Iere High School, respectively.
Iere gave the country its first female Prime Minister.
Initially both schools sent their graduates to Naps for the Higher School Certificate (HC) classes which gave Naps a unique blend of HC students of both genders.
He introduced a public-address system for announcements and daily morning meditations and eventually it turned into an in-house “radio station” (Blue Circle Network-BCN) every Friday afternoon for 15 minutes, heralded by the sound of Hugo Alfven’s “Swedish Rhapsody”, as enterprising boys learnt the radio arts, and broadcast news and music to the enthralled classes.
A house system dividing the student body into six groups enabled intra-divisional competition and the award of points for academic, sporting and other notable achievements upon which an annual winner was declared at Speech Day.
A uniform of grey pants and white shirts with a college badge for everyday use was introduced. A dark-blue tie with diagonal white stripes was added for formal occasions.
The playing fields at the bottom of the hill and at Lewis Street were upgraded and the access road (since named Lute Drive) from Independence Avenue (then called Broadway) to the school was straightened and rebuilt.
The First Naparima Scout Troop was started under Scout Master SK Ramsingh, aided by students from First Gasparillo Scout Troop, which gave us the Baden-Powell experience of living the Scout oath of duty to Queen and country, helpfulness and obedience while acquiring expertise in camp lore and craft. Overtaken by his busy schedule, which included teaching, Rev Lute added a school chaplain to fill the spiritual needs of students.
Rev Lawrence Purdy was much appreciated for his guidance, wit and cartooning skills. The introduction of Home Room double periods at Sixth Forms encouraged students to discuss topics outside the curriculum, sharpen intellectual curiosity and acquire a love of life-long learning.
Our Masters and
the Academic Ethos
The masters were a diverse group of university grads, HC-certified, or recipients of degrees or licentiates obtained through correspondence courses. All wore ties and some wore jackets and ties. Some had been imported from Codrington College, Barbados, during the war when there was a shortage of degreed masters. One who was from Guyana and a graduate of McGill practised the formality of Victorian social mores and soothed his voice with Zubes lozenges, for which he was nicknamed to his chagrin. He ran the bookstore.
Another was a Bajan whose teaching techniques included addressing recalcitrant boys as “my dear darling goat/jackass” totheir humiliation and the hilarity of their colleagues.
James Lee Wah taught literature at Naps and was an indefatigable proponent of the dramatic arts. Many students fell under his spell and followed him after graduation into stage and media careers. He initiated the South Secondary Schools Drama Festival to much acclaim.
Julius Hamilton Maurice was an urbane literary savant and educationist and former director of education in Dominica, who left to become President of the Senate under the PNM government.
Scofield Pilgrim, sports master, introduced jazz to the boys through concerts featuring top island performers.
Dr Ishmael Jim Baksh would publish two Caribbean-themed novels in Canada: Black Light and Out of Darkness. Dr Allan McKenzie would become the second local and first lay principal of Naps and transform the school into a premier boys’ college in the island for both academic and sporting achievements.
The year Rev Lute started, the undercurrent of political independence began to manifest itself and a Naps graduate and legendary teacher of literature who expected the principalship resigned and went to teach at Queen’s Royal College, where he later became principal.
This left a disgruntled staff component and the academic success of the school began slipping until only a few of the brightest boys were able to secure Grade I certificates in the Senior Cambridge Examinations. While the school rebuilding proceeded apace, with Rev Lute marshalling considerable fund-raising skills in Trinidad and Canada, including assistance from the authorities at Pointe-a-Pierre refinery, where he was occasional minister to the expatriates at the St Peter’s camp church, the academic and sporting programmes under the tutelage of the masters slipped into mediocrity.
Naps never won the South InterCol championship during my years of attendance.
The HC classes were still performing well and many students were runners-up for the Modern Studies scholarship each year.
In 1957, Dr Larry Lutchmansingh finally made the break-through and won the first Island Scholarship by a boy at a South school.
Two boys from Naps, Jacob Laltoo (1913) and Dr Winston Mahabir (1940), had won scholarships after transferring to QRC thereby confirming the superiority of the Port of Spain schools.
An interesting historic footnote: three sons of Rev Dr John Morton, the first Canadian missionary, won Island Scholarships from QRC: AS Morton in 1887; Harvey H Morton in 1890 and WC Morton in 1892 before Naps was founded in 1894).
According to a report in the 1946 Olympian: “Outstanding among the graduates was Premchand Ratan, who led the island in the School Certificate Examination, making distinction in every subject. Ratan won not only the Hon T Roodal’s Medal, but also the Jerningham Silver medal, the only Naparima student to do this since Scott Fraser in 1913.”
It appears Scott Fraser made Naps the first South school to win this medal in 1913. Sylvia Ramcharan then put Naps on the map by winning its first Island Scholarship in 1943. Kathleen Smith followed by winning the first girls’ scholarship offered by the Government in 1946 and Alma Lum Ser reprised in 1954. The girls had set the scholarship pace after which the boys followed. Finding accounts of these achievers in old library copies of the school magazine, the Olympian, started by Ralph Laltoo in 1945, encouraged me to think I, too, might be able to emulate them. With focused and determined effort, in 1961 I became only the second boy in attendance at a South school to win an Island Scholarship (Modern Studies). The other three scholarships, Languages, Mathematics and Science, were won by St Mary’s and I was told many years later by the Languages scholar who had become a close friend in Canada, that I had prevented a St Mary’s clean sweep, which may have been a kind of poetic justice after the soccer InterCol debacle of 1953. My scholarship confirmed that South schools were capable of outperforming the North schools. The psychological barrier was broken for good. The next year Presentation won the Jerningham Gold Medal for first place in the island scholarships, and the Language and Modern Studies scholarships.